Sweet, sweet democracy

Thanks to The Signal for running the article “Alum Supports Pro-Choice in South Dakota.” That alum, Kelly Baden, helped defeat the ballot initiative which would have outlawed every abortion in the state, even if the woman’s health or life were in danger. Armed with the facts, Baden engaged voters in a conversation and got them to the polls. Take note: This is how you participate in a democracy!

The proposed law was extreme for a country that stands moderately on the abortion issue. According to a Newsweek poll from October 2006, U.S. voters are 53 percent pro-choice and 39 percent right-to-life.

Other polls reflect a similar pro-choice lean or at least a 50/50 split. So how did the extremists hijack the abortion debate? Simply put, the moderates let them.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, only about 48 percent of eligible Americans actually vote. When all of the world’s democracies are ranked for political participation, the U.S. falls in 114th place.

That’s how we ended up with George Bush taking us for a ride backwards in time, with policies that don’t work and a war that costs us $195 million a day, according to the U.S. Department of Defense for 2005. Politicians can buy power or kill for it, but it only lasts when millions of “us” sit home in silence and accept it.

I voted on Nov. 7, and I’m grateful to everyone else who did. Despite what Keith Lucas said in “College Community Houses Intellectual Void,” I know that this College is full of intellectuals who are affecting change.

Many of us are also tied by a history of violence. We have relatives who fought, who were tortured and who died for democracy. If nothing else, we should vote in their honor. Maybe then we won’t have to die for democracy any more.

If you didn’t vote this year, then you allowed people like me to pick your representatives and answer ballot questions about how your property taxes, fuel taxes and open space will be used.

There’s still a chance to bleed red, white and blue again. Register to vote. 2008 will be here before you know it. Spend 20 minutes on the Internet raising your consciousness. At a family dinner, ask a relative how much they spend on healthcare each year.

Ask how they plan to retire now that America has no money left for Social Security. Ask them what it was like before 1965, when it was illegal to sell contraceptives in America.

Then, take a generous helping of mashed potatoes, smile and be thankful that you live in a democracy.

Jessica Van Liere

Ed. majors stuck with a filthy Forcina

I am writing in reference to the condition of Forcina Hall, also known as the education building. As an alumna of the College’s early childhood education program and now a graduate student in the reading program at the College, I have spent many an hour in the halls and rooms of Forcina. I am saddened to say that this year the state of this building is more deplorable than I have ever seen. Take a walk with me, if you will:

I park, hopefully, if there is an available spot in the garage or above it, and an overflowing garbage can awaits me at the entrance to Forcina.

I carry my trash in and throw it away in one of the receptacles marked “Glass,” “Bottles” or “Paper.” I am a proponent of recycling, but these are the options and I try to choose the lesser of the evils.

I trudge up four flights of stairs (and it’s seemingly always the fourth floor once you hit graduate school) dragging a bit from the weight of heavy textbooks because the shaking, quaking, slower-than-George-Bush’s-seemingly-never-ending-term-of-presidency-elevator is filled with bags of garbage with not a custodian in sight.

As I ascend to the top floor, I pause to catch my breath and stare in wonder at the cobwebs that have accumulated on the corners of the stairs.

Almost as unbelievable as the cookie crumbs that had been scattered on the fourth floor of the stairwell for three – count ’em – three weeks and running. (Maybe finally dispersed by a hungry rodent, perhaps???) Halloween decorations, maybe? But no, not unless the decorating began in August…

I enter the classroom, winded from my exercise, and commiserate with my classmates about the state of the building.

As we move on and begin our activities within the classroom, it becomes even more apparent that the rooms have been neglected as well.

Old writing on the chalkboards, layers of dust on the ledges and a floor littered with paper holes, scraps and … some other unidentifiable liquid stain.

Cold wind blows out of the vents and we shiver with our coats and scarves in August brought for the sole purpose of not catching a chill while engaged in our pursuit of a master’s degree.

A paper taped to the duct crinkles as it blows in a feeble attempt to try and redirect the air. As an allergy sufferer, I guess I should double up on my weekly shots because the amount of filth that is covering the legs of chairs and desks has got to be the result of dust bunnies on steroids.

I look forward to those professors who have, in disgust, insisted on moving their classes to somewhere else far, far away from Forcina.

I understand that not all professors can do this, since their offices may be located in Forcina, but I sure do appreciate those beautiful new buildings that all seem to contain multiple IBM computer labs and sparkling linoleum that we in Forcina can only dream about.

Forcina Hall is on the far side of campus, but I’ve dealt with that for over six years because I don’t have much control over that fact.

I also understand that constructipon is a timely, expensive matter, and that the College is looking to entice students into entering their engineering, nursing, etc. majors, but I do seem to recall this being a school that prides itself on its educational foundation.

I’m sure there are big plans for a glorious building that I will not be around to enjoy. However, is it too much to ask for a well-maintained building in the meantime? Is it too much to ask that the maintenance team do the “minimum” that is outlined and assured to visitors to their Web page?

The students of Forcina Hall are being forced to learn in conditions that would not entice a single new student.

In fact, I recently had a discussion with a woman who attends the College and has discouraged her daughter from even applying to the school because of the conditions of Forcina Hall as well as some of the dorms on campus.

This may seem like a small matter in the grand scheme of things, and believe it or not, I am not one to write long, complaining letters to the editor or the like.

However, the students of Forcina (myself included) have not only waited patiently for a clean, updated facility, they’ve literally paid for it. Cleanliness is not simply something we desire, but something we deserve.

We work hard at full-time jobs educating this nation’s youth, and then come to a dingy, filthy building that simply does not reflect the high standards that the rest of the College seems to take for granted.

However, I suppose the student volunteers keep calling alumni like me for donations for good reason, because apparently the hundreds of dollars spent on various service and maintenance fees are not enough to keep this building in livable condition. You won’t be getting a penny out of me; I think I’ve paid my dues, thank you.

Danielle Michael

Class of ’00