Iowa City Stories

May 14, 2010

The University of Iowa’s Network (ResNet) and Fiber Optic

Students living in residence halls at the University of Iowa have it good when it comes to the speed of their internet.

While non-University residents may have to pay an extra-fee to receive ultra-high speed internet, the University provides its own network for students living in residence halls, and at all University computer locations.  What’s best is the charge is included with tuition.

Ashley Stover, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa remembers when she moved into the dorms her freshman year and booted up her computer.

“It was so much faster than what I had back home,” said Stover.  “My parents the old-school dial up modem, so it was really slow.  Not to mention it tied up the phone line too, so if I wanted to talk to my boyfriend on the phone, it couldn’t be while anyone else was on the computer.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was I got in trouble for downloading songs, but I can’t blame the University for that one.  I have since started to pay for my music when I got iTunes.”

Rules and Acceptable Policies

A row of computers at the ITC in the Main Library connected to ResNet

While the University network may be extremely fast, there are strict guidelines that users must follow when connecting to the network.  According to the University housing website, the following rules are the acceptable use policy.

  • Student is responsible for all activity originating from this connection. Student must take reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorized use by others of this connection, and his/her accounts, programs, or data.
  • Students should not engage in activities that consume excessive amounts of network bandwidth.
  • Student must not modify or extend Residence Hall network services and wiring. This applies to all network wiring, hardware, and in-room jacks. The only device you can connect is a personal computer. You may not connect servers of any type, hubs, or network printers.
  • Residence Hall connections are provided for individual use only. Student may not create accounts on his/her computing system that provide campus network access for anyone else.
  • Residence Hall connections are for University-related activities only. Student may not conduct a commercial business via the Residence Hall connection.
  • Student may not run sniffers or any other software or hardware designed to intercept packets or to disrupt the security or operation of the campus network.
  • Student may not participate in illegal activities such as software piracy—either the distribution of copyrighted software or illegal attainment of software or other copyrighted materials—from the Residence Hall connection.
  • Student may not host chat lines from computers connected to this network.

Capable of high speeds

According to Jay Ford, Senior Network Engineer of ITS-Telecommunication & Network Services, the network is capable of some extreme speeds.

“I’ll give you four different scenarios and each one has a different speed capability,” said Ford.  “We have speeds up to 10 Gbps externally (to Chicago and Kansas City.)  10 Gbps mesh within the core of the campus network among key routing locations and data centers.  1 Gbps to and within most buildings, and 1 Gbps to most user jacks.”

With speeds this fast, it comes as no surprise that fiber optic technology is utilized within the network.  I discussed earlier how fiber optic works, and how local internet companies are implementing fiber optic, and the University is no different.

“We already use fiber heavily within the network,” said Ford.  “Fiber to edge user devices is not required because we can provide 1 Gbps on copper, which is much cheaper and better supported in user equipment.”

Ford also added that the University’s network is often times faster than Mediacom.

“Our standard user service is 1 Gbps, full-duplex and symmetric,” said Ford.  “Service offered by ISPs like Mediacom and Qwest is usually in the 3-20 Mbps range, usually full-duplex but often slower in one direction than the other.”

However the University does not plan charge users andoffer ResNet as an option for internet service to non-resident hall students like Mediacom does.

Kirk Baruth, Communcations Specialist at the University IT services, said the University pondered the idea, but decided against it.

“We’ve pondered it in the past on a few occasions,” said Baruth, “But delivering network connectivity to off-campus residences gets pretty far afield from our core mission. Instead, we maintain sufficient external connectivity so we don’t have a problem reaching ISPs that do provide residential access.”

While students at the university are not able to access the internet if they are not in a residence hall or the university-based computer, for those that do use the network on a daily basis, the speed of the network is on par and higher than anything else they can get for the price.


Mediacom and Their Role With Fiber-Optic Internet

Filed under: IC Stories: Zawistowski, Fiber Optics — Tags: , — RichieZ23 @ 8:28 pm

So what if Iowa City is not picked as a test-market city for Google fiber optic internet?  Those who do not live in UI Resident Halls and are connected to the ResNet university network will most likely have Mediacom as their Internet service provider.

Cable-internet is the most popular form of high-speed internet, and there is only one provider in Iowa City – Mediacom.

However there are other forms of high-speed internet that are not cable-based, such as Qwest which provides users with a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modem and service, or users can test out high-speed satellite internet, although it is much more expensive than cable internet or DSL.

I discussed in my previous story on how fiber-optic technology works — light is reflected through fiber-optic filaments and transmit data.

Cable-based internet uses your coaxial copper cable line that runs to from node to your house for your internet access. A cable modem connects to the Internet via a cable line, and to your wireless modem or computer using either an Ethernet or USB 2.0 cord.

Installation of Fiber-Optic Network

However, recently, Mediacom has installed a massive fiber-optic network that carries information from their main servers and routers out to smaller networks and nodes.  The last part of the information highway is still a copper coaxial cable however, but the fiber rich network allows for more efficient data transformation.

Phyllis Peters, Director of Communications at Mediacom discusses what Mediacom has done with regards to fiber-optic internet technology.

Because of the fiber-rich network that has been created, Mediacom was able to boost internet speeds of all their customers by 50% in 2009.  However, this is just the beginning for high-speed internet in Iowa.

“By the end of 2010, 50-meg speeds will be in half of our households,” said Peters.  “It will be available — you still have to have the one that wants it.  You do have to pay more, and we have to swap out your modem.  The key thing with the 50-meg or 105-meg speed is that’s the download speed.  With 105 your upload is 10, and with 50 your upload is 5.  Now If you’re using our 12 or 15-meg service your upload is one megabyte.  And the change from one-meg upload to five or ten is what many are saying is the most awesome feature.”

A New Age of Internet

“Again, we’re not just downloading things from the internet today like we were in the early days of the internet,” continued Peters.  “We’re uploading things too.  We’re uploading videos to YouTube, putting stuff on Facebook, uploading pictures to Flickr, so there’s no one else in the state that offers 5 and 10-meg upload speed.”

While many college-aged students use the internet for research for papers, or for casual purposes such as interacting with friends via Facebook or downloading music for their iPod, high internet speeds really become beneficial to those in the professional world.

“In Harlan, Iowa, a smaller town of maybe about 7,000-8,000 people, our fiber network connects right there at their hospital,” said Peters,  “So that radiologists and technicians can send huge files and huge amounts of data and all the new medical applications that need high speed broadband.  They can spend it to all the referral places that are within the Iowa Healthy System.  They couldn’t do that if we didn’t have fiber.”

“We had a video producer who could get more work done sharing videos with his clients all over the world in Toronto and California, that he could get more work done at home than he could at his business, because he had such a faster upload speed.”

Internet Will Only Get Faster

This all sounds great, but there must be suitable applications and routers for the high-speeds to impact the users.

This may be a slight problem right now, but as more and more people switch to higher internet speeds rather it be by choice and paying more, or still using the entry level internet that Mediacom has automatically increased, more and more applications will be programmed and designed to allow more efficient data transmission.

“There are still applications that we don’t have our hands on yet, as they are still being developed,” said Glen Reynolds, IP director at Mediacom.  “However we have our new routers that are much more robust and can handle the 50 or 100-meg input.  Every quarter we have to report as a company our financials and customer support, and every quarter we increase n high-speed internet, so that’s a real engine, but that tells you that people are leaving dial-up and DSL.”

Kyle Parkin, a senior at the University of Iowa discussed when he switched from dial-up to broadband.

“It was so much faster,” said Parkin.  “I was used to using AOL, and back around 2001 when we switched to broadband and it was incredible.  I could download stuff probably ten times as fast as before.  Now to hear they have increased the speeds even more, and 50-meg internet will be available, that is awesome for someone like me who downloads a lot of media.”

Some users may not care about higher internet speeds, as they only do simple things on the internet like check their email, or read the news.  However, the internet is evolving quickly, and soon the web-pages containing email, news, and other bits are going to be much larger in file size.

These customers saw their internet speed increase by 50% in 2009, but for those who use the internet for much more demanding purposes such as downloading and uploading video, web-design, or those in the medical field that Peters discussed, higher-internet speeds should be an important issue.  (All photos are non-copyrighted, and available for commercial use)

No one likes sitting at their computer waiting to get the desired result.  Whether it may be uploading a video to Facebook to show friends, or downloading medical records for emergency surgery, increased internet-speeds are something to look forward to.

Behind all the talk of megabytes, uploads, and downloads is the simple means of communication.  Faster internet speeds allow us to communicate with each other more effectively, and in different ways than before, such as high-definition webcasts,  which is a benefit for all parties involved.

Google to provide internet for select test market cities

Google will be adding yet another task to their resume later this year and is expected to experiment with ultra high speed internet in selected test market cities which will be approved via submitted applications.

Google embarking on a new project is hardly something new, rather it’s something that seems to go hand-in-hand nowadays.

Fiber Optic Internet

Back in February, Google Inc. announced their plans to launch ultra-high speed internet via fiber optic cables in selected test market cities. Since then the response has been extraordinary. Thousands of communities have submitted applications to Google, in hope that the mega-tech corporation would choose their city as a test market.

“Google is launching an experiment to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations in the United States,” said Minnie Ingersoll, Product Manager on Google’s alternative access team.

That’s sounds great, but what exactly is a fiber optic cable, and what does this technology involve?

What is Fiber Optic Technology?

To simplify, fiber optic technology is a revolutionary way of transferring data via cables. Instead of using a copper wire to transmit data like traditional wires today, fiber optic uses mirrored light — that’s right light — to transmit data much faster and much more efficiently.

Fiber Optic technology uses light to transmit data. (Photo by Lawrence Lawry)

However, Google is not looking to build a nationwide network and become a major player in the internet service provider (ISP) game. Even though Google will not be topping any major ISP’s, this is still great news though for everyone — ranging from the tech-junkie, all the way to the college student who simply wants to be able to download movies off iTunes faster.

“Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,” Ingersoll continued. “We want to see what developers and consumers can do with ultra high-speeds, like creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine. We also want to test new ways to build fiber networks, and intend to operate an “open access” network.”

Jay Ford, Senior Network Engineer for the University of Iowa ITS-Telecommunication & Network Services, says that fiber optic provides the University with better data transformation than copper.

“It is much more efficient, yes,” said Ford.  “While we still a bit of copper, we have plenty of fiber optic wiring within our network, and it allows us to have a higher optimal flow and less network problems.”

Potential for Iowa City and Surrounding Communities

Iowa City and the surrounding communities saw this as an incredible opportunity, and UI student Karl Taylor started a Facebook group called “Nominate Iowa City for Google Fiber” which currently has over 1,000 members.

The Facebook group also links to the official Google Application site, and also created — which stands for Iowa City Area Broadband Coalition. Both of these sites are aimed towards representing the Iowa City area and convincing Google to chose Iowa City as a test market.

According to Google, there are many factors that come into play in determining accepted test market cities.

“We’ll use our RFI to identify interested communities and to assess local factors that will impact the efficiency and speed of our deployment,” said Ingersoll. “Such as the level of community support, local resources, weather conditions, approved construction methods and local regulatory issues. We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community.”

“Above all,” continued Ingersoll, “We’re interested in deploying our network efficiently and quickly, and are hoping to identify interested community partners that will work with us to achieve this goal. We plan to consult with local government organizations, as well as conduct site visits and meet with local officials, before announcing our final decision.”

One thing that stands out to me, is when Ingersoll says, “We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community.”

It is no secret that Iowa City’s internet speeds are quite low, and as a state, Iowa has one of the lowest internet speeds across the nation. This may help boost the application of Iowa City, along with community support.

Since March 26, applications are no longer being accepted by Google, but during the six-week period in which applications were accepted, the turnout was great for Iowa City.

A map shows the turnout of applications submitted, and although Iowa City doesn’t have the largest area, the turnout was great given the population ratio compared to a city or region such as San Diego.

But out of all the cities that accepted applications, why would Google choose Iowa City?

“The Iowa City area is an advertiser’s wet dream,” said Taylor. “You’ve got a dynamic community of 18-25 year olds — the age bracket everyone wants a piece of. The area is home to a number of entities (corporate and otherwise) that work very closely with “big-name” spenders, like the Federal Government. Our approaches to education are of global notoriety. There’s a nice balance of traditional and modern American paradigms amongst citizens–there’s even a mixture of rural and urbanized environments.“

While Google has not made an announcement on the city(ies) that they have chosen as a test market, those from Iowa City and the surrounding communities must feel that they have a decent chance to be picked. While it will be doubtful to be the only city picked, Google may very well pick multiple cities as test markets, and Iowa City could indeed be one of the cities picked.

“I would love it if Iowa City was picked,” said Kelly Wadell a Computer Science major at the University of Iowa.  “Fiber Optic internet would allow us to tap into immense potential as far as the digital world is concerned.  The speed and efficiency of data transformation would be incredible to experience at your home PC.”

While we are left to play the waiting game on the official word from Google, residents of Iowa City and the surrounding communities should feel like they have as decent of a shot as any to be selected by Google.

Science and Religion at a Crossroads

Filed under: IC Stories: Goater, UI Majors, Iowa City Stories — claegoater @ 1:55 pm

Science and religion have long been seen as opposing forces, and there remains a lot of conflict between them today. With that in mind, how does a biology student reconcile their philosophical or religious beliefs with their chosen area of study? I asked Chris Ajluni and Asad Hashmi about the areas where science and religion intersect.

Religion Among Biology Students

Both agree that, even among people who value science very highly, there’s a wide spectrum of belief. “There are plenty of biology students who are really religious, even ones who believe in evolution,” Ajluni said.  “It doesn’t have to be one way or the other, but it does influence the way you think. {Studying biology} has definitely added to my experience. Learning more about how the world works has influenced my outlook.”

Hashmi elaborates on his own personal beliefs. “Rather than science being against religion, it’s more of an explanation. In my view, that’s all science really is. An explanation, not a challenge.”

The Dividing Line

Ajluni believes that there are some things that cannot be explained by science alone, but doesn’t know where the line should be drawn. “I don’t know what science ‘should’ explain or what religion ‘should’ explain, but they both have their place.”

Hashmi stands on similar ground, albeit better defined. “Science can explain everything to the limits of what human beings can discover. Beyond the limitations of human explanation, that’s where religion comes in. “

A Moral Compass

Their views differ somewhat in the role that religion takes in modern scientific debates. Hashmi believes that religion provides a strong and useful moral voice.  “I believe that when religious people involve themselves in scientific discussions, they’re drawing the line for human limitations. Morally, I think that when very religious people get involved, they have a very valid point to make.” According to Hashmi, sometimes the urge to be advance the frontiers of our knowledge can cloud a person’s thinking.  “With research, sometimes people forget what we’re actually physically doing, and just think about what we can achieve from it. These people aren’t asking us to stop progress, they’re just asking if there’s not a less questionable way to achieve it. “

Ajluni thinks that religion plays a more ambiguous role in current scientific discussions. “{Religious commentators} are entitled to their moral opinions on what is right, but a lot of the time, these people just don’t know what they’re talking about in terms of science. Some of them have good arguments based on good data, but a lot of them don’t. “Ajluni is more focused on the ultimate ends than the means. “I wish they would look at the results, the possible benefits of research like stem cells or cloning. But a lot of the discussion is shaped by politics, more than any real health or moral issues.”

A False Dichotomy

Maybe the conflict between science and religion is a false one. It might be necessary to recognize that there is a disconnect between the study of science or religion, and the political issues that arise from those studies. Hashmi believes that the historical conflict between religion and science is really just the byproduct of power struggles unrelated to either discipline. “I actually think the strife between science and religion is politically-based. When Galileo said that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, it was challenging the church’s authority. Since it was against their beliefs, it discredited them. It’s about power. It’s a way of challenging power, rather than anything fundamental about science or religion.”

May 13, 2010

Diversity: Iowa City and the University of Iowa

Filed under: IC Stories: Avery, Diversity, Iowa City Stories — Tags: , , — a1os4wrds @ 12:05 pm

The Iowa City community has been facing some huge issues concerning diversity.
First the idea of the high schools district lines being redrawn, and secondly a new Chief Diversity officer at the University of Iowa.
The Chief Diversity Officer will be the figure head of diversity at the University and something that all candidates agree on is the fact that they cannot solve Iowa’s issue with diversity by themselves.
“Don’t hire me and expect wipe your hands and say now this is your problem…cause it won’t work.” Said candidate Terryl Ross Director for Community and Diversity.
A big part of solving the diversity issue in Iowa City as well as the University of Iowa is having the community behind the issue.
Katherine Betts Assistant Director of Diversity Programs of Cultural Centers believes that the community plays a pivotal role in increasing diversity here at Iowa.
“The community must be accepting of diverse students…and I think that’s something that many students don’t feel in the community. I mean just look at the issues of our high schools.”
With the Iowa City community and the University of Iowa so closely connected if diversity is failing in one it is most likely failing in the other.
Rene Rocha a professor at the University of Iowa thinks that in order to change the diversity in the Iowa City community, kids must be introduced at a young age to different cultures.
Rocha believes, “that many students come from Iowa with this lack of cultural acceptance simply because they are not exposed to it in their hometowns.”
In order for the diversity problem to be solved officials believe that diverse students that come into the high schools or even the University must feel that they have some type of cohesiveness with one another as well as their environment.
Nicole Nisly the Interim Chief Diversity Officer believes this to be an important part of any successful diversity program.
“If students come in and don’t feel they have someone there to rely on, they aren’t going to stick around,” said Nisly “there has to be some level of acceptance and cohesiveness between the students and the community.”
The question then becomes who will become an example of a successful diversity program first the University of Iowa or the Iowa City high schools?
Nisly said, “It’s going to take a lot of time, nothing is going to happen overnight. The state is 90 percent white, its going to take a lot patience and persistence on everyone’s part.
And this is something Chief Diversity officer candidate Ross believes in also.
“We have to be prepared for the long run, sure there are going to be bumps in the road and the true test will be where we stand after we hit those bumps.”

Male Nursing Students Breach the Gender Barrier at UI

Filed under: IC Stories: Goater, UI Majors, Iowa City Stories — claegoater @ 12:01 pm

The new minority
Historically, the American woman has lived the life of a second-class citizen. Today, at least in the realm of higher education, this tradition is being reversed. More women than men are seeking tertiary education. Women are excelling in college more than men. More women are going on to graduate school than men.  And projections indicate that this pattern only going to intensify in the coming years.

Even with given these historical upsets, gender is still a topic that’s very entrenched in the modern system of higher education. There remains a clear division between the majors that men and women choose.  Math and hard sciences are still seen as men’s work, while liberal arts and communication draw more women. How can these divisions still exist as more and more women seek college degrees? And what is it like to be a male student in an increasingly female-dominated undergraduate population?

Any males reading this article should pay close attention to the words of Douglas Buchan and Jared Proctor. They are two of 57 males in the college or nursing at UI, a department with 697 total undergraduates. As women continue to gain ground on men in the world of academia, the collegiate experiences of Buchan and Proctor will become closer and closer to the norm.

Socialized into No Man’s Land

How can the gender gap within college majors remain steady even as the proportion of women to men keeps increasing? The answer probably goes far beyond biology. “There are a couple of biological differences between men and women. Psychologists have looked for like 200, and out of those 200 they find five or six,” said Sociology Professor Steven Hitlin. “Men are better at spatial relations- type of things. Of course, men play with toys when their boys that help teach them that kind of stuff. Women are a little bit more verbal by the time they are adults, but they’re also reinforced for that. For the most part, we’re pretty similar, and it’s all a bunch of stereotypes.”

Most CEO’s are male, most social workers are female. Because of this, we raise our boys to grow up to be CEOs and our girls to be social workers. Because the next generation of CEOs will be mostly men, most of the children raised to be CEOs will be boys. Because these stereotypes have been entrenched for so long, we end up applying “masculine” or “feminine” qualities to a profession no matter how arbitrary the label might be.  “You start confusing the position… with the gender who’s in that position,” Hitlin said. “A lot of this is unconscious, but it shapes the way you perceive the world.”

To transcend these gender roles requires some combination of strength, self-assuredness, and nose-thumbing defiance.   “I am a free thinker that is open to looking at opportunities beyond their face value, “Proctor says. “{I} feel that I see the world from a different, less-tainted, viewpoint.” Having experience with independent women may also make it easier for Proctor to work in No Man’s Land. “I was raised by a single mother from a young age and that has helped me to move beyond a lot of gender biases. I feel a little more in tune with women than most men, and I don’t have any hesitations {about} being around women as co-workers or superiors.”

Proctor’s Zen-like musings are nicely counterbalanced by Buchan’s no-nonsense approach. “I don’t care about stigmas,” Buchan says, “and I don’t put up with BS either.”

Why Work, Anyway?

There also seem to be differences in the criteria that men and women use to evaluate job opportunities. While there aren’t many biological differences between men and women, there’s one big one that affects how we choose our careers. That undeniable, concrete difference is the ability to bear children. “Women, I think, in our country are socialized to want to be mothers. Sometimes, then, women choose career paths that allow them to juggle children and work,” Hitlin said. “Other countries have different ideas about who should stay home more, making it easier for both men and women to stay home without a penalty going back into work. Society could make it so that it’s easier to have kids and go back {to their careers}, in which case women might not have to choose their jobs the same way.”

According to Hitlin, men tend to choose their careers based off of the monetary rewards available. “Men are more likely to select into the jobs and majors that are better paying, and for whatever reason, we reward math and science more,” said Hitlin. “Math and science are things that men are told they’re supposed to be good at all throughout their lives, even though women do better in school. So men go into these majors, and they get these higher-paying jobs, and men have more status and money.”

Thus, people who don’t want their lives to revolve around work might be drawn to traditionally female majors. “I love that I’ll be free to practice medicine and still be able to carry out a life with a strong family focus,” Proctor says. “As long as I can pay my bills and provide for my family I’ll be happy.”

The Classroom’s Odd Man Out

There are differences between the behavior of males and females in the classroom from the very beginning of their academic careers. “Boys get more attention, good and bad. Boys seem to think they’re more entitled to attention. They’re less concerned about what people think of them,” Hitlin said. “By the time you’re in college, that stuff has been around for a long time, and it’s going to seem natural.” But, in a situation where men are in the vast majority, the tables could turn. If the topic of discussion is considered an area of female expertise, women will talk more and men will get crowded out.

Being the only person who’s different in an otherwise homogenous classroom is going to affect your educational experience, no matter what criteria you use. “If you know that you’re the only person from Iowa in the class and everyone else is from Illinois, you’re going to feel a little different,” said Hitlin. “It’s just a very human thing; we tend to notice who’s like us and who’s not.”

Proctor thinks that the overwhelming gender gap in his major might affect the type of communication going on in the classroom. “I feel that instructors in the field, at least at an entry level, seem more attuned to women,“ he said, mentioning that “it can be a little difficult for men to grasp at first.

Buchan had similar sentiments. “In the pre-nursing classes I have had, the teachers … spent class time with fluff and feel-good bogus. We spent two lectures going through the lecture hall introducing ourselves,” Buchan said.  “The girls in the class were fine with it while they texted away. The guys in the class, all four out of a hundred of us, were mumbles and grumbles about the waste of time.”

Buchan also acknowledges that being outnumbered by women makes him alter his interactions with his peers. “Really there is a challenge in watching what you say, what you do. You can’t be ‘One of the Guys’ in a group of females. But this isn’t unique. Females have been doing this since they entered the job market.”

Proctor also makes it clear that, even with the difficulties he faces, he has it easy by comparison. “I really feel that gender biases have only really been hurtful to women in the past, and that women entering a ‘man’s’ field have the real challenges or preconceived notions to hurdle.”

There may even be a few upsides to being the only swinging bachelor in the nursing program. “You can’t be surrounded by women all day and not get a better feel for how they act,” Buchan says.  “Plus with all the whining and moaning about husbands and boyfriends, you get a good long list of things not to do.”

Putting Up With Our BS

The gender gap in college majors is never just going to disappear overnight. Women were not welcome in institutions of higher learning before 1848.  It’s taken over a century for the college enrollment levels to swing in women’s favor. Not only is that, but the division of labor by gender as close to a universal human phenomenon as you are likely to find.

So, as always, change will be slow and laborious. But always remember, you and I are the ultimate source of the BS that Proctor and Buchan refuse to put up with.  By being more aware of the social forces that push the genders in different directions, we can work alleviate the burden associated with taking that big step across the gender gap. By educating ourselves and maintaining open minds, we help ensure that the female engineers and male nurses of our future will have to put up with less BS than their contemporary counterparts.

For a look at some more major-specific issues, click here.

True Life: I Bought A Dog From…

Filed under: IC Stories: Farooq, Buying a Puppy, Iowa City Stories — nawaar @ 11:44 am

True Life: I Bought A Dog From…
by Nawaar Farooq

When you are in the process of purchasing a puppy or a dog, sometimes it is good to hear what others have to say about their own experiences. Here are a few stories to help you gain some perspective as to what dog and resources might be right for you.

Erin McMahon and Jaxson

Erin got Jaxson, her miniature dachshund from Grundy Center at Century Farm Puppies. She decided to go with a

Erin and Jaxson (photo contributed by Erin McMahon)

breeder because she wanted to try and raise a puppy at eight weeks at least once in her life. Another reason she wanted to find a breeder is because she wanted a miniature dachshund and those are hard to come by unless you come across particular breeders.

When she began her puppy hunt, she looked at a lot of different places, mostly around Dyersville, Iowa. She found that most of those breeders only had one litter at a time and many puppies were already sold before she could see them.

After she brought Jaxson home, she didn’t notice any major health issues until he started vomiting frequently. She took him to the veterinarian and it turned out he was eating food that didn’t agree with his digestive system. Other than that, he had no main health issues.

Erin abhors puppy mills and thinks they are a terrible thing.

“I am appalled that these people will do anything to dogs to make a little extra money with no concern to the dog’s health,” says Erin. “I have never had personal experiences with puppy mills, but I have seen a dog that was at a puppy mill. She had no teeth, was scared to death at any sudden movements or loud sounds, and she had a number tattooed on her stomach. Sad!”

Erin does have some advice for those who are looking to buy a new furry friend.

“Make sure you know everything there is to know about the breed of dog you are choosing and make sure it is a breed that fits your lifestyle,” she says. Certain breeds need certain things and you will probably not be able to change that.”

Erika Tahmasebi and Lucy

Lucy and Erika (photo contributed by Erika Tahmasebi)

Erika Tahmasebi, a University of Iowa alumni who graduated in 2008, took a different route when finding her true love, Lucy, a maltese-shih tzu mix. Lucy is short for Lucille Lucius Vorenus Bluth and she is now 4 years old.

Lucy caught Erika’s eye when she gazed at her through the glass window at Petland one day in March of 2006. Erika used to go to the humane society to play with the animals and would always get upset and leave in tears. Her friend took her to Petland to play with the animals there, thinking she wouldn’t feel guilty when she left.

The second she set her eyes on the little maltese-shih tzu mix, she feel in love and purchased her that night. She says there was something about her that made Erika had to have her. The fact she was from Petland made her think twice about purchasing her.

“My whole life I have been against puppy mills and had always gotten my animals from either breeders (the dog I had as a child, Sophie, a Scottish terrier) or humane society (two cats, Oliver and Kirby),” Erika says. “I think puppy mills are disgusting and when I think about all of the wonderful and perfectly fine dogs at shelters without homes, I feel incredibly guilty for choosing an animal from a store. That being said, I love my dog more than anything, and I absolutely do not regret purchasing Lucy. But I know my future dogs will be from either an animal shelter or breeder– most likely a shelter.”

Lucy did not have any health issues and Erika feels very lucky about that. She advises other puppy-seekers to go another route than she did.

“Please don’t go the route I did. The first place you should look to find a pet are the animal shelters in your area,” she says. “Do your research on what kind of dog(s) you not only want but fit your lifestyle. If you have no yard, don’t get a large, active dog. If you want a friend to go running with, don’t get a poodle. Your dog should be a part of your family– he or she will love you unconditionally, so make sure you are prepared to do the same. Thousands of dogs abandoned every day by irresponsible pet owners, so please make sure you are ready for a commitment before you bring an animal into your home.”

Amy Braun and Loki

Loki and Amy (photo contributed by Amy Braun)

Amy Braun, the pet counselor from Petland in one of the previous stories, wanted a breed that most pet shops don’t carry. She wanted a pit bull, a breed that many fear because of its “dangerous” nature. She currently has one dog, Loki, who is a mix between a pit bull and a mastiff/Chesapeake bay retriever.

Her first pit bull, Killian, was from Animal Control in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“I wanted to feel comfortable living by myself and nobody was going to mess with me. I wanted a pit bull because they are huge and nobody will mess with them,” she says. She does think that pit bulls are some of the sweetest dogs underneath all that stigma.

She let a friend take care of her dog, Killian while she was in Germany for a year and after many attempts of trying to reach her friend, she found out her dog died three days before returning to the United States. Apparently her friend allowed another friend to watch the dog and she had gotten into some antifreeze. She was taken to a vet the next morning, but didn’t survive.

When she returned to the states, she went on the dog hunt again. She wanted another pit bull, but had trouble finding one. All the breeders she looked at seemed sketchy except those that lived in Louisiana, Idaho or Ohio. Luckily she knew what to look for when searching for a breeder. She noticed that many of the puppies weren’t checked over by a vet or didn’t include any papers according to the Web sites. They also didn’t come with warranties and the breeders didn’t ask Amy any important questions that she expected.

“For a solid pit bull I was planning on paying $1000-1500 dollars,” says Amy. “Pit bulls for $200 are sketchy. If you are selling them for that cheap, there has to be something wrong. Most pit bulls run $700-1500.”

She ended up finding Loki, her current dog, from Cedar Valley Humane Society in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Loki is a mix and wasn’t what Amy was looking for at the time, but she fell in love with him. He didn’t have any major health issues. Loki does have a chronic ear infection in one of his ears, but compared to all the other things he could have, Amy considers it to be nothing.

Amy is appreciative of the way Cedar Valley Humane Society handled everything when she was adopting Loki.

“Before they send your puppy home with you, they make sure the dog is kept up to date with vaccinations,” says Amy. “They fix the puppies if they aren’t fixed before they go home with you and are excited to send a puppy home with a new owner.”

As a pet counselor, Amy has offered many helpful tips to people seeking a new pet. Her advice when thinking about purchasing a new dog is to:

“Sit down and make a list of what you want in a dog. Go through everything. Do you want him to be super intelligent, super playful, really friendly with people, a protector dog, etc.? Different breeds fit different desires. Does your lifestyle match up for the breed? Really do your research.”

Please take a look at the slideshow of some of these adorable  lil’ doggies! (Photos were contributed by dog owners).

So what should you take away from these other people’s experiences?

Different people are better with certain breeds. Research what specific temperaments would be a good match for you and don’t base your decision on how a dog may look. You may think a Golden retriever is gorgeous, but if you live in a tiny downtown apartment and can’t take him/her on walks, you are going to run into some trouble.

Not only should you research the breed, but where you intend to get the dog from. Meet with an animal shelter, breeder or pet store owner a few times before you make your decision. Ask questions about the facilities. Make sure they ask you questions. Pay attention to how they treat the purchase – is the puppy they are something they are trying to get rid of and get their cash or do they take a genuine interest in the puppy’s wellbeing with you?

It is rewarding when you find the dog that is right for you. With all these new tips and things to watch out for, I wish you only the best when searching for a new furry companion!

Click on the following links to read more about Puppy Shopping and Puppy Health Issues.

Health Issues Associated with Puppy Mill Dogs

Filed under: IC Stories: Farooq, Buying a Puppy, Iowa City Stories — nawaar @ 11:39 am

*Disclaimer: The dog photographed above is not a puppy mill dog and is only used for purposes of visual enhancement of the story. Photo by Nawaar Farooq

Health Issues Associated with Puppy Mill Dogs
by Nawaar Farooq

According to the Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, puppy mill dogs are often subject to terrible conditions that can lead to many health complications in their lives. Some of these conditions include:

  • overcrowding in small wire cages or makeshift enclosures
  • stacking of crates so that dog excrement falls from higher crates to lower ones
  • no nurturing human contract, socialization, or veterinary care
  • exposure to climate extremes in buildings with poor ventilation and temperature control
  • rarely taken out of cages except for breeding purposes
  • bred every heat cycle until their bodies wear out or they develop other health issues
  • “disposed of” when they can no longer reproduce – sometimes they are shot, abandoned, or in rare cases, relinquished to animal rescue organizations.

Veterinary technician Jesse Henderkoff from Bright Eyes and Bushy Tails Veterinary Clinic in Iowa City has seen many dogs in her day and knows what signs to watch out for when purchasing a new pup. She gave me a rundown of some common problems that puppies face, especially those that are bred and raised in puppy mills.

Henderkoff lists the following issues as symptoms and conditions you should watch out for when buying a new puppy:

  • BREATHING COMPLICATIONS: An elongated soft palate will interfere with a dog’s breathing. As the surviving mill dogs grow older, they are more prone to developing respiratory ailments and pneumonia.
  • CONJUNCTIVITIS: The membrane that lines the inner sides of the eyeball up to the cornea is called the conjunctiva. If it becomes infected, you’ll notice a discharge from the corner of the dog’s eye. The discharge may be clear and watery or opaque and thick. Typically this is the result of a bacterial infection. Your veterinarian can give you the best diagnosis.
  • GIARDIA/PARASITES: Though an infection with Giardia is not initially fatal to your dog’s health, it can develop into a very serious condition. These parasites are found in dirty or contaminated water. Since the Giardia organisms interfere with the normal absorption of your dog’s food, this can result in malnutrition, weight loss, and other serious symptoms. In addition to this, due to the frequent diarrhea that most dogs experience when infected with Giardia, a dog may also become severely dehydrated.
  • HEART MURMURS: A heart murmur is one of several types of abnormal sounds your veterinarian can hear when listening to your pet’s heart with a stethoscope.  Normally, two distinct sounds are heard when listening to the heart of a normal dog. This is normally caused by a turbulent blood flow. Hearing a heart murmur during a routine physical examination will often be the first hint to your veterinarian that your pet has heart disease. This is not something to panic about, but you should get checked out regularly.
  • HIP DYSPLASIA: In dogs, a femur that does not fit correctly into the pelvic socket, or poorly developed muscles in the pelvic area. Large and giant breeds are susceptible to hip dysplasia, and a few smaller breeds suffer from it. In dogs, the problem almost always appears by the time the dog is 18 months old. Dogs might exhibit signs of stiffness or soreness after rising from rest, reluctance to exercise, bunny-hopping or other abnormal gait (legs move more together when running rather than swinging alternately), lameness, pain, reluctance to stand on rear legs, etc. Some dogs do recover, although it can be problematic as the dog gets older.
  • KENNEL COUGH: Also known as canine tracheobronchitis, kennel cough refers to a highly contagious class of viral and bacterial ailments which spreads rapidly among dogs in close quarters, such as in a pet store or veterinarian. Both viral and bacterial agents play a role in the complex, much as in human bronchitis, making the syndrome difficult to diagnose. Once kennel cough has been contracted, the treatment course is much as it is for humans with similar infections. Antibiotics are prescribed if bacterial causes are determined, as well as a week or so of naptime in a freshly scrubbed room away from other dogs.
  • LUXATING PATELLA: The patella is the bone we know as the knee cap. A groove in the end of the femur allows the patella to glide up and down when the knee joint is bent back and forth. In so doing, the patella guides the action of the quadriceps muscle in the lower leg. The patella also protects the knee joint. In some dogs, because of malformation or trauma, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not prominent, and a too-shallow groove is created. In a dog with shallow grooves, the patella will luxate (jump out of the groove) sideways, especially toward the inside. This causes the leg to ‘lock up’ with the foot held off the ground. Smaller breeds of dogs have the highest incidence of patella luxation.
  • NEUROLOGICAL/SOCIALIZATION DISORDERS: Due to the frequently poor breeding conditions in puppy mills, puppies bred there often suffer from health and/or social problems. Puppies raised in a cramped environment shared by many other dogs become poorly socialized to other dogs and to humans. Dogs are then transported over long distances in poor conditions, sometimes resulting in animal stress and death.
  • OVERBITES/UNDERBITES: Puppies and dogs with overbites and underbites may need to have dental surgery because the Constant contact between upper and lower incisors can cause uneven wear, periodontal disease, and early tooth loss.  Many times the tips of the teeth are shaved off or the problematic teeth are removed altogether.
  • PARVOVIRUS: Parvovirus is a viral disease of dogs. It affects puppies much more frequently than it affects adult dogs. The virus likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells. The intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy’s body. The virus attacks and kills these cells, causing diarrhea (often bloody), depression and suppression of white blood cells — which come from another group of rapidly dividing cells. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to “sudden” death. Vaccinations usually are given at around 2-3 weeks and after the first series of shots, puppies are given boosters every 2 weeks until they are around 13 weeks old.
  • UNHEALTHY COAT: What a dog looks like on the outside is likely an indication of what is going on in the inside. If a dog’s coat is matted, dull or has an unkempt appearance, chances are that the animal is unhealthy and should be looked at by a veterinarian. The dog may need more fatty acids and nutrients in its diet than what it is getting.

These are just some of the symptoms and conditions that puppies and dogs from puppy mills might exhibit. Other puppies born in normal conditions may have these conditions as well, but these are just some of the most prevalent ones found in puppy mill puppies. There is no reason these dogs and puppies should be subject to these conditions. The new legislation regarding puppy mills should be very beneficial in curbing many of these commercial breeding facilities where dogs are produced for quantity and profit.

Click on the following links to read more about Puppy Shopping and Experiences of Dog Owners.

Dog Shopping 101

Filed under: IC Stories: Farooq, Buying a Puppy, Iowa City Stories — nawaar @ 11:29 am

Dog Shopping 101
by Nawaar Farooq

Photo by Nawaar Farooq

How many times have we gone to a pet store and seen the perfect little puppy look up at us with those inviting eyes saying “Please take me home?”

I know I’ve been there. I go to the pet shop and I want to play with at least four puppies, two of which I normally contemplate taking home with me. In fact, one time I did do just that.

However, there are many things to consider when buying a puppy. They aren’t just something you can toss to the side when you get bored with them. They need attention and care, just like us.

When you are considering getting a puppy, you should know about where you are buying from. Many people think they know the right answer when the go looking for a pet. Purchasing puppies and dogs without having any idea of their background and history can be dangerous and you might wind up with a dog from a puppy mill.

What is a puppy mill, you ask? A puppy mill is pretty much like a farm for dogs, and not one of those cozy, homey ones. It is more like one of those giant cattle farms where the cows are mass bred to be slaughtered for your dinner at night. Not a very pretty sight. What’s especially scary is that Iowa has the third largest number of puppy mills in the nation with more than 400 facilities.

To be an educated puppy buyer, you must know where you can get dogs. There are three main places that most people look. These include pet shops/commercial kennels, breeders and animal shelters.

After talking to many people about where they buy their puppies and talking to people who sell puppies, I’ve come up with a list of things you can expect when you go to each of these places seeking a pooch. Keep in mind that all of these can be viable resources if you do your research and pay attention to some vital signs.


Many people like seeking breeders when looking for a new pet. Breeders can be tricky. Some breeders are essentially mass breeding through puppy mills and they have Websites that look amazing. People can get fooled by these Web sites and assume that these are reputable breeders. However, really they are just puppy factories waiting to ship out many litters to whoever will take them.

So how do you tell if your breeder is a good one that you can trust? Here is a list of things you should look for when getting a puppy from a breeder according to pet counselor Amy Braun from Iowa City.

  • Good breeders ask a lot of personal questions. They might ask who you live with, how many hours you work,

    Photo by Nawaar Farooq

    what your housing is like and what kind of guests you normally have. They want to know this so they know that the puppies they are offering go to good, safe homes where they will have a good life. If your breeder doesn’t ask you questions about yourself, stay away!

  • Good breeders will often provide a warranty or guarantee of some kind. The best breeders will offer lifetime guarantees, but even if you are offered one for a year or a few months, it is a good sign.
  • If for some reason you absolutely cannot keep your dog, a good breeder will take back the dog, even if they didn’t actually breed the dog. Many good breeders are also involved with rescuing whatever types of dog they breed. This isn’t a surefire way to tell if your breeder is a good guy, but it definitely earns them some points.

If you are getting a purebred puppy, Krista Mifflin from says there are a few things that should be included and that you should pay attention to. These are:

  • A pedigree that goes back a few generations (usually three)
  • Any titled champions within the first two generations (parents/grandparents of puppy)
  • OFA certified hips and elbows
  • Eyes have been CERFed and don’t have genetic abnormalities
  • Care and grooming information
  • Right of refusal, if you need to give up the dog for any reason
  • Puppies should be healthy and socialized with humans that adjusts well to others being around

Porter Jack, a beautiful dog up for adoption at the Adoption Center, Photo by Nawaar Farooq


Another option when purchasing a new pup is to go through a local animal shelter. Iowa City has one called the Animal Care & Adoption Center.

Maggie Winegarden, a temporary animal center assistant at the City of Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center has been working there for two years and thinks animal shelters are a great resource when looking for a new pet.

“These animals already exist and are in need of a home,” she says. “Breeders and pet shops encourage more litters when there are already many animals in need of a home.”

Why not adopt a dog that already exists instead of constantly trying to produce new ones?

Here are a few of the other reasons she gave as to why people should look to animal shelters when looking for a new furry companion.

  • These animals already exist and are in need of a permanent, loving home.
  • Breeders and pet shops encourage more litters, which can lead to more dogs ending up in the shelter or with people who can’t take care of them. –
  • Puppy mills are rampant in Iowa. When you go to a breeder or pet shop and don’t do your research, you may end up with an unhealthy, unsocialized dog that will cause you more problems in the long run.
  • When you get a dog from the animal shelter, you have a history of where they are from and a good idea of what their health is and any behaviors they exhibit. Their temperament is thoroughly tested. When you get really young puppies it is harder to tell sometimes. You can’t usually tell a puppy’s personality until they are about 6 months old.
  • Volunteers at the adoption center constantly work with puppies to be socialized (if they are not already) and are taught basic commands. You usually can’t assume that when buying from any breeder or pet shop.
  • The adoption center also offers financial assistance for spaying/neutering to prevent having any unwanted litters.

Please view the following video to see some of the current dogs up for adoption at the adoption center in Iowa City:


Another option that you can look to (but might want to be wary) of is purchasing a puppy from a pet shop. There have been rumors that many commercial kennels take puppies from puppy mills and because of that pet shops have received a bad rap. Of course, this isn’t always true, and with any situation, it is the consumer’s responsibility to do their research before taking on such a hefty responsibility.

I have purchased a puppy from a pet shop and haven’t had any issues so far, but I was as careful as I could be when I did.

There are local pet stores and franchise pet stores. Both can have a great pet waiting for you inside and some can have sick animals. You should never buy a pet on impulse, no matter how cute they are. Instead, make sure you get the breeder history (if possible), so you know what breeder the puppies came from.

Pet Counselor Amy Braun used to work at Petland in Iowa City. She knows about the stigma attached to Petland and its rumored association with puppy mills.

“ With how much they are talking about puppy mills in the news, it leads the viewer to believe that puppy mills are around every corner,” she says.

Amy doesn’t believe that is the case and supports buying puppies from pet shops like Petland.

“Just because we are a pet store doesn’t mean we have puppies from puppy mills. Puppy mill puppies have health issues and aren’t socialized with people. Our puppies are well groomed and in general they love being around people and other dogs. We have warranties to back up each puppy. We will pay for veterinary bills regarding hereditary issues that occur within the year [up to the puppy’s’ cost]. Puppy mill puppies generally have hereditary issues, Petland puppies usually do not. You can also exchange puppies if necessary,” says Amy. “We would be completely out of business if we weren’t doing right thing.”

You can expect higher prices at pet shops. They have to make a profit, after all. If you do buy a puppy from a pet store, you should be offered the following:

  • Initial vet records and check-up
  • Warranty of some kind
  • Microchipping in case your pet gets lost

Take a look at what Allie Brunn, the general manager of Petland has to say about her pet shop in the video below (I apologize for the shakiness, I didn’t have a tripod with me):

Hopefully that has given you some insight as to what to look for when you are on the hunt for a new pet. Just remember to do your research and don’t buy the first puppy you see. Each of these places can help find a healthy puppy/dog a new home, but it is up to you as a smart consumer to decide which resource is right for you.

Click on the following links to read more about Experiences of Dog Owners and Puppy Health Issues.

Earth Day in Iowa City

Filed under: IC Stories: Coons, Recycling, Iowa City Stories — jnc0420 @ 11:23 am

If the turnout for Earth Day: Celebrating 40 Years! is any indicator for how much Iowa Citians care about recycling, we’re screwed.

Earth Day Meeting

The event, held on April 22 at the Iowa City Public Library, featured four local guest speakers and felt more like PR for the Iowa City Sierra Club than an event that was supposed to inform the audience of what they can do to help.

Including the guest speakers, 22 people were in attendance, scattered through a meeting room that was set up to seat well over 50.

The topics ranged from a history of Earth Day, energy conservation and a student perspective on environmental causes. The event ended 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, concluding with a poem, read by North Central Junior High Student, Amy Shun.

Not a word was spoken regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The most interesting speech was delivered by Abbie Gruwell, an intern at Sustainability at Iowa.

Regarding recycling and maintaining a healthy eco-footprint, Gruwell said, “This is the issue of my generation. At this point, it isn’t even an option … we don’t get to choose, it just has to be done.”

She added that students do show initiative to recycle if given the option. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’s ever been on campus the weekend after finals when myriads of recyclables are tossed into dumpsters and furniture abandoned on curbs.

Gruwell also attended the Copenhagen Climate Summit held earlier this year. I wondered how much the jet fuel calculated into her eco-footprint.

Cynicism aside (I had just spoken with anti-recycler, Mike Sammons) Gruwell spoke of great ideas for Iowa City: Namely, a bike-exchange program that would allow students to rent bikes from the Bike Library for a specified amount of time.

During the meeting, Conservation Chair of the Iowa City Sierra Club, Jim Baker, (who made it clear that, yes his name is Jim Bake and no, he is not a convicted televangelist) applauded Environmental Advocates, the longest lasting environmental group in Iowa City for its 30 years of dedication to such issues as; yard pesticides and curbside pick-up for recycling.

Outside of the Meeting Room

Upon conclusion of the meeting, we filtered outside, where Iowa City was hosting RiverFeast. Could there be a more appropriate day for local businesses to peddle food to residents while disposing high volumes of Styrofoam, paper and plastic utensils?

To put the cherry on the sundae, many of the items were set adrift in the April breeze, sent to drift aimlessly through the community. On Earth Day!

I couldn’t help but wonder how those at the meeting genuinely felt that they were making a difference when, the moment they left the meeting room, they were confronted with the waste of their community.

For more on Iowa City Recycling, check out Recycling: A Waste of Time? and Reckless Abandon: The Sad Truth of Recycling in Iowa City

Recycling: A Waste of Time?

Filed under: IC Stories: Coons, Recycling, Iowa City Stories — jnc0420 @ 10:20 am

Nearly ten years ago, Lone Tree resident, Mike Sammons read a New York Times article that would forever change his views on recycling.

In 2001, the Muscatine native was a self described, “dread-locked, hippy who believed in saving the world through recycling.”

That was before he read John Tierney’s article, “Recycling is Garbage,” a few years after it first appeared in The New York Times. The article confirmed what Sammons had suspected for years: recycling is overrated.

“We recycle because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy but the end result isn’t what people think,” Sammons said as he took a sip from his bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon — a bottle he had no intent of recycling.

Mike’s viewpoint is not popular among his peers, but then neither are many of his other beliefs: He is also against disc golf and “completely over listening to bluegrass.”

“I’ve been universally rejected, people just don’t want to hear about it,” he said.

“He has some interesting points, but I can’t help but disagree,” said long-time friend, Luke Mescher, who’s had altercations with litterbugs outside of his former place of employment, Falbo’s Pizza.

Mike’s main reason for believing that recycling on an individual level is a waste of time is how much big businesses throw out every year.

“As residents, we can recycle as much as we want. It’s still not going to make enough of a difference if companies continue to produce so much waste. Even if every household did recycle, we would still have a major problem … we’d have all kinds of excess recyclable-material backup, waiting to be recycled,” Sammons said, adding that glass is especially not worth the effort.

“Of recycled glass, only about five percent can be used in new products,” he said.

Sammons also lauds Styrofoam, claiming that the energy that goes into creating a ceramic mug is 1,000 times greater than that of Styrofoam.

“And don’t even get me started on paper,” he said, claiming that we waste more water through recycling paper than what we would use creating new paper.

While Sammons admits that plastic waste is bad, he references Tierney’s article when he makes the argument that cardboard and paper, though technically biodegradable, have a hard time breaking down in segregated landfills due to lack of oxygen. This results in paper products taking up much more space than their plastic-packaging counterparts.

“We spend needless time worrying about recycling paper, which is a renewable resource, Sammons said, “yet we don’t think twice about trashing cell phones and I-Pods, let alone the resources it takes to make the damn things.”

A point Dave Gilson made clear in the March 2010 issue of Mother Jones.

But what about the “go green” movement? The amount of individuals that bring reusable bags to the grocery store have to be doing something good, right?

“The only reason they’re bringing those bags is because the stores started charging for throw-away bags,” Sammons said. “The things that an individual can do aren’t going to offset the damage of industrial pollution,” he said.

Not to be entirely wasteful, Sammons does practice composting, though not because it’s good for the environment. “I compost because I have a garden, not because I give a damn,” he said.

“I’m cynical, I’ve given up hope. Let’s just enjoy the sinking ship,” Sammons said.

Safety in the wake of 21-only

When the 21-ordinance in Iowa City takes effect on June 1, thousands of underage bar-goers will find themselves without a weekend refuge.

There has been much speculation about where the young party crowd will choose to spend their nights when they can no longer hang out downtown. Many have suggested that the city’s neighborhoods will see a spike in the number of house parties. Others have said that residence hall personnel will have their hands full dealing with the increase of UI students drinking in the dorms. And still others say people will stop visiting Iowa City altogether.

Whatever the case may be, the Iowa City Police Department and UI Department of Public Safety will need to adapt to new and perhaps unforeseen challenges.

The rise of the house party?

House parties around the UI campus are few and far between due to the city’s vibrant downtown bar scene. But under the new ordinance, the “they’ll just drink somewhere else” argument says all signs point to an impending rise in the number of house parties.

UI Department of Public Safety

UI police vehicles outside the UI Department of Public Safety in the Old Capitol Mall

But police officials are not convinced.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said only time will tell if students and others truly do migrate to the neighborhoods.

“We won’t know until it happens,” Brotherton said. “There’s always house parties, we’ll just have to see if the 21-ordinance increases that.”

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for UI police, echoed Brotherton’s uncertainty.

“It’s an unknown,” Green said. “We really don’t know what the impact is going to be.”

And while it remains to be seen, those who believe the increase is imminent say the police will be unable to control partiers once they are spread out across the neighborhoods.

Brotherton said although a reallocation of resources might be necessary, the idea that house parties are harder to control than the centralized downtown area is unfounded.

“We go to a house party, it’s just a house party. We can shut it down,” Brotherton said. “There’s more we can do to control it out there.”

Downtown is not dead

So while neighborhood parties remain a concern that both departments will monitor closely, the downtown area will not be without its police presence.

Green said UI police will continue to work alongside the ICPD, but that their primary concern would be closer to university interests.

“What happens in the outlying neighborhoods will be the concern of the Iowa City Police Department,” Green said. “Our focus will be the downtown area.”

During most of last year UI police officers put in substantial overtime in the downtown area to combat violence in the Pedestrian Mall. Green said this year the department also added a regular shift to the downtown area on Wednesday through Saturday nights even before any discussion of the 21-ordinance had begun.

Recently the Iowa City Downtown Association announced that eight surveillance cameras would be installed in the Pedestrian Mall to add extra security to the area.

Brotherton said the cameras could be a benefit for police during times when information about an incident is limited.

“It’s a good positive step,” Brotherton said. “Anything is an assistance to us.”

Green also said the cameras could benefit the department’s operations but said it’s often difficult to accurately identify an individual because of the poor video quality and said the effectiveness of the cameras acting as a deterrent to crime would vary for each individual.

Getting home safe

Another public safety concern has always been what happens to people after they leave the downtown area and head for home. With people potentially going to more house parties as a result of the 21-ordinance, some people are worried about the safety of dark neighborhood streets away from the busy downtown area.

Apart from taxis, the UI offers a Cambus Saferide service that runs until 2:25 am on Friday and Saturday nights. The UI Department of Public Safety also offers a Nite Ride van service that operates until 3:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

But ever since Nite Ride was first introduced there has been controversy over the fact that the service is only available to women. Many people have argued that the service should be expanded to include safe transportation for men.

Former UI Student Government President Mike Currie succeeded in extending the service’s hours during finals week last winter, but was unsuccessful in achieving his main goal of establishing a male Nite Ride.

UI sophomore Evan Willhite is among the supporters of a male Nite Ride and said the issue is more about safety than equality.

“Some type of transportation should be available for males as well as women,” Willhite said. “The university should do everything it can to maintain the safety of its students.”

Green said an Eastside Saferide Loop through the neighborhood close to campus was added in September in direct response to the calls for a male transportation service.

Green said he was unsure how much use the new route is getting, but said the department’s plans are firm.

“We have no plans to expand Nite Ride,” Green said.

Safety is personal

Both Green and Brotherton said their departments would continue to do everything in their power to keep Iowa City residents safe in the aftermath of the 21-ordinance, but stressed the need for people to take responsibility for their own safety.

Brotherton suggested traveling in groups to avoid conflicts on the walks home from house parties and said it’s important to be aware of how much you’re drinking and recognize potentially harmful situations.

“To me it doesn’t matter if they’re downtown or at a party,” Brotherton said. “If they’re over-consuming, they’re putting themselves in a dangerous situation.”

For a look at some of the health concerns surrounding the 21-ordinance, click here.

An ordinance for healthy drinking

When times are tough people often turn to the tired expression, “Well, at least I have my health.”

Americans spend trillions of dollars on health care and medical expenses every year, doing almost anything they can to protect their well-being. And on June 1 an ordinance will take effect that city councilors hope will do its part to help protect the health and welfare of Iowa City residents.

On April 6 the Iowa City City Council passed an ordinance that will raise the bar entry age to the legal drinking age of 21. Effective June 1, the ordinance passed by a vote of 6-1 with councilor Regenia Bailey casting the only dissenting vote.

Mayor Matt Hayek said the ordinance is intended to alter the city’s “culture of consumption” and curb both underage and binge drinking.

The dangers of starting early

During lengthy discussions in the City Council meetings that lead up to the ordinance’s passing, many proponents cited alcohol-related health concerns and the dangers of underage drinking.

Kelly Vander Werff, prevention manager for the Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA), said underage drinking can have both short and long-term effects on a person’s health.

Vander Werff said underage drinking can damage the brain’s frontal lobe, the brain’s decision making center, which is still developing until around the age of 25. She also said underage drinkers are more likely to drink in a high-risk way, and research has shown that people who start drinking early are more likely to become addicted.

“If everyone would wait until they are 21 we would see a lot fewer problems in the adult population,” Vander Werff said.

Environmental change

The 21-ordinance is an example of what health professionals call “environmental change” and can be one of the most effective ways to reduce widespread alcohol-related problems.

Doug Beardsley, director of the Johnson County Public Health Department, said in order to combat underage drinking and overconsumption it’s important for city law to be in alliance with community expectations.

“As it is, you do have that kind of tacit acceptance,” Beardsley said. “This [ordinance] aligns public policy and our stated desire to cut down on underage drinking.”

Beardsley said similar ordinances implemented in other areas have been successful in reducing underage drinking and thought the same was possible for Iowa City.

UI Student Health offers several programs to help students with substance abuse

Angela Reams, substance abuse prevention coordinator at UI Student Health, noted that not only is it important for these laws to be enacted, but also enforced.

“Research has shown that enforcement of the legal drinking age and enforcing legal bar entry age reduces high risk drinking and underage drinking,” Reams said in an email.

Vander Werff said Iowa City’s high alcohol outlet density – the majority of the city’s 52 bars are in the downtown area – is a major cause of the city’s alcohol-related problems.

“Having easy access to alcohol increases consumption for all ages,” Vander Werff said. “Decreasing access is the primary way people see population-level change.”

A different kind of education

But as effective as environmental change can be, Vander Werff and others agree that alcohol education is also critical to effecting lasting change in the community.

The UI already has several alcohol education programs in place which are continuing to expand.

The AlcoholEdu program is “designed to prevent alcohol-related problems and educate students on the impact of alcohol on the mind and body,” according to the UI website. For the past four years the program has been mandatory for all first year students, but will be expanded next year to include all incoming students including transfer students who are not 21 by the start of school, Reams said.

The UI also recently added the e-CHUG program which allows students to receive instant feedback on their drinking habits and provides information about how they can live a healthier lifestyle.

Reams said programs such as e-CHUG can be very helpful in curbing high-risk behavior.

“Research has shown that programs that provide assessment with instant feedback about behaviors can assist students in thinking more about their behaviors while drinking, encourage the incorporation of more protective factors, challenge social drinking norms, and decrease high risk use,” Reams said in an email.

And apart from the university, MECCA, for which Vander Werff is a prevention manager, has prevention staff working in all Johnson County high schools to educate those younger students about the dangers of alcohol.

A piece of the puzzle

But environmental change and education are still not enough.

Beardsley said the city needs more alcohol-alternative outlets for students and other underage people to participate in.

“Let’s make this a place where they can engage in social activities where they don’t drink,” Beardsley said.

UI President Sally Mason has made alcohol-alternative events for students a priority and while the Campus Activities Board and Residence Life put on several programs every weekend, the events are poorly attended. Many students still feel it’s not enough, with popular events like Night Games only being held once a month.

And while UI officials look for new ways to educate students and attract them to sober events, everyone agrees that the 21-ordinance is not going to solve the city’s alcohol problems on its own.

“There is no one solution to curbing high risk drinking, so [the ordinance] is definitely part of a larger plan including environmental change, policy change, and education along with other initiatives,” Reams said in an email.

Vander Werff echoed Reams, saying the ordinance is not the final solution, but a necessary step towards healthier drinking in Iowa City.

“It’s a piece that needs to be there for the rest of the plan to come together,” Vander Werff said.

For a look at some of the public safety concerns surrounding the 21-ordinance, click here.

New Study Aims to Help Smokers Quit, Maintain Healthy Lifestyle

Filed under: IC Stories: Ackerson, Smoking, Iowa City Stories — tylerackerson @ 3:17 am

Smokers at the University of Iowa and in the Iowa City community will soon have an opportunity to kick the habit.

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Treatment and Prevention Study, will seek to help certain smokers with high blood pressure to quit smoking and maintain a healthy lifestyle after they quit to prevent them from gaining weight and continuing to have high blood pressure.

“We’re trying to see if we can help patients quit smoking, stay off tobacco and try to better manage their weight and blood pressure,” said Dr. Mark Vander Weg, a physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and head researcher of the study.

To accomplish the goal, the study is broken up into two phases.  During the first phase, participants will receive assistance to quit smoking through nicotine replacement via the nicotine patch.  In addition to nicotine replacement, participants will also receive smoking cessation counseling to further increase their chances of quitting.

Those participants who successfully quit smoking during phase one will move on to phase two. During the second phase, participants will focus on implementing healthy lifestyle changes in order to prevent weight gain and reduce high blood pressure.  Participants will make dietary and nutritional changes during phase two to help them achieve this goal.

Also during phase two, participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups in order to help them maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.

One of the groups will be provided with self-help materials in order to make the necessary lifestyle changes on their own.

The second group will receive a weight-gain prevention intervention.

The third group will also receive the weight gain prevention intervention, but they will also be provided with dietary recommendations that will help participants specifically maintain their blood pressure.

According to the study’s website, those interested in participating may be eligible for the study if:

  • Your blood pressure is at least slightly above normal (prehypertensive) or high (hypertensive)
  • You presently smoke five (5) or more cigarettes a day
  • You are willing to quit smoking or have quit smoking within the past six (6) weeks
  • You are able to meet regularly on weekdays or weekday evenings for sessions
  • You are between the ages of 18 and 75

Interested applicants are not eligible for the study if:

  • You currently consume more than 21 alcoholic drinks per week
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding, plan to become pregnant, or unwilling to perform a urine pregnancy test (if applicable)
  • You plan to travel extensively or move in the next year
  • You do not have access to a telephone
  • You have recently had unstable angina, heart attack,stroke, coronary bypass, or angioplasty
  • You have severe chronic lung disease
  • You have moderate to severe heart failure, or a history of severe liver or kidney failure
  • You have peripheral vascular disease which causes you to be unable to walk any distance without significant leg pains
  • Your blood pressure is consistently greater than 160/10

Student Interest

One student planning on applying to participate in the study is Mark Fritzsche.  Fritzsche said that he has been smoking for almost two years now and has used smoking as means to deal with stress.c

Mark Fritzsche smokes outside of Burge Residence Hall. Fritzsche plans to enroll in the study to kick the habit.

He said he wants to quit because cigarettes are too expensive.  He also said he worries that he is at a heightened risk for high blood pressure because of family history, though he is unsure whether he currently has high blood pressure.

“It’s just becoming a real strain on my wallet,” said Fritzsche, a 22-year-old marketing and entrepeneurship double major at the UI. “It’s also not good health-wise for someone like me to smoke, so I need to find some way to quit and stay off it.”

Fritzsche said that he had tried to quit smoking cold turkey over winter break but was unsuccessful.  He said that he is optimistic that his chances of quitting smoking would be increased if he is able to participate in the study.

“I just need someone to stand behind me and give me that little push I need to overcome this,” said Fritzsche.

Smoking Statistics

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States.  According to, every year more than 400,000 Americans die from a tobacco-related disease.  In the United States an estimated 25.9 million men and 22.8 million women are smokers.

According to a 2003 MARS OTC/DTC study, 33 percent of smokers have abnormally high blood pressure compared with 15 percent of the general population.

In Iowa, 18.8 percent of the adult population is current cigarette smokers, with Iowa 29th among all states according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Though Iowa has the Smokefree Air Act preventing smoking in work places and public places, Iowa still ranks 44th among all states with a 10.1 percent exposure rate to secondhand smoke in public or work areas, according to the CDC.

The CDC also ranks Iowa 22nd among states for its taxes on cigarettes which are currently $1.36 a pack.  Iowa also has a minimum price law requiring wholesalers to mark up cigarettes by 4 percent and retailers to mark up by at least 8 percent.

For more information on the study, interested individuals can visit the study’s website.  To enroll in the study, call (319) 384-5055 or contact Dr. Mark Vander Weg at Enrollment ends May 31, 2010.

May 11, 2010

Progress Against Sexual Violence in Iowa City

T-shirts decorate the Pentacrest for Sexual Violence Awareness Month

April was Sexual Violence Awareness month. On April 27th, the southeastern side of the University of Iowa penacrest was decorated with a plethora of colorful t-shirts. These many t-shirts gave voice to the victims of sexual violence and abuse.

“All sexual abuse is about power and control,” Said Karen Siler, the Johnson County Services Coordinator at the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

The shirts on the Pentecrest gave some of that power back to the victims. One shirt read “men who beat women are chicken.” Many of the shirts expressed overcoming the memories that haunt them.

“Our voices will be heard,” read another shirt.

Stastistics from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network state that one in six women and one in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In the United States today, there are 17.7 million women who have been a victim of rape or attempted rape.

Dispite the high number of women effected by sexual violence, more than half of assaults never get reported.

In Iowa City

Officer Allison is a key actor in the Night Ride program at the University of Iowa. The program started in September of 2007 and was created to address the amount of sexual violence in Iowa City. At the time, there were over 30 or so assaults in the Iowa City area per year. Officer Allison was quick to point out that the real number can never actually be known because of the amount of cases that go unreported.

“The program was developed to protect the people that needed to be protected,” he said, “Something they could do for free, no questions asked.”

Around 200 people use the Night Ride service per weekend. The service runs until three in the morning seven days a week. During finals week at the University, the service runs until five in the morning, to better accomadate students who are studying late. It also picks up staff and will transport them to their cars.

Siler hopes that the recently passed 21-Ordinance will help lessen the amount of sexual assaults in Iowa City as well. “The atmosphere promots a lot of violence,” she said, speaking of the bar scene. “Some of the predatory access I hope will lessen.”

In a world where women have had to fight for their rights, societies view on women has an effect on the violence and rape against them. According to Siler, the victim is often blamed for the acts commited against her, whether it be for the way she acted or the way she dressed.

“Which is terrible, saying well you brought it upon yourself,” Said Jill Kacere, President of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at the University of Iowa.

Wearing shorter skirts may be “risky behavior,” but that is not the point, according to Kacere.

The Rape Victim Advocacy Program focuses more “on the people around and how they can respond,” said Siler.

As an example, Siler gave a situation. You see someone helping an intoxicated person into a car. Check and see if the person is all right; ask if they know each other.

University of Iowa Junior, Katie Nicklaus recalls a time where she stumbled upon a girl walking alone one night. When asked why she decided to approach the girl, she Nicklaus said, “She was obviously drunk and a chick and alone.” It’s about looking out for one another.

An inspiring sheet decorated to promote power to the victims of sexual violence.

“At least just educate yourself and get somewhat involved,” said Kacere.

According to Siler, the police and medical personnel are doing all of the right things to protect people in the community. “I think there are some good policies,” she said, “[but] the only things that will stop violence is by people making the decision not to be violent.”

Abortion:Past and Present

Filed under: IC Stories: Vrba, Women's Issues, Iowa City Stories — TK @ 9:37 pm


The word alone calls forth strong emotions in most people, fueling political intense political debate and religious vindications. It has been in increasing debate, especially after 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, which made abortions legal in the United States.

The Debate

Many women’s rights organizations consider it a right to have a choice, including the Feminist Majoridy Leadership Alliance, and the Emma Goldman Clinic. The alliance is a University of Iowa student organizations which promotes women’s rights. The Emma Goldman Clinic is a women’s health care clinic in Iowa City.

The debate invokes the question, is the abortion argument an argument of morality or rights?

“I think it’s neither,” Said 20-year old University of Iowa Junior Katie Nicklaus. “It’s a medical procedure. It should be treated like a medical procedure.”

The Emma Goldman Clinic is one of the places in Iowa City where a person can go to get this procedure. The non-profit clinic was founded in 1973

The Emma Goldman Clinic didn’t respond to request for an interview. A letter from a supporter of the clinic and who witnessed its founding depicts her experiences on the website. “The idea of an “abortion clinic” in our community was not the way we [many of my friends and I] saw the EGC,” she said. “It was a women’s health clinic that would offer abortions as one of many services.”

The other side of the argument involves those who are against abortion.

20-year old Elizabeth Adolphi considers herself pro-life.  “The argument on abortion is about both moral rights and women’s rights, but i think its mostly about moral rights,” she said.  “Abortion is the act of a mother who doesn’t want her child and, to me, that’s selfish.”

Adolphi points out that a women can give the child up for adoption if she doesn’t want her child.  “There are so many people out there who cant have children that desperately want one,” she said.   “So, if you ever conceive through rape, incest, or sheer mistake think about your options and lean on the people who love you; they’ll help you get through it.”

There are also health risks to abortion.  Adolphi says that abortion does not just hurt the baby, but it can hurt the mother physically and sycologically.

The Emma Goldman clinic lists emotional changes and silightly elivated fever under normal side effects of getting an abortion.

The History

The United States Supreme Court made their Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Yet, abortion is not a recent phenomenon that has risen out of technological and medical advances.

Raymond A. Mentzer, who researches European religious history and is the current chair of the religious studies program at the University of Iowa, talked about pregnancy and abortion in terms of through early European history. “Women didn’t really consider themselves pregnant until it moved.” He said. This is because many women were malnourished and would often miscarry. They didn’t consider themselves pregnant unless there was some sign that the conception would result in a birth.

“[abortion] really wasn’t approved of, but it happened.” said Mentzer. “It was easy to find a dead baby,” Home remedies for terminating a pregnancy were common enough that they had their own euphemism. Preperations to terminate a pregnancy were sometimes referred to as “taking the trade.”

According Mentzer, the Christian argument against abortion is founded in the idea of ensoulment. “There’s this argument made that life begins at conception,” he said.
The issue he finds in that argument is in the case of identical twins. He said, “Only after conception does it [the fertilized egg] split.”

This splitting of the fertilized egg usually occurs within a week or so of fertilization.


Abortion has received recent attention due to its involvement in the health care legislation.  A summary of the bill on the CBS News website states that no state funds will be used to fund abortions.  Rape, incest, and health of the mother are exceptions to this.

University of Iowa – Fields of philanthropy

Hawkeye’s helpers – The leader of the pact

Caitlin Mangin spending time with the families who are a part of Dance Marathon

The University of Iowa has remarkable students who are a part of the many organizations and philanthropies on campus. These students put their leadership skills to the test and dedicate their time to help raise money for their cause. Molly McDonnell, Caitlin Mangin and Lauren Schulze are prime examples of having leadership positions in a philanthropy/organization to help groups in need.

Molly McDonnell – QUASH

Molly McDonnell is an active member of QUASH, which is an organization to help increase awareness and raise money for those with Alzheimer disease. Many students like McDonnell enjoy the feeling of giving their free time to help others and to increase awareness of a specific cause.

When asked why McDonnell joined QUASH, she replied, “I joined the Hawkeyes Fighting Alzheimer’s group to be apart of the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. As a college kid, I don’t have much time for anything outside of the classroom setting. I have little money to make a significant impact in research. QUASH is a way for young people like myself to actually make an impact through fund-raising and just having a good time with good people for a good cause even in the chaotic and limiting college lifestyle.”

Caitlin Mangin – Dance Marathon

Caitlin Mangin also believes in McDonnell’s philosophy in fund-raising. Mangin has recently been crowned as one of the 49 Dance Marathon Morale Captains for 2011. One of the many reasons why Mangin joined Dance Marathon was because she “wanted to be more involved and Dance Marathon is a great organization to get involved in to help those with cancer.”

“Raising money isn’t that hard. If you really put your work into asking around, it’ll all work out in the end. I emailed a bunch of my family members and the money kept coming in. I raised more than the minimum and it felt great.”

So there are dancers and then there are Morale Captains. What exactly are Morale Captains? “Morale Captains promote Dance Marathon and get people to join and tell people about it. They help fund-raise and we help go visit the kids in the college unit at the hospitals.

Lauren Schulze – Kappa Alpha Theta

The Greek community is also actively involved in fund-raising such as Phi Kappa Psi and Kappa Alpha Theta. These two houses recently had their combined philanthropy event here at the University of Iowa on May 1, 2010. The two houses hosted the event at the field house for the basketball tournament.

Kappa Alpha Theta’s philanthropy chair, Lauren Schulze was in charge of organizing this year’s “Phi Psi & Theta Hoops! 3-v-3 Basketball Tournament”. Schulze let us know exactly what their philanthropy event consisted of and where the raised proceeds go.

* * * * *

Lending a helping hand – The crew

Others simply join the organization because they relate to the group of people within. Many groups and philanthropies consist of members who have the same interest in the cause. If it weren’t for the members, then these groups wouldn’t exist. The work and dedication of members of certain organizations really make a difference.

Chloe Lee

Chloe Lee participated in the “Phi Psi & Theta Hoops! 3-v-3 Basketball Tournament,” where I got a chance to ask her why she decided to participate in this particular event.

“A lot of the girls in my sorority enjoy being active, physically, and on campus. We wanted to help the other Greek houses for a great cause because we know we like when we have many Greek participants in our philanthropy, too.”

Madison Sheets

Senior Madison Sheets joined a sorority because she “wanted to meet other girls that were like [her] because all of [her] best friends were off to college together and [she] was all alone so [she] thought rush would be a good way to meet people”.

Sheets’ sorority has a different approach than most when it comes to promoting their event and raising proceeds for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, which is a foundation for those diagnosed by breast cancer and those who have survived. Sororities at the University of Iowa do an excellent job at marketing their event – whether it is through social media websites or face-to-face communication, Sheets’ sorority uses the old fashion method because “it is more effective”.

Women of Kappa Alpha Theta during the 3v3 Phi Psi - Theta Hoops Philanthropy Event

“We are all encouraged to ask family members and friends for donations for the race. We also talk to businesses around the Iowa City area and the University for donations, as well. We go canning during home football and basketball games. We chose Z’Mariks and Coldstone, where they give us a certain profit and proceeds. We also go around to different fraternities and sororities and other student organizations asking them to sign up as teams so we can get more donations for the race. And all the proceeds from the race go to our philanthropic fund”.

Sheets loves giving her time to those in need because “it actually feels like your making a difference. The time, stress about making the event as successful as the last makes it all worth it – especially because you’re helping people who have their lives on the line.”

Kaitlin Brown

Like Sheets, sophomore Kaitlin Brown is also a part of a sorority and other organizations on campus. One organization she cares about deeply is Dance Marathon because she “enjoys raising money for a good cause.”

Brown ran the Chicago Marathon in 2009 – which is also a very successful fund-raising event hosted in Chicago, Illinois. Many University of Iowa students ran the Chicago Marathon last year, as well.

Each year, all participants of Dance Marathon have to raise a minimum of $400, where as those who run, or take part in another marathon have to a raise a minimum of $750.

Students usually don’t have the time to raise this kind of money but students, like Brown, tend to surprise and impress many people with the amount of money each of them raise. “I had a lot of fun and a lot of support raising this money. It makes me feel like I was able to make a difference.”

* * * * *

These dancers take a quick little break and smile for the camera

A little goes a long wayThe givers

Many college students already have a full schedule of classes, work, volunteer work and other activities on campus. Because of these other commitments, most students find donating money just as helpful, because it truly is.

Dominique Deery

Dominique Deery is an active giver to the University of Iowa and the associations affiliated with the University. Deery donates $25 a year to both Dance Marathon and the University of Alumni Association.

“I give to the UI because I am a big believer in improving the quality of student life and making sure it is always an improving experience for future Iowa students.”

Deery’s mother and aunt passed away from cancer and her mother always used to talk about the babies in the cancer clinics that would get the same kind of treatment [her mother] did so Deery wanted to make an impact on a child’s life.

Many students are like Deery and are a part of the University of Iowa Alumni Association because they want to better the education for incoming students. Sheets is also a part of this organization because she wants to “help make students coming to the University of Iowa have the same and better experience” like she.

“For both, I am glad to be a part of it. I wish I could give more, but I feel like every gift counts. What if they were only $25 away from having all the money they need? Then I made a difference. It makes me want to work harder to be able to give more some day.”

Katie Rosch

Katie Rosch, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, gives gifts to the Women in Business organization in the College of Business. She, like Deery, wants to see this particular organization improve and become very successful because Rosch knows “this organization will help those who want to be successful business women someday, just like me”.

Rosch continues to be an active member and continues giving to Women in Business, knowing it will “help [me] in the future. I’m in college, I have low funds but I just think of it as, I’m helping something I strongly believe in and I want this to continue in success. I can’t whip out $100 out of my pocket but I can give $10”.

Nick Eckerman

Nick Eckerman is a student who gives to organization on and off campus. Some organizations he’s been previously, and presently donating to have been Environment Iowa, Dance Marathon at the University of Iowa and United Way.

Eckerman, like many college students can’t seem to fit the time to help organize events so “giving money is the least I can do”.

“My boss takes out 5% of my paycheck for each pay period to donate to United Way. Knowing my earned money is going to a worthwhile cause makes work even more fun that it already is.”

Eckerman is ending his college career here at the University of Iowa this May. He feels great that even though he couldn’t necessarily put the time and effort like other students on campus to coordinate events, Eckerman “donated $25 every year to Dance Marathon, totaling $100”. “I give a lot of credit to those who’ve danced for 24-hours for the past four years, I know I couldn’t do it. In general though, I feel great about giving and will continue giving”.

May 9, 2010

A Resident Assistant with a Lot of Moxie.

Getting some studying done while he can.

“Well, you have to like people, and you have to be able to put up with a lot of dumb shit, and I mean really dumb stuff,” said Nick Colsch,  as he put down his coffee while reading at the Java House.  It’s all a part of the job of being what students call an “R.A.,” or Resident Assistant in University of Iowa student housing.

Colsch has been an R.A.  for three years,  working in Currier Hall and now Mayflower.   After three years on the frontline, Colsch is full of stories.  One of the more ridiculous experiences he has had to tolerate involved a case of oranges.

“I was compacting trash, and some f***er-resident decided to take out their screen and throw oranges at me.  It’s January.  I saw this orange crushed.  They were throwing oranges from their window,” says Colsch.

Colsch notices a difference in the atmosphere between residence halls.  “In Currier the demographic is radically different than Mayflower.  A lot of kids often sign up for Currier and Hillcrest largely because of the quiet atmosphere.  It’s more of a studying environment.  Mayflower is the last kids to register.  We have a large number of international students.  It’s a zoo more than a residence hall.”

Both residence halls were searched back in April, and at least 13 students from both Currier and Mayflower were found to be in possession of marijuana.  This doesn’t come as any surprise to Nick, who as an R.A. has had to intervene in rooms where students have drugs and alcohol against dorm rules.  “[The] discipline level is a lot worse out in Mayflower, partly because they have kitchens, and can hide stuff.  They want to seem older, so alcohol appeals to them.”

Colsch says the R.A. program has changed since he started working severak years ago.  Instead of being focused on programs or activities for students living in the halls for participation, he says the training relies more on instructing R.A.s how to be more sociable, and have a hospitable presence when talking to students.

However, R.A.s can still use programs if they’d like. “It really depends on your style as an R.A.  Some R.A.’s kind of program like crazy, and the residents like it, and that just works for that floor,” says John Komdat, an R.A. on Currier’s second floor.  Komdat has worked with Colsch before in R.A. training, and says Nick’s style wouldn’t work for everyone. “The way that he makes the job work for him takes intelligence, and intentionality.  He’s a character.  I think most people would agree.”

Favorite movie:

-Joe Dirt

Favorite book:

Lamb by Christopher Moore

Favorite music:

I’ve been getting into really old Motown.  The Four Tops and the Spinners, the Supremes

Favorite activities:

“I’ve been running a lot.”

Favorite food:

Coffee (if you call that a food)

Nick has a wicked sense of humor that gets him through most on-the-job challenges.  He thinks with a little more practice, those irritating residents in Mayflower hurling oranges out the window at him could become “bombers.”  Still, while Nick has a personality that almost any resident can get along with, there is a stereotype that he knows makes him stand out.  Being an R.A., says Nick, “pulls you out of a normal life for a year, because you’re looked at like a fish.  You’re introduced first as an R.A. rather than by your name.”

While Nick says he has enjoyed the experience of being an R.A. he says he feels burned out from the experience and plans to get an apartment next year.  After that, Nick plans to graduate and is optimistic he will find a job in his major:  Accounting.  At least as an accountant, no one should be throwing oranges at him.

Recycling To Go Further in the Future for UI Residence Halls

Without Recycling

Many Things discarded in the East side Residence Halls can be recycled

Most Iowa City neighborhoods have been recycling for years, but there has been one big exception.  University of Iowa residence halls are just now “going green,” implementing a new program that encourages students to recycle at every dorm across campus.  Most students see it as a welcome and overdue change.

Currently, west side neighborhood residence halls Quadrangle, Rienow, Slater, and Hillcrest all have blue bins located throughout the buildings for students to dispose of their plastic, paper, and bottle waste.  So far students in this neighborhood are very appreciative of the blue bins, and don’t find separating their trash to be an extra chore.

“It was more annoying not to have one, bottles aren’t filling up your garbage.  We had a bag for water bottles anyway,” said freshman Delanie McAndrews, who lives in Rienow Hall.

While students are enjoying this program on the west side of campus, students on the other side of the river are still throwing out their trash the old-fashioned way.  Recycling bins are noticeably absent from the east side residence halls of Currier, Burge, Stanley, and Daum.  However, there is a plan to implement the new recycling program beginning in the Fall 2010 semester.

The Roadblocks

Students on the East side of campus have wanted a recycling program just as much as the students on the West side, but their frustration will last a few more months.  It has left students like Currier resident Jim Duff asking, ‘what’s the holdup?’

“I don’t recycle anything right now because I don’t have the option,” says  Duff.  “I don’t think it would cost that much.”

But according to the University, a full-scale recycling program is expensive and complex.  “While it may seem pretty simple to offer these receptacles throughout the residence halls, it’s more difficult than it may seem,” says  Dr. Von Stange, the director of University of Iowa residence services.  He wanted to implement a recycling program as a small test in order to gauge the resources necessary to successfully move to a full-scale recycling program for thousands of students.  Stange said, “We needed to make sure we were doing it well, and that our vendor, City Carton and their collectors could handle the recycling going on.  It could mean adding additional routes.”

Dr. Stange said he isn’t trying to delay a move to go green on campus, and he understands the desire of students to do their part to recycle.  Stange said he also sees the environmental need to implement recycling at University residence halls.   While all those are good goals, he said, diverting tons of potential trash to a separate stream of recyclables has to be accomplished so it’s effective, economical and so the program can be managed by current staff.   Stange says that’s no easy task – and it’s taken a long time to get this far.

When Dr.  Stange started his job of Director of Residence Services six years ago one of the first issues he was confronted with concerned a recycling program.  He says at that time there wasn’t a recycling system good enough to handle all the residence hall garbage.  Not only that, there was no idea how much a recycling program would cost to put in place.   “We needed to know what it was going to take to establish this financially,” said Stange.  Dr. Stange estimates it may cost $3,000 to implement the program, but ultimately, it’s too soon to say how much it will cost altogether.

Putting a Plan into Action

It takes more than money to make a recycling program work.  Dr.  Stange says he understood from the beginning that the program was going to need the cooperation of the people who have been asking for it: the students living in residence halls.

Rather than raise room and board fees for students by $50 a semester to pay for recycling, Stange came up with the idea of employing students as  workers in the new recycling program.  While some students were recruited for part-time recycling jobs, there are also additional temporary positions in place to make sure things run smoothly during the test period.   By being a little creative in shuffling the staff to meet the demands of the new recycling plan, Stange says the University may be able to avoid raising room and board fees at the residence halls.

However, there may still be a fee to pay at the end of the year.  No one knows exactly how much money it’s going to cost to collect and process the recyclable waste generated by the dorms.  The worst case scenario, says Stange, is that students might have to pay an additional fee to keep the program up and running, but he expects it would be less than $50 a year.

So, why did it take so long to get recycling going in the first place?  “The hold up was making sure we had the facilities, the staffing, and the vendors to help do this,” said Stange.

Looking to the Future

Now that the pilot recycling program is operating in the west side dorms, Stange says it also uncovered a few other snags.  Students had to be trained and reminded how to properly recycle.   Some residence hall staff were very conscientious, said Stange, and others were “hit and miss” when it came to enforcing new recycling rules and reminding students.  Developing the recycling habit will be a constant effort because each year there is a new crop of dorm residents who must learn the system.

Nonetheless, Dr. Stange still plans to move forward, and put the program in the east side residence halls next year, and the larger apartment based halls, Parklawn and Mayflower, too.   The program will remain labor intensive, and it could even spawn some new jobs as recycling is extended across campus.  “One of the things we’re looking at is the student labor at this point, and hiring full time custodial staff to increase management,” said Dr. Stange.

Still, it’s anyone’s guess as to exactly how much this could all add up to by the end of 2010 when the recycling program becomes more widespread, and more management jobs are added to keep it running smoothly.  Students, however, seem to think it is money well spent.  They see the benefit of recycling versus throwing everything in the trash.

“It’s interesting to see it change form then to now.  I’m glad its there, cause it is something I use,” said Bret Scofeild, a resident living in Quadrangle.

The easiest solution, says Stange, may not be the best solution in the end.  The simplest and cheapest thing to do was to ignore recycling.  “Financially we found we could throw our trash away instead of recycling.  But as an institution of higher learning it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s the most financially prudent model.  I think we’ll find a program down the road that is strong, but not without some bumps in the road first.”

May 8, 2010

The Road to Reform

The Beginning

During the 2008 presidential campaign, healthcare reform was one of the top issues of concern.

Around 47 million Americans were without health coverage and millions more without adequate coverage. Americans were having to choose between putting food on the table or having to pay for much needed medication. Most Americans chose to put food on the table and, unfortunately, made due with their health.

45,000 Americans were dying every year to do either poor, or non-existent, coverage.

Going to Work

After Barack Obama was elected president, he went straight to work on repairing the ails of the country. His first project, and rightfully so, was to bailout a number of big banks to prevent another Great Depression.

But after the bailouts, Obama immediately turned his focus onto healthcare. Attempting to make due on his promise, he let the Congress know that he would not anything less than a public option in a bill that reached his desk. The Congress immediately went to work.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, began wrangling fellow Democrats to being the process of constructing a health bill in Obama’s vision.

An Unexpected Turn

While ideas of how to construct the healthcare bill were in the works, Congress went to recess over the summer months of 2009. Democrats decided to place any legislation-building on hold to win the hearts and minds of their constituents at home.

This strategy, Democrats hoped, would place the Republicans in a tough spot; to prevent them from any legislative blocking measures such as the use of the filibuster. Democrats believed their constituents were very much in favor of reforming the healthcare industry and were desperately wanting a public option.

What happened over the three months was a situation the Democrats, and the President, didn’t expect to have happen.

Republican members of Congress were labeling the public option as the expansion of the Federal government and the beginning of when the government would be telling its citizens how to live their own lives.

Hundreds of town hall meetings took place during the period, and the Republicans were on the offensive. The bad news for Democrats? The Republican message was winning.

Rise of the Death Panels

At these town hall meetings, many American citizens voiced their concerns that the government was, indeed, becoming too large and would infringe upon any rights they had as individuals.

Democratic members of Congress, all to often, came face-to-face with scared and angry constituents at their town halls and spent much of their time on the defensive.

Republican members of Congress met with the same crowd of Americans, but seemed to be more welcomed by their constituents. Republicans echoed their constituents concerns at these meetings in order to solidify their message. It was working.

Media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity were helping to spread the Republican message. As the summer drew on, more and more pollsters found that more Americans were not favoring a reform on healthcare.

It wasn’t until August when the most damning assault on healthcare reform arrived: death panels.

Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, stated that the Federal government, under the proposed healthcare reform, would be “putting Grandma to death.”

This became very disturbing to elderly citizens and the message spread, like wildfire, throughout the media. Soon enough, prominent Republicans, such as Sarah Palin, began echoing the message that Senator Grassley has spawned.

Democrats realized that the road to health reform, could very well be lost.

Pressing On

By late summer, the Democrats began to wonder if a repeat of 1994 was going to occur. In 1994, the Clinton Administration had tried their hand at health reform only to have it utterly defeated by the newly elected Republican Congress. It was a bitter defeat for the administration.

While Democrats lost the message war, they weren’t losing their fight. But it became clear that a public option in the bill was not going to happen, so other means of passing healthcare reform had to be explored.

Pelosi’s Victory

It was up to House Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to gather fellow Democrats for an historic vote. Pelosi worked tirelessly to gain the minimum 218 votes needed to pass the bill in the House.

In November, the healthcare bill finally saw voting time. The bill passed by a 220-215 margin.

While it was history in the making, the media felt that health reform was still very much in danger due to the small margin of victory and, now, having to go through a much more stubborn Senate.

Senator Reed’s Battle

Like his House counterpart, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had to deliver enough votes on health reform.

But the problem was that Senate Republicans were going to be more difficult than their colleagues in the House. They were not going to rollover and let this bill slide through as easily. Senate Republicans wanted to amend the bill; to eliminate aspects of it that they did not agree with and, then, to push it through.

Senator Reid faced a tougher challenge than Speaker Pelosi. There was worry that, even though Republicans didn’t have the minimum 40 members required to start a filibuster, there was concern that any blue-dog Democrat, such as Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, may join the Republicans in slowing the process down, if not, defeating the healthcare bill all together.

After going through numerous committees, some changes had been made to the bill. But there was now concern that if enough changes took place, the bill would have to go back to the House for approval if the Senate were to pass it.

Speaker Pelosi expressed some concerns of that situation taking place, but was not going to worry too much about it unless it did become a reality. Senate Democrats had enough time to block Republican amendments to the bill and to speed it up to a vote.

That’s exactly what they did.

Senate Passes Reform

Senate Democrats decided that the Republican party had enough say in the health reform debate. They believed Republicans were only obstructing the process instead of bringing solutions to the table and blocked any proposed amendments to the bill; such as an abortion amendment that wouldn’t allow Federal funds to pay for a woman’s abortion.

When it came time to vote, the Senate passed the healthcare bill by a margin of 60-39.

Signed into Law

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the healthcare bill into law. History was made.

Two days after signing, President Obama went on a cross-country tour to celebrate the victory and to continue to build support for health reform.

His first stop was at the University of Iowa; a town that is as pro-Obama as you can get. During his speech, in front of 3,000 people at the Field House on the University of Iowa campus, President Obama celebrated the victory.

But what was more important to him was to let people know that, while a huge battle was fought and won, so much more work needed to be done.

Health Reform a Sign of Too Much Government to Some

Filed under: IC Stories: Nessa, Health Care — Tags: , — Kent Nessa @ 12:38 pm

Protesters of President Obama's Iowa City visit crowd the East lawn of the Old Capitol.


On March 24, a day before President Obama made a visit to the University of Iowa, opponents of the newly-signed healthcare legislation gathered on the Pentacrest to voice their concerns of a Federal government that was expanding in size and infringing on the states’ rights and those of the American citizen.

“Our elected officials strapped us with a bill we, the people, don’t want,” said 2nd District candidate, Christopher Reed. “No more, Mr. President! Not without a fight!”

The gathering of citizens at the Pentacrest included speakers from the Republican candidates looking to challenge incumbent Democrats for their seats at the state and Federal levels. The crowd contained a mixture of Republican and Tea Party supporters.

Waking a Sleeping Giant

Signs littered the crowd showing the disapproval of the healthcare legislation. “You, the voting public, have a lot of think about,” said Reed specifically citing the midterm elections this November. “The government is usurping the Constitution. You have woke a sleeping giant, Washington.”

“Where was our Attorney General?” asked Brenna Finley who is looking to succeed incumbent, Tom Miller. “Tom Miller isn’t protecting your rights.”

A Bill not for the People

Some of those opposed feel that, not only does the bill increase the size of government, but that it also doesn’t do what it says it will do. “People would have to pay for everyone else’s health care, including illegals,” said Minneapolis resident, Jason Nessa.

“It’s a collective-type of bill. It’s a big pharma bailout. If you don’t pay, the government will fine you $15,000 and put you in jail for five years,” Nessa said.

Concern for States’ Rights

Nessa isn’t surprised that 13 state Attorney Generals are suing the Federal government over the new legislation, “It’s [the] government interfering with state affairs. Citizens are the main source of power in our country, not the Federal government.”

But Nessa believes that healthcare shouldn’t put millions of Americans into debt, “The overall system should be free. [People] shouldn’t have to go into debt for medical care. It was free for a long time many years ago.”

However, Nessa thinks healthcare problems should not be handled at the Federal government level, “I want it to be free, [but] states will decide what’s best for the people.”

It’s About Time: Arrival of Health Reform

Filed under: IC Stories: Nessa, Health Care — Tags: , , — Kent Nessa @ 11:15 am

The Bill

The healthcare legislation, that was signed into law by President Obama back in March, couldn’t have come at a better time for many Americans.

Nearly 50 million Americans, and counting, didn’t have any form of health insurance. Harvard medical researchers have found that approximately 45,000 Americans die every year, because they don’t have any health care.

The new healthcare legislation includes such provisions as:

  • Not being turned down by physicians due to any pre-existing health conditions.
  • Physicals, and other preventive measures, will not only be more affordable, but will not be paid for out-of-pocket by the patient due to his/her health insurance/Medicare not including it in their coverage.
  • The freezing and, in some cases, lowering of premiums, to make health care more affordable.
  • Prescriptions available at a greatly reduced price.
  • College students can stay on their parents’ health insurance up until the age of 26.
  • Tax incentives for businesses that provide health coverage to their employees.

Those the Bill Impacts

That last point is one of the reasons why University of Iowa senior, Jake Shkolnick is excited about the new healthcare reform, “When I do get a job, I know I’ll have health insurance. If I get sick, they can’t take it away from me.”

Adding on to another benefit of the healthcare legislation, “[It] keeps costs down while keeping a better quality of life,” Shkolnick said. “I’ll [also] get ti stay on my parents’ health insurance.”

While Shkolnick is tremendously thrilled that reform is on its way, he realizes that the legislation still isn’t perfect. “I would certainly like to see a not-for-profit public option [and] even more tax breaks for low-income individuals if they can’t get it through their employer.”

Rick Spooner, 47 and an Iowa City resident, is all to familiar with the struggles that many Americans face. Spooner suffers from cerebral palsy and has avoided doctor visits in the past due to high costs of the visits. “I wish the free enterprise system would work, but it hasn’t worked out that way,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta do something.”

Spooner likes “reassurance of any insurance option. That you can afford a physician. As I get older, my medical condition could get worse. I can barely afford groceries now. I would prefer to pay for my own medical care [but] that isn’t the current case.”

Spooner uses Medicare and Medicaid as his means of paying for any medical costs. But those measures haven’t even been able to give Spooner the kind of health coverage he needs. “[They] can’t do preventive health procedures unless it’s an emergency. Last physical I took, I had to absorb costs.”

Uncertainty & Wanted Improvements

The lack of coverage by either Medicare and Medicaid has forced Spooner to not even see the physician when he needed. There have “been several times I would have gone into a physician just to feel better, but didn’t. A lot of existing health coverage won’t cover preventive medicine. Depends on the test too. [But] I don’t which tests are covered and which ones are not; so I don’t get them.”

Spooner also wishes the health care legislation was better to people with lower incomes. “My mobility may be affected when I get older. If I have to be in a wheelchair, who’s going to pay for that? What if I can’t do regular household duties? What if I can’t afford a maid to help me if I can’t do that when I’m 70?

“If I get a serious medical problem, I don’t know what Medicare and Medicaid will cover. The current system doesn’t remove the insecurities or absorb the costs for preventive medicine. They say preventive medicine works, but you can’t pay for them. I don’t know what else to do.”

Spooner realizes that the reform isn’t perfect, but he knows it’s a step in the right direction. “If I had one wish, it wouldn’t be to have $1 million, it’d be to go into any physician in the town I live in and not have to worry about medical costs with my income level.”

May 6, 2010

Ultraviolet Exposure

Filed under: IC Stories: Huff, Tanning — Aubrey @ 6:57 pm

With temperatures improving as summer approaches, people are spending more and more time outdoors. This leads to an increased risk of skin damage, like burns, tans and cancer.

Few people seek shade when the sun is out.

The sun is at its most powerful in the summer months, and its rays are most damaging between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

UV Rays

There are three different kinds of Ultraviolet, or UV rays.

  • UVA rays: These are the rays that cause people to tan. UVA rays penetrate into the lower layers of the epidermis. This triggers melanocytes to produce melanin, or the brown pigment that causes a tan.
  • UVB rays: These are the rays that burn the upper layer of the epidermis, causing sunburn.
  • UVC rays: These are the most dangerous of the sun’s rays. Fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and do not reach Earth.

Sun Exposure

People spend more time outdoors when the weather is warm, and few people wear sunscreen when out. In fact, people are exposed to the most sun while doing everyday activities, not at the beach.

Younger people are increasingly exposed to the sun’s harmful rays without protection. Adolescents take less care applying sunscreen while outdoors.

“I wear sunscreen when I go to the pool or the beach for an extended period of time, but playing sports outside or at a barbeque, I never bother,” said Timothy Riphagen, 20.

In fact, 50-80% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18.


It is a common misconception that a tan is better for your skin than sunburn. On the contrary, a sunburn shows that your skin is fighting the damage of the sun’s rays. A tan is visual proof that your skin has cellular damage

Despite the risks, the popularity of tanning is growing. Thirty million people tan indoors in the U.S. annually; 2.3 million of those people are adolescents.

In a recent poll by Teenshealth, 80% of people under age 25 think they look better with a tan.

“Most people who tan with us are college students between the ages of 18 and 24,” said Scott Bender, manager of Planet Beach Tanning Spa.

Tanning, however, increases the risk of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer

Mole in the early stages of melanoma

There are several different types of skin cancer.

  • Basal cell carcinoma: This is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for over 90% of all skin cancer diagnoses in the U.S. Though it is rare for this type of skin cancer to spread, it can grow, invade and damage surrounding tissue.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This cancer occurs in the squamous cells, which are scaly and fish-like. Since squamous cells are found on the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow body organs and in digestive and respiratory tracts, squamous cell carcinoma can actually occur on any of those parts of the body. It is only 25% as common as basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma can metasticize, or spread, to other parts of the body.
  • Melanoma: This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma is the leading cause of death due to skin disease. It can spread very rapidly, but risk greatly decreases if it is caught early.

More than 1 million new cases of melanoma are diagnosed annually. In the past, melanoma mostly affected people in their mid- to late-fifties. However, the number of melanoma diagnoses of people in their teens and 20s is increasing.

The most common treatment for skin cancer is exision. This involves completely cutting the tumors and cancerous tissue out. Exisions performed to remove melanoma often leave large scars.

Some people are more at risk for skin cancer than others. People with any of the following should be especially aware of their sun exposure and take measures to avoid skin cancer.

  • People with fair skin, meaning they have less than melanin than darker skin, have a greater risk for skin cancer because they have less of that protective layer. People who have naturally light hair, eyes or who freckle easily are also at greater risk.
  • Excessive sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer. Even if you were a “sun worshipper” when you were and now practice “safe sun,” there is still risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer can take years, even decades, to develop.
  • If you have many moles, regular or irregular, you have an increased risk of skin cancer.
  • If your family has a history of skin cancer, you are at an increased risk. Some families suffer from Familial Atypical Mole-Malignant Melanoma (FAMMM) syndrome. This puts you at increased risk of developing melanoma. Frequent screenings for the disease are a necessity.
  • If you have had skin cancer in the past, it is more likely you will develop it again, often within two or three years of the original diagnosis.
  • A weakened immune system also increases the risk of skin cancer. People living with leukemia, HIV/AIDS or people taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant are at increased risk.

Protecting Yourself

Skin cancer is actually the easiest of all cancers to prevent.

To protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, it is vital to wear sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher at all times. This should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time for it to be absorbed.

Wear protective clothing, such as hats, sunglasses and darker clothes while outdoors.

Check your body for abnormal moles frequently. If you notice anything irregular, visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.

“I do look at moles sometimes and wonder if that was always there,” Riphagen said.

Ultraviolet Benefits

Ultraviolet rays do not have to be all bad. UV rays provide the body with vitamin D, which boosts the immune system and prevents some cancers.

“[Vitamin D] decreases the risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer,” said Bender.

Contrary to popular believe, however, prolonged exposure to the sun is not necessary to absorb your daily dose of D. Fifteen minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun provides you with all the vitamin D you need.

Still, it is unwise to spend too much time outside without sun block. You can also receive this vitamin from fish, milk and eggs, or even a daily supplement.

It is suggested that UV rays can help with other illnesses, as well.

“I have a 68-year-old man who tans here to control his psoriasis. Sometimes doctors even recommend it to treat women with seasonal depression,” said Bender. “It’s interesting to see that something can cause one type of problem and possibly remedy another.”

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, UVB rays are more effective at treating the disease. UVB rays are minimized at tanning salons, so sunlight is the best choice.

Colts vs. Cancer: Mitch’s Fight

Filed under: IC Stories: Huff, Tanning — Aubrey @ 5:18 pm

Stolberg practicing a Colts routine

Mitchell Stolberg, a 19-year-old secondary education English major, spent the past four years pursuing his passion as a member of the color guard in the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps. He had no idea that his love could threaten his life.

Stolberg was diagnosed with skin cancer mid-season his third year in color guard.

Colts Drum and Bugle Corps, fondly referred to as “Colts” by Stolberg, is a travelling team consisting of a hornline, drumline, full-front ensemble and color guard. From March 28th to August 15, Colts compete all over the country with other drumlines.

Competing at a national level demands almost constant rehearsal.

“We rehearse almost every day, outdoors, in the sun from as early as 7 a.m. to as late as 1 a.m.,” Stolberg said.

It was mid-June of the 2009 summer season for the Colts when Stolberg noticed a mole on his left cheek.

“It started to get this weird ring around it, a ring of pink. Then around the pink was a ring of white,” Stolberg said.

Despite its odd appearance, Stolberg thought nothing of the mole and continued with his rigorous rehearsals. By early July, Stolberg was still ignoring the mole, as it was not bothering him.

“I didn’t think of it until I started having problems with my right shoulder,” Stolberg said.

After a night rehearsal, Stolberg felt like his shoulder was “on fire,” so the next day, while in Omaha, NB, Stolberg went to the emergency room.

Stolberg called his mother, Wendy, to let her know he was seeking medical treatment, and since he mentioned the mole to her earlier, she insisted he have his mole looked at as well.
After his shoulder pain was diagnosed as subluxation, or loss of the muscle that was keeping his shoulder in place, the doctor looked at Stolberg’s mole.

“He said it looked pretty bad,” Stolberg recalls, and the doctor said he needed to send a piece of it to get tested.

On July 20, Stolberg finally got the test results. The Colts were now in San Antonio, TX.

“I came in from day rehearsals and the tour director took me into a back room and told me the doctor called. The tests were positive for cancer,” Stolberg said.

Stolberg’s mother was notified before he was. When he called his mother, it was a very emotional experience, especially since Stolberg’s parents were states away.

The doctor, tour director and Stolberg’s parents agreed that he needed to leave the Colts tour, return home and seek treatment. Stolberg was devastated.

“I had spent…going on four years of my life with these people. I didn’t care what was going on with my body. I didn’t want to leave them,” Stolberg recalls.

Since the Colts regional competition was only two days away, Stolberg decided to perform and fly home to North Dakota, where his parents lived, immediately after.

The days leading up to regionals were especially difficult for Stolberg because of his condition. He dealt with this stress almost solitarily since so few knew about his test results.

“I didn’t tell anyone else in the corps except for three of my friends and my section coordinator, Carla,” Stolberg said.

He wanted to keep the news quiet since the competition was already causing so much stress to his teammates.

On the day of regionals, Stolberg was very emotional. Not knowing the severity of the cancer, he prepared for the worst.

“I kept thinking this could be my last show with drum corps,” Stolberg said, but that did not stop him from giving a great performance.

“I had an absolutely amazing show,” said Stolberg. “I cried afterwards. I thought I could be too sick to perform again.”

After the regionals, the corps got together to discuss their performance. After getting feedback, Mitch stood to tell his team he was leaving.

“’I’m going home.’ That’s all I said, and everyone’s mouth just dropped open because I’m not one to ever give up color guard. [It] is my life,” Stolberg said.

He then told his team about the cancer, and the next day, after many tears and hugs, Stolberg packed and left for home.

“When Mitch called to tell me he had cancer last summer I didn’t believe him at first. It just didn’t seem real. Cancer isn’t for people you know about, it’s for people in stories, or on tv. You never expect it to happen to your best friend,” Katherine Nicla, 21, said. Nicla has been a close friend of Stolberg for years.

Once home to Fargo, ND, Stolberg and his parents set up appointments with dermatology clinics, so he could get the cancer removed. During the procedure, the whole left side of Stolberg’s face was numbed, and the doctors cut out “everything suspicious-looking.” They cut out all cancerous cells and sent them to the Mayo Clinic for further testing.

Stolberg was home for two weeks waiting for the results, but his mind was not on his cancer.

“I was ready just to get back on tour,” Stolberg said.

Stolberg's irregular mole

Finally, in August, Stolberg received some results. The initial results indicated that the cancer was contained to his left cheek, but the results were still considered “undetermined” and needed further testing.

Despite awaiting further results, Stolberg left for Boston, MA to rejoin the Colts’ tour.

“It was a huge relief to be back with my Colts family,” Stolberg said.

Stolberg, though concerned he might still have cancer, pushed the thoughts from his mind and prepared for the national finals.

On the way to the gate to perform the second-to-last time for the season, Stolberg’s phone rang. It was the doctor. Stolberg was informed that he had early-stage melanoma. Fortunately, since it was caught early, the cancer was contained to his cheek, and Stolberg was told that it should not appear anymore.

Stolberg was overjoyed and immediately told his team.

“Then we went in and had a kick-ass quarter-finals performance,” Stolberg said.

Though Stolberg no longer has cancer, he is now very conscious of covering his skin while outside. He frequently reapplies sunscreen and checks his body for moles. Despite his brush with cancer due to prolonged sun exposure, Stolberg has no intention of leaving Colts.

“I just need to have a giant, multi-colored sombrero on during rehearsals now.”

A History of the Tan

Filed under: IC Stories: Huff, Tanning — Aubrey @ 4:54 pm

Tanning was not always as popular as it is today. Throughout history, tanning has gone from wildly unpopular or medicinal to a sign of wealth and everywhere in between.

4th and 5th Centuries B.C.

During this time, tan skin was a sign of health. Also, sun and air were key elements of Hippocrates’ theories.


Tanning has not been in style for centuries. It was seen as a sign of poverty, as only the poor had to spend their days toiling in the fields.

Delicate, porcelain skin was “in.” People would even use make-up to make their skin appear lighter, much like “Goths” today. Arsenic was a popular skin whitener.

Tanning did exist during this time, however. It was practiced sparingly and for medical purposes. It was believed that “sunbaths” could cure anything from tuberculosis to aggressive eczema.


In 1903, Dr. Auguste Rollier opened the world’s first sun clinic in the Swiss Alps. The clinic treated diseases by gradually introducing patients to the sun, by first starting them with bed rest. Then, they were exposed to the mountain air. Finally, they were allowed brief sunbaths.


It was not until the 1920s that tanning gained popularity. Coco Chanel is largely credited for starting the tan craze in 1923 when she returned from a vacation in the French Riviera deeply bronzed.

Also during this time, poor workers left the fields for sunless factories and mines. Now, tan skin was a sign of wealth and leisure.

Still in the 20s, the health benefits of sun exposure turned tanning into a health craze in Britain.

“I think there still are health benefits, but there are risks too. People emphasize the bad more than the good,” said Courtney Steffen, an employee at Planet Beach Tanning Spa.


Nudists were the first to tan themselves out of pleasure rather than medical necessity. In fact, the term “sunbather” originally meant “nudist.” In 1931, a number of nudist clubs opened, and nudity became standard beachwear.


The first bikinis emerged in the 1950s, making an all-over tan more popular. Brown creams and skin dyes also entered the market to help people fake an all-over tan.


Tanning was still very popular, as the danger of tanning were not yet prominent concerns.

“When I was in high school and into my 20s, tanning was a big deal. You would use suntan lotions to get a tan. The products would brag about how quickly and darkly you would tan using them. There was no SPF stuff. We would also lie on foil blankets and use baby oil so that we would burn and tan quicker. I cannot tell you how many sunburns I have had, many of them on purpose,” said Cheryl Huff, 48.

In 1979, the FDA confirmed that sunscreen could protect against skin cancer and developed a rating system for SPFs.

1980s and 90s

Tanning salons and studios emerged. These studios have gained in popularity, and indoor tanning is now a $2 billion industry in the U.S.

In 1985, the American Academy of Dermatology became the first medical group to expose the risks of skin cancer and start an anti-tanning campaign.

By the 90s, tanning salons had the technology to significantly cut down on tanning time. Also, spray tanning was greatly improved and popular with those who did not want to expose themselves to ultraviolet light.


Today about 24,000 tanning salons can be found in the Yellow Pages, and despite the known risks, the popularity of tanning continues to grow.

Tanning salons are more strictly regulated now, however.

“Anyone under 18 teens their parents present to give written consent,” Steffen said.

Warnings are also posted in each tanning booth.

The government even regulates how often a person can tan in a salon. In Iowa, there must be a minimum of 24 hours between each tanning session.

“I still feel like I look better with a tan. It’s hard to get rid of something you have believed for so long,” Huff said.

Iowa City Stories

Filed under: Iowa City Stories — janebsinger @ 8:47 am

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