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Thumbs up to the Loyola Ramblers for their magical run through the NCAA tournament. The Ramblers and Sister Jean, their inimitable chaplain, captured national attention as the Cinderella story of the year. There is no guarantee the Ramblers would have been an at-large selection had they not won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. Yet, they found themselves in the Final Four. But, there is practical reason for this thumb beyond extolling the virtues of the MVC. Loyola’s run results in a much-needed infusion of cash for MVC schools, particularly the publicly funded Illinois schools like SIU. Under MVC guidelines, all 10 schools evenly split monies earned by advancing in the NCAA tournament. Thank you Ramblers.

Thumbs down to Mother Nature for once again using Southern Illinois as a punching bag. Extreme weather rolled across the region Tuesday afternoon with several tornadoes touching down. Serious damage to structures was reported in Energy, Galatia and Massac County The damage in Williamson County was such that County Board chairman Jim Marlow signed a disaster declaration. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries. It’s spring. We realize weather conditions will be volatile, but the storms seem to be coming more regularly, packing a bigger punch. We could use a break.

Thumbs down to people who still insist on smoking on SIU’s campus. The Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act was signed into law in 2014. The SIU campus was supposed to be smoke free by July 2015. Granted, we’ve come a long way since instructors and students would smoke in classrooms and lecture halls, but given the environment of a college campus and the body of knowledge concerning the hazards of smoking, it is disconcerting that piles of cigarette butts can be found on campus.

Thumbs down to the results of a survey released this week that shows one-third of college students don’t have enough to eat. The survey, released by Temple University, indicated 36 percent of students on U.S. college campuses do not get enough to eat, and a similar number lack a secure place to live. The report, which is the first to include students from two-year, four-year, private and public universities, including GWU, found that nearly one in 10 community college students have gone a whole day without eating in the past month. That number was 6 percent among university students.

Thumbs down to the seasonal plague of potholes that is bouncing our cars out of alignment and rattling our fillings. The city of Carbondale has had crews out every day filling and patching the serious holes in major thoroughfares. Although potholes may be a small problem in the grand scheme of things, all drivers are quite literally impacted by them.

Thumbs up to the Special Olympics on their 50th birthday. Dr. William Freeberg of Carbondale is credited with being one of the creators of Special Olympics. In 1951 he started a camp for children and adults with disabilities at SIU’s Touch of Nature facility. His work drew the attention of Sargent and Eunice Shriver, who are considered founders of the Special Olympics. They sent a telegram to SIU president Delyte Morris asking the university to lend the services of Dr. Freeberg to the Kennedy Foundation. Their vision grew into fruition when the first Special Olympics were held at Soldier Field in 1968.

Thumbs up to a new data sharing program that will allow conservation agencies to map, and hopefully, halt the spread of invasive species in Southern Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Shawnee Resource Conservation and Development Area are currently testing a shared database and cloud-based mapping system to track invasive species, prescribed fire and forest management data. Previously, the agencies were logging data independently of one another.

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