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I WRITE

I've written hundreds of news and feature articles, opinion columns and a handful of sports pieces for publications including The Hawk Eye, The Arizona Republic, The East Valley Tribune, Cronkite News Service and The State Press, but my passion is in political watchdog reporting.

 

I EDIT

I spent eight months as the weekend editor at The Hawk Eye in Burlington, Iowa, where I edited a mix of local and wire stories. I previously spent three years as an editor for The State Press, Arizona State University's student-run news publication.

 

I SHOOT

I have experience producing news packages in both Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. I know how to pair text and video or photos to tell the most effective stories.

 

I DESIGN

Along with InDesign, I use Adobe products including Illustrator, Photoshop and DreamWeaver to create infographics and splash pages. At The Hawk Eye, I laid out between three and nine pages a day and was responsible for the feature-heavy weekend section and Sunday centerpiece.

 

Hi, i'm julia shumway.

WELCOME TO my portfolio.

 

ABOUT ME

#Julia Shumway is a digital journalist and alumna of Arizona State University now covering the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature as part of a two-person team for the Associated Press. She's also covered city and county government in southeast Iowa, served as a thorn in the side of Arizona politicians as a political fact-checker at the Arizona Republic and brought fresh design ideas to Iowa's oldest newspaper, The Hawk Eye. Before joining the Hawk Eye team, she led ASU's student newspaper, The State Press, to becoming an entirely digital publication, doubling its reach in the process. Julia combines strong reporting and editing skills with a grasp on how to attract and retain audiences online. She's most passionate about political watchdog reporting that holds powerful figures accountable and translates complex issues for everyday people. And come the end of June, she can work for you.

  • AWARDS


    awards

    2017 Iowa Associated Press Media Editors Awards
    -Second place, continuing news coverage
    2017 Iowa Newspaper Awards
    -Third place, front page design
    Associated Collegiate Press 2015 Online Pacemaker Awards
    -Winner, The State Press
    2015 Society of Professional Journalists Region 11 Mark of Excellence Awards
    -Winner, best digital student publication: The State Press
    -Finalist, editorial writing

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    The Arizona Republic
    The State Press
    The East Valley Tribune
    Cronkite News Service
    The North Tempe Compass

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    Politics, public policy, coffee, higher education, government, coffee, Gilmore Girls, baseball (Go Cards!), coffee, YA lit, hiking, travel, coffee.

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    Click here to view my résumé or here to download a PDF.

 

PORTFOLIO

Skills // Editing, AP Style, Breaking News, Feature Articles, News Writing, Opinion Writing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Wordpress, Fact-checking, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, HTML, CSS

Activists: Animal-cruelty bill part of trend
Julia Shumway, The Arizona Republic
Read the full story on azcentral.com
cow

The images and videos taken by undercover employees in some factory farms show chickens rubbed raw from being crammed in cages, cows covered in filth and pigs bleeding from the snout after being cut by their ownenclosures.

In some cases, the secretly captured images have been the only evidence of widespread animal mistreatment. A handful of agriculture-heavy states, including Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Montana and North Dakota, have adopted bans on recording photos, audio or video without a farm owner's permission.

Animal-welfare activists fear legislation advancing in Arizona will thwart such undercover investigations here.

Arizona's House Bill 2150, which won legislative approval last week and is awaiting a decision by Gov. Doug Ducey, does not ban secret recordings of animals. The Governor's Office has received thousands of messages from Arizonans and people across the country on both sides of the legislation.

The bill, which separates livestock and poultry from pets under the state's animal-cruelty statutes, does include a requirement that animal advocates say could curb undercover probes: that anyone investigating animal abuse report the probe to the state Department of Agriculture, which can then choose to join the investigation.

Chris Green, legislative-affairs director at the national Animal Legal Defense Fund, said notifying the Arizona Department of Agriculture about investigations could allow the department, which has a close relationship with the industry, to tip off farmers.

"It just seems weird because if law enforcement is already investigating, you don't need the Department of Agriculture involved," Green said.

Chloe Waterman, legislative-affairs director at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, cited a 2011 incident in which a veterinarian at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned a farm about an upcoming raid.

Undercover investigators had videotaped abuse and shared the footage with the county sheriff, who contacted the department for advice six days before the raid. Within hours, the veterinarian was on the phone with the farm's owner.

"That impeded the case," Waterman said. "Local law-enforcement agencies should retain the right to conduct their own investigations."

But bill supporters, including the Arizona Farm Bureau, say the Department of Agriculture brings expert knowledge to investigations. Law enforcement agencies are the first to be notified of any abuse, but agricultural experts are able to distinguish between pets and livestock, government-relations manager Ana Kennedy said.

And the Department of Agriculture isn't likely to interfere with other investigations, spokeswoman Laura Oxley said, noting the department's relatively small staff.

"If a situation is already being investigated, the department has plenty of other things to occupy its time," she said.

The Department of Agriculture employs peace officers who investigate animal mistreatment, Oxley said. The most common complaints, especially during the recession, related to underfed horses.

'Ag-gag' trend

The ASPCA first noticed an uptick in so-called "ag-gag" bills in 2012, Waterman said. Some criminalize recording or collecting data, while others require quick-reporting of suspected animal abuse.

Many states, including Arizona, define abuse or neglect in part as permitting protracted suffering. "We have to show that this isn't a one-off incident of a person kicking a cow," Waterman said.

HB 2150 replaces "protracted suffering" in the definitions for pets with "unreasonable suffering."

Livestock, meanwhile, would be considered abused if treated to "undue suffering."

A 2014 Arizona bill, which would have reduced penalties for livestock cruelty, made the Department of Agriculture solely responsible for investigating allegations and required that anyone with photo or video evidence of mistreatment turn it over to the department within five business days. The bill died in the Senate.

Some aspects of the 2014 and 2015 bills resemble model legislation from the conservative, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson and the sponsor of HB 2150 and the 2014 bill, reported receiving a gift of at least $500 from ALEC in 2014.

In 2003, ALEC developed the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, which prohibits entering an animal facility with the intent to record and requires anyone who violates the bill to register as an ecological terrorist in the same way a sex offender registers with a state.

Laws passed in recent years in Idaho, Iowa, New Mexico and Utah are similar to ALEC's model legislation.

At least five other states introduced or passed legislation this year to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms. Wyoming passed a law prohibiting video collected on private land from being used as evidence in trials. North Carolina is considering legislation that would prohibit employees from recording or collecting data from their workplaces. And legislation proposed in Montana, Colorado and New Mexico would require anyone who believes animal cruelty is occurring to report it within 24 to 48 hours, which activists argue eliminates the ability to prove patterns of abuse and hinders prosecution.

Arizona reaction

Animal-welfare groups have been calling on Ducey to veto HB 2150.

On Wednesday, Arizona Humane Society President Steve Hansen sent a letter asking for a veto so animal-welfare activists can work on legislation next session "that doesn't trade the safety of horses and cows for that of dogs and cats."

But Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, who worked closely with Barton on the legislation, said it is the result of several years of work with both animal-welfare groups and representatives of the livestock industry. "I don't know that we'll ever be able to make a bill that makes everybody in those groups happy," she said.

Lobbying for a Ducey veto, the national Humane Society highlighted the animal-welfare section of Ducey's 2014 campaign website, which states, "I do not support exemptions in our anti-cruelty codes for any class of domesticated animals."

"That's exactly what the bill does," Humane Society public policy manager Matthew Dominguez said. "It exempts Arizona farm animals from these animal-cruelty statutes."

Volunteers left enough messages urging the governor to veto the bill that his voicemail was full Wednesday afternoon, Dominguez said.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said the governor's office had received more than 270 e-mails about HB 2150 by the middle of the day Wednesday, before the bill was officially transmitted to Ducey later that day.

Ducey will have to look at the bill closely before making any decision, Scarpinato said. He has five business days to sign or veto it.

Fact Check: Franks largely right on abortion laws worldwide
Julia Shumway | The Arizona Republic
Read it at azcentral.com
Trent Franks

WHO SAID IT: Trent Franks.

TITLE: U.S. Representative, Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

PARTY: Republican.

THE COMMENT: "Almost every other civilized nation on this Earth protects pain-capable unborn babies at this age."

THE FORUM: Speech on the House floor on May 13.

WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT: Laws governing late-term abortions in developed countries.

ANALYSIS: Franks gave his speech before the U.S. House passed his bill banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Similar Franks-sponsored legislation stalled in the Senate in 2013, and President Barack Obama has promised to veto this year's bill if it makes it out of the Senate.

The legislation would ban all abortions after 20 weeks unless the woman's life were endangered by a physical illness or injury, or the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest that, in the case of a minor, had previously been reported to law enforcement.

Ninety percent of babies born at 27 to 28 weeks survive, according to the March of Dimes.

That figure drops dramatically earlier in a pregnancy: Only 30 percent of babies born at 23 weeks survive. No infants have survived before 21 weeks.

Franks contends that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks and that nearly all "civilized nations" ban abortion after that time. Because "civilized nation" is a subjective term, AZ Fact Check used the World Bank's 31 high-income members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for a comparison of abortion laws among more affluent nations.

Four countries on that list — Chile, Ireland, Poland and South Korea — have complete bans on abortion.

Chile's ban has no exceptions. Ireland allows it only in cases where the mother's life is at risk. Poland and South Korea both prohibit abortions except in cases of severe hereditary disorders, rape, incest or risk to the mother's health, though South Korea rarely prosecutes women seeking abortions or doctors providing them.

In Israel, abortion is illegal on paper with exceptions for women under 18 or older than 40, women having children out of wedlock or facing fetal birth defects.

In practice, the vast majority of Israeli abortions are approved and funded by the government. Women can also seek approval from a committee for abortions after 24 weeks.

In Australia, which takes a state-by-state approach to the law, similar to the United States, abortion is criminal in two states and legal up to 24, 16, 14 or 20 weeks of pregnancy in other states.

Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden also allow abortions before the 20th week with some exceptions.

Norway last year prohibited abortions after 21 weeks and six days in response to reports showing that a significant number were taking place after 20 weeks.

At the far end of the spectrum is Canada, which has no laws restricting abortion in any way. However, doctors still adhere to professional medical guidelines.

Abortion is legal until 24 weeks in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Many European countries — Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Switzerland — limit abortion to the 12th week, but most permit later abortions in some cases.

While many other developed countries have limits on when women can receive abortions, these bans aren't necessarily equivalent to Franks' Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Most make exceptions for fetal abnormalities, which U.S. doctors say make up the bulk of their late-term abortion requests.

Franks' legislation doesn't contain exceptions for such abnormalities.

Many countries, including Switzerland (where abortion is legal to 12 weeks), New Zealand (where it's legal up to 20 weeks) and Ireland (where it's banned with some exceptions), make late-term exceptions for the mother's mental health.

Franks' bill explicitly prohibits exceptions based on "psychological or emotional conditions."

It’s also worth noting other key differences between Franks’ proposal and abortion laws in many of these countries: Several of the countries, notably Canada, France and Israel, treat abortion as a medical procedure covered by government-provided health care. And many more provide contraception through government-funded health programs.

BOTTOM LINE: Franks is correct that many developed countries have restrictions on abortion after 12 weeks, and only five of the 31 nations used as a basis for comparison allow abortion after 20 weeks.

But Franks' blanket statement doesn't take into account exceptions most of these countries make to their abortion restrictions.

The majority of countries allow exceptions for serious fetal abnormalities and a handful permit late-term abortions to protect women's mental health, neither of which are allowed under the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

THE FINDING: Three stars: mostly true

SOURCES: "House passes Rep. Trent Franks' 20-week abortion ban," The Arizona Republic, May 13; HR 36; Neonatal death, March of Dimes; World Bank list; Fact sheet: Australian abortion law and practice; Austrian law; "Belgium Eases Its Abortion Law," New York Times, March 30, 1990; "A legal history of abortion in Canada," the Pro-Choice Action Network; Abortion legislation in the Czech Republic; Denmark abortion law; Estonia abortion law; Finland abortion law; "France Eases Abortion Restrictions in Sweeping Equality Law," Time, Aug. 6, 2014; The Legal Framework of Abortions in Germany, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies; Greece abortion law; Iceland abortion law; Abortion and Irish Law, Irish Family Planning Association; "Israel's abortion law now among world's most liberal," Times of Israel, Jan. 6, 2014; Termination of Pregnancy and Abortion in Italy; Japan law; Reform in Luxembourg, Center for Reproductive Rights, Nov. 28, 2012; Abortion in the Netherlands; Abortion services in New Zealand; "Norway tightens law after late abortions revealed," The Local, Jan. 2, 2014; "Defying Poland's restrictive abortion law," Al Jazeera, Dec. 20, 2014; Termination of Pregnancy (Abortion) in Portugal; Slovenia abortion law; "Spain abortion: Rajoy scraps tighter law," BBC News, Sept. 23, 2014; Sweden Abortion Act; "The secret of Switzerland's low abortion rate," Swiss Broadcasting Corp., Oct. 2, 2012; UK National Health Service choices: Abortion.

Mount Union sewer service cut off
Julia Shumway | The Hawk Eye
Read it at thehawkeye.com
sewer shutoff McCain

MOUNT UNION — Trucks, including one tugging a yellow excavator, pulled up outside the first home in this small Henry County town shortly before 10 a.m. Thursday.

Bruce Hudson, executive director of Regional Utility Service Systems, climbed out of his white pick-up truck, phone and folder of papers in hand. After almost six years, several court cases and thousands of dollars in unpaid fees, RUSS finally was shutting off sewer service to people who haven’t paid their fees.

One of the homeowners had called him already that morning, threatening to sue if his sewer was shut off. Henry County Sheriff’s deputies were on standby in case anything got physical. His children go to school with one of the residents whose sewer service he had to terminate, someone he considered a friend.

“I couldn’t get any sleep last night,” Hudson said as he walked toward the first house.

The first home

A sewer line runs under the grassy strip separating Mount Union City Councilwoman Wendy Mathers’ home from her neighbor’s shed.

A turkey called from inside the shed as contractors from Randy’s Plumbing and Heating in Cantril drove their excavator across the grass and walked a Ditch Witch locator up and down the area, listening for a loud humming that would tell them where to dig.

Mathers talked frantically to Hudson while the contractors prepared to dig. She thought she could get him the money today, if he could give her time to call family.

Hudson hesitated, telling the contractors to wait until he told them to start. Yet, every minute they waited cost RUSS more money — the contractors’ hourly rate was $250. And while that cost would be passed on to the delinquent payers when they reconnect their sewer service, RUSS must pay in the short term. But the goal, Hudson reiterated, wasn’t to turn off sewer access. It was to get Mathers and other Mount Union residents to pay their sewer fees.

Mathers paced in her yard, cellphone glued to her ear. She might be able to get a loan from her father, but RUSS wouldn’t accept a credit card payment. Mathers had to make sure a check she wrote would clear her account.

While she talked, the contractors and Hudson stood outside her yard, waiting to hear whether her Hail-Mary loan would work or they would start digging.

“Did you ever think you’d go to school for eight years to wake up one morning and have your job be digging up people’s sewers?” he asked.

An ongoing problem

When Mount Union contracted with RUSS to provide sewer services, no one expected it would end with excavators digging up pipe outside people’s homes.

Mount Union residents long relied on individual septic tanks, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources found fecal coliform, a bacteria found in human waste, during a water test about 10 years ago. The department told the city it needed to install a sewer system or face fines for poor water quality.

That’s where RUSS stepped in.

Seven southeast Iowa counties — Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, Lee, Jefferson, Keokuk and Van Buren — partnered to create the entity, which provides sewer infrastructure for small towns and unincorporated areas. RUSS secures grants and low-interest financing to help these communities build infrastructure they may be required by law to have but can’t get by themselves. RUSS now serves 12 communities, including Mount Union.

The town of about 100 needed $1.2 million to install its sewer system, and most of it is covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The city was left with about $274,000 in long-term debt to RUSS, which it is supposed to make up via sewer fees.

Sewer fees RUSS set Wednesday for the fiscal year starting in July range from $42.46 to $62.35 a month in all other communities. In Mount Union, residents who pay RUSS have been writing checks for $150 each month since last fall.

“The $150 didn’t get there by accident,” Hudson said at a previous board meeting. “We don’t arbitrarily raise rates because we want to. It didn’t grow overnight. This has been going on six years.”

Rates have risen from about $35 to $43 to $57 to $69 to $75 to $150 over that time while RUSS tried to recoup the money it needed to pay down loans.

“I was hoping to God yesterday when we put the rates in for Mount Union, something would change,” Hudson said.

Instead, on Tuesday, the Mount Union City Council approved appealing the latest court ruling in RUSS’s favor. If attorney Steve Ort files the appeal before the end of the month, the city and RUSS are looking at another court fight.

‘What else can go?’

Back at Wendy Mathers’ home, the phone calls worked. Mathers’ father could loan her about $1,000, and her husband would bring it to the bank. Mathers could drive to RUSS’s headquarters in Mount Pleasant, hand a check to finance/office manager Krista Edmunds and continue using her toilets, sinks and tub.

Crying, Mathers thanked Hudson for waiting and letting her get the money together.

She said she had kept up with her sewer bill until last fall, when she had to help her newly divorced son and his children. Then, her bill doubled from $75 to $150, and she fell even more behind.

“When they doubled it, it was just impossible,” she said.

“I can understand (Hudson’s) point of view, but I can also understand each and every person in this town that’s struggling,” she said. “When we have to pay this $150 a month, what else can go? We don’t really have anything else that can go.”

In Mount Union, almost everyone has a story about what the sewer’s burgeoning fees have cost them, but most don’t want to share those stories publicly.

“Don’t put my name in the paper,” they say, then explain their economic hardships.

This woman, whose husband is recovering from a stroke, puts cardboard in her shoes to keep using them after the soles broke because she can’t afford to replace them, but she’s continued to pay her bills. That man, living on $940.20 a month, started making double payments when he realized he hadn’t been paying enough.

Onika Parrish, a mother of six who appealed to the RUSS board Wednesday, returned to the RUSS office Thursday morning to ask if there was any way RUSS could wait to shut off her sewer. Instead, she learned anonymous donors who read about her situation Thursday in The Hawk Eye called RUSS and paid her outstanding bill for her. She was off the shut-off list.

“When I went to that meeting yesterday, I was hopeless,” she said. “After that, it has made me so relieved I’m not the one looking out my window and seeing them go by coming for my house.”

Parrish said she’s grateful for the people who helped her and her family.

“I truly believe that God works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I am so t hankful for the people that gave out of the goodness of their hearts for us.”

The next steps

Five Mount Union homes had shut-off valves installed Thursday, and one of the homeowners called the RUSS office after the valve was installed to make arrangements to pay the bill, Hudson said.

To get their service back, the homeowners not only must pay their delinquent amount, they also must pay what it cost to install the valve, which easily could add another $1,000 to their bill.

Installing the valves required digging up the sewer lines near the houses, cutting pipe and adding the valves, which look like a giant, one-sided Q-tip. It sticks up out of the ground and is covered, so RUSS won’t need excavators to turn the service back on. However, the valve rods are padlocked and tampering with them is a crime, so homeowners can’t restore access themselves.

RUSS only can turn off sewer service, not water, because of an amendment to an Iowa law pushed last year by Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mount Pleasant. This means people in the affected houses still can run water, but it’s going to get backed up.

The utility provider also can pursue delinquent fees in small claims court and try to make up money lost to people who’ve abandoned their homes. But something still needs to change in Mount Union, Hudson said.

“Going forward, we’ve got to come to some resolution,” he said.

Study: Medical marijuana will create 1,500 jobs in Arizona
Julia Shumway | Cronkite News
Read this story online at Cronkite News
Steve Cottrell

PHOENIX – When Arizona voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2010, Steve Cottrell saw a way to combine his laboratory background and his interest in the plant he’d been studying since his 11-year-old son died of cancer more than a decade before.

Cottrell is now the owner of AZ Med Testing, a medical marijuana testing laboratory. Dispensaries pay Cottrell and his business partner, Brenda Perkins, to test marijuana samples for mold and pesticides.

“We’re making money, but we definitely have our challenges,” he said. “But now that dispensaries are open, it’s moving forward.”

According to a study sponsored by the Regulated Dispensaries of Arizona Association, the two jobs at AZ Med Testing are among estimated 1,500 that will be created by Arizona’s medical marijuana industry.

Tim Hogan, an Arizona State University research associate who authored the study, used information from Oregon’s established medical marijuana industry to estimate the size of Arizona’s market

“It’s a pretty simple industry,” he said. “There’s not too much nuance. The main driving mechanism is how many patients.”

Hogan found that the industry had the potential to create not only 1,500 direct jobs for marijuana growers and dispensary employees but up to 5,000 indirect jobs at places like grocery stores.

Arizona has approximately 38,000 medical marijuana cardholders and is allowed 126 dispensaries, a percentage of the state’s operating pharmacies. Only a handful are open now.

Hogan said his study models only the straight economic impact of the industry instead of offering a more extensive cost-benefit analysis. The industry is small but should contribute to Arizona’s economy, he said.

“Given the size of the industry, it seems it will generate substantial income and tax revenue,” Hogan said.

In Colorado, which legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2000, dispensaries brought in nearly $200 million in sales and paid about $5.5 million in state sales tax in 2012, according to that state’s Department of Revenue.

Beth Wilson, an economics professor at California’s Humboldt State University and a faculty member in the school’s new Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research, said much more study on medical marijuana is needed.

She said it’s possible that more states legalizing the drug for medical or recreational use could lead to marijuana mega-farms run by tobacco companies instead of small businesses.

“No one can know for sure what the impact is,” Wilson said.

Michelle LeBas worked as an office administrator at a car dealership before becoming a dispensing agent at Bisbee’s Green Farmacy Natural Relief Clinic. She verifies that patients have valid medical marijuana cards and then teaches them about different strains of the plant.

LeBas said the dispensary, which has three employees and an on-site doctor, faced some scrutiny when it opened in late March.

“People just thought it was an excuse for stoners to do it,” she said. “But we’ve overcome that and we have people coming in here that genuinely need it. We’ve given them a completely new form of care.”

Green Farmacy Natural Relief Clinic serves about 100 patients and has provided 25 with new medical marijuana cards.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has sought to block the state’s medical marijuana law since it went into effect. He said any study that discusses medical marijuana’s possible economic benefits is inherently flawed because the state loses more in criminal prosecution.

“It’s crock,” Montgomery said. “None of those studies that purport to show an economic impact take into account the criminal impact.”

It’s important to remember that all marijuana is illegal at the federal level, said Carolyn Short, chairwoman of Keep AZ Drug Free, a committee that formed in opposition to the 2010 ballot proposition that legalized medical marijuana.

She said economic models like the study commissioned by the Regulated Dispensaries of Arizona Association have to be done in a bubble because every part of the medical marijuana business violates federal law.

“Every single time a dispensary sells a joint or an ounce, they’re doing something illegal,” Short said.

At AZ Med Testing, Cottrell said the possibility of federal prosecution or a raid by the Drug Enforcement Administration hangs over his head each day. However, he said he remains focused on doing his job well.

“Sure, they could come down and knock our door down and arrest us for this plant material,” Cottrell said. “But there’s far more dangerous non-law-abiding people who are doing a lot worse than testing plants for pesticides, and we have to believe the DEA is going after them.”

New ‘average’: Wildfire seasons aren’t what they used to be in Arizona
Julia Shumway | Cronkite News
Read this story online at Cronkite News
campfire sign

FLAGSTAFF – As the 35-acre Fisher Point fire burned in a canyon just a few miles south of his office, Coconino National Forest fire information officer Dick Fleishman said he anticipates an average fire season.

But average means something far different than when he started with the U.S. Forest Service 33 years ago. Persistent drought and denser forests make even a routine fire season more severe.

“Twenty years ago, we would have said Fisher Point was large,” he said.

Arizona’s wildfire season is at its peak from May through July. High winds, hot temperatures and low precipitation can extend or worsen the season, Fleishman said.

“The real hard fire season is when it’s hot, dry and windy all at once,” he said.

The whole state faces these conditions in varying degrees this year, said Carrie Dennett, state fire prevention and information officer at the Arizona State Forestry Division.

She said southeastern Arizona has already had several wildfires. The state as a whole is preparing for an average fire season, Dennett said, but there’s no clear definition of just what average is.

“The last 10 years of fire history that we’ve had in the United States have kind of redefined what fire is,” she said. “Average or normal is kind of a moving target”

Most predictions are just educated guessing, she said.

“It’s taking past history and current conditions and then making inferences about where we’re going,” she said.

These predictions are handled on the federal level by the Southwest Coordination Center in Albuquerque, N.M. The center bases its seasonal fire predictions on five factors: droughts, fine fuels condition, seasonal temperatures, spring and early summer weather patterns and monsoons.

It expects the long-term drought across the Southwest to worsen during the summer. Despite the drought, Arizona’s wet 2012 monsoons and a wetter winter could lead to more new growth, providing fine fuels.

Overall, the center expects southeastern Arizona to see above-normal potential for fires from May to June. The northwestern parts of the state will likely see higher fire potential in June and July.

This coincides with Arizona’s prime hiking and camping season. Michelle Fidler, fire communication and education specialist at the National Park Service, said campers just need to be careful.

“The most important thing is to check local conditions,” she said. “Check with the local ranger office to see if wildfires are in the area and to see what different restrictions are.”

Fireworks are banned at all times on federal lands, and restrictions on campfires and other fire hazards vary from park to park.

In Flagstaff, officials focus on education. The region expects a dry and windy summer, but determining how bad the season will actually be depends on the number of fires.

People cause almost all fires that start before the summer monsoon season brings lightning, said Mark Brehl, wildland fire leadworker at the Flagstaff Wildland Fire Management office.

The most common cause is improperly extinguishing campfires, but cigarettes, the use of power tools and even sparks from chains on trailers can ignite fires.

“We encourage people to be safer when they’re out in the woods,” Brehl said. “No one wants to be responsible for starting a large fire that burns homes and destroys lives, so we really encourage people to be cautious this year.”

While Flagstaff’s greatest natural threat is wildfire, Brehl said the area around the city is relatively safe because of aggressive efforts to restore the forest to its natural state. These include prescribed burning, or starting smaller, controlled fires to clear out brush and dead plants that serve as fuel.

Keeping fires away from developed areas is crucial because fighting them becomes far more complicated when they approach areas where buildings meet forest, Fleishman said.

“It’s like real estate,” he said. “It’s location, location, location.”

Fires that get too close to settled areas shift firefighters’ focus from containing the fire to protecting buildings, he said.

For Brehl, keeping the state safe from dangerous fires is simple.

“If you have any doubt about having a fire, don’t have one,” he said. “You can still enjoy the forest without having a fire.”

Minimum wage increase proposal gets chilly reception from Des Moines County supervisors
Julia Shumway | The Hawk Eye
Read this story online at statepress.com

Local governments throughout Iowa and the United States have been tackling minimum wage increases when their state and federal governments haven’t, but it won’t be an easy change in Des Moines County.

Members of the county Democratic Party, who presented a proposal to gradually increase minimum wage to $12 per hour, met skepticism Tuesday from Des Moines County supervisors.

“The number of working poor is growing across America and across Iowa,” Des Moines County Democratic Party Chairwoman Sandy Dockendorff said at the board meeting.

Des Moines County, the 16th most populous county in Iowa, ranks near the bottom of Iowa counties when it comes to median household income. Its poverty rate of 15.7 percent is higher than the U.S. and Iowa averages, as well as all but 12 Iowa counties.

Iowa is one of only 21 states to set its minimum wage at the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, which has been frozen there since 2009.

Meanwhile, inflation means $7.25 per hour buys less. In simple numbers and ignoring other factors, the cumulative rate of inflation of 12.3 percent means something you could buy for $100 in 2009 now costs $112.27.

County-by-county living wage calculations done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology show a minimum wage job isn’t enough to live on for any household in Des Moines County.

At the lowest end, a household with two working adults and no children would need each adult to make $8.11 per hour. Add a child, and each adult would need to make $11.84 per hour.

That’s something with which Alexandra Rucinski of Burlington is all too familiar. She makes minimum wage as a cashier at Maid-Rite, while her husband makes slightly more at Winegard Co. It’s still not enough for the couple and their 4-year-old son to live on.

“We can’t afford rent,” she said. “We can’t afford food. The reason why it’s called a starvation wage is because people can’t afford to have food or a roof over their head.”

Rucinski’s small family now lives with her in-laws.

“People aren’t asking for anything luxurious,” she said. “We don’t want anything else but to be able to provide for our son and ourselves.”

Peggy Wunderlich, another Winegard employee, told the board she struggled as a single mother working two low-paying jobs before she was able to get a better job. Because those jobs didn’t pay enough to live on, she also had supplemental government assistance in the form of food stamps and welfare.

“I worked so hard, worked two minimum-paying jobs to pay for childcare, to try to save up to get a decent car to get to work,” she said.

While Wunderlich was able to get out of poverty, she said many people get stuck. She told the board about a high school student she knows, a child of a single parent, who works five days per week after school to help with household costs and try to save money for college and a car.

“There’s so many people striving to experience social upward mobility,” Wunderlich said. “Life can just be a struggle.”

Requiring businesses to pay higher wages would decrease the amount of money government must pay to assist the working poor, Dockendorff said

“With a higher minimum wage, the government revenue needed to pay for food stamps, Medicaid and other assistance the working poor now need in order to have a minimally decent standard of living would decrease, reducing the strain on our county and cities,” she said.

Chairman Tom Broeker, the board’s lone Republican, led the dissent, arguing increasing the minimum wage would lead to more unemployment.

“The losers in this are the lowest-skilled, most vulnerable workers,” he said. “I understand the desire to do this and help these people, but it’s going to hurt them more.”

He and Dockendorff disagreed about the findings of a 2014 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office looking at what would happen if Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $10.10 in a three-year timeframe.

The report concluded a gradual wage increase to $10.10 would lift 900,000 people above the poverty line. This figure represents about 2 percent of the 45 million people currently living in poverty.

But it also could result in a net loss of up to 500,000 jobs, according to the CBO, and Broeker said that was too many.

“The thing about unemployment is it’s worst than almost anything,” he said. “It’s a lot worse than having a low wage job. ... You’ve gotta put a lot more weight on people losing their jobs. A few hundred dollars a year is important at the poverty level, but zero is a lot harder.”

Broeker, a member of the Des Moines County Case Management Advisory Board and the Southeast Iowa Link Mental Health Advisory Board, said he’s involved in the provision of services for people with disabilities. Programs for people with mental and developmental disabilities place a high emphases on getting their clients in some kind of job, he said.

“Minimum wage jobs are the lowest rungs where unskilled workers have the ability to gain basic skills: showing up every day, doing what the boss says,” he said.

Increasing minimum wage to $12 during three years would have a negative impact on the county’s economy, he added.

“Can you think of anything that you increase the price of by 66 percent and don’t have a major effect?” Broeker asked.

Dockendorff urged supervisors to look at the “entire picture.” Studies have found increases in minimum wage correspond with new consumer spending, which goes right back into the stores and restaurants in a community, she said.

Walmart succeeded in raising wages for its employees, and 3 out of 5 small businesses support increasing the minimum wage, Dockendorff said.

Safety director Angie Vaughn, who owns the Speed Queen Laundromat with her husband, said they couldn’t keep their business open.

“As a small business owner that has a hard time making ends meet as it is, raising that amount would be devastating,” she said.

Not even a gradual increase, like one now happening in Seattle, would help, she said. Washington’s largest city is requiring companies with 500 or more employees to start paying a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2017, while smaller businesses have until 2021.

Vaughn said she’s already worried about how her laundromat’s business will drop once construction ends on the Iowa Fertilizer Plant. She and her husband work full-time jobs outside of the laundromat and try to help employees financially as much as they can.

Supervisor Bob Beck said the minimum wage should be increased at the state level, not on a county-by-county basis.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said earlier this year he would consider signing a bill increasing the statewide minimum wage, but efforts by Iowa Senate Democrats to raise the minimum consistently get stuck in the Republican-controlled House.

In the meantime, Iowa counties are tackling the minimum wage issue themselves. Linn, Johnson and Wapello counties recently passed ordinances to gradually raise their minimum wage, and neighboring Lee County formed a study group to look into raising theirs.

Counties have the jurisdiction to increase their minimum wages or pass any other ordinances that don’t conflict with state laws, Dockendorff said. So far, there have been no legal challenges to minimum wage increases in the four Iowa counties that passed them.

Des Moines County has succeeded in bringing large employers, including Silgan containers, to the community in the past decade, and Branstad recently declared 150 acres at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Middletown ready for industrial development.

If Des Moines County chooses to raise its minimum wage, Beck said, those large employers might opt to open in other counties.

“If we raise our minimum wage and the rest of southeast Iowa doesn’t, where does the business go?” Beck asked.

Ryan Rogers of Burlington said it was important to keep in mind a minimum wage increase would be staggered. Employers would adapt to it, he said.

“You guys have done a great job working to get us good jobs, and I do appreciate that,” he said. “But it’s not going to make a dent on the low end of things.”

Low-paid employees in Des Moines County already faced a housing squeeze during the past few years, several thousand construction workers moved into the community for work on the Iowa Fertilizer Plant in nearby Wever. An influx of relatively highly paid temporary workers caused rents to skyrocket.

Now, even as construction slows down, most rent listings in Burlington run at least $600 — it’s more than 80 hours of pre-tax work for a person making minimum wage. That means people making minimum wage could spend close to 50 percent of their income on rent, while a general rule of thumb for budgeting is rent should be no more than 30 percent of someone’s take-home pay.

“We’re not asking this out of the blue sky,” Dockendorff said. “We see people in our community who lack hope. This is beyond dollars and cents. This is hopelessness.”

Burlington man still fighting city to rebuild home
The Hawk Eye
Read this article online at thehawkeye.com

Richard Wixom moved into the century-old servants quarters on Seventh Street in 1989 with a $500 down payment and a promise to keep neighborhood hooligans out.

Twenty-six years and one devastating fire later, he’s fighting the city of Burlington so he can repair his home.

Wixom’s home, a narrow, two-bedroom building tucked behind two larger houses, doesn’t conform with city zoning requirements because it’s placed too close to the edge of the lot it’s on.

It’s not an issue, normally — city code grandfathers in older nonconforming structures, so homeowners aren’t expected to move or rebuild their existing homes to comply with new zoning codes.

“It’s not like if you live in a house that doesn’t meet code you’re going to have to rebuild it,” city planner Charlie Nichols said.

But if at least 60 percent of a nonconforming structure is damaged, most often by fire, it needs to be reconstructed in accordance with code.

Wixom, who gets by on disability payments and spent the last year moving from motel to friend’s garage to apartment, said this requirement prevents him from going home.

“I would never have had all these problems if I’d been allowed to go back in my home,” he said.

In the ‘Twilight Zone’

Wixom’s problems began April 15, 2015, when he locked his two dogs in their kennel and drove to Hy-Vee for the grocery chain’s 7 p.m. dinner special. As he left, he bumped a stool in the kitchen, knocking it into the dial of new-to-him electric stove he’d received from the Robinson Heights apartments when the Section 8 complex replaced its stoves.

When Wixom returned, he heard his smoke alarm blaring.

“I felt like I was in the ‘Twilight Zone’ or something,” he said.

The stool turned on the stove, and kerosene in an emergency lamp on the wall added to the blaze, which was about a foot across and 2 feet high when Wixom entered the house. His 14-year-old fire extinguisher let out two squirts before dying.

The lightbulbs had begun to crack, and he couldn’t see to let his dogs out of their cage. He spent the minutes before firefighters arrived running out of the house to yell for help and back in to reassure the two animals.

While the fire was out within a few minutes and the home’s structure seemed relatively stable, Wixom said his insurance adjuster told him the next day he’d have to bulldoze it.

“How do you just shove 26 years of your life into the ground and just forget it?” he asked.

Codes and options

The home was placarded as abandoned and unsafe last year, meaning Wixom can’t safely live in it until he completes repairs. Those repairs are estimated to cost $20,000 — well within the $29,000 Wixom received for an insurance settlement.

He no longer has that money, though. A portion went to paying for a lawyer he employed to petition his case before the Burlington Zoning Board of Adjustment, and housing and living expenses ate up more of it. After seeing part of his disability payments garnished to pay a decades-old credit card bill, he cashed the remaining checks, worth $24,000, and placed it in his safe.

About 4 p.m. Dec. 15, Burlington police responded to a burglary report at the apartment Wixom now lives near South Central Avenue and Vine Street. The cash was gone, he said.

And even when he had the money, Wixom chose to petition the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance, allowing him to rebuild in the same place.

Section 17.30.107 of the Burlington city code allows nonconforming structures to be rebuilt to their same unconventional size — Wixom’s home is 20 feet by 52 feet — as long as they meet all other building and zoning codes.

The rear of Wixom’s home, with the kitchen and the second bedroom, is only 10 feet from the rear of his 30-by-117-foot lot. City code requires at least 25 feet for the rear yard.

This means Wixom could bulldoze and rebuild the house at a different point on the lot, or remove enough of the back end to create the 25-foot setback, Nichols wrote in a staff report for the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s December meeting. The board tabled the issue at the meeting to get more information from Wixom, tabled it again in January and voted in February to deny Wixom’s request.

It concluded Wixom still could use the property by rebuilding further from the property lines, so there wasn’t a valid argument for hardship.

“A purpose of the Nonconforming Uses (17.30.10) section of the Zoning Code is to bring nonconforming structures into compliance with current codes over time, not to encourage their survival as nonconformity,” the staff report concluded.

Generally, the city won’t grant requests for variances to rebuild nonconforming houses, Nichols said. One apartment building on South Third Street that burned last year was approved for a variance because it could not be rebuilt in the same lot.

Uncertain future

Inside Wixom’s house about a year later, ash and soot still coat the floors. Light patches on darkened walls mark where now-ruined family photos once hung. He steps gingerly in the kitchen, where the floor received the most water damage — there’s a chance his foot could break through to the former carriage house below.

While the kitchen’s walls are scorched above the stove, the cupboards below appear untouched — Wixom said the people who cleaned out his belongings had taken plastic tupperware in pristine condition from those cabinets after the fire.

A back bedroom off the kitchen that had been closed also was unharmed by the fire.

One of his dogs, Baby Black Bear, whimpers at the door. The lab mix still has separation anxiety, Wixom said, and it’s been nervous since those frightful few minutes locked inside the burning home.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment made its decision Feb. 2. A letter informing Wixom he had 30 days to petition it arrived Feb. 23. His 30 days are fast running out, and he’s still not sure whether he’ll appeal.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I don’t know what to believe. I don’t know where to turn. All I’ve wanted from the beginning is to move back in my home.”

Four small Arizona airports slated to have control towers closed
Julia Shumway | Cronkite News
Read this story online at Cronkite News
plane

GLENDALE – Edwin Ruano, a certified flight instructor and the chief pilot at Gold Coast Helicopters, counts on his students having guidance from an air traffic control tower such as the one at Glendale Municipal Airport.

“They’re students,” he said. “They’re fairly new to aviation, so they really rely on the tower and having that extra pair of eyes.

But come June 15, students at Gold Coast Helicopters may not have any help from the ground. Glendale’s is one of the four Arizona airports slated to shut down its control tower because of federal sequestration cuts.

The four airports, which also include Phoenix Goodyear Airport, Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport and Tucson’s Ryan Airfield, are among the 149 smaller facilities around the country scheduled to close their air traffic control towers.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on March 22 a four-week phased closure of towers to meet a required $637 million in budget cuts. Last week, however, the FAA announced that it would instead shut off funding to all 149 airports on June 15.

Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA’s Pacific Region, which includes Arizona, declined to comment but sent links to the agency’s news releases and congressional testimony in which FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency would likely save between $45 and $50 million this fiscal year by closing the towers.

Glendale Municipal Airport serves general aviation needs, which include private flying and flight instruction. It sees between 200 and 300 takeoffs and landings a day, airport administrator Walter Fix said.

The tower closes at 9 p.m., requiring pilots to communicate their intentions and relative locations directly with each other instead of receiving additional instruction from tower operators on the ground.

“Pilots can do it,” Fix said. “They do it all the time. They’ve been doing it for decades. But we like having the full air traffic control system for safety.”

Glendale Municipal Airport is just a few miles from Luke Air Force Base and, with the Phoenix Goodyear Airport, helps keep civilian flights out of the military airspace, he said.

If the Phoenix Goodyear Airport closes its air traffic control tower, Lufthansa German Airlines, which accounts for 85 percent of incoming and outgoing flights, is likely to stop training pilots there, the airport announced in a news release.

Julie Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the city of Phoenix Aviation Department, said maintaining Phoenix Goodyear Airport’s control tower costs between $750,000 and $1 million a year. She said the airport was trying to find alternate source of funding to keep the tower open.

Tucson International Airport will likely see more small planes if the air traffic control tower at general aviation reliever airport Ryan Airfield closes, said Danette Bewley, senior director of operations and maintenance at the Tucson Airport Authority.

Ryan Airfield, in southwest Tucson, sees about 122,000 flights each year. Tucson International Airport has a fully staffed tower and adequate runways and will be able to absorb these flights, she said.

“Our primary goal is to make sure this transition is orderly,” she said.

In Bullhead City, concerns over possible revenue loss and safety have prompted Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport to consider pursuing legal action against the FAA before its tower closes, according to David Gaines, the airport’s manager.

Gaines said closing airport control towers is an example of the federal government reneging on one of its basic obligations: ensuring safety.

“When you close a control tower, the safety of operation is of more concern,” he said.

The airport sees an average of 20,000 flights a year, most of which are tourists and charter flights to or from Nevada casinos. However, the airport is close to bringing in a commercial airline, Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim said.

“It’d be a big boost to our city,” he said. “We’re ready, and we’re meeting the expectations of a commercial airline.”

He said the tower closing could be a minor setback but that he’s optimistic that the tower will only be closed briefly.

“I’ve been hoping that this is just a furlough and will be open again in six months,” Hakim said.

Mike Pearson, an Arizona State University professor and lawyer whose practice includes airplane and helicopter regulations, said lawsuits filed against the FAA are unlikely to succeed because the administration is legally able to pull funding.

“Unfortunately for the municipalities, I don’t think the lawsuits will go that far,” he said. “My advice to Bullhead City is to consider this from the practicality of success.”

James Timm, executive director of the Arizona Pilot’s Association, said although pilots can communicate among themselves, air traffic control towers provide a safety net for planes.

“You need to be communicating your intent and relative location,” he said. “Some pilots may be poor at communicating their position… I’m afraid someone’s going to die because a politician wanted to make a point.”

Fraternities, sororities respond to changing Greek climate
Julia Shumway and Danielle Grobmeier | The State Press
Read this story online at The State Press

Part 1 of 3: The Elephant Graveyard


Alpha Drive, once a communal area shared by ASU fraternities, has become akin to an elephant graveyard.

Fences covered by green tarps with “No Trespassing” signs surround the rundown complex. The former home of ASU fraternities is one example of the changing face of Greek life.

Alpha Drive

Commissioned in 1961, Alpha Drive originally housed 10 fraternities, including Sigma Pi, Sigma Nu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Delta Sigma Phi, Sigma Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Every fraternity but Sigma Nu had moved off campus by summer of 2011.

The school had growing concerns for the safety of the residents of Alpha Drive because of the deteriorated buildings, ASU spokeswoman Julie Newberg said in an email statement after Sigma Nu’s eviction in March.

To ensure apartments on Alpha Drive would no longer house students, ASU sent owners a letter in May 2011 explaining the University’s desire to lease, exchange or purchase each property.

Computer information systems sophomore Adam Train, who was looking forward to moving into the Alpha Epsilon Pi house in fall 2011, said the University’s reasoning made little sense.

“I lived in Manzanita,” Train said. “Even though the fraternity row houses weren’t in the best condition, they were definitely better than some of the places the school wants kids to live.”

He chose to come to ASU instead of Louisiana State University specifically to pledge with Alpha Epsilon Pi, one of the few fraternities that still had a house.

Train said fraternities with houses had previously been considered the best by potential pledges.

“Now that everyone’s lost their house, it’s hard to establish which fraternities are the top,” he said. “I guess it’s because everyone's kind of in the same situation.”

Alumnus Jesse Rieser, who graduated from ASU in 2003, lived in Sigma Nu’s house on Alpha Drive.

“It’s just strange to think, to me, that a college of that size doesn’t offer that part of college life,” he said.

Rieser said fraternity houses provide structure for students. His house had a housemother who would cook meals. The members would often eat together, and each brother worked to take care of the house, he said.

“It was kind of like a home away from home, which is comforting for people,” Rieser said. “In a sense, you had about a hundred roommates that you knew decently well. You weren’t all friends, but you knew each other well.”

This was what Train expected when he first came to ASU from Texas.

“I never figured fraternities would worry about losing their houses or have constant worries about getting kicked off campus,” Train said. “I never thought those would be big issues, but it’s a fact. You can’t really do anything about it, but I’m still happy I’m in it.”

Alpha Epsilon Pi has been without a fraternity house since summer 2011, but next year plans to move into a section of an apartment complex near other ASU fraternities.

Several fraternities have begun creating their own fraternity “houses” in apartment complexes near the Tempe campus.

The challenges of evolving Greek life have impacted sororities, such as Sigma Kappa, as well.

Sigma Kappa had a chapter with ASU but closed in 2002 because of declining membership.

A chapter of Sigma Kappa recolonized at ASU this semester.

Melinda Mettler, spokeswoman for Sigma Kappa’s national headquarters, said in an email that the new chapter members have been “positively and enthusiastically” involved in the Tempe campus and the community.

“We are so grateful to have been given the opportunity to colonize a new chapter at this great educational institution,” Mettler said. “We are excited to be part of the ASU Greek community and appreciate all the support we have been given throughout our first semester on campus.”

Part 2 of 3: Sororities face sanctions


Several ASU sororities have faced disciplinary sanctions from the University and their national organizations in the past few years.

sororities

To provide a remedy to these disciplinary problems, the approaches taken by ASU and each sorority’s national organization have differed.

Alpha Kappa Alpha


Some sororities, including Alpha Kappa Alpha and Zeta Phi Beta, had their charters pulled by their national organizations.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Far Western Regional Director LaVern Tarkington said this was the first time the national organization had to take action on the ASU chapter.

Tarkington said she could not elaborate on the details of the chapter’s transgression.

She said closing of Alpha Kappa Alpha at ASU would deter other chapters from similar behavior so the national organization would not have to deal with a similar situation.

“Alpha Kappa Alpha has very clear, strict policies about how our chapters are to function and the members are to present themselves,” she said. “(When) there is something that occurs that requires us to take action, we follow through.”

Kappa Delta


Other sororities, including Kappa Delta and Kappa Kappa Gamma, have faced sanctions from ASU but have received support from their national organizations.

ASU suspended Kappa Delta in December 2010 following a hazing complaint one month prior. Seniors in the sorority allegedly hazed new members at a pre-initiation event.

This suspension ended in January 2012 and Kappa Delta headquarters spokeswoman Heidi Roy said the sorority plans to recolonize at ASU in the future.

Kappa Kappa Gamma


In September 2011, three members of the Kappa Kappa Gamma chapter at ASU were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning after drinking at an apartment complex used byTheta Chi as a fraternity house.

Both Kappa Kappa Gamma and Theta Chi were placed on probation until October 2012. As part of this probation, members of both parties are required to take alcohol education and risk management classes through ASU.

Dave Kennedy, president of College Judicial Consultants, a legal consulting firm for students, said universities tend to treat students in sororities or fraternities different than non-Greek students.

He said any other group of friends would not be held responsible if one of their group members drank to the point of developing alcohol poisoning, nor would supervisors of a campus residence hall be disciplined if one of the hall’s residents drank.

“The transported sisters should face whatever response ASU normally does,” Kennedy said. “But without evidence that Kappa Kappa Gamma at least was grossly negligent in allowing that to happen, I don't think you hold the organization accountable. A lot of schools would, but that doesn't make it right.”

Vice President of Kappa Kappa Gamma International Beth Black said the ASU chapter has made outstanding progress since its probation began, and the international organization will continue to work closely with them in their improvement.

Greek Week


Despite these sanctions, Kappa Kappa Gamma sister and business junior Shay McGrady said Greek life participation has grown during the past several years.

As a sign of this expansion, hundreds of students donned colorful T-shirts and tank tops displaying large Greek letters as part of Greek Week events, which end Sunday.

Greek Week, an annual tradition on the Tempe campus, brings fraternities and sororities together to bond and perform community service for national organizations, according to event organizers.

McGrady said rushing Kappa Kappa Gamma during her freshman year was the best decision of her college career.

“I would not be who I am today if I did not become involved in the Panhellenic Council or within my sorority,” she said.

Part 3 of 3: Moving forward


Some fraternities have recovered from University sanctions with the help of their national organizations, while others faced more serious consequences for violating the ASU code of conduct.

Greek Week

Alpha Epsilon Pi


Computer information systems sophomore Adam Train chose ASU over other universities because its chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi was large and had its own fraternity house.

Both of these aspects were gone before his freshman year ended.

Shortly after Train pledged with Alpha Epsilon Pi in fall 2010, the chapter’s University recognition was revoked because of several alcohol and hazing violations.

When Train was a pledge, he was unaware of these allegations from pledge classes before him.

“I didn’t even really know what was happening,” he said.

At the time he pledged, the chapter was on University probation for hazing — something Train said he never saw any of his brothers do.

He said ASU mistook some of Alpha Epsilon Pi’s actions, like requiring pledges to wear white dress shirts on Wednesdays, as evidence of hazing.

“If the school wants to say that’s hazing, I guess they can,” Train said. “I loved the brothers while I was pledging, but when you are on probation you are put under that microscope and, if you have any little mess-up, you can be penalized for that.”

Train said the national organization continued to support the fraternity despite losing University recognition.

“We still held chapter meetings every week. We still threw brotherhood events,” Train said. “Even if the school doesn’t recognize you, you can’t tell a group of people not to be friends.”

The national organization reorganized Alpha Epsilon Pi after the fraternity lost its University recognition.

In early 2011, the national chapter removed most of the sophomores, juniors and seniors from the chapter, leaving only Train’s pledge class and any subsequent classes.

Alpha Epsilon Pi Executive Director Andrew Borans said the ASU chapter expects a large pledge class in the fall and has been growing strong.

“I'll speak only to the current and future,” Borans said. “The chapter is doing extremely well now.”

ASU recognized the chapter again in January, although it is still barred from hosting social events with sororities or alcohol.

Train said he is optimistic about the fraternity’s future.

“As much as it kind of stinks to have to go through what we went through, I think we’re dealing with it in the best way possible,” Train said.

Sigma Pi


Other fraternities have not been so fortunate.

Sigma Pi was placed on disciplinary probation in August 2010 following a party where alcohol was provided to minors.

In February 2011, right after this probation ended, the University received another complaint regarding multiple reports of underage drinking, minor in consumption violations and medical transports for excessive alcohol drinking.

ASU again suspended the chapter in March 2011 following this complaint.

The international organization pulled the ASU Sigma Pi chapter’s charter in June 2011 after repeated risk management violations, failures to register members and financial delinquency.

In a March 2012 press release, then Sigma Pi Executive Director Mark Briscoe said Sigma Pi has high standards for chapter conformity.

“Unfortunately, it became apparent that these standards were not adhered to at (ASU),” Briscoe said. “We were forced with revocation.”

Sigma Chi


Sigma Chi has also rebounded from disciplinary sanctions.

Sigma Chi violated several different ASU policies between 2003 and 2008, ranging from hazing and drug use to an accusation that two former fraternity members sexually assaulted a fellow student in February 2008.

Since then, Sigma Chi has improved its relationship with ASU and its national organization.

Sigma Chi Executive Director Mike Dunn said the national organization has worked with the ASU fraternity chapter extensively and it has moved away from its past issues.

“We're very proud of the work they do,” Dunn said. “The things they've done in terms of fundraising are incredible. We continue to challenge them to do even better.”

Members of Sigma Chi and other ASU fraternities are trying to improve campus Greek life.

Sigma Chi brother Jacob Goulding, a political science senior and the Tempe Undergraduate Student Government president, said in an email that fraternities have done a lot this year but still have a long way to go.

“I think we need to establish an honest vision for where Greek life stands at ASU and how to go about implementing that vision,” Goulding said.

 

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