A letter to the editor: Handicap access


As a handicapped student, I know exactly how difficult it can be to navigate campus, whether it’s about stairs in places stairs should not have to be or railroad tracks I can’t cross. I’ve spent my whole life dealing with these types of challenges all because of a virus that decided to leave me with permanent side effects.

I contracted poliovirus when I was less than one year old, and now I’m one of the 0.1-0.5% of polio cases that resulted in paralytic poliomyelitis. As a result of this, I use a mobility scooter (most have probably seen me around campus) because I am unable to walk for long distances or stand for long periods of time.

I probably visited 8-10 small colleges across Michigan and Ohio back when I was choosing which school to attend for the next four years of my life. Out of all of them, I felt like Alma fit the best. I chose Alma partially due to its size– larger campuses, even those with public transportation, were simply not going to work. I also thought the disability center really would work with me, unlike some other places that seemed to only pretend to care. Alma was also definitely not the most inaccessible campus of the ones I visited.

Now that I’ve been here for a year, I’m not going to say that sometimes getting around hasn’t been difficult. Even living in the newly-updated Gelston didn’t avert problems like the ramp that never seemed to be salted or walkways that weren’t shoveled before I had to leave for class.

However, I worked closely with Rhonda Linn, the Assistant Director of the CSO for Academic Support and Disability Services, and we figured out ways to make it work. Facilities was extra-vigilant about shoveling and salting when it was snowing. I made alternate arrangements with my professors for when I couldn’t make it to class because of the weather.

Getting around when it’s not winter (though winter takes up about half of the months we’re here every year) is also challenging. Most buildings only have one or two handicap buttons, and some don’t work sometimes. However, I would like to point out that I am lucky enough to live somewhere that even has those accommodations. Try visiting Chicago when you’re wheelchair-bound; you’ll become very aware of just how many small revolving doors that city has.

Installing handicap buttons and elevators is also extremely expensive. Although door-openers range from the cheap $50 to more sophisticated ones at $1,500, installing them on every outside door on campus is unreasonable. Even ADA, which admittedly needs work, does not require that.

Commercial elevators cost between $75,000 to $175,000, and that’s assuming that the building itself can house an elevator without changing the building design. Installing elevators in the dorms would more or less require Alma to knock them down and rebuild them from the ground up.

If you‘re physically handicapped, most dorms are relatively accessible on North Campus. I began talking to Rhonda and housing about the renovations and possible living areas last February in preparation for this year, and I thought everyone did their very best to accomodate me; because of that, I currently live in Mitchell, on the first floor, in a room I hand-picked before the housing portal even opened.

Most, if not all, handicapped people I know are well-aware of their capabilities and limits. I’m not going to go somewhere if I know I can’t physically handle it. I’m not going to try out for the track team, and I won’t be joining a hiking trip any time soon. If I was unable to walk at all, I doubt I would have even gone to a physical college and likely would have enrolled in online classes to get my degree.

The biggest thing about being handicapped here at Alma is that you need to ask for assistance if you need it. The CSO has been an invaluable resource for me, and I highly encourage anyone who needs aid to seek it out. No one can read your mind, so reach out. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help if it makes you more able to succeed.

I want to be independent, yes. Sometimes I need things other people don’t to achieve that. I also believe that part of being an adult is acknowledging that being independent is largely what you’re doing to make yourself independent.

For instance, I’ve taught myself to open doors without buttons while on my scooter. I’ve also learned exactly which entrances in buildings lead up to stairs. These are things I can do to make my experience better because I don’t have to rely on anyone else.

Throughout my time at Alma, I’ve never felt like my disability prevented me from being successful. My peers and professors have always accommodated me, and I’ve never thought that they felt burdened because of it. I see myself as independent because I am; I’m no longer a child who can’t advocate for herself. If I need something, then I need to do the research and find out who can help and how. If anything, being handicapped has helped me learn how to be independent and how to be successful regardless of any obstacles in my way.

International students absorb new culture


At the beginning of the fall term, several international students, including Nino Lazariia, Anna Shokina, and Lemiao Yu, as well as the French T.A. Julie Le Sauce, started to call Alma College their home away from home for the upcoming school year.
“I love [Alma] more because here people are more [likely to] participate in sports and other activities on campus,” said Yu. “Culture shock,” a term that is used to refer to a person’s adjustment to extreme differences in a culture that is not their native home, affected some students more than others.
Yu xperienced less cultural shock than she thought she would. “In China, people will really carefully look at me and they will notice how my hair looks like, how my clothes look like, [and] how I behave,” said Yu.
Yu explained that here in America people do not really care about how they dress when they leave the home, and it allows her to feel more confident  herself because “here people dress more freely.”Asian culture is not the only one that differs greatly from American culture.
Shokina and Lazariia, international students from Russia, also struggled with understanding how American students dress. “[In France] we don’t consider leggings pants,” said Le Sauce.
“On my first day I was super official and prepared: super fancy. I was thinking it should be a super important day, and everybody was in flip flops and shorts. And I was like a black sheep in my skirt and white blouse. And I was like, ‘okay I understand’ and on the second day I was like all of them,” said Lazariia.
As the clothing and dress appearance played into the culture shock, atmosphere played a key role as well. “Alma is much calmer than hectic Moscow,” said Shokina. “[Here] everyone wants to learn and better themselves, [and] the professors are very supportive.”
Le Sauce spoke about the contrast between on-campus living here and where she lived in France. “In France we don’t have campuses,” said Le Sauce.
“[In Alma,] if you need help [with homework] you can meet someone at the library [anytime]. When I was living in Paris, I was living in the north and all my friends were living in the south of my university. So once I was in my place [home] it was just possible to communicate with phone and not see each other,” said Le Sauce.
With communication struggles, each individual explained matters based on how they prepared themselves. “Having your brain [wired] in another language is tiring,” said Le Sauce. “I felt like kind of lonely and I felt the need to speak French, so I was calling my parents or my sister almost every day.”
Lazariia admitted that she too contacts her family daily; however, this was different with Shokina and Yu, who contact their families less often because of their cultural upbringing.
Shokina, who had already completed an internship in The Netherlands, was able to better adapt to less contact with her family based on busy schedules and time zone differences. Once in American, the formality of their language training became apparent; English slang caused the most trouble when trying to push through the language barriers.
“It was hard to understand abbreviations, and I should always Google it. But now I understand it, and it is kind of cool,” said Lazariia.
“I want to meet people and I want to make friends. I want to make an impact, and I want to take a step forward to do something really good for our world,” said Lazariia.

Sibs weekend unites families


From Oct. 5 through 7, the Alma College Union Board put on Little Sibs Weekend, which offered students the opportunity to connect with their siblings along with participating in a variety of events over the weekend.
“I think it [was] a great opportunity for students to bring siblings up, especially students who may be homesick, and I think it’s important that they have a little piece of home here on campus often because ultimately that’s what makes Alma College home for them,” said ACUB Head of Staff TiKilah Turner (‘19).
The primary event of the weekend was an excursion to the Anderson and & Girls Orchards to partake in the petting zoo and other activities. Other entertainment options  included rock climbing at the Stone Recreation Center, along with a Rainforest Obstacle Course.
Turner, who handled most of ACUB’s purchases for the event, was excited to see the event play out. “I’m just so excited for a successful event to [have] happen[ed] and for all of the hard work that myself and all the rest of the staff to [have] really blossom[ed] into this amazing event.”
Older siblings are also able to participate alongside younger ones. “We [tried] to cater to all age groups for this event. For example, when I ordered the inflatable I wanted to make sure that people who are about aged 13 or 14 could also be a part of it,” said Turner.
“The excursion to Anderson & Girls also cover[ed] all ages because they [had] a few animals that can be found in the jungle as well. I think it’s cool to be  able to see that,” said Turner.
“Even if an activity [didn’t] seem like it would be fun everyone wants to act like a kid again and why wouldn’t you want to visit your sibling at school!?” said Molly McCranner  ’19).
Turner spoke on the difficulties that came with hosting the event like ordering inflatables t-shirts in the midst of coordinating events while also posting to social media.
“It’s the small things that [made] it challenging — the things that are easy to forget,” said Turner.
Turner hopes that little siblings got a sense of Alma College while they were here. “I hope they [were] immersed in the Alma College culture, even a little bit, their experience [was] different than that of a student, but I hope that they [got] a taste of what it’s like for students.”
“I hope that Little sibs [got] memories that’ll last. It is such a change in a family dynamic when one of the kids leaves for college, so it [was] a great opportunity where we [had] a bunch of fun and interactive activities for an entire weekend,” said McCranner.

Domestic Violence Awareness begins


All throughout October, there will be several events on campus for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which started back in 1987. Domestic Violence Awareness Month developed from the Day of Unity Event in October of 1981 held by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence that expanded to a full week and eventually an entire month of events.
The original Day of Unity event was designed to connect advocates against domestic violence from across the nation and it is now held on the first Monday of October every year to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Many students and faculty members on campus have strong feelings about these issues.
“Domestic Violence disproportionately affects women and children (in a parallel life, I work as a child advocate with the Gratiot County family court),” said Prathim-Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of English and Women’s & Gender Studies as well as faculty advisor to the MacCurdy House.
“It places a huge burden of fear, pain, guilt and a host of other negative experiences on the individual, which adds up to a huge social, national and global burden. It takes place in families of every class and race, and frequently it is hidden or minimized because women and children have fewer resources,” said Dora-Laskey.
Research also shows that this issue is prevalent on college campuses. “Recent studies have shown that about 1 in 5 college students experience abuse at the hands of a current partner, and 1 in 3 college students have experienced abuse by a former partner (Sinozich, et al., 2014). I think we can all agree that’s far too many,” said Kevin Carmody, the Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator.
In attempt to remedy this issue, various groups on campus such as KI, the MacCurdy House, Counseling and Wellness and others are hosting events to spread awareness and provide support to victims/ survivors. The Counseling and Wellness Center began the Clothesline Project on Thursday, Oct. 4, which has been displayed on campus every year since 1995. The project is made of t-shirts created by survivors of domestic violence or in honor of someone else who has experienced it.
The purpose is to provide healing for survivors, educate the public and provide solutions to prevent violence in the future, according to Anne Lambrecht and the Counseling and Wellness Center staff. Campus is also participating in the Purple Tie Campaign. “Each Friday through October, we are encouraging people to wear purple in support of survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), and to take a stand as a community to say that these behaviors are antithetical to our values,” said Carmody.
For those who do not own a purple tie, they are available for free at the Counseling and Wellness Center, the Wilcox Medical Center or in Carmody’s office in Tyler Van Dusen.
Faculty also emphasized that Domestic Violence Awareness Month is not only for women. “IPV has long been seen as a ‘women’s issue,’ which ignores that members of any gender may be impacted by IPV,” said Carmody.
“As men, I feel it’s incredibly important that we add our voice to the work that women have long been doing on this issue, and to recognize that IPV is most often committed by men. That makes it incredibly important that men step up and add our voices in this issue,” said Carmody.
However, for the first time in several years Slut Walk, a protest created to promote gender equality and to end rape culture and victim blaming, will not take place on campus this year.
“We decided to transition to Take Back the Night because last year the residents faced a lot of backlash from students and the administration due to provocative posters and marchers having the idea to pound on fraternity doors,” said Eryn Corinth (‘21), a member of KI and the MacCurdy House.
According to Corinth,  the name Take Back the Night comes from the 60’s and 70’s where women didn’t feel safe walking down streets alone at night. “The ideas of them are both the same, but we want to do Take Back the Night because it’s about the same issues but it just has a different name so it won’t have the same backlash [as Slut Walk],” said Corinth.
“Another reason we want to do Take Back the Night is to draw attention to the lack of lighting on Alma College’s campus, and how even here we don’t always feel safe walking home at night. We’ll also try to talk to all of the sororities and fraternities on campus to get them to come to it,”she said. Take Back the Night will occur on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

Volleyball lets nobody stand in their way


The volleyball team is on a hot streak thus far, and it doesn’t look like there are any plans of slowing down.

The team has a record of 14-2, with the two losses to conference opponents Calvin College and Hope College.

Most notable, the team has had a few comeback wins that have led to memorable moments.

“My favorite moment this season was the game against Albion,” said senior Katie Bush (‘19).

“We battled back after a bad second and third set to win in five,” said Bush.

While there is definite senior leadership on the team, there are also some fresh faces making impacts.

“We have a strong younger class, and they continue to prove themselves every day,” said Bush.

“As a freshman it is really exciting competing at a college level,” said Sara Majerle (‘22).

“It’s a different atmosphere of play,” said Majerle.

“There is a very supportive and positive view on the game,” said Majerle.

The team credits its success to a new level of closeness on the court.

“Everyone on the team is on the same page and we all have to same mindset to play as well as we can,” said Majerle.

“The chemistry within our team has helped us greatly,” said Majerle.

“Our team dynamic is completely different than ever before,” said Bush.

The team has been dominating games so far in the season, but that success is not given.

There are big plans and high hopes for the team’s future.

“Our team is looking forward to winning as much as we can in conference play and working hard to make it into the MIAA tournament,” said Majerle.

“We plan on doing this by staying determined, focused, and supporting one another,” said Majerle.

“We will keep continuing to improve and modify ourselves in order to maintain the fluidity that we have on the court,” said Bush.

“We have a good rhythm going, and it’s all going to be about maintaining that,” said Bush.

The team’s success continued over the weekend with a dominating win over St. Mary’s College in three sets.

In the game, both Bush and Majerle were known presences on the court, with 11.5 and 13 points respectively.


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