Unemployed veterans finding jobs as more businesses pledge to hire

By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

More than 18,400 of veterans who reside in Arkansas are living in poverty.

According to the Veterans Data Central website, the unemployment rate in 2016 ranged from 1.8 to 7.6 percent, ensuring that Arkansas’s 3.1 percent was relatively low when compared to other states.

“Among the 453,000 unemployed veterans in 2016, 60 percent were age 45 and over, 36 percent were age 25 to 44, and 4 percent were age 18 to 24,” according to information found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

As the numbers come to light, many businesses and companies have begun to offer various promotions and support groups to help find jobs for these veterans.

Blair Cromwell, senior manager-opportunity for Walmart corporate communications, explained the ‘Veterans Welcome Home Commitment’ that Walmart introduced in 2013 and guaranteed the continuation of until 2020.

“Since Memorial Day 2013, we have hired 179,489 veterans and have promoted 24,379 to roles of greater responsibility,” Cromwell said.

Other large corporations have also taken up the initiative of hiring veterans with an intent to reduce the poverty and homelessness that accompanies many with their return to the country after fighting wars abroad.

Starbucks featured a new pledge on their website to hire 15,000 more veterans, as they have already employed more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses since 2013, according to their website.

“Today, Americans know fewer veterans than any other generation,” the large, beginning header on 1912pike.com read. The article quoted veteran employees from various Starbucks locations describing their everyday jobs working with civilians.

“In the next 10 years, more than two-thirds of veterans will be over the age of 65,” according to the Veterans Data Central website.

Amazon joined the trend with their announcement in May 2016 to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2021—over two times the number of veterans they employ.

Similarly to Starbucks, Amazon’s employment page of their website highlights the Amazon Warriors, a group of employees that have joined in support of veterans as well as current military personnel.

Angela Seawood Williams, assistant vice chancellor for career services and executive director of the Career Development Center, described the program’s services as providing “career counseling, resume reviews, mock interviews, and job search strategies.”

“Our career advisors have received special training regarding how to assist veterans with converting their military resumes to civilian resumes,” Williams said, “and they are aware of specific veterans’ job search resources.”

The CDC also has a VetSuccess Career counselor on campus specifically to help veteran students who are searching for a job.

Student Veterans, another organization on campus, was put in place to make veterans attending the university feel not as lonely, President of Student Veterans Derek Calhoun said, a veteran himself.

“Experience is very heavy in this job,” Calhoun said. “The culture in the military is very different, and the last president lacked communication with the members.”

Hiring veterans in positions like Calhoun’s can be beneficial to businesses that deal with veteran customers regularly, as sometimes it is easier to relate to someone who has had the same experience as you, Calhoun said.

Identifying veterans on campus and approaching them about joining Student Veterans is another part of Calhoun’s job description, one that would be even more difficult for a civilian president.

“It’s like playing ‘Where’s Waldo,’ but there’s so many Waldos I can’t possibly find them all,” Calhoun said.

More than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year, each of whom have a better opportunity of being hired because of these recent pledges, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

FSU Fraternity Death Puts Light on UA Greek Life

By Kayla Nunez
The Razorback Reporter

Florida State University became the third major campus this year to record a student death involving a Greek-letter organization. That prompted the FSU administration on Nov. 6 to suspend indefinitely all 55 of its sororities and fraternities after a Pi Kappa Phi pledge died after a weekend party, according to an FSU announcement.
The incident, on the heels of similar ones at Pennsylvania State University and Louisiana State University, has once again revised the question of hazing – a national topic of discussion – on campuses across the country.
A freshman Phi Delta Theta pledge at LSU died in what was described as a potential hazing incident in September and a Beta Theta Pi pledge at Penn State died in a hazing incident in February.
LSU formally suspended Phi Delta Theta and indefinitely suspended all Greek activities.
Parice Bowser, director of UA Greek Life, said that if a similar circumstance happened, an investigation and disciplinary procedures would follow.
“It’s my prayer that the University of Arkansas does not ever experience such a loss,” Bowser said.
The UofA has zero tolerance for hazing among its 35 Greek-letter organizations.
Mark Rushing, UA assistant vice chancellor for university relations, reiterated the university’s stance on hazing.
“The safety of our students is a top priority and the university strongly opposes any form of hazing,” Rushing said.
UA policy also is supported by Arkansas state law.
“Any requirement imposed upon prospective, new or current members which is not related to the organization’s purpose is prohibited and will become the subject of a University investigation once the practice is brought to the attention of the Office of Greek Life,” according to the UA anti-hazing policy.
In the case of any hazing allegations, the university would take a look at the case and then the police might get involved, depending on the severity of the situation.
There have been some reported allegations of hazing in the past at the UofA, including as recently as January of 2016.
As of March 31, 2016 four reports of hazing were filed and 10 fraternity violations of Greek Life conduct rules since 2013, according to a report from the Office of Student Standards and Conduct.
Some examples of hazing are making new members be silent for a certain amount of time, requiring physical exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups, and making a member wear uncomfortable clothes, among others, according to the UA Greek Life website.
The website lists 19 activities that “have at one time or another been identified as hazing by courts and/or institutions of higher education.”

Greek Life has many programs throughout the year that educate members on hazing prevention, said Danica Ridgeway, Panhellenic President.
UA Greek Life participated in National Hazing Prevention Week in September and Ridgeway said the UofA has been participating in the event for years.
Fraternities and sororities also participated in an educational program in September called These Hands Don’t Haze. The program focused on hazing awareness and prevention and how students should report hazing concerns.
“Hazing is prohibited under Greek Life policies and by the Code of Student Life,” Rushing said.



Arkansas State Police release draft on campus carry license

By Chase Reavis

The Razorback Reporter

Those who want to carry a handgun on Arkansas campuses must be able to shoot straight, hang onto their weapon and defend themselves, according to the state police preliminary draft of training procedures.

The Arkansas State Police Department released the first version of required training procedures necessary for licensed weapons owners to get the enhanced permit that will allow concealed carry on campus sometime next year. That was Oct. 11.

Arkansas State Police are taking public comment about proposed draft changes until Nov. 10, but as of Oct. 24, they had received minimal response, Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police public information officer, said in an email.

The training program is projected to be in place within the first three months of 2018, Sadler said. The enhanced carry license will be valid for five years, according to the draft.

Enhanced carry applicants must complete eight hours of instruction proctored by training instructors across the state, according to the draft. Training will be offered at all concealed carry courses. All registered concealed carry instructors must complete an exam regarding the enhanced training license by Jan. 1, 2018. If an instructor cannot complete the exam, the instructor’s registration will be revoked, according to the draft.

In the eight-hour course, instructors must explain the rights and responsibilities of having the enhanced license as well as where carriers cannot take handguns. Applicants will undergo self-defense and weapon-retention training.

They also must score at least a 70 percent on a firing-accuracy test, which they get three tries to complete, according to the draft. A firing-accuracy test is not included in the standard concealed carry training but was added to the enhanced training program with the new revisions.

The firing-accuracy test is meant to “ensure the license applicant can safely handle and correctly fire the weapon,” Sadler said.

Instructors also will go over emergency situations, how to respond to police officers during these situations and the difference between firearm possession and storage, according to the draft.

In preparation for concealed carry on campus, UA officials have acted as panelists for three forums regarding the new law; two of them have been on campus. One was at a Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 26 in Old Main.

Faculty members asked about their own safety as well as the safety of UA students on campus once the training program is implemented.

UA professor Bill McComas told the panel he felt very unsafe that students in his class could have handguns.

“I don’t quite understand how I can do my job if I feel unsafe,” McComas said.

At the forum and at the two before it, UA professors asked panelists whether they are allowed to ask students not to carry concealed handguns in their classrooms or into their offices. At the first two forums, panelists did not have an answer.

Mark Rushing, assistant vice chancellor of University Relations, answered the question at the Faculty Senate meeting.

“You can state your preference as to whether you would like firearms to be allowed in your area or your office or classroom or not, but you cannot prohibit them,” Rushing said.

UA junior Trystan Spears plans to get an enhanced carry permit after he turns 21 years old in January, but even then, he wants to respect his professors’ wishes about when to carry a gun.

“If I am going into someone’s home, I respect their wishes,” Spears said.

If Spears completes the training program and receives the enhanced carry license, he plans on keeping his handgun in his vehicle more often than on his person, he said.

Spears keeps all sorts of tools in his vehicle, and his handgun will be “another tool in my toolbox,” he said.

Licensees are allowed to store their handguns on or about their person and in their vehicles, according to the draft.

After Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the law earlier this year, Arkansas State Police began drafting rules.

The bill was opposed by UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. He released a statement Jan. 23, saying the proposal threatened campus safety and the retention of students, faculty and staff.

UA Police Department officials would not comment on the draft because it is not a finalized training program, UAPD Capt. Matt Mills said in an email.

Mills had not suggested changes to Arkansas State Police as of Oct. 30, he said.

U of A offering in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students after Maria

By Taylor Klusman

The Razorback Reporter

The UofA was one of at least 12 universities and two campus systems across the US to offer in-state tuition to academically qualified students affected by Hurricane Maria. UA officials decided to extend this offer for the Spring 2018, Summer 2018 and Fall 2018 semesters.

When the university made a similar motion to students in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, they had 66 students take them up on their offer, 14 of whom ended up graduating from the UofA.

“Transferring may prove difficult for some students who are currently enrolled in a university program in Puerto Rico because they don’t know now when their semester is going to end,” UofA Media Relations Manager Steve Voorhies said. “One student has said that she may not be able to start school here because her current semester will likely still be going into our spring semester.”

UofA officials are unsure of how many storm-struck students will take advantage of their offer at this time.

“About 10 have contacted us to ask for more information so far,” Voorhies said. “Other schools are making similar offers, so it is very hard to predict.”

Comparatively, 667 hurricane-affected students from the Caribbean, mainly Puerto Rico, have already signed up at Florida International University, also offering in-state tuition, for the spring semester.

“We don’t expect any to be incoming freshmen – this is aimed more at undergrads and grad students who are already enrolled in Puerto Rican institutions that have been damaged,” Voorhies said.

Alvin Lopez, award winning song-writer and Latino performer, was originally from Puerto Rico himself and believes the university to be a trend-setter in their actions of helping others.

“It’s a matter of getting the word out,” Lopez said. “The reality is there has been an influx of Puerto Ricans into the area already, even getting the word out to the Puerto Ricans in the area right now so that they hear what the university is doing, it could be an incentive for them to send their kids here to go to college.”

The admittance of these students at the UofA following the natural disaster almost a decade ago did not have a financial impact on the university, Voorhies said.

The UofA’s offer of in-state tuition, which adds up to $9,062 a year, could assist students affected by Hurricane Maria in their continuation of college, Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said.

“For me, it would be a perfect opportunity to connect with the people that are here,” Lopez said. “It’s awesome that you’re doing this for Puerto Ricans but we’re across the ocean and there are people in our backyard that also need help that we could be doing something for.”

There are around 2,500 Puerto Ricans in Northwest Arkansas that have been here before the disaster of Hurricane Maria, Lopez said.

“There are children who have lived here for their whole lives and need the same kind of support, kids who are so amazing with big brains that could be great students at the university of Arkansas,” Lopez said.

Report: Women Veterans More Likely to Pursue Higher Education

By Andrea Johnson

The Razorback Reporter

Thirty-four percent of military-affiliated students last year at the UofA were women. Even though men make up the majority of that population, a national report shows that women veterans are more likely than men to pursue and complete a college education.

A 2015 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report showed that 44.3 percent of women veterans enrolled in college compared to 36.5 percent of men. Women also had a higher graduation rate with a bachelor’s (20.7 percent) or advanced degree (13.8 percent). Among men veterans, 15.9 percent earned bachelor’s degrees and 10.7 percent earned advanced degrees.

Women represented about 9.4 percent of veterans in 2015, according to the most recent Women’s Veteran Report.

The higher percent of women veterans enrolling could be attributed to the their being younger than the male veteran population, according to the report. More women veterans fell within the youngest age group of ages 17-24 than men. The median age of female veterans in 2015 was 50 while for men it was 65.

Carrie Mize, a junior at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, served in the Army for four years before settling in Fort Smith in 2008. She worked at a day care center and as a stay-at-home mom until she decided to use her veterans benefits to pursue a college degree in early childhood education, she said.

At age 31, she decided to enroll at UAFS in 2015. Because she did not finish high school, she feared failure at the college level, she said. But her ability to cover all college expenses using her Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits and the state-sponsored Academic Challenge Scholarship for non-traditional students motivated her to try.

“It would be silly not to use (benefits),” Mize said. “I had to build up the courage to go back, but I did have the money.”

Finding balance between being a mom of three children, a wife and a college student became her greatest challenge, she said. After a couple semesters and late-night study sessions, she thinks she has figured it out. Her husband commutes to work in Fayetteville, and she credits him for helping her succeed.

The same determination that kept her going in the Army helps her persevere toward graduation, Mize said.

“I’m an overachiever and I’m scared of failure,” she said. “I wasn’t going to fail. I was going to push through it and make it to the end.”

Jovanna Lopez, a freshman at Northwest Arkansas Community College, served four and a half years in the Army before beginning her college education this fall.

As a senior in high school, she did not feel prepared to pursue higher education, she said. She enlisted in November 2011, graduated from Rogers Heritage High School in May 2012 and left for training the following August.

“I was kind of the one who wasn’t expected to do it, so it was kind of fun to do something that wasn’t expected of me,” Lopez said.

On the NWACC campus, Lopez finds it difficult to determine who affiliates with the military, she said.

Clues such as a military patch or American flag on a cap, bag or tattoo helps identify affiliated people, but she does not see many women “going out of their way to do something with the military or show that they were in the military,” Lopez said.

This semester, 409 military-affiliated students enrolled at NWACC – 80 are female – said Dianna Portillo, director of Veteran Resources at NWACC.

Lopez also receives benefits through a Post 9/11 GI Bill that covers her education costs. She tried earning course credit through online classes but decided the classroom environment fit her learning style better, she said.

Katie Rose Martin, a second-year student at the UA School of Law, served in the Army, 2009-2014, while completing her bachelor’s degree through the online American Military University. She completed eight-week courses without breaks and finished a four-year degree program in two years, she said.

While serving in the Army, her undergraduate education costs were covered. As a law student, her costs are covered through Vocational Rehabilitation benefits, she said.

Martin joined the military for education and health benefits and to gain structure in her life, she said. Before she joined, she made poor decisions and lacked direction in life, but her military experiences helped her mature.

Earning her bachelor’s degree while serving in the Army proved to Martin that she could accomplish more than others might expect of her, she said.

“I know from the military that if I focus and have a goal and just keep that in mind – whatever that goal is – I can accomplish it while at the same knowing that I do have limitations,” Martin said.

The UA student population might comprise more military-affiliated female students than reported, but enrolling UA students are not required to designate military affiliation, just as students may choose whether to identify their race or ethnicity, said Erika Gamboa, director of the UA Veterans Resource and Information Center. At the UofA, 1,382 students self-identified as a military-affiliated student last year.

The 2016 UA female student population is 52 percent of the average total population of 26,154, according to enrollment reports. The preliminary enrollment report for fall 2017 showed continued majority-female enrollment at 52 percent.

By 2043, women are projected to make up 16.3 percent of all living Veterans – a projected 2.4 million, according to a VA report. Last year, the population of women Veterans reached 2.05 million, with 21,361 1iving in Arkansas.