Supportive or intrusive: there’s a “Fine Line”



With out-of-the-box red-carpet looks and energetic performances, Harry Styles finds himself the center of attention at most music award shows. This year at the Grammys though, a comment Styles made had many fans making assumptions about the artist’s gender identity and sexual orientation, which are, frankly, nobody’s businesses.

In his acceptance speech for Album of the Year, Styles said, “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often.” What exactly does this mean? As it turns out, even the most dedicated “Harries” can’t answer that, but they sure did speculate.

Some Twitter users assumed Styles was referring to the immense success he has had as a solo artist following his boyband years. Others guessed Styles was referencing his humble beginnings, pointing out how other nominated artists have grown up with connections, while Styles was discovered on The X Factor UK.

But perhaps the most widely believed fan theory is that the comment was meant to be a confirmation that Styles is part of the LGBTQ+ community, a rumor that has circulated for several years.

The fascination with Styles’s sexuality and gender is an unusual aspect of the artist’s fan following, but unfortunately, an increasingly large number of fans seem to feel that Styles owes them some sort of explanation.

Regardless of Styles’s sexual orientation or gender identity, it is harmful to imply that he must be “out” for his experiences to be valid. And no matter what kind of platform someone has, they do not deserve to be pressured to come out.

In recent years, Styles has rejected gender stereotypes in fashion, donning traditionally feminine clothing for performances, red carpets and magazine covers.

Styles has been accused on multiple occasions of “queerbaiting,” or using the suggestion of being part of the LGBTQ+ community in his work despite not openly identifying as a member.

Calling someone’s behavior “queerbaiting” implies a belief that people must label themselves in a way to be able to express their sexuality, which just isn’t true. People’s experiences and the way they choose to express themselves should be valid regardless of labels.

What fans might not know is that, in labeling Styles and other artists as “queerbaiters,” they are potentially causing harm to people outside of the public eye who do not feel ready, safe or comfortable coming out.

It is entirely possible that Styles is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and he does not feel comfortable coming out, or he doesn’t really know how he identifies. Maybe he just wants to keep this aspect of his life private. That’s okay too.

Aside from the “queerbaiting” accusations, a lot of the dialogue surrounding Styles’s gender identity and sexual orientation is actually quite supportive, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary.

Fans have to respect that, no matter how connected they may feel with Styles through his art, they don’t have a right to know details about his personal life, including his gender identity and sexual orientation.  

So, if Styles does someday come out, in a public, formal way (probably not with a vague comment at the Grammy’s), we should absolutely support and celebrate that. But until then, let’s just let him do his thing. He doesn’t owe us a label or an explanation.

Alma Biggby Coffee accused of discrimination



The Alma and St. Louis Biggby Coffee stores are facing backlash following the new owners’, Erin and John Fitzgerald, decision to no longer allow students from Alma Public Schools’ Moderately Cognitively Impaired (MoCI) program to work in their Alma location.

Through this program, which was started by the Gratiot-Isabella Regional Educational Service District (GIRESD) students have had the opportunity to help out at several Gratiot County businesses.

Alma College Assistant Professor/Director of Academic Grants Support, Sheryle Dixon’s daughter is a part of the MoCI program. Dixon has enjoyed seeing Katie and her classmates excel in this program. “My daughter loved doing inventory, which I just find amazing,” said Dixon. “I didn’t know she could do that, but she can.”

Dixon feels that getting the students out in the community is important not only for the students, but for the community as a whole. Over the years, Biggby customers have grown accustomed to seeing the students working at the coffee shop.

“[The students] love being out there with the community, and [people] will tell me ‘Oh, I saw [Katie] at Biggby’ . . . And it’s wonderful.”

“We started about six years ago with a previous owner and she was amazing . . . she just welcomed us with open arms. And the kids loved being there,” said Dixon.

Things changed though, when John and MaryAnne MacIntosh, who brought the popular coffee chain to Alma in 2013, sold the franchise to Erin and John Fitzgerald.

According to Dixon, the Fitzgerald’s told the program staff they could continue to bring the MoCI students to Biggby to work. When the owners decided to move the store into another location, the students’ teacher Maureen Henry reached out to confirm this information.

“[They] called and called and called and [the Fitzgerald’s] wouldn’t respond… So [the staff and students] went,” said Dixon. “[They were] told to leave.”

“And . . . the aids didn’t know what to do other than leave. [Henry] went [into the store] . . . and asked if there had been something that happened or [if] something had gone wrong. [John Fitzgerald] said no, and they just, quote ‘were no longer interested in having the students work there,’” said Dixon.

“[Fitzgerald] also stated that they moved into the [new] building and they wanted a fresh start,” said Dixon. “[Henry] asked if there was a way they could figure something out . . . and once again he said ‘We are no longer interested in having you here.’ I mean, can we talk ableism?”

Dixon is grateful for the outpouring of support from the Gratiot County community. Other local businesses have even reached out with interest in partnering with the program.

While Dixon is happy to see something positive come from the situation, she also knows how much the students enjoyed working at Biggby and realizes that support on social media does not make up for losing that opportunity.

“Most the kids won’t understand this . . . They’ll just know that, today, they can’t go to Biggby though. That’s the sad part,” said Dixon.

The Fitzgerald’s commented on the situation via their Alma Biggby Facebook page, calling the accusations the result of “misunderstandings.”

“. . . We are confused and saddened at the recent stories on social media, and we truly regret any misunderstandings we may have contributed to regarding our support of GIRESD specifically, and individuals with disabilities generally,” said the post.

The post went on to say that the Fitzgerald’s planned to continue their partnership with the MoCI program but had requested a temporary pause.

“About two weeks ago, due to our move to the new location and in order to confirm adequate insurance, should any members of the program get injured while at the store,” said the post. “[We] requested a temporary hold on the program . . .”

“We will not be providing additional responses to specific allegations but wanted to at least address the issue and clarify our position,” said the post.

The Almanian reached out to Biggby Coffee of Alma, but they declined to comment.

Taking a ‘Wrecking Ball’ to double standards




Following album releases from Taylor Swift and SZA and Miley Cyrus’s single, ‘Flowers,’ women are dominating the music charts and breaking records. Often though, the public’s focus is not on the art itself, but rather on the personal lives of the artists.

When Miley Cyrus released ‘Flowers,’ a track that plays on the lyrics of Bruno Mars’s 2012 hit ‘When I Was Your Man’ on Jan. 13–her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth’s birthday–it was hard to deny the singer’s intentions.

Many fans were quick to point out that the ‘Flowers’ music video appears to contain “Easter eggs” that hint at details about Cyrus’s relationship with Hemsworth.

Whether or not the aspects of the video fans perceive as clues really mean anything, it’s critical that we look past these details and appreciate Cyrus’s art for what it is, not who its subject is. Weeks after the song’s release, fans have not been able to do this.

Cyrus can’t even release a song about self-love without fans putting most of their attention on a man. It speaks volumes that Cyrus’s lyrics were inspired by a song by Bruno Mars, a pop artist whose love life has never been under such a microscope.

However, Cyrus isn’t the only female artist whose work has been subject to the “Who’s it about?” game. Throughout Taylor Swift’s career, the public has been asking this exact question.

Swift’s re-released albums prove that, even years later, her songs are not allowed to speak for themselves. The public feels that they must know the details of every romance that inspired her lyrics.

“Jake Gyllenhaal is finally able to sleep at night now that Liam Hemsworth is the most hated man on the internet,” said Twitter user @Brooke_Paige15, calling out Swift’s ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal–whom she dated almost 13 years ago, mind you–and Hemsworth.

And yet, male artists like Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran have penned track after track about mystery women. In a 2017 interview with The Zach Sang and the Gang Show, Styles opened up about his desire to keep the meaning behind his songs private.

“I think the best thing about music is everyone can take away different things from stuff, and that’s not wrong, there’s not really a wrong answer,” said Styles. “I feel like [with] a lot of my favorite songs that mean something to me, I’d be disappointed if someone told me that they were about something else. It might ruin the song for me.”

Coming from Styles, this response, albeit disappointing perhaps to die-hard fans of the singer, is respectable. Styles’s music is viewed as art above all else. Swift’s music is viewed as insight into personal life first and as art second.

Cyrus’s ‘Flowers’ is not the “Liam Hemsworth song,” Swift’s album Red is not the “Jake Gyllenhaal album.” Every pop artist writes about relationships, heartbreak and even marriage. The difference, though, is that the work created by men in the industry is not defined by these themes and they’re certainly not defined by their subjects.

So when we get bored with wondering exactly how many women Hemsworth allegedly cheated on Cyrus with, we’ll actually talk about the song, right?

It isn’t that easy, because when the ‘Flowers’ rumors are old news, Taylor Swift might top the charts again with a surprise release or SZA might make a triumphant return. And while fans could celebrate the success of all these women, the reality is, they won’t.

Why do Ariana Grande fans and Taylor Swift fans take to Twitter to argue about who is the superior artist but when Harry Styles and Swift are neck-in-neck in the charts, it is totally acceptable?

The fact is, we are not comfortable seeing multiple women vying for the top spot. And if we have to see multiple women succeeding, it at least can’t be a friendly competition. We imagine that these women can’t possibly be happy about the success of other women in the industry.

Younger pop artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Sabrina Carpenter are not next. It is already happening. Rodrigo’s debut single, ‘Drivers License,’ garnered attention for its subject and Carpenter was promptly villainized for “stealing” Rodrigo’s boyfriend. Both artists have been under scrutiny.

We have to recognize the double standards at play when we discuss pop music and shift our perspective away from the artists’ personal lives and relationships.

McCarthy elected Speaker of the House



Following a historic 15 rounds of voting and negotiations with other members of his party, California Republican Kevin McCarthy secured the position of speaker of the United States House of Representatives over New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. 

In the first round of voting, 19 House Republicans cast their vote for Republicans other than McCarthy. In the second round of voting, the same 19 Republicans opposed McCarthy, voting instead for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio. 

While Jordan, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, worked to convince the 19 voters to support McCarthy instead, on the third round of voting, the same 19 voters and one additional Republican voted for Jordan. 

In the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of voting, the same 20 Republicans voted for Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, with one additional member voting “present.” 

In the seventh through 11th rounds of voting, 20 Republicans withheld their support for McCarthy, and one voted “present.” Colorado Representative Ken Buck did not vote in rounds nine through 11. 

By the 14th round, all but six of the 21 Republican voters, who had initially opposed McCarthy or voted “present” had changed their votes. 

In the 15th round, the final six Republicans voted “present,” lowering the number of votes necessary for McCarthy to win.

Benjamin Peterson, Lecturer of Political Science and History watched televised coverage of the process. “As a political spectacle it was really quite amazing,” said Peterson. “I spent more time watching C-SPAN that week than ever before.” 

“The freedom that news reporters had to film whatever they wanted during the debate really highlighted the drama because you could see negotiations taking place in real time,” said Peterson. 

“. . . When McCarthy convinced Gaetz to change his vote to ‘present’ — and thus allow his nomination to move forward by changing the number of people voting for a candidate — was really one of the most striking things I have ever seen,” said Peterson. “It really brought home that these were real people in an extremely fluid and stressful situation.”

“. . . The balance of power and lack of bipartisanship in Washington ensures that . . . only the minimum will get done in Congress until 2024 anyway. I suspect if the Republicans had a chance of passing major legislation this session, they would have been a lot more willing to compromise,” said Peterson. 

“The anti-McCarthy faction made a calculation of risks and rewards and weakening McCarthy to gain more leverage ended up making good sense as their agenda will stall in the Senate anyway,” said Peterson. 

Like Peterson, Political Science major, Ryan Claypool (’23) kept up with the election process.

“As a political science student and political consultant, I regularly keep up with our government institutions and its processes,” said Claypool. “My first political volunteer work was with John James (MI-10) who gave a passionate nominating speech on McCarthy’s behalf for the seventh ballot.” 

“The small bloc of ultraconservative members has discredited the beginning works of a GOP legislative agenda which will leave them with less pull in negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate in conference committees or the White House,” said Claypool.

Alma College chapel holds holiday service



On Sunday, December 4, Alma College’s Dunning Memorial Chapel held a holiday service, “Lessons and Carols”. 

Unlike the chapel’s normal services, the holiday service did not follow the traditional service order. Instead, the event featured Christmas carols and seasonal scripture readings. 

According to Associate Protestant Chaplain Katrina Pekich-Bundy, the chapel staff and volunteers put a lot of planning and rehearsal into the special holiday event. 

“I [played] in a trio for the service, [and read] a passage of scripture . . . Students [chose] hymns and scripture for this service, and we have many talented musicians who participate who are staff and students,” said Pekich- Bundy. “This is a service with many moving parts, so it is often rehearsed in advance.” 

Pekich-Bundy feels it is important for members of the campus community to be able to come together to celebrate the holiday season. 

“The Christmas season and story are important to Christians, and it is equally important we experience it as a community,” said Pekich-Bundy. “Some students have that community at a local congregation where they will go home over break, but some do not. This service allows the Alma College Chapel community to celebrate Christmas together.”

Regardless of the kind of role you want to play in the events, Pekich-Bundy believes there is a place for anyone who wants to get involved in chapel activities and everyone is welcome. 

“If a student is interested in chapel activities, we’d love to have you join us. Students can follow us on social media and request to be added to the Chapel email list,” said Pekich-Bundy. “There are many opportunities to use your gifts, such as musicians, liturgist, hospitality and more. Feel free to reach out to myself or Rev. Alissa Davis.” 

Elizabeth Vredevelt (’24) has volunteered at the chapel since her first year at Alma College. This year, Vredevelt is excited to be an official chapel staff member. 

“[I was] involved with the worship planning side of the service which [consisted] of coordinating musicians and rehearsing for the special occasion,” said Vredevelt. Vredevelt is grateful for the opportunities she has had through spiritual life at Alma College.  She feels these experiences have helped her through the challenges that can come with being a busy college student. “Through my time at Alma, being involved in chapel and worship has kept me grounded in my faith and helped centered me,” said Vredevelt.

“It’s easy to lose a sense of identity in college when there are so many changes and stress around us as students. Being involved in something like chapel encourages us [to] focus on something bigger than ourselves.” Vredevelt encourages other students to attend spiritual life events. No matter what you want to take away from the experience, Vredevelt believes these events are worthwhile resource for many students.

“Spiritual life at Alma is truly whatever you make of it and will meet you where you’re at. If you need to come and just be encouraged, you are welcome to observe and heal,” said Vredevelt. “If your cup is full and you’re ready to give back through volunteering or serving, opportunities abound. All are welcome at the table.”

Justice Cuddie (’25) has enjoyed the opportunity to work on multiple chapel related projects throughout their time at Alma College. 

“I have been involved with Chapel since day one here at Alma. I worked with the Interfaith program last year, I volunteer when it’s available and I attend services often,” said Cuddie. “I have led worship gatherings and was also a part of Rev. Alissa’s installation service here.” 

Cuddie believes that events like “Lessons and Carols” are good opportunities for students, even if they don’t have the time or desire to make chapel activities a regular part of their schedule.

Cuddie also feels it is important to emphasize that chapel activities are open to students of all religious faiths. 

“I believe chapel activities are worthwhile for . . . students because it’s a low-commitment way to have community and feed your soul. Even if you only attend chapel every once in a while, you are greeted with warm smiles and open arms to build your spiritual path,” said Cuddie. “. . . We have services and spaces available for students of many different faiths.”

Republicans divided as Trump announces 2024 presidential run



On November 15, former president Donald Trump announced from the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida that he would be running for president in the 2024 election. 

The announcement came just weeks after the 2022 midterm elections, in which many candidates endorsed by the former president lost. Democrats retained control of the Senate. 

“America’s comeback starts right now,” said Trump during his announcement speech. “Your country is being destroyed before your eyes.” 

As he made his campaign announcement, Trump was joined at his Florida home by members of his family as well as some of his most prominent supporters: political operative Roger Stone, former California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. 

One notable exception from this group was the former president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who later announced her plans to step away from politics. 

“I do not plan to be involved in politics,” said Ivanka Trump in a statement following Trump’s campaign announcement. “While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena.” 

Some notable Republicans like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney have voiced their opposition, while others such as South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds have yet to say if they plan to back the former president. Many wonder just how much support Trump has lost from other members of the party. 

During his announcement, Trump went on to assure his audience that, if elected in the 2024 election, he would repeal President Joe Biden’s initiatives regarding immigration and climate change. 

As a political science major, Adam Short (’24) has made it a priority to keep up with the news of Trump’s campaign announcement. 

“It came as no surprise to me that Trump would be running for president again in 2024. I knew shortly after his loss in 2020 that he would likely run again, especially when his supporters encouraged it so much,” said Short. 

Short personally opposes the idea of another Trump presidency. “From my own personal standpoint, I am afraid of the changes that would be made under another four years of President Trump,” said Short. 

Despite Short’s own opinion about Trump, through his education at Alma College, he feels like he can better understand opposing views. 

“Republican leadership is notorious for stripping away the laws that protect me, however, my experiences as a political science major ha ve also changed many of my opinions as well,” said Short. 

“There was a time when I would have felt much more angry at Trump’s rerunning for president,” said Short. “I have gained a deeper understanding for why others do see themselves represented in Trump and why it is important to our democracy for a fair presidential election to ensue.”

Short is not sure if Trump will have a chance at winning the election in 2024, but he is curious to see what the upcoming election might do to the Republican party as a whole.

“It is hard to say whether or not Trump will be reelected in 2024 . . . I am highly interested in how Trump will fare against other non-MAGA Republicans. Ron Desantis, the governor of Florida . . . has a strong foundation for his own presidential campaign,” said Short. “To my knowledge, he has not yet announced he will be running in 2024, however Desantis and other non-MAGA Republicans have an uphill battle against Trump and MAGA.”

“It is curious to see the slowly increasing divide between Republicans and MAGA Republicans. Trump only increases this divide when denouncing Republicans, even his own previous Vice President, when they do not support him,” said Short. “He may be hurting his future campaign by attacking members of his own party.”

Kiltie Marching Band holds Centennial Celebration



On Sunday, Nov. 20, the Alma College Kiltie Marching Band (KMB) hosted the KMB Centennial Celebration.

The event, which followed the band’s final Indoor Show, took place in the Art Smith Arena located in Alma College’s Hogan Center. Tickets to the KMB Centennial Celebration were $35 and included dinner, drinks and a program of events.

Alma College partnered with New Holland Brewing Company to create a special KMB-themed amber ale called “Dualchas Linn” that matched the band’s Indoor Show theme. The ale was exclusive to the event and guests were able to purchase pint glasses commemorating the marching band’s 100-year anniversary.

Prior to the KMB Centennial Celebration, the college hosted an Indoor Show titled Dualchas Linn (scotch Gaelic for “heritage of a century”) featuring the marching band, pipe band, color guard and drumline. In addition to the 3 p.m. show on Nov. 20, the bands also performed at 8 p.m. on Nov. 19.

Benjamin Schall (’24) plays the clarinet in the marching band. Schall feels that they are carrying on a legacy and they are excited to see how they pave the way for future Scots. “It feels like [a] community. Thinking [about] students who were doing the same thing as me all the way back to 100 years ago with probably similar traditions is very powerful,” said Shall. “The KMB alumni who have come to celebrate with us make that even more tangible; it feels like we’re carrying a torch that we’ll pass on to the next century.”

Although performing at games and preparing for the Indoor Show was difficult at times, Schall has enjoyed the experience. “We took a long road to get to where we are, but the daily rehearsals and playing at games in frigid weather really helped us be (more than) prepared for this show,” said Schall.

“But I’ve loved making friends and growing close to my section, which has been the main thing pulling me through the rough parts.” Being a part of the band has also given Schall a new appreciation for football. They enjoyed cheering on the Scots during their successful season.

“I wasn’t really into football but getting to act as secondary cheerleaders while in the stands and doing our own cheers and chants and songs was immediately fun to me,” said Schall. “It felt even better when the Scots kept winning, and so it was impossible to not get invested in the season for me.”

Alma College encourages Kiltie Marching Band alumni and others to consider making a donation to help ensure the 100-year program can continue to be a significant part of the Alma College community.

My mind & Me (and 357 million followers)



Following an interview with Rolling Stone, Selena Gomez is facing criticism for comments some viewed as disrespectful to her organ donor and longtime friend, Francia Raisa. The situation reveals a negative side of the openness between some celebrities and their fans.

In the interview, Gomez called Taylor Swift her “only friend in the [entertainment] industry.” The comment did not sit well with actress Francia Raisa, who donated one of her kidneys to Gomez in 2017.

Raisa commented “Interesting” on an Instagram post about Gomez’s comment. Although she quickly deleted the message, fans saw the comment and took to social media to voice support for either Gomez or Raisa.

Supporters of Raisa became more upset when Gomez commented “Sorry I didn’t mention every person I know” on a TikTok video about the situation.

It is certainly fair to say Gomez and Raina have not done much to discourage fans from speculating and commenting on their relationship. But fans must realize they can’t dictate the type of relationship Gomez and Raisa have.

For many of us, it is hard to imagine cutting ties with a friend who gave you an organ. While it isn’t known if that is truly what occurred, it shouldn’t be the world’s concern if that is what happened with Gomez and Raisa.

But the situation brings attention to an issue much bigger than an unfortunate rift between longtime friends. Fans consistently insert themselves into the personal lives of celebrities. This is inevitable to an extent, but when it comes to personal topics, it can be especially problematic.

Gomez is an expert at balancing her celebrity status with genuine relatability. It is easy to feel close to a person like Gomez for this reason. Her entire brand revolves around the idea of honesty and acceptance of one’s own vulnerability.

Through her recent documentary, fans have been given an inside look at Gomez’s personal challenges. Gomez’s openness about mental illness and lupus has likely helped a lot of her fans, but it has also exacerbated a major problem.

No matter how open Gomez is about her life and her health journey, fans should not feel they have the right to weigh in on these personal topics on social media platforms in the way they have.

Every fan base takes sides when their favorite celebrity is involved in a feud or a scandal. It is understandable to want to defend someone you admire when they face criticism, even if you do not know them personally.

You could argue Gomez has inadvertently invited this kind of behavior from her fans. Certainly, Gomez wants fans to feel close to her. Fans view her as an advocate for them, as a sort of friend even. People want to watch their friend’s Apple TV documentary or buy lipstick from their friend’s makeup line.

Maybe Gomez being so open about her struggles does encourage fans to weigh in on her life, but she should be allowed to express herself and be open about her challenges. We should not police the way she does this simply because fans struggle to detach themselves from her personal life.

Fans must see Gomez’s health as something that is “off-limits” to them. Gomez’s candid nature is not an invitation to fans to insert themselves into her personal life.

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