College merchandising is an American thing

By Amaya Garcia Martinez

When my friend Almudena Guerrero opens her closet to dress for class every morning, she can choose a grey or a red University of Richmond sweatshirt, long UR trousers or shorts, a green t-shirt that reads "UR in the world," a red one that advertises the Richmond soccer team, a classic grey one with the spider silhouette on it, or a more trendy blue one, which also proclaims "Richmond." If it rains, she may want to take her navy blue UR umbrella and, if it is cold, she can wear her red spider coat.

In a few days, Almudena will have to pack all her University of Richmond gear to travel back home to the Spanish city of Seville. "I don't know how I'm going to make it," she jokes. "I guess I'll need another bag, only for my Richmond stuff. And I hope they won't arrest me for smuggling UR products."

In her fall semester as an international exchange student at Richmond, Almudena Guerrero, a senior majoring in finance, estimates that she has spent no less than $ 250 in the bookstore. This number does not comprise textbooks or stationery, but just UR clothing and other merchandising.

This may not be surprising for many Richmond students, but it may be surprising for them to know that Almudena never bought any merchandising in her home university, Pablo de Olavide, in Seville, which she has attended for three years. And Almudena's case might be extreme, but her attitude is not uncommon among international students at the UR, most of whom experience a drastic change in their attitude toward college merchandising.

According to merchandising sellers, professors and students, this behavior is not an eccentricity, but rather a reflection of the different approaches to merchandising that American universities and those from other countries have, and also an expression of the values that predominate in different educational systems.

The easiest way to become integrated

I still remember my surprise when I realized that everyone at Richmond wears college apparel – not only when they go to games, but also in class – t-shirts, sweaters, pants, flip-flops, tote bags and so on. The overwhelming proliferation of college products is one of the first cultural shocks that international students at UR, or any other American university, have to face.

"Wearing stuff from your college is the thing to do," says Lauren Davis, a junior at the UR. "Everyone does it. It's interesting to think that it might not be like this everywhere."

Even if exchange students come from universities with little or no merchandising, they quickly realize that wearing college clothing is not only a convenient option, it is also the easiest way to become integrated. "I wear UR clothes because I like sports outfits, but also as a sign of identification," Almudena says.

Roger L. Brooks, general manager of Richmond's bookstore, thinks that both practical and emotional reasons explain the success of college merchandising, a nationwide growing tendency in the last decades. Richmond is a good example of this phenomenon, he says.

"We have been selling products of the university for a long time, but sales have exploded in the last 10 years," Brooks says. "This has happened because identification with colleges has become so big, and students have changed their clothing style, which has become more informal. They used to wear suits to class, nowadays for the most part they wear jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt – boys as well as girls," he says.

Brooks thinks the reason clothing sells best is that it serves a double purpose. "It is practical, and it has Richmond imprinted on it, so other people can see what your college is when you are wearing it," he says.

His coworker Debbie Matze, general merchandise buyer, has also seen the consequences of the recent success of college clothing. "We have become some kind of department store," she says. In fact, Matze's job consists mainly of meeting with the salesmen and choosing among the samples of clothing, trying to get a selection that will be attractive for UR students.

The same shift that the bookstore has had is visible on its webpage,, which has two main sections of equal importance – books and merchandising. But in the categories of "featured items" and "popular items," no books appear. Instead, there are Richmond stickers, hoodies and sweatpants. UR clothing is also available at, and the official rings can be ordered at

"Although we cannot compare ourselves with Virginia Commonwealth University or Virginia Tech, which are huge, we do very well for our size," Brooks says. He estimates that UR merchandising will represent this year a benefit of $ 800,000 in sales.

A different lifestyle and concept of school

Richmond is a good example of the success of college merchandising all over the United States; has become bigger in the last decades. But this tendency has only barely started in other countries.

"This is a trend that's being imported to Europe," says Hendrik Hilgert, an exchange student from Germany at the UR. "I've seen some examples in Germany. But there's a time gap between the U.S. and Europe in the way society is developed."

What are the factors that explain the lack of merchandising in European universities? The University of Deusto is similar to Richmond yet its approach to merchandising could not be more different.

Both Richmond and Deusto are private, selective and small colleges of 3,000 students that are well-known for their business schools, but also for their arts and sciences departments. In both cases, undergraduate students predominate. Deusto and the UR are seen as colleges for serious and hard-working students, but also for rich kids. There are even physical similarities between the two universities. Their campuses are praised for their beauty and, in spite of being close to town, they are quiet enclaves.

But there are no college products in the bookstore at Deusto, only textbooks and office supplies. Even the stationary is plain – no logos or mascots.

"The one thing I noticed at Deusto that did have the name of the school on it was the bag that students carried their laptops in," says Molly Bechert, a senior at the University of Richmond who spent a semester there as an exchange student. "I did wish that I could have bought a shirt or a sweatshirt from Deusto, especially as a foreign student."

In fact, computer bags and backpacks with the college logo on them are offered by Deusto to freshmen when they buy their laptops through the university, which has an economic agreement with the technology company Dell. The only other products with the Deusto logo imprinted are the official ties that students wear for special events, such as the National Debate League, and the pens that are offered to prospective students at educational fairs.

All of these products are offered free.

"I'm not sure why Deusto students aren't interested in buying products from the university," Molly says. "For me, it seemed like college was a smaller part of their lives there than it is here. Deusto students have €˜fuller' lives outside school. College isn't as much a part of their daily lives, so maybe they don't feel the desire to proclaim their membership."

The role of athletics and industrial production

The fact that Deusto is not residential can explain a lack of involvement with the academic institution in the part of students. In Spain, most students live at their parents' house or rent an off-campus apartment with their classmates, unlike what happens in the countries with an Anglo-Saxon academic tradition, where most students live on campus.

But there are other countries in which residential colleges predominate, and yet college merchandising is not as widely spread as it is in the United States.

This is the case in South Africa, where Emily Jenchura, a senior at Richmond, studied at Cape Town. Her first impulse was to buy as much merchandising from her new university as possible. She still remembers her surprise when she realized that things were different from her American college. "Even if the student body was huge, something like 22,000 people, you realized that they had very few college products and nobody wore them," she says.

Jeffrey Hass, associate professor of sociology at Richmond, thinks that there are deeply rooted social characteristics that explain why college merchandising is such a big tendency in the United States, but not in other countries. The importance of college athletics and the power of the American industry are, in his opinion, the two most relevant.

"Sports are a great part of college life. People go to college to learn, to party and to see football games," Hass says. "People have always bought football merchandising, and college athletics in general are much more important in the United States than they are in other countries. Intercollegiate sports do not even exist in Europe."

At the UR bookstore, Brooks confirms this. "Our sales of clothing increase when Richmond teams are doing well," he says. "Virginia Tech does not only have such a huge merchandising because of its size, but also because it has good teams." But Hass says that a developed industrial system is also essential in order to produce and commercialize the merchandising. "This is the country of mass production, unlike Europe, where crafts are still a synonym of luxury," he says.

As a consequence, a more uniform style of dressing exists in America. "Jeans and t-shirts, that's the American uniform," says Rafael Huaman, an international student from Peru. "Here nobody wants to be original with their outfit, so it's not surprising that American students like to wear college clothes, just the same as their classmates."

Lauren Davis has a similar view. "There's an obsession with t-shirts in America," she says. "I think it has something to do with the fact that we don't have a sense of fashion."

Haas says: "There is a great consumer society in America. This is a capitalist country. Everything can be produced in great numbers, and people have the money to buy it. But, when people buy college merchandising, they are not only acquiring material objects, they are also consuming meaning and identity. College products are a symbol of status and competition. People want to wear their university's t-shirt to show off against other schools."

The manifestation of wealth and nationalism

Archana Bhatt, professor of culture and communication at Richmond, agrees with Hass that college merchandising is a demonstration of status. "Part of it is related to how we perform class identity and wealth," she says. "This performance is less conspicuous in Europe." This is, in Bhatt's opinion, a consequence of the fact that American wealth is "new money."

"We understand universities as a representation of class identity," Bhatt says. "People do not feel attracted to community colleges or state universities, and, therefore, they are generally less enthusiastic about their merchandising, because these institutions do not carry the same social connotations as elite colleges."

The latter is the case of most European universities, given that even private colleges have easily affordable tuition fees compared to the United States. For instance, at Deusto, one of the leading colleges for business studies, my friends in business school paid $ 8,000 a year.

"Here, access to higher education is lived as an acquired right, because it's not an expensive thing," says Nerea Azurmendi, professor of marketing at Deusto. "But in the United States, students perceive that they need to put more effort into it."

In Europe as well as in America, higher education has become a massive reality, and it is now accessible for the middle class. But this happened earlier in the United States and, therefore, a more competitive educational system has been developed. Universities had to fight to achieve social prestige, and at the same time students had to fight to get into prestigious institutions.

For Bhatt, the access of the middle classes to higher education is a reason for American pride and, therefore, it is somehow a manifestation of nationalism. "Being an American is going to Harvard or Berkeley. You are proclaiming your Americanism when you wear their clothes.

"The power of the name is a huge thing," Bhatt says. In her opinion, the relation between prestige and branding is a circular one. Prestige is the cause of branding, but it is also reinforced by branding. "One could not exist without the other," she says.

Reflecting on prestige, Miguel Ayerbe, a sociology professor at Deusto, says: "The phenomenon of merchandising is related to the recognition of American universities. In that country, attending a prestigious college gives a social credit that students want to make visible. But in general, institutions of all sorts – universities, political parties, police forces, the Church, etc. – don't have a priori a good reputation in European societies."

The more practical functions of merchandising

Hilgert agrees with Ayerbe in that college gear demonstrates American students' willingness to belong to their universities. "They show a corporative identity that is not so strong in other countries, although it is probably growing," he says. "This kind of collectivistic ideas may sound strange in a country such as the United States, that's supposed to be very individualistic, but in fact Americans usually identify themselves more with the corporations they're part of. The American society is more divorced, so they need to look for identification points."

Nevertheless, Hilgert refuses to reduce American student's involvement in their universities to its mere psychological dimension. "This notion that alumni should offer jobs to graduates from their universities not because of their qualifications, but just because they belong to the same group, this doesn't exist in Europe," Hilgert says. "And the idea that alumni should contribute to financing their former colleges is also nonexistent in Europe, where all universities receive public funding."

Azurmendi also believes in the importance of economic factors. "Given that public investments are scarce in the United States, even in state institutions, they need to maintain a high level of self-funding," she says. "The contribution of merchandising to the whole might be insignificant, but merchandising has a double purpose, as it is also an element of cohesion and support in a very competitive environment."

Hass says: "Wearing a t-shirt from my university is fun, but when you think about business, it's different. Of course that the role of alumni and financers does not exist in European universities, because they have a welfare state that gives all the money they need to colleges, and this reduces the need for universities to instill in their students a sense of attachment and responsibility toward the institution."

Azurmendi highlights the following differences: "The different shopping habits and the view of the university as a more prestigious institution in the United States and, of course, a wider offer that is possible thanks to a stronger industrial system; as well as the values of effort, commitment, compromise and pride that exists in American universities."

At the UR bookstore, Matze summarizes this entire complex phenomenon in one sentence. "It's all a question of school spirit," she says.

Second-generation immigrants appreciate their Indian heritage

By Aly McArdle and Andrew Finley

The differences in second- and first-generation Indian immigrants cause some family conflict, but most Indians in Henrico County grow to appreciate their heritage as they get older.

When the first generation of Indian immigrants came to the United States, and specifically Henrico County, they realized the American dream in many ways, said Archana Bhatt, a professor at the University of Richmond who is of Indian descent. Members of that first generation were able to establish themselves economically and provide their children with access to higher education.

After the first wave came to America, the following generations used that success as their reasoning in immigrating as well, she said.

Srimivas Tupurani, a Henrico resident, said, "Many of these immigrants were attracted to Henrico County because it is more rural, with a small community where everybody knows everybody."

The Richmond area is a big change after growing up in large cities in India and living in large cities such as Atlanta, but Tupurani said he enjoys living here.

Since 1995, many students have also come to America, Tupurani said. They were attracted to the Richmond area by the excellent colleges, most notably Virginia Commonwealth University, he said, although they tended to not participate as much with the local Hindu community.

Ruvi Vathalui came to America in 1995 to study at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He completed his studies at Texas A&M before coming to Richmond to work and raise his family.

Vathalui and Tupurani said that most of the Indians in Henrico County have families. Richmond is a small city, with a close-knit community and Henrico offers excellent schools. The cost of living is also a big draw, Tupurani said. Most of Henrico's Indians come here directly from India, he said.

Today, the second generation of Indians has strong ties to its ethnic identity, Bhatt said, and are constantly seeking to learn about their cultural background.

Mahima Ratnaswami, a senior at the University of Richmond, said that her parents are much more religious than she is, but she enjoys being around the religious environment that they promote. Ratnaswami said her parents emigrated from India 25 years ago, so they have grown accustomed to some of the generational differences she grew up with in this country.

Ratnaswami said that education and work were very important to her parents, and that she was only starting to appreciate these things now. Also, she said her parents were much more liberal in their beliefs than her grandparents.

There is some conflict between older Indians and youth, but the "beauty of Indian generations is that they have been maintaining culture and traditions since they got here," at least 20 years ago, said Tupurani as he and Valatlui waited outside the Hindu Center of Virginia and chatted with friends while their children learned about Hindu tradition inside.

"While not all second-generation youth identify strongly with their ethnic heritage immediately, most seek these connections at some point in their lives," Bhatt said.

Youths of the second generation also desire and appreciate access to their homeland, she said. As a whole, she said, the local Indian community has relatively consistent movement between India and the United States.

Family finds ways to keep their traditions alive

By Caitlin Larwood and Ashley Nerz

On a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon, the Nair family left the Hindu Center of Virginia after a morning of worship to go to an authentic Indian movie at a small theater on Broad Street.

Asok and Geetha Nair have found ways to keep their native Indian traditions alive after moving to Henrico County in October 2004 with their 8-year-old son, Aadarsh. Asok left the state of Kerala in India in 1999 in pursuit of a steady job in Iowa, and once he was settled, the rest of the family followed in 2000.

After moving from Iowa to New Jersey, then to New Mexico, the family now calls Glen Allen home. Asok and Geetha both work as contractors for Capital One and Aadarsh attends Springfield Park Elementary School.

"It's a bit hard because you are accustomed to your life [in India]," said Geetha, who was dressed in an ornate maroon, gold and brown sari. "You come here and you have to start everything all over on your own."

The Nairs said that the hardest part of coming to America was leaving their family behind.

"In India, parents provide their children with everything," said Asok, clad in a Tommy Hilfiger polo and khaki cargo shorts. "You stay with your parents and they provide you with everything from education to marriage."

The Nair family recently returned from a two-month trip to visit their family in India. They try to return home about every two years.

Aadarsh circled his parents on roller shoes, chiming in with both the positive and negative aspects of living in both countries.

"There are so many mosquitoes in India and I don't like them," Aadarsh said, referring to this recent visit. "But I did like watching the cartoons."

Aadarsh said that he could understand and speak his native language of Malayalam, but he could not write or read it well. Right now, Aadarsh thinks that he wants to go back, but Asok said that he was concerned that his son would not want to leave as he got older.

"My friends tell me that when he grows up and reaches high school, all of his friends will be here and he will not want to go back," Asok said.

The family said that they observe Indian traditions daily by keeping a place for prayer in their house.

"This morning before coming here, we celebrated in honor of Saraswaathi, the goddess of learning and education, by reading books in our prayer place at home," Geetha said.

The family also said that they belonged to the Malayalam Association with more than 100 other families in the local community. The Association gets together to watch Indian movies, have picnics and celebrate Malayalam festivals and special days.
Another way the family incorporates Indian culture into their lives is by cooking traditional Indian food almost every day.

"The Indian restaurants here are good, but definitely Americanized," Geetha said. "The food is not nearly as spicy."

The family also enjoys Thai, Italian and Mexican food. Aadarsh said that his favorite American foods were hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese.

The family members said that they have adapted to the American lifestyle and find the Richmond community to be very friendly, but after seven years, they still miss home.

"I want to go back," Geetha said. "I think we will stay for a while, but I want to move back with my family."

Collegiate hopes to establish exchange program for students from India

By Patrick Hyde and Phuong Tran-Le

One local private school has taken a new approach to the increase of Indians in the Henrico and greater Richmond area.

David Colon, academic dean at Collegiate School, recently took a group of four juniors and another faculty member to India for a two-week conference. He hopes to set up an exchange program in May and a summer program in August for Collegiate students.

The idea for this program was a convergence of personal interest, the increasing Indian population at Collegiate, and the school officials desire to create an international education program, Colon said.

The Indian parents at Collegiate helped Colon make connections with other Indian Schools. Colon and Keith Evans, head of Collegiate School, made a trip to India during the summer to scout out possibilities. They eventually settled on the Community Development and Leadership Summit at the Modern School in New Delhi.

"The Community Development and Leadership Summit is a yearly event where students meet with students from around the world," Colon said. On top of that, "we met with the finance minister, mayor of New Delhi and the minister for women and families.

"The highlight was the interaction between students from the most trivial to the most profound differences in culture."

Colon said that students also discussed topics that varied from video games and pop culture to democracy and terrorism.

"Of the many things I took away from the conferences [and] one of the most valuable was learning about other countries' cultures and people," Collegiate junior Harrison Roday said.  "It is comforting to learn that many of them enjoy the same activities we do, and are also interested in changing the world."

The Collegiate students were also interviewed by The Times of India and a television station about their experiences at the conference.

Nurturing community keeps growing Indian populations in this area

By Clancey Denis, Katie Glover and Meg O'Connoll

Meera Bhatnager and Veena Ramnarain lived in the same apartment building, but they didn't know each other until they happened to be in the same Laundromat at the same time.  Bhatnager's son was crying because of the heat and Ramnarain invited the two up to her apartment to cool off.  Over a glass of cold water, the two women quickly became friends.  They have been close friends for 25 years now.

It is this sense of a nurturing community that keeps Henrico's  growing Indian population in the area, but they come for many different reasons.  Ramnarain and her husband came to the United States from India.  Both were architects; Ramnarain is now a real estate broker because it allows her to spend more time with her three kids.  They lived in Detroit originally, but moved to this area 24 years ago.

"I prefer this place because of the climate," she said. "And Virginia has a beautiful landscape."

Henrico and the Richmond area are also appealing, Ramnarain said, because it is close to New York and Washington, but the real estate is cheaper and "the cost of living is better.  You get more for your money."

Bhatnager moved here 25 years ago when her husband, a research scientist in the fields of plastics and fibers, got a job with Honeywell.

Like Bhatnager and Ramnarain, most people come to the Richmond area from India for the jobs.  Most get jobs in the computer industry.  Bina Mehda, who has lived in the United States for 20 years and in this area for the past 15 years, is a computer programmer. She said she came here because of the good business opportunities.

"It's a right size city where you can expose yourself pretty well," Mehda said.  "You can do everything like in bigger city."

The metro Richmond area is home to numerous Fortune-500 companies, including Philip Morris and Genworth Financial, has an international airport, and numerous non-profit organizations to support the growing Indian population. The Hindu Center of Virginia, which is off Springfield Road in Glen Allen, offers a place for the Hindu community to practice religious and cultural activities. The India Association of Virginia organizes cultural, social, humanitarian, educational and sports activities for people of Indian heritage.

The business opportunities are ample and others are involved in insurance, baking, real estate, medicine, research, teaching, tax preparation and the airline industry.

Hemal Desai, who moved here when he was in 9th grade 20 years ago, works for US Airways. He likes living in the United States, he said, because of the freedom.  He said that here, you could go into whatever field you wanted, and you could change your career after college.

The size of Richmond is appealing to many immigrants.  It allows them to maintain their cultural identity and is a good place to raise children.

Madhu, who asked to be identified only by her first name, said that the "mixing between Indian-Americans and local-Americans is very positive" in Richmond and that it is a great place to raise a family.

Alka Sappal, who runs a restaurant with her husband and works at Dumbarton Elementary School, has two sons, both born in Richmond.  Although she thinks it's a good place for her children to live, she does face some challenges raising them.

"It's a challenge for me to let them be as Americanized as they can be living in America, and yet teach them their Indian culture," she said.  "When they are with their American friends, they're Americanized and when they're with their Indian friends, they know their values."

Sappal loves Richmond, she says, because in most larger cities people "are running after just the material things, where in Richmond people are running to help the community."

Indians are having a strong impact in Henrico County

By Carly Gorga and Kim Holzinger

Ram Reddy left southern India almost 20 years ago to pursue an education in the United States and moved to Henrico County in 2002 to open an Indian restaurant.

Reddy, a pharmacist by profession, opened The Curry House on Broad Street and Cox Road.

The restaurant offers an environment for the non-Indian population of Henrico County to interact with Indians, Reddy said, citing examples such as Karaoke night and conversations held at the restaurant's bar.

"People who have never interacted with another culture come here and interact,” he said. "They learn about each other."

Patrons of Reddy's restaurant, 50 percent of whom are not Indian, are also learning about the intricacies of Indian food, he said, explaining that contrary to popular belief, curry is only a small part of Indian cuisine.

"The buffet is an opportunity to explore different food items from different regions in India," he said.

Restaurants are only one of the many business outlets attracting Indians in Henrico County, said Adish Jain, the Henrico County director of the Virginia Asian Chamber of Commerce and president of the Hindu Center of Virginia.

The Indian population in Henrico increased by about 71 percent between 2000 and 2006, or from 2,560 to 4,369 people, according to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Most of the Indians in Henrico are professional people, Jain said, including doctors, engineers, computer programmers and architects. Information technology has drawn many Indians, said Jain, who owns an information technology business, Leading Edge Systems, in Richmond.
Reddy agreed, saying that in the past five years there has been a large increase in the Indian population in Henrico because of information technology.

Jain said that there were many other areas of business that Indians pursued, including opening hotels, insurance businesses and Indian grocery stores, such as Laxmi Palace and Indo-Pak Super Store, both on Broad Street.

Shiva Pillai, who has lived in Henrico for six years, owns another Indian business in the area.

The Indian Cinema House, which Pillai opened 2 1/2 years ago, is the only video store of its kind in Henrico, Pillai said, explaining that sales of Indian movies are usually limited to small sections of grocery stores.  Instead, his video store is adjacent to the grocery store Laxmi Palace.

All of his customers are Indian, Pillai said, and membership has increased from 200 to 1,000 people since the store opened during 2005. Pillai hopes to reach out to the American population of Henrico County as well by opening an Indian bakery in the next few months.

Jain, Reddy and Pillai each said the increasing Indian population has economically benefited Henrico County.
Reddy said Indians had been spending money and purchasing homes, causing real estate values to rise. Jain said the hotels and motels owned by Indians generated revenue, and Indian businesses were adding tax dollars to the county.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the median household income for Indians was $58,958, compared with the Henrico media of $49,185.

Indians are contributing to the growing community of Henrico County, Jain said. Although Reddy also noted the financial effects of Indians, he did not recognize a significant cultural impact.

"Most families are very young so the impact hasn't been that dramatic," Reddy said. "In a few years down the line, local people will get more exposed to Indian people. A lot of children will go to public schools and cultures and families will interact."

Pillai has two children, ages 6 and 3, who attend school in Henrico. Like Reddy, he said that the Indian population had not had a dramatic cultural impact.

"My kid goes to school for two years and I can hardly speak to her in my native language," Pillai said. "The [Indian] kids blend into American culture."

Jain said the integration of the Indian and local Henrico population was a positive one, describing their efforts to unite the community with cultural programs such as the annual Festival of India held in Richmond.

"The community likes us, and we like the community," Jain said. "It's a great mix the way I see it."

Food is one way to preserve the culture of India, immigrants in Chesterfield say

By Amy Burlage and Ernie Siciliano

Veena Ramnarain makes a tasty cottage cheese and spinach dish, her husband Vijay says.  But, the meal means more than just mixing dairy and vegetables.

Veena and Vijay came to America in 1984 with their two children.  She grew up in Mumbai, India.  He is from Mauritius.  They now live in Chesterfield County but have cultural ties to Henrico.  For the Ramnarains, food is one way they can preserve their Indian culture while living in America.

They are part of a growing Indian community that has become a presence in the local food market.

"We are able to buy all the ingredients for authentic food here," said Meena Midha, another Indian immigrant to Henrico.

The Ramnarains have seen the growth first hand.  When they first came to America, there was just one Indian store in the Richmond area.  Now, they are able to choose from a variety of establishments, such as Taj Mahal Groceries, Indo-Pak Grocery, or restaurants like India K'Raja.

"In the United States, every time you go out it's Pizza Hut or McDonald's," Vijay said. "When you look at Indian food you go area to area, town to town.  It is different cuisine."

Nevertheless, the Ramnarains don't dismiss American food either. "[Our children] ate one meal at school, which was American, and they ate one meal at home, which was Indian," Veena said.

The Ramnarains said that they also made sure their kids watched Indian movies, also known as "Bollywood."

"My kids were watching TV seven days a week and were exposed to America, and it's harder to teach them a language if they don't hear it every day," Vijay said.

Indian movies have less sex and violence than their American counterparts and are more "song and dance," Veena said.

As Indian parents try to impart Indian culture, it is often Indian children who help teach their parents American culture.

Mona Narang, who left Mumbai in 1977, has two children who she refers to as her "brown American boys."    They taught her what clothes were acceptable fashions for them to buy her and colloquial expressions like "that's cool" and "it's the bomb."  Narang enrolled her boys in Indian dance classes at the Hindu Center of Virginia, but they stopped at the age of 15.  One of them is now a singer in Nashville.

The effort toward maintaining Indian culture has gotten easier as more Indian immigrants have moved to Richmond.  Veena Ramnarain said that in the 1980s, Indian immigrants were so few, that it was nearly impossible to transmit their culture. That has changed.

"With the larger community we are so many€¦and all speak the Indian language and it's nothing to be ashamed of," she said.

One thing that helped Narang was the many community organizations.  Narang volunteers at the Hindu Center of Virginia and is a member of the India Association and the American Asian Society of Central Virginia.  Narang called these organizations "reassuring," because she was able to speak in her native tongue and talk to parents who are raising Indian children in American, and who are also trying to instill an appreciation for American culture. "When you are totally new, in a familiar surrounding adjusting is much easier," she said.  "All of that makes you feel right at home."

In fact, Narang feels more at home living in Richmond's West End than in India.

"When I go back to India, I'm in for a culture shock," she said. "America is home."

Heating cost increases won’t be a serious problem for the university

By Wylie Pennell

The cost of heating will increase this year, regardless of the method, according to a CNN report released in October.

Americans will spend $977 on average to heat their homes this winter, according to reports released by the Energy Information Administration.  This cost is 10 percent higher than last winter's cost of $889.

Because the University of Richmond is in the South where it does not get so cold, there will be increases in the costs of heating dorms, academic buildings and apartments, but not to a great extent, according to George Souleret, university engineer.

The homes that will be most affected are those that rely on heat from oil, the cost of which will go up by about 22 percent from last year, according to an EIA report.  Also, only about 7 percent of American homes rely on this kind of heat, according to the report.

World oil supplies continue to lag behind world oil demands this year, according to a separate EIA report issued Nov. 6.  Even with oil costs between $80 and $90 per barrel in October, according to the report, U.S. oil consumption is expected to increase only 0.5 percent in 2007 and 1.0 percent in 2008.

"Continued economic growth and colder average temperatures this winter [compared to] last winter combine to push demand higher," according to the EIA report.

Other sources will increase to a lesser extent.

The university uses coal, natural gas, oil and electricity to heat its academic buildings, offices, dorms and apartments, said Souleret, who earned his degree from the University of Virginia and has been the university's engineer for 22 years.

"The increased costs of heating will affect the university very little," he said.

The average costs among the four sources vary.  The university spends an estimated $900,000 on coal, he said, $400,000 on natural gas, $36,000 on oil and $2.5 million on electricity each year.

"Some years are just better than others," Souleret said, noting that the university has previously had problems with unexpected high heating costs.  An article from The Collegian published in the 1920s or 1930s reported on-campus energy shortages that led to energy rationing during that winter, he said.

Energy costs for the university are set in a two-year cycle, he said.

"I'm not worried about costs this year," Souleret said, "because I'm already worrying about what costs will be two years from now."

To estimate these costs, Souleret looks at information from the Department of Energy and other futures markets, he said.

"I also call suppliers and ask for their forecasts, and they usually laugh at me," he said, chuckling.

Costs of energy are known to increase each year, he said, which is why the university was able to plan ahead for these costs.  Souleret has charts that track the costs of various sources of energy that also aid him in making budget predictions, he said.

With the help of all this information and estimates, he makes his best assumption of the costs and hopes for the best, he said.  The cost of electricity was overestimated for this year, Souleret said, but he tries to have minimal surplus each year, allowing a 1 to 2 percent leeway in each year's budget for necessary adjustments.

The University Forest Apartments are heated by electrical energy, he said, and each has its own air system.  The cost of electricity is set through 2011 through a contract the university has with Dominion Virginia Power, he said.

This electricity is used for all campus facilities, according to the university facilities website.  To supply power for necessary functions, the main campus is connected to a 13,200-volt substation and delivered at 4,160 volts by university-owned circuits, according to the website, but the on-campus power plant only supplies heat to half of the campus.

The university also sits over a mile of tunnels that run throughout the campus, according to the website, which house the steam pipes and condensate return system along with high-voltage electrical lines and telecommunications cables.

Only two campus buildings rely on fuel oil for heat, Souleret said. They are the International House and the Law dorm.  The Special Programs Building is the only building on-campus that relies on natural gas for heat, he said, the cost of which is less volatile, so the university does not have to worry as much about its price.

Coal is the major source of heat on campus, Souleret said, provided through a contract with J & J Energy, which is a coal broker that has many sources of coal.  The coal mostly comes from southwest Virginia and is of the quality that the university trusts and wants to use, he said.

The university uses coal for two main reasons.  First, its costs are less volatile than others Souleret said, so the university does not have to be as concerned about its costs changing compared with others.

Coal is also in close proximity, he said, so it is relatively easy to attain.  Transporting the coal is the only possible cause for cost concern, but transportation costs are included in the contract the university keeps with the company, Souleret said.

This high reliance on coal is a cause for concern for some students on campus.

Erin Murdoch, a senior from Newtown, Conn., said: "I think it's kind of hypocritical for the university to be encouraging environmental awareness, but at the same time use so much coal to heat our buildings.  But then again, it is the cheapest option and there are a lot of buildings to heat on campus."

John Hoogakker, vice president for facilities at the university, said: "The university is currently completing a $6.7 million project that will simultaneously decrease fuel consumption at our central steam plant by approximately 15 percent and reduce regulated pollutants by approximately 25 percent. This major effort and investment demonstrates our commitment to utilize all three of our possible fuels as conscientiously as possible."

All fuels are considered pollutants when burned, Souleret said, but coal can be and is used in environmentally friendly processes at the university.

The new Lakeview dorm, set to begin housing students, starting in spring 2008, will be heated by state-of-the-art heating equipment steam using the university's central steam plant, Hoogakker said.

The university expects the U.S. Green Building Council will award the new dormitory with an LEED certification, he said.  It will confirm and document the efficiency with which energy will be consumed in the building's heating, he said.

In order to make heating as efficient as possible and conserve energy, Souleret said, the university's heat is connected through an energy management computer system that allows facilities to remotely control building temperatures through computers.  The current generation of the system has been in place for about 20 years, he said.

This system employs sensors in the buildings that evaluate the outside temperature and adjust the building's system accordingly, so that energy is not wasted and the inside temperature remains comfortable, he said.  It can also be set to start and stop temperature maintenance so that energy is not wasted when no one is in the building at night, but has heat ready by the time people need to be in the building the next morning, Souleret said.

If the main computer crashes, the whole system can still stay running because each building runs on its own panel, he said.  Errors in the system automatically send alerts to the main computers so they can be fixed and manual overrides in the system can also be performed if the need arises, he said.

Because the apartments are all on their own air systems, Souleret said, they can only ask students to set their thermostats lower when they're not in the apartment to save energy but have no way of checking on them.

"We don't need so much heat," Murdoch said.  "End of story.  I would love it if all the dorms, academic buildings and offices were colder."  But not all students agree with Murdoch's opinion.

Tim Courtney, a junior from Richmond, said he would not like the academic buildings to be colder.  Courtney wants the buildings to be warm so that he does not have to wear a jacket or heavy sweater, as he would when he was outside, he said.

Greater overall expense to heat homes and buildings is not the only reason people might be concerned about heating costs this winter.  Increased incidence of flu during the winter is another worry for people of all ages following the publication of a recent flu study.

Peter Palese, a professor and chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, came out with research that suggested the flu virus is more stable in cold, dry air, according to an article published in December by the New York Times.  This study furthers explanations as to why the virus is most prevalent during the winter when these conditions are most common.

Viruses remain in water droplets in the air, he said, but when there his high humidity, the droplets get too heavy and fall to the ground.  He observed positive correlations between low temperature and high occurrence of sickness while studying laboratory guinea pigs, he said, leading him to believe low temperatures support virus stability.

Palese began his research after reading papers that came out following the 1918 flu pandemic, he said.  His findings were published in the Public Library of Science Pathogens, a peer-reviewed open-access journal, on Oct. 19, 2007.

Dr. Lynne Deane at the student health center agreed that the flu is most common in the winter, she said, but believed this trend is due to cold temperatures driving people inside.

She said: "When it's 40 degrees outside, do you sit in your rocking chair on the front porch? No."

Evaluating the flu pandemic of 1918, she said the American troops could not build barracks fast enough for the soldiers who were fighting.  Instead, troops set up temporary tents and huddled around stoves and fires for warmth, she said, providing ideal conditions for spreading the sickness.

This is the same trend that leads to increased cases of flu during the winter, she said, because people seek warmth in buildings when temperatures are low outside.  Deane said she also believed the increased stress of exams also lowered the ability of students' immune systems to fight the virus.

"I usually get sick at least once during the winter," said Allison Peyton, a senior from Des Moines, Iowa, who lives in North Court.  "Although I can control my own thermostat in my single, it's usually cold because the whole dorm is connected."

Peyton was not sure whether she agreed with the recent study by Palese.  "I'm just not sure I know enough about the virus to really form an opinion on why it's more common," she said.

Souleret said the frequent disagreements among students about the right temperature for buildings might have been a result of a "Goldilocks effect," with some feeling it's too cold, some too hot and some just right.

The temperature problems depend on the building, senior Dean Dickos said.  Some buildings, such as the Robins Business School and Boatwright Memorial Library have many sections that were built at different times, so they're often different temperatures, he said.

"I would love to cut way back on heat and have people wear sweaters, but most standards suggest productivity would fall off," Souleret said.  Productivity is another factor that feeds into balancing the heating desires of everyone on campus and also preventing the spread of illness.

Although the university does suffer the effects of higher heating costs, plans are made years in advance for each season, Souleret said.

"Forecasting is the toughest part," he said.

Lakewood’s construction was no fun for those nearby

By Sarah Blythe-Wood

The construction of the Lakeview Residence Hall proved to be a nuisance
for residents who lived nearby, Patty Kaczmarek, Marsh Hall sophomore and resident assistant, said.

The project, which began in August 2006, was completed in December, and students were to move in for the spring semester, said Steve Bisese, vice president for student development.

Lakeview is going to be a great dorm, Kaczmarek said, but the construction annoyed the residents for so long that they waited in high
anticipation for its completion.

When the resident assistants arrived for RA training on Aug. 15, the construction was in full progress, she said. After an intense day of training, all the RAs wanted to do was relax in their rooms and unwind, she said, but there were so many obstacles to deal with. Two of the three entrances into Marsh hall were blocked off, which meant that anyone who wanted to get in had to walk around to the back entrance, she said.

"It was so annoying, that sometimes we would sneak in through the front
door in spite of the caution tape," she said.

The residents' main concern was the level of noise that could be heard throughout the day, she said. People complained about getting awakened at 7 o'clock every morning, she said.

It was most annoying in the mornings because of the noises that could be
heard, Charm Bullard, Westhampton area coordinator, said. Typically,
the construction started around 8 a.m., she said.

Freshman Emese Kardhordo from Budapest, who lived in the basement of Marsh Hall, was awakened at 7 a.m. for her 9 a.m. classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, she said in November.

"If I have a class at 8.30 a.m., I don't really care because I am up
anyway, but if I am up late studying and I am awakened early, it is not
good," she said. The noise was so loud that even having a conversation on
the telephone inside the room was difficult because you couldn’t hear
people on the other end of the line, she said.

Kaczmarek lived on the side of Marsh farthest away from
the Lakeview construction, but she still couldn’t open her bedroom windows
because of the noise, she said.

Residents of Wood Hall did not complain about the noise, Brittni
Parris, the Wood Hall RA, said just before Christmas break. She lived directly across from the construction and the noise didn’t really bother her, she said, unless she had pulled an all-nighter.

David O'Neal, an RA in Thomas Hall, said that he didn’t get any
comments about the construction or hear anyone discussing it. It was a
nuisance when the construction was particularly loud, he said.

The issue of noise was addressed as it came up, Bisese said. In 2006, the noise was a much bigger problem because the contractors were breaking through the rock to lay the foundations, he said.

A compromise was reached with the students during that time and the
construction was started later in the morning, he said, but it still didn't correct the problem for everyone.

Before the start of the fall semester, notices were issued to the residents of the nearby halls, he said. "Most of the noise was unavoidable," he said, "but we did work hard with the company involved to adjust the start

The residents of Denis and Robins had the same issues during the early
stages of the construction of the Weinstein Center, he said, and those
issues where dealt with in the same manner.

"When you have new construction, you just have to move on as best you can because deadlines have to be met," Bisese said.

Residents were asking for details about the start and finish times of the
construction at the beginning of the semester, Bullard said. A meeting was held with the people concerned about the issue, she said.

It wasn’t just the early-morning noises that annoyed people, Kaczmarek
said. She couldn’t even take naps in the afternoon because of all the
constant activity outside, she said, and it got to the point where she
had to flee to the library.

There were men walking around outside and so the blinds had to be kept shut, freshman Kelly Tidwell said. It was uncomfortable with men
walking outside the windows all day, every day, she said.

The entrance closest to the construction site was closed off by a fence,
so in order to leave the dormitory on that side people had to go up a
flight of stairs to use another exit or go out the back and walk around,
she said.

The quickest route to the Westhampton side of campus is over the
bridge, Kaczmarek said, but there were so many trucks, bulldozers and
other heavy machinery around there. She felt as if she was getting in the
way, so she would walk the long way around, even when she was rushing to
class, she said.

The construction was not a safety concern, Bullard said. The
residents were mature and alert enough to walk around any items that may
have appeared dangerous, she said.

During the period before finals, the construction looked as if it would be an issue, Kaczmarek said. People like to study in their rooms and that was why there were study hours when everybody had to keep quiet and respect each other so that there was no need to look for quiet spots around campus, she said.

It was disturbing to have all of the construction work going on during the stressful time of finals, Kardhordo said. The issue with noise came up more during high exam stress times, Bisese said.

Residents near Lakeview did not get to have that quiet period for studying because of all the noise outside, Kaczmarek said. She thought people would have used the library, which was difficult during that period because it was so crowded, she said. Students realized that the noise was inevitable, Bisese said. They adjusted in their own ways, he said.

College athletes should avoid drinks containing caffeine

By Jacqueline Raithel

Caffeine can create poor sleeping habits, especially among college students, but athletes should be extra wary of caffeine consumption because it can be more harmful to their bodies.

The sleep patterns of students at the University of Richmond are definitely affected by caffeine, said Tracy Cassalia, health educator for the recreation and wellness department at UR.

On average students probably study until midnight and go to bed around 1 a.m., Cassalia said. They use coffee and energy drinks as pick-me-ups because they don't get enough sleep, she said.

"It's a constant cycle," she said. "They go to bed late and get up without enough sleep and it builds up. They think they can just sleep in on Saturday and Sunday, but it doesn't work that way. €¦ You can't bank up your sleep.

"It's like flying across country. Your body is constantly feeling jetlagged."

Caffeine is a stimulant of your central nervous system, and is able to "pass the blood-brain barrier," causing increased alertness and decreased drowsiness, according to "Exercise Physiology" written by Scott K. Powers and Edward T. Howley.

In past years, some athletes consumed caffeine before competition with the hope that it was an ergogenic – that it would improve their endurance or strength, Powers and Howley write. In fact, in 1962, the International Olympic Committee banned the use of caffeine before competition. The ban was lifted in 1972, but partially reinstated in 1984, to prohibit high levels of consumption before competition, according to Powers and Howley.

Many studies have been carried out, but scientists have not made any firm conclusions about caffeine's affect on endurance or strength, according to Gene A. Spiller's book "Caffeine." Researchers have found that athletes have varying sensitivity to caffeine, depending on their muscle type, according to Spiller.

"The reality of caffeine's affect contrasts with many athletes' perceptions," Spiller writes. "There is a complex relationship between caffeine and strength and endurance performance."

Not only are there conflicting information and experiment conclusions about the impact of caffeine on an athlete's ability to perform, but there are many proven side affects that can harm an athlete's body, Powers and Howley write. These side effects include diuresis, insomnia, diarrhea, anxiety and tremulousness.

Many coaches, sports trainers and athletes are aware of the negative affects of caffeine. Richmond athletic trainer Melissa Adams said her biggest concern about caffeine was the increased possibility of dehydration.

Especially in preseason, Adams warns athletes to stay away from caffeine, specifically sodas. Soda contains caffeine and sodium, all of which can contribute to dehydration, she said.

"It's so dang hot already, there's risk for overheating and heat stroke," she said. "Basically, the body runs off of blood. When it gets dehydrated, the blood is not thin enough to get where it needs to go. €¦ It's not circulating fast enough to your organs, muscles or your brain, so it starts shutting down."

To protect the body's organs, it's most crucial components, the body's muscle tissue slows and eventually shuts down first, Adams said.  When caffeine is consumed by athletes to compensate for bad sleeping habits, performance suffers, she said.  If athletes aren't getting enough sleep, they're going to crash on the field."

Richmond's men's and women's assistant soccer coaches agreed with Adams. The men's coach, Matthew O'Toole, said his biggest concern with caffeine was dehydration.

"We need them to be at their peak possible performance," O'Toole said. "We play twice a week so they're constantly putting nutrients back into their body. There's no reason to put something in if it's not going to help."

The women's assistant, Jennifer Woodie, said she notices a difference in her players' performance when they've not been sleeping well. It might be a lack of energy, or maybe the athletes just aren't playing with their "a- game," she said.

Gina Lucido, Richmond's head field hockey coach, said she thought players could get away with drinking caffeine every once in a while. As 18- to 22-year-olds, athletes' bodies are pretty resilient, she said. But, if athletes are abusing caffeine and practicing poor sleeping habits, she said she could tell.

"Caffeine is an easy way to cheat on what your body really needs," Lucido said. "Over time it takes away from the body being healthy. Sleep is a big part of your body being at its 100 percent."

Lucido said part of the problem with caffeine was that when an athlete chose a soda, not only were they consuming the sugar, caffeine, sodium and carbonation, but they weren't drinking the water that they needed.

Athletes on the men's soccer team are encouraged not to drink soda when they are away from the team, O'Toole said. After competitions and during team meals the players drink water or juice, he said.

Senior Brian Alas on the Richmond baseball team connected caffeine to school work. "I think you will see guys drink a Red Bull sometimes before games," he said. "I think a lot of the older guys probably turn to caffeine more often because we do more [physical] work.

"But we are athletes. We are naturally more inclined to have a Gatorade, Powerade, or water to help our bodies recover from a lift or a conditioning session."

Other athletes such as sophomore Becky White and junior Becca Weaver are more cautious of their caffeine consumption and plan around practices or competitions, or avoid it all together. "Normally I drink it in the morning because of practices," White said. "However, on game days I don’t consume any caffeine and if I would it would be after I played."

The women's soccer team provides players with Excel Gels during practices, Woodie said. Having a more beneficial option available may discourage players from consuming caffeine, especially energy drinks, she said.

Nevertheless, even these sports gels many not be caffeine free. Athletes, whether they want it or not, often consume caffeine in power bars, energy gels and sports drinks, Cassalia said.

"You have to really read the labels if you're concerned about your caffeine intake," she said. "Even weird flavors have caffeine. I had an orange flavor the other day and it still had caffeine."

Now, stores even sell caffeine gum and caffeine supplements. Smoothie King, a popular new shop that sells fruit smoothies and health supplements, has its mission posted on its website as "influencing and helping more and more people achieve a healthier lifestyle." Smoothie King sells, among other things, caffeine as a supplement for their drinks.

Referring to energy drinks, supplements and today's society, Lucido said: "I don't love it. We live in a culture that everything needs to be instant. We think we can do it all.

"It's like here you go, take this bottle, drink it, now you don't need to eat for 12 hours, and go. It's not healthy. It's not doing things the right way.

"There's really no trade off to taking care of your body as an athlete. That's one of the challenges of being a Division 1 athlete."