- Commerce no longer students’ ‘go-to’ bank
| Audrey Dighans copy editor |
Like many once familiar sights in the student center, Commerce Bank will soon disappear for good.
Commerce Bank announced on Friday, Jan. 23, that it and the university had reached a mutual agreement to end the banking function of the PSU student ID card or Gorilla Card on May 30. The on-campus location for Commerce will also be closed and walled off by the end of business Friday, Feb. 6.
“I think it’s a big deal,” said Steve Erwin, associate vice president of campus life and auxiliary services. “The metaphor I like to use is you had an infection in one of your fingers and the doctor decided to amputate up to your shoulder.”
Erwin says that across the country there were problems with banks and other financial institutions taking advantage of students, but these were small isolated problems and were not occurring at Pittsburg State.
“When we sat down to decide how we wanted to proceed with having a financial institution at this school we chose Commerce because they are well-known in this region, they had no fees for students using their cards…and we were able to directly deposit financial aid refunds into student Commerce accounts,” Erwin said.
In fact, he says Pitt State once considered bringing on board one of the companies under scrutiny for taking advantage of college students’ money.
“We have had a great partnership with Commerce over the last decade,” Erwin said. “I really feel like we built a good product that aided our students. It’s a loss to our campus.”
A report issued by the Public Research Interest Group two years ago and various complaints claim that financial institutions at universities take advantage of students by charging them to ATMs to access funds, including financial aid refunds, and in some cases opening, maintaining or closing accounts.
“In the case of Pitt State it would cost Commerce too much to stay,” Erwin said.
Students who wish to continue having financial aid refunds deposited into their Commerce accounts will be able to do so and continue to use their accounts. The Commerce ATM will also remain.
However, incoming students of future semesters will not have the option of receiving a Commerce account and will have to provide existing banking information for financial aid to be refunded to them.
“This will create a chance for error,” Erwin said. “It will be one more step and if something goes wrong it will delay a student receiving his or her refund.”
No Commerce representative was available to comment but the bank’s press release sent to the university states students who wish to continue using their Commerce accounts after May 30 will receive Visa debit cards and can continue banking at any Commerce Bank location.
“We will be working with the university to communicate the changes in the financial aid disbursement process to students within the next few months,” said Don Becker, assistant vice president of student banking, in the press release.
- Supreme Court to hear same-sex marriage cases
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
The U.S. Supreme Court decided it will hear cases of whether or not same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
“Even if it is passed, we still have to keep up the hope it won’t be taken back in a month,” said Mary Owens, senior in psychology.
She adds the LGBTQ community has never felt secure on issues like this.
The Supreme Court has had petitions from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, which have so far gone against an ever-growing national trend of acceptance.
Reviewing the history
Earlier this month, Florida became the 36th state, along with the nation’s capital, to allow same-sex marriage. Though the Supreme Court originally refused to hear cases similar to those of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan in October of last year, it will do so now in order to establish precedence for lower federal courts across the country.
The court’s first ruling on gay marriage occurred in June 2013 when the court rejected parts of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The court ruled legally married gay couples are entitled to the same federal benefits as male-female married couples. The case ended before it could become a nationwide ruling that would have made same-sex marriage legal.
Still having hard feelings
Amber Danielson, senior in psychology, says while the Supreme Court is hearing the case there will be no help for backlash the LGBTQ community will endure.
“Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of unhappy situations that follow us around,” she said. “If this marriage equality thing does work out, that would definitely be fantastic, but I have a feeling that people will just equate getting equal marriage to equal rights and treatment.”
Gretchen Bohnert, junior in English, agrees, saying violence will continue to come to individuals in the LGBTQ community.
“Violence still exists in most areas of the USA, and even if we make steps forward legally, it is important to be able to secure the safety of individuals who are simply being true to themselves,” Bohnert said.
Students such as Dakota Gray say they are for the legalization as long as they don’t see a lot of personal displays of affection.
“A lot of affection like that is uncomfortable for people to watch. I feel that way when it’s between a man and a woman also,” said Gray, sophomore in mechanical engineering technology.
Other students like Tyler Geissler say they should not be forced to acknowledge same-sex marriage as a Christian-based marriage but are OK with calling them civil unions.
“I’m against same-sex marriage for marriage perks for straight couples,” said Geissler, freshman undeclared. “I think if they go for adoption they should be able to get perks plus the license.”
The Supreme Court should hear oral arguments in April and decide by June.
Students lead protest against traveling preacher
| Pan Liu reporter |
Students of the university’s social work program staged a protest called “Ignore The Hate” on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Oval.
Participants formed a circle around the Oval holding signs with “walk on by” or “ignore the hate.” It was designed to keep a crowd from forming around Matt Bourgault, a preacher from the Consuming Fire Campus Ministry, who usually comes to Pitt State for two days twice a year.
“We were expecting him to show up later in the spring once it got warm,” said Andrew Newberry, senior in social work and founder of the student protest. “We didn’t account it was going to be 70 degrees these two days and so we were given a heads up he would be here this morning. I found out at 9 a.m.”
Members of the protest had begun planning for Bourgault the previous Friday.
“We were hoping to have a month or so of time to plan,” Newberry said. “We got about three hours. We’ve been organized for about five days, but we really didn’t know this gonna be today until this morning.”
After the “heads up” the organization mobilized quickly.
“We did not expect it to happen so fast,” said Kristen Humphrey, associate professor in history, philosophy and social sciences and director of the Social Work Program.
Victoria Ho, freshman in English and history, says she was just passing by when the protest began.
“People were all around this creature,” she said. “I think he twists the message of God. I think God’s theory is more about redemption and love, more soul than hate.”
Though the protest was organized hastily, Newberry says this was the first time students organized to protest Bourgault.
“I think it’s very significant,” he said. “It’s important, we don’t want him to be here anymore because of what he says and shouts to students. It’s hurtful to people, and when I watch women on this campus walk to the Oval they often become engaged in arguments with him.
“I’ve seen many walk away with tears. No student, male or female or of any orientation, should fear walking to the Oval.”
To prevent any acts of violence, police set up a fence around Bourgault to keep the crowds away from him from the beginning of his sermon to the end. Unlike previous years, no students argued with Bourgault during the two days of his occupation of the Oval. The ring of protestors seemed to get its mission accomplished.
“Students chose not to engage Brother Matt as they have during his previous visits,” said Terry Pierce, university police sergeant. “They chose to let their feelings be known in a peaceful way.”
Newberry says that free speech is an extremely important right in the U.S.
“We don’t want to limit that,” Newberry said. “We are doing just what he is, coming out here and saying what we want to say. We have that freedom as well.”
- English, languages depts. merge
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
As of Jan. 12 the Pittsburg State University English and Modern Languages departments have merged to create one department instead of two. The new department will be titled English and Modern Languages.
According to Karl Kunkel, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the merger was suggested when there was a call for a change in the structure of academics for departments.
“We only had four faculty in the modern languages department last year right after the former chair retired,” Kunkel said.
When the modern languages master’s program was phased out in the fall of 2013, both departments began to envision a new comprehensive degree program with English and modern language components, since similarites were seen within each degree. The program now offered by the Department of English and Modern Language includes a variety of tracks to cater to student interests while managing resources more effeciently.
“We had to ask ourselves if we wanted to rehire a chair who would help to oversee the faculty, or would we rather use the money and resources to hire two new faculty members,” Kunkel said. “We decided to hire faculty members to help bolster the program.”
Kunkel added that many other universities have combined departments and since both departments are located in Grubbs Hall, students will not even notice much of a difference.
“Students associate themselves with a whole department,” he said.
Celia Patterson, chairman of the English department, volunteered to serve as the interim chair for the modern languages department. She says the additional faculty members have not been hired but interviews are being conducted.
“We hope that we can find a professor who would teach Spanish and another professor who would teach both Spanish and French,” Patterson said.
Kunkel added that it made more sense to hire faculty who would be able to teach eight classes per semester rather than hiring a new department chair, who would teach only two classes a semester so as to provide enough time for chair duties.
The merger’s success is largely due to Kunkel’s recommendation to the provost, the chief academic officer of Pittsburg State University. After her approval, the recommendation went on to the Kansas Board of Regents and though the two departments are officially merged there is still work to be done on logistics and details.
“We have to create a new website along with a new letterhead, business cards, stationary and other things for it to be complete,” Patterson said.
To help cater to student’s wishes, a task force was created and comprised of students and faculty. Lynzee Flores was one student to sit on the task force.
“Students wanted to be a part of the process we were going through,” Patterson said. “Lynzee would relay our information to the students and bring us back their responses to it.”
Flores, junior in Spanish and communication, asked students their thoughts.
“The new program allows students to take fewer hours of language courses and (they ) have the ability to opt out of core courses, such as grammar, in order to complete the degree in a convenient way,” Flores said. “The new program is a major of convenience, but it’s not efficient. But at the same time, I’d rather have this program than no program at all.”
Flores added the merger is a good compromise because she knows the department struggled to keep its language students through graduation. She expressed concern that the level of fluency would not be as high as it was with the previous program.
“Student will be getting a quality education, but I’m afraid we’ll be a little behind compared to other universities,” Flores said. “I am proud of the university for finding a compromise and solution to what seemed like a crisis last year. I don’t want them to think that I disapprove or diminish their program, because I don’t.”
- Preparing for problems
School stands ready for flu
| Tyler Koester reporter |
The popular phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may not be enough to keep Pitt State students free of the flu this season.
The Centers for Disease Control declared a flu epidemic a few weeks ago and the Bryant Student Health Center at PSU is acting in accordance.
“We’re happy to see any students who are ill or concerned about the flu,” said Carrie Farrington, nurse practitioner at the health center. “We can do influenza testing to confirm the presence of the virus and we can also help differentiate between the influenza illness and other respiratory illnesses.”
Although it is important for students to maintain a social life on campus, Farrington says the greatest compliment an ill student can give fellow classmates is to avoid all contact with them.
“Do not go to class or work when ill with a high fever or influenza-type illness,” she said. “Students should not return to class until they have been fever-free for 24 hours and the ill person should also practice good hand washing and covering of coughs, sneezes and respiratory secretions.”
The CDC is using the difficulty pharmacies are having keeping antiviral medications like Tamiflu in stock as a meter to gauge a flu epidemic in the country. The flu strain rampaging this season is H3N2, two thirds of which is not covered in the essence of the current flu shot. So even though receiving your flu shot is an important defense against the disease, it may not be enough this season.
“Unfortunately, about half of the H3N2 viruses that we’ve analyzed this season are different from the H3N2 virus that’s included in this year’s flu vaccine,” said Tom Frieden, CDC director, during a press conference. “They are different enough that we’re concerned that protection from vaccinations against these drifted H3N2 viruses may be lower than we usually see.”
The people with the most risk of this “nastier” strain of the disease are infants and those aged 65 and older. This may be one reason some PSU students, such as Dyson Ritchie, are not concerned about getting sick.
Ritchie, freshman in digital media, says with classes in session, catching the flu is the last thing on his mind.
“I’m not really worried about getting the flu,” Ritchie said. “I got all my flu shots and I’m pretty cautious about stuff like that.”
Ritchie added he has the advantage of not catching the flu from a roommate in a dorm since he still lives with his parents, where the only threat of infection may come from guests.
“My little brother’s friends coming over may be the only chance of me catching anything,” Ritchie said.
As for the flu epidemic declaration by the CDC, Ritchie says he thinks it’s all a matter of them being needlessly apprehensive.
“I’m not too concerned about it because I don’t really catch anything,” Ritchie said. “There’s always some kind of epidemic it seems like, so I’m never really too concerned and if I do get sick, I usually get over it pretty fast.”
Statistics however may disagree with Ritchie’s line of thinking.
The World Health Organization estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide die every year from influenza, while the CDC estimates that 30,000 to 49,000 people in the U.S. die from the disease annually.
“It’s something that absolutely can kill you,” said Dr. Anna Rye, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, S.C. “It can kill people in more numbers than, say, Ebola, which is out there in the news and really doesn’t affect anyone in South Carolina or the United States.”
- Free college? Obama’s new initiative
| Kyleigh Becker reporter |
During the annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday, Jan. 20, President Barack Obama proposed a plan to Congress to provide free community college education across the country, which would benefit 9 million students and save the average full-time student $3,800 per year.
Obama’s plan proposes the federal government will cover three-fourths of tuition costs while the state covers the rest.
“Forty percent of college students attend a community college,” Obama said during the address. “Those with an associate’s degree earn roughly 25 percent more than those who didn’t attend college.”
Both non-traditional and high school graduates would be eligible to take advantage of Obama’s plan, with the stipulation being that all students have to earn their grant.
“A 2.5 GPA and on-time graduation would be required,” Obama said.
Ian Miller, senior in English, says he believes the government should subsidize higher education.
40 percent of college students attend a community college
“It’s a right that everybody should have,” he said. “The fact that he (Obama) is even going to the step of community college is really encouraging.”
Miller added he thinks this will allow more students to attend college.
“It’s kind of something you would hope to see for everybody,” he said.
While Miller has attended a four-year university for his entire college career, he says he can see the benefits of going to community college, both for new students and those who may be working or taking care of a family.
“It’s a good way to ease into the college environment,” he said. “But community college is always a great option if you’re not ready to take on the full experience. It’s more accommodating.”
Michael Kershner agrees.
“Education is very important,” Kershner, sophomore in recreation administration, said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be back here after 20-plus years of being out of school, but it (education) has never really been a cost.”
Kershner says that while the number of students enrolling in college may initially increase with the plan, many will still decide it’s not for them.
“I don’t think you’re going to see that big of a rise in the number of degrees from this program,” he said. “If it was free, the quality and the dedication probably wouldn’t be there as much. Having to work to get through school is part of the thing. College is something that’s going to put you a step above everybody else … but personally, I don’t feel like the government can carry that burden.”
Kershner added focusing more on trade-school may be more beneficial, but he is not quite sure how free community college will work.
“It kind of takes away what you accomplish from finishing your higher education,” he said.
- World unites against terrorism
| Kyleigh Becker reporter |
The Paris terrorist attacks reverberated way beyond France’s borders, says Leo Asselin, PSU graduate student in business administration.
“I would qualify this as our personal 9/11,” said Asselin, from France. “It wasn’t only an attack toward French people, but it was an attack to France itself. That’s why I say this. Beyond the deaths, the symbol of free press was attacked.”
Seventeen people were killed in the Paris area by four al Qaeda-linked suspects. The attacks began Wednesday, Jan. 7, at the office of Charlie Hebdo satire magazine and ended Friday, Jan. 9, at a printing factory outside of Paris.
Cherif and Said Kouachi are the alleged gunmen of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, which left 12 dead. A third suspect opened fire in a market later that day killing four civilians, one police officer and leaving another wounded. The suspect was killed by police that day and the Kouachi brothers were gunned down at the printing facility on Friday. However, French authorities are still on the lookout for a fourth suspect, believed to have aided in the market attack.
In the weeks since the attacks the world has come together to show unity against terrorism.
Myriam Krepps, associate professor of French, says the French may not be known for patriotism, but in the weeks since the attacks the Republic has come together.
In Krepps’ hometown of Toulouse, nearly 140,000 people took to the streets in response to the attacks. Other symbols of patriotism, such as French senators singing “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem, which has not been done since 1908, have also taken place.
Asselin calls Paris home and says the attacks resulted in more than 1 million people marching in the streets.
“It warms my heart,” he said. “It was really great to see a population united around the symbol that was Charlie Hebdo.”
He added that it feels strange to be far from home while these events have taken place.
“I feel my support is not perceived, not as well as if I would have been in Paris,” Asselin said. “I have missed the little details but have been asking friends back home for as much information as I can get.”
Krepps says that with the French citizens and the world uniting, the attacks backfired on the terrorists.
“It has made everybody proud of the fact that in a moment of extreme distress and duress that the French people are united together for the same cause against terrorism,” Krepps said.
However, Krepps says the attack itself was not entirely surprising.
Charlie Hebdo has been attacked before. In 2005 a firebomb was thrown into the office’s window and France has reported terror crimes since the 1970s.
“It was surprising they would go against cartoonists and in such a horrible way,” Krepps said.
Increased police protection has been placed on several centers since the attacks, including Jewish schools and synagogues, as well as Muslim mosques.
“How much can you protect places without making the country into a police state? You don’t want to create a psychosis and people fearing to go anyplace all the time,” Krepps said. “People have to feel safe enough and not reminded constantly that we live in a dangerous world to live happily.”
- Low gas prices putting money in students’ pockets
| Gretchen Burns reporter |
Megan Peabody, sophomore in psychology, is saving money right now for the future, thanks to low gasoline prices.
“I’m not spending my saved money on anything because I can’t spare to lose that money,” she said. “I will be keeping it for future college or personal expenses.”
Due to the United State’s increased oil production and lower world demand, gas prices have plummeted from close to $4 a gallon last year to under $2 this year. Crude oil in the U.S. is currently selling under $44 a barrel.
“I drive home most weekends and I’ve had to stop before because I didn’t have enough to pay for gasoline,” said Valerie Weilert, senior in biology. “I have a gas card that I use and pay it off at the end of the month, which cut down on money for food. Now, I can actually get food and gas and still have extra money.”
Seth Carrithers says he also enjoys having the extra money to put toward food now that gas is cheaper.
“It’s all going toward food. Ramen is out and a variety is the flavor of the month now,” Carrithers, junior in marketing, said.”
Instead of food, Grace Fritz has used her extra money to buy items she previously was unable to afford at the time.
“My checking account, or what I like to call my impulse fund, is fuller than usual so I am buying all sorts of things on the Internet,” Fritz, senior in sustainability, said.
Bailey Jones, sophomore in justice studies, added she is still saving her money for upcoming expenses but has enjoyed buying a few more fun items than usual, such as comic books and video games.
Nathan Laskowski is also saving for the future.
“Since gas prices are so low right now, I will be able to save money to help pay for dental school … and the occasional Taco Bell run,” Laskowski, senior in biochemistry, said.
Throughout the Jungle, Pitt State students have been making car payments, furnishing apartments, splurging, saving and just enjoying having more money.
“I love that gas is so low since I drive half an hour each day for student teaching,” said Ryan Matney, senior in elementary education. “It has worked out perfectly. I now spend a bit more on food and Starbuck’s, but I’m definitely enjoying not paying as much for gas.”
Jacob Wylie agrees.
Wylie, junior in chemistry, says instead of more fast food and other purchases, he has simply kept his tank full.
“I used to only fill up with half a tank,” he said. “Now, I fill up with a full tank and save even more money.”
- Laura Bush coming to Pitt State
| Audrey Dighans copy editor |
The Pittsburg State Women in Government Lecture Series announced that former First Lady Laura Bush is scheduled to speak on campus next semester.
Bush will talk about education, literacy, volunteerism and other topics on Wednesday, April 22, at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.
“With the arrival of the new center of the arts we wanted its inaugural season to be outstanding,” said Kathleen Flannery, executive director of university development.
Flannery says the lecture series contacted Bush’s staff with a proposal for her to speak at Pitt State and the people in charge of the Series were thrilled when Bush accepted.
“She is joining a long line of Women in Government speakers,” Flannery said. “We have had Helen Thomas and Kerry Kennedy in the past, to name a few, and Laura Bush will bring such great awareness to PSU about women’s issues.
“She has been a champion for health care, human rights and a strong advocate for volunteerism.”
The Women in Government Lecture Series was established in 2001 and has been sponsored by the Boylan Foundation since its creation. The Series works to showcase opportunities women have and also the path for leadership.
Flannery says that although the date is set, there are still many unknowns about Bush’s arrival. Ticket information, security changes and other factors are being prepared and people will be notified of new information in early spring.
“She is excited to come,” Flannery said. “We’re excited to have her. I hope women and men from every discipline at this university come to see and listen to a woman of Mrs. Bush’s caliber.”
- $aving for Christmas
| Kyleigh Becker reporter |
With Christmas fast approaching students are beginning to save.
Erica Martens, senior in political science, says she saves some of her Christmas money from her student loans.
“To me, it’s like my own Christmas club,” Martens said.
She added another way she saves money is by not eating out as much.
“I spent a great majority of money on Starbucks,” she said.
With the money saved from her student loans and Starbucks deprivation, Martens says she plans to buy her four children Christmas presents and visit them back home in Iowa.
“Each one of them wants something different,” Martens said.
One of Martens’ sons has already gotten his Christmas present: a phone.
Martens says she hopes to buy her youngest son a video game and her middle son sheet music.
“And my daughter wants a sewing machine,” Martens said.
Martens has put back roughly $1,700 for her family’s Christmas this year to help pay for all the travel expenses and presents.
Not all students have set aside that much, though.
Samantha Reynolds is still working on her savings and says she hopes to have $300 by Christmas.
“I’ve already started buying Christmas gifts,” Reynolds, senior in psychology, said. “But I have a few people left. I’ve been saving since August.”
In Reynolds’ sleigh one can find games, beauty products, slippers and gloves.
“Nothing too special,” she said.
Reynolds says her Christmas saving strategy has been to save a little bit from each of her paychecks.
Lainey Caulfield also utilized this method. The senior in psychology says she held back $10-$15 from each.
“Being a college student, saving is kind of difficult,” she said.
Caulfield says she likes to make gifts for Christmas, so that instead of having to save a lot of money for presents she only has to save a little
“Honestly, I like to make a lot of my gifts for people,” she said. “Last year, all my cousins got scarves.”
This year, Caulfield says she plans on baking many of her presents, such as cookies and other sweets. This is also the first Christmas she will buy a present for her boyfriend and she says she wants to get him something nice.
“He is a Royals fan,” Caulfield said.
Caulfield has been saving as much as possible to buy him a Royals fan package and though she says he has been looking at buying himself a beanie, she may make him one.
“It means a bit more (to have something handmade),” Caulfield said. “Someone put thought into it.”
Handmade gifts may be just the answer for many Pitt State students, including Cody Leal, who has been unemployed since Hastings closed.
“Basically, I haven’t done any (saving), with tuition going up and everything,” Leal, junior in communication, said.
Leal says he eats at home to cut back on costs and has been putting part of his unemployment check to savings, but overall this year’s Christmas will be small with only his family and white elephant gifts for friends.
“I wanted to get my girlfriend a new drawing tablet, but they’re expensive and work has not been kind,” Leal said.
Leal added he likes homemade gifts, though they may not be flashy.
“I’ll take a handmade card from my nephew with fingerprints all over it rather than an Xbox One any day,” Leal said.