RFK, Jr. addresses community on environmental, economic issues

For the first time in the history of Missouri Western State University’s Convocation on Critical Issues, students, faculty and the community were asked to contemplate whether environmental and economic policies were as equally important to our nation’s future. [caption id="attachment_2127" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Photo | Marty Ayers"]Photo | Marty Ayers[/caption] Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was named Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Planet” for his success in leading Riverkeeper in restoring the Hudson River, spoke at the 16th annual convocation on Oct. 1. “Good environmental policy 100 percent of the time is good economic policy,” Kennedy said. “By conserving energy we can restore our nation’s economy.” Kennedy, who is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and the son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, described how rivers are being compromised by damaging amounts of mercury caused by our nation using an abundant amount of coal. According to Kennedy, coal may be inexpensive to use but the long term effects of coal outweigh its cost, such as producing high levels of mercury in fish along with an increase in health problems among children. “Our children are going to pay for our joyride,” Kennedy said. Kennedy, who also serves as senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, said America is lagging behind as an environmentally aware nation compared to other nations, such as the United Kingdom and Israel. He described America as being addicted to oil and that the nation needs to cut ties with our oil-providing countries. Until then, America is funding both sides of the war. Dan Boulware, a St. Joseph trial attorney and for whom the convocation is named, introduced the speaker as the Kennedy who has taken the torch. Boulware assured the audience they would hear something that they have not considered or contemplated. “This is the first time we have considered issues of the environment and the impact of the world’s economy,” Boulware said. “He is unique to previous speakers and unique for me as I had the opportunity in 1963 to hear his father speak three months before his assassination. That event promoted me to be an avid supporter of the convocation so students could have and enjoy this as part of their education.” Boulware said that he heard the same passion in Kennedy’s voice when he spoke as he did in his father’s voice. Kennedy used that voice to explain how global warming and other pollutants are affecting our nation while giving alternatives to improve our environmental state. “Global warming exists, it is upon us now and the effects are going to be catastrophic,” Kennedy said. Audience members like professor of communications Shawna Harris were able to take away suggestions on how they too can be a part in preserving our nation’s energy. “Although I felt that the speech could have been better organized, as well as less promotional plugs for his company, the speech made me realize how many unnecessary items I leave plugged in does impact our energy use,” Harris said. “I never thought about unplugging my electric toothbrush, cell phone or my computer after it has charged.” According to Kennedy, in 15 years Americans will all be driving electric cars because that is where the market is headed, which is also pushing our nation into making changes within our daily lives. Missouri Western Student Melea Youtsey said, “I never really thought about how much money America spends on coal when we have the natural resources for free to provided energy. It really made me think about things I could do differently to conserve energy.” Boulware wrapped up the convocation by reminding the audience that our nation is facing many critical issues. “We must come together as Republicans and Democrats; black and white and as citizens to work together,” Boulware said. “We must work together to serve our society and the world at large. We cannot solve our problems if we cannot come together. “

450 guests meet, hear Kennedy at annual convocation dinner

Speaker Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., previewed critical issues concerning the environment at Missouri Western’s annual convocation dinner, which filled over 450 guests on Sept. 30 in the Fulkerson Center. [caption id="attachment_2130" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Photo | Mathew Fowler"]Photo | Mathew Fowler[/caption] Kennedy--son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while running for president--gave a small glimpse of the speech that he would give the following day at Western’s annual Convocation on Critical Issues, held Oct. 1 in the Looney Complex. “We need a new industry to pull us out of this recession,” Kennedy said. “That new industry is going to be the Green Tech industry.” Among subsidizing to a new industry, Kennedy emphasizes the need for our economy to remove our addiction to oil. “The biggest economic tragedy in our country today is our deadly addiction to oil. We are borrowing $1 billion a day in order to import $1 billion of oil a day.” Kennedy’s facts included that $1.3 trillion a year goes to the oil industries. Among that we have a deadly addiction to carbon. Also, Kennedy, who was named Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Planet, pointed out that the mercury that poisons our fish also greatly affects the fetus of pregnant women and can lead to autism, brain damage or asthma for a newborn baby. “We poison our fish in this country with mercury,” Kennedy said. “The fish are almost certainly contaminated with mercury which is very damaging to the fetus for children and for adults.” However, our nation is the third highest nation with the most solar resources and the second highest nation for geothermal resources. This implies that as a nation we can make some significant changes to save our environment. “The main thing that people need to do is get involved in the political process so we can stop subsidizing the carbon cronies. Good environmental policy is equivalent to economic policy.” Part of this environmental policy also includes an electric grid that provides selling and buying of electricity at consistent prices all over the nation, according to Kennedy. Janet Gorman Murphy McCarthy, previous Western president of 17 years whom Murphy Hall is named after, introduced Kennedy at the dinner and explained her honor in presenting him. “When they asked me to introduce Kennedy, I asked was it because I had volunteered to be an assistant for Robert Kennedy [Sr.] when he was running for president,” McCarthy said. This allowed McCarthy, who was present when Kennedy’s father was killed in California in 1968, to reminisce back on the influence of Kennedy’s father while working for him many years ago. The dinner allowed McCarthy the opportunity to see the future of Kennedy’s father through the voice of his son. McCarthy then continued to explain Kennedy’s many attributes. “He has the reputation as the resolute defender of the environment,” McCarthy said. Dinner members included alumni, students, faculty, and many leaders of the St. Joseph community. Missouri Western sophomore Steven Wichern expressed the experience he had at the dinner. “Just getting to familiarize myself with people in the community is a great experience,” Wichern said. “I really enjoyed the fact that they invited students to the dinner. It’s a great opportunity. It creates an intergenerational atmosphere that represents the whole spectrum.” In addition to the dinner, at a post dinner press conference, Kennedy directed environmental concerns toward the Missouri Western campus. Kennedy, who also authored three books, concluded that instead of focusing on local issues such as recycling programs, students could do greater things. “College students can run for office,” Kennedy said. “I encourage them to do it. Make sure we get rid of the political leaders who are essentially indentured servants to the carbon industry and the big polluters.”

Rebel students, faculty gather to listen to banned-book reading

Students, faculty and members of the community gathered in Blum Union on Thursday, Oct. 1 to attend the 13th annual Reading of Banned and Challenged Books. This event is put together every year for people to listen to excerpts from some of the most banned and challenged books of all time. Michael Cadden, chair of the English, Foreign Languages and Journalism department, organizes the reading every year and believes it to be an important event. “Sometimes we think that living in America means freedom of speech happens automatically everywhere and that’s not the case,” Cadden said. “It’s important to keep reminding people that even if there isn’t a case going on in the community, it’s important that they know that there are cases in other communities that could affect them at some point.” English professor Bill Church believes the reading is important because of what certain books can provide to certain readers. “Books allow us to travel without going anywhere,” Church said. “They take us into the geography of other people’s lives, minds and experiences in ways we might never get.” Church thought this year’s reading was impressive because of the diversity of the texts that were chosen by the readers. According to Cadden, the key to the success of this event is not to read the controversial parts of the books. The key to success is in the hands of the readers and the material that they choose. “People were choosing things that they cared about which was the goal,” Cadden said. “It was to get people to share the parts of those books that made them think and care.” Various excerpts were read throughout the night from works such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The room in Blum Union was not completely packed. However, there was a good number of people in attendance for the event. Cadden and Church both believed the attendance would have been greater if the semester was not so close to midterm and there was not so much going on. Cadden still believes the event was a success and looks forward to doing it all again next year. “We’re gonna keep doing this until they tell us we can’t,” Cadden said. In total, there were eight readers during the course of the banned book reading. The readers included people such as Missouri Western professors, local high school teachers, local librarians and Missouri Western students. The banned book reading started at 7 p.m. and lasted a little over an hour.

Enrollment numbers increase 12.3% over past 5 years

Despite the hardships brought on by the current economical outlook, Missouri Western is enjoying its fifth consecutive year of record enrollment. [caption id="attachment_2119" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Over the past fews years freshmen enrollment has increased. Campus offials credit this not to a falling econmy but to the hard wor and dedication of the faculty and teachers"]Over the past fews years freshmen enrollment has increased. Campus offials credit this not to a falling econmy but to the hard wor and dedication of the faculty and teachers[/caption] Undergraduate enrollment numbers are currently at 5,665, which is a 3.6 percent increase from last fall’s enrollment numbers of 5,470 students. Over the past five years, Western has seen an increase of 12.3 percent, a figure that makes people like Jeanne Daffron, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, very excited. “There’s an energy when you have an organization that’s growing,” Daffron said. “[Record enrollment] adds to that energy and enthusiasm.” Aside from the enrollment numbers, the number of credit hours being taken is up by 5.6 percent from 63,382 to 66,922; the number of graduate students has increased from 65 to 70 and the overall freshmen enrollment is 2,575. 4,090 of the enrolled students are full-time, with 1,645 part-time and, in terms of male and female, 3,330 female students compared to 2,405 male students. Daffron feels that Western’s success can be credited not so much to the failing economy but rather the many things the university has to offer to students. “Geographically, we’re in a very good place. For our undergraduate students, being in a city this size is an advantage because there are part-time jobs,” Daffron said. “Our emphasis on applied learning is important to people; it prepares them to be immediately productive in the workforce. As students are looking at universities, that may be something they’re thinking a little bit more about.” Accompanying those sentiments, Director of Admissions Howard McCauley feels that the current status of the university is helping attract students to Western; in particular, McCauley feels that the graduate programs being developed on campus and recent projects such as the Incubator, Remington Hall and the Chiefs Camp are all adding to the university’s prestige. “Western is a hot university,” McCauley said. “Western is right at the front [of the pack] and we’re not going to take a backseat to anyone.” While much good is coming out of the increased enrollment, some on campus are witnessing the negatives firsthand. Bob Griffin is a history major who commutes 40 miles to campus everyday and, for the first time in three years, is seeing a major problem with the parking situation on campus. “Parking is severely inadequate,” Griffin said. “It’s frustrating having to park halfway across campus and then walk one-third a mile to my class. I don’t totally fault the university. I understand it’s all affected by the influx of students but, in the three years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a problem as bad as it is now.” McCauley, while sympathetic, is quick to note that in comparison to universities and colleges like Northwest and Central Missouri, Western is much better off in the parking situation. However, parking isn’t the only growing issue to stem out of record enrollment. In a previous story, President Robert Vartabedian expressed his concerns that the faculty and staff had been stretched in terms of dealing with the increased number of students on campus and feels that Western will probably have to hire new faculty and staff members in the near future. Daffron couldn’t agree more, stating that the faculty and staff have done as much as they can without sacrificing that which is most important; a quality education. Nevertheless, she feels that Western, now and in the future, can face those problems down and come out on top. “You always hate to think about those things as problems,” Daffron said. “They’re [real challenges] and it affects people’s lives on a daily basis. However, we can be creative and figure out what to do about those things.”

Future housing contemplated as numbers max at 1,110

For the past four years the number of residential students that have chosen to call Missouri Western their home has continued to grow. This year, the number sets an upward trend for the university at 1,110 residential students as of the fourth week of the semester. To meet this number Residential Life modified a mojority of the super single suites to fit two residents. Sean O’Reiley, assistant director of residential life, commented on the University’s growth. “We have seen a slow and steady rise, especially in the last three years,” O’Reiley said. “If you really dig down into the numbers, you see that sophomores, juniors and seniors are returning year after year.” Since the occupancy numbers have been increasing, administrators are looking to expand the housing facilities on campus. President Robert Vartabedian commented on the growth of Missouri Western and how it will affect campus housing. “I think, definitely, an expansion is on the table,” Vartabedian said, “It’s not if we’re going to expand; it’s a matter of how and when we’re going to expand.” To assess the Greek life on campus, the university is having a consultant visit campus. The consultant will look into the possibility of Greek housing. The consultant will be on campus during the first week of November. “[The consultant will be] also looking at how feasible it is for us to talk in terms of a possible Greek village and, if so, when?” Vartabedian said. As far as feasibility, the university has 744 acres. The real concern is the budgetary needs of expansion. “We would just have to do a financial risk assessment if we wanted to do something like that,” Vartabedian said. “We wouldn’t want to do something like that if our need for residential halls has lessened,” Vartabedian said. The university is currently still deciding what route to take as far as expansion, but they anticipate that it will be complete as late as the fall semester of 2011.