(A) Historic summer


Whenever the academic year reaches its final months, students across the country pick up their school’s yearbook. These books attempt to showcase the best of student life on their glossy pages, sometimes with embarrassing little errors that managed to slip past editing. No matter how much you would roll your eyes at the cheesy production, you and your friends would still crowd around a desk to see who got featured and how many times. You might ask yourself the following: Did they use my prom pictures? Who got voted best such-and-such? What does everyone look like in their senior photos?

Whenever the academic year reaches its final week, another book might get passed around. Like the yearbook, this too was a showcase of student life, but significantly shorter in length. It is paperback instead of hardcover, the pages are not as glossy, there are significantly more embarrassing little errors. You might ask, what is this? To which the yearbook club students would respond with either excited pride or complete indifference: Stuff that happened after the yearbook published.

Oh cool, you might think. So it is part of the yearbook…but not really. It is an extra segment, a bonus part. If later on in the summer you found out that you had lost the normal yearbook but retained the yearbook addendum you would be disappointed. If the book only includes what happened after the original yearbook was published, there is no way you can get a sense of what the entire year was like.

This summer, Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality began popping up across the nation. It did not take long for an attempt by the US government to revert everyone back to an blood-stained status quo. Democratic mayors quickly decided to sic the police on the protestors. Soon afterwards, a Republican Presidential administration resorted to even more authoritarian measures by using the Department of Homeland Security to abduct protestors into unmarked vans.

There is deserved outrage against Trump and his administration for this. However, most of the outrage refuses to discuss any history before Trump’s inauguration date. On August 10th, The Nation published an article titled “How Stephen Miller Turned the Department of Homeland Security Into a Political Weapon” in which DHS is described as having morphed into “..a tool for pushing Trump’s political agenda.”  On August 17th, The Washington Post published an op-ed titled “At Homeland Security, I saw firsthand how dangerous Trump is for America” in which former DHS official Miles Taylor writes that “The president has tried to turn DHS, the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, into a tool used for his political benefit.” The implication is clear: The DHS was a completely upstanding and non-partisan department before Trump got his hands on it.

There’s a larger history behind the young department. The DHS came into existence in 2003 as a result of the Homeland Security Act which was passed in response to the fear created from 9/11. President Bush wrote that “…the threats facing America require a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons.” This was part of a larger project by the Bush administration to convince Americans that scary outsiders were coming to hurt them and their families, and that they could be stopped if we all continued to give away our civil liberties. The DHS was created to be the President’s private police force. It has not been turned into a political weapon, it was designed as one.

From August 17th – 20th, the Democratic party held its national convention and allowed several disgruntled Republicans to take the stage. The Democrats wanted to push a message of “country over party,” in order to depict Trump as an anomaly. On the first night, the Democrats had former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich appear to tell us that Trump is “…unlike all of our best leaders before him.” Kasich clearly considers his endorsement to be historic, telling the camera that “In normal times, something like this would probably never happen.” On the second night, Democrats had former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell speak about how we must vote against Trump because we’re still the same America “…that inspires freedom all over the world.” The implication is clear: The Republican party was honorable before Trump got his hands on it, and these men are still principled enough to speak out against Trump. 

There’s a larger history behind these two men and the horrible things they’ve done with their former positions. In 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a union-busting bill that limited collective bargaining rights and banned strikes for 360,000 public workers. By 2016, Kasich had closed down nearly half of the abortion clinics in Ohio by using some of the most restrictive legislation in the country. In 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell helped lead America into the war in Iraq by lying to the United Nations Security Council about Iraq facilitating a nuclear weapons program. Claiming to be a country that (as Colin Powell put it) “inspires freedom over the world,” America named the invasion Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operation Iraqi Freedom went on to kill 600,000 Iraqis.

These are some of the men who helped enable Trump’s rise to power. They did it by exacerbating wealth inequality, fear-mongering abortion access, and by normalizing the act of misleading the public with deadly lies while never facing consequences for any of their actions. Some might argue that the Democratic Party only platformed these men to get Trump out of office. If the Democratic Party’s sole intention was voting out Trump, they could be doing it more successfully by adopting incredibly popular proposals such as legalizing marijuana (67% of Americans support) and Medicare for All (69% of Americans support). Instead, the Democratic Party expects you to believe that they will win the election by chasing down disgruntled Republican voters even though 90% of the Republican party approves of Trump.

It’s not about doing whatever it takes to get Trump out of office. It’s about creating opportunity through the portrayal of Trump as an ahistorical aberration instead of the horrific end result of past political decisions. Opportunity for the Democratic Party to promise to remove Trump but never have to promise to solving the problems that created him. Opportunity for men like Kasich, Powell, and even Bush to clean their hands of the responsibility they share for getting us here in the first place. Opportunity to continue some of America’s most dangerous institutions and practices by placing the blame for their inevitable consequences on Trump alone.

Let me be clear, Trump represents a unique threat to democracy, but so did Bush. If the American public can be convinced to let the Bush administration and Republicans like Kasich off scot-free for the lasting damage they’ve done to this country, then there’s no doubt they’ll be convinced to do the same with members of the Trump administration once an even worse person comes to power off the political decisions Trump has made.

We’re trapped in a cheap yearbook addendum that covers no history at all before January 20th, 2017. We need to properly analyze our entire history to find the decisions that brought us to this awful point, so we can stop them at the source. If we keep treating Trump like an ahistorical incident, we can expect our future to be filled with a never-ending cycle of even worse yearbook addendums.

Water sold in Joe’s despite Nestle ban


Many years ago, Alma College students worked together to ban Nestle products from our campus. Today, many products produced by Nestle and the companies they own, such as Ice Mountain water and Kitkats, are sold on campus.

Nestle, the multi-billion dollar food conglomerate, has participated in more than its fair share of controversy. According to the Guardian, the Associated Press and Mighty Earth, Nestle has greenwashed, participated in forced labor in impoverished countries and contributed to deforestation in Ghana
and the Ivory Coast. Their former CEO, Peter BrabeckLetmathe, expressed in a 2013 interview that water is not a universal human right and should therefore be privatized (Nestle now claims that this quote is frequently taken out of context).

A controversy that hits particularly close to home regards Michigan’s abundant freshwater supply and how Nestle has been able to cheaply mine water in Michigan, which has destabilized wetland ecology in Evart, MI.

“As a result of [the company’s belief that water is not a human right], Nestle is taking extremely good quality groundwater in west/ southwest Michigan and bottling it. They are doing this at an excessive rate – many people feel it is a rate that cannot be replenished within a reasonable amount of time,” said Murray Borello, professor of environmental science. “The data I have seen supports this conclusion.”

Nestle’s consistent ethical controversies encouraged Alma students in the early 2000’s to enact a ban on all Nestle products, including Ice Mountain water, through the Student Congress.

“The process began on campus in 2001 or 2002, shortly after we learned that Nestle was going to start production [of Ice Mountain Water] in Michigan.” said Edward Lorenz, an emeritus professor of history and political science.

The ban on Nestle products coincided with another initiative to ban bottled water in the name of sustainability on Alma’s campus.

“President Abernathy – and now Provost Dougherty have been very adamant about not allowing bottled water on campus. That made it pretty easy to ban Ice Mountain, ” said Borrelo.

This ban, however, did not withstand the test of time.

“After the group of students from [early 2000s ban] graduated, the college
reintroduced bottled water in vending machines and used the reasoning that we got a ‘deal’ as a ‘Pepsi Campus,’” said Lorenz in reference to the 2012 Pepsi deal.

The aforementioned Pepsi deal details that our campus will be provided with Pepsi-brand products, amongst other things.

“The agreement provides equipment and general support for the college and provides recycling support provided by Pepsi. The agreement does not mandate which specific beverages are sold,” said President Jeff Abernathy, who, after his 2020 inauguration as President of Alma College, oversaw the Pepsi deal.

Along with the general support provided by the deal, Alma’s administration is considering sustainability when making decisions about the allocation of Alma’s resources.

“Our strategic plan focuses on the college’s impact on the environment and on working to ensure that we are lowering our carbon footprint. We have for the past ten years prioritized renovation rather than new building projects for this reason,” said Abernathy.

Implementing a complete ban on water bottles (and perhaps Nestle products by extension) is complicated, and the 2019 COVID-19 outbreak has added nuances.

“We have not yet achieved a ban on water bottles— the pandemic makes that difficult since we cannot serve water to the public in other ways—but I remain committed to moving in that direction,” said Abernathy.

Although the pandemic has complicated day to day lives, the Alma College mission statement calls on its students to “live responsibly as stewards of the world they bequeath to future generations.” As students, consumers and citizens of the world, there is all individual power.

Alma College changes Venture program


Alma College recently updated their Venture Program to provide additional funding and simplify the application process. The program, which was created in 2013, provides funding for travel and other applied learning opportunities.

This change serves as an expansion of other successful travel opportunities such as the Posey Global Fellowship and Gazmararian Scholarship. Students will now be able to apply for two types of Venture experiences, including the “Think Critically” Junior Year Applied Experience Venture award and an additional opportunity through the college’s “Serve Generously, Lead Purposefully, Live Responsibly” Venture awards.

Every year, Alma provides applied learning opportunities for about 200 to 300 students. Most of these students opt for a spring term travel course, while others study abroad for Alma academic credit during the regular school year. Many students choose to travel for service, research or internship programs either in the United States or abroad through Posey Global or Alternative Breaks.

Carla Jensen has served as Director of Career and Personal Development at Alma College for the past seven years. In addition to working with international college students, Jensen oversees the administration of the Alma Venture Program and Off-Campus Study (study abroad and academic
internship programs).

Jensen feels that these adjustments will be very
beneficial to Alma students. Students will now be able to apply for multiple awards without reducing the maximum Venture award they are eligible for. There will also only be one application form, and deadline for “Serve Generously, Lead Purposefully, Live Responsibly” awards.

“I hope that these funds will encourage students to engage with the world in ways they might otherwise have been able to do – to have a positive impact and also to use these experiences to explore the type of person they want to be and the shape of their life’s work.”

Director of Career and Personal Development, Carla Jensen

Ellen Laurenz (‘22) used her Alma Venture Grant in Jun. 2019 to travel to Sydney, Australia, where she volunteered at St. Lucy’s School, a Catholic school for children with disabilities. Through the Posey Global program, Laurenz was also able to travel to Sierra Leone, Africa for eight weeks, working in a local hospital.

“[These opportunities] meant a lot to me, and I’m thankful to attend a school that truly cares about their students. The staff at Alma College went above and beyond to help see my visions come to life,” said Laurenz.

Laurenz has always loved traveling, and she was drawn to Alma for this reason. “I found it very fascinating that Alma offered such a variety of scholarship opportunities to support travel experiences,” said Laurenz.

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it is challenging to predict what this year might look like for travel experiences. International travel is on hold, while domestic off-campus studies must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the school’s Travel Risk Assessment Committee.

“We are trying to take things one day at a time and assess plans on a case by case basis,” Jensen said.

Jensen feels that every student should take advantage of the opportunities the Alma Venture Program provides. “I would encourage [students] to make an off-campus experience part of their academic plan for their time at Alma College,” said Jensen. “You have a lot of support to make your dreams a reality.”

According to Jensen, planning for Venture Program experiences usually begins at least a year in advance. Although students will not be able to travel very far this semester, it is not too soon to plan for future off-campus adventures.

To find more information on Alma’s Venture Program or to set up an appointment with Carla Jensen or another member of the Career and Personal Development team, students are encouraged to log into their
Handshake account (alma.joinhandshake.com).

TikTok under political fire



Disclaimer: The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Almanian or Alma College.

Over the course of this summer, we saw a new wave of social media influence take over the lives of young people. With nothing else to do, our phones became the only form of social interaction most young people had. TikTok, an already popular video creation app, lead the pack as it gained popularity over the past few months.

Whenever an app becomes so integrated into how we communicate, it has the capability to be weaponized as a political force. TikTok uses interest groups and watch times to evaluate what kind of content people like, so it was easy for political activists and popular figures to find the community that resonated with their message.

With this kind of algorithm, TikTok has created a platform of hyper-personalized media consumption. This personalization for the user shows that they have the information accessible to be able to figure out information about focus groups across the globe.

TikTok poses an interesting threat to the government, and more specifically this presidential regime. Trump’s campaign was blatantly anti-China, and TikTok was created by the Chinese media company Bytedance.

Some claim that TikTok is stealing U.S. Citizen information and selling it to foreign governments. As a college student with minimal knowledge of politics and no knowledge of data analytics, I can’t claim to know how all of this works; however, it is important to know that TikTok isn’t the only part of our lives that can be tracked.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube: all of these apps for your phone have capabilities of tracking what you interact with. All of our devices we depend on—especially in an environment of all online classes—are manufactured and programmed in Asian countries.

Even at home in the United States, as soon as a child is born, they are given a birth certificate and a social security number— two things that are used by people for the rest of their lives.

In a recent interview with Gray Television’s Greta Van Susteren, Donald Trump said that banning TikTok in the United States was one of many options the country could take to “punish” China for the coronavirus. Banning an app in order to blame an entire country for a global pandemic that is almost under control in all countries besides the United States seems to be a reelection move if I had ever heard one.

In the age of new media, we plaster our faces, our birthday’s and our private information on the internet on a daily basis. It is an active decision on our part to participate in these online mediums; however, banning the internet as a political move goes against the United States past policy on internet censorship.

The United States has always been a country that pushes for freedom of information. We don’t want the government to be able to censor what news were seeing. We are a democracy that believes all of the people here have a right to know.

If Trump bans TikTok, it sets us down a path of governmental restriction of media consumption. They could make listening to non-American musicians’ illegal. They could ban foreign films. We would be stuck in a media bubble made up of exactly what our government wants us to see—blind to the outside world.

I make TikToks, not to be famous, but to have a creative outlet when all of my other forms of creativity have been cancelled. With coronavirus, we are living in a world where social media interaction may be the only interaction.

Protests over return to in-person classes


Late at night on August 20th, over 40 protesters congregated outside of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s home in Holland, Michigan, donning signs that read “Wake up Betsy,” and “People over profit.”

Protests just like this one are happening all over the country in response to the return of students to in-person classes for the 2020/21 school year. These gatherings consist of educators, administrators and parents concerned for the health and safety of local school systems during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision-making process regarding how each school district should respond to delivering quality education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic proved a difficult and divisive task.

According to Dr. Nicola Findley, professor of education, “In Michigan, the governor and legislators presented a plan in mid-August for safe return to schools. This made it clear that the decision about in-person classes would be up to local school districts, although districts are required to submit plans for how they intend to educate students at this time.”

Because each school district implemented different plans and protocols for COVID-19, policies vary widely from district to district, as does the public’s approval.

“I think the decisions that have been made in different districts do tend to reflect local community wishes and that’s good, but any decision has pros and cons and will be met with some resistance,” said Findley.

The pros and cons of resuming in-person classes entail many different issues, a major one involving the ability of both teachers and students to follow the safety protocols prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Personally, I don’t think that allowing public schools to open was a very sound idea,” said Martin Betancourt (‘21).

“The student to teacher ratio is already eighteen to one and few classrooms are going to allow proper distancing. Hallways are also a huge problem with the class rotation and all of the students walking through. Of course, if schools do open, students and staff should be required to wear masks.”

Another highly contested matter each school district considered in their COVID-19 response plans involves whether or not quality education can be delivered via online courses.

“I think that online classes can be useful to many students, especially younger students. These kids are part of a generation that is growing with technology so adjusting would be fairly easy for them. That is, if they have the means to attend remotely,” said Betancourt.

Whether online-learning is an acceptable substitute for in-person classes proves a divisive issue among educators as much as it is among parents of students.

“Most early grade educators argue that online classes may include some helpful ways to individualize learning, provide alternative experiences, support practice and other advantages,” said Findley.

“However, they often argue that this is best done in an in-person environment with the support of a skilled teacher who has a relationship with each child.”

Regardless of how each school district responds to the coronavirus pandemic, each district crafted their unique plan with two things in mind delivering a quality education and keeping students safe.

Black lives still matter


Author’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the viewpoints of the entire campus community. Racism is a difficult topic. For more information on the Black Lives Matter movement and ways to help, visit www.blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

In the midst of America’s battle with COVID-19, the country has been reminded of a crisis within the Black community.

The Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront of many minds since the death of Ahmaud Arbery occurred in February of this year. Arbery was reported to have been on a jog when two Georgia residents chased him down and killed him. Arbery’s killers were not arrested until months after the incident had happened.

Breonna Taylor’s murder occurred in March of this year when three police officers forcibly entered her home in Louisville, Kentucky, having been issued what is known as a no-knock warrant. Taylor was shot and killed.

The police officers involved in the shooting have, in the minds of many, faced little to no repercussions for their actions. Noknock warrants have since been banned in Louisville.

Two months after the death of Taylor, George Floyd was choked to death in Minneapolis while being arrested for charges involving counterfeit money. The four police officers involved in Floyd’s killing were fired, and one was charged for Floyd’s death.

In early August, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in front of his three young children. Blake now faces partial paralysis.

These are just a few examples of the way police brutality and systemic racism come together to harm people in the Black community. In many of these examples, proper action wasn’t taken until videos of the murders circulated around the internet, causing protests to erupt across the county.

These riots and protests have been the subject of much debate; many, however argue that protesting and rioting aren’t the problem. Black Lives Matter has been a movement for much longer than the amount of time it has had in popular culture with a profound effect on the Black community and its allies.

One thing to consider is the important of this movement in today’s society.

“A lot of people like to ignore the racism that happens in this world and see us as criminals and as people that just don’t matter.”

Mirayah Thomas (’24)

“Movements related to Black Lives Matter are important in today’s society because they advocate for our voices to be heard… They motivate
us to speak out against [the] racism and oppression we may experience.”

Zoey Moore (’24)

As college students, it can be difficult and overwhelming to know how to advocate for positive change. The first step, however, is to research.

“I think students can be good advocates by doing research using as non-biased sources as possible, which means looking at news and articles that may come from sources we don’t tend to look at,” said Sophia Payne (’22).

“I think students should use the research and talk with their friends about what [they] can do to make a difference and have discussions with those who may not agree with us on why that is.”

Educational resources can be found all over the internet, as well as different organizations to donate to. Another way to be an advocate for change is to talk about the issue.

“Students can advocate for change by bringing awareness to issues, educating their peers, attending protests and amplifying the voices of activists that have been doing this work for a long time,” said Thomas Burns (‘24).

Systemic racism, while deeply ingrained into our nation’s history, can be stopped through the efforts of not only the Black community, but also its allies. With combined efforts, our country can be what it was originally meant to be—the land of the free.

Athletes tackle new pandemic protocols


At Alma College, the fall semester looks different for students this year. This is especially true for the student athletes, whose sports are currently postponed due to the coronavirus. With the hope for the postponement to be lifted in the spring season, athletes remain optimistic as they enter their fall semester without sports.

This postponement is currently hindering the play and competition of all fall sports, such as football, golf, volleyball, cheerleading and cross country. While this postponement has canceled sports competitions for the fall season, it has not canceled the sports’ season fully. There are still decisions and regulations being established within the Athletic Department.

Alma College’s Athletic Director Sarah Dehring said, “Athletics has been working very closely with the Return to Campus Committee on the protocols for a safe return to campus. We have implemented quite a few new policies that have changed throughout the past few months and government, state and NCAA guidelines change.”

With these protocols and goals in mind, Alma’s Athletic Department and facilities have taken on a new look. These safety precautions are not only put in place for the students’ safety, but to ensure a successful and safe environment for athletes in order to prepare for a return to conference seasons.

“We will have single entry and exits in the Athletic Training and weight room facilities, we have a strict sign up process to ensure that we stay under the recommended COVID capacity, we are taking temperatures prior to every practice, and we are enforcing social distancing and masking,” said Dehring.

All of these precautions are set in place to ensure that athletes, despite not having a season, still have access to all of the accommodations Alma has to offer. Even though athletes are not competing, they still have the ability to safely use the Athletic Training room as well as the weight room.

Despite athletes returning to campus under new regulations that have prohibited them from competing, it has not fully limited how they can practice.

Alma’s Head Football Coach Jason Couch said, “We are not currently practicing. We are hoping to begin socially distanced practices starting the week of Sept. 7. Hopefully, the college will secure enough tests to test student-athletes and coaches weekly. If all goes well, we could have full-contact practices in October.”

Similar to football, many sports teams have been unable to return to their normal practices due to full-contact being prohibited and social distancing required. However, practice has started for some sports as long as they adhere to the necessary guidelines. If teams continue to obey mask wearing and new regulations, conference competitions in the spring look possible.

“Being six feet apart at all times means we are not allowed to stunt or do pyramids or basket tosses, so we practice stunting by using exercise bands and holding our own shoes to mimic stunting with a person. We are able to tumble, jump, work on choreography/motions and condition, which all have been things we’ve needed to work on as a team for years, so Covid-19 has forced us to work on our weaknesses!” said Olivia Manke(‘21).

Many teams have worked hard to overcome the changes coronavirus has had on the basic structures of their season and practices. Students are coping with losing their seasons, but coaches have also had to experience watching their players go through this issue.

“I think we all went through a period of disappointment and frustration, but we can’t control it and have to learn to move past those things we can’t control. My heart aches for the seniors,” said Coach Couch.

Despite not having a fall season, the postponement of sports has pointed toward a packed spring season full of not only all of the fall sports, but the spring sports as well. Football aims to have a five-game conference in the spring, while many spring sports hope to have a full season, which was cut short at the beginning of the coronavirus.

This pandemic and postponement of sports has helped a lot of athletes have a new perspective on their sports and seasons.

“When you find yourself thinking, ‘when is practice going to be over’ remember back to when the whole season was over before we were all expecting and wishing you could practice with your team one more time!” said Manke.

Alma College has made it clear that ultimately it comes down to the students and their compliance to ensuring the safety of all. If students maintain social distancing guidelines and wear a mask, the possibility of sports being able to compete in the spring remains on the table.

“We are all in this together. Mask up, social distance, stay safe, and use this fall as an opportunity to better yourself in your sport and in the classroom. One day we will compete again and the Scots will be prepared!”

Athletic Director, Sarah Dehring


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