Tuesday, March 30, 2010
An independent, student-run newspaper serving the Virginia Tech community since 1903
COLLEGIATETIMES 107th year, issue 37
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Students vote on Westboro protest response
Assembled members of the Virginia Tech community, including students and town councilwoman Susan Anderson, elect to arrange a counter-protest in response to Westboro Baptist Church’s planned town event.
Community decides to counter-protest church GORDON BLOCK news reporter Virginia Tech and Blacksburg leaders are preparing a response to an upcoming protest from the Westboro Baptist Church in relation to slain Tech student Morgan Harrington. Members of the church, based in Topeka, Ks., have received negative attention for their protests at military funerals as well as antigay and anti-Semitic rhetoric. A calendar post on the Westboro Baptist Church’s Web site, godhatesfags.com, says the group will protest April 9 in downtown Blacksburg, outside Blacksburg High School, and the Virginia Tech branch of Hillel. About 30 people circled together inside Owens Dining Hall Saturday afternoon to discuss a unified response. The meeting, led by Student Government Association president Brandon Carroll, tossed around several ideas in handling the church. “We want everybody on the same page,” Carroll said. Among the propositions discussed were whether or not a counter-protest should be organized and if T-shirts would be commissioned. Carroll said that the SGA had proposed $250 for a counter-protest. Carroll also created a Google group, HokieNationResponse. While some at the meeting proposed blocking the group’s proposed protest location, members of the group pointed out the action would be illegal under town code. Article II, Section 15-203 of the Blacksburg Town Code prohibits persons from physically interfering with demonstrations, or addressing protestors with “profane, indecent, abusive, or threatening language.” Violation of the code is punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor. The group voted, agreeing that a counter-protest will be formed. In addition, the group suggested that a fundraiser be created to counter the group. While the proposed fundraiser would generate money for the amount of time church members protested, no specific details of the proposed fundraiser were discussed. After the meeting, Carroll said he hoped the Tech community would “prove to them they’re not welcome in our community.” “We’re tough-skinned people who won’t be affected by them,” Carroll said. While online commentators have claimed the church is protesting about the shootings of April 16, 2007, church officials said their protest will make no mention of the 2007 shootings. This comes as a result of a previous agreement with radio host Mike Gallagher.
With the group preparing to protest in Blacksburg in the immediate aftermath of the shootings, Gallagher agreed to give the group two hours of airtime, in exchange for the group agreeing to not picket the funerals of shooting victims. Gallagher described the agreement as “the right thing to do.” “If my radio show can prevent a circus atmosphere of protests, counter-protests, police protection, and media coverage from taking place in front of churches where grieving families are trying to say good-bye to their loved ones, then I think that’s a good thing,” Gallagher said, in an April 22, 2007 post on townhall.com. Church officials said they were not protesting the 2007 shootings, saying they were “coming for the event that happened last month,” referencing slain student Morgan Harrington. A 20-year-old education major, Harrington was found in late January 2010 after going missing in October 2009 while attending a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va. “We’re not going to bring our sign that said, ‘God sent the shooter.’ No, no, we’ll leave that one at home.’” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, eldest daughter of church founder Fred Phelps. “We’ve got a sign that says ‘God sent the killer.’” The church’s protest at Blacksburg High School is against Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the U.S. Department of Education. Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Brenda Blackburn said no determination has been made on how they would communicate to students and parents about the protest. Classes will be in session on April 9. “We are specifically working with town of Blacksburg law enforcement … speaking with them about what plans they have about police coverage in the area,” Blackburn said. “That’s the extent of what we’re doing at this moment.” The church will end its day rallying against the Tech branch of Hillel, with a protest set for the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center on East Roanoke Street in Blacksburg. Sue Kurtz, executive director of Tech’s Hillel, was not available for comment Monday. The LGBTA community has also shown outrage about the church’s protest. Aimee Kanode, a senior humanities, science, and environment major at Tech and president of Tech’s LGBTA said she would not attend the protest, as she has work on the day of the protest. “These people are awful, appalling, despicable,” Kanode said. “My see PROTEST / page three
Q&A: Iran’s democracy GORDON BLOCK news reporter Author and historian Hamid Dabashi is in Blacksburg today to discuss the future of the recent Iranian government protests, also known as the “Iranian Green Movement.” The Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Dabashi has written several books, including “Iran: A People Interrupted.” Dabashi has been critical of the Iranian government following the DABASHI contested 2009 election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dabashi will speak at room 300 in Whittemore Hall at an event entitled “The Iranian Green Movement: Historical Roots and Future Prospects.” Before his speech, Dabashi took time to speak with Collegiate Times in a phone interview Monday. COLLEGIATE TIMES: News attention about protests in Iran has dropped since reaching a peak last summer. Is that something that bothers you at all? Dabashi: No, it does not bother me at all. This is a civil rights movement and it’s in the form of a marathon not a 100-meter dash. It is best compared to the American civil rights movement, which began in the late 1950s with the Montgomery bus boycott. In fact, when President Obama just managed to get the health care reform bill through Congress, he called it the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century. In other words, when you’re talking about securing the civil liberties of the people, you’re not talking necessarily about toppling a regime, or harassing the government. You’re talking about a prolonged civil rights movement for securing civil liberties. One day it may manifest itself in rallies, it may manifest itself in teaching, boycotts, etc. The struggle will be sustained and will proceed. CT: You’ve called these protests a civil rights movement. What elevates this struggle beyond the level of, say, a government insurrection? Dabashi: Because it began with a very simple question “Where is my vote?” Mainly we have always had rebellion, revolution, coup d’tet, things of that sort. This movement is definitively a non-violent
movement. We are into the 10th month of this movement, and not a single Molotov cocktail has been exploded … despite the fact they have faced incredible violence from the government, and also considering the fact the movement is taking place in the context that is infested by violence in the region. From Afghanistan, to Iraq, Palestine. Homicidal violence … genocidal violence. In that context, we are witness to the growth of the non-violent movement. That is the indication in my judgment that what we’re talking about is a civil rights movement and not a revolution.
Subway bombs cause panic in Russian capital MEGAN K. STACK mcclatchy newspapers
CT: So you think America had its hands tied in its interactions with the Iranian government. Dabashi: Exactly. The other reason is that President Obama has inherited a very messy regional politics from his predecessor. As a result, in order to fulfill his campaign promises of withdrawing American troops from Iraq, and reconfiguring policies in Afghanistan, and proceed with the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, the president needs the collaboration of the Islamic Republic, one way or another. As a result, all these restrictions can hinder the
MOSCOW — The suicide bombs that roared through Moscow subway cars on Monday were almost certainly the latest salvo in a slow-moving war of attrition between the Russian government and militants in the restive, mostly Muslim republics of the Caucasus. On Monday, two female suicide bombers climbed into packed subway cars in Moscow’s bustling downtown in the middle of rush hour and blew themselves up, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens more. It was the first such attack to reach Moscow in six years, raising the specter of violence creeping back into the heart of Russia. “Until recently, folks felt the violence was just taking place in the South, often places like Chechnya and Ingushetia,” said Charles Taylor, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech, “where there really is an ongoing war.” The killings seemed intended to rattle the very core of Russian national identity. Lubyanka Square, the first to be attacked, holds a deep and unsettling place in the Russian consciousness as the headquarters of the Soviet KGB, and now its successor, the FSB. Next came Park Kultury, another iconic station alongside Gorky Park. “You have these masses of people coming in and coming out; you’ve got a wonderful target for somebody who wants to cause as much damage as possible,” Taylor said. Vladimir V. Putin has been trading blows with southern rebels ever since he rose to the presidency a decade ago. Putin cut short a working trip to Siberia and headed back to Moscow, vowing to unleash vengeance on the groups that organized the attack. “I am confident that law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish the criminals,” Putin said. “The terrorists will be destroyed.” Some of the suicide attackers’ remains were found in the bombed trains, and were sent for forensic identi-
see IRAN / page three
see RUSSIA / page two
CT: There was some controversy about America’s response when the protests began last summer. Do you feel that enough was done to support this Green Movement? Dabashi: I make the categorical distinction between the American government and the American people. The American peoples’ attention to this movement has been absolutely extraordinary, supportive. Feeling the reflection of their own civil rights movement in a different event, they have been excited and supportive. As far as the administration of President Obama is concerned, I believe the president has been very cautious and judicious in his measured and empirical support for the movement. Because of the history of American government’s involvement and interference in Iranian affairs, the president has been very cautious — not whole-heartedly embracing the Green Movement, because it would have been counterproductive.
Fireworks put on show for Ring Dancers
Spectators observe ﬁreworks following the 76th annual Class of 2011 Ring Dance on Saturday night. The dance drew about 2,500. photo by niels goeran blume
2 newsProtest: Westboro Baptist plan
new river valley news editor: zach crizer university editor: philipp kotlaba firstname.lastname@example.org/ 540.231.9865
march 30, 2010
nation & world headlines
Insurers dispute when pre-existing condition coverage begins for youth MINNEAPOLIS — With the inkbarely dry on Congress’ landmark health care legislation, insurers are already disputing whether they must cover children with pre-existing medical conditions starting this year. The president says yes. Insurance companies say no. In recent speeches, President Obama has described the new protections in no uncertain terms “Starting this year, insurance companies will be banned forever from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions,” he said at a rally in Virginia on March 19. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry trade group, agrees that in six months, they must cover pre-existing conditions for a child whom they choose to enroll. But they say the law doesn’t require them to offer coverage to a child with pre-existing conditions — not until 2014, when they will have to guarantee coverage to everybody. -by Chen May Yee mcclatchy newspapers
Ring Dance draws crowd, draws student condemnations restricted by fire marshal from page one
method is to just ignore them. Me wasting energy on those people is not worth my time.” Kanode said that while the group would not officially organize for the protest, several members and officers would be in attendance. Kanode said she advised her members to “be smart about it.” “Be safe and know what you can and cannot do,” Kanode said. Jean Elliot and Ken Belcher, co-chairs of Tech’s LGBT Caucus, declined a request for comment on the protest. Another concern for community members is the potential for the protest to take away from other events for the day. Among the events scheduled for April 9 include a memorial for David Seth Mitchell, a US Marine killed in Afghanistan and Tech’s Relay for Life event, which is a fundraiser for cancer research. Whitney Law, a senior communication major and director of Tech’s Relay for Life, declined immediate comment on the protest. The group’s protest is a major example of the challenges of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Joseph Russomanno, an associate professor at Arizona State University and expert of first amendment and media law, said the law allows for the expression of controversial topics, describing it as a “marketplace of ideas.” “We as a society can select from variety of viewpoints and facts and decide where we want to go on particular issues,” Russomanno said. “We allow all ideas into discussion, and select the best ones.” The Westboro Baptist Church’s protests have drawn the attention of the courts, with several members arrested at their protests. Members of the church are set to appear in front of the Supreme Court in the case of Snyder v. Phelps. Albert Phelps, the father of a slain U.S. marine, was initially awarded $10.9 million following the church’s
The Collegiate Times regrets this error.
JUSTIN GRAVES -Contact our public editor at publiceditor@ collegiatetimes.com if you see anything that needs to be corrected.
SGA President Brandon Carroll and Director of Government Affairs Brittany Anderson consult in Saturday’s meeting. picket of his son’s funeral. With the reward reduced to $5 million, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned the ruling in the church’s favor. The court agreed to review the case March 9, 2010. “This case, this ruling has the potential to be a very important First Amendment ruling,” Russomanno said. The Westboro Baptist Church will start its April 9 protest at 1 p.m on the corner of North Main Street and East Roanoke Street. The church will then proceed to Blacksburg High School at 2:15 p.m., and the church will finish in Blacksburg with a 3 p.m. protest at the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center on East Roanoke Street.
Iran: ‘Momentum has continued’ from page one
In “Engineers: Lab research draws corporate, school visits,” (CT, March 25) the car pictured is actually a Formula One car.
president’s response to be partial and judicial. CT: There were some protests at Virginia Tech about the results of the election from last summer. Is it exciting for you to see young people getting involved in the Green Movement? Dabashi: Very much so. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people involved in the Green Movement are young people. Iranian population is 72 million, and 80 percent of it is under the age of 40. Seventy percent is under the age of 35, and 50 percent of it is under the age of 25.
It’s a very young population, and that means it’s a young movement. The involvement of young people, whether they are inside Iran or around the world, is definitive in movements. CT: What’s the next step in the Green Movement? Where do we go from here? Dabashi: I believe, for example on the second of April is a national picnic day, that people are going out of town to rural areas to celebrate with friends and family. What is important is the momentum that was created on June 13th, a spontaneous demonstration, has consistently continued on every religious or national holiday that Iranians
had. This will continue. The momentum will be unrelenting, the public displays have been effectively appropriate by the people. The government can only come and disallow peaceful assembly by show of force … by violence and kidnapping people off the streets … harassing, torturing, incarcerating, and in few cases even killing them. The more these sort of demonstrations continue, the more we see the nature of the movement as quintessentially nonviolent … and the more violent and immature nature of the Islamic Republic will be, for the whole world to see.
The class of 2011 set off fireworks with fire marshals and students alike as the 76th annual Ring Dance drew a twice-capacity crowd of about 2,500 Saturday night, forcing many attendee hopefuls to be turned away. Overall, class of 2011 president Nathan Lavinka said the event was “a total success.” “It was a fantastic job of integrating the 100th class ring with a classy, nice affair,” Lavinka said. Around 2,500 students attempted to attend Saturday’s dance, Lavinka said. However, the fire code in Squires restricts the capacity of the Commonwealth Ballroom to 1,000 people. Lavinka said the fire marshal was monitoring the situation to ensure that overcrowding was prevented. Each student entering was given a wristband; as some attendees exited, more were allowed in so that the capacity was at exactly 1,000 at all times. “Unfortunately, a lot of people experienced this,” Lavinka said. He said the fire codes for capacity were the “biggest obsta-
cle” the planning committee faced. Despite the line that Lavinka said “took over Squires,” causing some students to be turned away and others to abandon hopes of attending the ring dance, he said the event was “a great success.” After the Ring Dance, fireworks were set off from the Drillfield at midnight. The Ring Dance weekend also featured the Ring Banquet on Friday night, which about 500 people attended. Lavinka said the whole weekend cost $75,000. “It was a time we could come together to celebrate,” he said. “I will never forget it.” Although Lavinka said the fire codes in Squires caused the planning committee to consider other locations for future Ring Dances, there are no other suitable locations that can accommodate the volume of people wishing to attend the traditional event. “Squires is the one and only location,” he said. - news staff
Russia: Twin suicide bombings believed to be work of North Caucasus separatists, bring war to Moscow from page one
fication. The remains included the head of a woman believed to be a bomber, unnamed investigators told Russian news agencies. “Probably it was a reply to some injustice or atrocity done to their fathers or brothers, whoever, but it’s only the end of a tentacle,” said Sergei Arutyunov, chair of the Caucasus department at the Russian Academy of Science. “And the tentacles converge in a large, loose body of separatism and pseudoIslamic fanaticism.” “It’s certainly religious in the same ways as you get religious differences in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, but ... this goes much beyond religion,” Taylor said. “They really would like independence.” Women have been responsible for a number of past attacks by Chechen militants, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s bombings. An Islamist Web site later confirmed Buryatsky’s death. Another rebel leader, Doku Umarov, threatened Russian cities in a February interview with a Web site linked to the Islamists. “Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns,” Umarov said. “The war is coming to their cities.” Much of Putin’s time in power has been defined by the struggle with Islamic militants.
Now Russians are watching keenly to see how Moscow will respond. The public has largely ignored the rampant killings, disappearances and torture that plague its southern flank — until it spills suddenly into Moscow. “Obviously, we have not done enough,” President Dmitry Medvedev said at an emergency meeting, Russian news agencies reported. Medvedev later visited Lubyanka station, where he took the escalator down to the platform and laid flowers at the scene of the explosion. “They are beasts,” he told reporters outside, referring to those responsible for the blasts. Putin later ordered that families of the dead would be paid 300,000 rubles, about $10,150, plus another $609 to cover the cost of funerals. “The Russian military is not the most efficient organization in the world, and certainly has no sense of how you win the hearts and minds of people,” Taylor said. “We’ve been making (the same arguments) in the American military ... starting with Vietnam, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq.” “How do you win over the people? There seems to be little understanding of that by the Russian government,” he said. - philipp kotlaba contributed to this report
editor: debra houchins email@example.com/540.231.9865 COLLEGIATETIMES
march 30, 2010
The Collegiate Times is an independent student-run newspaper serving the Virginia Tech community since 1903
Your Views [letters to the editor]
Don’t tolerate hate at Tech
his is in reference to the upcoming protest by Westboro Baptist Church. I am an alum and the parent of a current student. More importantly, I am opposed to the use of small-minded hatred in any form. I haven’t been a “good” alum — not a lot of visits or contributions — but I do send my daughter to Virginia Tech and still find comfort amidst the gray stones when I visit her there. I am one of those who think that being a Hokie means avoiding the bright lights in favor of quiet excellence in the pursuit of duty. Old fashioned, maybe, but great nonetheless. I think that the student body should reach out to us on this one (and we should reach out to you) to present a wall of unassuming rejection to this type of ignorance and hatred. I believe such a response is best demonstrated by totally nonviolent, silent vigil in the face of their folly. Further, I believe that an effective, powerful response would use the
Ring Dance disappointing
lass of 2011 Ring Dance: “What we have here is a failure to communicate...” I don’t usually speak on the behalf of a large group of people, but I think the Class of 2011 needs to stand up right now. We have a right to be angry and to demand justice. Saturday night was Junior Ring Dance. Knowing in advance that the fire marshall would cap Commonwealth Ballroom at 1,000 people, the Class of 2011 Ring Dance Committee still decided not to relay that information to the other 500 people out in the hall, waiting in line for up to two hours. I was one of them; I have looked forward to my class ring dance since I was a freshman in 2007. Having bought my ring and picked it up the week beforehand, I excitedly began determining what I would like to wear on this very special occasion. All week, I talked about how awesome the dance was going to be and how much I was looking forward to it. Saturday night, my boyfriend picked me up, both of us dressed to the nines. We met up with friends for a homemade group dinner, headed to Squires, prepared to dance the night away. What we met there was not an exciting, fun time. Instead, we found a line stretching all the way from the ballroom back to the stairs on the opposite end of the second floor. Waiting in line from just before 9 p.m. to just before 11 p.m., we slowly progressed forward. Others in line went forward, asking for any sign of what was going on. Inconsistent communication and downright ignorance was what we were met with from the volunteers and committee members running the show; no one was honest at all about the state of affairs, and all we were told all night was “food’s downstairs” (which my friends and I mercilessly made fun of for the rest of the evening). After the two hours of waiting and progressing all the way to just behind the top of the
very presence of their hate to empower those whom they seek to destroy. Therefore, for every WBC member who shows up, I plan to donate a small amount to Hillel@Tech and to the LBGTA at Virginia Tech. And I ask for other alums to join me, please, in welcoming the WBC visitors — not with angry words or reciprocal signs, but with silent rejection and a donation intended to strengthen that which they intend to destroy. I will make my donation, albeit quietly, and know that I used their weight against them. All I ask is for someone from LGBTA or Hillel to provide me with an honest count of WBC members present on my Facebook page. Students, whatever you do, be careful. Do not become the story. Do not become the hater. Do not become the victim. But stand. You can always tell who is leading by who stands tallest and firmest when things are dark and chaotic. It’s time to stand.
Jay Pittman ’87 Alum Computer Science
main atrium stairs, committee members began coming out and informing those of us in line that we should just go home because we weren’t getting in. When one of the girls came to talk to me and my boyfriend, I said to her, “I’m a junior, how can this have happened?” To which she responded, “I know it’s your junior dance, I’m sorry. I feel for you.” Obviously, I was very frustrated, upset, and disappointed, as were the hundreds of people still in line with me. Sorry doesn’t cut it; the committee should have better informed people, obviously knowing before that this would be a problem. Perhaps just juniors and seniors should be allowed to attend. Maybe it should have been made open only to juniors and their dates, the rest getting in on a first-come, firstserved basis after that point. Talking to committee members today, we were told that the option of juniors bringing their dates was being looked into, but how does this help now? Then we are once again barred from attending for the second year in a row. This year was my turn, my junior ring dance. I am in the Class of 2011. How am I not enjoying what I have earned and looked forward to? Why have so many juniors in that line missed out on their moment? This is something we will never get back. We do not have another junior year. This is what I will remember every time I put my ring on. I will not remember having an amazing time with my classmates and friends. I will only remember standing in line for two hours, anticipating the moment that I would finally get to enjoy that dance I had waited so long for (of which, that line alone definitely made its own fire hazard in the hallway, thank you fire marshall). And all of this is a very sad realization to come to. Virginia Tech, Class of 2011 Leadership, and Ring Committee: You failed me Saturday night. You failed all of us juniors.
Kate Pandlick Junior History Major
Ut Prosim important to Tech community, spirit T
his past weekend, the university celebrated the 100th anniversary of the class ring tradition with the annual Ring Banquet and Ring Dance celebration. This and other traditions shed an important light on the university motto of Ut Prosim, “That I may serve.” Throughout Virginia Tech’s history many have reflected and spoken about this motto, as it is central to the university’s land grant mission, but also to its role within the community. Did you know that this motto was first developed under the auspices of President John McBryde more than a hundred years ago? Today we have the Ut Prosim Society as one of the four giving societies, we have an Ut Prosim newsletter through the Alumni Association, and recently, the month of April has been designated “Ut Prosim” month. As I reflect about “Ut Prosim,” I am focused on how we, as members of this university, can become more engaged and excited in these challenging times. For example, for many student organizations, this is the time of year for officer elections as groups prepare for the next school year. Annual Student Government Association elections begin tomorrow. One of the challenges that student groups face is a lack of students that are interested in stepping into leadership positions. In other cases, you have the same few students serving as officers in multiple organizations. I do not fault these students because often these are the ones that are making a difference and are the reason these organizations survive. It saddens me that more students are unwilling to volunteer their time and efforts to get involved in leadership opportunities. The interesting thing is that students
are seeking new ways to get involved and we can see how students have galvanized around Relay for Life and other causes. If anything, these efforts provide a concrete and tangible focus for students. Perhaps we need to explore how student organizations are structured to provide more tangible opportunities like these. There are many different motives for students to get involved. In my case, I was very active in high school so when it came time to go college, I decided that I just wanted to complete my degree as fast as I could. Once I started, I was focused on my coursework and an outside job, but something was missing. It was campus involvement. I made the decision to get involved and that forever changed my journey. I share this story because I encounter too many students, as well as faculty and staff, that shy away from getting involved because they either don’t want to be bothered by the hassle or the drama, don’t see the benefit, or just don’t have the time amid other commitments. While it is up to each individual to decide, I believe that as a community we are missing out because of the lack of involvement. This desire for involvement also manifests itself within our work environment. Over the past few years, I have encountered many colleagues that will just put in their 40 hours a week and not any more. I have often wondered if I could do the same thing. While the answer is yes I could, the reality is that it is not so easy. I am certainly not a poster child for the 40 hour-week, but I have been known to put in 12-hour days on a regular basis. I see many faculty and staff go through the motions, not wanting to disturb the status quo. In light of these
challenging times for our budget, it is understandable but still troubling. This desire for maintaining the status quo is seen when innovative ideas are turned aside because no one wants to do extra work, or no one wants to add a new thing to the plate. How do you create innovation and fulfill this value of “that I may serve” when we do the same old thing or are not willing to consider new ideas? The blame can be placed on lack of funds, but often it is the lack of enthusiasm and the desire to work that is the real culprit. It is sad that some of this is caused by lack of recognition, flexibility or attention to these efforts. For some, it is because they are just “tired,” and they are not willing to invest the time and effort due to how things transpired in the past. I can understand why members of the university community don’t want to take on new efforts or are hesitant about giving up financial resources. This same reason can be seen with students, who don’t want to get involved. As we ponder the meaning of “Ut Prosim,” I encourage you to reflect on your role in embodying “that I may serve.” It will be different for each of us, but it is vital that we think about our respective contributions. There are opportunities for each one of us to help make a difference and serve within the university and local community.
RAY PLAZA -regular columnist -faculty adviser
How are we connected to the Democratic Republic of Congo? T
hink of someone close to you: your mother, your father, a close friend. Maybe you have younger siblings, a nephew or a niece. What makes that person different from someone struggling to survive in another part of the world, one like the Democratic Republic of Congo? There are countless places of misery and suffering, but I want to bring your attention to DRC because I think it is one of the worst places a person could live. Agree with me or disagree with me — this is what’s going on whatever side you find yourself on. The deadliest war since World War II ravaged DRC between 1998 and 2003, and other conflicts have since terrorized different regions of the country. To date, more than 5.4 million people have been killed since conflicts began, while more than 1.3 million people have been displaced. Attempts to end violence have manifested themselves in different peace deals and cease fires, but have failed as rebel groups continue to devastate the country, especially in the Eastern provinces. Civilians are often the direct targets of violence and exploitation. When rebel groups raid villages, they take any resources they can find and then enslave the members of the community they don’t kill to carry the heavy loads of goods. If the carriers cannot keep up with the rebels as they all march from place to place, they are brutally beaten and killed. Some villagers find themselves coerced into working in hazardous mines, where they face death through the whim of their captors, mudslides, rock collapses and exhaustion — all for less than a few dollars a day. Women especially bear witness with their minds and bodies to these atrocities. More than 250,000 women have been raped each year in the DRC, which is proof that rape as a weapon of war has become completely institution-
alized. If that raw number is not enough to show the complete chaos and impunity that plagues DRC, the breakdown comes out to 685 women raped per day, and 28 per hour. Oftentimes, more than one perpetrator carries out the rape. This occurs along with the other unimaginable and inhuman practices that take place. Thousands of children have been abducted to become soldiers or sex slaves, while countless villages and refugee camps have been raided and razed. Conflicts have come about through ethnic hatred and grappling for control of Congo’s rich resources. Rwandan and Burundian ethnic groups have had a history of political and violent tension in Congo, and with the surge of refugees from the Rwandan genocide, conditions have been further strained. An overarching theme in past clashes, and especially now, is centered on conflict minerals. DRC has been an object of exploitation for its resources in tin, tungsten, gold and a mineral called coltan. The country is home to 80 percent of the world’s supply of coltan. Rebel groups look to get rich off the resources, and the perpetuation of violence and instability only makes exploitation easier. There are some reports that even the Congolese government allows the promotion of violence so members of the higher class and administration can benefit from illegal smuggling, which is estimated to earn close to $1 million a day. Now is where some of you ask me why any of this matters. The plight of the Congo matters because every one of us is helping to bring about unspeakable violence to people like us, children like our children, mothers like our mothers, friends like our friends. We must no longer be ignorant in our role as consumers. Remember when I said that the DRC has 80 percent of the world’s coltan?
You may not know what coltan is, but I guarantee you use it every day. Coltan is in our cell phones, our computers, cameras, Xboxes and countless other electronics that sustain our society. Along with the demand for gold and the other minerals that the DRC is rich with, it is easy to see how struggles over resources are the roots of many conflicts. That means that our demand for coltan (possibly the greatest resource) increases as we want newer laptops, flashier and multi-purpose phones, and exciting gadgets. This desire directly inspires brutal and devastating violence. I’m not asking us to trash all of our technology and return to the Stone Age, but I am asking you to be aware and acknowledge what went into the production of the electronics that you can’t live without. Are they conflict free? If you think they should be, there are several things you can do: You can join the Virginia Tech chapter of STAND, which focuses on issues like this. You can also look up places in the DRC that help civilians who have been attacked, such as the Panzi and Heal Africa hospitals. They are always in need of support. If you follow politics (or even if you don’t), you can urge your legislators to co-sponsor and support the Conflict Minerals Trade Act: H.R. 4128, and S. 891. Whether you do any of these things or not is up to you, just consider the lives of those in conflict areas like DRC. They are not so different from us, and yet they are subject to horrors we cannot even imagine.
NICOLE FAUT -regular columnist -sophomore -history, religion and culture
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New local coffee shop brews up buzz amongst students RYAN ARNOLD features reporter The menu items of a local coffee shop cover four rectangular chalkboards, and nearly every lowercase “i” is dotted with a paw print. Yet Lucie Monroe’s offers nothing in the way of animal merchandise, though owners Gary and Dawn Donson did look to their pet to inspire the coffee company’s name. “Boxers are a funny dog to start with,” Gary Donson said, “and they’ve got the little tiny waist. And we named her after Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe — a little bit funny, a little bit sexy.” Lucie Monroe’s opened two months ago in Christiansburg’s Gateway Plaza just off U.S. 460 East. Construction cones guide vehicles around its choppy asphalt sea, and several other storefronts were only recently occupied by enterprises such as Pathway Christian Academy and Virginia Techniques gymnastics center. Although Gary Donson called the area up-and-coming, he and his wife initially doubted the plot. “What a friend of ours did, he pulled up the demographics and we’re waiting for him to say, you know, ‘This is awful,’” Gary Donson said. “He goes, ‘You couldn’t have picked a better location.’” The coffee shop, Gary Donson said, has managed to carve out a niche for itself because the nearest Starbucks is located down the road near the New River Valley Mall and other local names don’t even brush shoulders with the highway. The Donsons migrated to southwest Virginia in 2008 only after a trek across the Atlantic failed. Indiana natives, the two were part of Muncie Alliance Church, whose pastor opened coffee shops as conduits for starting new ministries. The Donsons learned about the complexities of the coffee business through
weekend workshops with the baristapastor. An Ireland connection sent a church team, which included the Donsons, overseas to talk with locals about java’s unifying power. Mrs. Donson said the divisions between Protestants and Catholics fizzled inside coffee shops. “At this point I knew in my heart that Gary and I were going to do coffee,” she said. “Do coffee and community.” Dawn Donson was ready to pocket her high school teaching career, and Mr. Donson would check out of the hospital where he managed the IT department. “We put our house up,” Dawn. Donson said. “We were going to move. And things just didn’t click, you know, for Americans to go over and start a business.” But Dawn Donson’s cousin, Terri Shaffer, knew where they could root their dream. Terri and her husband, Chuck, own The Weigh Station, which is also in the Gateway Plaza. The Weigh Station develops physician-managed weight loss programs for clients. The company now shares walls with Lucie Monroe’s. “Chuck said he would love to be able to offer Weigh Station-friendly drinks and food to our patients,” Mrs. Shaffer said. “And we had the space, so it kind of started from there.” Of course, the Donson’s initial visit to Christiansburg was laced with apprehension. “I (wanted) to hate it,” Dawn Donson said, “… because Ireland didn’t work out, and I didn’t want to, I guess, be hurt again.” Instead she said they felt an overwhelming peace, which has yet to falter. “The community here has just been very sweet, very — open-armed,” Dawn Donson said. “It’s just real natural.” Along with Weigh Station patients, students from the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine are amongst
BRIAN CLAY/SPPS The owners of Lucie Monroe’s, Gary and Dawn Donson, opened up the store two months ago in Christiansburg after a business opportunity in Ireland fell through. The beans they use to make their coffee come from a nearby source in Stuart, Va.
the ardent Lucie Monroe’s customers. Second-year VCOM student Alec Sharp said he and his girlfriend saw a grand opening sign and ventured inside. Sharp said he’s now at the shop three or four nights each week, and he’s actively spreading the word to his colleagues. “Med students are like parasites,” Sharp said. “We’ll go wherever we can. Anything that’s open late that has Internet and coffee.” It’s also convenient that Shaffer, next door at The Weigh Station, is an M.D., and Sharp said the doctor makes himself available. “The guy is a brain,” he said. Sharp said the warm atmosphere in Lucie Monroe’s is conducive to studying, specifically noting the decor. The wall colors are coffee inspired. Mrs. Donson picked up a brush to craft
several murals including a sun, a cup on a saucer and a swirling black shape that’s difficult to identify. “And the mustache,” Mr. Dodson said, laughing. “That’s what we call it.” Atop traditional tables and a corner booth, a reading nook contains four plush chairs set against a faux fireplace. Sharp, however, stressed the mug that sat next to his computer. He’s studied at other places such as Barnes and Noble, trying different coffees along the way, but he said Lucie Monroe’s is atop his list. The Donsons tap a source in Stuart, Va., for their beans, which they then prepare using a variety of methods for unique tastes. Some of their daily flavors are French pressed, which involves letting the
grounds float in water before filtering them with a “plunger.” More similar to the drip method is the Chemex. The hourglass-shaped Chemex holds a filter and grounds above its neck, but water is heated in and poured from a different container. The biggest crowd pleaser, though, has been the nineteenth-century German-designed “vac pot.” A flame sits under a glass sphere filled with water. Once boiling, the water siphons up into a connected cylinder. Like the French press, the grounds float in the cylinder. When the sphere is cooled, it creates vacuum suction, pulling the coffee down through a filter and back into the sphere for serving. The Donsons showcase the vac pot at a round “cupping bar” island in the center of the Lucie Monroe’s dining floor.
“One night we had like 10 people around that bar,” Mrs. Donson said. “It kind of reminded me of when I was at Chateau doing a wine tasting. People were talking. People were getting to know each other. And that’s how I knew, you know, that we’re doing a good thing.”
15 years later, Tech softball program Relay for Life teams gear up where it is now thanks to head coach their fundraising campaigns NICK CAFFERKY sports staff writer With a record of 13-20, the Virginia Tech softball team isn’t having the season it was expecting. However, this year will still be memorable for the program as it celebrates its 15th year in NCAA competition. While the Hokies have seen all of the highs and lows of starting a program, one thing has always remained constant — head coach Scot Thomas. In 1995, Thomas took over Tech’s brand-new team, despite having no experience with fast-pitch softball. When talks of a softball team began, Thomas, who is a native of Blacksburg, expressed interest in being involved with the program, perhaps as an assistant coach. However, after Rick Bertagnolli, coach of Division II powerhouse California, changed his mind and returned to Cal right before the Title IX deadline, Tech gave its head-coaching job to Thomas on an interim basis. “I wasn’t worried about the X’s and O’s part of it, so much as the recruiting part of it and in particular the pitching part of it,” Thomas said. “It’s funny, I took an NCAA book and went through to look for the previous NCAA champions and called a bunch of coaches to see if they had anyone interested in being a pitching coach.” Fifteen years later, Thomas has established a premier program in one of the best conferences in college athletics. But it wasn’t easy. Tech’s softball team started just like every new team entering a sport — it
struggled. Starting off as a member of the Atlantic 10, Tech’s newest team went 16-32 in its inaugural season, and 6-10 in conference play. In the years that followed, though, the Hokies have shown steady improvement. After increasing its win total every year after its inaugural season, the team set a program record during the 1998-99 campaign, when it won 54 games and nearly took the Atlantic 10 championship. Two years later, after another successful second place finish in the A-10, the team made a move toward tougher competition, joining the Big East. In four seasons as a member of the Big East, the Hokies failed to find the same success that A-10 competition brought. Tech’s best finish as a member of the Big East was in 2002. In 2003, the Hokies took a step backward with their first losing season since 1996. Despite the bumpy stretch, however, good things were close for Thomas and his program. In 2005, the Hokies made another leap in competition by joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, where they continue to play today. While the team saw increased competition every time it switched conferences, Thomas says its impact on recruiting cannot be understated. “The first recruiting bench that I was able to sell them on was the fact that they were going to be able to play right away. The next one was ‘Hey, we’re going to be playing in the Big East,’ and it was an easier sell … and then with the ACC, it got even bigger,” Thomas said.
SCOT THOMAS SOFTBALL HEAD COACH
15 th season coaching 11non-losing seasons in 14
Led the Hokies to and ACC titles
4 NCAA appearances
2007ACC Coach of the Year 1999 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year
Since joining the ACC, the Hokies have seen exponential growth in skill and recognition. In 2005, the Hokies made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, thanks to a memorable run in the ACC Tournament. Tech continued to get better and in 2007, captured its first regular season conference title. “It was an amazing feeling. It is something you can’t really describe in words,” senior Whitney Davis said. “We had great team chemistry, we enjoyed our season, we won all the time. It was just an amazing time to experience that and win our first ACC championship.” The title was Tech’s first in program history. Believe it or not, Tech’s lone title isn’t the most memorable of Thomas’ moments. Led by USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Angela Tincher, the Hokies burst onto the national stage the following year, in 2008. Behind Tincher’s seemingly flawless pitching, the Hokies made it all the way to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. After losses to Texas A&M and Florida, Tech was sent home, but not before the Hokies had made a name for themselves. In 2008, the Hokies also became the first team to beat Team USA in years. Behind superstar Jenny Finch, Team USA had won 185 consecutive games in a row, a streak that included three gold medals. That didn’t seem to fluster the Hokies, as Tech went on to win behind Tincher’s no-hitter that shocked the world. “The one thing people always ask me is ‘When do you think you had the game won?’ and I was like, ‘The last three batters we faced were Natasha Watley, Jessica Mendoza and Crystl Bustos, so I don’t know we ever thought we had it won until we got the final out,’” Thomas said. Through the ups and downs of the program, Thomas has maintained a calm demeanor that keeps his players relaxed. “Coach Thomas is more laid back than most coaches. He’s more of a ‘get your job done’ than an inyour-face mentality,” assistant coach Barbara Sherwood said. In just 15 years, Thomas has brought the Hokies all the way into the national spotlight. This begs the question: Where does Tech softball go now? “I think the biggest thing is to just stay competitive at the top of the league,” Thomas said. “We always talk about this. If we’re trying to compete for ACC championships regular season-wise, then we are always going to be putting ourselves in position to get picked up regionally in the NCAA Tournament.”
PAT MURPHY features staff writer Sophomore psychology major Anna Tobia began participating in Relay for Life as a freshman in high school and would visit her sister at Georgetown University every year to participate in the event. Unfortunately, because one out of every three people will hear the sentence, “You have cancer,” in their lifetime, Tobia’s reasons for attending soon changed after someone close to her had to hear those three words. “My senior year, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer,” Tobia said. “It was hard to see someone close go through this horrible thing. I knew then that when I got to college, I had to get even more involved.” Relay for Life is a volunteer-driven event held by communities across the globe and sponsored by the American Cancer Association. For the past seven years, Tech’s Relay has raised more than $950,000 for the American Cancer Society, not including the current fundraising year. For the last two years, Tobia has been captain of the Relay For Rita team — a team named in memory of her grandmother, who lost her fight with cancer on Valentine’s Day 2009. One of her largest responsibilities as team captain is fundraising. Last year, Tobia fundraised primarily through e-mails to friends and family, but decided she wanted to do something bigger this year. “At a leadership conference for Relay, they were giving out T-shirts that said ‘WTF: Win the fight,’” Tobia said. “Later when I went to a Relay meeting at Tech I wore the shirt, and people asked if that was the shirt for the event this year. That’s when I got the idea.” Tobia contacted the maker of the WTF shirts and placed a large order. Her team now sells the shirts for $10 each and has already sold enough to cover the cost of making the shirts, which puts them at over $200 pure profit from the shirts alone. Relay For Rita is not the only group with an inventive method of fundraising. Sophomore communication major Chris Saccoccia is one of the team captains of Tequila Cancer, which sells shot glasses to raise money. A generous donation earlier this year was enough to cover the team’s initial order of 580 shot glasses. The custom-printed liquid holders have “Virginia Tech Tequila Cancer” emblazoned across the side of the glass. Saccoccia remains optimistic that the $5 shot glass sales will prove profitable and
One Relay for Life team sells specialized shot glasses to raise money. he enjoys the opportunity to sell them for something he feels is a worthy cause. “Cancer affects so many people in society,” Saccoccia said. “Being able to say that you worked to find a cure for that is really powerful.” Senior civil engineering major Claire McKenzie first got involved with Relay in high school by participating on a team that commemorated her friend’s grandfather who had recently passed away from cancer. “Before that, I really didn’t know much about Relay,” McKenzie said. “After doing it once I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing. By the time Relay came around the following year, my own grandfather had been diagnosed with lung cancer, so that gave me the push to continue to be involved.” This push has led McKenzie to participate in heavy fundraising for Relay year after year. The past two years she has even worked as the fundraising chair for Relay. In this position, she has helped to organize larger fundraisers, as well as encouraging individual teams to carry out smaller ones such as bake sales or car wash-
es. McKenzie is still a part of a fundraising team too, working with other members from Relay’s executive board. Though she does encourage fundraising events, she still states that e-mailing friends and family members is the best method. The goal is for each participant to raise $100, and McKenzie believes this is very attainable. According to McKenzie, every e-mail sent by a Relay participant averages a donation of $24. Each participant’s goal could be met by simply sending four or five emails. As important as the fundraising aspect of Relay is, McKenzie’s motivation comes from her belief that she is helping a greater good. “As much excitement as there is in the air at the big event on the Drillfield, at that point everyone just calms down and it becomes quiet,” McKenzie said. “To have a group of 5,000 people quiet and be surrounded by luminary candles, each of which represents someone fighting cancer or someone that we’ve lost to cancer — those are the reasons why we Relay.”
sports 6 september 23, 2009
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march 30, 2010
Tech baseball takes two of three from Wake over weekend RYAN TRAPP sports staff writer The Virginia Tech baseball team defended English Field this weekend, taking two of three games from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as the Hokies dive into the bulk of their ACC schedule. On Friday, junior pitcher Justin Wright led the Hokies to a 7-0 victory, tossing a complete game shutout and fanning six batters en route to an easy win. Wright allowed just four hits over the course of the game. The win brings Wright’s season record to 3-3 as he continues to be one of Tech’s most steady presences on the mound. At the plate, both left fielder Buddy Sosnoskie and shortstop Tony Balisteri homered. The two-run shot that Balisteri lifted in the sixth inning was his first of the season, and pushed Tech’s lead to 6-0. Sosnoskie connected for his fourth home run of the year to close out the Hokies’ scoring in the NIELS GORAN BLUME/SPPS eighth inning. With threat of rain on Sunday eveIn English Field, junior Justin Wright pitches in Tech’s second win against Wakeforest for the weekend. ning, the Hokies hosted a doubleheader on Saturday to make sure all three games of the series could be played. In game one of the doubleheader, Wake Forest looked like a different
team than the one the Hokies had seen Friday. Responding to the previous night’s shutout, the Demon Deacons came out swinging, scoring in the first inning on an RBI single from catcher Mike Murray. While Tech starting pitcher Jesse Hahn was able to hold Wake from scoring again until the fourth inning, the Hokies found no answer on the offensive end to compete through the ninth. As a team, the Hokies finished the first of two games with just five hits and left all five of those batters on base. Runs in the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth sealed the game for the Deacons, giving Wake Forest a 5-0 victory and the shutout-Hokies a taste of their own medicine. Wake’s third baseman Carlos Lopez led all hitters with four hits in game one, including a solo homer in the fourth, his third on the year. Deacons’ pitcher Tim Cooney tossed eight innings of five-hit ball, picking up his team-best third win in the season. At the plate, Hokies’ centerfielder Sean Ryan was the team’s lone bright spot in game one, accounting for two of the team’s five hits. In the day’s second game, however, Tech ousted Wake in what
was very much a pitcher’s duel between Tech sophomore Matthew Price and Wake sophomore Austin Stadler. Price struck out a career-high of 10 Wake Forest batters in the second game Saturday, and every one was needed for the Hokies. After its seven-run explosion the night before, Tech’s offense was sluggish Saturday, posting only two runs in 17 innings. After giving up an RBI single to Wake’s Mark Rhine in the third inning of game two, knotting the score at 1-1, Price tossed six innings of scoreless baseball to pick up his third win of the season. The Hokies peppered 10 hits off Stadler, but only could muster two runs off the sophomore. In the second inning, left fielder Steve Domecus scored off third baseman Ronnie Shaban’s single and in the fourth, Tech’s Austin Wates put the Hokies’ second run and eventual winning run on the board, scoring off a Sosnoskie single. The series win improves the Hokies’ record to 16-9 overall on the season with a 4-5 mark in ACC play, as the Demon Deacons fall to 8-17 and just 2-7 in the conference. The Hokies take to English Field again Tuesday, where they will host No. 29 VMI at 5:30 p.m.