The Official Website of The Murray State News Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:31:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 New Richmond explosion update Tue, 18 Jul 2017 19:09:27 +0000 Story by Ashley Traylor, Assistant News Editor

“It was a miracle I did not die”


Murray State University’s former Residential Director, Dakota Fields, was hospitalized by the James H. Richmond explosion, days before he was set to start his new job as the complex director at Western Illinois University.

“At the moment in time, I am just trying to get back to some normalcy, to be honest,” Fields said. “The whole experience, or ordeal rather, has been a life changer.”

Fields was the only person inside Richmond when authorities said a gas leak caused the building to explode. He was severely injured and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, and he said it is a miracle he survived.

Fields lost most of his belongings in the explosion, yet, two items were left unscathed: his Bible and devotional.

“I already have scars forming from the accident and will have them for life, but you know, I would take those of the latter any day,” Fields said. “God saved me that day and he wanted the world to know by letting that photo go public.”

Fields shared the photo with The Murray State News. He said his Bible and devotional disappeared when crews cleaned up the debris.

Photo courtesy of Dakota Fields

“I would truly love to get those back because it is truly a God given miracle that I survived,” Fields said.

A social work group on campus created a GoFund Me page for Fields, which was deactivated after raising $540 in donations.

Fields continues to recover in Illinois and says he is taking it one day at a time.

“I have had to certainly take it slowly and listen to my body, but I can do small every day to day tasks without too much trouble,” Fields said. “However, I am still nowhere near 100 percent.”


Video Surveillance:

Video surveillance obtained by The Murray State News reveals moments of stillness before the inside of Richmond enveloped in a cloud of dark smoke.

Painters appear to be inside the building, but left about an hour and a half prior to the blast.

The force of impact from the explosion caved in the main entrance doors, forcing firefighters to pry the doors open to get inside. Once inside, the video shows them walking around the first floor lobby responding to the impacted area.

Before and after pictures of the front desk contrast the calmness to the chaos of paperwork, binders and debris strewn throughout the lobby after the explosion occurred.

EXCLUSIVE: Video from inside New Richmond Hall before, during and after the explosion on Jun. 28. Videos were posted with the consent of Dakota Fields.




  • An explosion that damaged James H. Richmond Hall resulted from a natural gas leak, Kentucky State Police spokesperson, Jody Cash, said.
  • Cash said no foul play was suspected and the case was ruled not criminal.
  • Hester, Hart and Lee Clark Residential Halls and Winslow Dining Hall were also damaged.
  • The Kentucky State Fire Marshal is handling the investigation.


Stay with The Murray State News for the latest information.


Photos from on-campus surveillance

Explosion Rattles Students on Campus Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:28:28 +0000 Story by Ashley Traylor, Assistant News Editor

“It was surreal and terrifying”

A Murray State Facilities Management student worker was walking the residential circle around 4:45 p.m. after work Wednesday, June 28 when suddenly the ground began to vibrate under his feet, knocking him nearly three feet backward onto the pavement.

Pete Brar said he did not know what was happening in that moment, but his first instinct was to run away from the residential halls as quickly as possible.

“I heard someone screaming ‘bombing,’” he said. “‘They’re bombing the place. They’re bombing.’”

After a preliminary investigation, Kentucky State Police spokesman, Jody Cash said a natural gas leak was responsible for the explosion at James H. Richmond Residential College.

Brar said he is lucky to be alive, after learning the quake and the smoke-covered clouds were the aftermath of a dorm explosion.

“We were going to clean the building the very next day, and I was walking so close to it,” Brar said. “That could have been a different story, if I were there. Right there. But just being close to it, it was an almost near death experience.”

Brar walks the same loop around the residential colleges every day around the same time.

He was on the opposite side of New Richmond when the south side of the building exploded.

He said he remembers the explosion in phases.

First, the shock wave was a jolt, he said, like someone pushed him.

“It felt like even the shock wave could kill you,” Brar said. “It was that bad. Like your heart stopped right there.”

Around that time, he said debris was flying into the air and a dark cloud formed in the sky.

“What I see is this mushroom cloud,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it before. Ever. It’s almost like it touched the clouds.”

The blast created a “loud, deafening, hollow” sound, Brar said.

Looking back on the explosion a few days later, he said he is feeling “numb,” and cannot believe this happened at Murray State.

“For a day I was in trauma, and I still am,” Brar said. “It was a normal day. It was an everyday thing. I do it every single day…I believe if I was at the opposite side, I would have died.”

While Brar was close to the explosion, student Savanna Hayes was sitting in class in Alexander Hall when the electricity cut off, the building began to quiver and the windows tremble.

“To me, it sounded like something blew up,” Hayes said. “It was odd because it was only one boom, similar to one clap of thunder, if the storm was right over you, just louder. Then, immediate silence.”

Hayes said she thought something was happening to Alexander Hall, or a building near by.

But outside, Hayes said she heard people screaming “explosion.”

She stood with some of her classmates on the sidewalk of Chestnut Street, watching the first responders arrive on scene.

“It was surreal and terrifying,” Hayes said. “What a reminder of the fragility of our lives.”   

Update from the university:

Jody Cash, public affairs officer for Kentucky State Police, said the explosion was non-criminal, and the state police handed the case over to the Kentucky State Fire Marshal for further investigation.

Vice President of University Advancement, Adrienne King said Hester, Hart and Lee Clark residence halls and Winslow Dining Hall were damaged in the blast.

Some of Winslow Dining Hall’s windows were shattered from the shock wave, King said.

Contractors are working on renovations to the dining hall, and King said the plan is for the facility to be operational for the fall semester.

Housing assignments will be available on MyGate Tuesday, July 22.

King said students who planned to live in James H. Richmond in the fall will be able to remain with their residential college, if they elect to move into Old Richmond College. Residents of James H. Richmond have until July 11 to notify the housing office of their housing preference. 

If they wish to live in a different residential college, King said they need to email the housing office by Tuesday, July 11 with their housing preference.

The Kentucky State Fire Marshal approved clean up outside the direct impact area, and King said university officials will continue to clear debris and board up broken windows to reduce to the contamination area.

Richmond Residential College Explosion Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:23:15 +0000

On-campus explosion injures university employee Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:55:24 +0000 Story by Bryan Edwards, Sports Editor

An explosion on campus at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday afternoon destroyed a section of James H. Richmond Residential Hall.

Murray State administration said a gas leak caused the explosion in the southern and eastern wings of Richmond. Large parts of both the second and first floor of the building have been destroyed

The blast caused damages to Winslow Dining Hall as well, shattering windows throughout the along the building’s exterior.

First responders said the gas hasn’t been turned off and they are asking the public to stay away from the area.

Murray State employee, Dakota Fields, has been injured in the incident and is receiving medical treatment at Murray-Calloway County Hospital. He is in stable condition.

We will be providing updates as this story develops.


Photos by Cameron Witte/The News

Racers staying put in OVC Tue, 09 May 2017 17:20:23 +0000 Story by Blake Sandlin, Assistant Sports Editor

Murray State will not receive an invitation to the Missouri Valley Conference, according to a statement from the athletics office.

The Missouri Valley Conference President’s Council met Monday to discuss conference expansion. Ultimately, the council concluded the Racers will not be the school to fill the void left by Wichita State, which left April 7 to join the American Athletic Conference.

Allen Ward, director of athletics, released a statement Tuesday morning, assuring the Murray State community the Missouri Valley’s decision will have no effect on the future of the university.

“I am in no way disappointed by the news or have any regrets being involved in the process,” Ward said. “Our goals and objectives to graduate our student-athletes, win championships, promote this great university and be a player on the national scene have not changed and were never reliant on the outcome today.”

The invitation for the 10th spot in the conference instead will go to Valparaiso University, from the Horizon League. The conference announced the membership will be effective July 1.

The University of Nebraska Omaha and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee were the other schools considered for bids. MVC officials spent recent weeks visiting each school.

The Racers were founding members of the Ohio Valley Conference in 1948. Ward expressed his gratitude toward the conference for its conduct throughout expansion discussions.

“We have the highest regard for the many friends, colleagues and rivals we have in the OVC,” Ward said. “I want to convey my sincerest gratitude for the manner in which they handled the past few weeks. I’m grateful for their professionalism and friendship.”

Missouri State President Clif Smart said on social media the expansion committee will continue to evaluate expansion opportunities for the next nine months.

Ward will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. Tuesday to discuss details of the expansion.

Professor Roger Weis retiring after 28 years Fri, 05 May 2017 21:58:41 +0000 Story by Sabra Jackson, Staff writer


After 28 years,  Roger Weis, professor of nonprofit leadership studies, is retiring from Murray State and is celebrating by publishing his 14th book.

Weis has published 11 textbooks and three poetry books thus far. After writing his doctoral dissertation, he said he thought he would never write again but decided to take up writing textbooks for nonprofit sectors.

Weis worked as CEO of the Leukemia Society of America for the state of Virginia, spent 10 years with the Boys and Girls Club and served three years in the Vietnam War as a reporter before coming to Murray State. Weis was in Vietnam 18 months of those three years.

Weis started writing when he was 14. He wrote poetry and was published in his school’s poetry journal. He then went on to high school as a sports editor.

After finishing his doctoral studies at the University of Kentucky, he said he realized the schools needed new books in the nonprofit sector and wrote his first textbook in 1996. He was asked by publishers to continue writing textbooks, and with their encouragement, he did.

Weis said his creative mind is what drives his passion to write. His poetry books are based upon the ocean and emotion.

He also credits the war for his passion in nonprofit. He worked as a community liaison with an orphanage and a hospital during the war.  

“I went over there [Vietnam], and I saw extreme poverty and deplorable living conditions,” Weis said. “People would actually cook on the side of the road along with their bathroom trench. It was such a culture shock.”

Weis said one of his greatest achievements includes his students winning 40 local awards in academics, leadership, service and research.

Weis said the nonprofit program had nine people enrolled when he first started and now has close to 600. His time at Murray State helped make the program the largest at Murray State for 25 years.  

“You teach a class, your students do the project that goes along with the class, and they return and realize how much difference they make in the lives of someone else,” Weis said. “The memories of watching students go out and take what you presented to them and use it to make a difference in other people’s lives and pretty much know they are going to keep doing that the rest of their lives.”

Robin Esau, lecturer of nonprofit leadership studies, has worked with Weis for the last ten years and said Weis has put a lot of work into the program.

“He’s really enjoyed seeing students get involved with the community and then just embrace that experience and grow to love the nonprofit sector,” Esau said.

Esau said West Kentucky Mentoring, formerly known as Big Brothers Big Sisters, was established in Calloway County because of a student who took a class Weis taught.

“Students have really enjoyed knowing that he really supports their work in the community and helping them find their passion in life,” Esau said.

Malley Johnson, junior from Cunningham, Kentucky, said Weis has been her adviser and professor for the last two years and has encouraged her throughout her college career to pursue what she wants to do.

“I’ve really just appreciated his guidance and his encouragement,” Johnson said. “It’s been a pleasure to learn under his teaching.”

“Marissa’s Secret” is Weis’s newest writing piece, which he says you can either read or wait for the movie.

Police chief hearing student concerns Fri, 05 May 2017 21:49:38 +0000 Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer


James Herring has nearly completed his first year as chief of Murray State Police and has made many changes to the department.

Changes made in the last year include renaming of the department, a new website and new ways for the department to receive student feedback.

In December, Public Safety and Emergency Management was approved to become the Murray State Police Department.

Herring said this is important to him because he said he believes when people think of public safety on college campuses, they think of officers who do not have complete police authority, but the Murray State Police is a full-service police department.

“When I came here I found a very professional staff of well-trained police officers, and I felt the name of the department needed to reflect that,” Herring said.

A vital part of his job is to connect with and listen to students, Herring said, so he created the Murray State Police Student Advisory Council.

“It allows unrepresented populations to have a voice,” Herring said.

The Student Advisory Council consists of nine students. Herring said the initial council consisted of students who expressed interest in being involved, but for upcoming semesters, campus-wide forums will be held to choose members.

Herring said the department’s new mission, vision and values statements were developed with input from the council in mind.

Herring is also championing a program called Bridging the Gap.

Herring said this program will consist of meetings in which exercises will be done that encourage participants to use eye contact, read non-verbal body language and listen to police.

“Once that is done, facilitators guide conversations regarding relationships, perceptions and expectations involved in police community interaction,” Herring said.

Herring said one of the things that stood out to him most this year was Murray State students.

“I’ve really been impressed by the quality of the students here and the dedication they have to learning,” Herring said.

A new website was created to match the new name of the department, as well as to be more user friendly and informative to students, faculty and staff.

Herring said he wants the department to be transparent, so he wants departmental policies to be available on the website by next fall.

Richard Mehlbauer, patrol sergeant, said he was apprehensive at first about a new chief of police, but Herring’s value of transparency stood out and put him at ease.

“From the get-go, he was very transparent,” Mehlbauer said. “That meant a lot.”

Herring moved from North Carolina and he said he has learned a lot about Murray and the people since coming here.

“Murray is great place,” Herring said. “I understand why people come here and don’t want to leave.”

Overall, Herring said he feels confident about the work that was done this year and will continue to focus on building relationships with students.

Roy Dunaway, captain of administration, said he cannot speak highly enough about Herring and what he has done to the department.

Dunaway said among Herring’s stand-out qualities are his progressiveness and overall knowledge of his job.

“His leadership skills, his management skills and his knowledge of university policing are unprecedented,” Dunaway said. “He is a genius.”

Meal prep service now offering student discounts Fri, 05 May 2017 21:45:00 +0000 Story by Katlyn Mackie, Staff writer


A new meal-prep and delivery service has come to Murray and is providing meals for those seeking an alternative for healthy eating in western Kentucky.

Maple Street Market is home to Fitmeals, properly-proportioned meals for people working toward health and wellness goals. Meals are prepared using farm fresh, local ingredients to promote higher quality and less-processed foods.

AnneMarie Tanner, owner and founder of Maple Street Market, said the meal-prep service started in January 2016 when she leased a kitchen at the Murray Banquet Center to cook meals for her friends at the gym. She called it Fitmeals Murray.

Tanner said she wanted to try something different because of her love for working in food service.

She said she told her friends she would cook them meals if they bought the groceries and the first week she prepared 15 meals. A month later she had 30 people on her waiting list.

“That’s when I was like ‘This is it, this is what I want to do, this could be something,’” Tanner said.

In December 2016, Tanner said she found an official location at a storefront in Murray and rebranded Fitmeals Murray to Maple Street Market with the Fitmeals being the product.

Tanner said she and her staff plan the menu, do the shopping, cook all the meals, portion them appropriately and deliver them. The meals come chilled with nutrition information on each container.

“We found it’s really great for people working two jobs or is a busy mom or someone working third shift,” Tanner said. “There are not enough hours in a day to eat healthy or cook healthy because it does take a little more time so we try to facilitate that.”

Tanner said she tries to use locally-grown goods such as fruits, vegetables and meats from the local farms and believes it is more nutritious to eat food grown from the area you live in.

According to the Fitmeals Murray website, the core of the menu is fresh meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, little starch and no sugar with a focus on lower sodium, lower fat and less heavy carbs.

Maple Street Market also offers cooking classes twice a month for $20 that features a range of foods from pizza to sushi.

Tanner said although she has considered franchising and even has an offer to do so, she wants to stay local because she likes the idea of a small business because she can maintain a real quality.

“We really want to work with the community here in Murray and I’m really happy with it,” Tanner said. “I like knowing my customers and knowing what their needs are. Me staying small is a part of who we are.”

She said her customers’ ages have a broad range, from high school students to her oldest customer, a 101-year-old woman who didn’t like the food in her nursing home.

A customer, Diana Ross, said she orders four to seven Fitmeals every week to eat throughout the week and does so because it is easy and quality nutritious food that helps her watch what she eats and lose weight.

“It is cheaper and less time consuming than having to go out and buy all the ingredients I would need to make this meal,” Ross said.

The director of development in the college of science, engineering and technology at Murray State and faithful customer, Jennie Rottinghaus, said she eats at Fitmeals for the convenience, the delicious options and to support the local farmers.

Like Ross, Rottinghaus said she could not buy all of this and make it taste this good and have it be convenient.

Regular size meals with 4 ounces of protein and sides costs $8 each. Large meals with 6 ounces of protein and sides cost $10 each, which are available for pick-up or delivery. Discounts are offered to Murray State students.

For more information or to order call 270-681-5015 or visit their website at

SGA members defend low number of passed legislation Fri, 05 May 2017 21:40:24 +0000 Story by Destinee Marking, Staff writer


Murray State’s SGA Student Senate passed two pieces of legislation in the last year, a low number in comparison to the student governments of surrounding schools.

Clint Combs, former SGA president, said out of the two pieces of legislation passed, one of them affected the student body and the other concerned SGA.

According to Western Kentucky University’s website, during the 2016-17 academic year, Western Kentucky’s SGA passed 66 pieces of legislation.

In recent weeks, Western Kentucky’s SGA passed resolutions to support diversity, hate crime and sexual assault training for the Western Kentucky University Police Department and a resolution supporting the expansion of vegetarian and vegan food options on campus.

A majority of the legislation passed at Western Kentucky pertains to the student body.

According to Austin Peay State University’s website, at least 15 pieces of legislation concerning the student body were passed.

Austin Peay State University’s SGA voted to support an athletic fee increase and to install additional surveillance cameras in student housing.

Combs said over the past few years, many issues were discussed, but Murray State’s SGA tends to utilize private meetings to solve the issues brought to them.

“For the longest time our student government didn’t handle issues with legislation,” Combs said. “They took the quieter approach to get things accomplished. I try to schedule a meeting to see if we can do something. For instance, we just recently had a meeting to allow some academic suspended students the ability to use counseling services, so they can continue to have mental health options until they are eligible to return to school”

Combs said during his presidency, he encouraged more public discussion, but it is a change that will take time.

As for programs, Combs said SGA had a hand in putting on the Presidential Lecture series, free events in the Curris Center throughout the year and various concerts.

Connor Moore, Murray State SGA election ways and means chairman, said he has heard criticisms about the Student Senate.

“In the last SGA, SGA had been criticized as being stagnate, by people that aren’t aware of the impact SGA has,” Moore said.

Moore said the organization’s main focus has been updating the SGA constitution and bylaws.

“We are taking outdated terms and replacing them,” Moore said. “For example, instead of ‘secretary’ it’s now ‘vice president of administration.’”

At the April 26 SGA meeting, the senate voted to pass amendments that change senate membership requirements; the grade point average requirement is now 2.0 as opposed to the previous 2.5.

Tori Wood, SGA president, said she believes there is always room for improvement, but SGA depends on student input to know what changes to make.

“I’m hopeful that if a student feels as if our work is inadequate or they want to see a change, they will come to us,” Wood said.

Wood said SGA cannot represent the student body if students are not sharing concerns and opinions.

“It is perfectly OK to see issues or challenges on campus,” Wood said. “They exist and should be addressed.”

New app in development may solve Murray State’s parking problems Fri, 05 May 2017 21:35:21 +0000 Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer


Overcrowded, hectic campus parking lots may have finally met their match: two graduating seniors and Murray natives who sought to slay rush hour parking dilemmas with a website project.

Computer science majors John Lollar and Jason Spann are in the process of developing a program tentatively called Parking Pal, which, if implemented, will allow students and faculty to see how many parking spots are available in lots on campus.

“I thought of this idea last year, just because it was a pain to park around campus during busy hours, as every commuter knows,” Spann said.

Francie Ray, parking supervisor at Murray State Parking Services, said there has not been any type of commitment discussed regarding implementation at Murray State, but she has met with Lollar and Spann about the project. She said she assisted them with ideas and provided them with a copy of the Murray State parking maps.

“We met with her and had a meeting for a couple hours,” Lollar said. “She seemed pretty optimistic and liked the idea and wanted us to keep moving forward with it. She thought it could potentially go somewhere.”

Lollar said ideally, if Murray State chooses to adopt the program, it would be in place next year, but the project is still in the beginning phases until they can test more lots.

Spann said the student app will potentially show all the parking lots on campus. Users will be able to filter results based on parking pass color, proximity to certain buildings and how many spots are left.

Spann said readers that use radio frequency identification technology would be placed at entrances and exits of parking lots. Each parking pass will have a tag on it. When a car enters the lot, the tag is picked up on the reader, the info will be sent to the server and it will add them to the parking lot. When they drive out, they will be removed.

The readers cost $1,500, and the tags cost 50 cents.

“When we talked to Francie, she said she has looked at ways to solve this issue for a while now, and all the other commercial options have been way too expensive.” Lollar said. “I think that was one of the things she liked about ours – is that is seemed to be more cost-efficient.”

Lollar and Spann are in assistant professor Stanley Jointer’s CSC 530 senior capstone class. Jointer said the course is project-based, and as part of their projects, he encourages students to seek out real-world issues, solve them and seek to commercialize the work they’ve completed.

Jointer said Lollar and Spann have been in several of his classes over the past few years.

“Both are among the best in the department, and their parking app shows the ingenuity and intelligence that I’ve witnessed from them over the years,” Jointer said. “I eagerly anticipate their success, be it in this endeavor or another.”