College tours in the age of COVID

Chelsea Faber

Everyone remembers their first tour of Alma, hearing about our Scottish heritage, perhaps talking to coaches or faculty, even having your first meal in SAGA, however in a world dealing with COVID-19, what should this experience look like? Balancing the two pillars of keeping our campus safe and free from extra outside exposure, while providing this pivotal and critical experience to incoming students has been a recent topic of debate among campus.

Per campus policy, outside guests are prohibited, not only from residential halls, but some academic centers as well. Additionally, current students are highly discouraged to return home and are encouraged to only leave campus when necessary. Yet, despite these measures taken by the college, new ‘pods’ of individuals enter campus every day.

The Admissions website outlines heightened safety procedures including sanitizing of any check in materials, outdoor meetings, as well as a screening the day before. It is important to note the policy specifies that face coverings are required inside buildings, however there is no clarification as to whether this is also required when outdoors.

Students are not required to wear masks outdoors when in a situation that would allow for social distancing; however, campus culture has shown that many individuals continue to wear masks at all times when outside their own residence.

It would make sense that the policy would be universal across both sectors, but we need to remember that prospective students and their families are coming from all across the state, if not the country. They could reside in areas with a high rate of positive cases, therefore bringing a threat to campus.

Once again, this brings a complex issue to the forefront, how do we provide this experience in a meaningful but safe way?

Our admissions staff worked over the summer to provide a 360 view of campus as well as an improved walking tour –both with the hope to bring the experience of walking through campus to the screens of prospective students across the globe. Is this enough to convey the Alma College feel?

Let’s also consider it from the opposite end: anxiety about fully understanding potential college options in the age of the coronavirus is likely at the forefront of many high school seniors. Many campuses have not had as successful of a return to campus as Alma has. In fact, campuses across the nation have seen high rates of positive cases, with outbreaks continuing among students.

Keeping this in mind, potential students have to balance the nerves of experiencing a place that could become their temporary home for the very first time with the fear of contracting COVID-19.

Michigan has recently seen spikes in positive cases, specifically in areas that have fared well thus far in the pandemic. Many experts worry this is the beginning of the ‘fall surge,’ meaning the second wave of high rates of cases across the country.

With this being said, it is not the time to let down our guard, not even a small amount. There is absolutely no way to know if a ‘pod’ of prospective students would be the ones to bring and transmit the virus on campus, but with as fragile of an ecosystem as we have here, is this a risk we are willing to take?

Regardless of how a potential shut down would impact the college on the administrative and operational end, we have to consider the health and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff first. We cannot place ourselves in a position to shut down abruptly again. Therefore, as we move forward into what is poised to be a second wave of coronavirus, we must be extremely cautious and calculated in our actions as a community.

Political chaos: America’s update


Chaotic times have flooded Washington D.C. days before the election. A string of damaging news broke leading up to the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

On Sunday Sept. 27, The New York Times announced they had received decades of Donald Trump’s tax returns and published shocking takeaways. It was revealed that the president had paid $750 in federal taxes in both 2016 and 2017.

It also revealed that Trump’s businesses had reported massive losses, showing he had paid no income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years. Tax experts also have questioned the legitimacy of some of his tax deductions, including consulting fees for his children and $70,000 in ‘styling fees’ for his television appearances.

This report came just days before the Sept. 29 Presidential debate, where the sitting president faced off against the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Tensions were high as the two hopefuls spoke over each other, preventing either of them from announcing serious policy stances.

The President was criticized following the debate for his repeated interruptions of former Vice President Biden, as well as speaking over moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace. Biden was also cited for missing opportunities to outline his policies on the presented topics and rather was caught up trying to respond to Trump.

Heavy criticism came in regard to Trump’s stance on white supremacist groups. Wallace asked the president if he would denounce white supremacist groups, to which Trump did not give an answer, he rather said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Overall, the debate was regarded as perhaps the worst debate in American history and could be seen as a greater reflection of the current divided nature of the country. Those weighing in after the debate concluded agreed that there was little advancement in either party’s hope to sway voters.

Questions about the pandemic were unavoidable, as Trump’s COVID-19 response has fielded criticism from public health experts as well as the American public. His defense of his handling of this crisis came just days before his own October 2 diagnosis.

On par with other announcements from this Administration, the public found out about his diagnosis from a 1 am tweet. At the time Trump said he and the First Lady would be quarantining in the White House, however within hours this plan changed.

Trump was transported via Marine One to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he could be monitored closer by health care professionals. He also revealed he had been given an experimental dose of Regeneron, an experimental drug cocktail. The treatment had shown promising results but has not been approved for mass usage.

As the President seems to be experiencing mild symptoms, his symptoms were “very concerning” on Friday, a White House Official said Saturday-Monday would be critical in his battle with the virus.

Other high-profile government officials have also tested positive for the coronavirus, including former adviser Kellyanne Conway, Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, and Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie among others close to the President.

Speculation has fallen on the Rose Garden Ceremony in which Amy Coney Barrett was announced as Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee. Photos show that few attendees were wearing masks and no social distancing was observed. Many individuals who have subsequently tested positive were in attendance.

The remaining weeks leading up to the election are poised to be explosive, as the American voters head to the ballot box to cast their votes for president.

Nisbet Hall Renamed in Light of KKK Connection


Following a review conducted by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, President Abernathy announced on September 5 that it was discovered that Stephen Nisbet was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a notorious white supremist group.

He went on to explain that in light of these findings, the Alma College Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee have voted to rename Nisbet Hall. Similar action was also taken by Michigan State University after discovering that a building on their campus was named after a KKK member.

Nisbet was an Alma alumnus and who sat on the Alma College Board of Trustees for 40 years in the mid-1900s. He also served on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees as well as holding other positions within the two colleges.

The revelation of his membership was particularly disturbing considering his notoriety within the state of Michigan to be a supporter of many charitable causes.

The space formerly known as Nisbet Hall has been temporarily named Brazell West until a new name can be confirmed. Nearly every reference to ‘Nisbet’ has since been changed to reflect this change—including outdoor signage, directory references and housing assignment listings. The purging of any reference to ‘Nisbet’ is the first step in a long journey of reevaluating many aspects of our campus.

In the official statement, President Jeff Abernathy stated, “Alma College denounces racism in all forms and is committed to creating a climate where everyone is safe and free to grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. We will move forward in these efforts together.”

In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, colleges across the nation have begun to reevaluate who is memorialized, why they were important and who they were in the greater scope of the world. Alma College has begun its own audit process in which they will review the campus environment in relation to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

This process is led by administration and students working on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and aims to make our campus a more equitable space.

“There are representatives from student organizations as well as faculty in order to have a voice on what is happening,” said Darian Jones ’22. Jones also explained that the goals of the audit reach past evaluating the climate of Alma College. She said she hopes students can “have harder conversations, understand and see perspectives that have been overlooked and not heard for a long time. Our campus is very specific in not hearing specific voices, and we as a campus have decided we are no longer okay with that, which is great, but I think we can push it even further.”

Students are being invited to join focus groups as well as other activities within the audit so that the auditors can gain a complete picture of how students view the campus environment in terms of equity and inclusion.

Beyond diversity and inclusion efforts done by administration, students are being called upon to learn about how to create a more just campus and take personal steps to become more aware of these issues.

“Students should take their own initiative to learn and understand what these things mean. It’s been easy in the past to write things off and ignore them, but it is time to call things what they are and get to the point as soon as it happens to change the culture,” said Jones.

Students who are interested in joining the aforementioned focus groups or other diversity efforts should contact Dr. Blake or any Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board member for more information.

Scotlight: Meet Dr. Harwood


This week I sat down with Dr. Harwood, Environmental Science and Biology professor, to chat about her work with research students and her role fostering retired greyhounds. Here’s the chat:

Chelsea: What was your pre-Alma experience, what lead to what you’re doing now?

Dr. Harwood: I did my bachelors degree in a small liberal arts college in Illinois. I joke that it was also very Alma-like, we were also the ‘Fighting Scots’ so I had pre bagpipe exposure, tons of plaid stuff already, I have some stuff from my old days that I could probably still wear here! But yeah, same principle of a small liberal arts college, then I did my masters and PhD at Southern Illinois University, became a toxicologist and then taught at a small liberal arts college in Springfield, IL. They actually ended their undergrad programs, so I ended up at Alma! This actually worked out much better because it was more of what I wanted for a long-term goal.

C: I know you do a lot of work with students, what is this research that you do, and how are students involved?

H: One of the reasons I want to be at a place like Alma is because I wanted to – my favorite thing to teach, I love classroom stuff, but I love to teach students how to do science. The best place to do that is with their own projects. My research is very student driven. I have a couple of main areas now, those being working at the Superfund site, doing research with predicting bioavailability. The other big one is road salt, I try to do community based, it might not be something we think about in Alma but it’s something we should be thinking about in Michigan.

C: I know you do a lot of work with Greyhounds, lets dive into that:

H: I do! I got into greyhounds a little over two years ago, actually my first greyhound’s gotcha day is March 17th, so two years ago. I was 100% skeptical, because there is a large fraction of them that are 70 pound cats honestly, very aloof, they kind of do their own thing, I was very skeptical. But my husband really likes sighthounds because his sister had a borzoi, but we wanted one we could adopt. That’s my style, all my dogs are pound dogs. The group that I volunteer with, Allyies for Greyhounds, they have these things called meet and greets, where you can go and meet the dogs, the last one I went to there was 15 dogs there. I learned that there is a much bigger range of personality, it is narrower than most dogs, they aren’t all as laid back, but they mostly are very calm, very well mannered. When we did our adoption, they brought three dogs to our house and you ‘bachelor style’ pick one, that one stays at your house and the other two go back with them. I asked them to basically send the three craziest ones because I wanted a very high energy dog. About a year into us having him, they put a call out for people to be foster homes. I thought, well should we try it? And we’ve been fostering for about a year now. Our strategy is that we don’t mind the high energy dogs, where most people want the super chill side of things, we talk to the adoption coordinator, and say ‘who needs to get out of the kennel’, and we go pick them up. We keep them in our house and teach them how to be a house dog until they get adopted! Another thing I do with greyhounds is give information and be an advocate for the breed. For example, one of the most irritating things about this is that people often ask if they’re a rescue, where we don’t say they’re a rescue, we say they’re retired. Once I started meeting trainers and people who have been to the track and been to the kennels and have now met hundreds of dogs, they are not abused. So, we don’t say they’re rescued, they’re retired. When they get injured, which happens to many athletes, they get retired. That is another thing, informing people how they are not this abused dog, they are a professional athlete who is no

longer doing that. Once you get into these groups you realize they are so tightly knit that you will never see a racing greyhound in a pound, because if one gets there, a group will come pick it up and bring it back into a foster home. They have a higher placement than your average golden retriever, they’re so regulated. A lot of people think they’re forced to race but you can’t force a dog to do anything, you certainly can’t force them to run as fast as they can. You’ll never see a retired racehorse run for fun, my ex-racing dogs run for fun every day! They love it, you can’t stop them.

C: What opportunities are within your department, and then at Alma as a whole that you don’t think enough students know about, that more should take advantage of?

H: I think students should take as many research opportunities, and summer research opportunities as they possibly can get away with. And another thing people often don’t realize is that you can do research during the school year. If you have to have a summer job, you can do research during the school year and you can get credits for that. The other thing is to try to get into research early, then if you have a few years of experience, some of your professors will take you to a conference. So, if you start with me as a sophomore you’re almost guaranteed to go to a conference.

C: Following up on that, if a student wanted to start research with you or any other professor, how should they go about that?

H: Knock on their door! Send them an email! That’s usually how most do it but know that they fill up fast!

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Collamati


Welcome back. This week, I sat down with Dr. Anthony Collamati, Chair of Communication and New Media Studies. We met in the DMC conference room on Friday afternoon.

Chelsea: First, I always like to talk about your background. What was your Pre-Alma experience, and how did you get here?

Dr. Collamati: My Pre-Alma experience was in the corn fields of Indiana –no, well, kind of. I was born there in the Midwest, but I grew up around Boston, and went to a small liberal arts school in New Hampshire. You see it often during times like this when people are debating, usually the democratic or republican debates will travel through my alma mater which is Saint Anselm College. That not only steered me into, I was an English major initially, I worked with some great faculty, and I really fell in love with the liberal arts experience. I don’t think I would be here today if it wasn’t for that kind of college. Then, I was in Chicago. I went to grad school thinking that maybe I wanted to teach or write, and I ended up getting into film. I worked on film a little bit in Boston, and it was always one thing or the other, and I had the good and bad fortune of writing a script and getting people interested in giving me money to make it and direct it. Seems like good fortune, but the bad fortune was that the script wasn’t too good. So, it wasn’t a really great film, but I learned a heck of a lot because I got the chance to work with some very talented people. Actors, cinematographers, production designers, it was another education. And then Clemson after that, as a way to marry the film work I was doing in Chicago with the teaching that I had always loved to do. They had a program that was interdisciplinary, kind of like new media studies now.

C: So then from there, you said you wanted to be a teacher, so after that program did you intend to become a professor, or were you still looking to be a filmmaker?

A: When I was in Chicago, when I left, this was way back in the day, the internet was just getting dusted off! I didn’t want to have a career in academia at that point, but I always loved to teach. I didn’t necessarily want to study things, I wanted to make things. But then, given a little time, these programs started to change and started to involve making along with teaching. That’s where I found a place.

C: I try to do some background research before we sit down to have a good concept of the work you do, and I saw that you worked on a film with Alma students recently. Can you talk about this experience, and why including students to create these things is important?

A: Absolutely, in Chicago I worked on a few projects of mine, and worked with a few crews. When I started teaching classes here at Alma, as part of the new media studies program, there is that experience of working on a set with professionals. We do it a little bit with students in the spring, but getting on a set on location with a full crew is a totally different experience that I can’t replicate in a classroom. At the same time, I really wanted to keep making things. I teamed up with a great partner who cowrites with me and produces a lot of our films, actually all of our films. We suddenly had this project that was starting to gather some momentum; it was called ‘Break my Bones.’ Part of our pitch was that we wanted to take people who were really good in the industry, at the time. This was right after the tax credits folded in Michigan, so there were all these cool people who were still here, that had just worked on films like ‘Batman vs Superman,’ ‘Transformers.’ They had all this really great experience. We wanted to give students the opportunity to work alongside them and learn from them, and that’s what happened with ‘Break my Bones,’ and a couple years later we did it again with another film called ‘Base Camp.’

C: Really interesting; I’ve been really interested in film. In high school, I got really into stop motion movies with LEGOs in painted box sets.

A: Yeah!

C: I have a whole new respect for that, so much work goes into a single minute of content.

A: As we speak, my eldest has a big cardboard box full of LEGOs with a painted background on the foot of his bed that I have to remind myself not to trip over when I wake him up. Yeah, that’s how he’s getting into it too.

C: It definitely is fun. To get back on track, what programs that your department is involved with do you think more students should know about or utilize?

A: So, there is a student production company here called “Bitworks” that is run by students. They work with clients and do jobs from creating videos, doing photoshoots, redesigning graphics or retooling websites. They get paid better than any other position on campus, and they get this really important experience that is client based. It’s not the way some people want to work; It might not be as magical as stop motion, or the narrative stuff, but it can be really rewarding in different ways, and your work can impact a community, or give them experience that will last long after graduation.

C: That seems like a really good opportunity. Do you have any closing thoughts about your Alma experience or words of advice for students who want to pursue something like that?

A: Yeah, I think the real strength of Alma College is that, and I say this quite a bit — Our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength: we’re small, we’re isolate. It can be seen as a weakness. But I think a great strength that we have is that we’re small, we’re rural, we’re located in the middle of the state. Why is that a strength? Because we have the opportunity to get to know each other and work across divisions that other people are more confined by, to be a little more adaptable and move quickly in adapting. We don’t always do it, but when we do, really cool things can happen.

Scotlight Presents: Dr. Andrew Pomerville


Welcome to the Scotlight! A raw, unedited conversation with an Alma College Faculty or Staff member about their experiences and how they fit into the Alma College experience.

This week I sat down with Chaplain Dr. Andrew Pomerville, to talk about the Chapel as it exists now and the future he would like to head towards. We met in his office on Sunday Afternoon, here’s what we talked about:

Chelsea: Let’s talk about you first, you’re an Alma grad, who returned to campus, what was your ‘sandwiched’ between two Almas experience?

Dr. Pomerville: I graduated in December ’01 and ended up going back to Alaska, I had spent the previous two summers up in Alaska doing Alma related stuff. When I graduated, I briefly worked as a law clerk in Michigan for two and a half weeks thinking I might do that and hated it, I learned I did not want to be a lawyer. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, so I went back to Alaska to work but I drove every time, I stopped on the way saw a lot of friends across the country, I was gone for many months. I worked on a boat, did some drywall, worked in a gas station, lived on people’s couches I never really had a place to stay while hitchhiking across the state. Then I got in a car accident and it scared me, so I came home. When I got back, I started a job as a youth minister at my home church in Brighton, at the time I had a nasty long beard and shaggy hair, but it was a great experience. I did that for two and a half years and during that time I got accepted for my Master of Divinity at Princeton to go on to maybe keep studying religion or maybe be a pastor. I fell in love with being a pastor while I was out there. My wife and I went back to Alaska and we got married during that time, married to an Alma girl. After that I went to Northern Michigan after I graduated in ’07. We had our first kid at that point, my daughter Denali, she’s 13 now. I served in Bellaire, MI at a church called Church in the Hills, I really fell in love with it, it was amazing, very good people. I did that for four years, during that time I started something called ‘Spirituality Untapped’ with another pastor and the owner of Shorts Brewery, at the time no one was going into the brewery, so he would give us whatever night we wanted. We would show up, get a bunch of beers and appetizers for whoever would want to come, and we would talk about something. I think our first one was the very cliché ‘why do bad things happen to good people’? We invited anyone who wanted to come talk and got a whole bunch of people from Atheists, Catholics, Jewish people, Pagans, we really had anyone come to drink beer and talk about what they believed about the world. Then we took it on the road and would start to go to other breweries on occasion and talk about this thing. It got a lot of press which resulted in me getting some attention from a church in East Lansing, the People’s Church, they asked me to be their senior pastor, I had no experience, I was just a guy who liked to talk about faith stuff. I liked my little church in Northern Michigan, so I said no. They came back six or seven months later and said we really think you’re supposed to be our guy so we will give you the tools and teach you how to do it, so we moved to East Lansing in 2011. We had our son Bryce in that time period. I was there for seven years, during that time I finished my doctorate with the University of Aberdeen and Pittsburg Theological, I would fly back and forth to Scotland, the church was amazing about it. I did all my studies there and a pulpit swap, where I would go to a pastor’s church and he would go to mine for a while.

Chelsea: Wow, that’s really different, I’ve never heard of that.

Dr. Pomerville: Yeah, I wish other jobs did it, it’s cross cultural. There were certain things that were different obviously I didn’t have the same relationships, but it was great. That led to here, we had a house fire in 2015 that I always talk about, it devastated us but made us think about what we do. I

finished my doctorate in 2017 and didn’t really know what was next. I never planned on leaving the People’s Church, but the position came open at Alma and President Abernathy had a new idea for how the position would be designed, I very attracted so I threw my hat in the ring and now I’m here! It’s a long answer but there was a whole bunch of stuff in between.

Chelsea: Since you’ve been here there’s been a lot of changes within the Chapel and the structure, so if you could talk on that, what have you seen that’s been really exciting?

Dr. Pomerville: I knew the previous Chaplains, and having graduated here in ’01, I was familiar but even at that time I had a Chaplain I really liked but there couldn’t have been more than ten people showing up to Chapel events, it just wasn’t a big deal. It went down to almost an afterthought, people knew it was here and they valued it but there was no emphasis on it. President Abernathy was a good friend to me as an Alumnus and I trust his vision, he wanted to see spiritually and faith integrated more into the Liberal Arts education, so we talked more about what that could look like and we formed a position that has some overarching reach into the community. You should be everywhere, you should have standing, people should trust that you’ll show up, that you’re not there for any ulterior motives, you’re simply there to be their Chaplain to be available to be someone they can trust to talk about spirituality or anything else. He let me be the Chaplain for all the sports teams and the preforming arts, that’s a big deal, so I try to get to everyone’s events. I’m on campus everywhere, I teach, I have dotted lines to every department on campus but I’m not technically under any department. I help with admissions, I love recruitment, I also love fundraising, so I work with advancement as well. I joke that I’m kind of like a mascot with a doctorate, that’s who I am.

Chelsea: Dr. Scotty!

Dr. Pomerville: Yes! Dr. Scotty! It’s better than ‘Chappy,’ that’s what the football team calls me, but that is a good one too. I have a chance to try to redesign what we do here but also stay true to what we believe which is letting people explore and learn what it is like to do interfaith work.

Chelsea: Very cool stuff, building off of that, what are some goals you have or visions you have about inclusivity in the Chapel, and what you guys do, what you want to see happen here?

Dr. Pomerville: So, the Chapel is scheduled to be renovated, we are just at the end of raising all of our money, hopefully that will be completed very soon! Very exciting for me personally I think because it will be more reflective of who we are, I want it to be a space that is safe for all people. I am proud to be a Christian, I’m a Presbyterian, but there are lots of other ways to worship, I’m glad to offer a multidenominational Christian service that will always be there, there are different ways of experiencing religion, but I think we need to have other opportunities to be whatever we are, here in the Center for Spiritual Life. We will have a separate multifaith worship space coming in here in the basement, takes over the whole East section. It’s safe, it’s warm, it’s inviting. I want this to be a place that students regularly think to come to, I don’t want it to be a place they say they’ve never been in or have no experience there. It has nothing to do with faith at that point, I want every person to have thought of their faith and their spirituality before they graduate, I would love to help with that and help them understand who they are.

Chelsea: Is there any initiates that the Chapel has done or maybe special projects that, perhaps not a lot of people know about or you want to talk about?

Dr. Pomerville: Absolutely, so the biggest one is the interfaith connections, so my dream was to have something else on campus that was not just a Sunday evening service, but have a carved-out time for faculty, staff and students to come together. It could be worship but it also could be an educational time to know what your neighbors believe and interact with each other in a way that is loving, and grace filled. We’ve been doing that on Thursday mornings at 11:20-11:45, it’s short, we have different speakers. For example, we had Murray Borrello come in and talk about his faith in the midst of the studies that he does, we’ve had Rabbis, other faith leaders from inside Alma and beyond, talking about these things. I think it’s an incredible opportunity for all of us and I wish we had a more carved out time during the day, that this was a normal thing. It’s safe and I hope it continues. Our students are doing a ton of outreach and community engagement, so service and community building activities, it’s great. We have lots of student workers who offer the best of themselves in worship leadership, but they also do organization and social media, things like that. They’ve become the outreach arm of the Chapel and it’s exciting. We added a chapel house last year so that’s kind of new, it’s interfaith and accepting. We want to bring together those who think differently and what does that look like in the greater community.

Chelsea: Yeah, that is really interesting. Did you have any parting thoughts or other topics you would like to cover before we’re done?

Dr. Pomerville: I also want people to understand the Chapel is not just one monolithic belief system or that it is homogenous in the people. All people should be welcome here, full stop. I mean I think all should feel like they can walk in, but I also think all people should be able to participate however they want to. You can come and simply watch something without singing, standing, praying. Or you can dip your toe and see what it’s all about. We’re trying to design especially our Sunday night stuff to make it fit more into the schedule. We try to match it up to Greek life, preforming arts, and other events. We added a Catholic Priest and Nun, who are offering Mass on Sunday nights at 9. But my goal is to work to all student’s needs, if they say they want a Greek Orthodox Priest, then I’ll go find one and bring them in. If they’re interested in exploring whatever their background is, I want to help them do that.

UMC proposes split


The United Methodist Church has announced a proposal to separate into two denominations, a decision stemming from a 2019 vote regarding same sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy. The plan was announced on Jan. 3 and is set to be voted on at the General Conference in May 2020.

Passage of the resolution would separate the church, introducing the Traditionalist and Progressive denominations. “Simply stated, the Traditionalist approach looks more to ‘moral absolutes’ and an inerrancy in the words of the bible’s writers to inform morality and behavior,” said Pastor Chris Lane of Traverse City Central United Methodist Church.

In contrast, he explained the other side as well, “the Progressive approach seeks to appreciate that what the Bible’s writers addressed to their original audience may not apply the same way to modern audiences,” said Lane.

The components of the proposal have been in progress for decades and came to a critical debate after the 2019 General Conference. “This was a tipping point moment for our denomination, no longer seeing how we all might live amicably in the same denomination, despite our differences,” said Lane.

The issue of same-sex marriage has been a topic of contention between other religious dominations as well, “the conversation is already happening in every denomination, even if it is less obvious,” said Andrew Pomerville, Alma College Chaplin.

“We went through similar conversations about same-sex clergy within the Presbyterian Church and also wrestled with this topic,” said Pomerville. He continued, “for those of us who have gone through it, we are watching our brothers and sisters in the Methodist Church, praying for healing and for hope, and are saddened that they have come to this conclusion to split.”

Generational divide appears to be playing a significant role in the decision. “As the generations shift, we see conversations that result in these changes… what one generation thought was believed by all, is not what their children and grandchildren would support,” said Pomerville.

Splits within denominations is not a new concept. Daniel Wasserman, professor of history, explained the effects of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. “The primary impact of the Reformation was the division of Christians into several different churches. That reality often produced intense conflict within families, neighbors and church members,” said Wasserman.

Wasserman also explained the debate surrounding dividing religious affiliations among experts; “It’s been argued that the spawning of more divisions (and thus new Christian denominations) has led to a ‘hyper-pluralism’, with so many different groups and views that the larger government or society has difficulty functioning.”

In regard to whether this separation will create more division rather than solidarity, both Pomerville and Wasserman gave insights to how the future may play out for Methodists. “It’s not hard to see that the historical conflicts among Christians often have led to many Christians becoming disillusioned with their churches… many parishioners may be alienated by these divisions” said Wasserman.

Pomerville explained, “Anytime we split, it is sad because at one point somebody was together, and they had to decide not to be together anymore, it’s tough… it’s hard to say as a Christian, witness of our mission is helped by any splits, regardless of how necessary it may be.”

Pastor Lane is optimistic about the future of the Church. “I look forward to the day when I can, without reservation, celebrate the marriage vows of a couple who are in love and who see God’s Spirit at the center of their love, and who just happen to be two men or two women… this is an exciting time to be part of the barrier-breaking movement of love that Jesus began two thousand years ago. I feel blessed to be part of it.”

Supreme Court decide the future of DACA


The Supreme Court of the United States heard the case made by the Trump Administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented individuals who entered the country as a child to remain in the United States legally. 

DREAMers were those brought to the U.S. illegally as children, through the program they could stay in the country to work and attend school, pending they meet certain requirements as well as pass a background check. 

This program impacts almost 700,000 young people and began during the Obama Presidency, however in September 2017 the Trump Administration announced they would begin to end protections for DACA recipients.

The process to end DACA was announced as a form of “winding down” this amnesty for DREAMers. Due to the intense changes that would follow eliminating the program, as well as concern as to the legality of the steps taken to end DACA, federal courts heard challenges to Trump’s announcement. 

Lower courts have decided to keep the program alive, however the Supreme Court’s decision will be the end of legal debate and will reveal the fate of 700,000 individuals living in this country. 

Federal appeals courts have ruled in favor of DACA, citing that when a policy which impacts so many people, businesses and the overall economy have depended on is to be eliminated, there must be a full reasoning provided, one including a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. 

As is the case with major decisions before the Supreme Court, a verdict is not expected until June of 2020, falling in the heat of the presidential campaign. 

Supporters of DACA have claimed the president is spreading misinformation about the reality of DREAMers.  Trump stated in a tweet that many participants are “no longer very young, are far from ‘angels’” and that “some are very tough, hardened criminals,” however, those with a felony and serious misdemeanors are not eligible for DACA protection.

Opponents of DACA have concern that these protections could encourage individuals to illegally enter the country in hopes for their children to be eligible for this program.  Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas explained that, “The Dream Act will only encourage more illegal immigration.” 

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have called for bipartisan legislation to solve the issue at the heart of the DACA debate, rather than a stark elimination of the program. The wish for a resolution has been talked of since Trump announced the end of the program in 2017, however due to the increased political polarization of congress, little progress has been made. 

2020 Presidential hopefuls have issued statements on their standing in this debate in light of the Supreme Court taking up the case.  “Dreamers are woven into the fabric of our country, & they belong here,” said Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders condemned the President while issuing his support for DREAMers tweeting, “Trump’s attack on the DACA program is the ugliest and most cruel decision made by a president in our modern history.”

Former Vice President, Joe Biden tweeted his support for DREAMers saying “(they) should be treated like the Americans that they are. It’s past time for Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship and a fair shot at the American dream.”

Similarly, Pete Buttigieg’s headquarters tweeted a video profiling DACA recipients with the caption, “#HomeIsHere and you belong.”

The future of the program will be decided in the months to come, leaving hundreds of thousands of individuals in limbo until then.  With congress seeming unmotivated to pass legislation in the current political situation, DREAMers may be waiting until June 2020 for answers

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