Problematic TikTok sparks admissions scandal

CLAIRE HIPPS
STAFF WRITER

A tiktok user under the username “coochiee.scouttt,” which has since been deleted, published a controversial video that sparked outrage among Alma College students early this month. The video in question, in which the user explained that they were admitted to Alma College on a scholarship despite the college knowing about their tendency to spread problematic and backward rhetoric, received 463,100+ views on Tiktok. Students were quick to share the video, tagging the admissions department and Jeff Abernathy, the president of Alma College.

The Alma College Admissions Department was quick to dispel these claims, replying within 24 hours to the outraged students sharing the video. “We can confirm that the individual has not applied to the college and is not an admitted student,” said Admissions in their response to the student body. “Once we are notified, the college engages in an immediate review process for any instance of this nature. Alma College denounces all forms of hate speech and we will continue to do all that we can to provide a safe and welcoming community to all.”

This response is consistent with the college’s goals for upholding practices of diversity and inclusion on campus, and campus administrators are also committed to reviewing and improving these practices. “I appreciate the swift response from Admissions and from the student body,” said Donnesha Blake, director of diversity and inclusion on campus. “There is

always much more work to do to educate our campus and incoming students about the importance of creating a safe and inclusive campus for LGBTQIA+ people.”

While it is reassuring to know that admissions and campus administration does take steps to protect both current and prospective LGBTQIA+ students in the admissions process, it is helpful to know what this process looks like.

“All reports of this nature are investigated in partnership with our Civil Rights and Title IX process,” said Admissions. “That review process leads to any subsequent actions, such as rescinding a student’s offer of admission.”

With this comes a responsibility to market Alma College as a place where attitudes of inclusion and acceptance are not just encouraged, but necessary. “We always have a responsibility to outline our values related to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Blake. “[We must] make them clear to prospective students and families at every stage of the admissions and onboarding process.”

In regards to the students who found the video and called on Admissions for a response, they are a good example of what it means to be an ally for marginalized communities. They have made it clear that inclusion is important to the student body.

“It was disheartening to see the image of Alma’s acceptance email because Alma is trying to take notes to diversify the campus,” said Carrie LaFranchi, ’22. “The fact that they launched an investigation and got the response to students out so quickly meant a lot to the student body to assure us that inclusivity is extremely important to this institution.”

“[One way to be an ally is to] speak up when someone is being harmed and share it with others,” said Blake. “I believe that a person working toward a more inclusive and welcoming campus cannot and should not be doing the work alone.”

Allyship, however, can take many forms. “Allyship is an ongoing process and it begins with learning about the communities we seek to support,” said Blake. “There are so many ways to be an ally, but simply identifying as an ally and doing none of the work to actively create change is not allyship.”

Some ways that students can learn about an actively support LGBTQIA+ students on Alma’s campus include joining or requesting a Safe Zone training session hosted by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and joining the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Club.

At Alma College and in the wider world, it is important that we remember to use our individual power for good. Creating a more equitable and just world benefits everyone, and it should be a priority in everything that we do.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

CLAIRE HIPPS
STAFF WRITER

In accordance with the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, September is Suicide Prevention Month—a time to circulate mental health resources and engage in discourse regarding suicide in order to help those struggling understand that they are not alone.

Suicide is extremely deadly amongst college populations. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34,” yet there is a significant stigma against mental health in America.

“[The] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)…gave the impression that mental health was based on controllable behaviors [when it was published in 1952],” said Linda Faust, a licensed master social worker in the Wilcox Center for Counseling and Wellness. “Mental health has been viewed as more personal or negative than a physical illness would be.”

Stigmatization of mental disorders has had numerous consequences.

“[Stigmas have lead to a] reluctance of seeking treatment, bullying or intimidation of others [and] difficulty getting health insurance to cover treatment,” said Faust.

Unsurprisingly, many individuals experiencing suicidal ideation do not reach out for help. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, only 46% of suicide victims have been diagnosed with a mental disorder while 90% of suicide victims experienced symptoms of mental disorders. It is therefore important to be aware of how suicidal ideation comes about, and how we can best support ourselves and those around us.

In addition to common risk factors, such as chronic pain or a family history of mental disorders/substance abuse/suicide attempts, college students face additional stressors.

“In college age populations, that being 18-22, there is quite a bit of transition going on,” said Maggie Magoon, a lecturer in the psychology department. “Changes can be [positive] or negative and can cause stress. There is also sometimes a cultural shock, coming to campus and being away from friends, family and ‘normal’ structure.”

Some college-specific stressors facing students include heightened independence, alienation from peers and increased access to illegal substances. There are also many traumatizing and dangerous experiences that may or may not take place in college.

Knowing these things, action can be taken in order to nurture positive mental health practices. Internally, suicidal ideation and tendency can occur as the result of many different forces.

“Since mental illness can manifest itself in many different ways, I think it is important to pinpoint your struggles and be honest with yourself,” said Asia Patterson (’21).

According to the Suicide Prevention Center, up to 87% of suicides are impulsive (unplanned) attempts.

“Even right now is hard, understand that it won’t be that way forever,” said Patterson. “Emotions are temporary.”

It can also help to foster positivity. “If there is something negative happening, it is okay. We have negativity in our lives,” said Magoon. “The problem occurs when you begin to ruminate or obsess about that negativity. A positive viewpoint in life can help in so many ways.”

Lastly, understand that productive mental, physical, and social practices are key in managing stress and combating suicidal ideation.

“It sounds very simplistic, but the top three recommendations for being mentally healthy are sleep well, eat well, and exercise,” said Magoon. “Additionally, social contact is a protective factor against suicidal ideation.”

Remember to be kind to yourself, and find someone you trust to confide in.

“Whenever I find myself [struggling with something], there is a lot of realizing that… I can’t always change it but I can learn and grow from it,” said Ryan Calhoun (’24).

As human beings, we often underestimate the impact our lives have on those around us. All human lives have intrinsic value and those struggling with mental illnesses are no different.

Our Student Chapter of Active Minds is a club focusing on Mental Health Education, Awareness and Suicide Prevention. September 21 at 7 pm via Zoom, Active Minds will feature John Tessitore of the JCK Foundation, who will discuss his mental health journey.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, know that there are resources for you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HELLO to 741741. The Counseling Center is open Monday – Friday 8:30 – 5 pm, closed from noon – 1pm for lunch.

They offer free sessions, up to 14 an academic year and it is completely confidential. With having three full-time counselors, students can typically get am appointment within the week. If it is a more urgent matter, there are 2 crisis hour appointments offered per day. Simply email Wellness@Alma.edu or call 989-463-7225.

Water sold in Joe’s despite Nestle ban

CLAIRE HIPPS, JACOB SMITH
STAFF WRITERS

Many years ago, Alma College students worked together to ban Nestle products from our campus. Today, many products produced by Nestle and the companies they own, such as Ice Mountain water and Kitkats, are sold on campus.

Nestle, the multi-billion dollar food conglomerate, has participated in more than its fair share of controversy. According to the Guardian, the Associated Press and Mighty Earth, Nestle has greenwashed, participated in forced labor in impoverished countries and contributed to deforestation in Ghana
and the Ivory Coast. Their former CEO, Peter BrabeckLetmathe, expressed in a 2013 interview that water is not a universal human right and should therefore be privatized (Nestle now claims that this quote is frequently taken out of context).

A controversy that hits particularly close to home regards Michigan’s abundant freshwater supply and how Nestle has been able to cheaply mine water in Michigan, which has destabilized wetland ecology in Evart, MI.

“As a result of [the company’s belief that water is not a human right], Nestle is taking extremely good quality groundwater in west/ southwest Michigan and bottling it. They are doing this at an excessive rate – many people feel it is a rate that cannot be replenished within a reasonable amount of time,” said Murray Borello, professor of environmental science. “The data I have seen supports this conclusion.”

Nestle’s consistent ethical controversies encouraged Alma students in the early 2000’s to enact a ban on all Nestle products, including Ice Mountain water, through the Student Congress.

“The process began on campus in 2001 or 2002, shortly after we learned that Nestle was going to start production [of Ice Mountain Water] in Michigan.” said Edward Lorenz, an emeritus professor of history and political science.

The ban on Nestle products coincided with another initiative to ban bottled water in the name of sustainability on Alma’s campus.

“President Abernathy – and now Provost Dougherty have been very adamant about not allowing bottled water on campus. That made it pretty easy to ban Ice Mountain, ” said Borrelo.

This ban, however, did not withstand the test of time.

“After the group of students from [early 2000s ban] graduated, the college
reintroduced bottled water in vending machines and used the reasoning that we got a ‘deal’ as a ‘Pepsi Campus,’” said Lorenz in reference to the 2012 Pepsi deal.

The aforementioned Pepsi deal details that our campus will be provided with Pepsi-brand products, amongst other things.

“The agreement provides equipment and general support for the college and provides recycling support provided by Pepsi. The agreement does not mandate which specific beverages are sold,” said President Jeff Abernathy, who, after his 2020 inauguration as President of Alma College, oversaw the Pepsi deal.

Along with the general support provided by the deal, Alma’s administration is considering sustainability when making decisions about the allocation of Alma’s resources.

“Our strategic plan focuses on the college’s impact on the environment and on working to ensure that we are lowering our carbon footprint. We have for the past ten years prioritized renovation rather than new building projects for this reason,” said Abernathy.

Implementing a complete ban on water bottles (and perhaps Nestle products by extension) is complicated, and the 2019 COVID-19 outbreak has added nuances.

“We have not yet achieved a ban on water bottles— the pandemic makes that difficult since we cannot serve water to the public in other ways—but I remain committed to moving in that direction,” said Abernathy.

Although the pandemic has complicated day to day lives, the Alma College mission statement calls on its students to “live responsibly as stewards of the world they bequeath to future generations.” As students, consumers and citizens of the world, there is all individual power.

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