G. University provides support for military members

**Names and location have been changed for anonymity**

                Since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been record numbers of veterans returning from war and heading to college. This is because the government created a special bill that would pay all the cost of a four-year degree. Since this bills creation it has helped more than 860,000 veterans go to school.

                These veterans aren’t like traditional students, however. Many have been to war and have emotional or physical scarring. Many of the veterans are older than traditional students and aren’t accustomed to life outside the military. These students come with their own set of needs and colleges are attempting to find ways to accommodate the growing number of student veterans.

                G. University is one college that has found a way to successfully integrate its veterans into civilian and student life. Victory Media publishes a list each year honoring the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are “doing the most to embrace military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus” and G. University has made that list for the fifth consecutive year.

                The data Victory Media collected was from a survey of more than 10,000 Veteran Affair approved schools nationwide. The findings are compiled and weighted according to the following categories to determine a final score:

                24 percent military support on campus; 20 percent academic credibility; 10 percent of military students enrolled; ten percent academic credit for military service; ten percent flexibility for military students; five percent for veteran graduation rates; five percent for student tuition assistance; five percent on results of a student survey; five percent for military spouse policies; and one percent on government approval.

                There are a number of things G. University has done to help ensure their student veterans are getting the support they need to succeed. In every department of the school there are designated primary contacts to help with issues pertaining to veteran struggles.

                Melanie works in admissions and is the contact person for veterans. “We have a group called the Veterans Network which is made up of experts in their designated areas that come together to support the specific needs of folks in the military,” she said. “I’m just the contact point for admissions, as there is no one person in charge of recruiting veterans to campus. In fact, most of our veterans are transfer students,” she said.

                Melanie said there is anywhere from 250 to 400 undergraduate applicants each year that indicate they are active military, veterans or dependents or spouses of someone serving in the military.

                According to the Registrar’s office at G. University, veteran enrollment over the past 20 years since every fall from 1994 to 2003 has averaged 250 student veterans. However, after the post 9/11 bill was introduced in fall 2009 enrollment doubled from the prior year and has still continued to grow.

                Nicholas works in personal, professional and career assistance at G. University and has been designated as the department’s veteran contact. His job has two main components, the first is providing personal counseling and the second is providing career counseling.

                “I often work with veterans presenting with deployment or reintegration concerns,” he said. “I also have experience working with trauma survivors and often help veterans cope with difficulties related to their military involvement,” he said.

                “In career counseling, I focus on helping veterans who are confused about their career path or deciding on a major. This often includes self-exploration, finding congruent careers and majors, researching careers, and developing a career plan,” he said. “Also, I have helped veterans identify ways to translate their military experience to strengthen their marketability in the job search process.”

                Nicholas said between the two positions the main focus of his work with veterans and service members is being a resource and support for any career or personal concerns and connecting them with helpful university and community resources.  

                G. University has also created a Veterans Network, which includes a designated lounge area in the K. Center, for student veterans to study, relax, and meet other veterans. The lounge was dedicated by President T.H.  on Nov. 11 of this year and it includes a TV, walls adorned with past military medals, and a spacious area for individuals to meet.

                The Veterans Network has meetings every Wednesday where they discuss military related issues or just come to enjoy each others’ company. Christopher spent eight years in the Army and is now a freshman at G. University and he serves as the Veterans Network’s secretary and risk manager. He says his personal experiences working with G. University veteran liaisons has been positive and the staff has done a fantastic job but there are some things he would like to see change.

                “The only thing I believe G. University needs to do is to advertise the service a bit more throughout the campus and not just through email,” he said. “We are pushing a population of 600 veterans and I believe many don’t even know about the services provided or even that there is a student veteran’s organization here on campus,” he said.

                Duane is also a veteran on campus. He served four years in the Air Force and is still in the reserves and his transition to G. University in the summer of 2012 was very smooth. “The veteran aids were great,” he said. “They answered all my questions and signing up for classes and doing funding paperwork was really easy.”

                There’s another new group on G. University’s campus starting winter semester called G. University Military Support, which aims to provide a place for wives, girlfriends, or children of active or inactive duty military members to gather and meet one another.

                Alexandra is the student on campus that started the group. Her husband has been in the Army National Guard for six years and she says she has felt like part of a minority since she began at G. University.

                “It can be difficult to initially fit into a new group of young people simply because they don’t understand how we think and feel,” Furman said. “It was my goal to find a group here at G. University that catered to military significant others for support, friendship and information. When I was informed there was no such group here, that’s when I started this journey of branching out to men and women like myself,” she said.

                “It’s not easy to network for a group of military significant others, especially since those that aren’t spouses aren’t technically attached to any of the service members info, but that’s why this group is so crucial,” she said. “The people who are nothing significant in the military’s eyes are in need of the same support, friendship and information, and my hopes for this Military Support group is that we can reach out to other significant others and raise awareness of yet another source of diversity on campus,” Alexandra said.

                Julie is a wife of a medically retired Army combat medic and a member of the new group and she feels it’s about time there was a group like this. “I think G. University focuses more on the veterans and tends to forget about the family members that are affected by the veteran,” she said. “I feel the military spouse group will be a great asset to G. University because it will allow the women to have an outlet and to interact with others who are in the same boat as them,” she said.

                “We are non-traditional students and it’s difficult to feel like we fit in when we have been through so much,” she said.

                Nicole shares those sentiments. Her boyfriend has been active duty in the Air Force since 2012 and she’s relieved G. University is finally recognizing significant others of military members.

                “I feel like everyone likes the fact I have a man in a uniform but they don’t understand that you’re not doing it for the uniform, you’re doing it for the person,” she said. “I do get depressed when I see my friends with their boyfriends on campus and how easy it is for them to hang out with their boyfriends every night. It’s really hard for me and I feel like my friends don’t understand just how hard it is so I think this network will help a lot!”

                Amanda’s husband has been active duty in the Army for seven months and she says she has felt isolated on campus but hopes that will change with the new group. “I mostly feel isolated due to not many people being able to understand,” she said. “I’m hoping it will allow me to connect with more people that understand what I’m going through.”

                G. University’s President T.H. believes G. University’s is doing a good job incorporating veterans but he wants to continue improving.

                “As we look ahead we see more veterans coming back to civilian life and many of them have skills and values needed in the workplace. G. University wants to serve those who have served with offering opportunities for service members who have potential and the desire to achieve their degree,” he said.

                “G. University has seen a dramatic increase in the number of veterans and they come from more than Michigan, therefore, our desire to offer in-state tuition to all veterans no matter which state they come from or are going to is important,” he said. “We have significantly improved our services to them in financial aid and in academic advising, as well as creating a welcoming university with the new Veteran Lounge,” Haas said.

                “We continue to seek input from veterans, students, faculty and staff to ensure that we are doing the best we can in our service to our students and doing it right for the right reasons. We aim to create opportunities for those who have served us!”

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Understanding Islam: GV Muslims looking for understanding and acceptance

**Names and school title have been changed for anonymity**
 

                GV’s population is made up of students with many different religious beliefs ranging from typical popular Christian faiths to the Jewish student organization. However, there is a very small percentage of students on campus that identify as Muslims, or followers of the Islamic faith.

                Islam is a monotheistic religion just like Judaism and Christianity. It believes in the same prophets as Christians with one exception being the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims believe Muhammad was a prophet and a messenger, like Moses and Jesus, who spread the word of God through scripture. Two key differences between Christianity and Islam is Islam believes God has no sons and their book is the Holy Quran.

                “Muslims don’t worship a different God than Christians or Jews worship. It’s the same deity, however in Islam you’ll hear God being referred to as Allah, which is literally the Arabic translation of the term God,” Amoon, leader of the GVSU Student Muslim Association said.

                Amoon takes her religion very seriously and considers it her way of life.

                “One of the most importantly daily lessons is the importance of serving God in everything you do,” Amoon said. “When we pray we serve God; when we do charity we serve God; when we are kind to others it’s also a form of service to god.”

                Three members of the Muslim Students Association have all had incidents with bullying and discrimination because of their religion and all three believe that the media gives their religion a bad reputation. This group doesn’t only get together to pray and discuss their religion but also in hopes to clear the negative stereotypes that go along with Islam.

                “Often times the religion of Islam is portrayed very negatively in the media so it leaves very little room for question and a lot of room for anger and fear,” Amoon said.

                Because of the negative portrayal Muslims are given in the media in America, Amoon has faced blatant discrimination while wearing her hijab (headscarf).

                “I have had a professor who stated that he believes Muslims are uneducated and extreme terrorists,” Amoon said. “The one thing I wish people knew about Islam is that they probably have more similarities with Muslims than they think they do.”

                Amoon isn’t the only Muslim on campus to deal with discrimination. Sokina has also dealt with it but she has her own way of fighting back.

                “In the media I have read about people who are hateful towards Islam and Muslims, deeming us to be incompetent, oppressed and ignorant and this only made me love my religion more,” Sokina said. “After that I began wearing the hijab to show I’m a Muslim. I wear it to show that I’m an educated Muslim woman who is not oppressed, who’s capable of making her own decisions, and who isn’t violent. I wear it to be a living, breathing example of Islam.”

                Zaineb, another member of the Student Muslim Association, also wishes outsiders and the media wouldn’t judge them for their religion.

                “I used to have a bully whose parents rotted his brain into thinking that all Muslims and Arabs were terrorists,” Zaineb said. “But now that he’s older and more educated about the people and the religion he’s actually a good friend of mine.”

                Despite being judged for her religion Zaineb still embraces it daily.

                “Whatever decisions I make during my day, I think ‘God is watching, is this something I should be doing?’” Zaineb said. “Islam gives me boundaries to live within because of that and comfort when I need it. It’s a peaceful religion, contrary to what the media has portrayed it.” 

Peaceful protesters now considered terrorists in the USA

Peaceful protesters now considered terrorists in the USA

The pipeline that’s meant to run from Canada all the way down to Texas isn’t even 75% complete and it’s already causing major problems. 1,040,000 gallons of oil has already been spilled and millions of dollars has been spent trying to clean it up to no avail. 

Large numbers of Americans have gathered in D.C, have held public meetings, created online videos, and some have even locked themselves to equipment in protest of the pipeline. Every action by protesters has been peaceful and non-violent, however, they’re being labeled terrorists. 

“TransCanada is trying to paint concerned citizens as abusive, aggressive law breakers when in fact that describes themselves. They are giving presentations to the FBI and local law enforcement making us out to be criminals and telling our local law enforcement they should be looking at terrorism laws as possible ways to prosecute us.”

Need  reason to worry about the NSA spying scandal? Try this: you legally protest an oil company in y our town, are arrested, and wind up in court facing federal terrorism charges and a personal eternity behind bars. The evidence presented against you was gathered by the NSA monitoring of your telephone usage and social media communications, all at the behest of said oil company, which owns every Senator who sits on the Intelligence Committee in Washington D.C.

Think it can’t happen?

It’s already happening. 

Is America becoming a police state?

First, we find out about the NSA and PRISM, taking and storing all of our phone calls, emails, social media, locations, etc.

And just today it was announced the FBI has been using drones to “conduct surveillance” on American soil, without any policies or regulations on how/why/why they’re used.

Some citizens seem to be okay with this, saying that we need to give up certain freedoms in order to stay safe. However, some citizens are against this, saying the FBI has gone too far and that our rights as Americans are becoming more of a privilege.

What do you think?

Human Superiority

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” -Animal Farm-George Orwell

So, let me start off with a question: Are animals equal to humans? 
To answer this question, we should define ‘equal,’ which is “to be the same in quality and ability.” 
We should also define ‘animal,’ which is “a living organism characterized by voluntary movement.”
So, do animals have the same qualities, and abilities as humans? 

According to the proper definition of animal, humans are animals, also. So what gives humans superiority over the rest of the species? 
Some might answer this with the argument that animals don’t reason, and aren’t as intelligent as we are, therefore it’s okay to treat them inhumanely. 
However, it would be wrong to think that animals DON’T reason, and aren’t intellectual. Animals react emotionally to situations in the same way humans would.
If they’re too hot or too cold they seek appropriate shelter, if they’re afraid they take the fight or flight approach, if they’re happy or grieving they have a way of showing us.
How would animals, such as deer, pigs, cows, or fish, even, be able to survive if they didn’t think?
Even if it were the case that animals didn’t think, would it still be acceptable to violate their rights?
For example: There are some very seriously mentally retarded people that can’t think on the same level as an average human can. If it was okay to kill and eat animals because they couldn’t think, then it should be all right to kill and eat these seriously mentally retarded persons, right?

There is no fundamental difference between humans and the higher mammals in their mental faculties” -Charles Darwin

What mammals did Darwin consider to be ‘higher’? Taking a look at animal cognition studies, there are many mammals that are similar to humans mentally, socially, and internally. Monkeys, for example, have a neuron system that mirrors those in humans. Chimps are able to understand emotions associated with different facial expressions, and pig hearts are similar in size and make up to those of humans, and are even, in extreme cases, the valves are used to replace defects in humans. Studies have shown that pigs, cows, and chickens have the same mental capacity as dogs (which is that of a two-four year old child). If animals are similar to us on so many levels, why are people tossing them by the bucket full into rivers? Or worse yet, why do we slaughter them for consumption every single day?

Getting into the issue of animal slaughterhouses and factory farming is another issue that I’ll get into another time.
But my point is, why do we treat animals, who have the same mental capacity as a toddler, so inhumanely? 
Shouldn’t they have the same rights we do? Just because they cannot communicate themselves, doesn’t give us any right to act cruelly to those who are ‘inferior’ to us. 
We should be protecting the rights of those who cannot protect it themselves..not violating them.

Musings on the origin of species

    The question of origination has plagued scientific minds since the inception of man. Where did we come from? How did particles go from living to non-living? Using every principle of physics, chemistry, and biology, scientists have yet to come to a conclusion. There are many theories that have been applied to the question of the origin of species, and these are a few which are still applicable today.

 

  Panspermia was the first cited theory-being mentioned in the 5th century by a Greek philosopher by the name of Anaxagoras (The word panspermia is of Greek origin, meaning seeds everywhere.) The theory suggests that organisms originated on other planets, embedded themselves into chunks of rock, and eventually arrived on Earth via meteors. Once the matter was on Earth’s surface, it evolved into proteins from amino acids, and eventually evolved into life.

  Abiogenesis, also known as spontaneous generation, is another popular theory. It’s the idea that life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter. Simply put, life began in water as a result of the chemicals in the atmosphere and some form of energy to make amino acids, which would then evolve into all species. Early concepts of abiogenesis were extremely simplistic. –Rotting meat was soon covered in maggots, and so it was assumed the meat had evolved into maggots.—This was the most accepted scientific explanation for the reproduction of living things as recently as a few hundred years ago.

  Inorganic incubation is essentially the same theory as abiogenesis, with the exception of the formation order. Instead of the amino acids forming first, and then evolving to a cell-like structure, scientists had the idea the cell came first and was later filled with amino acids. It was thought the first cells were really not living, but inorganic ones made up of iron sulfide, and they were not formed at the Earth’s surface, but in totally darkness at the bottom of the oceans instead.

  Creationism is the theory that the universe and everything in existence was created by the will of a supernatural being. The pertinent verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1, states: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Following this proclaimation, the earth is presumed to have been created in a period of six days; and on the seventh day “he rested”. While there are various forms of creation theory, there are also many metaphysical systems besides the likes of Christianity which cite a form of “intelligent design”; the roots displayed in the first few verses of the Bible are adequate.

  Scientific evolution theory is arguably the most popular theory to date . This theory relies strongly on the Big Bang theory, which was the beginning of the formation of matter. This eventually lead to the creation of planets, Pangaea, and life on earth as it evolved over millions of years. The theory of evolution suggests that all living organisms come from the same ancestor. As the population grew into larger groups, smaller groups would break away and evolve independently to eventually diversify into a new species. *The Big Bang Theory is the idea that the universe originated sometime between 10 Ga and 20 Ga years ago from the cataclysmic explosion of a small volume of matter at extremely high density and temperatures. Long story short, the universe began with a super-powerful explosion, and continues to expand.*

  Despite the vast amount of widely varying theories which exist to explain the origin of life, contemporaries must resort conclusions derived from inductive reasoning only on the basis of probability, as there is still no definitive proof as to which theory (if any yet devised) are correct. Perhaps, if the human race manages to overcome the odds and extend it’s survival a few more decades, current theories will have either gained strength or the sanction of the scientific community. Rest assured, even if man enters another stone age, the spirit of curiosity which drives us toward questioning our existence will not cease until mankind has drawn it’s last breath and the last neuron has fired.

Jean Paul Sartre on Existentialism and Indeterminism

“Humans are not only free, but condemned to be free; condemned to create themselves and their own reality.” Jean Paul Sartre’s quote addresses two theories: Existentialism and Indeterminism. He believed that man is not only ‘condemned’ to be free, but we also have the freedom to make decisions entirely on our own. I agree with Sartre’s theory of existentialism and indeterminism based on the fact there are numerous real world examples that clearly demonstrate humans have the freedom to make decisions free of external forces and can attribute their own meanings to the world around them.

Existentialism is the theory that humans are entirely free, and are thus responsible for what they make of themselves. Sartre was an atheist, which, I believe, influenced his diction in saying that we are ‘condemned’ to be free. Since there is no God, no moral laws exist; therefore individuals are free to make their own decisions and will be held responsible for the outcomes. A high school dropout, for example, isn’t forced by any outside factor to make that decision. They didn’t have any predisposition to doing it, either. Dropping out is a choice they are able to make entirely on their own, without the forces of anyone (i.e., God or the Devil) or anything (i.e., society) making them do it.

When Sartre said we are condemned to create our own reality, he was referring to the free will we have to make decisions and to deal with the consequences. Free will goes along with indeterminism, which is the theory that humans are able to make their own decisions based entirely on deliberate choices, instead of preceding events or conditions. Let’s say I have two test to study for: algebra and English. I can freely choose to study for one, the other, or both. The decision to only study for English instead of algebra had not been previously decided, therefore, I had the option to choose what to study for.

Sartre combines both existentialism and indeterminism in his quote. To further show how much evidence there is of both, let’s say you’re walking into a store and there is a man with a donation bucket sitting outside. What do you do? You could either donate money or ignore the man. There is nothing forcing your decision, it’s entirely up to you. Now, let’s say you choose to ignore the man. Was your mind already made up before you saw him? Or did you choose an option while approaching him? The fact that there is nobody telling you which to choose and the decision wasn’t previously decided shows that Sartre’s theory of existentialism and indeterminism are both likely true.

There are many arguments that can be made against both theories. Taking a look at existentialism, one could say that the government is a controlling force in our lives. The government enacts certain laws that tell us what we can and cannot do, and therefore we base all of our decisions on the expectations of this external force. However, this can easily be argued against. Laws are broken all the time. Humans are guilty of theft, destruction, and even murder. If government were really the controlling force in all of our decision making, then there wouldn’t be any crime at all.

There are also many arguments that can be made against indeterminism. If you look at Newtonian physics, the argument is that everything in the universe operates according to a fixed set of knowable laws. If a glass plate falls from a certain distance at a certain speed, you will (in theory) be able to predict how many pieces it will shatter into. However, if you look at the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, it is impossible to predict where an atom will hit when being shot repeatedly from the same spot. There was no pattern; the atoms hit randomly by chance.

There are many examples in life that show humans are not being controlled or guided by any outside forces, nor is everything that happens based upon previous events. Existentialism can be confirmed from the ostensible ability of humans to attribute their own meanings to the world. Indeterminism, likewise, manifests itself in the practice of human understanding and can be freely stated to exist and therefore falsify determinism. I believe that Sartre’s existential and indeterminist outlooks are correct; this believe creates a world of opportunity, interpretation, condemned to experience cultivation from the mind.