COVID-19 has easily taken so much from everyone. Indoor dining in restaurants has been restricted, public and recreational facilities are closed and some schools have moved their students online. Because of these limitations, many people are stuck inside of their homes to prevent spreading or catching the coronavirus.
While it is important to stay home when feeling ill, physical health is not the only health COVID-19 has affected. Studies are showing that mental health has been greatly altered. Healthing.ca stated that more than 50 percent of people have reported substantially high levels of distress specific to the pandemic.
Looking into specifics, research shows that more people are panic buying, excessively avoiding public places, and using unhelpful coping mechanisms, such as overeating and overusing drugs and alcohol. The pandemic has also been linked to a significant increase in anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychologytoday.com explained that university students show high levels of depression and increases in stress and loneliness.
“I believe that COVID-19 has, at times, negatively impacted students mentally,” said Kaelyn Wojtylko (’22). “Many students, especially those without roommates or a solid friend group, seem to be the ones impacted the most.”
UNR.edu conducted a study where they found that students are more easily bored, anxious, and frustrated during their now mostly virtual classes. It is evident that many students have lost or forgotten what their education means to them.
“So many students are having a lot of trouble learning with an online setting versus in person,” said Megan Hope (’24). “It is a lot more to keep track of.”
Many students struggle with trying to find motivation to keep up with classes and extracurricular activities. Having to keep a distance of at least six feet, constantly wearing masks, and avoiding large crowds or contact with others has caused many to feel much more disconnected from the world.
“It is super stressful trying to find ways to hang out with friends without getting in trouble for something that would normally be fine,” said Hope.
Schools and universities have had to implement restrictions and rules that many students are struggling to keep up with. It is hard to tell if these constraints will be permanently implemented, or if they are just a temporary approach to combat the coronavirus.
“I honestly hope that the restrictions are only for while we are learning more about COVID-19 and that we can go back to normal one day.” Said Wojtylko. “I find myself thinking about how things were last year compared to this year, and it kind of makes me sad.”
Not only has COVID-19 caused many students a lot of stress and mental deterioration, but it has also caused a decrease in enrollment for higher education. It is apparent that many students do not feel the need to continue to undergraduate or graduate school.
“Enrollment will likely decrease because of students not being able to keep up with the difference in learning,” said Hope. “I know some do not find going to college worthwhile if they cannot learn in person or be able to hang out with friends.”
With all that has been affected, researchers are coming out with more methods people can use to help cope with these new restrictions. The CDC released an article that provided healthy ways to
handle stress. They contributed methods like taking deep breaths, meditating, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to unwind.
While it is very important to take care of yourself during these unprecedented times, it is also important to check in on friends and family to see how they are holding up. Although in-person contact is not recommended, things like phone calls or video chats can really help a loved one feel less lonely. Try to be there for those who have loved and cared for you.
After a tense election, followed by opposition from outgoing President Donald Trump and his supporters, Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris began their first term as president and vice president on Wed, Jan. 20.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and concerns of another event like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration committee was tasked with creating a smaller, safer celebration.
Security at the event was top priority, with over 25,000 members of the National Guard on duty for the inaugural ceremony and many areas of downtown Washington fenced off.
Tickets for the ceremony were limited and a public art exhibition on the National Mall took the place of the usual crowds.
The 59th Presidential Inauguration began with a prayer service at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, the Catholic church where President John F. Kennedy’s funeral was held. Bishop William J. Barber II delivered the homily, joined by musical guests: Josh Groban, Patti Labelle and the Clark Sisters.
The Inaugural ceremonies began at about 10:30 a.m. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, followed by a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” performed by Jennifer Lopez.
The event went on to welcome Amanda Gorman, who recently became the first national youth poet laureate. Gorman read an original piece entitled “The Hill We Climb”. Country artist Garth Brooks also contributed to the celebration with his performance of “Amazing Grace”.
The new president and vice president were sworn in shortly before 12 p.m. Vice President Kamala Harris was delivered the oath of office by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court.
Harris was sworn in using a Bible that had belonged to Supreme Court justice and icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Thurgood Marshall.
As vice president Harris is the highest-ranking woman in United States history. She is also the first black person and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath to Biden, who was sworn in using his family’s 128-year-old Bible.
President Biden completed the oath of office at 11:48 a.m., with his term officially beginning at noon (the 20th Amendment states that “terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of Jan.”).
Post-inaugural events followed, including the traditional “Pass in Review,” a ceremony that reflects the transfer of power to the incoming president.
The historic day finished with a primetime special hosted by actor Tom Hanks. President Biden and Vice President Harris delivered remarks. The special featured appearances from John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and more.
The program acknowledged frontline workers and other Americans who have given back to their communities throughout the pandemic. The event also featured the first American to receive the Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trial.
Almost 40 million people tuned in to President Biden’s inaugural address, including Alma student Heather Kaatz (’24).
One of Kaatz’s favorite parts of the inauguration ceremony was listening to Amanda Gorman speak. “I thought [her poem], ‘The Hill We Climb,’ was very inspiring,” Kaatz said.
For Kaatz, the event brought a mix of excitement and relief. “As a country, we still have tons of work to do, but I feel we are taking a step in the right direction toward unification,” Kaatz said.
Kaatz is interested in how the new administration will approach the Covid-19 pandemic, “I think added restrictions and mask mandates will help allow us to get ‘back to normal,’” Kaatz said.
Samuel Nelson (’21) made sure to catch some of President Biden’s inaugural ceremony live. “[What I watched live], combined with coverage I saw through the day, struck me with a strong sense of trying to create something ‘normal’ again,” Nelson said.
For Benjamin Schall (’24), one of the best parts of the inaugural ceremony was the sense of optimism it inspired, “[It] made me feel hopeful that this administration will lead to true healing,” Schall said.
Schall is looking forward to President Biden’s approach to climate reform. “Biden is America’s current best hope for our future on this planet, and I hope that he leads the other Democrats in discussion and eventual action with finally implementing a Green New Deal,” Schall said.
On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced they would be charging former Michigan governor Rick Snyder for his role in the Flint water crisis.
Along with Snyder, seven former officials and one current Michigan official are also being charged for their roles in the crisis. Together, they’re all facing 42 counts, ranging from perjury to misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter.
Former Republican Gov. Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect, both of which are misdemeanors which will lead to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine up to $1000. This is the first time in Michigan’s history that a current or former governor is facing charges for alleged misconduct while they are in office.
According to NPR, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the investigation included pouring over “literally millions and millions of documents and several electronic devices.”
“Our work on this case begins with the understanding that the impact of the Flint water crisis cases and what happened in Flint will span generations and probably well beyond,” said Worthy.
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when the city switched its water supply. Almost immediately, the residents began complaining about the quality of the water, but city and state officials denied for months that there was a serious problem. By then, the supply pipes had gone through major coercion and lead was making its way into the water of Flint, a city where about 40 percent of residents live in poverty.
Finally, after preliminary testing revealed “dangerous” amounts of lead in the water, and an increase in lead levels being found in the children of Flint, the city reverted back to the old water supply. Unfortunately, the damage made to the pipes was irreversible. In Jan 2016, then Gov. Snyder declared a state of emergency in Genesee County, and shortly after then President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency, authorizing additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
But the damage had been done. It was estimated that 6,000-12,000 children in Flint were exposed to lead, and the whole crisis left 12 dead and over 80 sick with Legionnaires Disease.
Snyder’s attorney referred to the charges to the Detroit Free Press as “a politically motivated smear campaign”. The Detroit Free Press also reported that Snyder entered a not guilty plea that same Thursday from a Genessee County jail booth, appearing with his attorney over Zoom.
When asked about their thoughts on the charges, students at Alma College had many strong feelings.
“The Flint water crisis is still a relevant issue that this city is facing, as many people in the community were impacted,” said Maria Vostrizansky (‘24). “Even though this event took place seven years ago and was under a different administration, it doesn’t mean that those who neglected to take responsibility cannot still face the legal consequences.”
“The Flint water crisis was a tragic, easily avoidable time period caused directly by the actions of former Governor Snyder,” said Brenna Smith (‘24). “After contaminating a city with nearly 100,000 people, the punishment Snyder will only potentially be facing is laughable. Flint’s population is largely made up of people of color, many of whom already face difficulties due to housing, discrimination, poverty, and more. Snyder’s negligence was both intentional and destructive to a community struggling under the effects of systemic racism.”
On Jan 25, Snyder’s attorneys filed a formal request to dismiss the charges against him. According to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, the next court appearance for the other defendants is Feb 18.
“A $1000 fine and a year in prison is not nearly enough accountability for a man who effectively poisoned an entire city,” said Smith. “His meager punishment is a prominent display of white privilege. Snyder must have more accountability for the life-long effects his actions have caused for the people of Flint.”
Coming into this Winter semester brought many uncertainties for students, faculty and staff. Before arriving on campus, Alma College required COVID-19 saliva kits be ordered, completed and sent in for testing via FedEx on January 12.
Many students found the instructions for ordering the kits clear and concise. Confusion began when students completed their kits. Bailey Allison (‘23) said “Unfortunately, sending back the test was slightly more difficult. We did not have to register the actual kit we had received as it was already registered, but that was not on any of the instructions”. Clarification from the school followed in an email days before the kits needed to be sent back.
Sophia Romain (‘23) found the process for ordering her COVID-19 kit to be clear but did not expect that she would be tested again for COVID-19 the first week back to classes.
On December 8th, 2020, Alma College announced on their website that they had installed eight sampling pumps around north campus. Within the first week back to campus, the pumps detected COVID-19 in Mitchell and Gelston hall, thus causing all in both halls to be tested.
“Testing for Mitchell was pretty easy. I was able to go right after class and have a quick swab done. My results were in by dinner the next day” said Romain. Testing had taken place in the Hogan Center where they used a polymerase chain reaction nasal test.
On January 27th, all south campus residents were tested with PCR tests. Since south campus does not have any of the wastewater collection and testing sites, each student had to be tested individually to ensure that they did not have COVID-19.
Instructor of Environmental Studies, Murray Borrello, describes PCR tests: “Your mucous will have minute amounts of the virus (or not), so what PCR does is take a DNA fragment of a specific thing you’re looking for – Coronavirus DNA for example, and amplify it. Then, if you have a fragment of COVID-19 DNA, it can be identified with a stain or some type of marker”. Assistant Instructor of Biochemistry, Devin Camenares, adds “This makes certain sense, since both your nose and mouth are in contact with your respiratory system.”
Students arriving on campus this semester have tested negative. Knowing this, students like Romain and Allison feel at ease. “It made me feel as though we were getting back to some sort of normality. But, knowing that people have already tested positive does not bode well for us” said Allison.
Romain added that she believes that it would have been more accurate for the school to have tested students upon arrival since four to five days leaves enough time for those who are not quarantining be infected before arrival.
Murray Borrello, said “The more testing, the better. The only way to control the virus on campus is to know as soon as possible who is carrying it and isolate that person away from the general population. It is a method that works – and actually helped us have a pretty successful Fall Term. And, if I know testing is being done on a regular basis, I feel much more confident in the classroom.”
Alma College seems to be responsive to COVID-19 testing in order to have students on campus and in the classroom. Alma College is said to have spent $100,000’s of dollars on COVID-19 testing. It appears that nothing will prevent Alma College from keeping students, faculty and staff safe.
The campus community here at Alma College has undergone drastic changes since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in February of 2020. Residence Life staff, professors and students alike scrambled to adjust to the dynamic guidelines, and continue to do so every day to ensure our campus remains safe and healthy.
Many of the new campus guidelines relating to COVID-19 remain in place from the fall semester, but some new guidelines have been implemented as students settle in for the winter semester.
“We made some changes to campus policies, especially in the residence halls, to try to create better options for students to gather socially and safely,” said Residence Life staff.
Many of the new guidelines implemented on campus serve as responses to unexpected challenges the campus community faced last semester. Some students struggled to follow guidelines relating to visiting friends during these isolating times.
“When we looked at what we learned last semester, we knew that we could not safely allow students to visit each other in their rooms at this time, so we wanted to create other spaces so students can get together socially,” said Residence Life Staff.
“The solution we implemented was opening the residence hall lobbies and study rooms to all students, even if they do not live in that building. We want students to use these spaces since they are big enough to support socially distanced groups of people and give students more options during cold weather.”
Although some students struggled to follow new COVID-19-related guidelines last semester, the overall response of the campus community to new guidelines has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The majority of Alma students have been doing a great job following safety precautions,” said Residence Life staff.
“I have been impressed by the community-minded approach that many students have – you know that the decisions you make during a pandemic affect more than just yourselves. They affect your friends, professors, staff, neighbors, and families. That said, all of us make mistakes, and it helps when someone notices and gives a friendly reminder. As students, you can always help remind a friend or classmate. The conversations you have with each other can be powerful! If you notice something that is serious or that you aren’t comfortable confronting on your own, you can always share your concern with student affairs through our reporting form.”
Keeping the campus community safe and healthy can feel like a daunting task as students maneuver new testing protocols and new campus-wide restrictions as they also settle-in to new classes and schedules, but administration rewards the hard work and dedication of Alma students.
“We know that we are asking a lot to keep our campus and community safe, but we are also working hard to create some positive things on campus,” said Residence Life staff.
“Here are my top tips for this semester: Check the campus calendar for events that are happening on campus. ACUB and other groups have planned some great events for this semester, especially on the weekends. Most of these events have an in-person component and are free for all students.”
“Plan something fun with your friends in one of the lobbies. Use the TVs for a movie night, start up a game night, or just get together to talk. These spaces are for you, and we want them to be used.”
“If you need help, please ask for it. There are lots of people on campus who are here to help. If you’re not sure where to go, you can always ask an RA or raise your hand on Starfish. If you have ideas, please let us know! We can’t guarantee that everything will be possible, but we always want to hear your thoughts.”
Alma College’s campus has looked very different this past year: new restrictions being put in place, classrooms looking and behaving differently and social events being a thing of the past. The question now that must be asked is how this pandemic has affected Alma’s retention rate.
Retention rate refers to the percentage of first-year students that return to a campus the next academic year. Alma College’s retention rate of first-years in 2019 was 81.9%. The national retention rate in 2018 was 81%, so Alma has kept up with the pack when it comes to the rate at which students return.
The data regarding Alma’s current retention rates will be available by February 1st, and this will provide insight into just how large of a toll the ongoing pandemic has placed on our campus community.
While many students excitedly returned to campus following winter break, this is not the case for all.
“We have 60 students fully online this term, in comparison to 43 last term,” said Vice President of Student Affairs, Damon Brown.
The college has been working with students individually and as a whole to ensure that the education they receive is as riveting and informational as possible during these difficult and strange times. Those that chose to return to campus for the winter semester are able to continue their education either fully in-person or in a hyflex format, depending on the preference of each professor and student.
“One impactful strategy has been offering students the option to study online and working individually with each student to create an online schedule through a mixture of online, hyflex, and lecture-based courses that, in many cases, faculty have been willing to adapt to meet the needs of online students. Without an online option, we likely would’ve lost the 60 students who stayed as online-only students,” said Brown.
The hard work and dedication of professors, students and faculty have made education possible even during these unprecedented times.
While students continue to battle both rigorous courses and the pandemic, they must keep in mind that the virtual doors to Alma College’s Student Affairs office are always open.
Not only is the Student Affairs office focused on healthy students, those that fall ill to COVID-19 this semester may find that the transition from in-person and hyflex classes to completely online in isolation moves more smoothly than last semester.
“Academic Support staff gathered survey data about the experiences of students on medical leave. The data from this survey was used to optimize the student medical leave process and support to streamline communication and vary the touchpoints of support offered to students at critical times,” said Brown.
For those who aren’t ill, they may start to feel isolated and lonely as there aren’t as many campus-wide events going on nowadays. The Student Affairs office is working diligently to bring COVID-safe events and activities to campus this semester.
Activities include a campus-wide fitness challenge, academic support geared towards wellness and motivation, virtual and in-person study groups, pick-up activities and more.
“Student Affairs staff is supporting programming to increase student motivation and decrease student isolation,” said Brown.
February will bring some much-needed information to light regarding the impacts this pandemic has had on student retention rate. The college’s Student Affairs office will continue to evolve and work with students and faculty during these unprecedented times.
“There can be no turning back.” These were President Woodrow Wilson’s words when he asked Congress to declare war on Germany in early April 1917. Debates across the United States ensued concerning the extent of militarization. Over one hundred years ago – at the cost of five cents per copy – on April 10th, 1917, The Weekly Almanian opened with this question to the campus community. Will military training become a part of the regular course of the male students of the College?
The College answered with an almost unanimous agreement to prepare students and select professors for training. The writer’s introduction begins, “now that war has been declared and that real action seems imminent, it is the duty of every able-bodied man to prepare himself for the aefence of the flag, and for the liberation of the world from a German autocracy.” Life at Alma – as well as the rest of the nation – was about to change.
Name-known figures of Alma College spoke their minds in The Weekly Almanian. Dean Mitchell – known now as the name of Mitchell Hall on north campus – was hesitant to military mobilization at Alma College. He spoke to the interviewer explaining that “I don’t’ believe in military training because I think it tends to create a military caste, where the civilian has no rights such as a military man has, when it comes to respect. However, I believe it is now in order, and we ought to have it.”
However, a multitude of students and professors were in favor of training. Many of the professors quoted in the article have had prior military training and believe it to be more beneficial than athletics. Aside from the recent declaration of war, Alma College life thrived as it usually did.
The Almanian added personal touches. Advertisements of local businesses could be found between the articles’ margins. Alma College Alumni took the time to write about what they were doing and where they have been after they graduated. Wright Hall once had a section of the Weekly Almanian where students would report where they were traveling to on weekend breaks from school. Although these early editions of the Almanian were – for the most part – not that long ago, much of their language read of mannerisms and topics from a bygone era in Alma’s history.
With the addition of this new section of the paper, histories long-forgotten; of times where students would gather by the Pine River or socialize in Wright Hall; might come back. Not in a physical sense, but in something far more important than that. Remembrance.
In the words of Frank Hurst – class of 1904 – to the song “I Want to Go Back to Michigan,”
“There’s a school in Michigan,
And I often wish again,
That I was back just to live those days once more;
Then was I a student gay,
And I’d while the time away
On the river at night; by day I’d study, snooze and snore.
And lonesome soul am I,
Here’s the reason why: –
I want to go back, I want to go back,
Back to Alma College years;
Back through smiles and tears;
Back to Wright Hall and the dears;
I miss the teachers – the cruel creatures
That made me bone ’till four a.m.
They thought we came to College just for knowledge,
Nevertheless, we bluffed in classes and buzzed the lasses;
And our work was mostly play.
My heart would jump with glee
Could I but only see