Want to know what's really going on inside Greater Cincinnati's college campuses? The top stories? Vital trends? Hot buttons?
Then ask the editors who run the campus newspapers. They're the most plugged-in sources you'll find in any student body, since they know a thing or two about sniffing out the truth behind the classroom gossip.
CityBeat asked the top news hounds from the area's four major universities to attend a student roundtable discussion at our offices. Attending were Melissa Huelsman, editor of the University of Cincinnati News Record; Cari Martin, managing editor of The News Record; and Dana Johnson, news editor at the Miami University Daily Student. Also participating, by e-mail and phone, were Jonathan Mosko, incoming editor of the Xavier University Newswire, and Peter W. Zubaty, executive editor of the Northern Kentucky University Northerner.
(In addition to the comments here, you'll find first-person essays written by these campus editors elsewhere in this special Back to School guide, starting on page 4.)
CityBeat: What's the top news story you'll be playing on page 1 of your newspaper's first issue this fall?
Melissa Huelsman: One word: Construction. At UC, it's everywhere. Under the master plan of renovation, they're finally moving into areas that will directly impact campus life. There will be major disruption for all of the student organizations forced out of the Tangeman Student Center.
Cari Martin: Including us. The News Record, student government and student organizations are all being moved to offices elsewhere, into what are called "sprung structures." They're like glorified trailers.
Huelsman: We'll have to be very quiet during discussions in our news meetings, because we're being located right next door to student government and other organizations we cover. But we'll finally have our own bathroom, so we're excited about that.
Dana Johnson: At Miami, achieving more diversity among students is a priority issue. Miami's vast majority is white. They want to increase the enrollment of students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. That's part of president (James) Garland's 2009 plan, to achieve racial diversity before our 200th anniversary.
Jonathan Mosko: No question, one of our No. 1 stories will be how things panned out for the freshman class in terms of housing — how freshmen are being crammed into housing. That's always a big story at Xavier. And the new Cintas Center. The Xavier basketball team will finally have a home on campus.
Peter W. Zubaty: Probably the most important issue, even though most students don't realize it, is the increased benchmark funding NKU receives from the state due to the efforts of our president, Dr. James Votruba, as well as our Student Government Association and other involved student organizations and the local state legislators. It brings NKU's funding more in line with the average budgetary contributions that state schools of our size receive.
CB: Any ongoing stories you'll be tracking as the school year progresses?
Johnson: This uncompleted park that (the city of) Oxford is building, in the center of things where the water tower was. But much like everything in Oxford, the project is moving slower than expected. It's something of an eyesore.
Huelsman: The provost (for student affairs) has stated openly that, yes indeed, there is such a thing as the "UC shuffle," and it needs to be fixed. The shuffle affects people who can't get credits shifted from college to college. I started in University College, and when I wanted to change over to Arts and Sciences, I couldn't get my credits accepted. The university is finally putting a priority on collaboration so people don't get stuck having to take the same math course in two different colleges.
Johnson: Student apathy is a big problem at Miami. We'll be covering that. There aren't that many people who go to (football) games. Only 20 percent of our campus votes for student government, though student government doesn't do a whole lot, so that's part of the problem. They established a special day to smile (laughter among the editors) and things like that. Another issue is that the levy for the Talawanda school district failed. It's not good for the quality of education in the community.
CB: You're saying it's an issue of how does Miami attract quality professors who have children?
Johnson: Exactly. A lot of professors right now don't live in Oxford, just because of the school system.
CB: What about the upcoming presidential elections? Do students care?
Zubaty: Apathy is a watchword on campus. NKU students seem to think that they're too busy to be bothered by something so trivial as a national election. At The Northerner, we're planning to run a weekly campaign section to help inform students on the issues they don't think are important. Hopefully the message will be heard.
Huelsman: I think UC students care about it. Especially with all the Supreme Court positions that will probably be filled by the next president. And abortion is a big issue on campus. I have a feeling these two issues will spur a number of conversations.
Johnson: Everybody knows about it. But apathy is always a problem.
CB: Not to be sexist, but who's the BMOC — the Big Man on Campus — this fall? Or the Big Woman?
Huelsman: Bob Huggins. Especially after he almost went to the L.A. Clippers. People say this will definitely be a rebuilding year for our basketball program. ... A lot of people finally recognize Huggins is our savior for getting national attention.
Martin: Huggins, yes. And Greg Hand (university spokesman). He's quoted more often in our paper than ... well, if you have to get somebody high up to say something, it's Greg.
Mosko: Father Michael Graham, coming in as the new Xavier president. We'll all be anxious to see what kind of changes he makes when he comes in.
Zubaty: It will likely be a toss-up between Student Government Association President Kara Clark or University President Dr. James Votruba. The university president for obvious reasons, and the SGA president for her and the organizations' efforts toward increasing NKU funding from the state.
Johnson: Jeff Griffiths, the new student body president (at Miami). He's fairly dynamic and made a lot of promises about what he wants to do to change things.
CB: Any academic trends worth noting? Changes in the demographics of the student body?
Huelsman: There are a lot of non-traditional students. Now, when you look around campus, you see 30-year-old people instead of 18-year-olds. A lot of "non-trads."
Martin: My mom's a student at UC. I took a math class with her last summer, and I got a better grade than her! (Laughter in the room.)
Mosko: In class, you always meet a few people over 30. Almost half our students are not your traditional four-year students.
CB: What about negative trends?
Martin: An annoying trend is more cell phones ringing in classrooms.
Huelsman: Yes. I was having a final exam in English class. Right in the middle of the exam, this student's phone rang, and she answered it! The new technology is definitely a trend, too, for good or bad. Laptops and Palm Pilots everywhere.
Johnson: Not at Miami so much. We're pretty traditional. We're still known for dressing similar, in preppy clothes.
CB: What about campus safety?
Johnson: Miami is pretty safe, but not as safe as the university wants everyone to think. Especially in terms of sexual assaults. (The university) isn't very good about giving out campus crime numbers. That's another big story for us: Judicial affairs uncovered. We have been compiling a database with charges that students have gotten and their final punishments. ... Two different students who do the same thing are likely to get off with different punishments.
Huelsman: I think everyone (at UC) knows it's a dangerous world. We have help phones all over campus. You have to walk in groups, definitely.
Johnson: We even have a campus van that will drive you home, called CAP, for Campus Assault Prevention. There are always two drivers, one a guy and one a girl.
Mosko: It's a good possibility we will be writing about crime in the next few weeks. It seems like at the beginning of the school year, especially, younger students don't know what parts of the campus area are safer than others and we have more crime. It's really not a dangerous area. It's just like anywhere else. You have to use your head.
Zubaty: With a low percentage of students living on the NKU campus, I don't see it as a big problem. At least not compared to more urban-type universities. The Northerner runs its fair share of stories related to stalkers, harassing phone calls and the occasional bust of drug or alcohol offenders; but for the most part our Department of Public Safety has it relatively easy.
CB: On a lighter note, what's the specific class everyone wants to take?
Huelsman: We have had a lot of poet laureates. Even Robert Frost taught at UC as a poet in residence. The poetry course is always popular. Jazzercize is popular, too — it's a gym credit. And criminology.
Johnson: Miami's popular courses are gym classes, golf or volleyball or aerobics. And Intro to Psychology taught by Tim Dowd is very popular. They squeeze 250 students into it, which is a very big class for Miami. He has a lot of personality. In the English department, we hear a lot about Don Daiker. He teaches creative writing and literature classes in a circle, where everyone has equal say.
Mosko: The big thing at our campus is the class in Christian sexual ethics. It's pretty hard to get into.
CB: As the editors of your respective campus newspapers, is there an editorial you just can't wait to write this fall?
Huelsman: I know one: Computer porn in the (UC) libraries. It annoys me. I go to Langsam Library and I have to wait in line (while) people are viewing pornographic sites. I really don't care if people want to view porn, but students shouldn't have to wait to write a term paper while somebody is meeting their voyeuristic needs on a public computer in the middle of the day.
Johnson: Parking is always a big issue. Students on the (Miami) campus aren't allowed to have cars if you are a freshman or sophomore. Parking tickets are issued like it's going out of style. Like $50 or $75 each.
Martin: Parking is terrible (at UC), too. With the whole master plan, they took one whole lot for green space. Now there's talk of another.
CB: And you're largely a commuter campus.
Huelsman: It's just ridiculous. They charge $6.50 a day for parking. If you get ticketed in a handicapped spot, it's $250. If you don't pay it, you don't get your grades, you can't graduate.
CB: Is there any good news on campus these days?
Johnson: Online registration. We just got it in the spring. The big joke on campus was the (registration hotline) phone number, MU-CARES. People joke MU-DOESN'T CARE. Anyway, online is a lot better. It's called MU-SOARS, for Student Online Advance Registration, or something like that.
Martin: Online registration started last year (at UC), but it could only take 100 people at a time. Now it's the only way to register.
CB: We talked about what were hot classes. What about majors? What are the majors that everybody wants to sign up for?
Huelsman: DAAP, CCM — everyone always wants to get into those colleges. Seems like a lot of people are starting to major in English again, too.
Johnson: It seems like a lot of people come in as zoology or chemistry majors, then become business majors. The joke is that half the business school at Miami started out as pre-med and washed out.
Huelsman (to Johnson): Does your campus die on weekends? Our campus, after 5 and on weekends, is a ghost town.
Johnson: At MU, it's different. There's nowhere fun to go outside of Oxford for like 30 minutes away. So lines to bars near campus are two hours long. We have one little dance club called First Run that's always packed.
CB: What about the Greek thing? Is interest in fraternity and sorority social life waning or on the rise?
Johnson: Interest is staying about the same. It's a really big part of campus life (at Miami). A lot of people rush.
Huelsman: I don't know about an increase. If anything, it might have gone down (at UC).
CB: Staying with the theme of social life, what's the must-see bar?
Huelsman: UC freshmen go to Vertigo. Seniors go to Uncle Woody's. Older students like to hang out there. That, and Christy's.
Martin: And the Mad Frog. And to Main Street. The Cellblock is very popular. Mount Adams bars, of course. And more people are going to Mount Lookout. Millions. One-Eyed Jacks.
Johnson: For freshmen at Miami, it's First Run, the dance club and bar. You can always tell freshmen because they travel in big packs there. For seniors, there's only a handful of places, but all of them are packed. The 21 and over bars are Church Street Bar, Top Deck, The Stadium, The Balcony. ... Pachinko's has a lot of live bands.
CB: Final question. What's your first advice to somebody new to the campus?
Huelsman: Never listen to secretaries.
Martin: Get it in writing. Everything, every promise, every authorization. Get a signature. Have 12 copies made of it.
Huelsman: Carry everything with you.
Zubaty: Go to class, all the time. Participate in class discussions. You'd be amazed at how relevant Plato's Cave Allegory is in today's society. But if you didn't go to class or didn't pay attention, then your professor's passionate spiel was only the hot air you dismissed it as.
Johnson: Get a campus map. Study it. Know it. Don't take chemistry or BMZ (a combination of botany, microbiology and zoology). It's a freshman weed-out class. It's a killer. ©