Zehr Receives Thanks and Gives It, Restoratively

Howard Zehr

HARRISONBURG – Eastern Mennonite University professor Howard Zehr spent his Thanksgiving holiday this year receiving the thanks of German and Swiss groups for his work as a pioneer and propagator of restorative justice around the world. He also did “giving” as a speaker and workshop leader on the same topic.

On the day that the United States celebrated Thanksgiving 2010, Zehr received the Michael Stattler Prize from the German Mennonite Peace Committee in Rottenburg am Neckar, a town in southwestern Germany. Continue reading “Zehr Receives Thanks and Gives It, Restoratively” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Enough is a Feast – 7 Things To Do Instead of Shop

What a bizarre world we live in that some people got up at 4 am on November 26—not to meditate, not to practice yoga, not to write in their dream journal—but to get in line to shop for “Black Friday.”

I decided nearly 40 years ago to abandon the custom of gift giving at Christmas. I used to make a practice of staying away from stores like Walmart from Thanksgiving to well past Christmas. When I became seriously interested in yoga, about 25 years ago, I learned that part of the practice includes observing ethical precepts, and one of those is aparigraha, or non-grasping, non-hoarding, essentially non-greed.

Of course, other spiritual traditions also emphasize the value of simple living, and value spiritual practices and traditions over possessions. In the Christian faith, Continue reading “Enough is a Feast – 7 Things To Do Instead of Shop” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

EMU Students Contend in Business Competition

The EMU team tied for fourth place in the annual Goodman & Company accounting competition (l. to r.): Ron Stoltzfus, Eric Yoder, Heidi Boese, Brittany Snyder and Jason Ropp with Gary Thomson of Goodman & Company. Photo by Kristin R. Kitchens

HARRISONBURG – They came, they collaborated, they crunched the numbers and were rewarded for their efforts in a grueling regional business competition sponsored by Goodman & Company, a major Virginia accounting firm.

A team of Eastern Mennonite University senior accounting majors tied for fourth place in the final round of competition with a team from the University of Virginia in the ninth annual Goodman & Company Accounting Challenge. Continue reading “EMU Students Contend in Business Competition” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

FOIA Requests Sent to Richmond on Global Warming

On August 26, 2010 at a town hall meeting at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell stated, in response to a question I posed on global warming, that the science of anthropogenic climate change was debatable. When I countered that there was not significant debate on this issue, he replied, “I’m telling you, there is.”

At that same town meeting I also spoke with Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources and Senior Advisor on Energy, Maureen Matsen. She stated that the science is not clear that climate change is man made, going on to say that, in any event, addressing energy issues was synonymous with addressing anthropogenic climate change. The problem with this reply is that it implies that as long as we get the amount of energy we need, it does not matter that the source of energy is climate harming fossil fuels. When I suggested to her that the United States has hundreds of years of coal and natural gas, and, therefore, there would be no reason to develop renewables except for concern with greenhouse gases, she chose not to respond.

I thereupon sent freedom of information requests to both Governor McDonnell and the Secretary of Natural Resources, asking each to produce any documents they had to support their positions that anthropogenic climate change was invalid science or debatable. The response was: Continue reading “FOIA Requests Sent to Richmond on Global Warming” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Eastern Mennonite University Celebrates 104 kW Photovoltaic System

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner 'throw the ceremonial switch' to engage the 104.3 kilowatt solar panel array that will provide enough power to supply the total average annual electricity costs of nine homes in Harrisonburg.

Eastern Mennonite University dedicated and celebrated the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project built so far in the state of Virginia in a public ceremony held Monday afternoon, Nov. 15, on EMU’s campus.

During the celebration in EMU’s Campus Center, about 150 members of the campus community, public officials and local neighbors saw the university’s president Loren Swartzendruber unveil the website dashboard with the flip of a switch, revealing live graphs showcasing the daily, weekly and monthly output of the solar system.

“Caring for God’s good creation is central to who we are as a Christian university,” Dr. Swartzendruber told the gathering. “Our planet does not have unlimited natural resources, and it is imperative that we utilize clean renewable energy such as solar as part of the university’s long-term commitment to creation care and environmental sustainability,” he added. Continue reading “Eastern Mennonite University Celebrates 104 kW Photovoltaic System” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Fair Questions for the DNR

With a summit on justice issues just passed, it’s a good time to ask if the local newspaper can be a part of the discussion, or is part of the problem.

Take, for instance, last Tuesday’s front page (November 9, 2010). Four teens were arrested in Georgia for a murder at a party that got out of hand.  The story was sensationalism.  That’s not a dig.  During my tenure as a newspaper editor many, many years ago, a story being sensational was enough reason to run it.  One editor I worked with called them “Hey, Mabel” stories.  Others referred to them as back-fence stories.  You run them because people are talking or because you want them to.

What’s less understandable is the information the newspaper chose to run about those arrested.  Their names, ages, and addresses did not appear in the story.  The only identifying information was their surnames, run underneath photos cropped so tightly they purveyed only one fact about the suspects: They were black. Continue reading “Fair Questions for the DNR” »

This post was submitted by JGFitzgerald.

New Book Revisits ‘Martyr’s Mirror’ Stories

Press Release HARRISONBURG – An Eastern Mennonite University professor has assembled a collection of poems, essays and fiction by noted and new authors responding to a classic book of martyrs who died for their faith over the centuries.

The anthology, “Tongue Screws and Testimonies,” will be released at a reception for the book’s editor, Kirsten E. Beachy, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 in Martin Chapel of the seminary building at EMU. Continue reading “New Book Revisits ‘Martyr’s Mirror’ Stories” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

New LEED Office Building In Grottoes

Wellness Concepts Inc., Valley Leader in Green Building

Daniel and Cathie Atwell, owners of Wellness Concepts, since 1990, are building a new home for their business in Grottoes, VA. This is no ordinary building, as the Atwells, along with their contractor, Glen Stoltfus, are intent on making it the first Platinum, LEED certified building in the Central Shenandoah Valley.

LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a nationally accepted certification program that is a third-party verified, green building rating system. A building receives points for energy efficiency, using reclaimed materials, water conservation, indoor air quality, and waste mitigation, just to name a few.

This 18,000 square foot building has outside walls made with insulated concrete forms or ICF’s.   Continue reading “New LEED Office Building In Grottoes” »

This post was submitted by Sally Newkirk.

Hburg, Fall ’10, a Pocket of Political Civility

This was submitted prior to the November 2, but unfortunately was left unpublished prior!

If you’ve followed state and national politics this Fall, you’ve observed rage, bizarre accusations and even occasional violence. What a surprising contrast the Harrisonburg City Council campaigns have been! I’ve seen the 6 candidates display pragmatism, civility and willingness to respectfully disagree. This is by no means typical of local politics or of politics in Harrisonburg (where mention of the city’s ten-year-money-losing golf course can still push bitter buttons). Yet the tone this Fall has seemed remarkably sane. The nonpartisan group, Citizens for Equal Rights, deserves special appreciation for organizing Meet and Greet sessions with each of the six contenders in a private home, open to all. Informal discussions there have proved highly informative, as have the public forums. Voters can find clear differences in policy, such as how to balance taxation with needs in this city which continues to have an unusually low tax rate. We can choose our two next council members from among six very diverse sets of strengths, perspectives and leadership styles . . . but I’ve seen no ideological demagogues/immigrant-bashers/gay-bashers/screamers-toting-guns in the lot. So I think we can feel at least moderately ok about whoever wins. Hburgers, please study your choices and vote on Tuesday!

This post was submitted by Chris Edwards.

In Support of the 10-Point Grading Scale

Switching to the 10-point system will not lower the bar for Rockingham Co. students because their teachers will likely change the manner in which they grade slightly enough to make the change less abrupt than some perceive it to be. This idea of the bar being lowered appears more like simple pessimism to overall change.

The change will balance out for several reasons. First, most teachers will likely raise their standard grading procedures to meet the change of scale, thus keeping the standards the same and only changing there numerical representation in order to make them consistent with colleges, universities and the majority of the nation?s public schools. Second, the teachers who do not change their grading procedures at all will be balanced by those who do. The amount of potential detriment here is extremely low and in no way substantiates a refusal to join the majority of public schools already using the 10-point scale.

Universities say they look at grading scales and are able to distinguish between the different grading systems, but it is unnecessary and simply redundant to ask them to spend extra time trying to approximate equivalencies between student grades per grading system. As a parent and former public schools teacher, I simply cannot assume that the institution of higher education that my children wish to attend will distinguish them from other children who come from schools using the 10-point scale.

I have heard institutions such as UVA claim to make the distinction between grade point scales when looking at GPA scores, but I have yet to hear how exactly they do that. Perhaps they use some formula for students to equalize all the GPA scores before assessing the scores as a whole. Even if this is not the method, they obviously are claiming to do something of the sort out of fairness. Therefore, out of fairness they will in the end render the distinction between grading scales useless, unnecessary and simply irrelevant.

The counter argument here is that students will work harder for an A in the current system because they will need a score of 94% in order to get it. The problem with this consideration is that it ignores other potential changes within the system that will balance out the admittedly abrupt change of going from the current system to the 10-point system. Overall it seems teachers would readjust their grade giving procedures making it require nearly the same effort to get an A in a 10-point system as it is to get an A in the current system.

All assignments are not numerically equitable. A math test translates to numerical grading practices easily, whereas an essay does not. Even if the teacher uses a rubric to grade student writing, they will at some level ask themselves ?Is this an A, B, C, D or failing paper?? Oftentimes this will be the starting point and from there the teacher will approach a numerical grade based on the merit of the particular paper among others receiving the same letter grade. In this circumstance I see very little potential for negative change from going to the 10-point scale.

There is no doubt that the change would require effort and there may be a period of getting used to the 10-point scale, but it would be worth it in the end. I have yet to hear the school systems that have switched from our current grading scale to the 10-point scale discontented with the change they decided to make for the sake of simplicity and fairness. So the question I pose to parents, teachers, administrators and school boards working in the current grading scale is this: In a national system such as the public schools, which rely on standards and the consistency of standards, why would we refuse to use what has become he standard grading system of US Public Schools?

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Celebrating Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Celebrating Lucille Clifton


Flickr image shared by permission of Joanne Gabbin http://www.flickr.com/photos/furiousflower/5039906940/in/set-72157625068129000/

Joanne Gabbin read at Lucille Clifton's Celebration

When I first met Dr. Joanne Gabbin late in 2004, it was clear she heard a different drummer. Here was a woman who dreamed big, kept her feet on the ground, and made things happen in Harrisonburg. She is owner of Franklin Street Gallery, English professor at JMU, and the visionary behind Furious Flower Poetry Center at JMU.

In June 2009, Furious Flower sponsored a seminar with African American poet Lucille Clifton. Eight months later, February 2010, Clifton unexpectedly died. On Sept 21 2010, Furious Flower brought 73 poets and poetry fans together to celebrate the life Lucille Clifton, and the free event was attended over 1,000 people from all over the state and country.   Continue reading “Celebrating Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Celebrating Lucille Clifton” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg: “Hey McDonnell Shame on You. Immigrants are People, Too!”

Harrisonburg- On Wednesday, a crowd of forty community members gathered in front of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Harrisonburg to call attention to Governor Bob McDonnell’s anti-immigrant, discriminatory policies including his recent decision to make it difficult for legal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

Governor McDonnell has angered Virginia residents with his latest call for the DMV to deny federal Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) as a form of identification in obtaining a driver’s license which protesters say is an act of discrimination against all immigrants. The law causes significant risk for Virginians, especially those who are undocumented, and those on Temporary Protection Status from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan.

The protesters stood on the sidewalk in front of the DMV chanting Continue reading “Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg: “Hey McDonnell Shame on You. Immigrants are People, Too!”” »

This post was submitted by Julie Blust .

Upd8: The Super Gr8 Film Festival

The Super Gr8 Film Festival to take place November 16th at 7:30 at The Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg.

The Super Gr8 Film Festival is coming together one splice at a time.  After talking with all of the filmmakers who are making the 20 films that will be presented, I can tell you it will be an intriguing show of local talent.  Nearly half of the filmmakers are visual artists who have exhibited and sold their artwork.  Others are professional photographers or play directors or SMAD students or video editors, the list goes on. The experience of all the filmmakers will enhance their filmmaking ambitions and abilities in different ways, making each film a unique exploration of form.

After the meeting with the filmmakers in September, where they were given a crash course in Super 8 filmmaking, Continue reading “Upd8: The Super Gr8 Film Festival” »

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Beloved Former EMU Campus Pastor Dies

Truman H. Brunk

Truman H. Brunk, 79, a former campus pastor at Eastern Mennonite University died Friday, Oct. 8, at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Harrisonburg, Va.

Brunk was born May 19, 1931 in Washington, D.C., the son of the late Truman and Ruth Smith Brunk. He grew up in the Denbigh community of Newport News, Va.

Brunk joined the EMU faculty in 1965 following his Continue reading “Beloved Former EMU Campus Pastor Dies” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Greenhouse is Built for New Community Project

A greenhouse can be built in an affordable manner, like this one for the New Community Project in Harrisonburg. Photo: Diana Woodall

On a warm Sunday afternoon, October 10, members and friends of New Community Project in Harrisonburg met at 715 N. Main St and contructed an inexpensive greenhouse.

The project was done in conjunction with the call from 350.org for communities across the nation and world to take action to address climate change.  (350 stands for the Continue reading “Greenhouse is Built for New Community Project” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

Immigration Reform Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg residents joined together at the local DMV location to protest Governor McDonnell’s attempts to deny drivers licenses to legal immigrants with work permits.   Isabel Castillo, local organizer, says in a Facebook status update, “We need to send the message that we will not sit idly by as persons who are doing the right thing are punished unjustly.”

The press release is below.  Please share comments about the event below. Continue reading “Immigration Reform Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg” »

This post was submitted by Julie Blust .

Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?

As a a long time advocate of criminal justice reform, I was heartened by something our new governor Bob McDonnell included in his January 10 Inaugural Address to the Joint Houses:

“Tough sentences are only half of the equation in making Virginia safer. We must provide real opportunities to prisoners to turn their lives around, and to become responsible and contributing members of society when their sentences have concluded. A failure to do so only leads to more crime, and more victims. I will work with faith-based and community organizations to create an effective prisoner re-entry program to keep people out of jails and prisons. It’s smart government, and will save money.”

These are bold words from a governor of a state with the 8th highest per capita incarceration rate in the US, the nation with the distinction of holding more prisoners than any other country in the world, including China. Continue reading “Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?” »

This post was submitted by Harvey Yoder.

Harrisonburg “Climate Work Parties” Join Thousands Across the Planet

On October 10, people across the planet will pick up hammers, shovels, and caulking-guns and join the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, the world’s largest day of practical action to fight the climate crisis.

Here in Harrisonburg, three different events are planned for Sunday afternoon: Continue reading “Harrisonburg “Climate Work Parties” Join Thousands Across the Planet” »

This post was submitted by Elizabeth Scott.

Still ‘Speedy’ After All These Years

Phil Helmuth, executive director of development at EMU, accepts the keys and title to Margaret Martin Gehman's 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. Photo by Jim Bishop

HARRISONBURG – At age 88, Margaret Martin Gehman of Harrisonburg has lost a little of her trademark drive, largely because she has parted company with a faithful friend.

Dr. Gehman and her trusty, albeit a bit rusty, mechanical steed, a blue 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, are almost synonymous to many observers. For years she motored the streets of the greater Harrisonburg area even though she preferred walking to as many destinations as possible. She has been a resident of Continue reading “Still ‘Speedy’ After All These Years” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Tea Party Revolts over Nothing

The Tea Party/Republicans claim the Democrats are dismantling free enterprise and building up unprecedented debt. Bailing out Wall Street and the car industry, and stimulating the economy were emergency measures. The Tea Party/Republican complaints go to the long term, what to do about the crushing entitlement costs.   Continue reading “Tea Party Revolts over Nothing” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.