Alma proceeds with second round of COVID testing

ELLA BRIGHT
STAFF WRITER

New rounds of COVID-19 testing for students, faculty, staff and contract workers began on Monday, Sept. 14 and continued into Thursday, Sept. 17. The testing was conducted on the Dunning Memorial Chapel lawn and was held each day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Testing was split between students alphabetically according to last name. It was conducted in the same way it was when students moved onto campus: polymerase chain reaction via a nasal swab. The testing was completely free to students and mandatory to attend.

Similar to the first round of testing, students would not be informed if they tested negative. They would only be informed if they tested positive for COVID-19. Students who are attending Alma solely online and are not student athletes were not required to be tested.

This new round of testing was not a surprise to most students at Alma; though necessary, it was not necessarily welcomed with open arms. “The first time we did it, I had my mom to hold onto,” said Mishaye Hearn (‘24). “[The test] became so painful to the point where I was physically taking his wrist off me.” When asked how she felt about this new round of testing, Hearn honestly said, “I’m terrified!”

Kara Sutherland (‘24) shared some of the same fears. “[I’m] nervous,” said Sutherland.

She also shared how she felt these tests were necessary. “[It’s] necessary to make sure that the measures that have been taken to protect the students are accurate and proven effective,” said Sutherland. “I am ready and capable to be tested again.”

Hearn also shared that, despite her fears, she felt this new round of testing was extremely important. “It’s a 50/50 thing,” said Hearn. “I know it’s necessary, so I’m okay with it.”

The testing followed an email from President Jeff Abernathy on Friday, Sept. 11, that stated there was recently an increase in likely cases. The email said that while ‘unfortunate’, this uptick in cases was ‘not entirely unexpected’ after the Labor Day weekend.

As of Sept. 17, there were 17 positive cases on campus. As a result of the recent uptick in cases, all non-classroom activities were limited to no more than 25 people. President Abernathy stated in the email that once all the campus-wide testing results were received, this restriction will be reviewed.

At the end of his email update, President Abernathy stressed the importance of social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands, completing the daily health screening form and staying home if you are feeling sick.

“It’s up to those of us who are not in isolation or quarantine to stay focused and serious about COVID-19, so as to not overwhelm our campus resources and the local healthcare system,” said the email.

With rising cases in schools all over Michigan, this campus-wide testing will provide a clearer picture of what further steps Alma needs to take in order to ensure the safety of students, staff and community.

“I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and what we’re told to do, we should be able to get back to some sort of normalcy,” said Sutherland.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

CLAIRE HIPPS
STAFF WRITER

In accordance with the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, September is Suicide Prevention Month—a time to circulate mental health resources and engage in discourse regarding suicide in order to help those struggling understand that they are not alone.

Suicide is extremely deadly amongst college populations. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34,” yet there is a significant stigma against mental health in America.

“[The] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)…gave the impression that mental health was based on controllable behaviors [when it was published in 1952],” said Linda Faust, a licensed master social worker in the Wilcox Center for Counseling and Wellness. “Mental health has been viewed as more personal or negative than a physical illness would be.”

Stigmatization of mental disorders has had numerous consequences.

“[Stigmas have lead to a] reluctance of seeking treatment, bullying or intimidation of others [and] difficulty getting health insurance to cover treatment,” said Faust.

Unsurprisingly, many individuals experiencing suicidal ideation do not reach out for help. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, only 46% of suicide victims have been diagnosed with a mental disorder while 90% of suicide victims experienced symptoms of mental disorders. It is therefore important to be aware of how suicidal ideation comes about, and how we can best support ourselves and those around us.

In addition to common risk factors, such as chronic pain or a family history of mental disorders/substance abuse/suicide attempts, college students face additional stressors.

“In college age populations, that being 18-22, there is quite a bit of transition going on,” said Maggie Magoon, a lecturer in the psychology department. “Changes can be [positive] or negative and can cause stress. There is also sometimes a cultural shock, coming to campus and being away from friends, family and ‘normal’ structure.”

Some college-specific stressors facing students include heightened independence, alienation from peers and increased access to illegal substances. There are also many traumatizing and dangerous experiences that may or may not take place in college.

Knowing these things, action can be taken in order to nurture positive mental health practices. Internally, suicidal ideation and tendency can occur as the result of many different forces.

“Since mental illness can manifest itself in many different ways, I think it is important to pinpoint your struggles and be honest with yourself,” said Asia Patterson (’21).

According to the Suicide Prevention Center, up to 87% of suicides are impulsive (unplanned) attempts.

“Even right now is hard, understand that it won’t be that way forever,” said Patterson. “Emotions are temporary.”

It can also help to foster positivity. “If there is something negative happening, it is okay. We have negativity in our lives,” said Magoon. “The problem occurs when you begin to ruminate or obsess about that negativity. A positive viewpoint in life can help in so many ways.”

Lastly, understand that productive mental, physical, and social practices are key in managing stress and combating suicidal ideation.

“It sounds very simplistic, but the top three recommendations for being mentally healthy are sleep well, eat well, and exercise,” said Magoon. “Additionally, social contact is a protective factor against suicidal ideation.”

Remember to be kind to yourself, and find someone you trust to confide in.

“Whenever I find myself [struggling with something], there is a lot of realizing that… I can’t always change it but I can learn and grow from it,” said Ryan Calhoun (’24).

As human beings, we often underestimate the impact our lives have on those around us. All human lives have intrinsic value and those struggling with mental illnesses are no different.

Our Student Chapter of Active Minds is a club focusing on Mental Health Education, Awareness and Suicide Prevention. September 21 at 7 pm via Zoom, Active Minds will feature John Tessitore of the JCK Foundation, who will discuss his mental health journey.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, know that there are resources for you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HELLO to 741741. The Counseling Center is open Monday – Friday 8:30 – 5 pm, closed from noon – 1pm for lunch.

They offer free sessions, up to 14 an academic year and it is completely confidential. With having three full-time counselors, students can typically get am appointment within the week. If it is a more urgent matter, there are 2 crisis hour appointments offered per day. Simply email Wellness@Alma.edu or call 989-463-7225.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

LIZZY DERMODY
STAFF WRITER

September is the month for “National Happy Cat Day” and “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”, but what makes it most special is that it celebrates Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time to recognize and support the children and families who have been affected by this disease and emphasizes the importance of research for the cure. Cancer is bad enough without it affecting children who already cannot advocate for themselves. Cancer affects everyone in some way – you or someone you know has most likely received a cancer diagnosis. I was a kid with cancer. I was fourteen when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had a front row seat to the effects of this disease. I underwent both chemotherapy and radiation treatments over 6 months and was declared cancer-free! I was lucky, but many children are still in the fight for their lives. It is up to us to help find the cure! I encourage you all to donate to the American Cancer Society. Something as simple as wearing gold for childhood cancer or the ribbon color of a cancer that has affected you, can make a difference. Go Gold for the Cure! Scan the QR code to donate now!

More than a challenge

HADEN GROSS
STAFF WRITER

Cries for change could be heard all around the world Aug 5 as Turkish women took to the streets chanting “The choice is ours, the decision is ours, the night is ours, the streets are ours!”. These women were protesting President Erdogan’s consideration to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention: a pact to end gender-based violence.

Women taking action against gender-based violence has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2019 a total of 419 women were murdered, the death tolls this year have reached 201 women according to Balkan Insight.

“The coalitions the protest has engendered have been heartwarming and inspiring–activists are working across party lines in Turkey to protest systemic violence against women.” Said Professor of English and Gender Studies Maya Dora-Laskey. “Further when prominent detractors have cited their opposition of LGBTQ values as the reason for the withdrawal, activists have refused to let themselves be conned by this sort of patriarchal divide-and conquer tactic.”

The protests, however, did not just take place on Turkish soil, many American women took to social media in support of the convention. Hundreds of celebrities and other women posted black and white photos of themselves with the caption #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. This challenge, however, sparked major controversy according to CNN, it was said to be distracting from the actual social justice issue occurring.

“I think the Instagram challenge is really good for raising awareness, but it immediately ends there,” said Kate Stymiest (’21), “Raising awareness is only the first step and these challenges give online social justice warriors an easy way out.”

The social media challenge has changed many forms over the last few days, many claiming that any awareness is still awareness.

“While there have been charges leveled against those who participated in the photo “challenge” that range from co-optation and slacktivism to narcissism, the B&W challenge was reported to have generated 8.5 million posts,” said Dora-Laskey, “That is a lot of attention and awareness generated for an important cause that is often ignored. I’m notoriously camera-shy and have found other ways to contribute; but I’m proud and happy for those who participated–any level of participation is better than apathy.”

This social justice movement is not the first of its kind, Turkish Feminists have called for change since 1930. Their need for emancipation created the Turkish Women’s Union and banded together with the IAW (International Alliance of Women) who held their convention in Turkey circa 1935.

According to the IAW the convention served as a merge between western and eastern feminists. The conventions goal is to address systematic violence and aims to prevent domestic abuse leading to mass femicide. In the following years, the convention gained many rights for women across the globe thus, bolstering civil liberties for Turkish women.

Speaking on topics such as Sex Trafficking, Domestic violence and a plethora of laws that hinder women’s rights. In recent years Turkish woman have rallied and called for change in unfair dress codes, domestic violence, and the rising murder rate within the country.

When asking faculty and staff at Alma what they believed would happen if Turkey was to pull out of the convention, a barrage of hypotheses was given with relatively the same result.

“Turkey has a long history of constitutional rights for women (since 1930!) so this development is particularly unfortunate and made even more so by the fact that the withdrawal the Turkish government is contemplating was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul and is popularly known as the Istanbul Convention!” said Dora-Laskey.

“Any refusal to enact or stay apart of legislature that protects women will leave women more vulnerable than they are already are,” said Stymiest. “The protection of women needs to be at the forefront of every policy in every country and failure to do so will leave women left out and in turn, keep the whole country in arrears.”

Ways you can help Turkish women would be signing the petition to keep the convention on Change.Org.

According to KQued, the Women Against Child Sexual Abuse has also put together a letter and provided the emails of representatives from the Central Executive Committee of the Justice and Development Party, in effort to keep the Istanbul Convention.

Alma secures sixth consecutive award win

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

For the sixth consecutive year in a row, Alma College continues its legacy of having a student earn the Tom Renner Associate award. This award is given each year to one undergraduate student for the student’s successful service as a top sports information student in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, MIAA. This year the award was given to Alma’s 2020 graduate, Mason Ippel(’20).

“The Tom Renner Associate SID Award is presented to a student assistant at an MIAA member college sports information office for outstanding service as an undergraduate” said Alma College’s Sports Information Director for the Athletic Department, Matthew Moran. “It is named in honor of Tom Renner, the MIAA publicist from 1967-2008.”

In order for a student to be considered, they need to not only be a sports information student, but nominated by the school’s sports information director. Once being nominated, the student is then competing against other students, who were selected and within the MIAA conference. From there, the winner of the award is selected in the summer following the school year.

The Tom Renner award is given to students for their outstanding performance within their school’s sports information office and the work conducted within that office for some of the college’s teams.

“I worked directly with the sports information director for all four years at Alma” said Ippel. “My final year I was brought on as a student assistant to work more closely with the day-to-day operations and to have another level of responsibility. My responsibilities included recording stats for all sports, setting up the press box before games and tearing it down after, writing and distributing game day flyers, communicating with officials and covering wrestling and baseball more closely to write post game recaps.”

Each student worker would have their own specific responsibilities. In fact, Ippel even took his responsibility as an assistant outside of the office. He travelled with Alma’s baseball team on their spring break for their games in Florida.

“Mason worked insanely hard for it” said senior sports information student, Hunter Chovanec(’21). “He would be working in the office after football practice, in the morning and would stay late at night if asked. Mason never complained and was always ready to attack whatever project came to us. He had great enthusiasm and he made me a better worker/person along the way.”

Although Ippel was selected for the award in his senior year and for his many contributions to the college, many note the endless qualities he possessed to earn the award. Beyond his contribution to teams’ social media posts and videos as well as statistics and game recap analysis, Ippel possessed the necessary attitude to not only get work done in the sports information office, but to make him a stand out candidate through his dedication to the program.

“Mason is someone you love to have on your side” said Moran. “He is a leader and hard worker. He always has a positive attitude. He learned how to keep the statistics for many of the sports we have at Alma and you could trust they would be correct. He also has a great passion for sports and for creating engaging content on social media.”

Along with his drive and dedication to the program, Ippel always had his eyes set on achieving this award. It is something he had set out to earn for himself and the college.

“I was pretty excited to win the award” said Ippel. “It was definitely a goal of mine. It was a goal for the office, as well, to have someone win it because someone from Alma has won it 6 years in a row now.”

As mentioned earlier, Ippel is not the first Alma college student to earn the Tom Renner award. He is the sixth-consecutive winner of the award for the college. The first winner of the award was Brent Willis(’10) in 2010.

However, the six year streak for recipients at Alma started in 2015 with Grace Wheeler(’15) and was followed by Brad Vannatter(’16), Ali Holmquist(’17), Harrison LaLone(’18), Emily Jodway(’19) and Ippel.

“The Sports Information Department relies on our student-worker staff to help with the game day experience for every home athletic event, keeping the website up to date and creating video/content” said Moran. “We have been lucky to have students that come here with a passion for athletics and then after gaining experience in sports information they want to pursue it as professional career.”

With Ippel securing the tradition of Alma winning the Tom Renner award, the sports information office aims to continue helping students have access to working in a sports information field. Chovanec hopes to keep the tradition alive through his work at the sports information office and his work with Ippel by earning the award after his senior year.

“If I ever need advice I know [Ippel] is a call or text away, but this was also a team effort” said Chovanec. “Every student in this office works hard. If they gave an award for top sports information office, I believe ours would be right there in contention. Go Scots!”

(A) Historic summer

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

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

CLAIRE HIPPS, JACOB SMITH
STAFF WRITERS

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.

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