Writing

A selection of writing from Edward Evans. 

In Kansas, Inspectors Work to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Mark Lackey methodically gets out of his state owned sedan, stretching his muscles after the long car ride. He has driven over an hour from his home in Lindsborg to Manhattan to help cover a gap left when one of his inspectors received a promotion. He walks to the back of his car, opens the trunk and removes his small rolling bag. Inside is his laptop computer, thermometers, sanitary wipes, pens, identification and a small mobile printer.

He walks across the parking lot and opens the door to the Sonic restaurant. He is immediately met with the deafening sound of industrial fans, several fly strips covered in dozens of dead pests and a swarm of living flies that, thus far, had managed to evade the efforts of the staff. He walks into the kitchen, identifies himself to the supervisor and notifies him that it is time for the restaurant's annual surprise inspection.

Lackey has been a health inspector for over 20 years, and in that time has conducted some where near 6,000 inspections. Now he is a district manager who oversees six of the 39 inspectors employed by the Kansas Department of Agriculture's division of food safety and lodging. These 39 inspectors are responsible for monitoring over 14,000 food and lodging establishments throughout the state; without funding from the state government.

"Pretty much the majority of the program's funding has been through licensing fees for at least the past decade," said Adam Inman the Assistant Program Manager for the division of Food Safety and Lodging of the Department of Agriculture. "For at least 15 years we've been fully fee supported, and we have some contracts and grants from the federal government as well, but the majority of the funds are license fees."

"The FDA suggested number of food establishments per inspector is 250 to one," said Lackey. "In Kansas the ratio is about 350 to one. You can't get around as often. We're required by law to inspect an establishment at least once a year, and unless it requires a follow up inspection, which are the problem places, that is probably going to be the only inspection that place gets all year."

If, for example, a restaurant was given a violation for having a malfunctioning refrigerator, but not enough violations were found to require a follow up inspection, the restaurant would not be held accountable for more than a year; even though improper refrigeration is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

"Ideally restaurants would go through inspections about once a month," said Fadi Aramouni, a professor in food science with an emphasis in food safety at Kansas State University. "Unfortunately, this is not possible due to lack of manpower."

While inspections are unannounced, restaurants are often able to make it seem as if their facilities are much cleaner than they actually are says Lackey.

"You go into some places and they'll tell you that the manager will be out in a little bit," said Lackey. "Meanwhile you can hear them in the back trying to get everything ready.”

Lackey also cited high rates of employee turnover as a cause for concern.

"I'm guessing [the employees] are not very motivated to go out of their way to keep things healthy," Lackey said. "In the bigger places, they might be working there for six months. Even the managers don't stay for that long. You'll go in to do an inspection and the next time you're there they'll have a completely different staff. It makes it hard for us to go back in there and retrain them."

Not only is there a high rate of employee turnover, but often the pressure of keeping customers happy combined with the typically low wages increases the chances of food contamination through carelessness.

"When it gets busy, I just forget to do things like wash my hands or put on gloves," said one food service employee who wished to remain anonymous. "I'm getting paid on tips and if my tables have to wait for their food, I get paid less."

During a recent inspection in Manhattan, an overworked waitress accidentally dropped a dirty bowl into the trash. She reached in and fished it out, but, in a rush to deliver the food waiting to to be served to customers, simply wiped her hands off with a napkin and returned to work instead of washing them. This went unnoticed by the inspector.

Prioritizing customer service before food safety was a consistent theme at many of the restaurants in Manhattan. Another waitress who wished to remain anonymous recounted a time when a coworker accidentally dropped ready-to-eat food on the floor and, in a rush to serve the rest of her customers, picked it up and served it.

An employee at an Orlando area Golden Corral posted a video on YouTube of the restaurant hiding food next to a dumpster to keep an inspector from seeing it. The video was very popular online, garnered a large response from the media, and resulted in the manager who ordered the hiding of the food to be fired.

The possibility for corruption also remains under the current system. Because inspections are conducted and reported by a single person, often only once per year, no real system of accountability has been established.

"There's been bribes offered in the past, although it doesn't happen very often," said Lackey. "The inspector was handed money, but they handed the money back and told them to put it into fixing the refrigerator that was causing the problem."

While that particular instance was properly reported and largely stemmed from a misunderstanding, it illustrates the potential for corruption in the system.

"We're not where we want to be," said Inman. "We're not seeing the number of outbreaks, but, because food borne illnesses are underreported, we can't say for sure that [we're being successful].”

Foodborne illness was the cause of over 47 million illnesses, 125,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths nationwide in 2011. 

"Most foodborne illnesses are preventable," said Inman. "Being able to reduce food borne illnesses significantly [is our main goal]. Particularly the serious ones that cause long term health outcomes like E Coli infections which can cause death or lifetime changes, having to have kidney transplants, kidney failure. Those very serious foodborne illnesses are also very preventable."

Mark Lackey sits down at a table to fill out his report. He has finished his second inspection of the day, and plans to finish 4 more before starting the hour long drive home.

"My first job was with the health department," said Lackey. "I've seen a lot of changes over the years, but I think the number of food borne illnesses has gone down and that's ultimately how we show that we're being effective."

Professor Gregory Eiselein Wins 2013 Kansas Professor of the Year

Originally publish on December 9th, 2013 in the K-State Collegian

  Dr. Gregory Eiselein has been named Carnegie/CASE Kansas Professor of the Year.

Dr. Gregory Eiselein has been named Carnegie/CASE Kansas Professor of the Year.

It came as little surprise to many of his former students when Gregory Eiselein, professor in English, director of K-State First and University Distinguished Teaching Scholar, was named the 2013 Kansas Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. He is a highly recommended professor by both advisers and former students – holding a near perfect rating on ratemyprofessor.com.

“The nomination happened in April,” Eiselein said. “I didn’t hear anything for a long time and it seemed like such a big award that I didn’t expect to win it. I was really surprised and delighted when I heard.”

Every college and university in the United States and its territories is allowed to nominate two professors for a Carnegie/CASE award. The nominations were based on letters from the professors’ colleagues and students. The applications then went through several rounds of elimination, the first of which had the judges selecting the top 100 candidates regardless of their school or state. From there, a top professor was selected to win the national award in the categories of community colleges, baccalaureate colleges, master’s universities, and doctoral and research universities. After this the judges awarded the top remaining professors for their state.

Under this system not every state has a “state professor of the year,” as it is possible for every professor from that state to be eliminated in the first round of selections.

After earning his bachelors degree at the University of Idaho and his Ph.D at the University of Iowa, Eiselein made his way to K-State in 1996 and became a University Distinguished Teaching Scholar in 2008. He is well-known for his energy and enthusiasm when teaching and for his work as the director of K-State First, a program designed to help first year students acclimate to college.

“Like many great teachers, Greg respects the contribution that each student makes to the class,” said Karin Westman, associate professor and department head for the English department, who nominated Eiselein for the award. “He fosters students’ intellectual curiosity; prompting them to discover what they can learn, value, question and admire about the course material. He sets the stage for their learning and keeps the focus on their experience, not his own role in that learning.”

This conclusion was shared by one of Eiselein’s current students.

“I like that Professor Eiselein wants us to form our own opinions,” said Michaela Sievers, freshman in biology and current student in Eiselein’s “Great Books” class. “He’s really good about pushing us to the next level of thinking. If we say something, he’ll ask us why we think that.”

There were more reasons behind Eiselein’s nomination than just his teaching ability.

“Greg Eiselein is one of the most committed, engaged faculty members in a department of highly committed, engaged faculty,” Westman said. “Moreover, his commitment and engagement extends beyond the English classroom to all undergraduate students at Kansas State, thanks to the success of K-State First, a program which he helped create and grow.”

Eiselein said that he wants to find new ways to improve his work at K-State.

“I love working with faculty, to put our heads together to make our classrooms better,” Eiselein said. “I want to continue to work with faculty to create 21st century classrooms. Technology is a ubiquitous part of their lives, [and I want to] find really meaningful uses for technology. Not just a professor operating a remote to advance a PowerPoint, but ways of teaching that get students involved by using technology. I’d also like to see K-State First grow and develop at K-State.”

Despite always wanting to improve, Eiselein said he remains focused on his passion of student learning.

“I love seeing students getting excited about being at college and learning,” Eiselein said. “I love seeing students who look at an amazing, but difficult piece of literature and think ‘that’s too boring or that’s too hard;’ then teaching them how to read it and seeing them get excited about a book that they didn’t think they would enjoy.”

Eiselein is the 11th K-State professor to win a Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie/CASE Foundation since 1990. For comparison, that is more than the all the universities in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma combined.

K-State Dorm Price Increase One of the Largest in the State

Published in 2013 in the K-State Collegian

There’s a good chance K-State students living on campus can expect to have the price of their living accommodations rise next year, though final approval from the Kansas Board of Regents is currently pending. K-State isn’t the only public university in the state that will be raising its dorm rates, however; KU, Wichita State, Emporia State, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State will also be implementing a price escalation upon approval.

While it is fairly unsurprising to see dorm rates increase over time, it is noticeable that K-State’s change is the second highest among these six regent schools. It is topped only by Wichita State’s plan, which is uncomparable to previous years because of the development of a new housing facility.

According to Housing and Dining Services, after the price increase, the standard room rate with a 15-meal plan will climb from $3,830 per semester to $3,980, an increase of 3.9 percent. A comparable plan at KU will see an increase of only 2.5 percent as $3,851 per semester becomes $3,948.

The price increase was said to be needed partially due to increased costs associated with living in Manhattan.

“There are several factors,” Derek Jackson, director of Housing and Dining Services, said.“One is that utilities are going up. Electricity went up 6 percent, water has been raised 33 percent each of the last 3 years, price of gasoline has gone up, and because of the drought and the increase in gasoline prices, food prices have gone up. We went from paying an average of $300,000 a year for water to more than $700,000 a year. We’re in the position where everything that we have to buy keeps going up.”

Another factor is the need to improve and repair on-campus living facilities.

“Part of the price increase is to cover the cost of future and current infrastructure needs,” Jackson said. “We’re building a new residence hall and a new dining center. This summer we’re replacing the pipes and roofs at Boyd Hall and Putnam Hall, we’ve replaced the heating and air-conditioning system in Moore Hall, and Marlatt and Goodnow are also going to be getting renovations.”

Jackson went on to explain why it is difficult to compare K-State’s housing options with KU’s, or any of the other universities’ plans.

“It’s difficult to compare apples to apples, because they don’t have the same apples that we have,” Jackson said.

While the rates for basic amenities at both KU and K-State are commensurate, the number of students opting for more luxurious accommodations differs drastically.

According to Jackson, about 70 percent of K-State’s dorm dwellers live in standard dorm rooms, with the other 30 percent occupying the more expensive suite style dormitories. On the other hand, only 20 percent of on-campus students at KU live in standard dorm rooms; the majority elect to live in more expensive rooms.

“KU has 1,100 rooms at their lowest rate,” Jackson said. “We have 3,000. When we go to the board of regents and ask for a rate increase KU will say, ‘I need a 2.6 percent rate increase across the board.’ So they take an extra 2.6 percent from the 20 percent that are their lowest rate, as well as the 80 percent that are above that line. For us, the lowest rate is the bulk of our rooms and we price our highest level amenities differently than our lowest rates.”

Because KU has so many students in higher priced accommodations, they can apply a lower percentage increase than K-State when trying to produce a similar increase in revenue.

To accompany the price increase, K-State has also made budgetary cuts, primarily in staffing.

“When a position becomes open we evaluate the position and ask ourselves, ‘is it needed?’” Jackson said. “Sometimes we’ve condensed two positions into one. Sometimes we’ve changed the level of responsibility or pay for a position.”

Despite the increase in price, Jackson said he doesn’t anticipate a drop in the number of students wanting to live on campus.

“The last eight or nine years we’ve had overflow,” Jackson said. “This last year we turned away almost 500 students who wanted to live with us.”

This sentiment was shared by several students currently living on campus.

“The price increase probably wouldn’t effect my decision much,” Nicole Dearing, freshman in fine arts, said. “I don’t have a vehicle, so I have no other way to get around. It’s also easier to eat here and everything is close to my classes.”

Some students said they would consider living off campus if the price of living on campus became too much.

“I would be influenced by an increase in price,” said Kathryn Wilson, a senior in animal science, who has lived in the dorms throughout her time at K-State.

Even though Wilson plans to graduate this year, she said she would move out of the dorms if the price increased as much as 13 percent.

Sleep out for the Homeless aims to educate peers

  Wilson Meeks, 5th-year architecture student, puts the finishing touches on Phi Beta Sigma's massive cardboard box structure erected in Bosco Plaza during Sleep Out for the Homeless Thursday night. The members of the fraternity spent the night in the structure to raise awareness for the homeless and those below the poverty line in Manhattan and Riley County.

Wilson Meeks, 5th-year architecture student, puts the finishing touches on Phi Beta Sigma's massive cardboard box structure erected in Bosco Plaza during Sleep Out for the Homeless Thursday night. The members of the fraternity spent the night in the structure to raise awareness for the homeless and those below the poverty line in Manhattan and Riley County.

Last night, members of the Delta chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity gathered together in Bosco Student Plaza to participate in the 19th annual Sleep Out for the Homeless event. Phi Beta Sigma is a historically African American fraternity in the greek community.

“For the event we ask people to bring canned goods to be donated to the Flint Hills Breadbasket and any jackets or coats to be donated to the homeless shelter here in Manhattan,” Raphael Rico, junior in psychology and chair for social action for Phi Beta Sigma, said. “After participating in the event for the four years I have been a member, we donated dozens of jackets and over a 100 pounds of goods to help support those in need.”

Rico said that compared to past years, people can’t stand the cold temperatures and begin to bail out of the situation.

“In [the past] we have had over 75 people come support at the start of the event,” Rico said. “As the night goes along and gets colder people start to dwindle down.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2011, Riley County has the highest poverty rate in the state of Kansas with 23.6 percent compared to the state average of 12.6 percent. However, most students are unaware of the difficulties that members of their own community are experiencing.

“I think it’s a good thing to appreciate the homeless,” William Olds, freshman in architecture, said. “I’m not from here, but I think an event like this helps.”

Wilson Meeks, senior in architecture, has participated in this event since 2009.

“We’re going to be out here until six or seven tomorrow morning,” Meeks said. “It’s supposed to get down to the low twenties or high teens, but I feel like it was colder last year. There are a few people that brought space heaters.”

Despite the seriousness of origin of the event, Phi Beta Sigma brothers still have fun. They played music through loud speakers, are chili together and even constructed a fort out of boxes to sleep in.

“We’re here to raise awareness, but at the end of the day we love to have a good time,” Nick Wiggins, senior in communications studies and member of Phi Beta Sigma, said. “Our organization is all about showing people a good time. Although we’re here for a great purpose we also want people to have a good time while they’re with us.”

While the brothers have fun, Wiggins said they don’t want to forget the reason that they are there in the first place.

“You really learn that there are a lot people in the Manhattan area who aren’t privileged enough to have a roof over their heads and a meal every night,” Wiggins said. “We’re out here all night just to show appreciation to those people who are really struggling right now. It’s also an opportunity to raise money, canned goods and clothing for them.”

Wiggins further said how participating in the event before has changed his attitude towards the homeless.

“I try to stop and ask people that I cross daily how they’re doing,” Wiggins said. “If I see someone outside of campus and we bump into each other I say ‘Hi, how are you?’ I just really want to learn about who is in my community.”

Other fraternity brothers shared similar sentiments to Wiggins on the impact of the event.

“We’re not really homeless but we’re trying to show the K-State students that not everybody has the ability to stay warm and go home,” Eddie Gonzalez, junior in sociology and Spanish and second vice president of Phi Beta Sigma, said. “We pick the middle of November so that it’s actually cold and we raise awareness that way.”

KSDB’s Top Albums of 2015 (So Far)

The following is an excerpt from an article posted on KSDBFM.org on July 26, 2016.

It’s been a great year in music thus far. Our exec staff weighs in on their favorite albums through the first half of 2015 (Spoiler alert: a lot of us like the Kendrick record).

Willy Evans – Production Director

5. Courtney Barnett- Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

I could have easily put Sleater Kinney, Drake, Sufjan, Young Thug, or even Shamir in this slot, but I decided to go with Courtney Barnett’s debut full length album. This album is the kind of post-grunge music that we here at KSDB pound back like an overweight tourist at an all you can eat oyster bar, but this oyster had just enough pearls in it that I was forced to hack it back up and examine it more closely. Featuring some of my favorite tracks of the year, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit is a wonderful album.

4. Vince Staples- Summertime ’06

Vince Staples’ followup to last year’s Hell Can Wait- EP is an hour long 20 track behemoth of an album, and its final track cuts Vince off mid-sentence. From start to finish this album is packed to the gills and it hits far more than it misses. I’ve had less than 2 weeks to listen to this album, and I’m sure it’s only going to improve with repetition.

3. Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside

I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside is a completely different animal from 2013’s Doris. It’s almost like Earl is trapped in slow motion. By far the darkest album on my list, Earl is like the weird squid creature in The Fellowship of the Ring who is going to grab you by the ankles and drag you down into the depths. You can fight it all you want, but giving in is so much better. After all, if Inside Out taught me anything, it’s that it’s okay to be sad sometimes.

2. Bully- Feels Like

The first time I heard Bully was during their performance at Brooklyn’s Northside festival. They opened for bands like Alvvays, Built to Spill, and Best Coast and for me they were on par with (and occasionally better than) all three. Their debut album Feels Like feels like it was taken from 1990 and magically transported here. Frustrated and self depreciative while simultaneously remaining catchy and upbeat, Feels Like is a modern call back to what made 90s rock great. (Also not to brag, but Alicia Bognanno and I touched the same copy of Surfer Rosa nbd)

1. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp A Butterfly

The moment the beat kicks in on the first track to Kendrick’s third album feels like sinking into a warm bath. The fluidity of the album consumes you and transports you to Kendrick’s wonderland. It’s a murky world of injustice and outrage, but there is also hope, love, and pride there as well. It’s a hyper-reality, but it never dips too far into fantasy because it’s always grounded in the real world. To Pimp A Butterfly is easily the album I’ve listen to the most this year. This album is so consistent from top to bottom that 11 of the album’s 16 songs are vying for my favorite track (on the album and of the year).