Food pantry approved, coming to campus

One of the most discussed and debated issues in the Student Government Association the last few years has been the inclusion of a food pantry on campus, but it no longer has to be, as the administration has spoken. No matter if SGA supports the project or not, a food pantry will be on campus soon. Nearly two years ago, then-Senator Mary Beth Rosenauer put forth the idea of an on-campus food pantry and SGA did not execute it. Earlier this semester, Senator Brian Shewell proposed the idea for a food pantry again, and again it was nixed by the SGA. “I am extremely excited for it, because I think it's one of those things that is a need, but it hasn’t been addressed yet,” Shewell said. Working with Second Harvest, the Rotaract has stepped forward to lead the charge for an on-campus food pantry and with the support of administration, Western will soon have an option for students that need help getting through the semester. While some students have the need for a service like this, SGA’s concern in the past has been the lack of a plan to prevent students from abusing the pantry and a taking food to save a few dollars despite not really needing it, or to avoid making a trip to Wal-Mart or HyVee. Rotaract Advisor Elise Hepworth acknowledged that that may be a concern, but that the possible positives outweigh any concerns. She said that the pantry will rely on honesty from students. The pantry would be open for students twice a week and students would have the opportunity to get items from the pantry twice a month. Also, students would of course be encouraged to give to the pantry as well to keep it well-stocked for those students and families in need. The pantry will be in Blum 214, which is the former offices of the Western Activities Council. WAC has since moved to the SGA Suite, but many SGA members, including President Daniel Hager, were under the impression that those offices were still SGA rooms. However, that space is now going to house the food pantry whether SGA supports it or not. “It's not necessarily a student versus administration thing: it is a question of where does the SGA have power and influence on change for this campus,” Hager said. Shewell argues that this endeavor is more worthwhile than anything the offices are currently used for. “I don’t think the administration pulled the rug out from under our feet,” Shewell said. “It wasn’t being used, if it was being used it was being used for student class groups to meet to do homework… If it's going to be used now then let it be used.” While Hager admits the timing of his concerns being voiced was less than ideal, that does not change the validity of his concerns. “I'm trying to do my job and make sure that the senators know I’m not just here to be played,” Hager said. “They should question authority all the time.” Shewell also expresses that fault can be taken on both sides for poor communication. “Yes, it would have been nice to let SGA know about it, you know what: there’s a lot of things that SGA does that would have been nice to let other people know about as well,” Shewell said. While the food pantry debate is resolved now, Hager feels that this situation points to a bigger issue. “My biggest thing is just making sure that the senators question authority rather than be submissive to it,” Hager said. Hager is quick to also point out that the SGA likely would have improved the use of the space. The lack of communication between students and faculty is still a valid concern for Hager. “It was just the professionalism of it,” said Hager. “We don’t need to point fingers or fight over something that's going to benefit our campus. I think it's just more of a power thing.”

Western celebrates women

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Whenever Americans hear of Ireland, we often envision fighting Irishmen, angry Leprechauns and exorbitant drinking on St. Patrick’s Day. Dr. Ed Taylor, assistant professor of political science, revealed to Western students and staff a piece of Irish history that is often forgotten— the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition. His lecture was named “Enter the Peacemakers: The Women’s Coalition and the Good Friday Negotiations in Northern Ireland,” and he spoke about how a group of Irish woman pulled the country away from conflict and closer to peace. The lecture was part of the Peace and Conflict Studies Speakers Series being put on by Western’s Political Science department. Taylor has always been interested in the political conflicts of Northern Ireland. “I graduated from my undergraduate and took a trip to Ireland with a friend of mine and just became really fascinated by the history of the conflict and the fact that the conflict itself seemed so attractable,” Taylor said. “I did some research when I got my master's degree in Public Policy and Public Administration on discrimination housing and integrated housing efforts and why they had failed.” The conflict that Taylor is actually in reference is a series of peace talks called the Good Friday Negotiations. The Negotiations were held to decide whether a significant piece of Northern Ireland would remain part of England or if it would be considered part of Northern Ireland; these talks were part of the process that would eventually turn war-threatened Northern Ireland into the nation it is today. However, as Taylor’s lecture explained, the talks only became effective after the involvement of an Irish women’s political party called the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC). The NIWC found success in the peace talks because of negotiation method called “unconditional inclusion.” “If you want to have a peace process that is durable, you need to have conflicts or efforts to resolve these conflicts that include all the stakeholders,” Taylor said. Inclusion in the context of Northern Ireland would be having a political party for each of the groups in the country; so a party for women, for Catholics, even for the radically violent groups of Ireland. Until the NIWC, the peace process only included white, middle class protestant Irish men. The audience gathered for the lecture was avid about the entire presentation, especially with the humor that Taylor sprinkled throughout: jokes about Beyonce, puffins and “magic bananas.” After the lecture and slideshow presentation, Taylor accepted questions from the audience. Questions ranged from specifics on the NIWC and Northern Ireland, to general questions of how global politics could be more inclusive of all groups. Dr. David Tushaus, professor of Legal Studies and department chair, thought the presentation provided a new perspective on Northern Ireland. “I thought Dr. Taylor did an excellent job of illustrating the history of the conflict and how it was not simply a war of religions, which I think is a common misunderstanding,” Tushaus said. Another member of the audience, Kelly Cochran, enjoyed the philosophical discussion involved in the peace process. “I got goose bumps when "unconditional inclusion" appeared on the screen,” Cohran said. “Inclusion is more than "having a seat at the table," but also involves having voices heard and respected.” The lecture itself had an overtone of women’s involvement in politics and, more generally, one of feminism and how the experiences of woman can be brought to the table of politics. Taylor believes that although the NIWC is a part of history, their experiences can help societies of our generation. “I think that it’s important that women at Missouri Western actually see that there are real opportunities for success— if you’re a woman you don’t have to only think of yourself as fit for certain roles,” Taylor said. Even if you missed the previous forums and lectures in the Peace and Conflict Studies Speakers Series, there is still one more to be held on Thursday, March 26, from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. in Blum 218-219.

Broadband doubles in dorms

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Internet bandwidth speeds for Missouri Western residence halls were doubled Wednesday, March 18, from 250 megabits per second (mbps) to 500 mbps. To do so, the university is going to pay $5,250 per month. Western was paying $3,025 for the 250 mbps contract. The increase was proposed by Fred Nesslage, manager of Information Technology Services, after he had noticed a serious problem with past internet speeds. "Between about 7 p.m. and 1 a.m., resident hall internet connection is maxed out," Nesslage said. Which is not a surprise, considering that the university has expected all of the students living on campus to share 250 mbps of internet bandwidth. For those who understand what bandwidth is, this number seems surprisingly low. For those who are more technologically challenged, the data requires a bit of explanation. First off, internet speeds are not a perfect science. The rate of 250 mbps not only assumes a perfect world, where not only does a customer receive the exact internet speeds that a company quotes it with, but also that our hardware can transfer speeds that quickly. For the sake of making a point, we will do some quick calculations with 250 mbps. If 50 residents were all using the internet, in a perfect world, each student would only get about 5 mbps. Bandwidth testing company Ookla explains that the average internet speed for Missouri residents is 40.7 mbps. But, speed tests from Vaselakos Hall show bandwidth speeds ranging from 7 mbps to .3 mbps, with the average speeds hovering at 2 mbps. To put that into perspective, the Federal Communication Commission considers 4 mbps the speed "generally required for using today's video-rich broadband applications and services, while retaining sufficient capacity for basic web browsing and e-mail." After receiving multiple student complaints, Nathan Roberts, director of residential life, took action to resolve these concerns. "I suggested that the VP for Finance increase capacity to 500 mbps so that we had a buffer during high usage times," Roberts said. With help from Nesslage, Roberts made a formal proposal to increase the speeds. The Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration Dr. Cale Fessler agreed with the concerns of Nesslage and Roberts and moved to increase the speeds. But the increase was improved for more than just better Netflix stream and Xbox playing. "Our students on campus do a significant amount of their research, studying and writing with WiFi connected devices," Roberts said. "Enabling an update that speeds up connections is not only convenient, but vital to the academic success of our students on campus." The internet provider for residential housing, Suddenlink, was happy to help the university with the bandwidth update. "We recognize the need for increased speeds and for students to have access to fast online services anywhere on campus," Suddenlink General Manager Lee Ann Smiley said. “Recognizing those needs, we’ve made the investments required to allow the school to double its on-campus Internet speeds to help students complete their work, stay in touch with friends and family and easily access entertainment options.  We’re very happy to be bringing exciting new services to the Missouri Western family." The low internet bandwidth has not been the only problem inhibiting internet performance. In the last semester, there have been five different issues affecting internet performance, aside from bandwidth; issues like faulty hardware and old router software. One of these hardware failures had actually been limiting the 250 mbps bandwidth to nearly 140 mbps since last year. Another of these issues actually caused a complete internet outage the night of February 17 until early the next morning. Mark Mabe, director of Information Technology Services, was most concerned with the department's reaction to concerns such as these. "It was pointed out to us that we had not appropriately communicated to the students what the problem was," Mabe said. Information Technology Services may have had trouble communicating these concerns to students, but Mabe is confident that the updates will please students. "This project will allow us to enhance that service by relocating the wireless antennas and adding additional access points," Mabe said. "The resulting impact will be stronger wireless signal strength, faster throughput speeds and additional user device connectivity." Although speeds have been increased, there is a negative result of the process for students. Since the speed increase comes with a high price tag, those costs are to be put onto students in the form of a housing costs increase. "Passing on cost of services upgrades to the students isn't something anyone ever wants to do, but unfortunately the university operates on a razor-thin budget for utilities and services such as internet," Roberts said. Though the $5,250 per month increase is going to be transferred to residents, in the bigger picture, the cost increase should be minor.

SSA Advisory Committee Meets

(subhead = "Student Success Act committee meets to discuss use of student fee") (This article goes between 2 plans) It all started with a plea for help from administration. The Student Success Act was enacted to help alleviate the costs of decreasing state appropriations, help Missouri Western continue the services it has and keep the buildings properly maintained. When the budget cuts from the state never occurred, the fee stayed. The Student Success Act is student-raised funding that appears in every student's bill each semester and costs every full-time student $75 each semester. With this extra money, the Student Success Act Advisory Committee has been able to fund needy areas on campus that directly benefit students and make sure that these programs and services can stay viable and improve. The specific areas that the act focuses on are Recreational Services, Center of Academic Support, Student Success and Advising, Student Life and Career Services. The Advisory Committee is made up of three student leaders, appointed by the Student Government Association President, and three administrative members, appointed by the University President. Serving on behalf of the students, the 2014-15 Advisory Committee consists of Mary Beth Rosenauer, Brandon Grieshaber and Haden McDonald. The members of administration on the committee are Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron, Dean of Professional Studies Kathleen O'Connor and Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director for the MWSU Foundation Jerry Pickman. “This year, what we'd like to do is really get this information out to the students so they know what is going on,” Grieshaber said. “There has been bad communication on both ends on it in terms of students really looking into it and us providing more information on it.” The committee initially passed a proposal to save the money for three consecutive years, with the end result being a massive renovation to the second floor of the Blum Union. The fee is worth around $224,000 per year in total, making the budget for the Blum project about $672,000. The project would include new paint and carpet for the floor, redoing the walls to add space to the rooms and take away the wide hallways and setting up a new International Student Center. The committee is currently hearing proposals from administration as well as students to reallocate the funds to serve to help the university fulfill the guidelines set out by the master plan commissioned earlier this year. Currently the committee has two proposals on the table: one from Dr. Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, and one from SGA Senator Brian Shewell. Although the fee is no longer destined for its original purpose, both students and administration agree that they will keep the fee and use the students' money in other ways.

Senator Shewell’s proposal

Senator Brian Shewell has brought a plan to the committee to allocate the assets for four basic areas: Baker Fitness Center, Health Services, Recreation Services space and International Student Services and Recruitment. Shewell's proposal leaves two years of the money for improvements to the Blum Student Union untouched. While it is only two-thirds of what was originally dedicated for the project, the Union would still be updated. “The difference between [Dr. Cale Fessler's] proposal and mine is that mine doesn't touch the Union money,” Shewell said. “What it does is it doesn't give the Union it's third year that was promised to it, but it does not touch the two years that it has saved up.” The rest of the money will address the four areas of need laid out by Shewell. His plan is also a continuous one, meaning the money will continue to go into these areas each year as long as the fee exists. Recreational space will get 49 percent of the fee. This will help recreational space improve in accordance with the master plan. “Everything that went in to my proposal... was connected to part of the master plan,” Shewell said. The Esry Health Center will get 20 percent of the fee. This will help them absorb the cost increases from the switch from Heartland Health to Mosiac Life Services. That percentage won't completely cover the difference, but it is designed to help. International Student Services and Recruitment would receive 16 percent of the fee. This will help provide them with operational supplies for orientation and programming. It will also help pay travel and conference fees for two tours in Asia. The final 15 percent of the fee will go to the Baker Fitness Center to help pay for the rental equipment they use. “One thing with any proposal you need to think about is you are not going to please everybody,”  Shewell said. Shewell's plan gives some money to each area of primary need but not all of what each would like. Being continuous though, all areas would be funded to the amount they desire eventually.