New Year’s Eve flood in Student Union causes thousands in damage, displaces staff

The Student Union sustained thousands in damages after a frozen pipe burst and flooded the administration offices in the 150 suite behind Information Exchange over Winter Break.

The cost of damage is still being assessed. Ballpark figures have suggested between $35,000 and $50,000, but could be more, said Keith Skogstad, associate director of The Union. Insurance will cover up to $50,000 and remaining costs would come out of pocket for the university.

While campus was quiet and empty on the morning of New Year’s Eve, water had begun trickling from a sprinkler head in Assistant Director of Event Services Mark Venhuizen’s office until, finally, the frozen pipe burst. Because water was dispensing from the fire emergency pipe, it triggered the fire alarm, alerting University Police at 9:37 a.m.

Within minutes, the water flooded so deep in Venhuizen’s office that Skogstad, who’d arrived on the scene, couldn’t open the door, according to Venhuizen in a video he shared. The waterline left visible on file drawers measured 12 inches, Skogstad said.

Skogstad rushed to shut off the main water supply, but in the short time from UPD responding to the alarm and Skogstad arriving, the water had wreaked havoc on the offices.

“Most of Mark’s office is totaled,” said Jenn Novotny, senior director for The Union. “We are still waiting to find out if our office furniture can be fully restored.”

According to Director of Campus Maintenance Jim Weiss, crews had already evacuated furniture from the 16-room office suite and begun damage control by 10 a.m. Not only had the water flooded through the offices, it flowed onto Main Street, encroaching on the Market. It also seeped through to the lower level, causing damage in storage spaces and a maintenance room below.

Staff and local crews worked until about 4 p.m. that day cleaning up and salvaging what they could. The water was powerful, damaging and found its way into unexpected places.

“Mark’s desk was over here (across the room from the burst pipe), and his pencil drawer, which was closed, was full of water,” Skogstad said.

The cause is still unknown and difficult to trace exactly, but investigations suggest it may have been a result of exhaust fans being left on, allowing cold air to enter and freeze the pipe. Skogstad said this is inconclusive, though.

The wall between Venhuizen and Novotny’s office was the only structure with significant damage and may need to come down. Venhuizen’s office took the worst of it as it was a pipe in that room which cracked. The rest of the suite primarily suffered surface-level water damage. Some decorations, documents, furniture and equipment were lost and carpet will need to be replaced as well as new baseboards.

Since the flooding, employees previously housed in the office suite have been temporarily displaced, working in other locations or mobile until repairs are completed. For Novotny, who has been in her office for 13 years, this has been a bit of an adjustment.

“When I work with students I don’t imagine it’s so hard to be mobile because I see them do it all the time. I have a little to learn in the area of flexibility, but I’m surviving it,” Novotny laughed.

University Police aided in preventing a similar incident in the Einstein’s-Weary Wil’s vestibule only one day after the 150 office incident. According to Weiss and Skogstad, a line froze in that area as well, causing another leaky sprinkler head. A UPD officer making rounds through the building noticed it, though, and the main water line was shut off while a plumber made repairs, avoiding another incident.

“The floor and a couple ceiling tiles got wet but thankfully it was nothing major,” Weiss said.

Due to the record stretch of cold weather, Weiss said he heard reports of incidents similar to the office flood occurring throughout the state in the same weekend.

“It’s not as common to happen in an interior space like Mark’s office, but it does happen; and we’ve had other, minor, water-related issues in a few other campus facilities, too. It just happens this time of year,” Weiss said. “I guess that was our going away present for 2017.”

The Humane Society needs our support year-round to avoid financial crisis

In November, the Brookings Humane Society made their financial struggles known to the public. If they couldn’t raise enough funds, the Humane Society feared their doors would close by the end of the month.

After a few weeks, the Brookings community raised enough money to support the Humane Society through February, until their next major fundraising event.

We, at The Collegian, were thrilled to see our community come together and support the Humane Society. However, we hope this is not the end of strong community support for the Humane Society. We hope to see these efforts continue.

The Brookings Humane Society is operating with less money and they need our consistent support now more than ever. Brookings City Council awards an annual grant to help the Humane Society operate, but this year that funding was cut.

Now, the Humane Society heavily relies upon community support, donations and their monthly fundraising events. These events, usually partnering with local businesses, are a great time to help support the Humane Society as well as get to know their staff and other community members. Sometimes, you might even get to meet some of the furry dwellers of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society is well-integrated into our community through their partnerships with businesses for fundraising and their cheerful presence at public events. A humane society is an integral part of any community, because they lessen the number of stray animals, as well as vaccinate and spay and neuter animals.

But the Brookings Humane Society goes above and beyond those services and is a particularly special part of our community. They support our students by bringing animals to socialize with us on Main Street in The Union during Midterms and Finals Week. They can also be found at the Farmer’s Market during the summer.

Considering their tireless work to support our community and care for our animals, the least we can do is offer our support in return.

For our staff, the Humane Society is where our pets have come from. It’s where we go when we are stressed and want the emotional relief our furry friends bring.

We, at The Collegian, encourage others on campus and in the community to remember the Humane Society, not just when they are in times of need, but always. As a staff, we hope to do our part and support them in the future, and we hope others will make this commitment, too.

Whether you donate HyVee receipts, dog food, cat litter, an hour of your time, or some spare cash, the Humane Society is grateful for community support and they depend on us to help our animals thrive.

ROTC’s space is being infringed upon

In 1965, South Dakota State and the Army forged a contract stating that the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program requires offices, storage rooms, a gym floor and classrooms used exclusively by the program.

Since then, SDSU has impeded upon that contract at least three times.

Most recently, by drilling into the floor of the gym in DePuy Military Hall and setting up cubicles for the Department of Economics.

Now, when ROTC needs to complete necessary training, they jump through hoops to complete standard practices in their program.

ROTC needs special permission to bring training equipment to athletics facilities, like the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex (SJAC), and they also must be escorted by the University Police Department to bring training materials there — all while having a facility of their own that regularly isn’t their own.

We, at The Collegian, understand there are growing pains during construction, renovations and expansions our university is experiencing right now. However, we also feel there must be a better solution to prioritize the cadets who will be the future military leaders of our country.

At the very least, we feel our university should be able to uphold their agreement to provide the facilities and resources necessary to train cadets.

Ideally, our Editorial Board feels the next fancy new facility on our campus should be for ROTC.

Realistically, we believe ROTC deserves to have their space to themselves.

We believe the Department of Economics department could have been given a better temporary home than a gym.

We believe drilling holes into the gym floor and setting up cubicles and computers in the only training facility ROTC has is shameful.

We also believe ROTC deserves more autonomy in decisions about their facilities.

When the university works to update its contract with the Army soon, we, at The Collegian, hope ROTC gets to call the shots on their own program and their own facilities.

At the least, we hope ROTC will be shown the respect it deserves and has earned.

Exercise cultural and social awareness in selecting a Halloween costume

We’ve all seen it.

A girl in a faux leather dress and a Native American headdress.

A guy in blackface.

Someone else dressed like Jesus or a Muslim person.

Halloween is a time for creativity and fun — to dress up as a character or object and celebrate the spooky season. It, however, is not a time to play dress up with someone’s identity, culture, religion or sexual orientation.

While many often argue it can be considered a sign of respect to dress up in a costume portraying another culture or religion, we, at The Collegian, disagree. Others may say, “It’s just a costume, don’t take it so seriously.”

But a costume inherently makes a caricature out of something. It trivializes important aspects of their culture or religion.

Semehar Ghebrekidan is a graduate administrative assistant for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access. She recently created an online graphic for the office: “Do’s and Don’t’s for Halloween,” a guide to dressing for Halloween appropriately and respectfully.

“A costume is not a skin color. It’s not a culture,” Ghebrekidan said. “This is a matter of appropriation — it’s about making those things into a costume when they’re a part of someone’s identity.”

An important factor to consider when choosing a costume is whether or not the portrayed identity is a member of a culturally or socially oppressed group.

For example, a five-year-old girl dressing as her favorite minority Disney princess, regardless of the little girl’s race, is not a situation of cultural appropriation or belittling of the minority group of that princess.

Ghebrekidan also said this doesn’t mean a white man cannot dress as Drake, his favorite rapper, just because the man is not black. But he can do it in a way that does not degrade Drake as an African-American man.

That is, the man should find a way to portray himself as Drake without needing to do blackface.

We believe one of the biggest problems with inappropriate Halloween costumes is that people often do not consider what impact their costume may have.

Additionally, retailers selling Halloween costumes should be held accountable for the products they market. Seeing a costume appropriating another culture in Walmart or on Amazon normalizes that behavior and makes it seem commonplace and acceptable.

It isn’t.

Dressing up as “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” isn’t acceptable.

Yes, he is a movie character, but he is representing a race of six million people killed during World War II.

Dressing as a Native American person isn’t acceptable.

Yes, they were characters in old Hollywood films, but that costume represents thousands of lives taken, land desecrated and decades of cultural oppression.

We, at The Collegian, urge everyone to carefully consider the potential impact of their Halloween costume this year. We all have the same goal: to enjoy Halloween in creative attire.

Just don’t play dress up with a person’s identity this Halloween.

Master’s in human biology paves different path to medical school

Students interested in the daunting task of attending medical school now have another path to help them get there.

The Department of Biology and Microbiology offers a one-year, 32-credit master’s program in human biology. The program emphasizes professional development, preparation for medical school and allows students to explore career paths in the medical field.

Assistant Professor Greg Heiberger is the coordinator for the program and said it’s the first of its kind in the state and immediate region.

“This type of program has been a national trend over the past 10 years, but the closest one is in Kansas City or Denver,” Heiberger said. “The cost, size and cohort feature of ours is its advantage.”

The program offers courses and topics covered in medical school to “give students a leg up” when they get to medical school, Heiberger said. The idea is to prepare students for success in medical school by using the same pace and intensity, giving them even more well-rounded knowledge than their undergraduate degree.

Most programs similar to this one cost around $30,000 to $40,000, whereas South Dakota State’s costs $15,000, according to Heiberger.

The program was approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents in May and began this fall with six students enrolled. The small class size gives students a close support group with other students and stronger relationships with professors and advisers, Heiberger said.

LeAndre Kennedy, a first-year graduate student in the program, said he benefits from the increased personal interaction.

“In undergrad, most classes were at least 100 people and it was harder to have a connection with many classmates, especially the professor,” Kennedy said. “In this program, we all want the same things, so it’s a lot of helping each other out. We meet a lot and we are forming legitimate friendships and it’s really working to our advantage.”

Kennedy said it has been “great to build relationships with people in the world we want to be in,” by meeting with professors and advisers weekly while also shadowing professionals.

Another student in the program, Austin Walz, said he’s been logging hours shadowing in hospitals and is looking forward to potentially observing surgeries during Winter Break.

The program does not require a traditional thesis. Instead, students write a research paper on a topic of their choice. Kennedy and Walz said this was special to them as they could research topics they were passionate about.

Walz, striving to work in oncology, focused his paper on a potential therapeutic drug for cancer. As a former athlete, Kennedy’s dream is to become an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and he was able to research chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE, discovered more frequently in athletes during autopsy, is brain degeneration likely caused by repeated head traumas.

“It’s cool to have that opportunity to explore our own interests in our research,” Walz said. “With traditional science master’s programs, you just kind of jump on board with what your adviser is doing in their research.”

Biology and Microbiology Department Head Volker Brozel said he values the program and believes it is viewed favorably by medical schools looking at candidates.

“I am excited about it. I hope students will find it valuable,” Brozel said. “It is a tall mountain to climb, but I think that’s consistent with wanting to undergo medical training. The two go together.”

Committee remembers traditions of Hobo Week

Thirty-five years ago on Hobo eve, the Hobo Day Committee united hands and ascended the 180 steps to the top of Campanile at midnight — a Hobo Day tradition. They prayed for a safe, fun and successful Hobo Day.

Recalling the event, Doug Wermedal, a member of that committee, was overcome with emotion.

“That’s the first time I became aware I was doing something more than just having fun with friends,” said Wermedal, associate vice president for student affairs. “I can still feel the power of what we were doing for campus. Then, I was, like I am now, overwhelmed by the bigness of the thing. I was just an undergrad kid having fun with my friends, I did not have a sense that I was part of a tradition going back to the 1910s, that would extend until I had my own kids.”

Many of the events in place then have been around since the beginning of Hobo Day, and are still celebrated 105 years later.

Most of today’s staple Hobo Week events are time-honored traditions going back to the early days of Hobo Week. Rally at the Rails, the event to kick off every Hobo Day, started in 1907, according to Hobo Day Committee Grand Pooba Anna Chicoine.

“It started during the Night Shirt (parade). On Friday night, students walked to the railroad station, met the opposing team to welcome them to town and rouse them up a bit,” Chicoine said.

Alongside Rally at the Rails, Bum-A-Meal is a long-standing Hobo Week tradition. As students would make their way back to campus from the railroad, Chicoine said they’d stop at houses with their porch light on to get a can of soup. Once everyone returned to campus, students gathered to have a meal together over bonfires with the food they collected from community members.

“Another part of that is the Bum Fire on Tuesday night after Bum-A-Meal, which we added back last year,” Chicoine said. “It brings students back together after going out in the community. We serve hot chocolate, the cheer team comes, the Bum Band comes. It’s a lot of fun.”

Digital Library of South Dakota (DLSD)
Students eat bum stew by Coolidge Sylvan Theatre on South Dakota State College campus (1957). After welcoming the opposing team at the railroads, students got cans of soup from home’s with porch lights on and made bum stew over bonfires back on campus.

For 2014’s Grand Pooba Scott Deslauriers, Bum-A-Meal “rises to the top” of his favorite events leading up to Hobo Day.

“The opportunity to meet a family one doesn’t know and enjoy a meal around a table is an incredibly unique experience,” Deslauriers said. “Bum-A-Meal fulfills a central goal of Hobo Day, which is to connect the university and the community.”

The Hobo Day parade is unbeatable for Wermedal, though. He reminisced about hobo-mobiles and the committee working together to push the Bummobile through the parade when it was less than functional. It felt like the entire town and student community came together for the parade, Wermedal said.

Digital Library of South Dakota (DLSD)
SDSU Pride of the Dakotas marching band leads the 2002 Hobo Day parade on Medary Avenue.

Before the big day, there’s Hobolympics, formerly known as the Great Hobo Race, on Wednesday night. This will be the second year of the revamped Hobolympics, followed by the Bum Over Thursday, an event dating further back, in which students build a shanty village out of cardboard boxes.

On the morning of Hobo Day, the grand pooba is headquartered at “Pooba Corner,” Deslauriers said, which is the intersection of Medary Avenue and North Campus Drive.

“The ability to literally see the work of more than a year of planning and implementation by the entire committee come together creates an intense pride and humility in contributing to this more than a century-old tradition,” Deslauriers said.