Texas faces loss during winter storm

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC CREATOR

At least 26 Texans are dead after a week of historically low temperatures. Since Feb. 11, millions living in the Lone Star state have been without power and left searching for food and water.

On Monday, Dallas dropped to five degrees Fahrenheit – the coldest temperature the city had seen since 1989. For the first time in over 30 years, Austin and San Antonio saw single-digit temperatures.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – a grid operator that controls roughly 90% of the state’s electric load – announced it was experiencing a “record-breaking electric demand.”

Many Texas residents took to bundling up and staying in their cars, as state leaders opened about 135 warming centers and deployed the National Guard to conduct welfare checks.

By Tuesday, over four million state residents were without power. “[ERCOT] has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.

While Texans tried to stay warm, officials reported a rising death toll, with fatalities linked to both the frigid temperatures and carbon monoxide poisoning.

By Wednesday morning, about 3.4 million customers were still without power in the state of Texas, leading Gov. Abbott to look into an investigation of ERCOT.

ERCOT CEO Bill Magness stated that the issue was primarily a lack of energy supply as low temperatures closed power facilities. According to Magness, the controlled power outages helped prevent the system’s collapse.

“If we had waited, and not done outages, not reduced demand to reflect what was going on, on the overall system, we could have drifted towards a blackout,” Magness said. “People feel like what we’re seeing [is] a blackout, but the blackout that [could have occurred] could last months.”

Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz arrived at Cancun International Airport shortly before 8 pm on Wed. Cruz was met with backlash online from Liberals and Conservatives alike.

As the airport photos circulated on social media, Cruz’s team quickly released a statement.

“Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too,” Cruz wrote. “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”

Cruz went on to say he and his staff “are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.” The explanation sparked further controversy, as many criticized Cruz for seemingly placing the blame on his children.

Shortly after noon on Thursday, Edward Russell, who works as the lead airlines reporter at Skift, revealed the senator had rebooked his flight back to Houston that morning. He had not been scheduled to return from Cancun until Sat.

On Thursday evening, text messages between Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz and her friends surfaced. “Our house is FREEZING,” Heidi Cruz wrote, going on to say their family “couldn’t stand it anymore,” before sending information on flights out of Houston.

By Thursday, nearly 290,000 people were without power, a substantial improvement from the millions affected by outages earlier in the week. However, the low temperatures continued, delaying a full recovery.

About 13.5 million Texans dealt with water disruption, as roughly 800 water systems reported problems such as broken or frozen pipes.

As bottled water became difficult to find in stores, some businesses began giving it out for free. Senator Cruz took to social media to share pictures of himself passing out water.

By Friday, Texas had seen little improvement, with almost half of the state’s population still experiencing water service disruptions. Approximately 190,000 homes and businesses remained without power.

Hospitals were heavily impacted by the week’s events. President and CEO of Houston Methodist Dr. Marc Bloom, who oversees seven hospitals around the city of Houston told CNN two facilities did not have water at all for days.

On Saturday, as 85,000 Texas homes were without power and water disruptions and decreasing supplies remained a threat, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration, which provides more federal resources to the state.

Power has now been restored in many areas of the state, but residents are still struggling to get clean water. President Joe Biden is set to travel to Houston, Texas on Friday, Feb. 26. He will be accompanied by first lady Dr. Jill Biden.

The past week has left many wondering what steps Texas should take to be prepared for severe winter weather in the future.

“Texas has to invest far more in basic infrastructure, that clearly is missing,” said Derick Hulme, Professor of Political Science. “And there has to be a commitment by the state to move forward aggressively [with renewable energy].”

Rochester Police pepper-spray 9-year-old

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

Two police officers in Rochester, New York have been placed on administrative leave and another has been suspended for their involvement in the handcuffing and pepper-spraying of a nine-year-old girl.

According to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson, the officers were responding to a report of “family troubles” at 3:20 PM on Jan. 29. The officers were informed that the girl had “indicated that she wanted to kill herself and [her mother].”

Upon police arrival, the girl attempted to run away and was chased down by one officer. Following this, the child’s mother arrived and the two began to argue. At this point, Anderson said the officers decided to take the girl, with the intention of bringing her to a nearby hospital.

Body camera footage released by the police department shows the officers restraining the nine-year-old, attempting to get her into a police vehicle, as she cries and calls for her father. She can be heard screaming as the officers put her in handcuffs.

One officer in the video can be heard saying, “You’re acting like a child,” to which the young girl responded, “I am a child!”

At a later point in the footage another officer can be heard telling the girl, “This is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray’s going in your eyeballs.” Approximately a minute later, another officer said, “Just spray her at this point.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has directed Anderson to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, calling the events “simply horrible.” “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action,” Warren said.

On Mon. Feb 1, New York Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that her office would also be looking into the incident, calling the situation “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in as well, stating that within the state of New York and the nation, the relationship between the police system and the community is “clearly not working.”

“Rochester needs to reckon with a real police accountability problem, and this alarming incident demands a full investigation that sends a message that this behavior won’t be tolerated,” Cuomo said.

Elba Pope, the mother of the nine-year-old involved in the incident is now speaking out. In an interview with The Washington Post, Pope announced her plan to sue the city over the events on Jan. 29.

On Tue. Feb. 2, Pope and her attorneys filed a formal notice, stating their intention of suing the city of Rochester for “emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false assert and false imprisonment,” as well as potential violations of “constitutional rights.”

Pope also stated that she had advised the officers involved to call a mental health specialist. According to Pope, her daughter had experienced a similar breakdown just months before and had been denied help that time, as well.

This incident is not the only example of Rochester mishandling situations within communities of color where mental health issues were involved. Daniel Prude died at the hands of Rochester

police in September after being placed under a spit hood while experiencing a mental health episode.

Protests broke out in Rochester on Mon. Feb. 1, with people gathering outside of the police headquarters. Protesters could be heard chanting, “Look what you did, you just maced a little kid.”

Alma student Claire Wittlieff (’24) is frustrated by the lack of attention surrounding the events. “I did not even see any coverage on this incident until I was asked about my thoughts on it,” Wittlieff said. “That in itself speaks volumes.”

Wittlieff feels that suspending the officers involved in the incident is not enough. “I believe that further steps should be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again,” Wittlieff said.

Biden-Harris Inaugurated

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

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.

Alma welcomes new PAGE club

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

With the semester under way, many clubs and organizations have started holding meetings and events. Recently, Alma College welcomed a new organization. The PAGE (which stands for Pop Culture, Anime, Gaming, and Entertainment) Club has begun hosting various campus events.

The PAGE club was founded at the end of last year. The organization was formed from the merging of two separate groups: ACOG (Alma College Otaku and Gamers) and the Gaming Guild.

Mike Oliver (’20) serves as the organization’s president. As he watched ACOG and the Gaming Guild’s number of members drop, Oliver felt it was important to unite the two groups.

“The [two organizations] were not doing very well for a number of reasons,” said Oliver. “And there was rivalry between them, which was very unfortunate because they were very similar clubs.”

When the founding members set to work organizing the club, they kept in mind some of the best parts of ACOG and the Gaming Guild, while also looking at where improvements could be made.

“When we were drafting the constitution, we thought about what ACOG was as a group. [It] wasn’t quite a club in the traditional sense,” said Oliver. “It was very, very broad. It was [more like] a social organization. What [the founders] wanted to do was expand on that and make it a bit of both.”

Oliver hoped this new structure would help draw in new interest – and it seems to have worked. “ACOG and the Gaming Guild only had four members going into this year. Now we’re at, as of our last count, 38,” said Oliver.

Sophie Flater (’23) works as the club’s Alumni Liaison and Social Media Organizer. After hearing about the organization as a freshman, Flater became involved with the Gaming Guild. When the Gaming Guild and ACOG merged to form the Page club, she decided to get more involved.

Flater’s favorite part of being involved in the PAGE club is how accepting the organization is. “Our [social media] offers a place for people to feel accepted, vent, ‘geek out’, and just generally feel like a part of a community,” said Flater. “It’s a really great environment to be in and I hope even more people will join in the future.”

According to Flater, the PAGE club is “essentially an umbrella club for all things nerdy” so they have something for just about everyone. So far, the club has hosted a variety of successful events, including Pokémon Night, an Among Us event, a Studio Ghibli viewing event, a Smash event, and most recently, a “Bad Fanfiction” reading event.

Flater is looking forward to what the PAGE club has in store for Halloween. “There will definitely be some interesting events for Halloween lovers,” said Flater. “On the third, we will be hosting a horror movie night, and a few of our [members] are currently working on a spooky, supernatural escape room experience.”

Abigail Ely (’24) serves as the club’s Inventory Manager, keeping track of storage and assisting people in checking out items. She also helps run the group’s Thursday night Dungeons and Dragons event.

Ely’s favorite part of being involved in the PAGE club has been the connections she has made. “I have become good friends with most of the people who attend [events] regularly,” said Ely. “The people I’ve met in PAGE are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I’m so thankful I joined this club.”

Ely would like to encourage any student to get involved in the PAGE club. “You don’t need to consider yourself a gamer or ‘nerdy’ to join this club and be active in it,” said Ely. “PAGE is a club where you can be yourself and have fun with people who truly care.”

For more information on the PAGE club’s upcoming events, students are encouraged to join the organization’s Facebook group or Discord Server.

Theatre department prepares for upcoming show

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

With the new school year in swing, the Alma College theatre department is preparing for their first show of the season, Ron Carlson’s, Bigfoot Stole My Wife (and Other Stories from News of the World). The show will be performed four times, with two separate casts each performing twice. In total, the production will feature 18 students.

For most theaters, COVID-19 has put a halt on productions, but for Scott Mackenzie, Professor and Director of Theatre, this was an opportunity to do something a little different. Bigfoot Stole My Wife is not written as a traditional play, but rather as a series of monologues.

After watching his sister perform in a production of Bigfoot Stole My Wife at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre in 1988, Mackenzie knew it was a show he had to direct. This opportunity finally came in 2006, while he was serving in Iraq with the Army Reserve.

Mackenzie wanted to direct a show and he needed one that would accommodate the hectic schedules of the performers. “I [had] to find something that could still go on, even if a performer was called out on a mission during rehearsal, which did happen, or during a performance, which did not – thankfully,” Mackenzie said.

With that experience in mind, Mackenzie knew Bigfoot would be a great option for this year’s unique situation. With the show being entirely in monologues, each actor will be on stage alone, making social distancing easy.

Along with that, the preparation for this show has been very different from that of past productions. This year, rehearsals are held every night for three hours, with each performer coming in to work on their monologue for a half hour two days a week.

Bigfoot Stole my Wife will be Lucy Woods’s (’24), first show at Alma College. Woods plans to major in English Education and Theatre. As a Freshman, Woods has used this production, not only to strengthen herself as an actor, but also as an opportunity to make friends. “I have only been able to meet some of my fellow [cast members], but the ones I have met are all very sweet and cool people,” Woods said.

Being unable to rehearse with the entire cast has been new for Woods, and while it has been difficult, it has also come with surprising perks. “It’s exciting because the rest of the show will be fresh for me as I watch from backstage,” Woods said, “I have seen a couple ‘sneak peeks’ of the [other performers’ monologues]. The show is going to be fantastic.”

Woods will be performing the monologue, “Baby Born with 2,000-Year-Old Bracelet”. In this piece, Woods plays an obstetrician. “My character talks a little about [the baby] and a little about life,” Woods said, “It is one of the more serious monologues in the production.”

According to Woods, the most rewarding aspect of being involved with this production has been seeing herself improve as a performer. “Dr. Mackenzie gives me lots of immensely helpful pointers and advice,” Woods said.

David Troyer (’24) will also be making his Alma College theatre debut in Bigfoot Stole my Wife. Troyer plans to major in Biology and Theatre. Troyer is excited to get back into theatre after taking a break from acting for a year. “Now that I’m in Bigfoot, it feels like I’m making up for those lost opportunities,” Troyer said.

While Troyer has enjoyed being a part of this production, he has also been faced with some obstacles. “I think the most challenging thing is trying to find a unique way of presenting the character,” Troyer said, “I’m not the only one who has this role, so I try to find little things that make my interpretation of the character my own, which isn’t always easy.”

While difficult at times, having another actor playing the same role has also been beneficial for Troyer. “Since I have a partner, so to speak, we both get to try different things, and we learn from each other,” Troyer said.

Under the direction of Dr. Mackenzie, Troyer feels that he is beginning to break his habit of changing lines. “In high school, I was notorious for adding little things here and there to make it ‘flow better’,” Troyer said, “[In this production], I [have been] encouraged to find the flow in the words that are there and how I say them.”

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, performances of this show will look very different from productions in previous years. Normally, the Strosacker Theatre can seat about 190 audience members, but at this time, that number is down to about 30.

Auditorium seating will be limited to Alma College students, faculty and staff. The production will also be livestreamed, although, at this time, Heritage Center management has not decided on a streaming platform.

Performance dates for Bigfoot Stole my Wife are set for Oct. 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m.

Alma College changes Venture program

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Director of Career and Personal Development, Carla Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WordPress.com.

Up ↑