Michigan State University

One of this week’s more sensational stories involved a Michigan State University professor who was removed from teaching after delivering an inflammatory rant to a large lecture classroom, remarks somebody videotaped.

When the video surfaced, Republicans went ballistic. Many demanded that William Penn, a tenured professor of creative writing, be fired. Michigan State officials didn’t do that, and probably couldn’t. Originally, the whole point of tenure was to prevent someone from being fired for unpopular opinions.

However, State did yank Penn out of the classroom. He will continue to be paid, and presumably expected to continue his research and committee work, but someone else will teach his courses. The question is, how should we feel about this?

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

PTSD and insomnia patients urge medial marijuana panel to allow use

"A state advisory board heard overwhelming testimony in favor of approving medical marijuana for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia. The board is considering ailments not already included under Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law," Jake Neher reports.

MSU pulls professor from classroom for anti-Republican rant

"A Michigan State University professor has been pulled from the classroom, after a conservative group posted a video online that showed him delivering an anti-Republican rant during a class," Steve Carmody reports.

Auction house comes to the DIA again

Detroit newspapers are reporting that Christie's Auction House visited the Detroit Institute of Art for the second time yesterday to appraise the museum's collection. Detroit's financial situation has raised concerns about whether the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection might be at risk of sale. However Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has said he has "no plans to use art to relieve  the liquidity crisis that the city is in now."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Michigan State University professor has been pulled from the classroom, after a conservative group posted a video online that showed William Penn delivering an anti-Republican rant during a class.

Here's that video:

Penn teaches creative writing at MSU, or at least he did until this week.

A student posted the video. Penn is seen during a classroom lecture repeatedly making derogatory remarks against Republicans.

In the video, Penn can be heard calling Republicans “racist” and saying they “raped this country.”  The video has drawn the ire of conservatives.

Michigan State University released a statement saying Penn met with university officials and “acknowledged that some of his comments were inappropriate, disrespectful and offensive and may have negatively affected the learning environment.”

The statement goes on to say Penn’s teaching duties have been “reassigned.”  


A new Michigan State University study finds adolescent victims of dating violence pay a price later in life.

About one in three people between the ages of 14 and 20 say they've been of victims of dating violence.

The MSU research shows dating violence tended to limit women’s education

As a consequence, the women earned less money and saw less growth in their income.

MSU researcher Adrienne Adams says the study’s findings show the need for early intervention.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

What’s being called an ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is paying off for people trying to revitalize Flint’s downtown.

Many downtown buildings in Flint are empty. But local economic development leaders say they are making progress by attracting educational and medical investment.

The ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is intended to not only bring in jobs, but also create activity and excitement, in a downtown in need of all three.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University’s dairy farm is helping the university cut down on its electricity bill. It may also someday help small Michigan farms meet their energy needs.

South of the East Lansing campus, MSU maintains about 180 dairy cows. The cows produce more than milk of course. Now, university researchers have something to do with all that waste.

University officials this week cut the ribbon on an anaerobic digester. The digester takes organic waste and creates methane. The methane can be used to create electricity or meet other energy needs.

Shirley Collins/American Folklife Center/Library of Congress

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing on Sunday will be the first stop of a traveling exhibit celebrating the 75th anniversary of a song collecting tour through the Upper Midwest.

The Lansing State Journal reports that it commemorates a trip that began in Detroit on Aug. 1, 1938, by 23-year-old Alan Lomax. He carried a recorder and movie camera to gather folk music. Lomax was in charge of the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk-Song.


Michigan State University is hosting the quadrennial World Dwarf Games.

The Olympics-style athletic event is drawing more than 400 athletes from 17 countries.

Mike Cekanor is with the Dwarf Athletic Association of America. He says the games are a great showcase for dwarf athletes.

“I think in a lot of ways at times are athletes are overlooked,” says Cekanor, “But at the same time, I think when folks really get to know and appreciate what our athletes are capable of that they are very well respected.”

Photo by Shawn Allee

Dioxins are environmental pollutants that are known to be toxic to many animal species, and since dioxins work their way up the food chain, there needs to be a clearer understanding of their effects on humans.

That's why we wanted you to know about a more than $14 million study being launched at Michigan State University. Researchers hope to get a better idea of how dioxins affect human health and they hope to figure out new ways of removing them from the environment.

Norbert Kaminski directs Michigan State University's Center for Integrative Toxicology and he is the lead researcher in this major study. He joined us today from the campus in East Lansing.

Listen to the full interview above.


Schizophrenia affects nearly 2.4 million Americans. The mental disorder enables patients to feel like they are "hearing voices," and have difficulty with change.

Now, Michigan State University researchers have made a discovery that could help treat some symptoms of Schizophrenia. While current antipsychotic drugs are able to reduce hallucinations, the new study finds information that may eventually help patients cope with other symptoms. These include trouble responding to change, lack of motivation, and the inability to experience pleasure.

Should garages be able to be turned into living spaces? It's happening in Dearborn and a possible clampdown in city ordinances is causing concern.

Plus, how much land should we preserve for our kids and grandkids? We took a look at one group that's successfully saving northern Michigan's natural treasures.

And, we spoke with a former Marine sniper-scout who's now a student at Michigan State University. He’s made a film to honor his fallen comrades.

Also, Pat Kelly, the granddaughter of the longest-serving lighthouse keeper on South Manitou Island, joined us to talk about the special lighthouse tour happening tomorrow.

First on the show, there has been a firestorm of protest in Highland Park after the discovery that a collection of history books, film and tapes from the city's high school was tossed in the trash.

Some 50 protestors gathered outside the high school in Highland Park, a member of the school board quit, and several people climbed into dumpsters to retrieve what they could.

The protests focused not only on the discarded books but on the way Highland Park School District's emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon is running things.

We started by turning to one of those people who searched through the dumpsters to retrieve as many books as possible. He is a Highland Park resident and an historian who helped build the collection of black history books, videos and movies.

Paul Lee joined us today from Highland Park.


In October 2010, the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines deployed to Afghanistan. They were sent to relieve the British Royal Marines in the southern Helmand Province, a hotbed of insurgent fighters and IEDs.

Twenty-five Marines in the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines did not come home.

One of those who did come home went on to become a student at Michigan State University. Former Marine sniper Logan Stark is now a senior in MSU's Professional Writing Program.

As a class project, Logan formed a three-member team that produced a documentary called "For the 25" dedicated to his fallen brothers in the "Dark Horse" battalion, which suffered the highest number of casualties in 2010 during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Logan Stark joined us in the studio today.

You can watch "For the 25" below.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University is getting  $14 million to study how dioxins affect human health.

MSU researchers will look for ways to remove dioxins from the environment and reach out to communities burdened with the toxic pollutants.

Dioxin contamination has been a problem in parts of Michigan, including along the Tittabawassee and Kalamazoo Rivers.

Norbert Kaminski is heading up the multi-disciplinary study. He notes that dioxins have been linked to illnesses like cancer.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Congress could act this week to roll back an interest rate hike on a student loan program that many Michigan college students use.

The interest rate doubled for federally subsidized Stafford loans on July 1st.   

The rate went from 3.4% to 6.8%.

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says the federal government will make a $50 billion profit from the student loan interest rate hike.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University's Writing Department is testing out a new way to educate its students and, potentially, the masses.

Professors Julie Lindquist and Jeff Grabill are teaching an experimental online course this summer called "Thinking Like a Writer." It is free and open to the public.

Lindquist is quick to admit the downfalls of online classes. They're often large and impersonal, and relationships between students and instructors can be sacrificed for efficiency.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State records show Michigan State University's license plate is the No. 1 specialty plate in Michigan.

The Lansing State Journal reports Friday that a half-million of the MSU plates have been sold since it debuted in 2000.

That puts the East Lansing school squarely ahead of its rival to the southeast.

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor's license plate has drawn about 362,000 patrons. That puts it in third place behind a patriotic plate that debuted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Lansing State Journal / video screen grab

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into Michigan State University's use of state-owned passenger planes.

More from the Lansing State Journal's Kristen Daum:

Long-disused factories, rotting warehouses, and weed-infested and abandoned gas stations plague many neighborhoods in Michigan cities like Flint, Saginaw, Detroit, and Muskegon. 

And when the original builder can't be found - or has declared bankruptcy - taxpayers are often left paying the bill to tear the dangerous structures down. 

Why not make companies buy  "blight insurance" policies to prevent that from happening in the future?  That's the proposal in a new report by Michigan State University researcher Rex LaMore.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University students should prepare to pay more tuition this fall.

The M-U Board of Trustees will vote on a tuition hike this morning. 

The proposed tuition hike averages out to about 2.8%.

MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon defends the tuition increase.

“In terms of planning for families, we’ve tried to be as transparent as possible,” says Simon, “And we actually have a lower number than we planned.”

The tuition rate increase will not be uniform across the board.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan State University broke ground today on a new, $60 million dollar bioengineering building.

The building will serve as place for researchers in different disciplines to share ideas for advancements in medicine and other sciences.

“Let’s not forget that as important as the facility is to our success, it is the people, the researchers, the medical professionals applying their knowledge, curiosity and perseverance that will ultimately triumph,” said Stephen Hsu, vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at MSU.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Palisades returns to service

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan re-opened yesterday after finishing repairs to a tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The plant has had nine shutdowns since September 2011; company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says the tank has been redesigned to guard against future leaks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there was no public health risk from the radioactive release.

Detroit's water department faces restructuring

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has big plans to restructure the city’s water department. It would largely keep the same governing structure, with representatives from Detroit and surrounding counties, but the authority would also pay Detroit to lease the department’s assets.

“Orr’s plan suggests that spinning the water department off to an authority would allow it refinance its debt, and borrow more readily for capital improvements,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

MSU law professor running for Michigan attorney general

Michigan State University law professor, Mark Totten, announced yesterday that he is running for Michigan attorney general in 2014. Totten, a Democrat, used to be a federal prosecutor. Democrats will choose their attorney general candidate at a nominating convention next year; no other Democratic candidates have entered the race yet. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is expected to seek re-election.

Powell K (2004). "Opening a window to the autistic brain"

For families who have children with autism, finding a specialist to care for their children can mean being put on a long wait list.

Currently, there are about 50 certified behavior analysts in the state of Michigan.

However, there are over 18,000 children with autism.

user jsome1 / Flickr

New research finds men are dirtier than women, but not by much.

Health officials say that washing your hands is the best thing you can do to avoid getting sick.

When it comes to putting that into practice, studies have found that a lot of us say we do a good job, but researchers found most of us don’t do anywhere near as good a job as we should.

Carl Borchgrevink is an associate professor in the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

“We found that people do not wash their hands as much as they should… or to be blunt… there’s a lot of dirty hands out there,” he says.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is facing a potential class action lawsuit over a student loan program.

Beginning in 2003, the Michigan Students First loan program offered college students an interest rate subsidy after their first 36 on-time loan payments, effectively reducing their interest rate to zero.

But in 2010, the subsidy was ended.

Attorney Jeff Hank says that left thousands of Michigan college students having to pay more in student loans than they had originally planned.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

My Michigan Martini (recipe by Lester Graham)

5 parts Knickerbocker gin

1 part Vya Extra Dry vermouth

1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

Add several ice cubes to bartender's mixing glass. Add dash of bitters followed by vermouth and gin. Stir 20 - 30 times (do NOT shake). Strain into martini glass. Add twist of orange (or try a twist of lemon).

If you think about states known for distilled spirits such as bourbon and whiskey, you might think about Kentucky or Tennessee. But Michigan is becoming home to its own distilleries. That's being driven in part by a growing interest in craft cocktails.

The first thing you’re likely to notice in these craft cocktail bars is all the fruit and jars of fresh herbs such as mint and rosemary. You’re not going to find premixed bottles of corn-syrup-laden sweet and sour here. It’s all about real aromas and flavors.

Right now, there are several craft cocktail bars mostly in southeast Michigan (see some favorites at the end of this story).  One of them is The Last Word where we talked with manager Robben Schulz. He says they’re always looking for new spirits to give their drinks some depth, some interest. Some of them are being made here in Michigan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new Michigan State University survey finds a growing number of school lunch rooms, hospitals cafeterias and other institutions are interested in filling their pantries with locally grown food.

MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems has been asking institutions about whether they buy locally grown fruits, vegetables and other food staples since 2004.

Center director Michael Hamm says the number of school cafeterias buying local has tripled in the last decade. But he says there’s only so much more local farmers can produce now.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some prospective Michigan State University students say they're frustrated by the school's policy allowing deferred admission.

Jim Cotter, the school's director of admissions, tells The Detroit News that the East Lansing university's admissions practice has been in place for more than a decade. It was set up to manage application growth and ensure quality.

Unlike schools that offer a fall wait-list option, Michigan State guarantees some students a place if they wait until January to start.

Anthony Seely is among is one of about 1,000 who have been granted deferred admission. He can't enroll for fall classes unless space opens. The 18-year-old from Grosse Pointe Shores must decide this month whether to take the offer or go to another school.

Seely says it makes the planning process difficult.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

For the first time in nearly a half century, people will be encouraged to fish along a portion of the Red Cedar River as it winds its way through the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.

At a ceremony Monday near the campus’s western edge, MSU dignitaries, including Sparty, took turns dumping buckets of Steelhead trout into the meandering Red Cedar River.

Organizers want anglers to start casting their lines into the Red Ceder in hopes of reeling in the sportfish.

That’s a big change.


The zombie apocalypse has spread to Spartan Nation.

This week, hundreds of Michigan State students are participating in the third annual "Spartans versus Zombies" game.

Here's an 'informational video':

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Shannon Mazurie, who helped bring the game to campus and is the organizer of this year's event.

Listen to the audio above to find out if and how Spartans are surviving, how zombies "eat" humans, and how Spartans manage to make it to class with zombies chasing them.


Today, Michigan becomes the nation's 24th right-to-work state. It's the second in the Midwest, after Indiana.

The law was passed with much controversy and thousands of demonstrators packing in and around the state Capitol last December.

A new poll out today shows that Michiganders are deeply divided over the new law.

Michigan State University’s  “State of the State Survey” asked more than a thousand people whether they thought right-to-work would be good for Michigan’s economy.

42 percent said it would be good and 41 percent said it would be bad, while 16 percent said right-to-work would have no effect on Michigan’s economy.

Charley Ballard,  economist at MSU, directs the survey and he filled us in on what the percentages look like and what people really think about right-to-work.

Listen to the full interview above.