By Connor Schlegel
Serious personal illness is difficult for anyone attempting to deal with it. But for a college student with daily attendance obligations to fulfill, serious illness can derail their entire college career.
Brandon Waters, a senior accounting student at West Virginia University, learned that first hand during his freshman year.
Waters, who was taking the anti-depressant Cymbalta at the time, starting experiencing adverse symptoms like a highly elevated heart rate and severe cramping in his extremities. Luckily, Waters was currently working in the emergency department at the Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown and was immediately checked out by a medical professional. The doctor informed Waters that she believed he was suffering from serotonin syndrome, which leads to increased excessive nerve cell activity due to high levels of serotonin in the body.
However, due to the rarity of serotonin syndrome occurrences, Waters personal psychologist was doubtful and denied the doctor’s diagnosis. Waters would land in the emergency room two more times due to the adverse side effects from continued consumption of manufactured serotonin in his medication.
That extended hospital time forced Waters to miss numerous lectures and classes during the course of his undergraduate education.
“I said, I really don’t know what to do with school,” Waters explained. “I’m so behind in everything. I missed like two tests in every single class that I have. I don’t know how to get caught back up.”
Waters’ college advisor told him to withdraw from his classes in order to avoid outright failing them. That forced Waters to lose his financial aid for the semester and to also pick up several summer classes in order to stay on a path to graduation.
Now serving as a senator in WVU’s Student Government Association, Waters is using his platform to pursue a progressive medical leave of absence policy. A medical leave of absence policy allows a student to withdraw from all of their classes without losing financial aid or having several dropped classes on their academic record.
Currently, WVU’s policy only allows a student to file for medical leave of absence prior to the start of a semester. The problem is that most students can’t foresee when a medical emergency will occur.
“You can’t really schedule to take a medical leave of absence for the semester that your cancer comes back or the semester that you’re in a car wreck. It’s all things that are out of your control,” Waters said. “So to get penalized by the university for it… I think its absolutely pitiful.”
Waters has been in contact with the office of the President of WVU, who’ve asked him to seek additional information to eventually provide a presentation on progressive medical leave of absence policies.
But as an accounting student, Waters understands that the university may have to protect their financial interests.
“Everything is a business and everything revolves around the bottom line,” he said. “And I don’t know that the university, especially in a time of budget cuts and our own budget crisis, I’m not sure if they’d be to willing to implement a policy that revolves around giving back to students in such a major way.”
By Connor Schlegel
Two local government organizations recently came together in the hopes of a collaborative effort to revitalize the Monongahela Riverfront.
On Wednesday, October 12th, the Monongalia County Commission held their weekly meeting to discuss various topics. One item on the agenda was the approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the County Commission and the Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners.
These two organizations will collaborate with West Virginia University in the hopes of increasing activity along the waterfront, which in turn, will help increase commerce.
County Commission President Eldon Callen says that this is a “key step” in the city’s plan to rejuvenate the waterfront and Commissioner Callen is hopeful for continued revitalization along the river.
“Its an additional opportunity to have another group of people join in that vision of what we should be doing with our most valuable natural resource, the Monongahela River,” Callen said.
Callen hopes that in years to come, the city will be able to plan several commerce-increasing initiatives like a gondola to take visitors from the Star City Waterfront the Monogalia County Ballpark, a walking bridge to take residents from Westover to the rail-trail, and a water taxi that would take travelers up and down the Monongahela.
However, the first initiative planned by BOPARC and the Commission will require working with WVU. BOPARC Executive Director Melissa Burch said her office would like to work with WVU’s College of Creative Arts to hold cultural events at Hazel Ruby McQuain Park, located in downtown Morgantown. While there are no plans in place yet, the outdoor amphitheater at Ruby McQuain Park is likely to be used.
“I think that Shakespeare in the park has been thrown around a little bit, that would be pretty exciting. But really we want [the CAC] to come to us and have some input as well.”
Burch says the riverside park has been underutilized recently due to underfunding, but that this collaboration with the County Commission will help to change that.
“It’s programming [based] and hopefully there will be some revenue sharing or cost sharing involved,” Burch said.
BOPARC typically plans their summer event schedule in the November and December months prior to that year. Burch says that the coming months will be important in scheduling those events for the summer of 2017.
“The first thing that we need to do is have our first meeting. So there will be a representative from BOPARC, from WVU, and from the County Commission. We’ll get together, talk about the calendar and what we have in place so far for this coming summer,” Burch said.
By Connor Schlegel
There are only 24 days left until the 2016 general election and many elected officials have already made their stances clear on the candidates running for president.
However, since recordings leaked last week of Republican candidate Donald Trump making lewd and derogatory comments toward women in 2005, many Republican members of the United States Congress have pulled their endorsements.
Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican senator for the State of West Virginia, recently announced on Twitter that Trump should “reexamine his candidacy.” But on Wednesday, Capito told the WV Gazette-Mail that she would continue to support the Republican ticket and vote for Trump in the presidential election.
Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator of West Virginia, declared his thoughts early on in the election cycle. He told WV MetroNews that he was endorsing democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in April of 2015.
As democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s tenure in West Virginia comes to a close, he also endorsed Clinton through a press release in April.
Tomblin said that despite the fact that he’s “concerned about some of Secretary Clinton’s positions on fossil fuels, I believe she is the best choice to unite the Democratic Party and, after being elected president in November, our country”.
The two candidates in the 2016 West Virginia gubernatorial race have both been complimentary of Trump.
Republican candidate Bill Cole has formally endorsed Trump despite criticizing his comments from last week.
Democratic nominee Jim Justice, a coal-scion, has not formally endorsed either candidate.
He has condemned the comments Clinton made during a CNN Town Hall in March where she said she would “put coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Clinton has since backtracked on those remarks, but Justice is unlikely to endorse a candidate before the general election.
The three Republican Congressmen representing West Virginia in the House of Representatives are all critical of Trump’s comments, despite their continued endorsements of the Republican nominee for president.
David McKinley, representing West Virginia’s 1st District, endorsed Trump in comments to The Wheeling News Register in May because of Clinton’s position on coal.
Representative Alex Mooney, the former state chairman of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, has endorsed Trump since the republican candidate won his party’s nomination in May.
In May, representative of West Virginia’s 3rd District Evan Jenkins told WV MetroNews that he was endorsing Trump for president.
To check your West Virginia polling location, visit services.sos.wv.gov/Elections/Voter/FindMyPollingPlace
This article appeared in an October publishing of the Daily Athenaeum.
By Connor Schlegel
Student Body Vice President Mac McIntyre introduced the very first Open Student Forum discussion topic at Wednesday night’s Student Government Association meeting.
Designating a specific topic of discussion for the Open Student Forum portions of SGA meetings was an idea initiated by Professor Hillar Klandorf, SGA faculty advisor. Student Body President Julie Merow highly endorsed the initiative, seeing it as a possible way to increase student involvement in SGA, a problem her administration has been tackling since they took office in March.
The inaugural forum topic focused on controversial Breitbart News tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ upcoming campus event on Nov. 2 at the Gluck Theater.
The visit is part of Yiannopoulos’ college tour, which has him scheduled to visit approximately 40 college campuses from all around the nation by January.
Yiannopoulos, who is commonly dubbed as a member of the ever-growing “alt-right” side of politics, is well known for his controversial remarks on hot button issues like feminism, race and sexual assault, among other things.
Earlier this spring, Yiannopoulous embarked on a similar college tour that incited dozens of protests on college campuses across the nation.
Yiannopoulous was invited to speak on campus by the WVU College Republicans a couple weeks ago, and not long after the University released a statement defending the appearance, but acknowledging the discontent held by some students.
“We value everyone’s right to free speech,” the statement reads, “even when that speech is unpopular.”
At SGA’s discussion, several students voiced their opinions on Yiannopoulos’ upcoming visit to campus to speak, both opposed to and in favor of the appearance.
SGA Events Director Isaac Obioma said a controversial speaker like Yiannopoulos should be allowed to speak on campus, but should not be invited by a student organization.
“As a minority, I was kind of alarmed by some of the stuff that he had to say. Especially dismissing rape and the things he said about members of the LGBTQ community,” Obioma said.
Marcus Campbell, director of the College Republican’s legislative affairs, felt differently about Yiannopoulos’ scheduled speech.
“I think it’s quite ridiculous that the College of Business and Economics refused to let Milo speak in its building,” Campbell said. “As a taxpayer-funded University, until this becomes a private university, that should not be allowed.”
Also on Wednesday, the Board of Senators approved several grants, all passed via unanimous consent:
– The Chemical Engineering Graduate Student Association was granted $156.23 to purchase science experiment equipment for outreach events at local schools.
– The Organization for Native American Interests was granted $500 to reserve a bus for a trip to the Native American Museum in Washington, D.C. The event is open to the entire University.
– The Student Society for Landscape Architects was granted $1,350 for lodging at a nationally recognized conference from March 23 to the 25 at the University of Maryland.
– The Student Therapy Music Association was granted $1,590 for lodging for the National Music Therapy Conference in Sandusky, Ohio.
– The Circus Arts Club was granted $450 to cover the cost of purchasing new circus equipment.
– Men’s Club Baseball and Women’s Club Lacrosse were granted $530 and $520 respectively to purchase new equipment.
– The Chinese Club was granted $475 for Chen Dynasty costumes and four new sets of Chinese chess and checkers.
– The Student Nurse Association was granted $1,600 for lodging at a national conference in Dallas from April 5 to the 9.
The Board of Senators also unanimously approved the appointment of Julia Durbin as the Director of the Diversity Committee.
How West Virginia University provides aid to full-time student-parents
By Connor Schlegel, Connor Murray and Domenico Smarto.
For many college students, juggling the daily demands of a school schedule is a major stressor. For the estimated 4,760 student parents enrolled at West Virginia University however, it’s only part of the equation.
Finding the time and resources to be a successful student and parent can be quite the challenge, but there is help available on campus.
With two locations in Morgantown, WVU’s Student Family Resources office is suited to provide financial and child care assistance for undergraduate, graduate, international and professional student parents.
“Research shows that offering campus-based high quality child care enhances recruiting, retention, lessens absenteeism and enhances graduation rates,” said SFR director Leslie Haning.
Managing university funds supplemented by federal grant funding, enables SFR to provide student parents with financial assistance to help pay for child care while they pursue their degree.
“It’s important for decision makers to understand the true cost of child care and the financial burden this creates for young families. In WV the annual cost of infant care is 32% higher than in-state tuition for 4-year public college. In our state, child care costs for two children is 73% higher than average rent,” Haning said.
Through SFR, that burden can be significantly lightened, and in the case of student parents with military backgrounds, it can be eliminated altogether through the Student Child Care Assistance Program.
That’s exactly what the program has done for Marine Corps veteran Matt Gibson, a 24-year-old graduate student who has his daughter Thea’s child care paid in full by SFR.
“It’s a huge load off,” Gibson said. “What does that mean? Now maybe you can cut down hours (at work) and have even more time to focus on your family and school to reach that end goal.”
The monthly financial aid he and his wife receive for child care certainly helps out their budget, but Gibson said the mental relief that money provides is just as important.
“That’s $900 a month that’s not weighing on you,” he said. “You’re not thinking ‘Are we going to have a roof over our head next month? Is there going to be food on the table?’”
In addition to the financial aid SFR offers, the office also provides child care at the Mountaineer KidZone, located in the Student Recreation Center.
Established in 2004 by Director Haning, MKZ exists to provide affordable high quality child care to allow students, faculty and staff the chance to maintain a healthy lifestyle and offers a convenient study location as well.
“MKZ was initially developed as a pilot project until we were able to establish a permanent campus-based child care center,” Haning said. “In 2004 we weren’t able to find any peer institutions offering this unique service. Since then we have served as a consultant nationally with other institutions as a model for establishing similar programs.”
“Because of the unique nontraditional flexible care MKZ offers for our WVU families it has been extremely successful and we’re able to continue operations. Our assessments reveal students, faculty and staff repeatedly report that the MKZ is integral part of strengthening their employment and educational experience here.”
The MKZ is open from 4-7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 9:30 a.m. – noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and is free for members of the rec center.
With an enrollment of 354 children aged six weeks – eight years, the MKZ employs 15-20 WVU students per semester.
“We provide a great source of student employment and service learning opportunities. MKZ offers students experiential learning that will enhance their academic experience as well in their chosen profession after they graduate,” Haning said.
The child care and financial aid offered by SFR is readily accessible for any eligible applicant, but the idea of asking for help can sometimes prevent people from tapping into them.
Gibson said there’s nothing wrong with admitting you can’t do everything on your own, and that the end goal of graduating and creating stability for your family should take precedence over pride.
“There’s plenty of people out there, and I know a few of them, who are too proud to use the resources that are out there. Don’t be too proud; use them,” Gibson said.
“Set your goals and stick to them. When bad things happen, don’t alter or change your goals to make it easier. Just stick with it.”
The main office for Student Family Resources is located at One Waterfront Place in Morgantown.
“It’s an accessible location and students appreciate our free parking when they visit the office,” Haning said, “We’ll provide private consultations for students to identify their individual needs and connect them with appropriate resources. Our goal is to provide a family supportive academic environment in order to help our students pursue their studies and graduate from WVU.”
Reporting/Producing by: Connor Schlegel, Connor Murray and Dom Smarto. Article written by Connor Murray.
Photos provided by the office of Student Family Resources at WVU.
How WVU is driving students to graduate on time
By Connor Schlegel
(The campus of West Virginia University. Photo by Connor Schlegel)
Across the country, students are struggling to complete their undergraduate degree in the traditional four year time frame.
The National Center for Education Statistics measures a six-year graduation time-frame, instead of four. But for students attending college between 2008-2014, the national graduation rate was listed at 60%.
At West Virginia University, the four-year graduation rate is nearly half that percentage. According to CollegeBoard, WVU’s four-year grad rate is 32%.
The University is working to combat this national trend. Sue Day Perroots, the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs explained.
“We’d like to encourage students to finish in four years. So we’ve talked about those institutions that are offering a free fifth year.. And actually, I think that may be providing the wrong incentive,” Day-Perroots said. “We want to encourage students to finish in four years and maybe use summer as an option.”
However, transfer students often can’t bring some of their credits earned at previous institutions when they make the move to WVU.
(Fifth-year Business and Economics student Dan Hurley. Photo by Connor Schlegel)
“When I transferred here, not all my credits transferred. Actually, almost none of them did. So I basically had to start over when I got here,” fifth-year senior Dan Hurley explained.
And while the University doesn’t have a clear solution to transfer students attempting to finish their degree in a four year timeframe, Day-Perroots outlined some initiatives in place to encourage freshman to complete their time as an undergraduate in the traditional timespan.
One of those initiatives was the “15 to Finish” which reminds underclassmen to take more balanced semesters. Day-Perroots said that some students begin their academic careers by taking credit-stacked semesters and then slowly reduce the number of credits they take each semester. The “15 to Finish” plan advises students to take at least 15 credit hours every semester which would lead to the required 120 credit minimum after four years.
There’s also a new monetary incentive for students who are able to complete their degree in four years.
“Additionally we have a program here at WVU for this year’s freshman class and last year’s freshman class. If they finish in four years, they can get a $750 return on their investment.”
That $750 return on their investment comes in the form of a rebate check which that recent graduate can use to pay for part of the cost of student loans.
The WVU graduating class of 2020 is the most prepared to complete their degree after four years. They have the highest combined high school grade point average of any incoming class in WVU history with 3.70.
Somebody finally reaching across the aisle
Nicholasville, Kentucky (CNN) – Sen. Mitch McConnell knew how surprising it was going to sound to room full of Kentucky voters that he backs President Barack Obama on something.
“I think the President now, at this point — this will shock you when I say it — at this point, is doing the right thing,” he said Wednesday in a speech to the Chamber of Commerce here.
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