It’s Time For Student Organizers To Get The Goods

For college students across our state, the last few months have been rough. As many schools abruptly backtracked on their promises of in-person classes this fall, it was clear that pandemic life was far from over. While many fraternities foolishly decided it was business as usual, many of us had their hopes deflated. However, what many did not expect is that the shutdown would be far, far worse than just online classes and no (safe) parties. Over at Michigan, students tested for COVID-19 were forced to quarantine in apartments with virtually no supplies. More than 100 RAs declared that the conditions were unsafe. And while it would be easy to jeer at our normal axis of evil for being well, shit, this goes far beyond students’ usual issues with uncaring administrators. This was the University of Michigan putting their students’ safety and wellbeing in the direct line of fire.

The conditions at UM were so dire that on September 7th, the Graduate Employees Organization voted to strike. They demanded stronger COVID-19 remote work policies, as well as a 50% defunding of the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) into community policing measures. The latter is ambitious for any campus, but now is the time to push for it, especially with Black Lives Matter protests still lingering from the summer.

UM reacted to these demands with open hostility. After the GEO struck down their initial settlement, the administration moved forward with an injunction against the union. Given the options to either end the strike or risk millions of dollars in damages and the potential dissolution of their own organization, the GEO settled. The strike was over.

Now that the dust has settled, what can we make of this on our end? It’s not as if we don’t have things to protest over: last month, MSU RHS furloughed around 700 student workers with only around two weeks’ notice. Soon after, the Spartan Solidarity Network released a petition and a list of demands, but neither have led to any change in the university’s policy. Besides this, tuition fees have gone largely unchanged, even as COVID shuts everything down to a crawl. Now is the time to either crack open the endowment or find some other way to relieve students in need of a stipend. As it stands, MSU remains fully committed to stiffing the most valuable members of its community.

It’s helpful to remember that our organizations are far from powerless. Earlier this year, the MSU Graduate Employees’ Union (aided by hundreds of professors and ASMSU) took a firm stance against Stephen Hsu, the then-Vice President for Research and Innovation who had been called out for supporting scientific racism, sexism, and eugenics, among other issues. After nine days of pressure on the administration, President Stanley asked him to resign and he returned to his tenured professor position. That isn’t as sexy as, say, Hsu being fired and falling off the face of the earth, but it is a case of a successful campaign waged primarily by student organizers against MSU administration. Saying the words “general strike” could be too soon. It could also be a great act of hubris, given that the university could be as willing to play hardball with students as UM was. But I still reckon that there is the potential for something great to happen if student orgs can converge for real action on campus.

COVID-19 currently shows no sign of letting up. For as long as it continues, universities across the country are bound to make more decisions that put the livelihoods of their students in jeopardy. The lesson of the UM action is that the forces behind these decisions are strong, but also that the GEO and organizations alongside it were willing to throw down to preserve the rights of their students. This is a lesson that student organizers need to internalize as hard as they possibly can. If the opportunity arises, we need to be as ready as possible to seize it.

-L. Niño

Mr. Stanley, Tear Down The Frats

Congratulations for making it this far into the year, Spartans! And double congratulations to the upperclassmen and freshmen savvy enough to grab a last-second sublease. When Mister Doctor Professor Samuel Leonard Stanley Jr. M.D. canceled in-person classes and sent home most on-campus students, our lingering hope of a somewhat normal semester was finally put to rest. However, one campus institution won’t be going anywhere: fraternities and sororities.

Continue reading Mr. Stanley, Tear Down The Frats

Education Apps are a Disease

Going into my freshman year at MSU, I thought I was aware of all the ways that colleges can take extra money on top of tuition. Textbooks? I rented them, unless I was forced to buy a new edition. Blue Books? Bummed them from my friends or Student Services. I was going to be the one college student who was Aware of the System.

Then the education technology showed up.

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There Goes The Last Great American Late Night

After Mr. Dr. President Sir Samuel L. Stanley Jr MD, DDS, Esq.’s decision to kick MSU online this fall, we’re all still dealing with the fallout. Off-campus apartments have been swarmed with freshmen who desperately want to socialize after five months of being trapped in their homes with their parents. I can’t say I blame them.

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The Day Dantonio Disappeared

In the year of our lord 2015, Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans had their final truly great season together (2017 was a good year for MSU too, but we’ll get to that later). These Spartans went 11-1 in the regular season, losing only to unranked Nebraska and securing the win against the hated Michigan Wolverines off of some infamous trouble with the snap.

After plowing through the rest of their schedule and defeating Iowa in the Big Ten championship match, the Spartans were ranked no. 3. On December 31st, these Spartans, with the collective momentum of a near-perfect season and the wind at their backs, faced off with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff.  

And they got broken in half, 38-0.

Continue reading The Day Dantonio Disappeared

The Two Hundred Million Dollar Man

On October 11, 2019, I was walking back from a regrettable purchase at The Rally House when my phone buzzed. I checked it and saw that The Evening Look had received a message through our contact form. At that point, we had been growing for nine months, so receiving an email was far from unusual. What was unusual was who sent it: Corey Washington, Director of Analytics at MSU’s Office of Research and Innovation. He wanted to invite us onto Manifold, a podcast he co-hosted with then-Vice President for Research and Innovation Stephen Hsu. Washington and Hsu were interested in how the “campus culture wars” of recent years have manifested in recent years and thought we could offer some valuable insight. L. Squirrel and I accepted this invitation, and our interview, recorded on October 15, was featured as part of a “bonus” episode of Manifold along with a separate interview they conducted with Sergei and Derek of The Morning Watch.

As L. Squirrel and I sat for our interview (brutally cut for time because Washington and Hsu repeatedly got into debates amongst themselves), it was obvious to us that Hsu was the more conservative of the two, although much of what led us to that conclusion is missing from the published version of our conversation. However, we failed a spot check on Hsu’s exact beliefs. We failed to realize that an Academic Boomer like Hsu wouldn’t place wild takes on his barren Twitter, but instead that he’d do it old school. We’re talking Blogspot.com, baby!

Just over eight months later, MSU president Samuel Stanley requested Hsu’s resignation from his role at the OVPRI, which Hsu accepted with a little bit of grumbling. How did Hsu fall from successful podcast host and renowned research genius, known for securing $200 million more per year in research expenditures for MSU compared the amount before his tenure, to merely a tenured physics professor in that short span? 

Continue reading The Two Hundred Million Dollar Man

Renee Richer Wants To Bring Science, Maturity To The State House

Back in April, we featured Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), representative for Michigan’s 108th state House district, in an article entitled “The Weirdest Guy In The House.” We expected the article to reach our normal audience of bored James Madison students at MSU. Instead, it reached LaFave himself, who posted about it several times to prove that he was not mad and even selectively quoted it in his Twitter bio as if it was not an article making fun of him. 

This sort of childish behavior is something you expect from say, a student blog, not an elected official. Fortunately, voters in District 108 have a much better choice. We had the honor to sit down over Zoom with Dr. Renee Richer (D-Gladstone), the candidate running against him this November, and we’re proud to say that we came away with a better understanding of what a good representative for the district sounds like.

Continue reading Renee Richer Wants To Bring Science, Maturity To The State House

Send Home the Cops

“This week, rioters have plunged many American cities into anarchy, recalling the widespread violence of the 1960s,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton. He’s right. These gangs have terrorized our citizens with violence, suppression of free speech, and have radicalized an entire generation against the police. The perpetrators? The police themselves. 

In the weeks following the tragic police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many other African Americans this year, the police had one final chance to take a stand against racism and rampant abuse of power. I shouldn’t have been surprised with what happened next. 

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Simulated Markets in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Community: An Exploration

If you, like me, have been trying to find a timesink as COVID-19 strips you of most worldly pleasures, you’ve probably come across discussions of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. After years as something of a cult favorite, New Horizons has burst into the zeitgeist as it became the most popular Animal Crossing title to date. That’s not saying that any previous title could be considered “indie” in any sense, but rather that New Horizons has become virtually unavoidable across game communities and social media. With that, the community has revved up into full force, with a surprisingly intricate online network that tried to meet the community’s material and social needs. Across Reddit and elsewhere, the game has formed its own online economy, down to a literal credit rating as a form of digital citizenship.

If you spend enough time in this space, and have your brain rot just enough where things start to fit together, some phenomena become visible. Namely, that it essentially crashed and rebuilt itself on two separate occasions since March.

Continue reading Simulated Markets in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Community: An Exploration

The Severe, Pervasive, and Objectively Offensive Tenure of Betsy DeVos

Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the long-awaited new Title IX rule. The two thousand page rule, broadly speaking, offers more protections for the accused party in sexual assault and harassment cases and allows universities to take as little responsibility for these cases as possible. Before delving into the latest garbage from DeVos’ Department of Education, let’s take a moment to reflect on her tenure so far.

Continue reading The Severe, Pervasive, and Objectively Offensive Tenure of Betsy DeVos