Ivory Towers

Police use tear gas to disperse partygoers at Michigan State

Police officers launched tear gas into a crowd at a party called Cedar Fest at Michigan State University this past Sunday in the early morning hours.

Cedar Fest became a tradition in the 1970s, but was eventually banned in 1987 as it evolved over the years to more riot than party. This year, it was revived through Facebook, and attracted over 3000 people to the Cedar Village area in East Lansing.

The police controlled the crowd most of the night by targeting and arresting disorderly individuals. However, at 1:30 a.m. it was declared an unlawful assembly and police ordered the crowd to disperse.

Numerous loudspeaker commands were given to disperse, but when many attendees ignored the warnings, police launched smoke grenades and flash bangs into the crowd at 2:07 a.m. Although some members of the party began to leave, the police launched tear gas. By about 3:11 a.m., the crowd had completely dispersed.

East Lansing police chief Tom Wibert called it a last resort. “It got to the point where I don’t see how we could have dispersed that crowd without tear gas,” he said. After police launched flash bangs and smoke bombs, many students began chanting for tear gas.

During the night, police arrested 52 people and issued 48 tickets. Of those people, half were students at the university. Police estimated that about 5 percent of the student population participated in the event.

In April 2005, police were heavily criticized for launching tear gas into a Cedar Village crowd approximately 15 minutes after it had formed. During that incident, 299 canisters of tear gas were used.

To avoid a similar incident, eight observers from the Lansing branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were at Cedar Fest to monitor police and student actions.

Carol Koenig, president of the Lansing ACLU branch, said that police were restrained. “They ignored a lot of things that came before them and that they could have responded to,” she said. “As it progressed, the persons who were not very rowdy basically got bored and went home, so what the ELPD was left with was more of the intoxicated crowd.”
The police have also identified the creator of the Facebook event and plan to press charges as they continue their investigation.

The State News

German Universities Face New Concept: Tuition

The University of Cologne is one of several institutions in Germany that has started to charge its undergraduates tuition. For the first time in its 620-year history, the University is charging 500 euros (US$750) as the maximum amount that can be charged per term.

Historically, Germany has offered free higher education to all its citizens. However, a drop in government support, overcrowded classrooms and buildings in need of repair have forced universities to find the needed funds elsewhere.

In 2005, German universities won a Federal Constitutional Court ruling that individual states could set their own tuition policies. Some universities have opted to remain tuition-free.

The court battle was only a partial victory, as the use of the funds collected from tuition fees is tightly restricted.

This past fall semester, the University took in approximately $22 million from those students eligible to pay tuition, 5 percent of Cologne’s $435 million annual budget. However, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Cologne is located, requires money from student fees “to improve the quality of teaching and the studying conditions,” according to the Ministry of Innovation, Science, Research and Technology, the state agency that oversees higher education. In other words, the fees can be used to pay professors to teach, but not to conduct research.

“That’s a ridiculous interpretation for a research university,” Freimuth said. “Teaching is connected intimately with research. The most important thing we need to do is hire people. That’s exactly what we’re not allowed to do.”

Student response has been virulent. In North Rhine-Westphalia, a group of about 15,000 college students has sued the University of Cologne and other universities to overturn the fee policy.

Stefan Kleinwächter, a member of the University of Cologne’s student government, which is leading the legal battle, acknowledges that the University needs the money, but argues that the responsibility to support higher education should be that of the federal and state government.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Going Trayless: A Trend?

Colleges and universities in the Southeast are facing a water shortage due to two year of drought conditions and rapid growth that is draining water supplies.

North Carolina is facing the most severe drought on record and institutions in the state have been forced to turn to more creative methods of water-use reduction.

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington did away with trays in its main dining hall and has saved an estimated 8782 gallons of water daily. Most students were willing to put up with the inconvenience after learning that it takes 3.5 gallons of water and 1.5 kilowatts of energy to wash each tray.

James Oblinger, the chancellor of North Carolina State University, challenged his counterpart at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, James Moeser, to see which campus could save the most water over a three-month period. From Nov. 10, the day their football teams faced off, to Feb. 20, when their men’s basketball teams played each other, North Carolina State and UNC together saved more than 11 million gallons of water, with North Carolina State winning the competition.

Although many lawns have been drying due to water conservation efforts, the University of Florida has kept its Gainesville campus relatively green even when water has slowed to a trickle by building its own wastewater-treatment center. They recycle more than 90 percent of the water used for irrigation.

Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, highlighted complexity of water shortages. “Water crosscuts everything. It’s a relatively finite resource, and we have to come up with solutions,” he said. “We can’t wait until we’re in a fix to fix things.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education