Students return from Nicaragua to witness
By Heather Shaffer
“Visiting another country and is just an amazing experience,”
said UIS student Katy Armstrong. In order to gain knowledge and
witness first-hand the experiences of a country constantly
battling poverty, massive unemployment, and unfair working
conditions, a delegation of students, community activists, and
faculty members of UIS visited Nicaragua in February of 2004.
“This was the fifth time that I have been to the country. What I
saw in some ways was the same as I always see…People who are very
courageous, living day to day under great stress and poverty, who
still laugh and have a good time while working to make Nicaragua a
better place,” said Peg Knoepfle, community activist and
continuing education student.
the minute the group started on a bus tour from the airport, they
noticed the number of people on the side of the road selling items
or begging for money. “When our bus stopped someone came and
started washing the windshield without us even asking them to,”
type of informal employment is common in Nicaragua. “Many people
beg for money or try to sell what they can in order to make
money. They are desperate and they will do anything if it means
feeding their family,” said Armstrong.
added, “In the United States, homeless people can be told to leave
and they can basically be hid. But in Nicaragua, the country is
in such poverty that there is no hiding the poor people.”
of the students were also struck by the type of housing that is
common in the country. According to Armstrong, “I was really
shocked to see that the majority of housing consists of shacks
made of scraps of metal. They were really open and you could just
see right in.” However, she pointed out that these houses belong
to middle-class families. The lower-class often lives in much
While visiting an impoverished community, the delegation spoke
with community organizers at a health clinic for women. The main
source of income in the community comes from collecting items from
a large dump located within the community. “People will go in the
dump and get bags or cans…whatever they can get out of the dump
for money. The community does not always have running water, so
this leads to diseases,” said Armstrong.
learned that the community organizers do not have many resources
to help the members of the community. “There are many social
problems in these neighborhoods but [the organizers] still go to
work everyday because they care about the people. It is both sad
and inspiring to see the community organizers do their best with
what they have.”
memorable part of the trip for many students was their stay for
two nights with families in El Arenal, which is a rural community
in the mountains. “Though it is a small community, they are
really organized and work together,” said Armstrong.
family that I stayed with had no stove. They cook over an open
fire. The entire time, the grandmother was coughing and I know
that it is because of that fire. I felt bad letting them cook for
us knowing what that stove is doing,” she said.
While in the community, the delegation also had the opportunity to
visit a local school and participate in a question-and-answer
period with students.
delegation also had the opportunity to visit with sweatshop
workers.” Visiting with the maquila workers was really moving.
When you read it you read it but when you actually see something
like this, it is much different,” said Armstrong.
and Lynn Sylver met with a nineteen-year-old maquila worker that
was recently fired from one job for attempting to organize a
union. He is currently working at a different factory in the Free
Trade Zone for less money.
could just tell he was tired and weary,” said Armstrong. Knoepfle
said that the young man was coughing throughout their visit, due
to the amount of lint that is in the factory.
speaking with the factory workers, students asked what they could
do to help and the workers asked that the delegation act as
ambassadors to people in the United States. “They asked us to not
stop buying the clothes, but to let people know about the blood,
sweat, and tears that goes into making them,” said Armstrong.
delegation visited the inside of Mil Calores, a U.S. owned factory
that makes jeans for Kohls, Target, Marshall Fields, Sears and
many other stores. The factory has close to 950 workers that
produce an output of close to 10,000 pairs of pants a day for the
U.S. Each worker is paid only about $2.33 a day for their hard
manager took us on a tour and in the short time I was in there I
was sweating and the chemicals made me cough. I was amazed at how
fast the workers were working,” Armstrong said.
Knoepfle, the highlight of this trip was visiting with the women
of a sewing cooperative. “In the year 2000, the last thing I saw
as I left a poor area being built-up after Hurricane Mitch was a
group of women putting earthquake-proof rebar onto a building,
which they said was going to be their own factory. When we came
back this year, the women had their own sewing cooperative. To
see this factory completed and seeing what the women had
accomplished was moving to both me and the students,” she said.
delegation is now starting a campaign in order to encourage the
UIS Bookstore to purchase its UIS logo t-shirts from the women of
this sewing cooperative because their shirts are made under fair
Knoepfle said that another special part of the trip for
the delegation was going to the country to visit with farmers.
She said that many of these small farmers cannot receive loans
without putting their land up for collateral. The farmers asked
the delegation to tell people in the United States how these
farmers are living and the negative effects free trade has on
their ability to sustain a living.
“They asked us to tell Congress to vote against the Central
America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA),” she said. Therefore, many
of the students will be visiting Congressional offices to tell the
people of Congress what they saw in Nicaragua and encourage them
to vote down CAFTA.
According to UIS student Kelsey Dennis, “Nicaragua has received
loans from the World Bank since 1979 and has been plagued by their
reforms since 1990. These reforms have taken Nicaragua’s debt
from $1.5 billion in 1979 to a debt of $6.41 in 2000. Our
delegation saw the effects of the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs)
Dennis said that these SAPs force governments to privatize
utilities and many government companies, such as water and
electricity, which makes them more expensive to the already
impoverished citizens of these countries. SAPs drastically reduce
government spending on social programs such as education and
health. In addition to cutting funding, the SAPs force governments
to make job cutbacks and fire high percentages of government
Therefore, she and the other members of the delegation encourage
everyone to become active in the fight against CAFTA and the
wrongdoings of the World Bank.
order to share their experiences and knowledge gained through
their trip to Nicaragua, Amy Minton and Brandon Petit will each be
giving a presentation on Knoepfle’s access television show
entitled Works in Progress, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Access
4. According to Knoepfle, the two students have a late-April
studio date for a show about Nicaragua, which will be aired in
Other members of the delegation will be speaking at public
engagements in order to raise awareness about the negative
outcomes of free trade agreements and other American policies.
Nicaragua I was disconnected from the hustle and bustle of
here…the landscape was beautiful. It was really common for the
people to be inviting and friendly… It was the best experience of
my life and I encourage everyone to take a trip to another
country,” said Armstrong.
prompt review of athletic department
By Tom Cronin
force of UIS faculty, staff and students has recently been
created to review the policies and procedures of the
university’s athletic department. The university is conducting
the review in response to information that has surfaced about
various incidents involving the athletic department, including
criminal charges that were brought against a men’s basketball
player last month.
Dr. Christopher Miller, Vice Chancellor for
Student Affairs, said that he has asked the task force to
investigate “various issues” with the athletic department. He
declined to identify the issues that are being investigated, but
he said that the task force will be examining the policies and
procedures of every program in the athletic department.
“The reason for the review is because our student
athletes are students first, obviously, and athletic programs are
just like any other student life programs,” Miller said. “They’re
designed to enhance the collegiate experience of our student
There is no timetable for the completion of the
review, but Miller said that he hopes to receive findings from the
task force before the end of the semester.
“We don’t know what they’re going to find, but my
suspicion is we’ll discover that some of our policies and rules
will need to change, and we’ll need to be a little more careful
about some things,” UIS Chancellor Dr. Richard Ringeisen said
during an interview with The Journal on March 12.
According to an article printed in The State
Journal-Register on March 4, UIS basketball player Lincoln James
was charged on March 3 with possession of marijuana with intent to
deliver. James, a senior guard from Springfield, was the team’s
The Sangamon County state’s attorney’s office
filed the charges, which stemmed from James’ arrest that occurred
during a traffic stop on Jan. 8, the Journal-Register article
After he was informed about the charges on March
3, UIS Athletic Director Nick Adams told the Journal-Register that
James would be suspended for the rest of the season. According to
the Journal-Register’s article, UIS Spokeswoman Cheryl Peck said
within an hour of Adams’ statement that Adams had been temporarily
“To [conduct the review], we’re going to need to
have somebody asking questions and somebody answering questions,”
Ringeisen said. “And the person answering a lot [of the questions]
is going to have to be the athletic director. So we needed to have
him step aside for a while, while we look at the issues and then
figure out where we go from there.”
Adams has been working primarily with the proposed
student recreation center since he was temporarily reassigned,
Miller said. Stephen Chrans, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student
Affairs, has been assigned to direct the department’s day-to-day
operations until the review is complete.
The charges filed against James on March 3 are not
the only criminal charges that have been filed against a member of
the men’s basketball team this season. Zack May, a senior guard
from Granite City, was charged with driving under the influence of
alcohol after being pulled over by UIS police on Nov. 7, according
to the March 4 Journal-Register article. May, who pleaded guilty
to a DUI charge he received in 2002, is scheduled to be tried for
the more recent charge on March 29, the article said.
James was charged in October 2000 with criminal
drug conspiracy – a charge that was later changed to possession of
cocaine and delivery of cocaine – and he was convicted of the
charge, according to the Journal-Register article. He also pleaded
guilty to possession of marijuana in 1997, the article said.
“Obviously, given the statements, I’ve been
disappointed with men’s basketball,” Ringeisen said. “I enjoy
men’s basketball, and we’ve got a lot of great kids playing men’s
basketball. But we felt – the vice chancellor felt – that we
should look into how our rules are working, not whether we’re
breaking our rules, but how they’re working.”
A follow-up Journal-Register article printed on
March 6 quoted Miller as saying that the university was preparing
to review the athletic department before any charges were filed
“That was not the straw that broke the camel’s
back,” Miller told the Journal-Register. “We have been looking at
this for the last couple of weeks. We’re taking a proactive
approach as to what our practices are.”
University Hall nears completion; move expected to
begin in July
By Tom Cronin
University Hall construction project more than 70 percent
complete, the four-story classroom/office building is expected
to be fully operational by the time the fall semester begins.
Dave Barrows, Director of Physical Planning and
Operations, said that the construction work should be
“substantially complete” by early July, at which time faculty and
staff members would begin moving into their new offices. The move
will probably take several weeks, and it’s likely that faculty and
staff will finish moving into the building by mid to late July, he
The project was initially scheduled for completion
in early June, but it’s now expected to be completed in early July
mostly because the masonry contractor has not manned the job
properly, Barrows said.
“We had one of the mildest winters in a long time
this past winter, and if they had done a proper job and put the
number of people on their crews on the job back in last summer and
fall, I’m sure they could have met their schedule of being
completed in the middle of December,” he said.
The contractor hasn’t finished the masonry work
yet, but shouldn’t have any problems completing the work by the
end of the month, Barrows said. He declined to disclose the name
of the contractor.
Various types of interior finishing make up the
majority of the construction work that still needs to be
completed, Barrows said. Workers are in the process of installing
terrazzo flooring in the hallways and lobbies on the first and
second floors, and they still need to apply finishing to flooring
elsewhere in the building, he said.
In addition, the workers still need to install
some drywall, doors and ductwork insulation – “just a lot of
finishing touches that need to be done,” Barrows said. As far as
exterior work is concerned, the limestone parapet is currently
being added between the top of the brick walls and the bottom of
the exposed metal on top of the building, he said.
The walls inside all of the classrooms will have a
sound-detonating covering to prevent echoing, and they will also
be more solid – and therefore more soundproof – than the walls in
the temporary buildings, Barrows said.
Every classroom and lecture hall in the building
will be a “smart” classroom equipped with some of the most
cutting-edge technology on campus. In an interview with The
Journal on Feb. 27, Educational Technology Director Farokh Eslahi
said that the classrooms are expected to include a computer with
an interactive whiteboard, a document camera, a data projector, a
videocassette recorder and a DVD player.
University Hall will include five computer labs,
and the building will most likely be supplied with six carts that
would carry between 20 and 24 wireless laptop computers, Eslahi
said. Students would be able to use these laptops to access the
university’s network and the Internet from anywhere in the
building, he said.
Another technological enhancement that should be
in place when the building opens is a system of security cameras,
Barrows said. The cameras would be placed in the building’s
entryways and stairwells, and UIS police officers would be able to
monitor the activity that the cameras pick up, he said.
“We’re going to have the latest technology with
respect to [the security cameras],” Barrows said. “[The police
officers will] be able to tilt, zoom, do those kind of things if
there’s a situation going on over at the building.”
Money set aside for the development project is
being used to pay for the “smart” classroom equipment, security
cameras and other technological enhancements, Barrows said. The
Illinois legislature allocated $15 million from the state’s fiscal
year 2002 budget, as well as an additional $15 million in the
fiscal year 2003 budget, for the project.
Because of a sluggish economy, the university
received favorable bids from the contractors, and the building’s
construction costs ended up being lower than anticipated, Barrows
said. The money that the university saved from the
lower-than-expected cost of construction is being used to pay for
the enhancements to the building, as well as the construction of a
new quad, he said.
The construction of the quad will not be finished
when the fall semester begins, but “the basics to get around,”
such as sidewalks and grass, should be in place by the time
classes begin, Barrows said.
“There will be portions of it that’ll be complete,
and there will be other portions where it’s weather and
temperature-sensitive,” Barrows said. “This isn’t the best time to
be planting trees because they’re starting to bud, and if you do
that you run the risk of losing them. So, tree planting may go
over into [the winter of] next fiscal year.”
Barrows said that he doesn’t think the structures
being planned for the quad will be in place at the beginning of
the fall semester, but he hopes that the structures will be set up
by the end of the semester.
When interviewed by The Journal on Feb. 6, Student
Government Association President Jason Stuebe said that he was on
the committee charged with designing the quad. One of the
committee’s recommendations was to create a “central structure” on
the north end of the quad that would consist of two facing
semicircular structures – each structure being made up of pillars,
he said. An object such as a statue or sculpture would be located
between the structures.
“We’ve got buildings, but… sometimes there’s a
feeling that they’re just buildings,” Stuebe said. “There’s
nothing that’s attached to them. The library is not the most
aesthetically pleasing building in the world to look at. We don’t
have pillars and limestone or marble; we have 1970s brick, metal
and glass. So, the idea is to have something that gives a real
collegiate campus feel.”