Finals Advice for Ole Miss Students: Skip the Energy Drinks

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

EnergyDrinksWith finals beginning Monday, some Ole Miss students will turn to energy drinks to get a boost while hitting the books.

Senior Mary Helen Trulock says she uses energy drinks to keep herself “alert” while studying. Trulock said she tried to give up energy drinks for Lent, but found she herself getting “the shakes and a headache.”

Student Peter Romeo is a ROTC cadet who has about one energy drink a day.  He says he relies on energy drinks to complete the tasks he needs to finish throughout the day.

“I’ve had to give up energy drinks for certain training exercises for the Army; they don’t let you take any supplements and it was hard. It’s almost like quitting a nicotine addiction,” says Romeo.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate energy drinks, which makes it easier for these beverages to have high caffeine content. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant; if you have too much, that can lead to major health problems.

According to published news reports, the FDA announced in November 2012 that it was investigating 13 deaths tied to 5-hour Energy products and other reports of adverse events. In addition, another investigation was opened to look at five deaths and one non-fatal heart attack that were linked to Monster Energy Drinks.

Energy drinks can become a hazard to people who drink too many at a time. A small 2 oz. bottle of 5-Hour energy contains as much caffeine as a regular 8 oz. cup of coffee. If you had three 5-Hour energy bottles in a day you would be exceeding the Mayo Clinic recommendation of 500 mg of caffeine a day.

Dr. Chris Black, professor of exercise science at Ole Miss, is studying caffeine and its effects.

He explains that when you’re up or on a “high” from caffeine you may experience alertness or the “jitters.” Yet, when you come down from the high you could experience tiredness and what most call a “crash.” But the reason for the “crash” feeling he says is the user is usually already tired which, “is masking an underlying issue.”

Ole Miss nutrition professor Melinda Valliant says there’s a better way to boost your energy while studying.

“I would tell most people to pay better attention to their diet and make sure they are getting the right amount of nutrients.”

Oxford’s Square Books Snags National Recognition

•April 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment
Local favorite, Square Books

Square Books in Oxford, Miss. is a focal point of the downtown.

By Alexa Bafalis

Square Books, an independent bookstore located on the Square, is a favorite in the Oxford community, but Oxford residents are now not the only ones appreciating this local venue. Publishers Weekly this month awarded the bookstore the title”PW” Bookstore of the Year.

Opening in 1979, Richard and Lisa Howorth founded Square Books.

“I’m Richard Howorth; I own this place with Lisa. We started this store in 1979, after working both of us in a bookstore in Washington, D.C. for a couple of years, what I’ve always called a self-apprenticeship,” said Howorth in an excerpt from Joe York’s documentary called “Square Books 30th Anniversary.”

According to the website “Book Selling This Week,” the bookstore first started in a small upstairs location, then in 1984 moved to a two-story location. The second location added a cafe with a commercial espresso dispenser, which happened to be the first in the city of Oxford’s history.

“He just wanted a really quality bookstore that would be a part of this community in Oxford and serve the university in Oxford and be really responsive to the people that live here,” said Lynn Roberts of Richard Howorth.  Roberts is the general manager of Square Books and has been for 25 years.

According to Roberts, the Mississippi section is the most popular in the store, but many people come to Square Books because it’s a great place to read books, too.  Ole Miss student Maggie Bankston is a regular.

“I come to Square Books because it’s really um, I love the atmosphere of it. It is just such a quiet place and I just like love being surrounded by books and they just have so many different things you can look at, and I like the quietness of it. It is really peaceful to read,” said Bankston.

Following the success of the original shop, the Howorths opened the bargain bookstore Off Square Books but didn’t stop there.

“Then when the space where Square Books, Jr. is became available, it was just the perfect space for a kid’s store. The shelves were already built in. It had been a shoe store at one point, and shoe store displays shelves actually work really well for big children’s picture books,” said Roberts.

In light of their success as an independent bookstore, Square Books has received a lot of press over the years from websites and magazines. Many praise Square Books for keeping the tradition of book reading alive.

Oxford Getting Roundabouts to Ease Traffic Troubles on Old Taylor Road

•April 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment
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Intersection Old Taylor Rd. and MS Hwy 6
Courtesy: Google Maps

By Anna Ellinburg & Sid Williams

Traffic trouble in Oxford is nothing new, but the city and the Mississippi Department of Transportation are now working to make traffic flow a little easier at the ramp intersections of MS Highway 6 and Old Taylor Road.  They’ll soon be installing roundabouts on Old Taylor, less than a mile from a similar project on South Lamar Boulevard, which cost more than $1 million dollars and opened in the summer of 2007.

According to MDOT, converting the intersections to roundabouts on South Lamar improved traffic flow by reducing the average traffic delay by 24 percent, idling time by 77 percent and fuel wastage by 56 percent. Total user cost savings from reductions in travel time, fuel wastage and crash costs combined is $806,018 annually.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety reports the intersection is much safer, too.  For example, there were 49 crashes in the five years prior to the roundabout installation on South Lamar.  In the five years since workers completed the construction, only 29 crashes occurred.

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Intersection S. Lamar Blvd. and MS Hwy 6
Courtesy: Google Maps

Ole Miss soccer coach and Oxford resident Billy Chadwick says it’s about time to make a change on Old Taylor, too.

“I was shocked it took us so long to get roundabouts,” said Chadwick.

Some students agree.

“Old Taylor stays just as crowded as campus does. Traffic cuts time. Someone needs to do something about it,” said Feleshia Cary, sophomore at Ole Miss.

With Old Taylor road such a direct route for student commuters, University of Mississippi Chief of Staff Andy Mullins says he’s heard the student concerns.

”There have been chronic complaints over the past few years that at specific times of the day, when people are not able to make a left hand turn onto Old Taylor road are unable to do. So cars were backing way up, in all directions. And so came the proposal from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.”

So why have years passed without the city of Oxford giving the project a green light?

City officials say that two other projects have been in the works for even longer – the deadly intersection of Jackson Avenue and Highway 6 and a road connecting West Oxford Loop with Old Sardis road – which needed to come first, according to an article from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

“We think the order of priority is the intersection for safety, the north road and then the roundabouts,” said Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson.

Another delay in the plans to construct roundabouts on Old Taylor road was the cost of a federal requirement to add a pedestrian bridge to allow access for pedestrians under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Even with MDOT footing some of the bill, Mayor Patterson said that the bridge would still cost the city between $200,000 and $300,000. Patterson also said that it seems logical that the University of Mississippi would help pay for the project, given that Old Taylor road is a major route for student commuters.

“We need the roundabouts, but it benefits [the University] directly,” said Patterson.

Now, Oxford has won a $499,915 earmark for the roundabout project and MDOT is providing the remainder of the approximately $2 million cost, but there may still be some bumps in the road.

Both Patterson and Mullins understand how problematic this project could become if the project takes longer than expected to complete. Mullins says that fans should be prepared for this to potentially cut into the 2013 football season.

“Any change or interference to the traffic flow can present a huge problem for game day,” said Mullins, “and it’s simply because the infrastructure is not designed to handle 65 to 80 thousand people coming into this community.”

Mullins went on to say that students and fans must be patient for the next few months as this project develops.

“The fans are going to have to understand that this is a small town and a small university, and a lot of our fans have been spoiled over the years about not having to walk very far,” said Mullins. “But they’ll just have to adjust as the University grows.”


View an animated view of traffic flow around the soon-to-be constructed roundabouts on Old Taylor Road.

Linda Spargo, who lives on South Lamar, says she’s not all that worried.

“I think they’ll plan for it like they did on South Lamar. It was very well planned so that you still have to go down these major streets but they will make sure to accommodate us during football weekends.”

Commuters and fans wanting to get into campus from Highway 6 will be temporarily required to take an access road that will go behind the old Whirlpool plant and tie in with Coliseum Drive. The mayor said that the project is expected to take approximately a year to complete and you can expect to see construction begin on Old Taylor road as early as October.

Ole Miss Works to Address Student Loans Crisis

•April 19, 2013 • 1 Comment

By Bracey Harris and Kyndall Cox

More than half of all college students borrow money to go to school.  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, of the 20 million Americans attending college, 12 million will borrow money to help cover costs.

Although loans help make education possible for many, the National Urban League worries that minority students, in particular, may not know what they’re signing up for.

Sumontro Sinha is a University of Miami graduate with an engineering degree.  As he  works in his parents’ garage, he takes a moment to demonstrate a wind tunnel designed to see how much wind an airplane wing in a glass panel can resist.

Sumontro Sinha gets to work in his parents' garage. A typical  Sunday night for the Engineering Grad.

Sumontro Sinha gets to work in his parents’ garage. Just another typical Sunday night for the engineering grad.

“We’re roughly 30 miles per hour,” he says as he turns up the intensity with a look of satisfaction.

Sinha, an Oxford native, attended The University of Miami as part of a family tradition – both of his parents received their doctoral degrees there –  but the out-of-state tuition and living costs forced him to take out student loans in order to attend.

Sinha, who graduated in 2012, has now moved back in with his parents to help save money to repay loans.  He commutes daily from Oxford to his job in Huntsville, Ala., where he works with defense contracting.  His dream is to work for NASA, but for now has to go where the money is.

“It shapes every decision that you make. What you do. What you don’t do. What you spend money on. What you don’t. I definitely feel a lot less free because of the loans,” Sinha says.

At times, he wonders if it was all worth it.

“It does make me think twice about whether or not I should have paid all that money to attend that school.”

However, Sinha’s father is quick to remind his son that, despite the loans, his engineering degree can never be taken away from him.   Sinha’s father is the co-signer on his son’s loans and jokes that if his son can’t make his payments, the bank will come after him next.

In fact, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest default rates with 14 percent of those who take out student loans going into delinquency. The average student loan in Mississippi is $25,000.

All students at The University of Mississippi  who take out student loans, and indeed all student borrowers nationwide,  are required to go through online counseling in order to understand the terms, the amount and the repayment plans of their loans.

student loan brochures in the Ole Miss Office of Financial Aid

Student loan brochures in the Ole Miss Office of Financial Aid

Although the Ole Miss does not target minority students, in particular, it will begin taking a more active role to educate students about money management starting this summer.  The university will pilot a financial literacy program geared towards students enrolled in EDHE 105 courses. The optional class is available only to freshmen and is designed to teach students the essential tools needed to be successful throughout their college careers.

The Ole Miss Office of Financial Aid office is responsible for creating the course and its implementation. Laura Diven-Brown, director of financial aid at the University of Mississippi, is excited about the project and her staff’s hard work.

“We really want people to be wise coming out of school, knowing how to manage a budget, what they can afford and make some good smart decisions. We are finding that a lot of people are coming to college from high school and they don’t have some of that background,” Diven-Brown says.

Groups such as the Ole Miss chapter of the national organization MoneyThink have already recognized this problem. Once a week the group works with seniors at Lafayette High School and Oxford High School to teach them about how to handle money and help them understand student loans.

“These are things that college students usually fall into a pitfall for,” MoneyThink mentor Austin Yarber says.

Lafayatte High senior Demetrius Plaxico participates in the program and when he speaks, a confidence can be heard in his voice. Plaxico acknowledges that although  his parents will only be a phone call away when he attends college next year, he wants to be independent.  He feels that the knowledge gained from MoneyThink will help him accomplish just that.

But not everyone is so fortunate.  As Sumontro turns in for night in preparation for the long commute he has to make early in the morning, he reflects on what he wished his university had told him.

“When  you come to that first payment that’s when you really realize..oh crap..this is how much it actually is and how much I’m actually going to have to pay for that a month,” Sinha says. “If they could remind you every month or week how much they [student loans] cost, you would take more preventive steps to make sure you could make the payment.”

Allergies in Oxford Bad, Probably Getting Worse

•April 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

By Ryan Riley

It’s allergy season in Oxford and it looks like it’s going to be a rough one.

“I’ve actually noticed it a lot when taking my dog out; we go to the park every week and we go to the lake a lot and we come back and my eyes are dried out and watery and it’s just hard to breathe outside sometimes with all of this pollen,” said Oxford resident Erin Harmon.

In fact, published reports indicate some researchers expect pollen counts to nearly triple in the next few decades, thanks to climate changes.  This year many plants are blooming early due to unusually warm winter weather in some parts of the country.

“In order for the pollen count to be high, it’s got to be over 100 or around there, and the pollen counts lately for the southern climate zone have exceeded 8,000,” said pharmacist Adam Baskerville of Oxford Family Pharmacy.

Though allergies seem to be most noticeable in the spring, Baskerville says allergens are always there.

“The stuff you can actually see is just the larger pollen, there’s always gonna be smaller pollen that you can’t see and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not there.”

All that pollen has left many locals with sneezing,watery eyes, cough and the list goes on.

According to webmd.com, there are several key ways to reduce your pollen exposure.

  • Make sure to always close your windows and outside doors.
  • Try to avoid using window and attic fans during pollen season. Use air-conditioning to cool your home.
  • Next, roll up your car windows when driving. Use the air-conditioning, only if you need it.
  • Dry clothing and bedding in the dryer, don’t hang them outside.
  • Remember that pets can bring in pollen on their fur, too. Don’t allow pets that spend time outdoors inside your bedroom.

Over the counter allergy medicines can help relieve symptoms, but for some people that’s not good enough.

“If allergies and pollen are bothering you bad enough you could get a prescription,” said Baskerville.

Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County Alive in New Exhibit

•March 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

By: Anna Ellingburg and Kyndall Cox

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If you’ve read any of William Faulkner’s works, it’s not hard to get a mental image of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County.

Now, you have the opportunity to see how one award-winning photographer has imagined the fictional land.

The University of Mississippi Museum’s new exhibit features photographs by French photographer Alain Desvergnes, shot in the 1960s to depict the imaginary Mississippi town.

Desvergnes, who was a professor at Ole Miss from 1963 to 1965, began to read Faulkner’s works and fell in love with the setting.

“I went to photograph William Faulkner’s landscapes in Mississippi, in order to find there the characters that make appearances in his novels, to sketch the portrait of these figures who’d fascinated me and who I constantly encountered when walking through his lands,” Devergnes said.

The exhibit  contains 116 photographs that were taken in Oxford, France, Canada and Mexico.

“All of them speak to someone in a different way. They are all really wonderful representatives of the ideas behind Faulkner’s books,” said Collections Manager Marti Funke.

The exhibit, which opened March 5, will have an opening reception Thursday, March 7, from 6-8 p.m.

Devergnes is excited to have his family in Oxford for the reception.

“My daughter is coming from Seattle and my son from Paris. It is nice to have them together to celebrate 50 years of life, because it all started at Ole Miss.”

The photographs will remain on display at the museum through Aug. 17.

For more information on the exhibit, visit the University Museum website or call 662-915-7073.

Ole Miss Students Prep for 2013 Graduation

•March 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

By Bracey Harris and Ryan Riley

Ole Miss is already preparing the graduating class of 2013  by hosting a series of grad fairs. The first runs March 5-7.  Commencement ceremonies will be held on May 11.

Eager seniors turned out to prepare for the big day.  Students had the opportunity to get fitted for caps and gowns,  pick out the perfect class ring and check  with the registrar to make sure their diplomas are finalized.

Senior Bennett Hipp says that most people he knows are excited about graduation.

“I  think everybody’s ready to go ahead and get all their cap and gown stuff done and all their alumni stuff done and just know that today a couple months from graduation that you’re already done, and you don’t have to worry about it going forward,” said Hipp.

Students and parents seeking more information can log on to the Ole Miss Commencement site.