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"Pass the Patience"

Now patience hath no young boy
at least so I've been told
yet patience may be the last remain
when like me; you do get old.
Yes patience for at least to try
doing things you done well before
then there's patience just to move around
for it now takes a while more.
Patience with all of your friendships
for those once close; may now seem strange
yes during the length of time gone by
some of them did also change.
Have patience with your aches and pains
that may follow you each day
your strength and body of the past
has no quarantee to stay.
Always be patient with those around you
for the most don't understand
yet one day they'll be in your boat
and rowing with one hand.
                         - Roy E. Schepp

Campaign to End Plastic Straw Use Comes to VCU

By Jasmine Cruz, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — As national discussion swirls around the environmental impact of plastic, a group at Virginia Commonwealth University recently launched a campaign hoping to end plastic straw use on campus.

Dr. Ching-Yu Huang, an instructor in the VCU Department of Biology, brought the “Kick the Straw” campaign to campus. Her husband, Dr. Justin Ellis, previously started the campaign at Longwood University, where he is a faculty member and assistant director of Clean Virginia Waterways.

“Faculty can tell you what to do, but if [the] student doesn’t have the motivation to do that, it’s not going to work,” Huang said. Her students are leading the project, though she remains present for questions and assistance.

The campaign has partnered with Simply Straws, a California-based company that manufactures reusable straws.

Huang hopes people will establish lifelong habits by making a small change in their daily lives, such as refusing to use plastic straws.

“Our world has become accustomed to using plastic straws in exchange for a minimal convenience,” said Katherine Peterman, a VCU student helping lead Kick the Straw. Peterman wrote over email that the campaign is to educate people about sustainability and to become aware of the waste they create.

VCU is the third Virginia university to join the Simply Straws Pledge Against Plastic Straws Campus Challenge. Old Dominion University and Longwood also are participating in the campaign.

According to the Simply Straws website, the Campus Challenge pairs the company with schools and asks students to pledge to stop using plastic straws. The campaign includes K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities. There is a prize of 100 custom-etched glass straws to the school that has the most pledges by the end of April.

When a student pledges, Simply Straws sends them a free glass straw. Over a person’s lifetime, the use of a reusable straw prevents 30,000 straws from ending up in a landfill or waterways, according to the company.

Clean Virginia Waterways sponsors events to remove litter from rivers and beaches, Ellis noted.

“Most years, since we’ve been working with citizens … straws is consistently in the top 10 items that we find during those cleanups,” Ellis said.

He said Aramark, a food-service and facility management company serving more than 5 million students, including those at Longwood and VCU, gave 500 metal straws as gifts to commuters who bought a meal plan.

Aramark and Ellis are currently working together to end the use of plastic straws at Longwood campus dining locations, either by everyone carrying a reusable straw or cafeterias offering paper straws.

Ellis said the Aramark director told him Longwood could be free of plastic straws by next fall. In 2018, Aramark announced a single-use plastic reduction strategy that included phasing out plastic straws and stirrers. The food-service giant predicted its efforts would create a 60% decrease in plastic straws by 2020.

All of VCU’s 20-plus dining locations provide plastic straws.

“Our campaign will eventually try to get VCU food vendors on board,” Peterman said. She said campaign members have reached out to local businesses that offer alternatives, such as paper and corn straws, to receive guidance on how to get other businesses to participate.

Kick the Straw campaign events take place throughout the month. The next event is Party for the Planet, which will be held Saturday at Historic Tredegar, 500 Tredegar St.

To take the pledge not to use plastic straws, visit the VCU registration page

Global Expert Panel Discusses Worldwide Politics

By Benjamin West, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Experts from around the world gathered for a panel discussion at Virginia Commonwealth University to educate the public about the strengths and weaknesses of worldwide election systems, their similarities and differences to U.S. political procedures, and thoughts on the betterment of global democracy.

“Electoral Systems Around the World” hosted four speakers who were from or had extensive knowledge about countries such as Uruguay, South Africa, Zambia and Colombia. The panel took place in VCU’s Globe Building, an experimental hybrid of both residential and educational facilities.

The speakers at Wednesday’s event were:

  • Lefate MaKunyane of Johannesburg, South Africa, a Humphrey Fellow, or visiting scholar, whose studies of interest include youth development programs, gender-based violence and mental health and substance use prevention.
  • Marcelo Martoy of Montevideo, Uruguay, a Humphrey Fellow and legal advisor to the National Drug Board of the Presidency of the Republic of Uruguay, where he is helping to redirect money confiscated from drug trafficking back into the community in the form of substance abuse prevention, education and other civic programs.
  • Sombo Chunda of Zambia, a government doctoral student, and former country manager in Zambia with Diakonia, a Swedish nonprofit humanitarian organization. Her interests and areas of study include democracy, economic development, gender equality and conflict resolution.
  • Michael A. Paarlberg, a VCU political science assistant professor and expert on Latin American politics. His research interests include immigration and labor law.

To open, the speakers each outlined the generalities of their country’s political system. Some results were standard and uniform: All of the countries have five-year political cycles. Voters consist of both men and women who are 18 years or older. No country has monetary or property ownership restrictions.

There are some stark differences among the countries represented by the panel. While most of the discussed counties have low voter turnout, at or around 50%, Martoy revealed that, because of its mandatory voter laws, Uruguay recently saw a national election with more than 90% of citizens participating.

In Uruguay, according to Martoy, nonvoters not only face a fine, but they also are denied registration for public schools, and public workers cannot receive some payments, among other things.

Following country-by-country breakdowns, the speakers outlined unique characteristics of their political systems, garnered from their research.

MaKunyane spoke of the movement to change the South African constitution to “address the imbalances of the past” when the white minority drove black people from large swaths of land — an imbalance that he said is still felt today.

There is rising tension even in the U.S., where MaKunyane said Fox News has been framing the issue as a lynching of white people. And young people, generations removed from Nelson Mandela, are becoming increasingly militant, he said.

“Unfortunately, if we don’t address this challenge, it’s going to turn into a serious civil war,” he said.

Paarlberg spoke about voter fraud, an issue often vehemently discussed by the U.S. public during election season, and how some countries deal with it. He said that in Colombia, election authorities count up the number of people who voted and the number of ballots in the box. When there is a discrepancy, they take out the extra number of ballots at random and burn them on the spot.

Chunda, who has devoted much time and effort toward including women in Zambia’s politics, spoke at length about the systematic challenges women face when approaching candidacy.

“The system is structured to favor men,” she said.

Chunda has worked with nonprofits urging Zambia’s political parties to devote 50% of their ticket to women, though she stressed that it is institutional inequalities — such as lack of education and exclusive child-rearing roles — that truly bar women from the podium.

Ultimately, the panel was asked what they thought of the U.S. political system.

“My personal impression is that the United States has many contradictions,” Martoy said.

He pointed to institutions such as democracy, freedom of the press and civil rights as positive examples, but also mentioned voter disenfranchisement, gerrymandering and disproportional influence of large corporations — sentiments echoed by most of the panel.

The consensus was that listening and learning about politics on a global scale will help combat systemic injustices — and even unite seemingly distant people.

“I think that there’s need for civic education even here in the U.S.,” Chunda said.

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