Michigan State’s Independent Voice
HOW MSU’S WORM WIZARD IS LEADING VERMICOMPOSTING ON CAMPUS MSU’s gender equity CAMPUS
issues are worse than they seem
By Joe Lorenz email@example.com At Michigan State, 51,000 students produce 14,000 pounds of food waste across MSU’s 30 dining locations in a single day. Generally, food waste is sent to decompose in open air in a landfill, producing methane: a greenhouse gas 80 times more effective at holding in heat than carbon dioxide. This process is described as an open ending to an unsustainable “food loop,” or the food production process from growing, consumption and waste. In 2010, MSU horticulture professor John Biernbaum sought to develop a method diverting some food waste away from landfills, beginning a vermicomposting project with funding from the MSU Student Life & Engagement, or SLE, formerly known as Resident Housing Services, and the MSU Office of Sustainability with the goal of diverting kitchen preparation scraps from the landfill. Vermicomposting is a method of converting organic material into nutrient rich fertilizer by feeding worms a microbe-rich compost and harvesting the resulting material. In simpler terms: vermicomposting turns vegetable scraps into worm poop. This method only deals with kitchen prep scraps, as they have the least contaminants and are easily broken down. Worms are sensitive to protein and sodium, two things found in many processed meat and cheeses. Over the course of five years, Biernbaum developed this vermicomposting method into a viable system for recycling kitchen scraps. His original method was able to process 20,000 pounds of food waste in a single year. A small team of students used pitchforks and wheelbarrows to harvest compost and move materials. In 2018, Biernbaum welcomed a new partner into his worm business: future Worm Wizard Sean Barton. Ba r ton, MSU a lum nus a nd c ur rent
Advocates say a review into how the university’s female athletes are treated is inaccurate. PAGE 5
The Worm Wizard, Sean Barton, with his real worms at the Michigan State University Recycling Center and Surplus Store on Oct. 30. Photo by Maya Kolton.
operations supervisor of the MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center, or SSRC, began his college career at MSU in 2003. Barton developed an interest in sustainability after working in the dorms with MSU’s SLE. This led Barton to a position at the SSRC: initially as a collections worker and then as the recycling center’s overseer. It was then that Barton met Biernbaum and his worm subjects. Biernbaum needed a permanent home for his project before he retired; somewhere the project could not only operate, but flourish. The recycling center was already recycling and reusing materials from campus but had no systems for organics. So, the facility welcomed Biernbaum’s vermicomposting methods and Barton to learn the way of the worm. Barton gained his title as Worm Wizard from Biernbaum, who had already gained the title of “Worm Whisperer.” After deliberations with Barton, the title of Worm Wizard was chosen and has stuck ever since. The SSRC’s vermicomposting site is the most northern location of its kind in Michigan,
as vermicomposting is more difficult to accomplish in northern states due to the cold temperatures in winter months. Barton said his job is to “receive whatever the university gives me and make something useful out of it,” and his efforts can be seen in every corner of the facility. Piles of waste are organized as neatly as possible based on material: plastic, cardboard, mixed paper, metal, library books and wires stripped for copper. If there isn’t a labeled bin for each material, a new one is made and filled. This same philosophy is applied to the vermicomposting program. Barton said if he had his way, every piece of organic waste produced by the university would be reused in some fashion. To aid in further composting efforts, all raw vegetable scraps go through a “precomposting” process before being fed to the worms.
Culinary creativity thrives in the Allen Neighborhood Center The center’s incubator kitchen caters to a range of culinary ventures, including new food businesses. PAGE 6
Classes to fill your schedule this spring Check out these unique, engaging electives MSU offers. PAGE 7
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MSU students say sirens, safety alerts can be triggering following campus shooting By Hannah Holycross firstname.lastname@example.org The Feb. 13 campus shooting at Michigan State University impacted students and the community in many ways. For most, the grief and shock they experienced created trauma that still lingers. Many students have realized that common noises and other daily occurrences they previously didn’t pay much attention to have become triggers, or anything that causes a person to relive past trauma. Pre-law sophomore Nicole Garrett said before the shooting, the sounds of police sirens didn’t bother her, but now, it makes her uneasy. During last spring semester, Garrett lived East Lansing Police park outside Berkey Hall after the mass shooting on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023 in Michigan State in Yakeley Hall, a dormitory not far from to University’s North Neighborhood. State News File Photo. the MSU Union, a site of the shooting. T U ES DAY, N OVE MB E R 14, 2023
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Due to her proximity to the event, one of her strongest memories was hearing the sirens of cop cars and ambulances making their way to the scene, changing the way she now reacts to the sound. “Sometimes when I’m just laying in bed or doing homework I’ll hear like sirens going off, like fire department or police sirens or something, and it kind of just takes me back to being in my dorm last year, and the same feeling I had then with when I first hear the sirens,” Garrett said. Garrett isn’t alone. Du r i ng a s y mposiu m h igh l ight i ng experiences and healthcare responses to the shooting hosted by the Michigan State Medical Society Alliance, or MSMSA, education masters student and basketball player Stephen Izzo shared t hat he
continuously heard sirens during his sleep for months following the event. “My ears were ringing, but it only sounded like police sirens,” Izzo said. Garrett said it isn’t just sirens that remind her of Feb. 13, but also emergency alerts she gets on her phone. “Whenever I get a notification from like campus security, I get freaked out or I always think back to that time when we first got the security alert and being so careful and texting my family,” Garrett said. “It’s just not a fun experience to go back to and to wonder, ‘What’s happening on campus now?’” Even though some time has passed, Garrett said, the anxiety she gets when seeing or hearing these triggers has stayed consistent.
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Michigan State University junior guard DeeDee Hagemann (0) making it past defensive play by Wright State University graduate student Alexis Hutchison (10) at the Breslin Center on Nov. 12. Photo by Maya Kolton.
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FROM COVER WORM WIZARD: This process mixes kitchen scraps, or greens, with other carbon fillers, such as chopped up leaves or shredded paper, or browns, to facilitate the growth of bacteria and microbes that will break the mixture down. This is an important first step as worms have no mouths and cannot consume solids. The worms eat the bacteria and microbes presented in the precomposed feedstock and deposits nutrient rich materials back into the soil. Specific worm species are used in this process too; only six out of the over 9,000 species of worms are used in composting and only one of those six are used at the SSRC: the Red Wiggler. The Red Wiggler is used for its resiliency, ability to quickly reproduce and high tolerance of other worms. They can survive in temperature ranges from 40 to 80 degrees but thrive in the 60 to 70 degree range. “I like to look at myself as a microbe farmer and a worm rancher,” Barton said. “It’s all about the microbes.” As much as microbes are an important component in a healthy soil ecosystem, Barton is much more fond of the worms. “They never sleep, eat 24/7 and won’t tell your secrets, as they eat the shredded paper of confidential documents,” Barton said.
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Food from MSU’s dining halls working to break down into composting soil at the Recycling Center and Surplus Store on Oct. 30, 2023. Photo by Maya Kolton
Worm Wizard Sean Barton explains the process on how worms are able to break down compost on campus at the Recycling Center and Surplus Store on Oct. 30, 2023. Photo by Maya Kolton
Today, the vermicomposting program diverts approximately 200,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill every year. That includes kitchen prep scraps, fruits and coffee grounds. The site was built by Barton and SSRC workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As campus was shut down, no waste or recycling was produced with no need to sort materials or continue jobs for the students employed at the SSRC. So Barton had the idea to enlist their
out of memorial flowers left on campus after the shooting on Feb. 13 to honor the three students who died: Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner. Barton, his team and other volunteers spent an entire day collecting flowers from campus before a snowstorm and brought them to the SSRC to be composted and reused. This compost is being reserved for the explicit use of fertilizer for the memorial gardens being designed to honor the victims.
help in building the vermicomposting structure. The site is a simple hoop tent anchored to the ground using metal stakes and an asphalt floor to make harvesting easier, preventing the worms from escaping into the ground below the compost pile. Off to the side of the pre-composting tent is a unique small pile of finished compost with a Spartan head sign stuck in the center. This compost pile was made entirely
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T he composting program is unique as on-campus food waste recycling programs aren’t common in universities. This vermicomposting program was envisioned, researched, developed and currently still operates solely at MSU, holdsing a special place in Barton’s heart. “It’s something we do,” Barton said. “It’s ours.”
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MSU’S ATHLETIC GENDER EQUITY PROBLEMS ARE WORSE THAN THEY SEEM, ADVOCATES SAY By Theo Scheer firstname.lastname@example.org An outside gender equity review released last month identified several areas, including financial aid and access to sports-related resources, where female athletes at Michigan State University were not receiving equitable treatment, but some say MSU’s problems are worse than the review suggests. Advocates claim the review — created to find whether MSU is in compliance with the Title IX standard that requires universities to treat female athletes equitably or not — was made with information from misled sources and uses statistics that unintentionally minimize inequities between male and female athletes. Gabe Feldman, one of the nation’s preeminent experts in sports law, was hired to conduct the review as a condition of the university’s settlement with members of MSU’s dissolved swim and dive teams. The former swimmers argued that by cutting a sport with so many female athletes, the university had changed the overall gender-ratio of male-to-female opportunities in sports. This disparity, they argued, violated the Title IX policy requiring athletic participation be proportional to enrollment. They eventually agreed to end the case in exchange for an independent gender equity review and revision of MSU athletics. Mischaracterizing review director’s purpose Feldman’s review relies on two types of information: athletic data provided by MSU and interviews with athletes, coaches and athletic staff on their experiences in MSU athletics. Mike Balow, leader of Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive, said MSU mischaracterized the purpose of Feldman’s visit when he first came to MSU in May to conduct those interviews, resulting in potentially misled interviewees. According to documents shared with The State News, Director of Student-Athlete Development Angela Montie told athletes and coaches that Feldman was “invited” to campus “to provide a full program assessment of (MSU’s) athletic department.” “As a component of our NCA A Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion review, we have invited a Title IX consultant to campus to provide a full program assessment of our
Members of the swim and dive team stand during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 at the Hannah Administration Building. State News File Photo
Sophia Balow focuses-in during a practice at IM West on March 16, 2022. Balow is a plaintiff in the Title IX lawsuit and has spoken in front of the Board of Trustees in an attempt to bring the swim team back. Photo by Audrey Richardson
Sophia Balow races the 500 Freestyle at CCS Nationals on April 8, 2022 at McAuley Aquatic Center. Photo by Audrey Richardson
athletic department,” Montie wrote in an email. “Gabe Feldman will be on campus on Thursday, May 25th, to meet with interested student-athletes. Gabe is interested in hearing from (redacted).” “I didn’t appreciate how his visit was characterized,” Balow said. He argued that Montie’s email didn’t fully explain Feldman’s intentions and purpose. He a lso quest ioned whet her
enough athletes were on campus when Feldman v isited to give him a comprehensive look at the department. “How many kids are on campus in the summer?” Balow said. “He should have been on campus in the fall, and they should have made a big deal out of (it), saying, ‘Look, Gabe Feldman is here as part of the Title IX settlement. We encourage every female athlete to talk with him. If you don’t want to
talk with him, you don’t have to, but you should if you have any concerns at all.’ But, they did not do that.” Portrayal of data Feldman’s rev iew found t hat although 48.9% of MSU’s athletes are women, they received 46.3% of athletic financial assistance. Anything over a 1% disparity is not in compliance with Title IX policy. MSU has a 2.6% disparity. But, Nancy Hogshead, an Olympic
a pan down on the table or slams a door, I jump for sure,” Ogle said. Ogle said after being home over summer break, she feels that with the fresh start to the school year, she doesn’t worries as much. Journalism sophomore Charlotte Terbrack also developed a sensitivity to loud noises; anytime she heard a door slam it was “nerve wracking.” Terback lived on the first f loor of Hubbard Hall and didn’t return to campus until weeks after the
shooting because she didn’t feel safe. She said the new door locks in place has made the transition back easier. Terbrack also changed her routine after the shooting, getting home earlier, never walking alone and closing the blinds in her dorm to feel more safe. Although it has gotten better over time, unexpected situations have come up that remind her of what happened. Terbrack works at the MSU Main
gold medalist turned legal advocate, says that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story. Hogshead is t he fou nder of Champion Women, a group that advocates for women in sports. Days before Feldman’s gender equity review was released to the public, Champion Women had already filed a federal Office of Civil Rights complaint into MSU athletics — using publicly accessible data to argue many of the same things Feldman later found in his review. But Hogshead’s OCR complaint used slightly different methods to calculate the same disparities. The result portrays MSU’s athletic inequities as worse than Feldman’s review. In the 2022-23 school year, 48.9% of MSU’s athletes were women. Hogshead says that number should be higher to account for MSU’s 51.7 % f e m a le u nde r g r adu ate student body, since Title IX requires universities’ athletic participation to be “substantially proportionate” to their undergraduate population. “’Proportionality’ is saying the student athlete ratio and the student body ratio are the same,” Hogshead said. At h let ic f i na nc ia l a ssist a nce should therefore be compared not to what the percentage of women participating in sports currently is, but what it should be, Hogshead argued. If that were the case, MSU’s athletic financial assistance disparity between men and women would instead be at 5.4% — more than double Feldman’s findings. This problem isn’t unique to MSU. Champion Women has filed over a hundred OCR complaints into universities around the country about the same issue. Hogshead said financial inequities can often be mistaken as being less egregious than they really are due to the way they are typically calculated. Hogshead’s goal is to make athletes and the public aware of these disparities so women can have an easier experience get ting into college athletics. As a former Olympic swimmer, she said being physically active has a multitude of benefits for both body and soul. “ To d e n y w o m e n e q u a l opportunities because they’re women is denying women of a very different future,” Hogshead said.
FROM COVER SAFETY ALERTS: “You always think like, ‘Oh, it can never happen twice,’ but honestly, with the way things are right now, maybe it could happen again,” Garrett said. Journalism junior Olivia Ogle was also in close proximity to the shooting and heard gunshots from her apartment on M.A.C Ave. “I walked into my apartment, and I was walking up the stairs and I could hear the gunshots,” Ogle said. “I didn’t think it was that at first, but
I still ran up the stairs and started crying and that’s when I finally saw the email and realized what it was.” Ever since that night, whenever Ogle had to walk the stairs to her apartment, she would feel scared and run up as fast as she could. Ogle added that hearing the shots that night has made her hyper aware of loud noises in the area, something she typically wasn’t fazed by due to living on a busy street. “(Now) when my roommate slams
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library and recently completed an annual security training, watching a video depicting what to do in the scenario of an active shooter. The video affected her significantly, more than she thought it would, and brought up scary memories, she said. For those struggling with trauma or mental health and are seeking help, MSU offers counseling services that can be scheduled at caps.msu.edu and their crisis line can be reached at 517-355-8270. STATEN EWS.CO M
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ALLEN NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER FOSTERS CULINARY CREATIVITY
Deep fryers that were used to make egg rolls earlier in the day at the Incubator Kitchen inside of the Allen Neighborhood Center on Nov. 1, 2023. Photo by Donte Smith.
By Gabrielle Yeary email@example.com With nine years of experience, the Allen Neighborhood Center Incubator Kitchen Program has been the leading cause of success for numerous start-up businesses. Located on Kalamazoo Street in Lansing, the kitchens equipped with cooking and packaging essentials, offer a more cost-effective alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar establishments, catering to a range of culinary ventures from food packaging
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to Peruvian cuisine, director of the kitchen Matt Jones said. The kitchen allows businesses to use a fully-functional kitchen to sell or cater to the public, instead of using their own facilities in the start-up phase of their business. Set to open in early January, Tantay will become one of Lansing’s pioneering Peruvian restaurants, all thanks to the Allen Neighborhood Center. Tantay owner Jose Aste said the restaurant has thrived under the program’s guidance, particularly
in the accelerator kitchen. In 2019, Tantay started with the incubator kitchen program before moving to the accelerator kitchen in 2021. The accelerator kitchen offers greater operational f lexibilit y. Businesses pay on a monthly basis and are responsible for minor details, such as procuring their own cleaning supplies. By allowing businesses to pay on a monthly basis, it brings them one step closer to transitioning into a full-fledged business. It also allows businesses to sink into economic stability, Jones said. There are currently 15 businesses using the kitchen and 10 businesses that are considered “graduates” of the program, which have moved to their own brick-and-mortar establishments. Aste says his restaurant’s inspiration comes from his culture, heritage and love for cooking. His business strives to showcase Peruvian culture in Lansing while promoting fair wages and a positive restaurant environment. “I want to create a place where my workers want to work,” Aste said. “Where they come in wanting to learn, wanting to cook, and wanting to create.” The Allen Neighborhood Center assists businesses by guiding owners in comprehending profit and loss, offering guidance on managing fair wages and creating conducive work environments to ensure their business’s sustainability. Programs like this help bridge the gap of economic disparity seen in the restaurant industry while uplifting
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restaurants to be the best they can be, Jones said. By starting in the incubator kitchens, the Tantay team had more opportunities to be creative. Without worrying about supplies or keeping the building afloat, Aste and his team dedicated their focus on playing with different ingredients and meals. Aste said this opened them up to a variety of opportunities to expand and grow in ways that aren’t offered in any other place. On top of the accelerator kitchen, the incubator kitchen is an easier, lower-risk option for businesses. It’s a popular option for catering businesses due to its by-the-hour model. The accelerator kitchens come with basic supplies and requires minimal cleanup by renters, Jones said. Sebastian Pham, the ow ner of Handheld Food Co., an AsianAmerican street food business, said the Incubator Kitchens Program is community-centered and maintains strong connections with community programs, partnerships with local farmers and businesses. The Neighborhood Center also provides seminars, events and educational workshops for businesses to grow. These educational resources are what Pham loves most about the center. “The Allen Neighborhood Center has been a huge support system and lifeline that’s helped me and my company grow and develop consistently and effectively,” Pham said. “They’ve given me the resources and tools to set me
up for success.” Handheld Food Co. is a recent addition to the program, but shares the same positive regard for the incubator kitchens as Tantay. “Handheld is a chef-driven, community-centric food company that aims to enrich lives and inspire individuals through our passion for food, delectable experiences and community engagement,” Pham said. Handheld Food Co. opened in May and serves food inspired by Pham’s Vietnamese and French Canadian cultures. Aiming to provide quality and delectable experiences to all their customers, Pham began working with the Incubator Kitchen Program after stumbling across it. Jones and Pham were old friends and after reconnecting, the rest was history. Pham said since Handheld Food Co. joined the program in July 2022, it has been an incredible journey of discovering and crafting recipes, engaging with the community and learning the ins and outs of business ownership. The Incubator Kitchen Program even expands beyond the kitchen facilities, helping connect businesses with the necessary recourses like proper food licensing on both local and state levels, events to grow as a business and seminars. “I believe you’re more likely to succeed as a business by starting in the incubator kitchens,” Aste said. “Without them, I don’t know where I’d be.”
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UNIQUE CLASSES TO TAKE AT MSU By Ridhima Kodali firstname.lastname@example.org
As students enroll in spring semester courses, some might receive their top choices while others are scrambling to find interesting classes to fill up their schedule. For students looking for engaging electives or courses to supplement their credits, here are a few unique options offered at Michigan State University this upcoming spring semester.
FW 101: Fundamentals of Fisheries and Wildlife Ecology and Management
This three-credit course is for students who enjoy the outdoors, wildlife watching and grew up fishing or hunting, fisheries and wildlife professor Emily Pomeranz said. The class is mainly lecture-based, with the second half of the course dominated by guest lecturers who share their professional experiences. Even for those not interested or familiar with the environment, Pomeranz said, students can alway take away something from this course. “I think that cuts across whatever your major is or what your career career goals might be,” Pomeranz said. “It’s really focused on how some of that science is used. It’s not just about social and biological science, but it’s about its application and how they lead to decision making.”
A NS 14 0 : Fu n d a m e nta ls Horsemanship
of journalism course giving students the
Fundamentals of Horsemanship is a two-credit course for students to begin or enhance their horse riding skills. Students begin riding lessons on the third day of class at the MSU Horse Teaching & Research Center. “Students learn about basic position and riding, how to use their aids when riding, how to keep balance when they’re riding and in control of the horse,” course professor Paula Hitzler said. The class has been offered since 1991 and helps interested students learn the nuances of horse riding; students who are more experienced can even go on to compete at horse shows. “It’s very, very difficult at the type of horse shows that we go to,” Hitzler said. “If you’re not falling off, you’re technically riding, and then there’s riding at a level where you’re teaching the horse things. You’re maybe riding young horses that don’t know anything or you’re riding at a level and perfecting your skill set.” This course requires approval from the department due to the limited instructor to rider ratio for students who are not animal science majors.
JRN 492: Special Topics
One section of this special topics class, Bias Busters, is a one-credit
opportunity to publish a book while in college. As part of a series, each book works to debunk misconceptions with 100 answered questions. Some examples of books that have been published include “100 Questions and Answers about The Black Church.” The “100 Questions and Answers” series was developed by journalism professor Joe Grimm, who has been teaching at Michigan State for 15 years. When asked to develop the class, Grimm said he thought students should add content to a website through interviews and writing. But his friend suggested instead that the class write a book themselves. Over the years, Grimm’s classes have sold about 20,000 books so far. He said taking the class can be “very fulfilling,” as students are able to meet new people and learn from their stories. “You are helping people,” he said. “You get to talk to them about very important things that are close to their hearts. It really gets you out of this little microcosm of the world that we live in, in East Lansing.” As a one-credit class that requires four main assignments, students are more likely to fit the class with their schedule and budget. “The more students we have in the class — because it is a hundred questions — the easier the class is for everybody,” Grimm said. “We have a
Ilustration by Grace Montgomery
formula that works, helps people get published and learn something about other people. It’s a one-of-a-kind class.”
ESHP 190: The Art of Starting
Students interested in starting and owning business can take this threecredit course class. As a foundational class, it gives students the opportunity to gain an understanding of an entrepreneurial mindset. It also offers people in the class much insight into different facets of the business world, like politics, economics and complex financial concepts.
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ENG 153: Introduction to Women Authors
This four-credit course, covering the writings of women from all backgrounds and how they have redefined their respective genres, will definitely appeal to avid readers. The course focuses on dissecting the intertwined aims of feminism and literature and challenges students to think about how identity can be bound to different racial, cultural, sexual and historical backgrounds. With different sections that hone in on various niches for students to choose from, ENG 153 has much to offer.
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