Students, public skeptical about possibility for peace in the Middle East

May 19, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 18, 2009

This month, U.S. President Barack Obama will make good on his campaign promise to foster peace talks in the Middle East.

According to Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington on May 18, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will visit May 26 and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive May 28.

With each of these international leaders, Obama “will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and Arab states,” Gibbs said.

However, the majority of Elon University students seem to think that Obama’s efforts will be in vain.

According to an informal convenience poll of 31 Elon students, the majority believed that peace in the Middle East will not be achieved in the 21st century. About 10 percent of respondents believed that peace is possible, and approximately 39 percent of the students believed that peace will be achieved within this century, although it will not be likely any time soon.

“These issues are much more deeper than most people realize, and it’s been going back for centuries,” said junior political science major Katie Hatcher. “These are historical conflicts that can’t be resolved by someone coming in and putting money in to the region, putting military action in to it. I don’t think even the soldiers there understand what is going on.”

Junior Andie Diemer, editor-in-chief of Elon’s student newspaper, echoed Hatcher’s beliefs.

“I honestly don’t think there will ever be peace in the Middle East,” Diemer said. “It comes down to basic, fundamental human differences. We can definitely, definitely make progress, though. We need to open up the lines of communication, which Obama has been doing. I think that’s a good first step but there’s still a lot that needs to be done.”

Cautious optimism

The sentiments of the Elon students are in line with those of the general population, according to The Gallup Poll. The polling organization has found that historically, anywhere between 32 and 51 percent of Americans believe that peace is possible, and the confidence levels change following major historical events.

Tom Conley is the father of two children in the military. He said that for the first time in his life, he now believes that Middle Eastern peace is within reach.

“This conflict has been going on for thousands of years, and it’s not going to end overnight,” he said. “I don’t think one person could make a difference, but I do think that Obama’s administration has the power to make substantial strides. He lends a lot of credibility to the situation, based on his background, and I think that after September 11, the American people are willing to support stability in the region.”

Maggie Owner is a candidate for a Master’s in Political Science at American University. She has extensively studied the Middle East, and has personal ties with the region as her sister and nephew live in the United Arab Emirates. Like Conley, she believes that Obama can make critical progress towards establishing peace within the Middle East.

“I think peace in the Middle East is possible as long as Obama walks the fine line as a mediator and not a participant in peace talks,” she said. “Obama’s greatest challenge is to build connections between the regions instead of fueling their divisive relationship.”

Owner also added that in her personal experiences in the Middle East, she has noticed that the people seem “very open” to foreign intervention, as long as it doesn’t impact the region’s unique culture.

“Everything is possible” 

“If the question is ‘is peace in the Middle East possible?’ I honestly believe that everything is possible,” said Shereen Elgamal, assistant professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Elon.

Elgamal was born in Egypt, where she lived until 1993. Although she now lives in Cary, she returns to her home country every other summer.

She has traveled extensively within the Middle East, including to Mecca and Israel. As a devout Muslim, Elgamal says she is “proud” to have Christian and Jewish friends, and does not believe that Middle Eastern conflict is a result of religious differences.

“It’s not about Jews and Arabs because Jews and Muslims and Arabs have been living in this region for centuries,” she said. “Faith doesn’t have anything to do with people just hating each other.”

Instead, she attributes conflict to economic disparities and a general poor quality of life.

“We need to stop categorizing people by religion and start looking behind the acts of violence to see what kind of despair drives people to blow themselves up,” she said. “Maybe if we make life more tolerable for these people, they will stop thinking about blowing each other up.”

As for Obama’s upcoming meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak, Elgamal has some advice for the American leader. “Don’t believe everything the media tells you about this so-called religious conflict,” she said. “It’s sensationalized. It’s not reality. Look deeper, look for yourself what is causing it. Look to see how corrupt the leaders of all the countries are and what they are doing to our people.”

She also believes that Middle Eastern leaders need to provide equal representation to all demographics.

“Everybody needs to be represented, and everybody needs to be at the table,” she said. “Everybody needs to work for peace.”



Red Oak brewery in Whitsett, N.C. bottles local flavor, best served cold

May 8, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 7, 2009

Generally, students enjoying a beer at one of Elon’s local bars rarely stop to consider what they’re drinking, where it came from or what exactly is in it. For those students who choose Red Oak beer, brew master Chris Buchman has good news.

Red Oak Brewery is located in Whitsett, N.C.

Red Oak Brewery is located in Whitsett, N.C.


“In moderation, our beer is good for you,” he said. “It has healthful minerals in it naturally, and hops actually have some antibacterial properties. One beer a day is better than no beer, and two beers a day is better than one. But past that, you really have to exercise self-control.” 

Buchman is one of the master brewers at Red Oak Brewery, located about 15 minutes from Elon University in Whitsett, N.C. The brewery is known for three beers; it’s signature Red Oak, Hummingbird and Battlefield Bock. 

The Whitsett location was opened in 2007, but Red Oak beer has been a North Carolina favorite for much longer. Red Oak originally started as a restaurant and pub near Guilford College, but soon expanded to include six locations across North Carolina. In 2001, the owners decided to focus solely on their passion – beer – and opened a large-scale brewery in Greensboro. The Whitsett location was built when the company outgrew the Greensboro plant.

The Whitsett location opened in 2007 after the brewery outgrew it's previous Greensboro facility.

The Whitsett location opened in 2007 after the brewery outgrew it's previous Greensboro facility.

What sets Red Oak apart from other breweries is their strict adherence to the 1516 Purity Law. The Law, written in Germany, states that the only ingredients in beer should be barley, hops and water. However, Buchman explains that the beer’s flavor can be altered by using different types of barley and hops, or by cooking the grains for different lengths of time. 

“A lot of beer companies use corn or rice to make beer because that’s cheaper than barley, but it creates a sub-par beer,” explained Buchman. “Then, they have to use additives and flavors to make something worth selling. We don’t use corn. We don’t use rice. We feel strongly that good beer doesn’t need extra flavors.”

Because the Law of Purity doesn’t allow for any pasteurization, all Red Oak beer is packaged immediately after brewing and shipped as soon as possible to local bars and restaurants. Buchman advises treating the beer like a dairy product, keeping it cool and consuming it as soon as possible. For now, Red Oak only has the resources to distribute their beers to the local North Carolina community.

“Our whole philosophy is bringing fresh beer to small territories right around the brewery,” said Buchman. “It’s an old school philosophy, but it works for us.” 

By September, he says, the brewery would like to purchase the technology to bottle their beer in a single-serve can or bottle to be sold in grocery stores. For now, their beers are only available in half-gallon growlers, kegs or on tap at a variety of local restaurants. 

From barley to beer

Every Friday, Buchman leads groups of beer enthusiasts on a tour of the Whitsett brewery. For a fee of $5, guests can see where the grains are stored, how the barley is cooked and see the 400-gallon tubs used to brew the beer. The 30-minute tour concludes with complimentary samples of Red Oak’s three beers.

Buchman describes the namesake Red Oak brew as a “traditional, old style lager” with a crisp taste. The Hummingbird brew is lighter and crisp, with a sweet after taste. The final beer, Battlefield Bock, is smooth and dark and

Chris Buchman attended brewery school in Germany, and is now a master brewer for Red Oak. Every Friday, he leads groups on tours of the Red Oak facilities.

Chris Buchman attended brewery school in Germany, and is now a master brewer for Red Oak. Every Friday, he leads groups on tours of the Red Oak facilities.

reminiscent of black coffee. 


“Treat beer drinking just like wine tasting,” Buchman advises. “You want to start with the lightest beer, then work your way to something heavier.” 

He adds that the namesake lager is the most popular product, and is a hit in the local community.

“Wherever we sell our beer, Red Oak quickly becomes one of the top three most popular brews,” he said. “It’s just a testament to our quality.”




Lupe Fiasco and DJ Girl Talk take center stage at Elon University

May 7, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 7, 2009

More than 2,300 sets of eyes were on Lupe Fiasco as he took the stage at Elon University May 1. Wearing sunglasses, sneakers – and at one point, an Elon basketball jersey – the Chicago-based hip-hop artist didn’t disappoint. 

Near the end of his performance, Lupe Fiasco donned an Elon University jersey and was greeted by chants of "E.U! You know!"   (Photo courtesy of Christina Cooper)

Near the end of his performance, Lupe Fiasco donned an Elon University jersey and was greeted by chants of "E.U! You know!" (Photo courtesy of Christina Cooper)

Lupe Fiasco is a four-time Grammy nominated hip-hop artist, and has recorded with industry heavyweights such as Kanye West and Jay-Z. On May 1, he was the headlining artist for the Student Union Board’s annual spring show, making 2009’s event the most widely attended concert in at least  four years. 

“This is only my second time working at a SUB event, but it’s definitely the best,” said sophomore SUB member Carolyn Baumgarten. “We didn’t think that we were going to get Lupe because of scheduling conflicts and just the sheer cost of it, but I’m so glad it worked out because I think everybody was just blown away by this show.”

Lupe Fiasco performed about two hours worth of songs from both his 2006 break-out album “Food & Liquor” and his better-known 2007 album, “The Cool.”

Many of his long-time fans sang along, with Lupe occasionally extending the microphone into the crowd, while newer fans danced to the hip-hop beats.

Lupe Fiasco entertained crowds with songs from his two Grammy-nominated albums.    (Photo courtesy of Christina Cooper)

Lupe Fiasco entertained crowds with songs from his two Grammy-nominated albums. (Photo courtesy of Christina Cooper)

“I had heard of Lupe before, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you what he is famous for,” said senior Lauren Bieler. “But this was a really, really good live performance, and it makes me want to find out more about his music.” 

Lupe Fiasco also played music from some up-and-coming Chicago artists that he is trying to support, telling audience members to find the groups on social networking Web site MySpace.

Cult favorite DJ Girl Talk opened for Lupe Fiasco, and gave a crowd-pleasing performance in his own rite. Pittsburgh-bred Girl Talk is famous for “mash up” style remixes in which he combines samples of hit songs that share a common theme, riff or beat to create new, upbeat singles. Girl Talk was joined on stage by 200 students dancing among the streamers, toilet paper, confetti and beach balls that Girl Talk’s entourage regularly threw at the crowds. 

The concert ended around midnight, and as many students left the building, they were still dancing to memories of Lupe Fiasco’s songs.


Significance of Obama’s first 100 days in office recognized by most Elon students

May 1, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

May 1

Wednesday marked President Barack Obama’s 100th day as the 44th president of the United States.  The 100-day milestone was marked by a press conference and surrounding media frenzy, with someone from every end of the political spectrum weighing in on the President’s strengths and shortcomings.

Most students on Elon University’s campus were aware of the presidential benchmark, though many had differing ideas on the importance of the day.

Junior Cory Bent said he hadn’t paid much attention to the media coverage of Obama’s 100th day.

“I don’t really see the importance of it, it just seems like an arbitrary number,” Bent said. “Like, why does it matter? He’s already been elected, there’s nothing that we can do now.”

Sharon Spray, associate professor of political and environmental science, explained the significance of the day.

“The first 100 days are regarded as significant because it is a good yardstick for the public to see which campaign promises the president has or has not fulfilled, and then to hold him accountable to those for the rest of the term,” she said. “However, there are also other interesting things to take note of, such as how he has fared in public opinion polls, what people he has put in cabinet, how the parties have realigned themselves, and so on.” 

On Obama’s 100th day, Gallup put his public approval rating at 65 percent, which was lower than his Inauguration Day ratings of 83 percent, but still higher than George W. Bush’s 60 percent approval rate after his first 100 days in office. 

Senior Katie Meyer recognized the importance of the event from a historical perspective.

“I can’t believe it has been 100 days already,” she said. “I think that regardless of whether you voted for him or not, it’s just amazing to be part of history and just to witness the 100 day mark for something a lot of people thought would never happen.”

Sophomore Kelly Molin agreed.

“I do think that his first 100 days is significant, and maybe more so significant than ever because he is obviously a lot different than our last presidents,” she said. “So far, there have been things [Obama] has done that I agree and disagree with, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the next 100 days go.”


Self-defense expert Jason Thomas brings knowledge to Burlington, Elon University

April 27, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

April 20, 2009

 Clad in gym shorts and with tattoos snaking out from the sleeves of his T-shirt, Jason Thomas isn’t the image of a typical business owner. But then again, his is not the typical business.

Thomas, 37, is the founder of Alamance Black Belt Academy (ABBA), a school that trains children and adults in more than four martial arts disciplines.

The Burlington native dabbled in martial arts as a child, but became seriously interested in the sport after graduating from UNC-Greensboro in 1996. He began attending martial arts classes with college friends, and soon became captivated by the sport.

Thomas is the owner and lead instructor at Alamance Black Belt Academy, located on O'Neal Street in Burlington.

Thomas is the owner and lead instructor at Alamance Black Belt Academy, located on O'Neal Street in Burlington.

“I found that it took away my competitive edge,” said Thomas. “It’s calming, but still very empowering.”

Thomas’ training took him across the United States: he’s trained at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with Randy Couture, a six-time Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champion, and practiced in Mexico with Hélio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

 In a little more than a decade, Thomas became a third degree black belt in Taekwondo, a black belt in Hapkido, and a one-stripe blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

His travels brought him back to Alamance County, where he worked as an instructor at various local martial arts studios before opening his own school in 2006.

“I don’t like getting on a soapbox, but about three years ago, I got saved,” said Thomas. “I wanted to see what I could do that would affect the most lives possible. I realized I have a gift, and I can use my role [as a martial arts instructor] to act as a mentor, to show women how to defend themselves. Opening the school seemed like the best way to reach the most people possible.”

 Fighting to succeed

 After discussing his goals with his wife – a green belt – Thomas began to make his dreams into reality. He bought studio space in the ONeal Street Plaza and opened ABBA.

Initially, the school struggled.

“At first, you have your friends, your cousins, your cousin’s kids and their friends coming in,” Thomas said. “Then, that initial thrill wears off, and you have to find customers based on your own merit. You need to get that constant interest coming in so you can stay running.”

While he built up his client base, Thomas kept his day job as a financial controller for La Fiesta Mexican restaurants.  At night and on weekends, he instructed back-to-back martial arts classes and offered one-on-one lessons. After three years, his hard work is starting to pay off.

“The school is just now getting to where it holds it’s own, where I don’t have to put money in every month from my own pockets,” he said.

Unlike many local businesses, ABBA is thriving in the weak economy. According to Thomas, ABBA offers more affordable rates than other local schools and he also does not require long-term contracts.

 “In this economy, people are getting smart and shopping around, and we are usually what they find,” he said.

The school also offers Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a martial art that has recently gained popularity because of the UFC. However, Thomas and his team of five part-time instructors also work with less seasoned fighters.

Three times a week, ABBA offers “Little Ninjas” classes, targeted towards students who are elementary school-aged and younger. Families are also invited to participate in family classes.

Thomas also offers occasional Friday night get-togethers that give students a chance to bond and parents the chance for a night out.

Once a year, the students also work with the Holt International adoption agency to sponsor an orphan elsewhere in the world. Thomas lets the students pick which orphan they would like to sponsor, and the school pays the fees to support the child.

Thomas is a hands-on instructor, participating in every activity along with the students. "The worst part is always hurting, always being sore from fighting six days a week," he said of his job.

Thomas is a hands-on instructor, participating in every activity along with the students. "The worst part is always hurting, always being sore from fighting six days a week," he said of his job.

“I try to get their input and their involvement at every step of the way,” Thomas said of his students. “I look at this as more of a co-op than a service. They pay me, but it’s their school, too.”

Expanding to Elon

In late 2007, Thomas approached the Health Education department at Elon University. As part of his mission to empower others, he hoped to offer a self-defense course targeted at college students. When preparing his pitch to the university, Thomas researched statistics about on-campus assaults. 

What he found surprised him.

“I was just blown away,” he said. “When it came to violence on-campus, I knew it was bad, but I had no idea just how bad. That just reinforced how much my services were needed at Elon.”

During the spring of 2008, he began to teach half-semester, introductory classes.

“His course has been popular and the techniques involved [are] very practical for our student population,” said Dr. Michael Calhoun, one of Thomas’ coworkers from the Health Education Department. 

The classes fill up fast, and Thomas uses a hands-on approach in teaching students how to fight back during real world scenarios, including date rapes and bar fights.

Senior Molly Donahue took the course this semester to learn more about personal safety, and appreciated Thomas’ teaching style.

“He would demonstrate techniques for us a couple times, then let us practice with each other, all the while offering guidance,” Donahue said. “We got to practice a lot and practice makes perfect.” 

Though Donahue took the class as a precaution, other students have taken the class for more serious reasons.  

“At least one girl comes up to me each semester to tell me why they took the class, and it’s usually because of a date rape scenario,” he said. “If I can help rebuild their confidence or teach students how to prevent those scenarios, I’m doing my job.”

Ultimately, Thomas says he hopes to teach martial arts and self-defense full-time.

“I want to spread the program to more areas, to pre-schools, high schools, vacation Bible schools,” he said. “I just want to be ‘that guy’ you go to when it comes to anything related to martial arts or self-defense.”


Click to listen to Jason Thomas’ important advice on what to do in a fight scenario. 




Elon’s fraternities and sororities heat up gym with annual dance competition

April 25, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

April 25, 2009

The basketball court was turned into a dance floor Wednesday night as 16 teams performed dance routines for a rowdy audience in Alumni Gym.

The event was Elon’s annual Greek Week Dance competition, the much-anticipated highlight of a week-long series of events targeted towards the Greek community.

Each of the university’s eight sororities performed a choreographed dance routine that many had been practicing for at least two months. The seven fraternities presented skits or interpretive dances that often included loud rap music and partially closed brothers. The eight NPHC organizations, which traditionally have fewer members than the PHC sororities and fraternities, competed as one organization and were judged as a fraternity. 

Each seven-minute routine had been pre-approved for theme, content, costumes and music by the Greek Week Committee, headed by Director of Greek Life, Jay Anhornn, and his intern, senior Kammie Shaw. 

The dances were judged by a panel of nine members of the Elon community, including professors, a cheerleading coach and Jodean Schmiederer, Assistant Dean of Student Life. The event was open to non-affiliated members of the university and surrounding community, and tickets cost $5.

Ultimately, Sigma Kappa sorority won the competition for the second year in a row, winning bragging rights and $1,000 for their  philanthropy, Alzheimer’s disease research. Sigma Phi Epsilon placed first for the fraternities. Alpha Xi Delta sorority and the NPHC both came in second, followed by Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and Sigma Chi.

“The event is really just intended to be fun and bring the Greek community together,” said sophomore Nick Dyer, a Greek Week coordinator for the Interfraternity Council. “It is hard saying that one group deserved to win because everybody did really, really good.” 

Click to see the stepping segment of the NPHC skit. 


Elon Hillel remembers Holocaust victims, honors survivors

April 22, 2009

Jessica L. Dexheimer

April 22, 2009

More than half a century after the end of World War II, Elon students are working to ensure that the tragedies of the Holocaust are not forgotten. 

Hillel, the campus organization for Jewish students, usually acknowledges Holocaust Remembrance Day (which falls on a different date each year) by having members publicly read the names of some of the six million victims. On April 22, 24 Hillel members took turns standing in front of Moseley Student Center in 15 minute shifts, each student reading victim’s names from two books listing verified Holocaust victims.

“Our goal was to raise people’s awareness and get people talking,” said junior Susan Esrock, the president of Hillel. “When people walk past and hear someone at the podium reading weird names, they’re probably interested to find out what’s going on.”

Senior Amanda Gross reads the names of Holocaust victims outside of Moseley Tuesday. Members of Hillel took 15-minute turns reading the names of victims.

Senior Amanda Gross reads the names of Holocaust victims outside of Moseley Tuesday. Members of Hillel took 15-minute turns reading the names of victims.

This year was the first year that Hillel organized a week of events surrounding Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Monday, April 20, the group invited a Jewish refugee from Germany to have lunch with students and explain her experiences. The next day, Hillel  had a table at College Coffee where they passed out information about the Holocaust and white ribbons to remind wearers of the genocide. 

On Thursday, the group organized multiple events, including hosting a speech by Holocaust survivor and lighting luminaries across campus to represent the lives lost. The week concluded with a Shabbat dinner on Friday evening. 

2009 was also the first year that Hillel partnered with other campus organizations to promote Holocaust Remembrance. They worked with the service organization Alpha Phi Omega, the gay/lesbian/transgender awareness group SPECTRUM and newly formed anti-genocide coalition, STAND. Members from each of these organizations helped to organize, promote and set up for the various events.

Though April 22 served as a reminder of a tragic day in world history, Esrock believes that the events had an overall positive outcome.

“We hope [students] are reminded of everyone who lost their lives in the Holocaust and that this is an event we can never forget,” she said. “Not only should it represent a historical event that should never be repeated, but it should also remind people of the wonderful lives and legacies that were cut short by the Holocaust.”