SGA president-elect addresses students

Dear Missouri Western Students, I first want to say thank you for voting for myself, Alison Norris, and Jacob Scott as your new SGA President and Vice President. We are honored to be serving you. I realize that we were the only candidates on the ballot this year, but I assure you that we will do the best job possible and with our experience and good work ethic, we are the best candidates for the job. [caption id="attachment_4434" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Allison Norris is a Convergent Media Major. She will be graduating in the Spring of 2012. She has played numerous roles at Western such as Lifestyles Editor and Editor-in-Cheif for the Griffon News and Communication Director of SGA. "][/caption] As your new Student Government Association President, I assure you that I will do my best to work for you and do what’s best for the interest of the students. SGA President is a position of service and I will diligently work to serve the students. Throughout our campaign we met with many organizations and student groups that gave us many great suggestions of things they want done. We have kept this list of suggestions and will be using those to determine what we will be doing next year. We are already formulating our plan for next year, but we will continue to listen to your suggestions throughout our term and continue to get your feedback. Our administration will not just work for the students fall and spring semester, but throughout the summer and winter breaks because Student Government requires year-round vigilance. I will be emailing applications for new SGA Director positions soon. The positions that will be open are: Director of Communications, Director of Student Relations, and Director of Finance. We will be hiring dedicated students that are leaders on campus and off campus. I encourage all students to apply. Our Directors will be held at a high standard and we will hold ourselves and our directors accountable. I am excited for the changes and challenges of next year and I am ready to serve the students. My office will always be open to all students and I would like to encourage all of you to bring any issues, concerns or suggestions to me because I will always be happy to listen. Sincerely, Alison Norris Incoming SGA President

Dangers of personal social networking

We all know the benefits of social-networking that have allowed long lost loved ones to find each other and make new friends as well as reconnect with old ones. Social-networking has even solved crimes, but we truly need to consider the personal information we give that many of these sites ask for when signing up? Many of us are aware of the dangers involved in social networking, but I wanted to take the time to remind everyone and hopefully bring it to the attention of those who don’t. It is important to realize that any potential employer could easily view your profile, this is why anything you post like pictures, messages and status posts should be kept sensible and appropriate. For those going into politics or other areas of special interest should definitely keep it real because anything you do or say on these sites could end up haunting you and ruin a promising career. You can’t “take back” the online text and images you have entered. Once online, “chat” as well as other web postings become public information. Almost all of these sites are “cached” by search engines, and photos and text can be retrieved long after the site has been deleted. People have been denied entry into schools and don’t get hired for jobs because of dangerous, demeaning or harmful information found on their personal sites or blogs. Most sites and services ask you to post a “profile” with your age, sex, hobbies and interests. While these profiles help you connect and share common interests, potential exploiters can and do use these profiles to search for victims. People can be anyone they want on the internet and that is a real danger. Users posing as someone or something they are not can take advantage of this-and this aspect of social-networking profiles-to reap havoc on anyone they choose. No one is safe from those who want to find you for whatever reason it may be. It is easy to put your friends at risk as well. Protect your friends by not posting any names, passwords, ages, phone numbers, school names or locations. Don’t post plans or upcoming events on your site. Certainly be careful posting pictures that could reveal sensitive information. Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to be sure you are not giving away identifying information without realizing it. The name of a mall, the license plate of a car, signs or the name of your sports team could all reveal your location. Never post sexually provocative photos of yourself or your friends. Sometimes you may think you are being clever, releasing only bits and pieces of information about yourself or friends, but smart fraudsters can easily put this information together to know more about you. They could go as far as claiming to be an old school friend to gather more personal information on you. The key point is that nobody really knows who they are talking to on social networking sites, so think carefully before you post information about yourself or others. Always remember what you post online are not private. Parents, teachers, coaches, employers and admissions officers may go online and find out things about you-from your profile, or from someone else’s. People have lost jobs, admission offers and scholarships. Going in to the beginning of this new semester when we all will be social networking, keep these things in mind and play it safe.

Vartabedian hopeful about Western’s future

As this semester is winding to a close, I have been asked to reflect on the future of Missouri Western-particularly in light of the budgetary challenges that we face. Until the state budget is finalized in the spring of 2011, we will not know the true extent of our budgetary challenges. All indications are that we will receive a fairly substantial cut in our state allocation. I have heard speculation that such cuts could be anywhere from 8 percent to 25 percent. Obviously, we are hoping to be at the lowest possible end of this range. Furthermore, we have tried to educate the commissioner of higher education and the Department of Higher Education about the unique financial circumstances and recent, rather remarkable accomplishments of Western. Lastly, we are making similar efforts with Governor Nixon and our legislators. My sense is that our message is getting through. In addition to our efforts to educate the public and the decision-makers about Western’s financial picture and accomplishments, we have taken other measures. We have done a significant amount of belt tightening, and we are planning for even more. You are probably well aware of some of these measures, which include frozen salaries and wages for the past two years, a 20 percent cut in operating budgets, and a suspension of or a major cut in a number of university’s initiatives-just to name a few actions that have been taken. As such, I think that we are doing just about as much as we can to prepare for the financial uncertainties ahead of us. With all of this said, Western has an impressive list of extremely positive indicators for the future: We have experienced six consecutive years of record enrollment. We now have 6,134 students, which are 400 more students than just a year ago. According to the Governor’s office, we are currently the fastest growing regional university in the state. We have a noteworthy 72 percent retention rate. This is virtually unheard of for an open enrollment university as the national average for open enrollment universities is 55 percent. Also, it represents a 15 percent increase in our freshman to sophomore retention rate in a mere four-year period.  I believe that our enrollment increases and our current retention rate represent a very tangible “vote of approval” from our students. We have some very impressive new or newly renovated facilities on campus, in particular, Agenstein-Remington Halls, new Athletic Facilities, and the new Residence Hall. Our accreditation outcomes have been universally positive, most recently including prestigious AACSB International accreditation for the Craig School of Business.   On a daily basis, I am made aware of meaningful student, faculty, and staff accomplishments. Moreover, the testimonials that I hear from people who hire our students make me very proud. Finally, our community is tremendously supportive of this university. I cannot tell you how many people from this community make a concerted effort to tell me that Western is a huge, transformational factor in this community. In closing, no doubt we face some financial challenges. However, we need to continue to build on our considerable strengths, our important goal of educational access without compromising academic excellence and our unique mission of applied learning. If we continue to do this, I am convinced that we will transcend our hopefully temporary financial difficulties and have a very bright future.

Student appreciates sports complex

I have always been a sports junkie so maybe my opinion is biased, but I have grown tired of complaints and whining about the attention and money that athletics garner at this university. I lost count of how many instructors complained about budget cuts while we built the G.I.S.C. and a Spring Sports Complex. Western’s investment into those projects was minimal and the result of a student approved fee, the Chiefs and proactive people. Thanks, in large part to the Max Experience fee and the $5.5 million bond it funds, we got the Chiefs. Thanks to the Chiefs, we got a $3 million Spring Sports Complex, an improved football stadium, and a $10 million indoor facility that will pay for itself and then some. Western got all of that for $1.2 million in student fees. I am one of multiple students that found summer work through training camp. I was also one of several that were fortunate enough to secure an internship with the Chiefs. Without a proactive Athletic Director that got more attention for an arrest than the money and positive attention he brought to Western, none of us would have had those once in a lifetime opportunities. If you look at it in the most negative sense, the Max fee is an athletic tax. What other tax allows everyone that pays it to, at their discretion; reap the benefits of the tax? Any student that paid a Max fee can benefit directly from what it provides. What other student fee has brought national attention to our campus and benefited students and the community? The $105 I paid this semester because three of my classes were in computer labs did not get me an internship. Did the $300 full-time students pay yearly for Facilities Access generate over $13 million in facility improvements in one year? What exposure, job opportunities and revenue came from the $100 full-time students pay a year in SGA fees? A full-time student pays $120 for Max over a school year. If you never took advantage of the concessions or bringing family members to games with Max, you could get your money back in 12 games. If you don’t have time to make it to 12 games over the course of the year, you probably don’t have time to be a full-time student. If you can’t go to games or just aren’t interested then look at what improved athletic facilities do for a university. When the athletic department went to students and asked them what they could do, the students said that athletic facilities played a major role in their college choice. It’s also no secret, that successful athletics attract more private donations to universities and increase exposure. Do you think many employers in Kansas City knew about Northwest Missouri State before their football team started popping up on ESPN every year? Like it or not, high-quality athletics brings more money to a university, which benefits everyone. If sports are good and the facilities are attractive, more people want to donate and more students want to attend. Ask officials at MU, who saw their biggest increase in applications ever after the success of the 2007 football team, what athletics can do for a university. I bet none of them are whining.

Professor challenges Gingrich’s politics

Guest Columnist Jonathan Euchner Western’s Convocation on Critical Issues is one of the best programs our campus offers. This year’s speaker, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will likely continue the convocation’s tradition of presenting different opinions and ideas on the issues of the day, as he should. But, free speech functions best when engaged by others who see the world differently. Considering what Gingrich has said in recent months, it seems appropriate to enter the fray. In May, 09 he called Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor a “racist,” urging her to withdraw. Her sin: suggesting that judges interpret facts and circumstances, drawing on their background of life experiences--the “wise Latina woman” remark. Shocking! Too much for Gingrich, who said her words made her unfit to serve and a “racist.” When former Justice Sandra O’Connor said something similar years earlier, there was little controversy. She is a white, conservative Republican. Gingrich’s travels since have been equally enlightening. He called President Obama the most “radical” president in American history (see: To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine); compared supporters of an Islamic Center near ground zero in New York to Nazis; said President Obama holds a “Kenyan Anti-Colonial Worldview,” calling it “the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior;” and just last week at a college in Iowa, Gingrich said: “The other thing you have to do is figure out how you’re going to take on political correctness in universities...They only recruit people who are nuts. You end up with people who are so far left that they are literally not in contact with reality.” Oh really? Sure, “red meat” and Iowa are important for wannabe presidential candidates like Gingrich, but he still ought to be challenged to explain these extreme views. If Obama healthcare (which is not government-run healthcare) is “socialism,” then what about Social Security, Pell Grants, and federal disaster assistance? What is public money for the Chiefs training facilities? What is the Bush bailout of Wall Street? Equating supporters of an Islamic culture center in New York to placing a swastika near a synagogue is a hateful smear. This coming from someone who endorses greater property rights, but evidently not when owned by Muslims. Just who is the real “radical” here? And the “Kenyan worldview”? Does anyone believe these comments have nothing to do with the president’s skin color, his father’s ancestry, or another pathetic effort to inject racial fear into politics? Call it what it is: coded speech that Obama is a Black Muslim from Africa and not an American. And finally, the “nuts” in universities comment, a larger conspiracy I presume, to fully indoctrinate students? I’ve never been on a faculty search committee where a candidates’ political views were discussed or asked. McCarthyism lives! Gingrich is not the first (nor the last) politician to exaggerate, confuse, and frighten. We live in a world dominated by the superficial, short attention spans, and less interest ing thinking about public affairs and useful solutions, and Gingrich is not the first (or last) politician to exaggerate, confuse, and frighten. Far better to demonize people, their ideas and backgrounds. What’s disappointing most about Gingrich is that he can appear to be a man of ideas, intellect, and genuine curiosity, who in the end succumbs to the debased poison of politics. Maybe he’ll come to Western and try a new approach, but don’t hold your breath. One can only hope to see a few microphones in the aisle at the convocation, providing an opportunity for others to engage and challenge Gingrich. That would make this year’s convocation even better.