Tis the Season for Forced Generosity?

By Gabrielle Hondorp 

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Muhlenberg is in a giving season of its own; or at least the students are. November 16th marks the beginning of the 2018 Mulementum, a school generated event focused on raising money for various programs. This is the first fundraising event of the year, followed by Mule Madness in the Spring Semester. With prizes for individual donors and for the most generous class, ‘Berg made an admirable attempt to make it an enjoyable experience.

But with tables set up around the entirety of campus, one cannot help but feel slightly bombarded by the insistence on donating. “I felt like I couldn’t say no,” said Julia Termine ‘20. “Everywhere I went I was stopped by a different person asking me if I had donated. It really turned me off of wanting to give.” Of course the school wants to raise as much money as possible, but perhaps this effect was a bit heavy-handed. With the majority of the student body passing through Seegers every day, it would seem that that would be the most effective spot to set up shop. Due to it being a high traffic area, students may also feel less singled out and more willing to give, rather than in fear of feeling trapped as they make their way through campus.

Donors can decide to allocate their money to a certain cause rather than give to the school as a whole. Sports teams are specifically encouraged to raise money for their programs, and are ‘strongly encouraged’ to give to their sport during Mule Madness if they had not earlier in the year. “It’s a little overbearing,” said Corey Mullins ‘19, cross country and track and field athlete, “especially when your coach sees who donated and can single you out.”

After speaking to Coach Brad Hackett, head of the Muhlenberg Track and Field program, I was surprised to find that I left with a bit of a changed view. He began by saying that Mulementum is not any different from fundraising at any other school, but because we have such a small campus, having a table set up around each corner can be a bit overwhelming. What they are asking for however, is in truth, miniscule. Muhlenberg is not attempting to raise an incredible amount of money from its students, but it has been found that students that give when they are in school are much more likely to give after they graduate. The majority of money therefore comes from the alumni and parents.

Not only do the donations of students become habitual, but in the case of sports teams, there is an even bigger incentive to give. Various sports teams have a number of sponsors that donate to the team based on terms such as amount of students from a team being placed on the Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll, or amount of students that donate per team.

Although this money may seem insignificant, given that each team has a budget, it is actually integral to the performance opportunities of the team. In the case of track and field, each event has an entrance fee with the more competitive events generally costing more. By the end of the year, the budget for entry fees has been surpassed, and money for meets comes solely from the extra money provided by donations.

This year, the team was also provided with warm-up jackets, sweatshirts and tee-shirts. “The program is basically giving you $175 of apparel for your contribution of $5, I think that’s more than fair,” said Hackett. He also mentioned the ice hockey team that has been active on campus on and off in the past few years. “Those kids had to pay $1700 to compete, and they did it because they loved it,” said Hackett. “The school didn’t help pay for anything, but they made it happen.”

Although track is considered the ‘cheapest’ sport, when it does come time to replace some of the equipment like high jump pit, it can be thousands of dollars. Should members of the team go to the NCAA Championships, the NCAA pays for the student athletes and one coach per gender, meaning that if there are two male athletes going, one being a distance runner and another a thrower, only one of their coaches will be funded to go with them. Some of this money comes from the budget, but most ends up being fundraiser money. Though donated funds are allocated to each individual team, each purchase made must be approved by the Athletic Director.

As for giving without a designated destination, the school needs the money as well. Tuition costs do not begin to cover expenses, not to mention that the majority of students also do not pay full tuition. I stand by the fact that Mulementum can be a bit invasive, but in actuality, it is one day of the year, the rest of the time of which I spend reaping the benefits of the donor’s generosity. Maybe $5 isn’t quite so bad.

Sources: Interview with Brad Hackett 

The Polishing of Allentown’s Crown Jewel

By Gabrielle Hondorp 

After a $5.5 million renovation, Allentown’s ‘crown jewel’, the Civic Theater, has been restored to its former glory. With new seats, renovation and restoration of the lobby and domed ceiling, it mirrors its art deco origin, and reminds patrons of its long standing history. A donor wall honoring the projects greatest benefactors presents names of local celebrities such as Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller. The theatre which presents community productions, indie films and live streams of The Metropolitan Opera andNational Theatre Live serves as a hub for culture and art that has educated and entertained the citizens of Allentown for decades.

Due to its close proximity, Muhlenberg TheatreAssociation also has a partnership with the theatre through the West EndAllentown Coalition; a group dedicated to the growth and improvement of the area. Beginning in 2013, there was also an agreement made between Muhlenberg and the Civic Theatre designed to create more opportunities for student performance. Scott Snyder, Marketing and Development Manager at Muhlenberg worked previously at the Civic Theatre, and was a part of an international and independent film series which included talkbacks, often led by Muhlenberg professors. “The film series is a tremendous resource for the Muhlenberg community,” said Snyder, “to have access to films that they might otherwise have to travel to New York to see, within walking distance.” He expressed however, that many students are unaware of the theatre’s proximity to Muhlenberg (a ten minute walk according to google maps).

The theatre also serves as a great resource for theatre majors pursuing marketing or administrative positions, as it offers internships to students. Not only do Muhlenberg students find their way to the CivicTheatre, but some young actors that spent their youth in the theatre end up attending Muhlenberg, furthering the connection between the two programs.

With the new renovations and its lengthy history inAllentown, there was question of whether there may end up being greater competition for Muhlenberg shows. “The easiest patron to market a theatre performance to — other than one of your own patrons — is someone who already attends theatre and already knows they love theatre,” says Snyder. “And think of the hundreds of young people who come through their theatre school and annual Christmas Carol productions, who are turned on to the experience of live theatre.Those kids and their families become our patrons, too.”

As one of the remaining original 15 theatres constructed in the 1920’s the Civic theatre has gained its second wind. With restoration complete, it is prepared to offer decades more of entertainment; with much more comfortable seats.

Sources: https://www.mcall.com/entertainment/mc-ent-civic-theatre-ribbon-cutting-renovation-allentown-20181008-story.html

Gun Culture in a Split America

By Gabrielle Hondorp 

On September 13th in Miller Forum, Kristin Goss, a Political Science professor at Duke University delved into some of the controversies, conspiracies and misconceptions enveloping the issue of gun control. Author and co-author of published works pertaining to gun control inAmerica, she shared with the audience a wealth of information presenting sides in favor of both greater gun regulations, and the National Rifle Association(NRA).

“What interested me about Goss’s talk was how she was able to stay so neutral while diving into a topic that is usually polarizing”, said Declan Walkush ‘20. The talk began by giving a general background of gun control, explaining that it spawned from the ColumbineShooting of 1999. After the event, gun control was thrust into the spotlight by politicians, donors and ‘Moms Demand Action’, a nonprofit group uniting mothers against gun violence. The federal government however, failed to make changes. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred, similar advances were taken, and bills proposed by activist groups and politicians alike. Yet a bill remained un-passed. Goss argued however, that although it may not appear to be so, a lot has changed outside of the national scene.

Goss focused initially on the change not in gun laws in our country, but gun culture. Counter to common belief, the number of gun owning households has actually decreased in recent years, and yet there has been a severe spike in domestic gun purchases. Goss claims that this is due to the change in gun culture, with usage shifting from hunting to self protection, and data showed that people are now twice as likely to claim that they own a gun for protection. Statistics from the NRA also revealed this shift in mentality- their most popular magazine used to be The American Hunter but not it’s America’s First Freedom a magazine devoted to creating awareness to threats being made to rights given by the Second Amendment.

Though the NRA is the wealthiest and largest of the gun advocate groups, they are not the group actively seeking legal changes. Instead, it is the more local and radical groups that are pushing for amendments to state gun laws; where the change is truly happening. The main laws that are changing are preemption (the ability for state and cities to regulate gun ownership), concealed carry laws (having a concealed weapon on body in public areas), and ‘stand your ground’ laws (the threatened individual is allowed to defend themselves with use of a gun).

Proponents of stricter gun control however, are not going unnoticed. Although the NRA tops out at $420mil for financial capital and all gun control groups together show an unimpressive $95mil, it is the rapidity of the growth of the advocacy groups that is telling. The activist groups also have a more overarching presence in social media than the NRA does, and they have taken to training and sometimes even paying victims of gun violence to serve as full time activists.

Though the pro-gun groups are more likely to contact public officials, the activists are more likely to contact about background checks which goes to show that although they may not appear to be as engaged, they are altogether more influential on a smaller scale. 

It is not guns however, that Goss seemed most concerned about. Instead, it is the severe and quickly widening gap between theDemocratic and Republican parties, and their increasing homogeneity that displays a dangerous divide in our country. She claims that it begins to be difficult to separate the cause from the effect (Trump and sympathizers) and inconsistencies within a party, resulting in a greater number of people who have directly oppositional viewpoints. It would seem that guns are only one of the many controversial issues that will not be resolved without a shift towards moderation and compromise. 

Source: Muhlenberg talk by Dr. Kristin Goss

OP/ED Push for Solar Power

By Gabrielle Hondorp 

“Solar power will push out fossil fuels in three to five years,”  said Dr. Susan Shaw, environmental scientist and conservationist. Sitting regally in front of the classroom, she spoke quietly, but firmly, insisting that fossil fuels were out, and renewable energy was in. “Even oil companies are investing in battery and solar power,” she said, claiming that the shift in the market is a prime example of where we are headed. Contrary to our current federal administration, and its insistence on staying in the dark ages of oil and coal, Shaw believes that energy can only get cleaner. With the newest technology allowing scientists not only to harvest solar power, but also store it, the possibility of widespread solar power is not far in the future.

But what about Muhlenberg? With a school deeply engaged in liberal social thought, it would seem a no-brainer that we would also be committed to making the school more energy efficient. But posting slideshows in the dining hall about how long you can charge your phone if you don’t eat a hamburger (obviously a direct correlation) is about the extent of their commitment to a greener campus. In the past decade or so, Berg has made some small efforts to improve the campus footprint such as movement sensory lighting, the ‘Just Tap It’ initiative encouraging students away from bottled water, and window coatings that help to regulate building temperature; not to mention the removal of plastic straws from the dining hall.

When asked specifically about the straw issue, Shaw responded that the plastic straws that end up in the ocean are a mere fraction of the plastic waste making its way into the world, and specifically marine ecosystems. “Everything is packaged in plastic,” she said, and described the packaging as both needless and harmful. So the elimination of plastic straws are not making a direct impact on the plastic waste being expelled, but it has influenced a movement. Shaw mentioned how brands are quick to go green when public outrage begins to be focused on them.

But Muhlenberg is not a brand, and they are definitely not as willing to make a change. In past years, students have protested at the board of directors meetings, bringing up the college’s investment portfolio with fossil fuels, rather than a cleaner form of energy. Unfortunately, the topic was decidedly not important enough to even consider.

With knowledge of President William’s 10 year plan, I thought for sure that there would be some mention of energy changes. Instead, we will gain a number of new buildings, a parking garage and a few more greens. Though beautifying our campus is never a negative, I have to think that there are better and more efficient ways that this money could be spent.

“We are committed to being good citizens of the Earth, and to making institutional decisions that are mindful of our complex relations with the ecosystem,” states the Muhlenberg Fundamental Institutional Values. If we as an institution are so committed to the wellbeing of the individual, encouraging the liberal arts degree that seeks to allow students to become wise through experiences unlike their own, how can we ignore something that affects not only the students of the school, but every inhabitant of our planet.

The biggest issue I think, is that we are placated by the little things that we do (straws and filling our reusable water bottles) but ignore that because garbage gets thrown in with recycling, it can’t be recycled, and that the school’s biggest contribution to the environment is a 3.2 kW solar energy system on top of seegers. To give perspective, the average size house uses 1 kW of energy per hour.

Although it would be a considerable cost to convert the campus to renewable energy, we would not be the first school to do so. University at Buffalo created a ‘solar strand’; functioning solar panels that are arranged so that they appear to be sculptural. Drexel University purchases 100% of their energy from off campus wind and solar farms, and has a program that assists students, faculty, staff and alumni in installing solar panels in their own homes. Northwestern had a student-run project that generated $117,000 for a solar installation. Admittedly these schools are larger in size, which inevitably allows them greater opportunity. But perhaps our leaders should consider the impact that an energy changeover could have, and the example it would set for the students attending. Sure, new greens are fine, but if we make our energy clean, the ones we already have will be green much longer.

Sources: 

https://www.muhlenberg.edu/main/campuslife/sustainability/programs/campusinitiatives/
https://www.solarpowerauthority.com/top-10-u-s-solar-powered-universities-and-how-theyre-doing-it/
https://www.powerelectronics.com/alternative-energy/true-cost-solar-energy

SGA Report

Wednesday, October 17th’s SGA meeting began with a report from President Karlee Makely. She mentioned the draft of a special election in place of the usual November elections. She suggested adding projections for special election, and explaining why it had been postponed. She also stated that there had been updates made to the finance and manual committee, and that it was due to classification and organizational reasons.

Treasurer Gabrielle Baum announced the recent requests for funding, of which are the following; $1000 for DCF, $500 for Fourth Wall, $400 for GASP, and $100 for Comic Book Club, all of which were approved.

Caroline Cohen of the Office of Student Engagement brought up ideas for the special elections, including ‘dorm storming’ in which students would be asked whether they felt that they were being represented on campus, a short email with a graphic to supplement the longer email sent by SGA with greater detail, and TV ads for the advertisement TVs located in Seegers.

WMUH made a request for $13000 to fund new equipment and furniture for the audio studio. The request was tabled until next week.

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