Wake up to the grim state of Title IX

By Abigail Fergus

A year ago when I learned that Nick Piccolo, former vice president for student life and Title IX coordinator, was retiring I became anxious. Piccolo had become an important mentor to me as he provided me with wisdom and sanity. He would no longer be a resource on campus every day. I also saw opportunity in his job opening.

I’ve written in the Almanian before about how overseeing all student affairs and Title IX cases is not a one person job, no matter how much Piccolo cared or tried– which was a lot.

I called Piccolo the other day, after I learned that Lynn Krauss is no longer Title IX Coordinator, a position she held for less than a full school year. Administration had been searching to replace Piccolo with full-time personnel, but she asked to be on campus twice a week and her request was granted. Krauss told me in the fall of 2017, on the record for an Almanian interview, that she accepted the title because she was looking for any way to work for her alma mater as a retirement job.

I was angry that the situation so quickly failed, because I had warned President Abernathy that the job should be full-time and that student input should be a part of the hiring process.

We also have a startling lesson, from MSU’s former president and former Olympic doctor Larry Nassar, about the state of Title IX enforcement. Abernathy claimed that he would put me on the search committee for the Title IX coordinator, but I came back to school last fall to find that Krauss had been hired with no apparent say from students.

I knew Piccolo would listen to me, respect me and offer sound advice– all without having a single negative thing to say about any person involved with Title IX at Alma. I’ve written before about how that kind of treatment isn’t something that I’ve gotten from most administrators.

When I experienced members of administration rolling their eyes at me, sending me passive aggressive emails, or failing to follow through on their claims and to respond to student concerns, it was at times when I was advocating for student interests. So I didn’t feel bad then, except for the occasional battle with anxiety, because I was just in my cause. I simply wanted to be safe and informed while I got the education for which I am now $28,000 dollars in debt.

All the while it felt like men on campus could get away with the harassment and assault that is no secret to students and that I was fighting against, then in the daylight still be perfect pupils in administrators’ eyes.

My mental health was in such a dark state from the beginning of 2017 until I left Alma’s campus last December as a graduate, that the year has become a fog.

Usually, I have a keen memory, but it’s hard to put the dark pieces of 2017 together. Some of the greatest experiences were given to me in that year, but they were also shrouded by the depressive state I was in.

I moved up to northern Wisconsin on New Year’s Day, where I had been for a P-Global this past summer. I had a disturbing revelation soon after. I was making dinner with my friend Devon. She’s a few years older than me, she works for the Ojibwe tribe I came up here to research with, and she took me in during my P-Global. Devon shared, after we had a lot of laughs and silliness, that I was distant and almost unfriendly this past summer.

Her statement threw me into a rare, vivid memory of 2017. I was numb and scared in Wisconsin this past summer. I was able to fulfill my responsibilities robotically, but I didn’t feel what I was doing. I didn’t act like myself. I didn’t laugh with Devon. I had nervous break downs.

Once I had to leave the tribal office early to spend the second half of the day crying at my campsite. I can’t paint the depth of my dread at the end of my P-Global when I faced returning to Alma for my last semester.

Alma College wore me down to the bone. I enrolled as a naïve and anxious teenager and was spat out as a deeply depressed and cynical adult. It’s a testament to the love of my friends and close professors that I finished out with a senior thesis complete and a track toward graduate school begun.

Once I moved away from everyone I ever knew this past December, the dust of 2017 and of college settled. I began to pick through what I had grown numb to out of self defense in my waking and sleeping nightmares.

A lot of what I have had to decompress from has been my experience working toward a campus community safe from assault and harassment.

My intersections of privilege are many and my intersections of oppression are few. I’m white, cis-gender, raised Christian, middle class. I use this to put into perspective what others are going through.

I’ve been harassed and groped. Men have tried to coerce me. But I’ve never been raped. I measure the weight that has dragged me through the benthos of shame, fear, anxiety, rage, confusion and pain and I imagine the boulder that drags people who carry more intersections of oppression.

This is why I have to try to address Title IX issues and this is why those with even less intersections of oppression and more of privilege ought to be at work too.

I don’t regret my actions as a student or an alum to demand Title IX reform and education that protects likely victim-survivors instead of likely perpetrators. I do regret what has been outside of my power to change: the handling of Title IX by the nation, by Alma’s administration, and by many of my peers. On a national scale, Title IX has been a mess (even before Betsy DeVos in all of her incompetency took the role as secretary of education). Since April 2011, when the Department of Justice began collecting reports of college and universities showing poor conduct in handling Title IX complaints, 458 investigations have been opened and only 121 cases have been resolved (https://projects.chronicle.com/titleix/). Alma College is one of those cases as of October 20, 2015. Perhaps Alma will be one of the 17 cases that will be closed this year, based on the DOJ’s track record of resolving an average of 17 annually, but that’s not what your hopes should be pegged on. Your hopes also shouldn’t be pegged on an angry, recent alum writing to the Almanian (in part because the school is choosing not to hire back Advisor Ken Tabacsko, the only person with career experience in journalism at this institution). Your hopes shouldn’t be pegged on the involved students who have been advocating for Title IX transparency through groups like VEE Club and MacCurdy, not only because many of them are graduating, but also because many of them are likely or actual victim-survivors.

You shouldn’t save your action until you find assault and harassment has devastated your life or that of a loved one. You shouldn’t peg your hopes on Alma’s administration, because they occasionally take student input regarding Title IX, but don’t seem to hear it. This past fall, at what was supposed to be a panel for students to ask questions, the conversation was largely steered by the lens that our president and vice presidents prefer to see Title IX through. You should peg your hopes on yourself, especially if you have privilege to give your concerns regarding Title IX a louder voice.

Alma College relies heavily on athletes and Greek Life for funding in order to stay afloat. Not only do members of these two entities make up a large and wealthy portion of the student body, but the Board of Trustees is very interested in and connected to these groups. When I served as secretary for Student Congress, board members quickly breezed past me once they learned I had no interest in either. Aside from student tuition, the Board of Trustees is responsible for Alma’s funding and existence. So athletics and Greek Life are what talks to Alma’s administrators, because that’s where the money is.

Members of these groups should keep that in mind and get involved, rather than begrudgingly sit through required annual Title IX training that often goes in one ear and out the other. If you have a different idea of what topics or what ways you want to learn about Title IX, make that known to Anne Lambrecht. If you feel policy at Alma is not conducive to holding yourself and others to building a safe community, make that known to Abernathy. Do anything besides sitting in SAGA and whining about it to your friends. It doesn’t take much extra effort, and it feels better than complaining without action.

There was positive momentum toward more involvement with Title IX in the fall semester. Fraternity members willingly showed up to the forum hosted by administration and to a couple of VEE club meetings. Administration hosted a Title IX event, rather than leaving education, beyond what’s federally mandated, to students. That’s not enough though.

Those occasions don’t counteract the repeated prosecution MacCurdy House members face for the SlutWalk, especially after I knocked on fraternity doors to draw attention to their responsibility in Title IX reform. That new level of effort put forward is a start, but it doesn’t match what likely victim-survivors are doing just to advocate for their right to receive an education and not be harassed and assaulted while trying to do so. Like so many other problems we face as a college, a nation, and the millennial generation, there is no excuse for you to not be involved. This is an issue that requires a paradigm shift so that all members of campus can see the same quality of life.

Often, I saw students looking at their peers or professors for the solution to a problem or the right way to fix it. On a national scale, we don’t even have solid methodology behind handling Title IX cases. Don’t wait around for someone else to figure out how to address our cultural and political problems surrounding assault and harassment. Use your higher education, which ought to be instilling at least a drop of critical thinking skill in you, and decide for yourself how to take action.

Clark named new women’s basketball head coach

By Hank Wickley

Sports Writer

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The new head coach for the women’s basketball team is a friendly face. Coach Ryan Clark, previous assistant coach for the men’s team, was given the title on March 30.

Coach Clark has been an assistant for the men’s basketball team since 2012, and during that time he has made several improvements to the program. One of these included a 24-7 season in 2014-15, in which the Scots finished sixth in the nation for Division III basketball.

But now things are different. Clark will no longer be second in command.

“It will definitely be different in that now I will be the one making final decisions on just about every aspect of the program,” said Clark.

Under head coach Sam Hargraves in the men’s program, Clark had time to prepare for this new position.

“Coach Hargraves had the trust in me to be a part of a lot of different aspects of the men’s program, so I feel he was very influential in preparing me to run this program,” said Clark.

Becoming a head coach is a special honor, and Clark has big plans for the women’s team.

“I’m eager to get things moving in a positive direction and to build a culture that the Alma College women’s basketball program can be proud of,” said Clark.

“I’ve never coached these young women in a basketball setting, so I don’t really have a good feel as to where the team is at this point,” said Clark.

“What I do expect is this team to play with a high level of intensity and effort and to compete with whoever else walks into the gym,” said Clark.

Having Clark come to the program is nothing short of exciting for the women on the team.

“I honestly could not think of a better person to take over this program than Coach Clark,” said Madison Hill (‘20).

Hill also said that Clark was the women’s team’s strength and conditioning coach for the past year, and has built great relationships with the team already.

“He will push us to be our best every day and I am excited to play for a motivated and well-rounded coach like Clark,” said Hill.

“Having a positive environment and good communication skills between players and coaches is something I hope to see more in the program now,” said Hill. “Coach Clark has full potential to do great things within our program.”

With this new environment around the program, and a new head coach in Ryan Clark, the women’s basketball team hopes to do great things in the future.

“Love Simon” offers lighthearted LGBT representation

By Sam Anteau

Staff Writer

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Before anything else, I want to say that this is not a review of the movie Love, Simon. 

I am notoriously terrible at discerning a “good movie” from a “bad movie;” my reviews tend to center around whether I was able to sit in the theater and forget about the crippling anxiety that I have surrounding upcoming deadlines.  

So, to the chagrin of many of my more cinematically-minded friends, that means I thought Suicide Squad was a good movie. Sue me. 

All that said, I loved the movie Love, Simon. It’s a coming of age story of a John Hughes persuasion. The difference, of course, is that the main character is a gay teenager who has yet to come out.  

What struck me first about Love, Simon is that this movie isn’t overwhelmingly sad. So often when it comes to movies with an LGBT main character, we get tragedies like Brokeback MountainCall Me By Your Name, or Philadelphia.  

Those films were about the suffering of LGBT people, and, while the stories are important, they offer a very bleak picture of what it is like to be LGBT. Yes, love is often involved, but it’s not the feel-good sort of love we get in the rom-coms that permeate the box office. 

I’m not saying that Love, Simon ignores the plights of being gay. It doesn’t, and there are plenty of times when bad/upsetting things happen to Simon that are directly related to him being gay.  

But the movie doesn’t have a constant undertone of near-oppressive sadness. It is, before anything else, a teen comedy, a coming of age story.  

It is sweet, funny, and tremendously endearing with a refreshingly happy ending. And, from the opinion of an LGBT person, it needed to exist.  

The bleak outlook on being an LGBT person that is often offered in cinema is pretty disheartening, especially to young people who have yet to come out.  

Seeing gay people dying constantly in film (while it often, unfortunately, reflects real life) just makes those people more scared to be who they are.  

But Love, Simon offers something different. Yes, there is homophobia at work in the movie, and we do see Simon get bullied, but he gets a happy ending.  

We get to see him have a good relationship with his friends, to be happy in high school, and in the end, he finds love.  

This is typical of pretty much all main characters in teen movies but, considering that there are a very limited number of teen films featuring LGBT leads, it’s pretty much unheard of for a gay character. 

With the “Bury Your Gays” trope being called out more often than ever (for good reason), it is so refreshing and hopeful to see a movie where the gay character ends up happy. Not only does he end up happy, but the film itself is lighthearted and fun! It’s like Greg Berlanti looked at my Christmas list. 

In summary, if you want a solid way to support the LGBT community, or even just like a good teen comedy, I would go see Love, Simon. Even if you aren’t a member of the LGBT community, it’s just an enjoyable movie, especially in this current box office lull.  

College hosts Pine River Film Festival

By Cassie Florian

Staff Writer

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This past Saturday Alma College had their second ever Pine River Student Film Festival at the Strand theater from noon to 9 p.m. There were high school films, homegrown films and college films shown at the event in the narrative and documentary categories.  

At the end of every category the audience was given a chance to vote for their favorite film.   

There was a table at the event that was selling t-shirts, posters, pins and sticker and admissions also was there giving away brochures lanyards pens and tote bags. The theater itself was also selling concessions at the event.   

At the event there was also an activity booth called “provoke a scene” which was a social media campaign that encouraged guests to create their own narratives using figurines and backdrops that could be shared on social media with the hashtag #PRSFF18 which gave an educational aspect to the festival.  

There were also a few returning New Media Studies alumni who returned to support the students and enjoy the show.  

“I watched all of it [and] thought it was really cool, I was really excited for it because I have never been to one and I’ll probably go to it again next year,” said Jessica Araway (‘21).  “I also thought it was cool to see the local films, because I knew people who were in them.”  

“I watched the college section, but I missed the homegrown part,” said Casey Ball (‘18). “I thought it went really well, I was happy it happened again this year because I didn’t get to go last year.”  

“I saw bits and pieces of the high school documentary part and the last half of the college narrative and I loved it,” said Olivia St. Arnold.  

“I loved supporting other filmmakers and seeing what others are capable of. Filmmakers supporting filmmakers, you know?”  

“I got to meet a few Alma film students which was cool, since I go to a film school in Grand Rapids. I loved ‘Average Fellas’ and ‘Love of Cinema,’” said St. Arnold.  

“I watched everything except for the high school documentaries and I thought it went really well,” said Zachary Kribbet (‘18). “It was really well organized, and I thought there was some really good work that was shown.”  

This year, although it is only the festivals second year, has dramatically increased in size with over 1400 submissions, which is something several students took notice of.   

“My favorite part was probably the fact that we had submissions from over 90 countries; that’s insane,” said Ball.  

“I guess just like the sheer amount of films and submissions that were submitted, and the fact that it was all student based was what stood out for me,” said Kribbet.  

“I would, I’d like to be able to support it more [in the future], but I don’t know if I’ll be able to because I’m graduating,” said Ball.  

“I would most definitely [come again] because I think it is very, very cool to share something like this, that is all student-led,” said Kribbet.   

“I would come again! I’d always support other filmmakers. I might just submit a film next year too,” said St. Arnold.  

“The event went well! I really wish there were more people there but I’m happy with the outcome,” said Zack Baker (’18). “Of course, I hope next year goes even better. I wouldn’t have done a thing different.”   

“My favorite part was that everyone that came had a good time. I feel glad that I don’t have to worry about it, but I’m sad that it’s all over,” said Baker. “It’s like a birthday party or a graduation, you look forward to it for so long, and when it’s over it’s kind of empty.” 

Model UN team earns victory in New York

By Sasha Dudock

Staff Writer

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If you have noticed the campus feeling a little bit empty over the past week, you may have been missing the students on the Model UN team who were in New York City for their final competition of the season.   

The team continued their winning streak, being awarded the highest honor of the conference, the Outstanding Delegation award, for two of the three countries they represented.  

The third country representing winning the second highest honor of the conference.  

Alma’s team has been competing for 29 years and not long after starting, the program began to gain high honors, amounting now to an impressive 25-year streak.  

Now Alma’s team has more outstanding delegation awards than any school in the 95-year history of the conference. 

The National Model UN competition brings students from all over the world together to collaborate and address real world issues.  

More than 50% of students at the conference were from outside the U.S.  

“The experience was life changing. My favorite part was meeting all of the international students. I got lunch with a boy from Venezuela and we had an eye-opening conversation about opportunities and privilege,” said Destiny Herbers (‘21).  

Besides the perk of spending a week in New York City, the MUN team, as well as all the other school’s teams, were allowed into the United Nations General Assembly for the final awards ceremony.  

The general assembly being where all countries in the United Nations work together to correct world issues, and thus an amazing opportunity.   

Model UN, also known as MUN, is a rigorous set of winter courses, led by Derick Hulme, professor of political science and nationally competitive scholarship advisor.  

“I think that Dr. Hulme is incredibly knowledgeable. He demands a lot, but if we put in the work, he can prepare us for success better than anyone else could,” said Herbers.   

The MUN team prepares extensively through weekly tests and speeches, but since the class is only once a week it allows for students to create their own style of learning researching and the material.   

“I practice my speeches until I can deliver them with ease. I find documentaries on the issues I’m researching. I dive into these topics and research them so thoroughly in preparation for my office presentations with Dr. Hulme,” said Paige Bartkowiak (‘18).  

Office presentations are common occurrences within the MUN team, where students explain their topic and research to Dr. Hulme as a quiz.  

According to Bartkowiak,  

“These presentations are the one thing I believe makes our team different and makes us stand out in conference.” 

The New York conference was an especially difficult time for the MUN seniors.  

“Sitting in the UN General Assembly [Hall] the last day knowing it was my last MUN [conference] was a bittersweet feeling,” said Bartkowiak.  

“I left everything I have to give in New York this year and I am so happy with the future of our team. I know we have prepared the next generation of MUNners who will continue to persevere and figure out how to make a difference in this world.” 

Upperclassmen will continue to help teach the new members, leading the team.  

This makes preparation, as well as the conference, a real bonding experience for the MUN team.  

MUN is a fantastic way to gain a community of truly caring people while also becoming a better global citizen.  

“It’s a lot of hard work, but you get out of it what you put into it,” said Blaze Wilson (‘18). 

“Provoke” showcases NMS seniors

By Caden Wilson

News Editor

“Provoke is what we’d like our work to do to viewers. There’s a wide variety of projects at this show, and they all have the ability to spark some sort of emotion or feeling,” said Zachary Kribbit (‘18). 

Kribbit is one of several seniors exhibiting work for the New Media Studies department’s senior show “Provoke,” which will be held in the DOW lobby on April 11.  

He, like many other participating students, hopes to inspire thought and emotion through their projects- many of which deal with difficult and topical subject matter.   

“The most enjoyable part is looking at the final product and being able to say, wow, I was able to do this as a student,” Kribbit said.  

“I very rarely boast about myself, but I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve been able to do for this show despite obstacles and setbacks.”   

“Provoke” showcases a wide variety of work, including photography, film, web, sound and game design.  

However, the wide variety of media forms within the major doesn’t change the key concepts.   

“New Media Studies is a weird conglomerate of things. It can be interpreted in a lot of ways and everyone has a different view of how It should operate and what it should be. Taking a minor with NMS is sometimes a good option to keep your feet grounded,” said James Gaddy (‘18), who like many other NMS majors is driven by his passion.  

“I like filming [and] creating; I can’t sit still unless I’m watching clips or like media, so going out and shooting is just as exciting as sitting around and editing,” Gaddy said.   

The varying nature of the degree leaves students free to draw influence and inspiration from a wide variety of places.   

“I would say my internship with Alma Athletics prepared me the most for ‘Provoke.’ I created multiple videos for them that really tested all of my video production skills,” said Skylr Goodman (‘18), who cites Dr. Collamati’s encouragement to focus both on technical precision, and a compelling story that keeps the audience engaged.   

“For ‘Provoke’ specifically, I spent all semester preparing. It’s a project that’s meant to encompass all of my skills as an NMS major, so I could say my entire college career was preparation for this show,” Goodman said.  

Difficulties are not just commonplace when preparing for a showcase like “Provoke,” but fully expected.   

“My project takes place in Grand Rapids, so I was constantly running back and forth from here to there, as well as spending a ridiculous amount of time editing,” said Kribbit.  

“The biggest challenge was trying not to get discouraged when my clients couldn’t set up a meeting time with me, or if I looked at my footage afterwards and either didn’t have enough or some of it wasn’t quality,” Kribbit said. 

“I overthink a lot of my work and criticize it more myself than others and it’s weird. I also had to make time to film and cut together my project,” said Gaddy.  

“My original project was a lot larger than I anticipated and took up a lot more time than I expected to have.”   

Light refreshments and appetizers will be provided at the showcase where students, friends, family and faculty are invited to finally see these projects.  

The department asks attendees to RSVP but encourages everyone to come regardless.  

Seniors celebrate final Masterworks concert

By Kelsey Taylor

Staff Writer

This past weekend was the annual performance of the Masterworks Concert, which sees the union of the Alma Choirs and the Alma Symphony Orchestra to showcase a musical masterpiece.  

This year, the chosen piece was Franz Joseph Hadyn’s The Creation, composed in the late eighteenth century. The concert is performed in three parts meant to be sung by five soloists, but was modified to allow for 23 students – five of whom were seniors -  and voice professor Vicki Walker to feature as many singers as possible.  

Students enjoy the Masterworks Concert as a chance to sing and play classical music.  

“I enjoy Masterworks; it’s always a really great change of pace to sing one of the major works with the force of all the choirs and the orchestra. It is a unique form of prayer that we cannot get elsewhere,” said soprano soloist Cecelia Brady (‘18),  

“The fact that [this was] my last one has not quite sunk in yet.” 

However, for the 28 seniors in the concert, this moment was bittersweet.  

“I am bringing to realize that Sunday night [was] the last concert I [sang] at Alma College. Although I’m confident I will sing in another choir, performing tonight is something I will cherish forever,” said Seth Davis (‘18). 

As the seniors move forward from Alma, many look back on their time in the music programs positively.  

“I think the greatest contribution the orchestra has made to my growth are when we have the few rehearsals before the concerts. Those are the rehearsals when the hired professionals come in and it really motivates me to play better. I hear what they’re doing and I think it pushes me in a positive direction,” said viola player Ishijah Johnson (‘18). 

“My experience in the Alma Choirs has allowed me to become a better leader, and a better musician. A college choir has maturity both in personality and in its voices. Listening to others in the choir makes me push myself to sing the best I can,” said Krista Botting (‘18). 

The seniors are not the only ones who feel nostalgic this time of year.  

“One of the really nice things about my life as the conductor of the Alma Choirs is that I get to work with my students for three and four years.  During this time we get to know each other very well and, of course, I rely on the seniors to become student leaders within the choirs.  They do this by setting a positive example for younger students,” said  Will Nichols, professor of music and conductor of the Alma College choirs.  

Nichols also encourages his students to continually pursue music even after graduation.  

“Keep singing! Wherever life takes you there will be a choir that needs you. Find it, and join in! And come back to Homecoming as often as you can and sing with me again!” 

Taking Nichols’ advice to heart, the seniors plan to join new choirs and ensembles, wherever the future leads them.  

“While I may not perform professionally, I will definitely keep my knowledge and passion for music as a hobby, working within the community wherever I end up settling down,” said Botting.  

At Alma, it is easy to become involved with one or more of our many musical programs.  

Alma Choirs and the Alma Symphony Orchestra are just two of the creative options.  

Johnson believes that the ensembles are a great experience to have. Nichols has a similar opinion, saying:  

“Singing brings art into our daily lives — and every one of us has a deep desire to be creative…I wish everyone would be brave enough to join a choir and discover for themselves the joy of singing.” 

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