Weekly UTPA Sports Updates 3/30- 4/2/2014

April 3rd, 2014

Baseball

Lost to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 15-7 April 2 at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium.

 

Women’s Golf

Junior Melissa Bernal finished in a tie for 17th place at the Husky Invitational April 1 at the Riverbend Country Club in Sugarland, Tx.

 

Men’s Golf

Finished their final round with a 304. For a ninth place finish at the ULM Wallace Jones Invitational on April 1 at the Southern Pines Golf Club in CALHOUN, La.

 

Men’s Tennis

Lost against the University of Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns March 30, 1-6 at the Cajun Courts in Lafayette, La.

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Tuition on the rise

April 3rd, 2014

As UTPA approaches its final year before merging with the University of Texas at Brownsville, its students may see a possible increases in their fall 2014 tuition. Whether this increase is related to the creation of the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley has been discussed by students.

Karina Saucedo, a junior English major, said that there may be a connection between the tuition increase and the upcoming university merger.

“I guess they are doing it to accommodate (the new university) or just to get certain grants that maybe they need, or more money from the government,” the 19-year-old said. “They are putting schools together so they think, ‘How are we going to afford this?’ Raise it. Raise the tuition.”

The proposed tuition for fall 2014 is $1,830.36, a $94.36 increase from fall 2013. This three percent increase would be a leap from the 0.14 percent increase seen between the 2012 and 2013 school years. Despite proposed increases, UTPA’s tuition will still sit more than $2,000 below that of the University of Texas at Dallas and nearly $1,800 below that of the University of Texas at Austin.

“I feel that (UTPA) shouldn’t do it,” Saucedo said. “I guess we just have to bear it and hope financial aid gives us enough to cover it.”

While the proposed tuition raise seems unnecessary to some students, the Cost of Education Committee released a Powerpoint explaining the processes of initiating a possible rise in cost for students and where the funds would be distributed.

The Powerpoint states that the possible increase in tuition would help fund two new buildings on campus that will cost approximately $900,000. Also the University must set aside funds for exempt students, such as veterans. These factors, among others, are responsible for the possible increase, according to the committee.

The Cost of Education Committee consists of two faculty members, seven staff members, one parent and 10 students, including current Student Government Association President Aaron Barreiro. The committee members meet to discuss increases before making suggestions to University President Robert Nelsen.

Barreiro said that the committee is responsible for looking at tuition costs and deciding whether to approve an increase. The committee then sends recommendations for an increase to the University President Robert Nelsen.

“There are number of different factors that play a role in whether or not tuition increases,” Barreiro said. “This past fiscal year, the tuition increase was focused on taking the money and giving it back to students through a number of different programs.”

After a possible increase in tuition, UTPA and UTB would remain the two most inexpensive schools within the UT system, just below the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and the University of Texas at Tyler, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

According to an article by The Monitor, UTB may see an increase of nearly 7 percent in their fall tuition rates.

While a previous article by The Monitor stated that the possible tuition increase at UTB is set to match that of UTPA, University of Texas System Spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo said that this is not the case.

“There’s no connection between UTB tuition and UTPA tuition,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “That discussion about what tuition will be at UT-RGV has not begun.”

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Events calendar April 3-12

April 3rd, 2014

Screen shot 2014 04 02 at 9.09.13 PM Events calendar April 3 12

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Campus mixtape

April 3rd, 2014

Some students zip up their backpacks after a day of classes and head to work or their homes. But for UTPA students Matthew Castillo and Sarah Walker, who perform in local bands, the day doesn’t end until the crowd applauds.

Texas country band Matt & The Herdsmen and alternative punk group Pinky Swear bring their own rhythms to the local music scene while balancing classes at the University.

 

COUNTRY STRONG

Matt & The Herdsmen is a four-piece Texas country band starring three UTPA students: Matthew Castillo, Beto Cavazos, Danny Salinas and Texas A&M Kingsville alumnus Ruben Cantu. Since November 2013, Matt & The Herdsmen have been a part of the local music scene, performing in events as far as Austin.

Austin native and group frontman Castillo said he had always wanted to start a band and finally did when introduced to the group’s current drummer, Cantu, in October 2013.

“I’m happy with the group that I have,” said Castillo, a kinesiology major at UTPA. “We’re all hard workers by heart, we love what we do and we’re always itching for a new gig, changing it up.”

Castillo explained that Texas Country is Western music with a modern twist. He believes his band is one of few such bands on campus, and notes that each member brings a different element into the creation of songs and can’t wait to earn more notice and credibility in the music scene.

The members have been inspired by Country Music Hall of Fame artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.

Despite the fact that Matt & The Herdsmen have been playing together for a short period of time, they’ve found themselves performing locally at Monster Car Wash Bar & Grill and Austin’s Nutty Brown Café.

The band finds themselves pleasing crowds with top original songs such as “Too Drunk Anyway”, “Come Back Home” and “Dance All Night.”

As Matt & The Herdsmen prepared for a performance at The Flying Walrus March 27, the guys hoped the audience members would feel as if they were part of the music themselves.

“That’s the biggest reward, when nobody knows who you are, they go check you out and they end up staying the whole night,” Castillo said. “There’s people that have never heard us play or they don’t even like country, but they just like the style and how we push it and I think that’s what gets them.”

As Castillo described the process of adding the finishing touches on a song, Cantu explained that his favortie part of the music making process is nearly completing songs. He shares his passion for music with his bandmates and looks forward to what the future has to offer.

“When we finish a song and when we listen to it I’m like, ‘Wow, did we really just come up with that?’” said Cantu, an Edinburg native. “I really think they’re something you could hear on the radio one day.”

The Herdsmen all share a sense of accomplishment when it comes to creating original music, however Cavazos, who has been playing guitar for almost nine years, admits that with music comes hard work.

“I don’t know what else I would want to do sometimes,” the Edinburg native said. “I just want to play guitar and whatever I feel needs to come out, comes out.”

 

VALLEY POP

The night following Matt & the Herdsmen’s gig, McAllen’s Simon Sez was over capacity during a concert featuring San Antonio-based punk band FEA. The first performance of the night was by local band Pinky Swear, an alternative punk rock band whose members include: Sarah Walker, Christian Hanks, John Morales and Max Perkins.

Pinky Swear, whose four members are all UTPA undergraduate students, have been on the music scene since October 2013. The alternative punk rock crew formed when lead singer Walker met bass player Morales through mutual friends and discussed forming a band as a “side project.” They then met current drummer Perkins, who introduced them to existing guitarist Hanks.

After their recent McAllen gig, the band discussed onstage experiences.

“It’s always intimidating to perform, especially with other bands,” said Morales, a 21-year-old anthropology major. “But after the show, especially tonight, when members of the other bands congratulate us and remarked that they enjoyed our music, it’s always really cool.”

Since its creation, the band has mainly played in do-it-yourself, or self-funded shows, in venues such as local bars, like The Flying Walrus and the latest McAllen’s Galax Z Fair. The group’s members briefly argued about which type of venue was the best kind to perform in.

Morales, a Philippines native, vouched for smaller shows due to the “intimacy” that is provided between the audience and performers. But guitarist Hanks defended big stages.

“The bigger the crowd, the more exposure you’ll get,” said Hanks, a geology major from McAllen. “It’s also great to use it as a test to see what kind of reactions a big crowd will get.”

Pinky Swear practices at least twice a week in their drummer’s garage before the night of a performance, but meet up as often as possible to write music together. Walker remarked on the sense of camaraderie being in a band provides.

“It’s great just to hang out with each other and perform music that we’ve worked on to present to the public,” said Walker, a film and TV major from McAllen.

While most of the members of Pinky Swear admitted that they weren’t sure whether or not they’d want to continue performing in the future, Perkins expressed an interest in it.

“When I’m in a band, it’s a commitment,” said the 20-year-old biology major from McAllen. “I put my time, sweat and effort into it. I wouldn’t say that maybe I won’t make a career out of it, but if it happens, I wouldn’t mind.”

 

SOUNDCHECK

With upcoming gigs around the corner, Matt & The Herdsmen have been busy practicing, as well as writing original songs. The group hopes to start recording an album later this year and celebrate with a release party.

“I don’t mind performing for a long time. You get to write music, put your life on a piece of paper, make a rhythm out of it and have people relate to it,” Castillo said. “We would all give up everything if we could just make it, but we’re five months in and we have a long way ahead of us.”

Pinky Swear plans to release a cassette tape filled with their original songs later this year and has an upcoming performance at Simon Sez April 12.

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The Science Guy

April 3rd, 2014

Clad in his signature multicolored bowtie, Bill Nye kicked off his visit to UTPA Tuesday, April 1 with a blend of comedy and science aptitude. As the second speaker for the 2013-14 Distinguished Speaker Series, the first being columnist Ruben Navarrette, Nye spoke to a packed Field House about the necessity of science.

One of Nye’s main talking points concerned the changing climate of Earth. According to the 58-year-old Cornell alumnus, Earth’s carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly since 1997.

“Everybody in this room, or almost everybody, was alive, when that number changed from .03 to .04 (percent),” said the former star of Bill Nye the Science Guy, which aired from 1993-2011. “In your lifetime, the Earth’s atmosphere has gone up a third.”

To better illustrate the significance of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Nye explained it in terms of the atmospheres on Venus and Mars. Both planets possess atmospheres that are made up of more than 95 percent carbon dioxide. As a result, both celestial objects have climates much different from Earth, and much deadlier.

“The clouds are made of sulfuric acid,” Nye said of Venus’ environment. “The reason Mars is the way that it is and the reason Venus is the way it is, is largely because of carbon dioxide.”

What is worrisome, according to Nye, is that increased levels of the gas result in the thinning of the atmosphere and this can lead to problems for humanity. The population increased to 3 billion when the scientist was in third grade. Now, it stands at more than 7 billion.

“The world’s population has more than doubled in my lifetime,” said the author of numerous children’s books, including Bill Nye The Science Guy’s Big Blast Of Science. “So the atmosphere of the Earth is thin, it’s got enough carbon dioxide to keep us warm. But now we have 7 billion people using it. Every single thing you ever do affects everybody in the whole world. We all share the air. There is nobody who doesn’t breathe the air.”

Nye has contributed to climate change discussions in the past. In January 2012 the scientist wrote the foreword for Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. Based on the findings of a 2001 report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations, the book uses the “hockey stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years, as the crux of its argument. The graph illustrates the rising temperature and the increased rate at which it is occurring due to carbon dioxide levels.

The theory has faced scrutiny as recent as May 2013, with doubters arguing that it was too simple and that uncertainties in historical climate readings were disregarded to make the chart more dramatic. But opposition aside, Nye still supports the theory.

“It’s not the temperature of the world as such, it’s the rate, the speed at which is changing,” Nye said at the presentation. “That is our problem. And by our problem, I mean your problem.”

In addition to climate change, Nye also spoke about his continuing debate concerning creationism being taught as science. In February, Nye debated Kevin Ham, founder of the Kentucky-based Creation Museum, about the origins of life. Ham argued that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago and that the Bible tells factual information about the origins of Earth and life.

“They want to teach creationism in schools,” Nye said during the question-and-answer session at the end of the presentation. “That’s fine, if they want to teach it as philosophy or history of myths. If you want to teach creationism as part of that, that’s fine, but it’s not science.”

Isela Lopez was one of the more than 3 million people  who tuned in to the debate earlier this year. The business management major, and fan of Nye, entered an essay contest to have dinner with the celebrity prior to the presentation.

“I’ve loved Bill Nye since I was young,” the sophomore said. “Every Friday I would watch him in elementary. I have Bill Nye to thank for most of my science knowledge.”

While Lopez is not pursuing a science degree, she believes the presentation for the Speakers Series was relevant and important to everyone.

“I know I’m not a scientist, I don’t understand as much as I wish, but I know science is everywhere,” Lopez said. “Even though science isn’t my calling, people who have that power to study that, should be able to pursue it, and someone like him coming here to talk to us…it must mean a lot to them. It even means a lot to me and I’m not a science major.”

This idea was reinforced by Nye’s closing statements.

“That is the essence of science. It is inherently optimistic,” he said. “To celebrate the joy of knowing, that joy of discovery that is deep within us. It’s what drives us. You can, dare I say, change the world.”

 

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Lending a healthy hand

April 3rd, 2014

With student research posters lining the walls of the UTPA ballroom, demonstrations and games awaited the community in the quad the morning of March 29.
Maximizing Opportunities in Research and Education (MORE) took place on campus March 26-29. The four-day event included presentations and panel discussions by doctors and professors. Topics ranged from health care policies, such as the impact of the Affordable Care Act, to new research related to diabetes, obesity and other life-threatening diseases in the Rio Grande Valley.
The event culminated to the final day with a community health fair open to the UTPA community. Here, more than 50 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students presented their research projects the first day of the conference in a competition to find who was the best in each academic level. Research from students ranged from drug interactions to hearing awareness. Results were announced on the third day, with winners receiving a Kindle Fire as their prize.
The event was an initiative by the College of Health Sciences and Human Services with assistance from the Pan American Collaboration of Ethics in Professions (PACE), Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and many other community partners from the Valley. The conference brought awareness to important health issues, such as diabetes and obesity.
“It’s a chance for us to be engaged in the community, provide a service to the community, and give a reason for the community to come on campus and benefit from what the faculty and the students have to offer,” said Jon Ronnau, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services. “There’s all kinds of topics and activities that will get the people to think about health, being healthy and provide information to the community to get healthier and particularly how to combat and reduce the amount of diabetes and obesity.”
This was the second year of the conference, and more than 100 students, faculty and members of the medical community were in attendance. Associate Professor of Nursing Beatriz Bautista commented on the benefits of the conference.
“It helps us grow future health care professionals in different areas and research is part of what we do since it helps us take better care of patients,” said Bautista, who has been at the University since 1991 and is the director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at UTPA. “We have a lot of talent in the Valley, so this helps us bring out that talent and push them in that way.”
Ana Quintero, a graduate nursing student, agreed with Bautista and compared the event to last year’s inaugural conference.
“This is the second year it’s happened, and it seems to have improved from last year, so I really hope it continues on,”  Quintero said. “As future health care providers in our college, I think it’s really important as we’re getting pushed out to start working, events like this bring up important topics for us to be aware of.”
Denise Alaniz, a senior student participant, shared her hopes of the conference receiving more attention in upcoming years.
“I believe the effort that students put into studies, whether it’s something that they wanted to expand their knowledge about and present it to the community, that it’s great,” the communication sciences and disorders major said. “I just wish it was more known to the community, and that they knew the amount of work that the students put into this, because it took a lot out of us.”
One of the main objectives of the event was to make a progressive impact on the UTPA community and the RGV. In 2012, the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest rate of obesity and households below the poverty line in the nation, with percentages of 38.8 and 37.7, respectively. Currently, the rate of diabetes is 26 percent in the RGV, while Hidalgo County’s rates for hospital admissions for long-term diabetes are twice the statewide average, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
With these statistics in mind, Dean Ronnau hopes this conference and the years ahead will make a profound change in the RGV.
“I think any time that the University reaches out to the community, and the community can see the value added to the University by what the faculty does and students do and the great work that our students are doing, I think that’s a huge win,” Ronnau said. “We had a real good participation, a nice good variety of topics, and I’m very pleased with the turnout and the level of involvement.”

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Less money, more problems

April 3rd, 2014

On average, most college students accumulate $25,000 in debt after completing a four-year undergraduate degree, according to debt consolidation website Consolidated Credit. And for the first time ever, loan debt has outpaced credit card debt.

College Board stated that in 2013, the average in-state tuition at a four-year public university was $8,522 per semester. At UTPA, tuition averaged to $5,446 in the spring 2014 semester.

Along with a textbook education, college also comes with lessons about saving and spending money. Infographic website Daily Statistic states that 75 percent of college students hold down jobs and receive $1,200 a month with help from their parents. Forty percent of that amount goes toward things such as technology, clothing and food.

General rehab major Aaron Cepeda recently became financially independent from his parents. Now his spending revolves tightly around bills and gas money for his new car. The 23-year-old Edinburg resident works as a personal assistant and earns between $570 to $650 every two weeks.

Cepeda said that his decision to become financially independent at the start of this semester came as a shock to his parents. He also mentioned how switching from his single-person scooter to a car has greatly impacted his spending.

“I made all these life-changing decisions at the beginning of this semester and it threw (my parents) off. They kind of freaked out, but I’m managing,” he explained. “I’ve never had to pay for a lot of gas before because my scooter would only need like $3. Now it’s around $50, but it’s a lot better.”

While his bi-monthly paychecks are spent primarily on bills, junior Dulce Garcia’s funds go toward gas, food and shopping sprees. Four days out of the week, the rehabilitative services student commutes from her home in Hidalgo to the University, a 45-minute drive.

The 19-year-old worked at an HEB for two years then at a DDs Discount store for six months, but has currently been unemployed for about two weeks. Because of this, Garcia’s cash comes from her parents, who give her an average of $80 weekly. She also said that her parents opened a savings account, but she withdraws funds from it. Taking money from her parents, Garcia said, is  not something she wants to continue doing.

“It’s only been a week and I already need another job because it’s hard knowing where I’m going to get my money for the following week,” she said. “I don’t want to depend on my parents all the time, but right now I have to.”

 

MEANT TO BE SPENT

According to a December 2012 article by an online college community called Alive Campus, college students collectively spend more than $60 billion annually. Students spend nearly $13 billion on electronics and $11 billion on snacks and drinks, not including alcohol. An average of $5.5 billion is spent on the latter.

Garcia estimated that she spends most of her dough on food because she often eats out or on campus. She said $40 goes to food and another $40 to gas, but she also admits to having a spending problem. Once she is given money by her parents, the first thing she does is fill her gas tank and head to the mall.

“On a day that I have money, I’ll go shopping and spend about $80 or $100 max. When I don’t have money, $40 or $50,” she explained. “I go major shopping about four or five times a month. When I have money, I go more than once a week.”

For Cepeda, his spending goes a little differently. After receiving his check, he splits his monthly rent of $650 with his roommate, pays his phone bill and deposits $50 into his life insurance policy.

Garcia is not the only one of the pair who likes to splurge on herself. After all of his dues have been paid, Cepeda has his own night in.

“I have my typical Friday night, which consists of something like pizza and junk food, because I’m so wiped out by the end of the week that I just want to stay home,” he explained. “I actually go crazy on the app store in iTunes. Maybe $30 of each paycheck will go to apps or to renting a movie or something like that.”

Both students receive financial aid from UTPA, Cepeda with a scholarship that covers most of his tuition and Garcia with a grant that pays for part of hers. The two of them also use student loans, but Cepeda said he doesn’t see himself needing one next semester because of his salary and savings.

“I did have to adjust and decide for myself to start financially planning now,” he said. “I was at the point where I said, ‘I’m 23. I can’t really be this dependent on my parents anymore. It’s time to start being more financially independent.’”

Garcia, on the other hand, said she knows she must control her spending in order to pay off loans after she graduates in May 2015, but it is not easy to do.

“It is a problem. When I have a dollar or two dollars, I’ll go and spend it. I’ll go buy a bag of chips if I have to. I cannot have money with me, I have to be spending it at all times,” she explained. “Everyone tells me that I need to stop because it’s going to get to me one day, but I can’t save money at all.”

 

SAVVY SAVING

After becoming independent from his parents, Cepeda believes he is learning how to save every day, but he understands that spending is tempting.

“I think it’s that you work so hard and you feel like you deserve (to buy something) and you want it, so why not take it? Sometimes it can be a little difficult, but I live by the philosophy that sometimes you have to treat yourself,” he said with a smile.

Next semester, Garcia said saving should become easier for her because she will only be commuting to school twice a week, which will cut down on gas and lunch spending.

Ultimately, Cepeda feels that becoming his own breadwinner has been troublesome, but necessary.

“I feel really good,” he said. “It has its times where it’s stressful, and there are times where I don’t know what the heck I’m going to do, but I do feel proud of myself for accomplishing a lot of things on my own.”

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Cesar Chavez Weekend

March 27th, 2014

The city of San Juan will be the home of the 11th Annual Cesar Chavez March, in honor of what would be the labor leader’s 87th birthday.

Chavez, a Mexican-American icon who died in April 1993, is best known for promoting organized labor and co-founding what became the United Farm Workers, a worker’s rights organization that fought for equal rights in the 1960s and beyond.

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a non-profit organization also founded by Chavez to help improve low-income communities, will host the march Saturday at 9 a.m.

Attendees will start by the Farmworker Mural at the San Juan Municipal Park, located on Business 83, and finish nearly two miles later in the LUPE San Juan Office on Cesar Chavez Road and Business 83. According to LUPE community organizer Yvette Salinas, nearly 1,200 people participated in last year’s event.

The theme for this year’s march is immigration reform, with the goal of raising awareness of President Barack Obama’s current plan to change the current immigration policy. The reform bill passed the Senate last year but is currently stalled in the House. Among other things, it calls for programs to legalize undocumented immigrants

For Salinas, the yearly march is an opportunity for the entire community to be “energized” about the immigration movement. The Alton resident, who has participated in the event for the last seven years, considers the kind of impact it could have on the community.

“It feels great to be a grain of salt in a movement as big as this,” Salinas said. “To be a part of something like this feels like we’re making Cesar Chavez’s catchphrase, ‘Si se puede,’ come true.”

The first 500 people to check in will receive a T-shirt and marchers will be asked to sign an online petition asking Obama to proclaim March 31, Chavez’s birthday, as a national day of service. Organizers have attempted to get this idea codified and follow the example of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King, whose birthday is a national holiday.

After the march, LUPE members will be available to help enroll people in the Affordable Care Act.

Also new this year is the film screening of the biopic Cesar Chavez. The movie stars End of Watch’s Michael Peña in the title role and is directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna (Y tu Mama Tambien) The feature depicts the creation of the UFW as well as several key nonviolent protests led by Chavez.

The film will be screened Wednesday and Thursday across the Rio Grande Valley in three different theaters before its release Friday.

According to LUPE’s website, each ticket costs $5 and proceeds will go toward the film’s opening weekend box office as well as to the organization. The first two screenings, at Carmike 20 in Edinburg March 26 and McAllen’s Hollywood USA March 27, are sold out. The last available screening is Thursday at Cinemark 10 in Weslaco at 8 p.m.

For Tania Chavez, the special project coordinator for LUPE, Cesar Chavez is a must-see due to the impact it could have in the Latino community.

“Latinos are underrepresented in film, and we’ve yet to see a Latino character be a hero,” the 28-year-old Edinburg resident said. “Hopefully, if the movie is a success, then not only will the Latino community be recognized, but more movie like this will be made for us.”

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Character, courage and commitment

March 27th, 2014

Mabel Cortina-Matos, UTPA program coordinator, made it her mission earlier in the semester to contact all University colleges to find out if any faculty or students were doing anything to promote Women’s History Month. When multiple ideas came trickling in, Matos thought to bring them all together to create one week to celebrate the month, consisting of six events, which started March 18 and ended Wednesday.

“Our school is an educational institution, which is why we found it necessary to pay tribute to one of history’s most significant time periods,” said Matos, who graduated from UTPA in 2008 with a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology, Communication and Sociology. “We want our students, our community, to be aware of the events in history that shaped America to what it is today.”

For nearly 10 years, UTPA has promoted and celebrated Women’s History Month. The University Program Board and the Gender and Women Studies Program, along with seven other organizations, came together to celebrate Women’s History Month.

“We all decided it would be a good idea to collaborate together because nine brains are brighter than one, right? Also, in doing so, we were able to pick out the best ideas to make this event a really strong one,” said Matos, an Arizona native. “It wasn’t easy because there were numerous great ideas, but in the end we were able to narrow it down to the six best.”

The first event of the week, titled “Women’s Empowerment,” took place March 18 and March 20. UTPA sorority Kappa Delta Chi teamed up with the University’s Panhellenic Council to encourage women to be positive role models for other women and young girls.

Matos stated that this event was important because it motivated ladies to uphold the character, courage and perseverance shown by women in history, such as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

A panel on gender and women’s studies was held March 20, where Caroline Miles, an instructor at the University who started the Women’s Literature and Gender Studies class in 2010, presented some of her and her students’ research on gender and women-related issues, such as equality in the workplace and sexual abuse.

The Student Union played host to the week’s third and fourth events Monday. In the evening, a private mother-and-daughter reception was held in the Union’s commons where attendees were free to eat and converse. Generation Sex was then performed by the ladies of Teatro Luna, which was open to the public.

Teatro Luna, a Chicago-based theater group with an all-Latina cast, included burlesque, poetry and several other elements in their act, which centered on technology and how it impacts people’s sex lives today.

On Wednesday, an audience was informed about several topics surrounding women’s health during a Student Health Services Open House in UTPA’s Student Health Services Building, located next to the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.

Items discussed included recognizing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as of Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. At the end of the session, audience members were able to ask one-on-one questions and schedule personal appointments with a health services representative.

The last event of the week, a panel on women in leadership, also took place Wednesday in the University Center lobby, where a select handful of women from across the Rio Grande Valley were recognized and celebrated for their success in their field of work. These women were asked to speak to the audience about their perseverance and commitment in achieving their goals in hopes of stirring up inspiration. They also provided tips and pointers for becoming a more well-rounded person.

According to Matos, there was an estimated 1,500 attendees for the entire week, with an average of about 250 people at each event.

“Women’s History Month is a tribute to all of the generations of women, past and present, whose commitments and contributions have been invaluable to our society,” Matos said. “It’s a month to praise the long, hard road women have walked along to get our status to where it is today.”

 

BACK TO THE PAST

According to Ann-Marie Imbornoni, author of Women’s Rights Movements in the U.S., a laundry list of events occurred that slowly empowered women over time. Eleanor Roosevelt was appointed as first chairwoman of the Presidential Commision on the Status of Women by former President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay a woman less than a man for the same job.

According to the National Women’s History Project, after decades of commitment and pushing for their rights, women’s efforts were recognized and celebrated. In February 1980, former President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 2-8 as National Women’s History Week.

The National Women’s History Project said that state departments of education encouraged schools across the country to celebrate Women’s History Week as an attempt to achieve equality goals within classrooms. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration for 1978.

The following year, California began the annual “Real Women” essay contest and other special events, such as presentations and tributes. States such as Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland developed and distributed similar curriculum materials enforcing women’s historic achievements. Within a few years, thousands of schools and communities were celebrating women’s history and how females worked in order to obtain their equality.

By 1986, 14 states had declared March Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed resolutions requesting and authorizing President George H.W. Bush to make March of each year Women’s History Month. Since 1995, U.S. presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.

 

WOMEN AT UTPA TODAY

Despite these facts, it was not until spring 2013 that UTPA’s Feminist Club was formed. The organization has participated in several events, such as the Clothesline Project, where both victims of violence and their supporters paint messages on white T-shirts to display on campus.

Since Miles became the director of the University’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program in 2010, she has worked to spread knowledge of it. For almost two years now, UTPA has offered Gender and Women’s Studies as a minor.

According to Matos, UTPA has carried on the legacy of celebrating Women’s History Month as a way to respect and pay tribute to America’s history as well as praise the women of the past and present for having the courage to stick to their guns and fight for what they believe is right.

Matos said it is important to celebrate Women’s History Month because of how large a role women’s equality played in society’s history.

“Our main goal is to hit our students and community with knowledge and appreciation for all aspects of our nation’s history,” she said. “We definitely intend on continuing celebrating Women’s History Month for years to come.”

Categories: Arts & Life

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Toxic

March 27th, 2014

In an effort to inform residents about the hazardous contaminated plume found under approximately 33 acres of McAllen by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ), several UTPA students and faculty have begun reaching out to the community about the issue.

A groundwater plume, based on the definition provided by the Environmental Engineering Dictionary, is a volume of contaminated groundwater that extends downward and outward from a specific source.

The students held their first community gathering, the Plume Round Table, March 22 to inform residents about the situation.

The meeting was organized by Sarah Chavez, a senior history and anthropology major. She has also organized other events, including canvassing the area of the plume every Friday to inform residents  and holding campus meetings to raise awareness among UTPA students.

Chavez planned the round table meeting with the help of other fellow students, including Sam Denny, Alexis Bay and Anna Hernandez.

According to Chavez, they first learned about the issue in professor Lynn Vincentnathan’s Anthropological Method and Theory course in fall 2013.

“It started out as a class project to restore the historical case and trial documents that were getting destroyed for the UTPA Border Studies Archives,” said Chavez, a member of Battleground Texas and the Environmental Awareness Club. “But the more I found out and read about the issue, especially about the suffering of the people, the more I felt something had to be done to clean up the mess.”

The acres of groundwater plume pollution is one of the largest areas of contamination in the U.S., according to an investigation conducted by KRGV Channel 5 News in 2011, as well as a court case first opened in 1992. The affected zone lies below 23rd Street and Business 83.

Although state agencies had known about the plume for at least 16 years,  based on KRGV’s report, the first lawsuit was filed in 1992 by attorney and UTPA alum Scott McLain.

“I was hired by a client who could not obtain a permit to open an adult day care facility for a building over the plume because of concern that vapors could enter the building and affect the health of the elderly folks at the facility,” McLain said.

When researching the case further, McLain discovered the plume. But, according to the attorney, the TCEQ had knowledge of the problem several years before.

“The TCEQ had known about the contamination in the neighborhood since approximately 1990,” he said. “They first learned of it because of the failure of tank tightness tests at several gas stations in the area.”

According to McLain, while the TCEQ believed only one small plume emanated from a gas station next to his client’s property,  research showed otherwise.

“Our testing revealed that there were in fact two plumes, the relatively small plume caused by a gas station next door to my original client’s property, and another much larger plume to the north,” McLain said. “The northern plume was over 10 times larger than the southern plume.”

RISKING CANCER

Subsequent testing revealed not only the existence of multiple plumes, but also the presence of benzene, a well-known cancer-causing pollutant, in the groundwater.

“There was an abundant presence of benzene,” McLain said. “After extensive fingerprinting of the product by the geochemists we hired, we came to the conclusion that the bulk of the product in the plume is natural gas condensate, not refined gasoline.”

As a result, McLain believes the benzene contamination came from natural gas activity.

“We believe (benzene) came from natural gas wells and pipelines,” he said. “So we sued all of the companies that had ever owned or operated the wells and associated pipelines in the area.”

According to the American Cancer Society, benzene is a colorless flammable liquid that evaporates and is a part of crude oil and gasoline. Studies conducted on lab animals and humans show that the link between benzene and cancer has been linked to leukemia and cancers of other blood cells.

Based on information provided by the American Cancer Society, people are most often exposed to benzene by breathing contaminated air from gasoline fumes, automobile exhaust, emissions from factories and water waste from industries.

People residing in the contaminated area in McAllen, an estimated 200 families, developed cancers and died, according to the attorney.

“We had one client who grew up living over the plume (and) developed leukemia as a college student,” McLain said. “Another client had a child who grew up living over the plume who sadly died of leukemia.”

For the residents of McAllen, however, the flammability of the contaminant could pose a serious threat.

Similar to the McAllen plume, one in the downtown district of Analco in Guadalajara, Mexico, caused numerous explosions in 1992 that was traced to the sewer systems, which contained benzene. The explosions killed 252, injured 500 and left 15,000 residents homeless.

With such a flammable contaminant lurking beneath, UTPA organizer Chavez cannot help but fear the worse.

“There are a lot of kids that go out and play with matches,” Chavez said. “It’s an immediate danger, but even if it doesn’t go off, the fumes are still killing people.”

Bay, a senior political science major and McAllen resident, said the issue is all too real.

“The plume is huge. It moves. It’s toxic. I want every person living here to be safe because all families have a right to live without worry,” she said.

CLEANUP

Although people believe cleanup efforts were decided when the case closed in 2011, according to McLain, such actions did not occur  and to this day, little work has been started.

“After the Channel 5 news story ran in 2011, the TCEQ started doing some work…I don’t think much was done,” the attorney said. “The TCEQ promised to keep me in the loop on the work that was done, but I haven’t heard from them in several years.”

As a result, the group of students hope to restart the cleanup that never happened in the coming weeks through various community and campus meetings, as well as this initial Plume Round Table.

“For the people of South McAllen, nothing should be more relevant than getting (the plume) cleaned up,” Chavez said.

Regarding the delay of action by TCEQ, Bay believes work should have been undertaken sooner.

“This is something the government should have taken care of a long time ago,” she said.

According to Chavez, the danger faced by residents currently living in the exposed area is one of the reasons she wants to inform the public and get the TCEQ to finish cleaning up the contaminated area.

Despite the fact that Chavez does not live near the 33 acres of contamination under 23rd Street and Business 83, she feels people deserve to know about it.

“I am an outsider in the community affected, but I am concerned,” Chavez said. “I want people in the neighborhood to know what lies beneath their homes.”

As far as getting the community involved, and ultimately the TCEQ to take charge, Chavez admits it is necessary but it won’t be easy.

“It’s not going to be the most popular thing to share,” she said. “But if there are any elders or children, they need to know. They are the first ones affected. The way I see it, every mother deserves to know.”

Categories: News

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