Letters to the Editor: 12/5/11

Dear Editor,

The recently established pedestrian zone of the Maple Street Plaza has removed bikers, skateboarders, and scooters from the plaza. It has also removed the life of an innocent animal from the campus of the Colorado School of Mines.

I was disappointed by the addition of new “wheel free” policy of the pedestrian zone because the wide-open area allowed bikers and pedestrians to safely traverse campus independently of one another. As a rule-following individual, I avoided the convenience of taking the plaza as a direct route to my classes. In taking the sidewalks of 17th and Illinois Street, I quickly found these areas are far more dangerous than the broad and beautiful plaza due to heavy motor vehicle traffic and smaller, cramped sidewalks. Biking on the street places the risk of being hit by cars. Using the sidewalk is dangerous as a plethora of pedestrians attempt to dodge the redirected bicycle and skateboard traffic. I have personally witnessed a bicycle and pedestrian collision on these sidewalks, and have closely missed three pedestrians on separate occasions. While traversing the plaza earlier this semester, I never once witnessed an incident between a pedestrian and a cyclist.

The slight travel inconvenience and constant risk of injury was tolerable, so I continued to follow the newly established rules of a bike free Maple Street Plaza. However, an experience I will not soon forget made the unfair and dangerous detour from the plaza become unbearable and devastating to the life of a harmless squirrel.

On the morning of November 21st, I was required to take the sidewalk of Illinois Street on my bike. After dodging pedestrians at a mild speed, a traumatizing experience succeeded. The vehicle traffic and pedestrians forced a terrified and unsuspecting squirrel from underneath a parked car into the tire of my bike. I immediately stopped, and, along with several others, stood stunned as the poor creature violently flailed and quivered on the sidewalk. I attempted to help the destroyed creature, but it became lodged underneath a car I could not reach. The blood on his face and fear in his eyes is nightmarish and disturbing. To think that this event was set in motion by an inconsiderate and stifling rule that was established without the slightest consideration of the ramifications it presented.

The third pillar of the Mines slogan is “Environment,” which draws nature-loving individuals to this school and presents a focus upon the ecosystems of the world. I have personally witnessed the campus-wide ruling of a pedestrian-only area devastate the local Mines environment.

Pedestrian only zones are necessary for large institutions where higher volumes of students are present at all times. However, the pedestrian only area of Maple Street Plaza is simply unnecessary for the small campus of Colorado School of Mines. I, and many others, selected Mines for its small campus atmosphere. This unique quality of the campus should be embraced, not stifled. All forms of motor less transportation should be available everywhere on campus.

It will not be long until a pedestrian becomes overwhelmed by the car traffic and unnecessarily detoured bicycle traffic of the sidewalks. A human will inevitably make the same mistake the as the frightened squirrel. To avoid a student or faculty member from being forced into oncoming motor-vehicle traffic, the pedestrian zone must be retracted from the Maple Street Plaza of the Colorado School of Mines.

Evan Ford

Dear Editor,

Though I tend to disagree with most of the content in Mr. Sparks publications, I feel compelled to respond to his most recent article (Grinds my Gears: Campus Parking) where he proposes the following.

“[S]pend that money [that was spent on smart meters] on maybe building a new parking lot, or buying those kids who go around barefoot some shoes (we know that you want attention but it is the wrong kind of attention and it is less hygienic than the dreadlocks of the people at occupy Wall Street)”

I happen to be one of “those kids”.  And while I take some offense at the attention remark, what I would really like to address is Mr. Sparks unsupported claim that being barefoot is unhygienic.  I would argue that being barefoot is not only as hygienic, but actually more so than wearing shoes.

Let me begin with the obvious, dirt and debris that collect on the feet.  My bare feet touch the exact same surfaces and collect very similar debris as any shoe.  However, the difference is that I need to keep a close eye on the ground to prevent myself from stepping in feces and other undesirables.  When in shoes, people do not pay such close attention to where they step and often track nasty substances indoors.

Next we have sweat and odor.  In my experience, this issue has been very minimal. When just walking around there is enough ventilation that my feet do not sweat much if at all.  And after doing something strenuous where my feet do start to sweat, I shower and clean all sweat and debris that have accumulated (do you wash your shoes after every workout?)

Finally we have the issue of safety, (i.e. you’ll get an infection or injury if you’re barefoot).  Not to say that being barefoot carries no inherent risks, but I have had no problems with either.  Infection is only a risk if the feet have open wounds, and as mentioned earlier I scan the ground constantly for anything sharp or dangerous.  Finally, injuries are possible with or without shoes.  In fact, many injuries are less likely to occur while barefoot.  This is because without external padding, proper walking and running form are absolutely essential, (i.e. no more heel striking).

I do not intend to change Mr. Sparks opinion of me or others that choose to avoid shoes.  I simply request that he refrain from making such rash and unsupported remarks that label this decision as simply unhygienic attention seeking.  Over the past three and a half years that I have avoided shoes, I have become much more active and my health has improved drastically. I hope to continue living, running, and being happy without shoes, despite the opinions that others may hold.



Dear Jarrod,
My name is Emily. I’m a senior in engineering and, I suppose you would think this unfortunate, I am one of those “parking death eaters” you spoke so highly of in the last installment of Grinds my Gears. That being said, I read your last article and found it to be woefully misinformed. As a Good Samaritan I thought I’d help set you straight and fact check it for you.

Let’s start with your first accusation directed at the student employees in Parking Services. For starters, all of us are there voluntarily. We all chose to apply for the job; we all went to the interviews of our own free will and volition. I don’t know what that says about the other monitors, but I know I applied because I believe in the rule of law and that without someone to enforce the rules no one follows them. Does that make me evil somehow? If someone parked in two spaces and didn’t get a ticket I bet you’d write an opinion column about how ineffective we are. There’s also the fact that students get these jobs because Facilities Management (the department that contains parking) won’t hire outside the student body while there are students available and willing to do them. So thanks again for demonizing us, I’ll be sure to let my friends know they should stop talking to me because I’m a death eater who is just dying to write unfair parking tickets for the Man.

On to the “money issue”, I don’t know exactly where you “read” that “hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent … on those self-pay parking machines”. Hundreds of thousands of dollars? The total cost of the machines was $140,000. That’s LESS than 1.5 hundred thousand dollars, so certainly not the plural hundreds of thousands you “read” about. Skipping ahead a little bit, you mentioned building a parking garage. I have here the cost estimates from the last time that option was brought to the table, $20,000 per space. In case you didn’t catch that, $20,000 per space. That’s a low ball estimate to boot. In addition to that, even if we had the money for that, where would we put it? Have you considered that the City of Golden would have to approve the construction? Have you considered that City of Golden has a say in how the parking is set up here? No, clearly you haven’t. In the same paragraph as the parking garage you start whining about having to get to school early to find parking. Here are some more facts and figures for you; CU Boulder has 38,000 students in attendance and only 6,700 available spaces to park in. They charge the students $45 per month for what could best be described as a hunting license. Other colleges charge upwards of $1000 per year to park in lots two or more miles away from the campus to take the shuttle in. The numbers for Mines by comparison are significantly better. We have a total of 3500 parking spaces and about 5000 students and it costs $175 per year for a general pass. Can’t find parking? Try Mines Park. During the day many students drive from Mines Park to the general and commuter lots leaving many parking spaces open and available. If you think that’s too much to ask that’s fine, you’re entitled to you own preferences and opinions. Take the bus; there are two stops at the east end of campus five minutes from all the buildings. Walk to class, it’s healthier and there’s no fee! Or try biking, with the installment of new bike racks there should be plenty of room for you to park your bike before class. Lastly, try carpooling. I personally carpool with friends who live in the same area and we alternate driving on different days of the week.

I have a few little things left to straighten out here then I’ll be done I swear. The lots that you are complaining about being closed or in accessible are that way for a reason. The lower CTLM lot, by which I assume you mean the commuter lot along Washington, is closed so that the contractors working on the new petroleum building can safely arrange and store items they need to finish construction. The Sigma Nu lot is being closed to construct the new health center. I noticed you didn’t complain about the fact that Kappa Sigma has barred students who aren’t members from parking on their half of the lot they share with Sigma Nu, or is that not important because parking didn’t do it? As far as Guggenheim is concerned, there’s a paved driveway to the entrance. I could see how you would find concrete confusing and misidentify it as a sidewalk but it is in fact a driveway. The blue “dismount here” dots on the ground indicate the beginning of the pedestrian walkway; the sandwich boards at the end are so that vehicles don’t accidentally end up driving on the walkway and to deter students from parking in the reserved lot. This lot is also not closed after hours, you can still park there after five or if you need the handicapped spaces.

I’m sorry that you are personally inconvenienced by having to walk to class; the personal sedan chair service was cut from the school budget due to the nation’s rising obesity rate and a lack of willing student employees to do the job. For future reference, comments or complaints about parking should be directed to the ASCSM representative present at the monthly parking meetings. Conveniently enough, they do have a say in how the parking system on campus works and they are the ones that approved the redesign of Guggenheim, and the walkway, and many of the other problems on campus. Here’s another suggestion, how about you take all that nervous energy you’re spending on writing opinion columns and direct it towards actually changing something.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to harassing mudbloods and preparing for the return of the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Dear School of Mines Students,
We have been students here for four years. In that time, we have gained invaluable knowledge about our field of study and how to write technical reports that our peers and employers will see. However, we believe that the curriculum set forth has not adequately prepared us for dealing, and communicating, with the more general public. We believe that steps should be taken toward improving existing courses in order to enhance our ability to broadcast information with those outside of our chosen fields.
Our fellow students and peers, we implore you to actively seek out courses that can help you better communicate with others. While it is these authors’ opinions that this school’s curriculum does not do everything that it can and should do to foster these skills, it is our duty to seek ways to enhance our communication ability.

Even though seeking to improve our ability to communicate seems like more work for us, the need to effectively communicate with the public is essential. The lack of scientific knowledge in the public is astoundingly high and so it is our obligation as scientists and engineers to develop the skills necessary to share our knowledge and reverse this trend.

The current classes being offered are inadequately teaching us how to share our ideas with the rest of the world. Despite the fact that the EPICS program tries to teach us how to properly write reports and memos, it does so only for industry purposes and not for a wider audience. People familiar with industry indicate that after five years in a work environment we struggle to gain promotions due to our inability to successfully communicate at an executive level.

So what can we do to help ourselves? The first thing we can do is take more LAIS classes focused on improving communication skills. We can also request that the school offers more language and speech classes be taught as opposed to history and literature classes.

While the statements made in this letter may appear critical, we still feel that Mines is a top tier school in terms of the education provided to us. Also, it should be noted that we have seen improvements in the courses offered. This letter is simply to raise the awareness of the need for Mines students to learn to effectively share ideas with the broader public.

Three Graduating Seniors

Dear Editor,

Social scientists rarely agree, especially over the prospects for peace in the Arab world. But professors Hussein Amery and Robert Hazan did just that in their well-attended talk co-sponsored by the Jefferson Unitarian Church’s Peace, Liberty, & Justice task force and the Progressive Religious Orediggers on Sunday, November 13.

Amery, whose geopolitical research at Mines focuses on Middle East water issues, and Hazan, a political scientist at Metro State studying developing nations, offered remarkably similar perspectives on the Arab Spring.

While western media often call these upheavals the “Arab Awakening,” both professors find it a misnomer. “Awakening” misguidedly implies that Arab peoples had been asleep rather than awake, yet powerless under regimes who catered more to western interests of stability and a steady oil supply than their own people’s basic needs.

But how was it possible in the first place that the four seemingly unshakable leaders of Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, and Egypt – shoulder to shoulder in one relaxed group photo in one year – are all out, gone, or dead in 2011?

For an answer, Amery and Hazan point to a list of legitimate political grievances of the Arab people which had come to a point where a random spark sufficed to light a fire that could no longer be contained.

Not only did their severe discontent show up in sociological surveys, the Arab press, and online, but more importantly, readily quantifiable factors like the region’s repressive political systems; dwindling natural resources; skewed demographics showing a huge bulge of underemployed youth; and static, single-track economic policies have long been indicating that revolts born of misery were looming large.

In Egypt, which Amery discussed by example, deeply felt grievances included Mubarak’s very unpopular support for Kuwait, Iraq, and Israel which pleased the US, but not his own people, along with horrific human rights abuses, shameless corruption and stifling disenfranchisement.

Looking forward, the largely peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia this past year are a matter of great pride because here we had, as one Arab publication called it, “Peasants removing dictators” rather than some outside post-colonial plot.

Both Amery and Kazan draw hope from the inherently democratic nature of the Arab people’s key demands. They want political freedom, jobs, dignity, and a voice in an accountable government. And surveys such as a massive Gallup study (published as “Who Speaks For Islam? What a Billion Muslims really think.”) do indeed show that representative government is high on their minds.

For the region’s future to turn brighter at a some significant pace will of course depend crucially on major policy realignments by US leaders. Perhaps in an effort not to spoil the hopeful mood of the hour, both speakers refrained from further prognoses. But change surely has begun.

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