Archive for February, 2011


Campus Crime

How much crime occurs on campus? Criminal exploits at UNK rarely grace the pages of the school newspaper, or the Kearney Hub. Kearney has a rather safe reputation when it comes to crime, but some activity is reported.

Each year the university publishes an annual security report that details various crime statistics. The numbers show a fair number of assaults (around 10 on campus in 2009), and larceny (more than 50 in 2009). The numbers seem believable, but how much crime goes unreported on campus?

It seems likely that some small crimes like petty theft or simple assault would, through apathy or confusion, go unreported. After all, many students would not even know how to report a crime if they wanted to. Common sense says to go to the Police and Parking Services building, but many newer students have trouble finding it even just to pay a parking ticket.

It would be interesting to find out what percentage of students know how to report criminal activity on campus, and how they gained that knowledge. If knowledge of the process is low, some corrections should be made.

Advertisements

Monopoly is a fun game that comes in a variety of versions, such as Star Wars, Pokemon, Batman and Robin, Bible, and Family Guy. At UNK we have our own edition of the game, except we traded the Parker Brothers for Chartwells.

In Monopoly: UNK Edition the game is food on campus and Chartwells holds all the properties. By contract, no organization, or class can bring outside food for an event on campus without Chartwells approval. Donated and home cooked food is excluded by the ban.

Groups are expected to have Chartwells provide food for events. Not only is the catering below par, but the price tag is excessive. Complaints aren’t hard to find if you ask around campus, and neither are rule breakers.

Whether it’s pizza in class or snacks for an organization’s meeting, people all over campus are breaking the rule. Others avoid it. A few years ago high school students from across the state flocked to UNK for SIFE’s (Students in Free Enterprise) New Venture Adventure and Little Caeser’s offered to donate pizzas. The donation saved a fair amount of money, but couldn’t be eaten on campus. At lunch time the enterprising young students marched across campus to a church across the street and ate there.

New Venture Adventure hosted hundreds of high school students on the Kearney campus, providing UNK with a great recruiting opportunity. But campus policies punish SIFE by forcing the organization to waste its budget, which does not exceed $2,000 annually according to former student body president Cade Craig, on food. Between paying for regular expenses, events and trips student organization budgets are stretched thin. Blocking donations and forcing organizations to buy expensive food only reduces the number of events organizations can host.

Price differences might seem small, but for big events prices can fluctuate greatly. For example, if Little Caeser’s donated 50 pizzas SIFE’s bill would be about $0. A Chartwells pizza costs between $9.95 and $11.95 according to the company’s website. That means a lunch tab of between $497.50 and $597.50. Chartwells’ bill is far too high for an unnecessary expense. Even if SIFE purchased the Little Caesar’s pizzas at $6 a piece, lunch would only cost around $300. That’s a savings of $197.50 to $297.50.

As any good entrepreneur knows, spending approximately 25 percent of the budget on one lunch is a recipe for failure. At best the campus food monopoly forces students to break the rule; at worst it could limit the activities of student organizations.

University policies shouldn’t force students to take a hike. The monopoly over food on campus has led to sub-par food at high prices, forcing the campus community to break or avoid the rule. When the new food service contract is negotiated this year the university should let this monopoly go bankrupt.

When it comes to public transportation Kearney has a few options. Kearney Cab, R.Y.D.E. Transit, and UNK’s Creating A Bridge program (CAB) all operate in town. But these programs are somewhat expensive or inconvenient. UNK students would benefit from the creation of a more convenient and less expensive busing operation.

Kearney Cab usually takes less than 15 minutes to pick up patrons and its business hours make it pretty convenient. But calling a cab costs $2 a mile. That means students who want to go grocery shopping will pay more than $8 for the roundtrip from campus to Wal-Mart, not to mention the cab bill other off campus ventures could rack up. A campus established bus system could provide the same ride regularly for less money both for individual trips and by offering a semester bus pass.

UNK’s CAB program offers free rides to students on Sunday afternoons. Initially designed to reach out to international students, CAB offers free rides via volunteers to any student, on or off campus. Despite the excellent price, CAB only offers rides one afternoon a week. A bus could operate a much more extensive schedule for a minimal cost.

R.Y.D.E. Transit operates on an appointment basis, and makes trips in town and to some surrounding areas. Appointments have to be made 24 hours ahead of time and the pickup time is a 30 minute window. Rides cost $1.50 each way. The main flaw with this program is convenience. Making an appointment 24 hours in advance does not facilitate a spontaneous trip to Wal-Mart, the mall or the movie theater. It would also be a hassle for regular trips like work or classes, but a regular bus schedule could cover each of these issues.

Establishing a Loper bus route could save students a great deal of money, and it wouldn’t be hard to set up. One bus could cover a simple route from campus toward downtown on 25th Street, and to popular spots on 2nd Avenue. The bus could return to campus every hour or so and routes and times could be adjusted as the operation developed. Students could purchase individual rides for a low price or a semester pass and nonstudents could purchase the same options for a slightly higher price.

To kick off the Loper bus the university should encourage incoming freshmen to purchase semester passes, in the same way options such as parking passes are promoted. The program would allow students to go shopping, have a safe ride home from the bar, or provide rides to class for off campus students.

When established, students could study, work, and go out in Kearney without a car. This would save money on parking, and gas and leave more parking spaces available for students who have cars. Ultimately this bus could become a source of revenue for the university and fund other programs for students.

Monopoly: UNK Edition

Monopoly is a fun game that comes in a variety of versions, such as Star Wars, Pokemon, Batman and Robin, Bible, and Family Guy. At UNK we have our own edition of the game, except we traded the Parker Brothers for Chartwells.

In Monopoly: UNK Edition the game is food on campus and Chartwells holds all the properties. By contract, no organization, or class can bring outside food for an event on campus without Chartwells’ approval.

Groups are expected to have Chartwells provide food for events. Not only is the catering below par, but the price tag is excessive. Complaints aren’t hard to find if you ask around campus, and neither are rule breakers.

Whether it’s pizza in class or snacks for an organization’s meeting, people all over campus are breaking the rule. Others avoid it. A few years ago high school students from across the state flocked to UNK for SIFE’s (Students in Free Enterprise) New Venture Adventure and Little Caeser’s offered to donate pizzas. The donation saved a fair amount of money, but couldn’t be eaten on campus. At lunch time the enterprising young students marched across campus to a church across the street and ate there.

University policies shouldn’t force students to take a hike. The monopoly over food on campus has led to sub-par food at high prices, forcing the campus community to break or avoid the rule. When the new food service contract is negotiated this year, the university should let this monopoly go bankrupt.

Every college student knows the great thing about multiple choice tests is that the right answer is always right there on the page. Unfortunately for UNK students the campus meal plan options don’t offer much in the mold of a right answer.

Students living on campus are required to purchase a meal plan and are only given two options. The first is 15 meals a week for $1,749, and the second offers 21 meals a week for $1,783. Both choices cost more than $100 a week. With only $34 difference between the plans it makes little sense not to spend the extra money and opt for the 21 meal plan, even though it is close to impossible not to waste some meals.

On campus students aren’t the only ones left with no real options. Those living off campus have no reason to buy a meal plan. The task of even attempting to eat 15 meals a week on campus is as daunting as the price tag for students who are likely working in addition to attending classes. Beyond the semester-long plans, the price of individual meals is too high. For the same price students can eat a meal at a decent restaurant in town.

If the university would like to bring in more money through campus dining, it should create a more flexible meal plan, for less money and fewer meals. Such a move would give off campus residents a reason to buy in to campus dining.

Anyone who has ever had a meal plan on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus can tell you the food defies the expectations set by a price tag that’s over $1,700. Part of the reason is because only a fraction of the more than $400 charged for each month of meals goes to Chartwells.

Approximately 1/3 or around $500-600 from each student’s meal plan goes to the university. That means only $1,100-1,200 of your money has to be divided between paying the staff and buying food — No wonder the food doesn’t taste like $1,700.

It’s an outrage right? Not exactly.

The university rents out its own kitchens, and dining areas, so it has a legitimate expectation of payment. In addition, the money from these meal plans has gone toward improving the student union and adding dining options like the café in the student union. Funding such facilities with money from the meal plans makes sense because these facilities are typically only frequented by those who have meal plans.

Even though the arrangement makes sense, it’s not the best option. Such high priced plans, which are more costly than plans at Nebraska University schools and state colleges, push students off campus because the campus residents are required to purchase them. In a time of declining state aid and rising tuition prices the university should look out for students’ already ransacked budgets.

By lowering the university’s cut of each meal plan to only what’s required for the upkeep of current dining facilities, the school may convince more students to stay on campus longer, instead of leaving campus residence halls dormant.

Run with it!

Loper history is teaming with vibrant, passionate, and timeless opinion, and debate. Of those debates that have raged on throughout the school’s history, some have shifted the very core of this Kearney campus, and the students that live here. Shifts in the river of UNK’s history have never been short on causes, but one of the most influential currents at this school has always been the university newspaper.

Who can forget when in its first issue more than 100 years ago the Antlelope editorial board demanded Kearney invest in our youth and train the future teachers of the heartland? Decades later the paper rocked the foundations of the school when, after a particularly one-sided football game against the cornhuskers of Lincoln, its editorial asked, “Is it time to face easier competition?”. And surely no one needs to be reminded of the key role the Antelope played in spurring Mr. Edward R. Murrow to challenge the angry wave of McCarthyism that was sweeping the country in the 1950s.

More recently the Antelope has shifted toward columns instead of editorials, but its opinion pages have lost none of the fire that has been burning for more than a century. In only the last few years a now famous blogger warned the campus of their technology dependency through the Antelope editorial page. The Antelope has challenged the nation as linguistically malnourished, through the writing of a renowned linguist, and even expressed disappointment with the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Now is no time to let up. Several topics are ripe for discussion on campus. It is time for the Antelope to make its opinion known.

A topic that is always hot, unlike its food, is Chartwells, which runs campus dining.

Even though someone could blog on this topic for longer than it takes to digest the burgers and chicken sandwiches served in the Commons, I would narrow my topic to what college students learn from buffet style eating. Another offshoot could be pricing, which is outrageous in light of the food quality.

Safe driving conditions is a second potential topic. Perhaps it goes unnoticed, but there are several intersections with limited visibility. Putting new students in uncomfortable driving situations isn’t fair and could be deadly.

Whether opinions about driving or eating find their way into ink, the Antelope is sure to continue its storied role as the center of debate on Kearney’s campus.

Demand Al Jazeera

I want you to get mad! I’m not going to rehash the whole scene from “Network” or ask you to go to the window, but some passion would be helpful, because it is time to demand Al Jazeera Engish.

My earlier post about Egypt and Al Jazeera touched on the difficult but necessary task of bringing AJE to US viewers. Now AJE is giving American viewers a way to spur the process. Al Jazeera reaches 190 million people in English, but is only available in a few pockets around the US.

To organize demand in the US, Al Jazeera launched a #demandaljazeera campaign on twitter, encouraged community meetings, and provided pre-written letters viewers can send to their cable company. So far, over 33,000 letters have been generated.

Al Jazeera’s coverage of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt has attracted a great deal of attention from viewers and the media. Many media members joined the #demandaljazeera campaign wrote in support of bringing the station to the US. The Washington Post blog made a compelling case, and included a great deal of information as well as a challenge for cable companies to expand their public service. Below are a few other articles written on the topic.

AJE’s take from Kristen Saloomey.

A piece from the Kansas City Star.

New York Times’ news approach to the story.

For more coverage, Al Jazeera has a list of articles about the organization and its attempt to find an American audience. To take part in the demand Al Jazeera campaign, check out the website. If we are serious about gaining a clearer worldview, these are the types of steps that need to be taken.

 

Thanks to an agreement between the American Democracy Project and the UNK communications department The Antelope will be taking proposals for investigative stories. Though I have not seen the guidelines, I assume the projects will require one or a series of stories on the proposed issue.

Last semester, while I was senior reporter for The Antelope, I tried to take on an investigative project. My topic was the ageless and infinitely gripping, terrifying household adversary, mold.  More specifically I investigated the prevalence of mold in the University Heights Apartments, based on complaints I heard from several classmates.

Even though I was less than pleased with the story I wrote, I did gain some fun experiences. I was denied public information, almost filed my first freedom of information request, received both veiled and explicit though unfounded threats, and got to see a few administrators experience various shades of anger.

Now, I know that may not sound like a great deal of fun, but I had a blast. So, I’m looking for new topics to investigate as part of one of these sponsored investigative projects. As a university, UNK offers a host of interesting topics, from alcohol, drugs and sex, to illegal aliens, to the budget.

But, I’d hate to limit my topics to the ones that seem obvious to me. In my several years working for the paper, I found a number of interesting occurrences that never surface in the papers or even in public discussion. As with my mold story I think we all benefit when some of these more secret situations are aired out in public.

So, I’d like your help. If you have any ideas for a project, that you don’t mind if I take up, or just have something you think should be covered, please let me know. Even if you have an idea you would like to keep for yourself please share it (just let me know you want to claim it).

Writing about uncovered issues can make a difference and lead to change. If you have an issue worthy of an investigative project, I encourage you to pursue the story, or suggest it here for someone else to claim.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The so called “hour of power” bill is as noble as it is useless.

The “hour of power” is a game for newly turned 21 year olds to drink from midnight on their birthday until bars close at 1 or 2 am. LB 294 would outlaw serving these 21 year olds on the night of their birthday. Bars would no longer serve these individuals, but would that really stop the binge drinking.

A recent editorial suggested the Nebraska Legislature should kill the “hour of power” as fast and as dead as it can. Perhaps the Legislature should do just that, but LB 294 is hardly an effective or permanent solution. Attempting to legislate away a problem like binge drinking is about as effective as trying to turn off a garden hose by putting your hand over the end. Instead of writing new laws, families need to start addressing alcohol at home through education, not punishment.

Drinking is a habit, and one that has remained constant for generations. Families need to focus on establishing good habits in their children. One way to start it to let your son or daughter have a small drink with dinner. At home children can learn to respect alcohol, instead of experiencing that first drink as part of an hour of shots at a bar. Parents can answer important questions about the effects of alcohol consumption, which is urgent given the fact 72 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol.

Legislating and enforcing a new law is a slow, arduous process. Thinking up a drinking game is a short one. The number of games aimed at mindless alcohol consumption is barely finite, and I’d be willing to bet it increases every day. Lawmakers that think they can eradicate this problem by eliminating each drinking game need to sober up.

These newly 21 year olds are obviously being accompanied by “of age” friends to play this game. So this may remove the game from the bar, but would likely just relocate it to someone’s home. From what I’ve seen there are a lot more drinking games played in houses around town than in bars. Plus, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to get obnoxiously drunk at home than it is at the bar.

It is irresponsible to launch 21 year olds into binge drinking on the first night it’s legal. But it’s not any more irresponsible than doing the same thing the second or third night a person is of drinking age.

What’s really irresponsible is to think binge drinking is a problem that can be solved after a person turns 21. At 21 most people are away from home at college or another pursuit. They learn to drink surrounded by peers who are hardly any more experienced.

If the topic of drinking is broached at a younger age, 21 year olds won’t be forced to learn by trial and error; A process that sent 190,000 persons under 21 to the emergency room in 2008. Children need to be taught to understand and respect alcohol at a younger age and ideally at home, by their families. Otherwise they will have plenty of time to learn once they are out on their own.

%d bloggers like this: