Tag Archives: students

Environmental Science for Kindergarteners

If you were to walk into any American classroom today, you will find that the majority of instruction is focused on English and math.  With such intense attention on the core curriculum, students are missing out on the opportunity to learn about the world around them.   Our children deserve to know about the world they come from, and the world they will someday inherit.

The natural world is a subject that is seldom touched on in the early grades. In fact, in the state of California, science education, let alone environmental science, is not strictly required until the 4th grade.  If we expect to see any great, positive change in our environment, this simply can’t be the case.
This semester, I had the opportunity to work in a San Francisco elementary school teaching students about environmental issues, and it has been one of the most transformative experiences of my college career.  It is clear to me that change must occur in our narrowly-focused education system.  By altering the currently accepted, deep-rooted models of public education, and implementing new techniques, we can empower students with the knowledge of the natural world they so sorely lack.  

Unfortunately, the current public education system puts excessive weight on teaching strategies primarily geared toward improving standardized test scores, which means an excessive focus on mathematics and the language arts. Introducing environmental education early and more frequently can break that cycle by doing two things: introducing an important topic and being able to implement innovative teaching methods.

Environmental education is the perfect opportunity to address the intelligences of visual, kinesthetic and naturalistic learners, who have usually played second fiddle to learners who are math or reading-oriented. When students are physically involved in their education, they create a context in which they can deepen their understanding of any concept.

For example, the program with which I work, Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG), implements the small group model and hands-on learning for K-2nd grade environmental science.  One unique quality of EENG is its youth to youth education:  college students teach the lessons!  By working through interactive games and experiments with their college student-instructor, each student is shown how natural systems work and in the process gain the tools and knowledge necessary to apply to other questions that cross their paths.

We are living in a world where our societal practices and actions can no longer be sustained.   We have lost sight of our relationship to our earth and it’s making us sick.  Environmental education is about inspiring young minds to see and make real change happen.  We cannot solve our world issues over night, but we can start change now by being responsible for our actions and giving our children the tools necessary to preserve our future.   

For more information on the EENG program, contact Max Binstock, maxbinstock@eeng.org

Pell Grants Under Threat of Being Cut

In this age of fiscal uncertainty, few are immune from the government’s growing commitment to fiscal restraint. USF students could be hit next if Pell grants get cut. The federal debt-reduction committee tasked with locating $1.2 trillion in cuts and possible revenue increases to the federal budget over the next decade may shrink the government assistance program that has served as a vital source of financial aid for many at USF. The need based grants can total up to $5,550 per semester, and in assisting almost 30% of USF students with their tuition costs, it is the largest source of financial assistance for USF students.
To inform students of the potential danger to the program, Provost and Vice President of Academic affairs Jennifer Turpin sent an email out two weeks ago asking supporters to sign a petition to block any cuts to the program. The petition is being supported by lobbying organizations such as the Student Aid Alliance, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and 61 other higher education associations. The petition has drawn 48,661 supporters as of Saturday.
Asked what he thought of the possible cuts, USF Junior Raffi Bezdikian said it was unfortunate that the U.S. government would “rather drop bombs on people … than invest in our future by educating the public.”
It is unclear how much of an effect such efforts will have in swaying the committee in favor of a particular outcome. Various advocacy organizations have undertaken assiduous campaigns to influence the committee’s outcome with little success. From its conception, the committee’s proceedings have held behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny.
Legislators have attempted to exert their influence as well. Last month, Minnesota Representative John Kline made his case for cuts to Pell grants, which he described as “on a path to bankruptcy.” Kline then went on to back the Labor, Health and Human Services budget cutting bill passed by House Republicans.
That bill would decrease the Pell Grant eligibility period from 9 to 6 years. It would also eliminate eligibility for students who attend school part-time. The changes are projected to produce almost $3.6 billion in savings to the national budget.
In last year’s debt-ceiling budget agreement, the federal government promised $7 billion in additional appropriations for the program, an amount that according to the National Association of Student Financial Aid administrators still won’t make up for a $1.3 billion shortfall in 2012-13.
Democrats have long protected the program instituted under President Lyndon Johnson’s as part of his Great Society initiative, but their priority may now be focused on protecting costly entitlement programs that have come under increasing attack from Republicans.
Many have predicted that the negotiations will end in a deadlock, as most recent budget battles have. More than a few of the committee’s members are staunch advocates of their party’s most recalcitrant positions, making meaningful compromise unlikely. Any such deal would require substantial concessions on either side of the aisle.
Financial aid is available to USF students in other forms besides Pell grants, including school funded scholarships and grants from the state.
Even so, “student aid has already lost $30 billion paying down the deficit in prior Reconciliation bills and the Budget Control Act,” cited Ms. Turpin in her letter.
The fiscal solvency of the state is also in question, imperiling some of the state’s programs like Cal Grants.
If the super committee fails to find $1.2 trillion on cuts, automatic cuts of $600 billion to both defense and entitlement spending would kick in, possibly exempting the financial aid program.

Fine Arts Students Beautify Construction Site Green Walls

For some artists, a canvas that spans 700 feet can only be found in reverie. The green walls surrounding USF’s construction site have provided that space.

Over the summer, three students completed the “Urban Tranquility” mural. With help from Fine Arts Professor, Eric Hongisto, Seniors Sofia Gonzales and Katie Kinsey worked an estimated 100 hours to create the illustration. The mural spans on Golden Gate Avenue between the War Memorial Gym and Harney Science Center.

“I wanted to create a calming, yet inviting mural with both an engaging theme and color scheme,” said fine arts major, Sofia Gonzalez.

After being approached by Facilities Management to create art for the walls surrounding the Center for Science and Innovation construction site, Hongisto sought help from his Public Arts class to create the mural. Gonzalez proposed her idea to Facilities Management last spring semester and received approval for the project.

Drawing upon the idea of city and Bay Area wildlife, Gonzalez, Kinsey, and Hongisto created a design that blended in with the surrounding environment of trees, bushes and the beige tinge of the Harney Science Center.

“[The wall] is in nature, so why don’t we expound on that theme? We’re in the state of California, which gives location to new and incoming students,” said Hongisto. The trio did research on color scheming and paid close attention to the hues of buildings, shrubbery, and neighborhood homes that encompass the wall. Donning the mural is scenery of deer, plants and the Golden Gate Bridge in neutral shades of purple, yellow and orange.

While a three-month work period allowed ample time for the project’s completion, the team was greeted with minor inconveniences from San Francisco’s inconsistent summer.

“We spent many cold, foggy summer days hand painting all the curved lines of the landscape silhouette while large trucks passed us every four minutes to enter the construction site,” Gonzalez said. Despite a few disturbances, the group managed to complete the project just in time, painting until the first day of classes.

In addition to the theme “Urban Tranquility,” other Fine Arts students from the Color Theory and Public Art classes completed the period table of undergraduate majors. The table is located on the construction wall facing Gleeson Library.

Within the next two years, Fine Arts students will be creating murals for the walls near War Memorial Gym, Parina Lounge and the main walkway near the Cowell and Kalmanovitz buildings.

One of the design plans includes the creation of a mosaic wall derived from the art of the Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada, Spain.
The wall will also serve as a public posting wall for students. According to Hongisto, all projects will be student-generated. “I would never want to do anything myself. I always want to make sure students are involved. This is a USF process,” he said.

Hongisto is open to student suggestions for mural designs. He extends an invitation to students interested in joining the Public Arts class that will be running for the next two years. Hongisto said, “We’re not trying to change the world with our art. We’re just trying to make this place look better for students for the next two years.”

Activity Fee Increase Needed to Keep Student Presence Strong

In the upcoming student election, selecting senators and executives to serve on next year’s ASUSF Senate will not be the only thing voters will be asked to do. When students consider their ballot during the week of April 11, they will also be asked to choose whether their student activity fee should see a $20 increase; that is, whether the currently $82-per-semester surcharge should be raised to $102 per semester.

Full disclosure: The Foghorn relies largely on money collected from this fee (essentially a portion of your tuition) to support the majority of our operations and endeavors.

With that said, we urge the undergraduate student body to vote in favor of the activity fee increase.

The USF student activity fee is the fee collected from each undergraduate student that goes to support services and organizations geared to the student population. The 2010-2011 pool of all accumulated student activity fees was about $750,000.

This weekly newspaper is one concrete example of your activity fee at work. Funds from the fee also brought Jay Sean and other notables to the CAB Fall Fest concert last October. It likewise produced Augustana for the Jammin’ for Justice event this past weekend.

Organizations who are not funded accounts benefit as well. Student clubs who wish to display posters on university cork-boards and to distribute fliers to students turn to the Graphics Center (itself a funded account) for design and posting services.  And student-backed events are not lacking. Just this week, USF’s Muslim Student Association coordinated their weeklong Islam Awareness Week, which was funded in part by the Superfund Committee.

How the collective pool of students’ fees is split up goes something like this: During the budget season, the student-led Finance Committee distributes money to USF’s thirteen funded (ASUSF Senate, the Foghorn, College Players, and Academic Support Services are some of these). Money is also allocated to the Superfund and Club Funding committees, two deliberating bodies also comprising students which, over the course of the school year, distribute activity fee money to other clubs and organizations for their events.

The timing for the increase is spot-on. The last increase in the activity fee happened in 1995, when, (as is the case now) a Senate initiative for a $20 raise in the fee was placed on the student ballot.

According to the Senate, this year’s pool of student fees covered only 1/6 of student requests for money. Additionally, Los Locos,  gained approval from Senate to become a funded account, meaning that, with one more organization, the pool of student activity fees will be further stretched.

Students who have up to now pined for greater involvement and to have a greater say in student affairs now have their chance; in order for the resolution to pass, 25% of undergraduates must cast a ballot on Election Week, and of these votes, a majority is needed for approval. If undergraduates want to continue to see a strong, student-led presence on campus, all voters must approve the activity fee increase come April 15.

BYU Suspension Sparks Discussion On College Codes of Conduct

It was reported on March 4 that Brandon Davies, a star basketball player for Brigham Young University in Utah, was suspended for the rest of the season from playing on his nationally ranked college basketball team because of an honor code violation. The fact that the Davies had intimate relations with his girlfriend, it turned out, was against the school’s requirement for all its students to lead a “chaste and virtuous life” in accordance with the Mormon principles upon which Brigham Young University was founded.

The Foghorn staff, upon learning of the reason for the basketball player’s suspension, had an internal discussion about the role colleges should have in when it comes to the private lives of students. Like Brigham Young, USF is a private religious institution of higher education. And just as Brigham Young grounds its honor code in the Mormon tradition, USF looks to the Jesuit Catholic tradition when it comes to policy ranging from its broader mission of social justice to more specific rules regarding dormitory visitation policies.

The purpose of this editorial is not to argue whether or not Davies should have been suspended for a personal decision that went against a commitment he already made by attending Brigham Young. Rather, the Foghorn wants articulate what we feel is role of colleges in the personal lives of its students.

As college students who are preparing to enter as educated citizens into the real world, we feel very much that increased responsibility is an important part of that process. We also feel that with this increased responsibility is the freedom needed to exercise that power.

The Foghorn does recognize that it is in the best interest of the university to see to its students’ welfare and to keep them safe. We therefore recommend that in personal matters (i.e., sexual ones), the university’s focus should be on promoting greater responsibility and awareness on the part of the student body.

The emphasis should not be on requiring students, in the name of safety, to embrace a potentially narrow view of moral acceptability with respect to sex.  The staff, for instance, feels that the university’s current focus on awareness of sexual and gender issues and on responsible personal decision-making is far more favorable to prohibiting premarital relations altogether.

USF’s leadership recently has shown that they are willing to recognize college students as capable, discerning adults who can handle the extra responsibility that comes with the territory.

Last semester, for example, the school’s Office of Residence Life reviewed and amended an on-campus overnight visitation policy to now allow a limited number of overnight visitors of the opposite sex to visit a student’s dorm room over a period of time. (Before this, there was an outright ban of opposite sex overnight guests in general.)
While we cannot comment intelligently on the honor codes of universities like Brigham Young, we can say that USF is heading on the right path, and steadfastly should continue to do so.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Opinion Editor: Vicente Patino

Recent Events at USF Show Growing Student Engagement

Disappointment rang though much of the War Memorial Gym last Saturday as the Dons who had risen to the #2 spot in the West Coast Conference, fell substantially to the #1-in-the-conference Gaels of St. Mary’s College. After having won the last two home games, the USF men’s basketball team’s thrilling streak came to an end abruptly; thousands of spectators, many of them USF students and alumni, left the stands frustrated and with hoarse voices.

As the student voice of USF, we would like to unite our grief with that of the USF community over the loss of our Dons.

But just as importantly, we would like to stop and reflect the university pride shown by the student body on Saturday. In recent editorials and news articles, both by the Foghorn staff and by concerned students, the subject of student pride has received more than its fair share of coverage within these pages. Most of the time, the coverage has taken the tone of concern: there is too little pride at USF, the undergraduate student body is lethargic, not enough of the students are involved in organizations despite the many opportunities to engage, the sports culture non-existent, Greek life on campus is limited at best.

However, it seems that since the start of the fall 2011 semester, the students, in many ways, have shown the reverse. Beginning with the sudden uprooting of KUSF days before classes begun, all the way to the end of the basketball team’s home stand on
February 12, the university has shown signs that life on campus and within the student community is becoming vital and vibrant. We believe that the barrage of events geared toward the student body, such as the public airing of President Obama’s State of the Union address and the hosting of the spring 2011 involvement fair on two floors of the recently renovated University Center, has done well to improve the quality of student life.

To us, the 4500+ attendance to the Dons vs. Gaels match is a hopeful sign that USF pride is returning with vigor and will hopefully remain so.

Many issues, however, some of which are reported in this edition of the Foghorn, are still to be resolved. Some, like the long-term suspension of the College Players drama troupe and Upward Bound’s unrenewed contract to remain on campus, appear to be a result of inadequate discourse between various elements of the USF community. On this note, the Foghorn staff wishes to laud recent efforts toward student engagement and to still encourage both the student body and the USF leadership to still strive for increased communication, involvement, and ownership of their institution.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Opinion Editor: Vicente Patino