All posts by Emily Dean

Changes to Chartwells

College students in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System can expect the cost of their meal plans to go up about 11 percent next year due to the growing demand for more food options.

Greg Ewig, The Director of Capital Development for MnSCU said students can expect to pay approximately $2,900 per year for an average food service plan compared to the $2,603 they currently pay.

According to Ewig, the increase is due to student demand for more meal options.

“Part of the price increase reflects the fact that there is an expectation that there is going to be some improvements that will happen to the food on campus,” Ewig said, specifically referring to the Winona State University campus.

Ewig said students are especially interested in seeing more locally grown food and gluten-free options.

All schools in the MnSCU system have been in contract negotiations with food vendors and will begin the new contracts starting July 1.

WSU will renew their contract with Chartwells and students will see new changes to meal plans this fall.

Ewig said student voices impact choosing a food service vendor.

“Student involvement has been robust and sustained throughout the process,” Ewig said.

“For each university, students served on the selection committee and discussions engaged student and the Residence hall advisory and related student boards.”

According to Ewig, MnSCU schools engaged in extensive surveys of students, faculty and staff to better understand the food service needs. During this effort, 4,217 individuals responded to the surveys at the universities.

While WSU students can expect an increase in the cost of a meal plan, they will also see changes on campus for the 2016-17 school year.

John Sinniger, director of Chartwell’s at WSU, said student’s opinions are important and their feedback has been heard.

“We’ve always engaged in food committees on campus,” Sinniger said. “They have a really good one here and I’ve been with the company for over 30 years and I use that as literally my arms and legs.”

Sinniger said student’s dietary concerns such as providing gluten-free and vegan options, are often discussed concerns.

According to Sinniger, WSU’s Jack Kane dining center will be renovated to include a large center island where they will serve allergen-free food.

He said the island will provide food free from seven major allergens such as dairy, gluten, peanuts and soy.

The island will also have its own dishes, dishwasher and freezers to avoid cross-contamination.

Along with the renovations to the Jack Kane Dining Center, Sinniger said the Darrell W. Krueger Library will get an Einstein’s Bagels and Caribou Coffee.

There is also discussion of expanding the Mugby Junction in Somsen Hall and doing small renovations to the dining center in Lourdes Hall.

Even though Chartwell’s promises to expand options for those who are gluten-free, there are still some students with other food preferences and opinions that haven’t been heard.

WSU sophomore, Megan Garritty, identifies as a vegetarian.

Garritty said she thinks Chartwells has some good options right now, but is unsure of how healthy it is. She said she thinks another food vendor could have healthier options, and might be a better option for WSU.

Garrity said she has a block meal plan because she lives off-campus, but she hasn’t used it much.

When she does eat on campus, she prefers a grilled cheese from Grill Nation in the Smaug or a Mondo’s sandwich. Garritty also said she often gets smoothies from the C-Store, which she really likes.

“I don’t eat in the dining center anymore just because there aren’t many options for me as a vegetarian,” Garritty said.

Along with not having many vegetarian options, she also said the omelet station in the dining center needs improvement to be better for vegetarians.

“The cooks behind the station don’t clean it in between each person’s order, so when it’s your turn,” Garrity said, “There are sometimes little pieces of meat lying there, or bacon grease.”

Garritty said it would be beneficial to train the cooks or remind them about dietary restrictions to help avoid this problem.

Providing more options for vegans and vegetarians is something Garritty thinks food can always improve.

She said the one small line for vegetarians in the dining center is never very appetizing so vegetarians don’t have enough variety.

Garritty added, “I also think better salad bar options would benefit not just vegetarians, but everyone on campus.”

Reagan Johnson, a WSU junior, is a vegan. She said she was not much of a meat eater growing up and this past fall decided to make it her new year’s resolution to become a vegan.

Johnson said she does not have a meal plan on campus, and said it’s not the best option for her because there is only about three things that are a good option for her to eat on campus.

She said she brings a lot of her own food to campus, or she will get vegetarian sushi from the C-Store or a sandwich from Mondo’s with just veggies.

“It’s nice that they have snacks in the C-Store that you can grab,” Johnson said.

She said she would prefer if Chartwells had more variety.

Although she can’t eat most of the meals because of her vegan diet, she said it would be helpful if they simply removed or didn’t put cheese on a lot of the dishes, such as the pasta in the Smaug.

Johnson said she rarely buys things on campus because she feels they are expensive.

“Especially the sushi. That alone is $6 or $7 just for carrots and cucumber.” Johnson said.

With the prices where they are now, and the expected price increase, Johnson said it would definitely impact her decision-making.

She said she would probably not buy food on campus anymore because it’s not worth the money and she can make a lot of food cheaper at home and be happier with it.



Islamophobia on the WSU Campus

Nada Hussein with her sign that sparked controversy.

A Winona State University student sparked conversation last week when she posted a photo of herself wearing a sign with facts about Islam on Facebook.

Nada Hussein, a senior majoring in political science at WSU posted the picture on the “Overheard at WSU” Facebook page and received mixed reactions.

Hussein’s sign reads: Stop Islamophobia; There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world; 0.003% of the Muslim population is responsible for terrorist attacks; Less than 27% of all terrorist attacks are carried out in the name of Islam; You have more chances of being killed by a bee than a Muslim.

The post and the reactions that followed got the attention of the university and prompted the visit of Dr. Sheikh Odeh Muhawesh.

Muhawesh, author and well-known theologian, came to campus to present “Islamophobia in America: How Did We Get Here?”

Muhawesh, an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, discussed the misconceptions surrounding Islam and talked about the dangers of religious segregation during his visit to WSU.

Muhawesh said the greatest misconception about Muslims is that they are the “other.”

“Muslims in America are in every aspect of our society from armed forces to professors, to cab drivers, to doctors, to judges, to students. It’s a misconception to view them as somebody else. Muslims can be white Americans, African Americans, Scandinavian Americans, so that image that people have of Muslims being different is a big misconception,” Muhawesh said.

Hussein’s Facebook post started the conversation about Islamaphobia.

Hussein said some students responded positively by asking her if they could help support her cause.

One student wrote, “I’m a little late to see this post and the semester is almost over, but let me know if there’s anyway I can help out this semester or next.”

Other commenters’ linked articles to news reports from the San Bernardino shootings and the Paris attacks, pointing out the growing numbers of terrorist attacks coming from groups like ISIS.

Another student said, “Although I do not support the type of hate the likes of Trump seem to be espousing, It seems clear to me the world would be a better place without Islam. Further, the idea that ‘Islam is peace’ seems absurd to me. If you want a peaceful religion, you are going to have to look further east than the Middle East.”

Hussein said this type of response is not unusual and this was not the worst of the comments. She said she deals with the negativity by rarely answering people’s negative responses.

“It makes me feel really bad because I’m not trying to defend Islam, I’m trying to make a peace movement and tell people about what they don’t know.” Hussein said.

Muhawesh talked about Facebook in his presentation and said Facebook and most social media allow people to hide behind a wall and therefore it is natural Hussein would receive more hateful comments online than she would in person.

His suggestion to the people who posted negative comments on Hussein’s post is to have a conversation with a Muslim or visit a mosque.

“With interfaith dialogues, we encourage dialogue and face to face meetings. Go to people’s churches, mosques, coinages, temples and see people face-to-face because it’s a totally different feeling.” Muhawesh said.

According to Muhawesh, there are 45 mosques in Minnesota and as far he knows, there is an open door policy, no matter the faith of the visitor.

Muhawesh said the key to eliminating misconceptions of Muslims is to teach religion without evangelizing faith.

“I’m very much in favor of teaching about religions in public schools. Not as a matter of faith, but as a religion. Every segment of the population has a faith of some sort. We need to understand each other and without that education we will always, in each other’s eyes be the other, Muhawesh said.

Hussein came up with the idea to carry the sign with her shortly after the attacks on Paris. She’s vowed to carry it with her on campus every day until the end of the semester.

“Everyone said ‘pray for Paris’ but two days before, the same thing happened in Lebanon and no one said anything about it.” Hussein said.

Offline Hussein said people hardly ever come up to her in person and comment on her sign.

“I get more support from faculty members than I do students,” Hussein said. “Student’s don’t really care they just look at it and keep going. Its more likely for students to walk by and ignore me than say something hateful.”

Now other students are supporting Hussein by carrying signs around campus. According to Hussein, all of the students who asked to join her are all non-Muslim, American students.

“Its hard to be a Muslim around here,” Hussein said. “For me, people may not know by looking at me that I am Muslim because I’m not wearing a headscarf.”

The biggest misconception Americans have about Muslims, Hussein said, is that they are all terrorists or Islam is terrorism.

Hussein said the discrimination against Muslims has gotten worse in the four years she’s been in the United States. She said she thinks its due to the world events such as the Paris attacks back in November.

She said since ISIS has been on the upswing, things have gotten “out of control.”

Along with the recent terrorist attacks, Hussein said the upcoming election also makes her feel worried because of the policies Donald Trump is proposing.

“He wants to give us identification cards and that makes me feel really bad.” Hussein said. “I think I’ll be leaving the country if he’s elected. Why would I stay somewhere and be treated like how Hitler treated people years and years ago?”

According to Muhawesh, hate speech and microagressive moves can lead to violence.

“We should tolerate freedom of speech and criticism. We should tolerate investigations and disagreements. But when that turns into hate and aggressive behavior, that is when we should stop it.” Muhawesh said.

As for stopping Islamophobia on the WSU campus, Muhawesh said students must stop microagressions by standing up to hate speech.


Winona Knitting Mills: The History Behind the Building

Pete Woodworth, former owner of the Winona Knitting Mills, walked into Wanek Hall at the Winona County Historical Society on Wednesday sporting a green cable knit cardigan he made at the Winona Knitting Mills 58 years ago. This was the first sweater Woodworth ever made when he was 12 years old.

“I wore it to work one day and someone told me it was so beautifully made, that I should hang on to it.” Woodworth said, “I didn’t know they meant until I was 70.”

Woodworth began working for the Winona Knitting Mills at the age of 6-years-old where he started packing sweaters into plastic bags to prepare them for shipping. He worked there ever since, only taking a break to join the Navy for five years. Now, at 69-years-old, Woodworth said how grateful he is to be able to still have the Winona Knitting Mills in his family and work in the building.

Woodworth’s grandfather, Walker Woodworth, bought the building in 1943 with his partner, Harry J. Stone. They owned two other locations at the time and were looking for a third location. Jack Temple, the owner of a textile company in Winona, suggested they invest in a building in Winona. The empty building on East Second Street was originally built for a wool mill that never opened.

The mayor of Winona welcomed Walker Woodworth and told him he wouldn’t require Woodworth to pay property taxes for the first year and would only have to pay taxes in 10 percent increments for 10 years as long as they had 200 people working at the mills by the end of 10 years.

To everyone’s surprise, the Winona Knitting Mills had more than 200 employees by the first year.

Pete Woodworth said when the Winona Knitting Mills opened, there were lines of people waiting work at the mills. He said mostly women were employed to run the sewing machines, and noted they enjoyed working there together and most of them were friends.

Proof of the friendships made can still be seen in the break room of the Winona Knitting Mills building. Enlarged photos of women with their arms around each other, laughing and eating ice cream at company picnics can be found hanging on the walls of the original break room. Woodworth said the break room has been left untouched to remind current tenants of the bonds that were created in the building.

At the lecture, to Woodworth’s pleasure, were many employees of the Winona Knitting Mills. The whole audience laughed when Woodworth hauled a huge movie poster up on stage and told the tale of the time he and his wife Joyce were able to attend the New York movie premiere of “The Big Lebowski.” Woodworth said he was proud of the fact that Jeff Bridges chose the Winona-made sweater from a warehouse full of costumes and made the sweater famous.

Woodworth told the audience about how he and his wife went bowling with the cast of the movie and his wife was only able to enter the movie screening because she was wearing the infamous sweater.

In the audience, Howard Rockwell and his wife listened to the history of the old building he used to work in. Rockwell said he loved working at the Winona Knitting Mills and said he got along well with Woodworth and his family.

Rockwell worked at the Winona Knitting Mills in the laundry department from 1955 to 1995. He was in charge of washing all the material before it was sent to the machines.

Rockwell said after 40 years of working at the Winona Knitting Mills, his favorite memory was when they moved the laundry facility from the first floor to the third floor. Rockwell said he was happy to move up to the third floor because he was able to see the river and bluffs from the window’s view.

Rockwell talked with old friends and coworkers he hadn’t seen since he retired in 1995. Woodworth recognized some of his old employees and thanked them for coming to the lecture. After the lecture there were some questions about what went wrong for the Winona Knitting Mills. For some, the closing was unexpected, especially for the employees.

Even though Rockwell had retired in 1995, he was saddened to hear the news of the mills shutting down.

“I was surprised and thankful that I retired at the right time. I was really surprised; they hired a lot of people. I saw a lot of people come and go.” Rockwell said.

Some of the audience members wanted to know what happened to the Winona Knitting Mills and Woodworth explained that they merged with the Hampshire Group Limited, a women’s apparel company.

The Winona Knitting Mills closed a few years after The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was introduced. Woodworth explained said he was advised to sell the company after making visits to Washington D.C. and hearing about the trade agreement.

Woodworth said the hardest moment of his career was when he had to tell his employees the Winona Knitting Mills was closing its doors for good, leaving 180 employees unemployed.

He talked about how he was the type of employer who wanted the best for his employees.

“I’ll try to help you become who you want to be. That’s what kind of company we were. We had a big sign on the office door that said ‘always open’. Those values came from my father and it came from his father.” Woodworth said.

Woodworth’s children now own the building that once was the Winona Knitting Mills. The building is now WKM Properties, a commercial space with 225,000 square feet of leasable space and 10,000 square feet of available space.

This is a cuffing machine that was used to sew cuffs onto sleeves of sweaters such as the one behind the machine. This antique now sits on display on the second floor of WKM properties.

Winona bat condos, saving the residents under the bridge

With construction well on its way on the interstate 90 bridges, The Minnesota Department of Transportation is taking on an unexpected construction project. “Bat Condos” or bat hibernacula, have been installed alongside the Mississippi river due to the significant number of bats living under the interstate 90 bridge that is due to come down next year.

Heather Kaarakka, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the bats have lived under the bridge for years and are used to the noise from cars.

Kaarakka estimated that roughly 2-3 thousand Little Brown Bats were living under the bridge.

“When we first discovered the colony, we found them roosting in the expansion joint between the east and the west bound lanes of the bridge.” Kaarakka said.

Although the bats in the colony are acclimated to some level of noise, construction will likely disturb them, Kaarakka said, and potentially cause them to leave the area completely.

Since construction started, The Department of Transportation from Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as the DNR’s from both states, have worked closely to help mitigate the loss of the bats’ habitat.

“Building and installing the bat condo and bat houses will help keep the colony around by providing alternate habitat.” Kaarakka said. Installing the bat houses before the roost is removed, will allow bats to find a new habitat and stay in the area.

MDOT has been the lead on the bridge project and have been more than willing to provide alternate habitat for the bats and take steps to help the bats move out of the bridge, Kaarakka said.

Robin Richardson, a biology professor at Winona State University, said she has seen success in bat condos located in the Winona community. In 2010, Richardson and some of her students put up a bat condo behind the Tau Center on WSU’s west campus.

According to Richardson, it could take years to see whether bats are using the bat condos near the bridge but says the bat condos near the Tau Center appear to be active.

“There are a lot of signs that they are using it. A lot of guano. It took about a year to see whether the bats where using it or not.” Richardson said.

Richardson advised community members who want to build a bat condo that bat condos should be located near water and should be in a warm location.

“The counterintuitive thing about bats is that they like it hot. People try to put them in a shady place but they like their houses 100 degrees and they need to be by water so they can fly into the house from the water.” Richardson said.

She also said that bat condos should be placed where other animals, such as squirrels, can not bother their habitat.

Kaarakka explained why Winona residents should want bats to remain in the area.

“A single bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one hour and a pregnant bat can eat her weight in insects each night.” Kaarakka explained.

Because bats can eat so much, it makes them important pest control not only for human pests but also agricultural pests.

Bats have become increasingly important in the southern Minnesota ecosystem since White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal bat disease was discovered in 2007. According to Kaarakka, it is not uncommon to see 90-100% of the bats infected with this disease die. WNS has a high mortality rate and it is not specific to one species, so multiple hibernating bat species are at risk in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“If WNS continues on its present course, Wisconsin and Minnesota could soon see empty evening skies as bats disappear from the disease. “ Kaarakka said.

Building a bat condo is something anyone can do, Kaarakka said, and directions and instructions can be found on the Wisconsin Bat Program website.