Largest sorority recruitment ever

Spratt Stadium was filled with laughter, tears and excitement on Sunday when Missouri Western's sororities added a total of 61 new members. Last week's Panhellenic recruitment set new precedents at Western due to it being the largest rush class in history and holding bid day in Spratt Stadium for the first time ever. Kendra Greer, president of Panhellenic council, said that a total of 102 girls rushed the three Panhellenic sororities on campus. These sororities are Alpha Sigma Alpha, Sigma Sigma Sigma and Alpha Gamma Delta. Each sorority received new members at bid day. According to Isaiah Collier, assistant dean of student involvement and Panhellenic advisor, ASA received 22 new members, Tri Sigma received 21 and AGD received 18. Greer said one of the reasons the recruitment class was so large was because of the Panhellenic council's marketing efforts. "We started planning early, and we really pushed going Greek. We put posters all over campus like normal, but we also really used twitter to get girls informed about what it means to be Greek," Greer said. "We also had a table set up in Scanlon with computers where girls could register and pay online to go through recruitment." Kaitlyn Doolan, a freshman psychology major with an emphasis in childhood studies and photography minor, started recruitment hopeful and ended wearing AGD letters. "I was very doubtful the first night because I was afraid I wouldn't make it into a sorority," Doolan said. "Whenever the 'party nights' came around, I knew one of them was for me but I wasn't sure which one. Then I narrowed it down to two, and then on pref night I knew AGD was for me." Doolan said she decided to rush so she could make new friends and get involved in Western's community. "I'm most excited about getting to know my sisters," Doolan said. Kealey Mathieson, senior and recruitment chair of Tri Sigma, said this recruitment was the best planned she has ever seen. "I think the process went really well. Of course it was exhausting, but it's worth it in the end," Mathieson said. "We've been planning since January." Mathieson is also excited about the upcoming year with the 21 new members in Tri Sigma. "I'm excited to get them involved in the organization, and to get to know them a lot more. We got a really good group of girls," Mathieson said. "This was my last recruitment ever, so watching them open their bids and run to their new home was really emotional." Tara Caligiuri, senior and president of Alpha Sigma Alpha, said she is excited that her last recruitment was also the biggest one. "I honestly can't believe it's my fourth and last year here," Caligiuri said.

Western students possibly receiving tuition refund

Missouri Western undergraduate students who are residents of Missouri may have some money coming their way in the near future. The Western Board of Governors will be polled anonymously to decide whether or not to refund 1.74 percent of tuition, or $3.35 per credit hour, to resident undergraduate students. If passed, the tuition increase will also be permanently removed going forward. This proposal is at the recommendation of Western administrators. According to Kent Heier, assistant director of public relations and marketing, in an email distributed to the media, the poll was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 24, but was postponed. The poll was rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 8. Heier said that while the phone poll was postponed, the administration was continuing to gather information about the tuition refund and adjustment. This possible tuition refund is a result of a budget readjustment after Western was officially slated to receive about $650,000 three weeks ago. When making a budget plan for this semester, two were created - one planning for reception of state funds and one without the state funds. In June when the budget was finalized, Western was still not officially receiving any state funds, so tuition was increased for resident undergraduate students. Now that Western has received the state funding, Western administrators are recommending the raise in tuition is refunded to students and the increase is removed.

Senator visits Western

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Due to new legislation and changes to old understandings, one local politician has taken it upon herself to help educate Missouri college campuses regarding sexual violence. As part of her "Claire on Campus' tour, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill visited Missouri Western to speak to administrators, faculty members and students about sexual assault. She made her visit on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 4:15 p.m. "Whenever Washington passes a law, we have a bad habit that we don't check in with the people who are going to utilize the law," she said. "We don't check in to make sure that what we're doing is practical, it's responsible, that it will actually accomplish the goals we want to accomplish. So, what I've been doing is traveling around the state.... to make sure I'm getting input from students, from administrators, from law enforcement, about this very thorny and difficult problem of sexual assault on college campuses." McCaskill spoke about the importance of educating students about sexual assault and advocating for the victims of those crimes. She said there was one fact in particular that she founds alarming. "If you go to college in America, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted than if you don't," she said. "There's a lot of complicated reasons why that's a fact, and that's why we need Title IX to be workable and robust, and that's why we need  to talk about the intersect between Title IX and the law enforcement system." Daniel Hager, president of the Student Government Association, said it is important that the culture of being embarrassed or reluctant to report sexual assault changes. One SGA recent initiative is the 'It's On Us' campaign. According to their website, the 'It's On Us' campaign encourages students to take a pledge as 'a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.' "One of the things we have been speaking on with the 'It's On Us' campaign is that we want to be advocates of not just being a bystander - of getting actively involved," Hager said. He said that he and McCaskill discussed that some students view only extreme situations as sexual assault, like "a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a knife." "That's not it, at all," Hager said. "The reason we are pushing so much on the 'It's On Us' campaign is not because we want everyone to change their profile pictures to make us look better, but it's because they need to read this information and be educated on what they can do." Vice President of SGA Tyler O'Neill said that campus leaders need to step up and educate themselves and peers about sexual violence. "It needs to start with the [student] leaders and they need to disperse [the information] to the students," O'Neill said. "As a student, you can inform yourself about it, but not every student is going to do that. To get the word out there, to get people understanding, it's got to be a student leader thing." O'Neill said some examples of ways to inform students would be having the resident assistants educate their residents on sexual assault awareness and having the University 101 class include more information about sexual violence. Student Governor Lionel Attawia agreed that student leaders need to be educated and help lead the fight against sexual violence on Western's campus. "I feel that the next step is to get student leaders, that's myself, Daniel, senators, and maybe presidents of organizations also, and your RAs of course, to have a complete understanding of what all of this information means," Attawia said. "From there on, just make the communication clear with students by setting up programs, setting up seminars - required by classes."

Western in deep end

Missouri Western administrators are trying to stay afloat before deciding on the future of the campus pool. Western’s pool, located in Looney Hall, has been leaking water, and a lot of it… roughly five gallons every 45 seconds. Shana Meyer, vice president for student affairs, said that the leaking water is not the pool’s only problem. Because the pool is kept at about 83-85 degrees Fahrenheit, the new water being added as it leaks has to be heated to that temperature, increasing costs to keep the pool open. Meyer said that the administration is looking at two options – building a completely new pool that is up to ADA requirements, along with updating the locker rooms, replacing glass in the pool area and completing other needed maintenance, or closing the pool permanently and making the area into a recreational space. To build a new pool and update its surrounding area, Meyer estimated it would cost anywhere from $600,000 to $1.5 million. A request for a grant or donor has been made, but has gone without response so far. Meyer said Western is in need of more recreational space, and building it would be much cheaper than building and keeping up with a new pool. “Our exercise classes are full. Some faculty and staff are unable to take exercise classes because we have to make room for the students who want to, and some students can’t even get in,” Meyer said. Adding another recreational space would open space for those classes. However, community organizations use the pool for classes and practices, including an arthritis class and the Pony Express Swim Team. Many community members have responded by coming to the first pool forum hosted back in May and made it clear that they do not want the pool to close. Meyer said the administration wants to hear what the students think. “Student dollars are what keeps the pool open,” Meyer said. According to the presentation given at the last pool forum, the pool is underused for what it costs to keep it open. An estimated seven Western students use the pool every day. Roughly, about twenty-five people, including community members, use the pool on a daily basis. Meyer said another rising problem regarding the pool is keeping it staffed. Wonda Berry, director of recreation services and facilities, said that Western currently employs twelve lifeguards. Students who are enrolled in six or more credit hours are eligible to be lifeguards, however, Western lifeguards are required to pay for their own certification. According to Berry, it costs $230 for a guard to be certified. This certification includes Professional CPR, First Aid, AED and Lifeguard Training, and each certificate stays valid for two years. “We did have an individual donate four $230 dollar scholarships to individuals who want to pursue the lifeguard certifications,” Berry said. “They must take a pretest first to make sure they can pass the course.” Although they have to pay to become certified, lifeguards on campus did get a raise from $7.50 to $10.00 on June 1. Meyer said Western is working to solve the problem, including trying to find where the leak is located. A dye test was conducted and showed that the leak is not in the drain or the bottom of the pool. However, the location of the leak is still unknown. Meyer said they are planning to let the pool drain as far as it will due to the leak over fall or winter break, and will use the water level as a guide to find where the leak is located. The pool will be open all semester unless a major mechanical error results its closing. A student pool forum will be held on Sept. 30, 11 a.m., in Blum 218.

The living, breathing law: Title IX

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Above is a quote from Title IX, a law passed in 1972 that, by definition, requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. Many people only know of Title IX by how it applies to sports. Yet athletics is only one of the 10 key areas addressed by the law. The different areas of Title IX are: Career Education, Learning Environment, Math and Science, Education for Pregnant and Parenting Students, Sexual Harassment, Access to Higher Education, Standardized Testing, Employment and Technology. According to Shana Meyer, Vice President for Student Affairs, in 2011, all institutions received a letter from the Office of Civil Rights called the “Dear Colleague” letter. That is when major changes started happening to Title IX. Institutions in compliance with the law began providing training for students, faculty, and staff about the awarenesses/effects of Title IX. They also discussed placing Title IX officers on campuses, having judicial cases regarding sexual assault, and learning how to respond to assault or harassment allegations. Title IX was passed 35 years ago, and it has been the subject of over 20 proposed amendments, reviews, etc. On the Title IX website, it is referred to as a living, breathing law. Although the law seems to be necessary, there are thousands of schools across the country that are not enforcing Title IX. Fortunately, our very own Missouri Western campus is not one of those schools. Western has been enforcing Title IX for as long as the law has been passed. However, the law is being looked at in a new way this school year. Typically, Title IX’s focus is gender equity (i.e. having an equal amount of sports for both genders). The focus has now changed to violence against women and sexual harassment, among other things. Western has been trying to make students more aware of these issues in order to ensure safety and fairness on campus. In the past, a system called Green Dot was used in order to prevent violence. Training was also given during Griffon Edge in the form of an online seminar about sexual harassment. This was one of the new changes in Western’s compliance with Title IX; providing training and information about the issue of assault and violence relating to gender. “Some of the things that we have been doing lately are making sure that our Student Code of Conduct has everything in it that it needs to in regards to harassment, sexual assault, and gender violence,” Meyer said. “Also, to make sure that students can readily find [the Code of Conduct] on the website.” Meyer, as well as other members of the Title IX committee, want to make sure that this information is readily accessible to all students. On Friday, September 26, around 20 faculty from Western attended an advanced training seminar that discussed the history, focus, etc. of Title IX. Sally Sanders, Director of Human Resources, and Kristen Neeley, Assistant Director of New Student Programs, were among the many faculty members that attended the seminar. They each stated their claim of learning legitimate, expert information on Title IX and how to fully comply with the law. The focus of the seminar was how to educate students, faculty, and staff on what to do if an incident were to occur and how to react to it. It was also made clear that, in the case of a situation, officials can not disclose information. All information is not in-confidence and has to be reported if it is considered sexual assault. The faculty were taught to ask all questions possible in order to fully comprehend a situation, and to pay attention to any gray area in accordance to the letter of the law. It was also made known that “yes” is consent. Neeley spoke about her view on the concept of the Title IX training. “You just have to get the message out there to everyone across campus; nothing is going to be essentially confidential, that we have to investigate everything, and also, for the victims to have a voice,” Neeley said.  She also clarified that it was necessary to let victims know that it is okay to talk about their situations. Western’s goal is to provide increased awareness of assault and violence, and to increase the reporting of situations. Procedure and training requirements are also necessary in order to educate campus officials.  The awareness concept is to ensure that more reports are made and the people are comfortable with reporting a situation. “The only way to increase reporting is to increase awareness; to make people realize there are avenues by which to report,” Sanders said. She also claimed that if students feel as if they’re victims, they need to know the appropriate avenues and resources in order to report. Sanders also said that the more violent aspect of Title IX is being primarily addressed, and that there is still pending legislation that will affect what changes are made on campus in accordance to the law. Tim Kissock, Risk Manager, discussed his own views and facts based on the recent training seminar, as well as previous knowledge. “Women are predominantly the victims of these attacks, and colleges and universities need to be adequately taking care of these issues,” Kissock said. Gender discrimination in educational settings--both colleges and K-12--has been Title IX’s initial focus, and Kissock believes that the compliance with Title IX is very important to ensure safety on campuses--primarily our own. “This is something that we take seriously, and I believe we’ve always taken seriously,” Meyer said. She also claimed that campus officials would work with police, and they would also investigate if any situations were to occur involving sexual assault, harassment, etc. According to Sanders, Title IX and the Clery Act, an act involving campus crime and security policies, are “dovetailing.” Part of the permissions of Title IX allow for there to be fines if campuses don’t adequately comply with the law. There have also been fines changing within the realm of the Clery Act, as well as proposal and legislation coming through with Title IX. Proposed penalties are also changing. “What we are trying to do is make sure we are in compliance, as well as updating policies in order to keep in line with the current interpretations of the law,” Kissock said. On Oct. 7, Senator Claire McCaskill will be visiting Western campus. McCaskill contacted campus and set up a visit. She will be leading a forum and posing questions to the audience. She will also be detailing her understanding of us being compliant with the law, and ensuring that we know all that we should know about the benefits and goals of Title IX.