Again, no guns please

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in an effort to expand gun rights in Texas, signed a bill last June that will allow the carrying of concealed handguns on college campuses.
On May 29, the Texas legislature passed a law to allow the open carry of handguns. Texas was one of six states with a ban on open carry.
Soon afterwards, the legislature also passed concealed carry on public college campuses.
The House voted 98-47 on the issue. Then the bill was sent to Gov. Abbott, which he signed at Red’s Indoor Range in Pflugerville, TX on June 15th
Allowing concealed handguns on our college campus will not make us safer. The purported benefits of allowing weapons are outweighed by the potential dangers and complications it introduces.
The primary argument from gun activists is that adding more armed students and staff will make campuses safer and ward off would-be shooters.
Texas has more than 850,000 concealed handgun license (or CHL) holders. But CHL holders must be at least 21; therefore most college students would be too young to carry.
Former Navy Admiral William McRaven is more than familiar with weapons, as he directed the Navy Seals’ takedown of Osama bin Laden, and he opposes campus carry. He is now the UT System Chancellor, overseeing the nine UT schools. He states mental health professionals worry adding guns to the preexisting emotional and psychological stress on students will lead to more suicides and accidental shootings.
“The presence of concealed weapons will make a campus a less safe environment,” McRaven said.
In fact, the majority of universities and college staff oppose campus carry.
“You won’t find a lot of faculty that are supportive of it,” Midland College professor Sondra Richards said. “We deal with young people everyday, so it concerns us. Students get a lot of emotional, psychological and just real school-based stress.”
Dr. Richards says most of the students will handle the stress just fine. But now, bringing concealed guns on campus adds elements of unnecessary crisis management for the staff. They now must have a heightened sense of worry for the students who concerned them anyway.
For many years, the House has tried to pass concealed carry on campuses. The public universities in Texas and their advocates, such as McRaven, strongly voiced their opposition to the proposed law.
Midland College Chief of Police Richard McKee said: “The larger universities tried to explain to the legislature that a college is not a place to be carrying weapons and doing so was of no benefit, but obviously it didn’t sway their opinion.”
Despite the strong opposition, the Legislature didn’t listen. Instead, the well-paid lobbyists employed by the strong gun rights presence in Texas instead swayed them otherwise.
“It’s such an interesting political thing to me that the people who are teaching and actually running the colleges were saying we don’t want this and they’re going to pass it anyway,” Dr. Richards said.
When it became clear that this law had a strong chance of passing in this last legislative session, advocates of its opposition pushed for the option for schools to opt out. At first, this provision looked like it would pass. According to Dr. Richards, this was denied once they realized practically all of the schools would opt out.
The new campus carry law goes into effect for public four-year schools in August of 2016, and for community colleges (such as Midland College) in August of 2017.
The new open carry law goes into effect in Texas in January of next year. It allows anyone with a concealed handgun license to openly carry that firearm in areas where they were already allowed to carry concealed.
“Campus carry is a completely different law,” Chief McKee said. “It allows concealed handgun holders to carry firearms on campus, provided they are concealed. So there is no open carry provision on campuses.”
The campus carry law allows college presidents to carve out “gun-free zones” on their campus.
“A sign would have to be prominently posted that this is a gun-free zone,” Chief McKee said.
However, the Texas Legislature made it very clear that college presidents are not allowed to simply blanket their entire campus in gun-free zones, and thus circumvent the new law. The fact that this had to be explicitly prohibited shows the Legislature’s awareness of the disapproval of campus carry and it’s subsequent disregard of it.
MC’s implementation of gun-free zones will be directly influenced from the fact that MC has both a childcare center and Early College High School on campus.
The Allison Fine Arts building is the main location of Early College classrooms, so that building would be a gun-free zone but also potentially anywhere else Early College students go. The problem is they could potentially go anywhere on the campus at any given time.
Dr. Richards and Chief McKee both said that MC will have to take note of how other colleges will handle their designation of gun-free zones:
“A lot of community colleges have Early College High Schools so I guess we’ll figure it out together,” Dr. Richards said.
“We’re waiting to see what kind of feedback other colleges that have early college high schools on their campuses get from the legislature,” Chief McKee said.
The implementation of campus carry law brings with it many complications, but we strongly urge the MC Board of Trustees to create lots of “gun-free” zones, even if they have to push limits of the law.

The Blue Lights

A recent incident on the UTPB campus involving sexual assault has raised concern over the safety of all college campuses. Is Midland College a safe campus?

Safety is a prioritized concern at MC, especially for the Midland College Police Department and the Student Government Association. The two are working on individual projects and teaming up to ensure everyone at MC is safe.

SGA President Owen Key said that the Student Government strives to solve student issues, which include safety precautions. Last semester the SGA, a student-led initiative, brought the idea of a blue light system to the MCPD.

According to MCPD Chief Richard McKee, a blue light system works by having between 15 and 18 call boxes strategically placed on campus. These boxes would be monitored by an alarm system 24/7. If an issue arises on campus, a student goes to the call box, which alerts a dispatcher who forwards the information to the police.

“The Student Government is really enthusiastic about the blue light system,” Daniel Aldana, Vice President of SGA, said. However, the system has not been put into place yet. Bids were taken, quotes were made, and the police department even put in a proposal for a grant to fund the project. However there were issues with the towers so no grant money was received in time for a purchase last April.

Some may believe MC is not safe due to a lack of emergency telephones. However, the college already has the Rave text messaging system. Rave alerts students by cell phone and email within minutes. Every student is enrolled in the program, but may opt-out.

BRG is also in place. This is a system of black speakers which are placed in every building to broadcast alerts in emergency situations. There is also a speaker on top of the library, and plans to install other outdoor speakers northwest and southeast of campus. This is especially helpful for when students are in class or do not have cell phones.

MCPD is trying to receive a grant to put Copsync into effect. This would be an icon on computers in all classrooms which, when pressed, pinpoints the location and sends an alert. When the icon is clicked, a window pop ups for a prompt to enter a message that can be sent to the MCPD, the Midland PD and MISD PD.

Students can also take their safety into their own hands with help from the MCPD. The Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) is a program offered to MC female students which teaches basic self defense, awareness, maneuvers and procedures to avoid issues. Students should also stay in groups when walking from classes, especially at night. An important key to staying safe at campus is to “be aware of surroundings and what is going on,” McKee said..

The campus is also being more illuminated thanks to a safety and energy project by Chevron. Lights are being erected and old ones are being replaced. The new lights are LED which are brighter, more energy-efficient and longer-lasting, according to Chevron officials. A brighter campus means fewer dark places in which assaults may occur.

But even a brightened campus can be dangerous if you do not take responsibility for yourself. Take some of your own personal precautions by walking in lighted areas in groups, carrying pepper spray, and even taking some of the offered self defense classes. Remember the Chief’s words about being aware of your surroundings.

In other words, help yourself. Don’t sit around waiting for the campus to act on your behalf.

Card fees stink

Midland College students were recently surprised when they received an email announcing a fee would be charged to their student ID card bank accounts.

The accounts have been a controversial subject since they were introduced; many students did not like being required to go through an extra account to access awards and refunds credited to them. The ID cards are mandatory for MC students and include an attached checking account, alternately direct deposit must be set up to receive credit from MC.

Herring Bank hosts the accounts for the ID cards MC students are required to have.

A dormant account fee (after 180 days of no account activity) will result in a $10 per month fee, mailed cashier’s checks are $10 each and a non-ATM cash advance is $4 per transaction.

“Ifyou have not made a transaction (deposit or withdrawal initiated by you) in the past 180 days (six months) your account is considered to be in a dormant status,”stated the email from Herring Bank. “Once your account is considered to be dormant, a fee of $10 a month will be assessed to your account, if sufficient funds are available, until one of the following occurs: you initiate a withdrawal or make a deposit to your account; or your account remains in a dormant status for a total of 365 consecutive days. If your account remains dormant for more than 365 days, no further charges will be assessed on your account. The dormant account fee will not make your account negative or result in an overdraft fee.”

If a student is aware of the fees and balance of the account, problems should be avoided. The amount of misinformation circulating after the announcement was staggering and students were concerned. The card is required for being a student at MC. Some students felt that a fee on a card linked to the account is unfair to the holders of the card and the method of handling the fee announcement was ineffective.

“The Chap Card serves as a passport to college events, Student Government entertainment, Fine Arts Series programs, dances, movies and video tape series,” according to the MC website. “It provides identification in the Murray Fasken Learning Resource Center (library) to enable students to check out materials and to use the computer labs available in the library and at the Midland College Advanced Technology Center. It is also required at the bookstore for scholarship identification.”

A $25 fee is charged for replacing a lost or stolen card. A Chap Card account or direct deposit information is required to receive refunds or monetary rewards at MC.

“Midland College and Herring Bank have teamed up to offer you a convenient, one-card solution with the Chap Card” stated “The Chap Card is a multi-functional Student ID which allows you to open an optional checking account at Herring Bank that offers free access to Herring Bank ATMs and to make no-fee purchases at merchant locations that accept MasterCard or PIN-based transactions.”

This situation is confusing and frustrating for students who was aware of the new fees and caused undue frustration among students who might be unaware of the conditions of the ID card accounts.

The fee announcement should have been more concise and clear in the first place.

Mary Margaret’s Musings on books

Real paper or backlit screen? Print or electronic? Out with the old or in with the new?

All kinds of books are available in ebook format now – bestsellers, textbooks, even cookbooks and coffee table books. The reason for wanting a book full of large pictures and minimal text in digital format is something I haven’t figured out yet, but the prices can be less than the printed counterpart, and for many people that’s a deciding factor.

College text books are available in ebook format and cut down on the number of books a student carries. Ebooks can often be bookmarked, highlighted and feature a built-in dictionary and thesaurus for convenience.

I like both paper books and ebooks. Nothing beats turning the pages of a real book and being able to put my bookmark on the exact line where I stopped reading. Real books give me a sense of nostalgia that ebooks can’t. On the other hand, I like the convenience and space that ebooks save. My wallet likes ebook prices. With a lit screen reading in the dark is a breeze. No more reading with a light at night.

If someone asked me to choose between the two, I would have a hard time choosing. Both offer different advantages. Currently I have a mix of both; I buy popular books in ebook format and if I love it, I consider buying a printed copy for rereading. I buy what isn’t available as an ebook in print. If I don’t like the book, I give it away.

Ebooks allow authors who might not otherwise be able to get a publishing deal to get their work published and make some money. Out-of-print books can be found in ebook format because the cost is negligible for storage and distribution. Ebooks can be found for free on certain websites; all that’s needed is a compatible device.

Print books have the advantage of being a physical object that can be passed on once the owner is done with it. This is a reason used bookstores are so popular. One volume of a book series can be read by many people and passed on to the next person until the book falls apart.
Ebooks don’t offer the same flexibility as printed book. Some find ebooks to be cold and impersonal and worry that the flat scrolling expanse of words makes it harder to remember the information being read. A copy cannot be passed from person to person, often for free because of the digital nature. Not legally, anyway.

Tuition takes a hike

Really, a tuition increase? As if we’re not poor enough already. I mean, it’s not like we pay thousands of dollars for our education or anything, so why not add a few more dollars?

As of now, Midland College students are paying roughly $1 per credit hour below the state average. This makes MC one of the cheapest options for a good education.

As of next semester, the cost will increase to $3 per credit hour for in-state students and $5 for out-of-state students. That’s quite a leap in price to go so much over the state average and add to the ever-increasing cost of shelter, food, fees and books.

What is all this money going toward, anyway? Let us guess, a new cafeteria to replace the perfectly good one we already have.

The better option we have is to keep our current dining hall as it is. Instead of building another cafeteria for large gatherings, we should move these events to the Chap Center. It certainly is suitable and will help save money. We’re so busy trying to make this campus bigger for no substantial reason.

Another thing that our money is going to fund, which is absolutely ridiculous, is the high expense of travel for our coaches to recruit worldwide.

It’s understandable that we are an equal-opportunity school and we want to improve our sports teams by pulling talent from all over the world. However, there is an exceptional number of talented athletes within our state, and it is cheaper to recruit them.

Yes, it’s neat to have people from England or Egypt, but maybe our board should think about what’s better for the in-state students and stop trying to impress other schools with our international sports teams. It’s causing us more money all the way around.

It turns out MC is looking at a million-dollar decrease in state funds. This leaves the MC Board of Trustees with one alternative—a tuition increase. This will allow them to bring in an estimated $300,000 to $400,000 in additional cash.

Overall, there’s no way to guess what all this money is going toward. It could be going toward something that benefits students, or it could be going toward something that benefits the board and its employees. Hopefully it’s a bit of both.

We’re college kids; we don’t all have great-paying jobs and some of us don’t have one at all.

Some of us are already in debt paying off student loans or our parents. Not to mention our college diet isn’t the greatest; most of the time we’re surviving on T&T donuts and Whataburger. It’s cheap, so who can blame us?

Yes, this increase is going to affect us, and of course we’re not going to be happy about it. We want college as cheap as possible before we go off to a four-year university and pay an arm and a leg. Can we be blamed for that?

As students we have the right to be upset about an increase, especially when we’re not fully informed of why we’re going to have to pay more. The board should really come out and speak to us about what is going on. At least inform us, then maybe we would be more understanding.

Land of the free?

The United States of America is land of the free and home of the brave, or so it would seem. In the case of homosexuality, the U.S. is not the land of the free. Somehow, communities, churches and government officials believe they alone hold the power to tell people who they can and cannot marry due to their sex. How did they receive such power over the hearts of the people?

Homosexuality is not news. It has been going on as late as the Dark Ages of England. Famous people such as Elton John, Neil Patrick Harris, and Herman Melville have either admitted being homosexual or, under much research, been found as having relations with one of the same gender. The only reason it has become a “big deal” now is due to recent court cases thrown by people who are not even affected by homosexuality but feel that it will somehow affect them. It has no effect on heterosexual couples, so why should they care?

In Texas, the issue was ratcheted up last month when U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio found the state legislature’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The ban is still in place pending court appeals.

This is the land of the free we are talking about here. This isn’t a dictatorship where our government denies citizens the natural “God given” rights such as life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, right? But wait, telling citizens who they can and cannot marry does impede on their pursuit of happiness. If that happiness is found in the arms of someone of the same sex, then so be it. No one has the right to take that away.

The United States of America was created for religious freedom, at least in part. Quakers were persecuted, and left England to find a land where they could practice their religion freely without being murdered over religious differences and came to early United States. Most religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Wicca and all forms of Christianity are practiced in the U.S., and many of them consider same-sex relationships sinful.

Sure, homosexuality may not be considered the societal “norm”, but that does not mean it is outright evil. Many people do see it as a sin. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but we doubt that anyone would like to be told he or she can’t be married to one they love, homosexual or heterosexual.

Hindus and some cultures do arranged marriage, which is part of their way of life. Homosexuality is a part of a homosexual’s life too.
There is also an argument that it would destroy the sanctity of marriage. Divorce rates are at a high. Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted 72 days, Britney Spears’ marriage lasted two days, and divorce court has become a TV show to entertain the masses. At this point, the sanctity of marriage seems like a weak, almost laughable excuse to deny marriage rights to American citizens.
If persons were told they could not marry someone they deeply care for, they would be understandably angry. If they were told they cannot marry due to other people’s beliefs, well that would cause more anger.

Also, the Constitution states that there is a separation of church and state. Once that argument of religion is taken out of the equation, there is not much left.

The Midland College Press is simply trying to say that American citizens have the right to marry whoever they want, and no one should be able to take that away.

Convenience trumps ettiquite

More than 91 percent of Americans over the age 18 own cell phones, and 78 percent of persons age 12 to 17 also own cell phones. For the American lifestyle of fast-paced living, this would be a convenience in the eyes of most. Being able to contact anyone from anywhere, whether in text form or even a phone call, all persons are just a button away. This is what the American people strive for: convenience, speed and efficiency.

Out of the 78 percent of youth who own a phone, 38 percent of them own smartphones. Smartphones are considered to be any device that combines a cell phone with a hand-held computer that allows for Internet access, email capability and Wi-Fi connections. Overall, they allow users to access information at any time in any location. This was the thought when they were first invented. They were made to make life easier.

Unfortunately there is a downside to the convenience of the cell phone. Everywhere we go, we see people texting and talking on cell phones; it’s really gotten out of hand. Law enforcement has even had to place restrictions against it in some areas because it has become such a distraction.

For those who grew up in the times before such technology was invented, when the gadgets we have now were merely dreams and subjects of science fiction, people never thought they would have phones that detached from the wall, let alone have the ability to fit in one’s pocket and access a vast compilation of information.

Many things about cell phones are good and useful, but something that has been lost is a sense of etiquette. There are people talking on cell phones and jabbering about their social life for the entire world to hear while they are in line at HEB; they don’t care how distracting it is or how loud they are at all. People come into stores texting and only half paying attention while they are shopping. Not only is it rude to the person trying to help them, but to the customers who are not receiving the help they need.

More and more distractions are caused by cell phones. Students who text in class get mad when teachers ask them to put their phone away. Many teachers at the high school level have taken cell phones up because students were texting or checking their Facebook. Students then get mad and ask why the teacher took up the phone in the first place.

Cell phones keep students from having their minds fully engaged in whatever is being presented. Some students either don’t realize or just don’t care that when they are texting; they are not only distracted themselves, but they are distracting the person(s) on the receiving end of the message.

In some states, there are laws that prohibit texting while driving. People are having accidents because they are texting and talking on their cell phone.

Another thing that has caused quite a problem in the United States is not just the invention of cell phone but the invention of Smartphones. With the ability to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media outlets, people are connecting less and less in person.

While social networking can be beneficial in many ways, it can also cause people to alienate others because of what they “posted” or “tweeted”. There have been fights, divorces and breakups caused by what others have put on the Internet for the world to see.

We’ve watched people sit at the table in silence in a restaurant, not because they don’t know each other but because they are all on their cell phones talking to other people.

Dinner used to mean a time when families came together at the end of the day. Families have become alienated from each other because they are too worried about what party is “going down” and who is in a relationship with whom.

Texting, cell phones and social media are all examples of technology that was meant to draw people together and help make things in life convenient; they are also some of the key elements that are causing families to be alienated from one another and relationships to be put to the test.

Technology isn’t all bad, but maybe it isn’t all good either.

Mary Margaret’s Musings on voting

With the last election in Midland in November, I fully intended to vote. In every class I attended, I was reminded of the importance of voting. News articles bemoaned the fact young people don’t vote, and I was reminded daily of my right to exercise the powers of a democracy and the dangers of apathy towards picking new leaders.

As luck would have it, I came down with the flu the week of early voting and didn’t make it out of the house except to go to school. By Election Day, I was feeling better— not perfect, but I still planned to go to the polling place and vote. My brother came back from his classes and told me that there was no polling place on the Midland College campus.

During past elections, MC had a polling place set up in the Scharbaurer Student Center. The polling place had been moved to the Centennial branch of the Midland County Library. According to my brother, the polling place was in a meeting room, the lines were long and it was crowded.

At that point, I decided everyone was better off without my germs and I would give up my right to complain about the officials elected since I didn’t vote.

Moving the polling place from MC made voting for people on campus less convenient. Students with all-day class schedules, teachers and staff that may not have time during a break to leave campus all benefited from the polling place at MC. The set up at MC was always easy, convenient and fast.

I definitely won’t deny that my generation is apathetic towards matters of the government. Matters of the government rarely show up on the radar of young people unless the issues will directly affect them. An effective way to combat this is make reaction to issues unavoidable.

The polling place on the MC campus accomplished such a goal. With voting a mere walk away, students who may not have taken the time to vote were able to take a few minutes and take a part in our democracy.

Drugs, lies, consequences

When you go about trying to game the system, the system usually games you. That’s what happened to Alex Rodriguez. He cheated, he lied, he cheated some more, he lied a little more, then he cried. A-Rod doesn’t deserve any sympathy. His claim that Major League Baseball is out to make an example of him is probably an accurate one and for good reason, but not the reason that he might think.

For years, the MLB has been riddled with players who used substances to gain an edge over their competition. From cocaine use in the golden era of baseball, to amphetamine use in the silver era, and testosterone treatments more recently, it is a hard truth to swallow for baseball  idealists. Alex Rodriguez has made himself a target. The MLB has finally gotten to a point, both with its Players Agreement and technology, that it can finally, truly make the game as pure as its fans view it. A-Rod has continuously gone out of his way to undermine this process and keep the game dirty.

It all began with his stint as a Texas Ranger from 2001 to 2003 and his interview with Katie Couric in 2007 when he was first connected with performance enhancing drug use by Jose Canseco, the poster boy for unashamed steroid use. In the interview, he lied about his use with the Rangers for those years. Rodriguez later admitted that he used PEDs regularly and freely during his time with the team.

Rodriguez received no punishment from the MLB for his admitted use of drugs or for originally lying about his usage. Granted, his usage wasbefore the MLB instituted bans, but the seeds had been sewn. Rodriguez, by going out of his way to grant an interview in which he lied constantly, made his own bed and would eventually have to lie in it.

That time came when the Biogenesis scandal broke in 2013. Tony Bosch was caught distributing PEDs to players all over the MLB and A-Rod’s name came up. Most of the implicated players, most notably Ryan Braun, who only a year before had railed long and hard about how he was innocent of PED use, took their suspensions like men and apologized to their respective fan bases. A-Rod, by contrast, became very vocal about how he would never used performance enhancing drugs. More lies.

He was initially suspended for 211 games, an astonishing number far above the next highest suspension ever, aside from the few lifetime bans of the baseball world. Through arbitration, which Rodriguez walked out of on the second to last day, his suspension was reduced to 165 days and the 2014 playoffs. After the announcement of his suspension, Rodriguez continued his tantrum and vowed to fight the MLB and take the organization to federal court.

Alex Rodriguez started playing baseball as this generation’s “next big thing.” Since his start in 1995, he has been on a steady downward slide. He’s still the great all around player that he’s always been, but his lies and constant inability to take blame for his actions are directly affecting the game of baseball. The regular scandals surrounding him call his greatness into question.

Part of the Players Agreement mentions conduct detrimental to the game of baseball. Rodriguez might need to reread that section of the rules, even then it could be too little, too late, as the Players Association is trying to remove him from their organization as well. Rodriguez is only lucky that, legally, they can’t. That isn’t stopping A-Rod from trying to take the Players Association to court as well, presumably because his feelings were hurt that the rest of the league doesn’t want to play with a known cheater.

No sympathy should be had for A-Rod. He’s been suspended, but he’ll be paid in the long run, after the 2014 season. The MLB didn’t take that away from him. The organization merely put Rodriguez, and anyone who was thinking of following in his footsteps, on notice that it would not tolerate the old, underhanded ways of getting an edge on competition anymore. Hopefully this scare’s him. After all, no one really knows when A-Rod last faced an opponent cleanly.