Alabama abortion law discussed at Alma

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

On Mar. 10, Dr. Wasserman, Associate Chair of the History Department and Dr. Blanchard, Chair of the Religious Studies Department had a spirited discussion about abortion hosted by the Chapel. Their discussion comes at a time when it seems as if everyone has an opinion on the issue and they hoped that their open dialogue would spark more discussions between people in the future.

Dr. Blanchard defended the pro-choice point of view throughout the discussion while Dr. Wasserman defended the pro-life point of view. Both of them believe that just because two people have opposing views does not mean that they cannot come together and have a civil discussion between one another.

Their discussion comes at a time where the abortion debate has again entered the forefront of political discourse in the United States following the passage of a near total ban on abortions in the state of Arkansas.

The law, which does not have exceptions for incest or rape would ban all abortions in the state of Arkansas. It also includes penalties of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for any woman who has an abortion. The law is currently slated to go into effect on Aug. 2 barring any judicial intervention.

“Taking away women’s resources doesn’t stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions, and in those instances you’re losing two lives rather than one,” said Abigail Zerbe (‘23).

“Abortion is a healthcare and fundamental right for all women…the government has no place in a woman’s reproductive system,” said Brenna Smith (‘24).

“The first point I think is at the root of abortion is about personhood; the personhood of a fetus,” said Blanchard in her opening statements.

“The second question is who should be responsible for making a decision, who gets to decide whether a person can have an abortion?” said Blanchard.

The issues of personhood and individual choice go all the way back to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which formally legalized abortion across the United States. Since its passage Roe has faced many legal challenges including Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 which was the last direct challenge to the ruling.

“Abortion is a very difficult topic to discuss,” said Wasserman in his opening statement.

As Wasserman stated, abortion has remained a very contentious issue that many people have very strong beliefs about. Because of its direct implications on people’s lives, many people harbor strong feelings one way or the other about the issue.

“I think that people often forget the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that pro-choice is about the choice. It’s not about having an abortion but about being able to choose to do what’s best for you,” said Anika Reid (’23).

“If life starts at conception then terminating a pregnacy is the same as taking a [human] life,” said Wasserman in his defense of the pro-life argument.

The discussion between Wasserman and Blanchard continued in a civil manner and even featured questions from a few of the students who tuned into the event. The event was also moderated by Dr. Andrew Pomerville (Class of ‘01) and Chaplain of Alma College.

“I think [the topic of abortion] is necessary to model a dialogue between people who disagree on something that isn’t just spewing hatred,” said Blanchard following a student question on the importance of having an open discussion between two sides.

“We really need to step out of our personal beliefs and try to see from the other side’s point of view in order to have productive dialogue between both sides,” said Smith.

“I thought that it was important to show that with controversial [issues] like these we should be able to talk about them with one another,” said Wasserman in his concluding statement.

The event concluded with both Wasserman and Blanchard challenging others to begin a dialogue between each other on issues even if you do not agree with the other side.

Students spend spring term on campus

HANNAH STIFFLER
STAFF WRITER

Alma College has many unique and amazing opportunities. One such opportunity is the ability to take spring terms. This is set up primarily due to the 4-4-1 academic calendar year. One of the requirements that students have for graduating from Alma College is the completion of two spring terms.

One of the options for spring term is that students are required to have an “S” course completed. As stated on alma.edu, an “S” course is an “immersion in a secondary language, crossing geographical boundaries, exploring cultural/social/ethnic/economic differences outside the classroom, and applied experiences requiring extended daily interactions with instructors. Internships do not satisfy the ‘S’ requirement.”

Since COVID-19 required Alma College to switch to virtual learning back in March 2020, there have also been adjustments to requirements for spring terms. Alma College had to remove all travel opportunities for students’ safety. Many juniors and seniors did not know that they would not have the opportunity to take advantage of the required “S” course, yet the college is either waving the credit or requiring another spring term of their choosing.

For the spring 2021 term, the cost of tuition is $1,764, the cost of board is $600 and no cost for room. Additional costs may include equipment, laboratory, travel and off-campus room/board fee. The cost of spring terms should not alter a student’s decision of whether to do a spring term or not since the school has grants that students can apply for to cover part of their spring term.

The two most popular options for grants amongst students are either the P-Global program or Alma Venture program. These grants are introduced to students during their second year at Alma College and can be applied to their Junior Year Applied Experience. Eligibility and the application along with other information can be found on the Alma Venture program page on alma.edu.

Gabby Blecke (‘21) was able to use her Alma Venture grant in a different way than most students, particularly because of her inability to travel for last year’s spring term. She says, “As a result of COVID, I had the awesome opportunity to use my venture to get my CNA certification.”

Blecke plans to attend the University of South Dakota for Occupational Therapy Doctorate in the fall. In between graduating from Alma College and beginning graduate school, she plans to work in a position that allows her to use her CNA license.

It is important to remember that, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to improve, there is hope for the future of spring terms—hope for travel, learning and growth for the both the students and faculty here at Alma College.

Almost heaven, Alma College

WADE FULLERTON
STAFF WRITER

John Denver performance poster in the October 6, 1969 edition of the Almanian Newspaper. John Denver performs with acoustic guitar [LEFT]. His lyrics to his album Rhymes and Reasons [RIGHT]

A rumor has circulated campus for far too long without a clear answer. Did John Denver perform at Alma College? Did he perform Country Roads for the first time here? The answer to both of these questions is yes. And he performed not just once, but multiple times from 1969 to 1971. Although his arrival was a rumor, we can now look back and confirm his impact on campus life over fifty years ago.

American Icon, John Denver, launched his solo music career by performing in small venues and college towns across the United States. Remarkably, John Denver made one of his earliest debuts at Alma College in the Fall of 1969.

John Denver led music concerts across the United States at the height of the Vietnam War. One of those performances was right here at Alma College. In October, he performed his album Rhymes and Reasons live. A room of 800 spectators in Alma, Michigan, watched history unfold before them as John Denver sang music inspired by friendship and love. Words that would eventually work to bring home a generation fighting a war few wanted.

His lyrics were meaningful, and the Almanian called him a “poet” and “sensitive to human emotions.” John Denver was so well-received at Alma College that he would return in the Spring of 1970. There, he would play Rhymes and Reasons again. An album that exploded in popularity upon its release the previous year.

Times were changing, and the campus felt different, politically. Especially towards the war in Vietnam. Students had been conscripted into the war, and peace seemed like a distant memory. When Americans grew to oppose the war, musicians became the voice of change. Musicians like John Denver picked up their guitars and played at venues and parks to protest the war. Students especially were highly receiving of this entertainment and a cause to end the violence.

The Almanian writers – in the same edition of the newspaper – directly opposed the war in Vietnam. “The Vietnamese people have fought a long time against western imperialism. People in America must realize and condemn this imperialism to effectively oppose the war.”

John Denver sang words etched in the memory of those who remember protests against the war. “For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers. Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day.” Alma College loved his music because they saw him as a poet of their generation. The lyrics were printed in the October edition of the Almanian. Proof he performed these songs live in a casual setting before they went on album.

In 1970, John Denver returned to Alma with new songs. “The way he sings reflects all the things John Denver is.” His music was poetry, and his poetry was music. He performed Leaving On a Jet Plane on two shows on the Alma College campus. The 13th and 14th of January were sold-out performances. Crowds stood in applause and demanded an encore.

One of his last performances at Alma was in February 1971. Alma welcomed his return, and he sang Country Roads for the first time before its release in April 1971. Alma College students who attended the concert were among the first to hear that iconic song most people know today.

When he arrived, he apologized for being late. “When he got on stage, he explained that he had fought with the blizzard and that the weather had won by forcing his car into a ditch.” Country Roads may have been forgiving, but Michigan roads were not. He then promised he would do his best to give an excellent performance. He did.

Linda Heiss – former Almanian writer – described the atmosphere that John Denver created in his performance.

“The concert was informal and relaxed which made the bleachers seem more comfortable than usual. He entertained well because he wasn’t Just performing, he was expressing himself. He sang songs which were full of life and which surveyed life in our country. The second part of the program consisted mostly of songs of his beliefs concerning people, life, war and America, very poignant.”

“The crowd experienced and informed John that he had made up for being late. That they enjoyed his outstanding concert was evident by the final standing ovations he received. What can be said but…. Thank You, John Denver.”

Incredibly, John Denver performed here at Alma College. What changed? Why have the wandering musicians stopped their pilgrimage? Perhaps, when we societally adjust to life in Covid-19, more artists will emerge to sing of friendship and love. If they do, send them to Alma College.

Atlanta shooting and anti-Asian hate crimes

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

Eight people are dead following shootings at three Atlanta-area spas. Six of the victims were identified as Asian American women, raising concerns that the murders were racially motivated.

The first shooting took place shortly before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16 at Young’s Asian Massage located in Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.

The individuals killed have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.

A GoFundMe has been made for Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the only surviving victim of the attacks. He is reportedly in intensive care after being shot in the forehead, lungs and stomach.

Authorities arrested a suspect, 21-year-old, Robert Aaron Long. According to the agency, the FBI was “assisting the local investigations.”

Long was a customer of at least two of the massage parlors he attacked. Capt. Jay Baker of Cherokee County brought to light the murderer’s self-described “sex addiction,” and his claim that the attacks were not linked to racial motivations.

Baker faced criticism for appearing to sympathize with Long, stating that the attacks had been the result of “a really bad day for him.”

Long has been charged with eight counts of murder as well as one count of aggregated assault. He is being held at the Cherokee County jail.

Anti-Asian hate crimes continue to be on the rise in the United States, the UK and Australia. Tensions rose as politicians – most infamously former president Donald Trump – placed blame for the COVID-19 outbreak on China.

According to the research forum Stop AAPI Hate, there were nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents – including shunning, slurs and physical attacks – reported over the past year. At 68 percent, women make up the majority of the reports.

Growing up Asian-American, Kristina Her (’22) has often felt surrounded by racism. Her serves as the president of the Chinese club and was president of the International club for two years. She is also currently working on an Anti-Asian debrief panel with faculty members from the college.

The first time Her remembers experiencing racism was when she was in the first grade. In high school, Her noticed that her teachers were quick to insinuate her good grades were due to her race, rather than her studying habits.

Over the years, Her noticed how often her friends would joke that she was “rich” or “perfect.” “These stereotypes that seem inherently complimentary implied I do not struggle and live a perfect life,” Her said.

When Her first began her time at college, she wasn’t sure Alma was the best place for her, “Personally, I felt like Alma College did not offer anything for Asian students and was seriously considering transferring because I felt so alone.”

Her feels the best way to be an ally to the Asian community is by listening to your Asian friends and family, “Let them know you are aware what is going on [and] offer support … Give space and time for Asian Americans to mourn, to process everything that has happened [and] heal.”

“I advise you to become more self-aware of how you view Asian Americans,” Her said, “Do not wait for a person of color to teach you about white terrorism, Anti-Asian violence, xenophobia etc.”

Her’s next project is starting an Asian Student Union here at Alma. Her encourages anyone interested in joining to reach out to her. “To my fellow Asian students, do not allow others to minimize and invalidate your feelings,” Her said.

On March 24, Alma College President Jeff Abernathy sent out a statement via email in support of a message put out by the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and Women’s Issues Advisory Board.

“We must, as a country and as a community, condemn hate and violence against one another,” Abernathy said, going on to add “Every member of our community is valued, and I am committed to ensuring Alma College is a welcome and safe place for all.”

First female Scouts to achieve Eagle Scout Status

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

This past February, Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America, inaugurated a class of nearly 1,000 females into the National Eagle Scout Association. The Eagle Scout ranking is the highest ranking in the Scouts BSA program. This is the first inaugural class to include females since the organization’s founding in 1911.

This is not the first radical change to come to the Scouts BSA program in recent years. In 2019, Scouts BSA officially began accepting female membership. At that time, Scouts BSA changed their name from “Boy Scouts of America” in an effort to reflect their newly inclusive membership.

“I see this as a welcome change, especially after years of regressive and abusive sex, gender and sexuality policies by BSA,” said Dr. Prathim-Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Accomplishing the rank of Eagle Scout requires a lot of hard work on behalf of the scout, regardless of gender. Eagle Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project of choice. At the present, 2.5 million scouts have been inducted into the National Eagle Scout Association.

“Of course we should celebrate all new Eagle Scouts and the first 1,000 girl Eagle Scouts. I’m happy to know that so many girls decided to sign up, were able to thrive and made it to the pinnacle of scouting achievement,” said Dora-Laskey.

Although many feel excited about the inclusion of girls into the Scouts BSA program and the National Eagle Scout Association, many also feel concerned about the future of the Girl Scouts and the continuation of the two separate scouting organizations.

“I think girls are a valuable addition to The Scouts of America, but many families and girl scouts may not want to see their girl-centric spaces vanish,” said Dora-Laskey. “There’s plenty of research emphasizing enhanced leadership opportunities and development for girls in girl-centric spaces.”

The separation of the scouting organizations based on gender may be arbitrary in our modern society as traditional gender roles progressively recede. Additionally, the goal of both the Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA programs are very similar.

“Ultimately, both girl and boy scouts set opportunities for social interaction and encourage an appreciation of the outdoors, but because of the way we make gender so binary, we may end up reinforcing gender socializations,” said Dora-Laskey.

As the Scouts BSA and the Girl Scouts reassess who should be permitted to participate in each respective program, they may also need to reassess scouting as a whole to ensure inclusivity to all scouts and provide equal opportunities for the growth and success of participants.

“Perhaps there needs to be a mission change. What can be done to make scouting feel welcoming? Are there ways in which scouting is an activity not predicated on gender designations whether arbitrary or self-chosen as well as a place where children are encouraged to collaborate on projects and appreciate nature and do something caring every day,” said Dora-Laskey.

Regardless of how people feel about the separation of scouting organizations based on gender, the Scouts BSA program made major changes in recent years to become more inclusive to all scouts. Will the Girl Scouts follow suit in the near future?

“The Girl Scouts had always seemed like the more progressive scouting organization. They set up troops in homeless shelters, support reproductive rights, welcome transgender members, etcetera. I’m sure they can do it,” said Dora-Laskey.

Updates within the Biden administration

CLAIRE HIPPS
STAFF WRITER

Joe Biden has served as US President for nearly two months. In this period of time, he has addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign policy and the environment, all by signing over 40 executive orders.

Executive orders are not the same as laws. The Heritage Foundation says that, “an executive order is a type of written instruction that presidents use to work their will through the executive branch of government. Congress and federal courts can strike down executive orders that exceed the scope of the president’s authority.”

“A large portion of President Biden’s initial executive orders are focused on reversing policies of the Trump Administration,” said Jacob Keeley (’24), president of the Alma College Republicans. “While [it is] within the powers of the President to take such steps, it is important to note that a Presidency based on undoing… sets a dangerous precedent [and leaves] the nation stagnant in terms of leadership and divided politically.”

Biden, as promised, has enacted policies to combat the effects of the pandemic. First, Biden signed a $1.9T relief package which extends unemployment aid, distinguishes the first $10,200 in jobless benefits tax free and allocates $20B for vaccine distribution. Lost in this provision was the minimum wage increase, which House democrats were hopeful to pass.

Biden has also allocated $250M to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination in underserved populations, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Biden has also taken foreign policy action. He has placed sanctions on Myanmar with the support of the UN and has ordered airstrikes against Syria, escalating tensions in already-stalling negotiations with Iran.

“President Biden’s executive order taking economic action against those involved with the military coup in [Myanmar] was an important action for the United States to take,” said Keeley.

The strikes in eastern Syria were reportedly in response to Iran-backed militias who instigated a rocket attack on Feb. 15 which harmed American citizens. Despite this, Biden still intends to reopen negotiations regarding the Iranian nuclear deal tabled by the Trump administration, according to the NY Times.

Biden’s environmental agenda aims to guide the US towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Climate-related executive orders included, but were not limited to, directing 40% of federal sustainability investments to disadvantaged communities, rejoining the UN Paris Agreement and WHO and halting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. These policies were popular with activists on the left and generally disliked by Senate republicans.

“[Biden’s steps] to stop the U.S’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization… should be [a unifying] factor for the country; however, it is important that President Biden recognizes and grants the republican minority party opportunities… to voice its input and make suggestions on these matters,” said Keeley.

Biden’s Presidential campaign was largely based on unity and bipartisanship. Despite the high volume of executive orders, many remain hopeful that compromise and the interests of everyone will remain at the forefront of his priorities.

“The Alma College Republicans stand by the President as he attempts to lead the charge for unification,” said Keeley on behalf of the Alma College Republicans. “Unity in the United States requires President Biden to…establish policy that works for all Americans”

Positive Updates 3/15/21

LIZZY DERMODY
PHOTOGRAPHER

This Wednesday celebrates the 390th St. Patrick’s Day, with the earliest known celebration being held on March 17, 1631 along with history dating the holiday back more than 1,500 years. As many already know, common symbols of this Irish holiday include the shamrock, the leprechaun, rainbows, pots of gold and, of course, the color green. Many of these symbols originated from Irish myths and religion. For example, the shamrock was a sacred plant that symbolized the arrival of spring, according to the Celts. But one symbol has an interesting and fun history, earning them their own holiday on March 13th – the leprechaun. Leprechauns are likely based on Celtic fairies, which are small bodied men and women who use magic for good and bad. Usually, these “fairies” were depicted as cranky old beings responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies while using trickery to get the “pot of gold”. So remember to where green on Wednesday to show support for the “little guys”!

The importance of celebrities

HADEN GROSS
STAFF WRITER

According to Brady United, roughly 316 people are shot everyday in the United States. Of these 316, on Feb 25, was Ryan Fischer, Lady Gaga’s dog walker. Fischer sustained a bullet wound to the chest and was met with millions of Instagram comments expressing sympathy.

Fellow celebs called him a hero, telling him how amazed they were with his bravery. When scrolling through the comments, one in particular stuck out. The comment told Fischer that he was a “Hero of History,” and I can’t help but wonder if that is the society we now inhabit. Do we all believe that one man’s survival of a bullet wound makes him heroic? Or is it because he was Lady Gaga’s dog walker?

“When something tragic happens to someone who is famous it’s akin to a family friend experiencing a tragedy.” Said Elizabeth Pecota (’22).

“There is a lot of tragedy that happens across the country on an hourly basis, but these cases that are very real to those experiencing or in proximity to the situation; however, they are only a statistic to everyone else. Unfortunately, without that personal connection, we feel sympathetic or apathetic.”

The godlike worship that is placed on celebrities and their extremities seems to have become the societal norm. Regarding every celebrity as a watered-down hero seems to be indicative on what is valued as important.

To be clear, nobody deserves to be shot, and Ryan Fischer, just as everyone else, should be given the time and space to heal from that traumatic experience. However, it should be noted that he is only receiving this time because he is in the favor of the public eye. Where is the heart filled messages and money dedicated to the recovery of the other 315 victims?

“Not to shoot a man while he’s down, but the only the only reason Ryan’s shooting has reached any level importance is due to the fact that his boss goes by the name of Lady Gaga.” Said Bennett Hendrickson (’24),

“What Ryan did was a circumstance thing, it’s nothing that is heroic or historic. The only thing pushing this story is his boss and her Grammy’s.”

The deeper question lies within the importance we place on celebrities, and how it parallels with a classist society. Social media is filled with stories similar to Fischer’s and is overflowing with other trivial grievances. Keeping up with the Joneses has morphed into Keeping up with the Kardashians as we progress in this digital age.

“I believe the reason why we are so concerned about celebrities is because they become so close to the American family opposed to the average man.” Said Pecota (’22), “We can put a face to the name and we become enamored with them as they entertain our family. We feel like we know these people despite never meeting them.”

As celebrities continue to be highly regarded, it is important to question why. Why is the life of Ryan Fischer perceived as more important than the lives of other dog walkers? Or why do we as people care so deeply about the lives of people we do not know?

“I think we want to be them, we look at their nice fancy cars, and massive houses and cant help but admire. They are living these perfect lives and we are now able to see how they are living it at all times with social media. So, we can’t help but be in awe of them,” said Hendrickson.

Much of what Hendrickson and Pecota say rings true. Through media platforms, our society has made connections to these famous strangers, giving them a sense of importance in our lives. We want to be them, know them and act like them, that is why we glorify them. They are no longer people, but standards.

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