Senior art show featured in gallery


Starting March 16th, the senior art show commences in the Flora Kirsch Beck Art Gallery of the Clack Art Center here on campus. This show features the artistic pieces that the senior art majors have worked on diligently throughout the course of several years. It also serves as an opportunity to spotlight the hard work and dedication of these artists before they leave Alma College.

Each senior’s portion of the gallery showcases different themes and explores their individual inspirations and interests through their work. Some seniors chose to address important societal issues through their pieces. “My work generally, as an overview, interrogates consumer choices like mass production and my biggest interest is animal agriculture, mostly factory farming.” said Calum Clow, ‘20.

Many of the senior art majors drew inspiration from their personal experiences and backgrounds while constructing their artwork.

“I am making work based on specific difficult experiences and relationships that had a huge impact on who I am, how I accept myself, and how I love and value those close to me. I specifically take inspiration from night terrors I had as a kid, and combine that sense of fear with these specific experiences, which was kind of therapeutic and healing throughout my process.” said Paige Shaw, ‘20.

Others constructed their art projects with innovative, practical usage in mind — totally repurposing the way we appreciate art as a society.

“The idea that I had throughout working on my show is how we can potentially incorporate sustainable living into our homes through dual-use furniture. My favorite part of my show is the plausible implication of it into functioning homes.” said Ivy VanPoppelin, ‘20.

Working on the senior art show was not just a senior-year project for these artists. Many of the senior art majors have been working on these projects for the past several years, and they have spent even longer planning for it.

“I knew I wanted to do something with animal agriculture from the time I was a freshman, it’s something I’ve always been interested in making my work around. The recycling I’ve been implementing into my work over my four years here. Overall, I would say I actively started working on my senior show over the past two years.” said Clow.

Although constructing the senior art show involved countless hours of hard work from these senior art majors, they certainly enjoyed themselves throughout the process.

“My favorite part of working on this show was making works of art specifically for me. I also loved seeing my art family everyday. I’m going to miss them like hell next year.” said Shaw.

In addition, putting together this major show served as a learning experience for these artists, and they grew a lot as artists through the process.

“I figured out what I like and what makes me tick through working on this show. I know I like working with vibrant, technicolor stuff. I like more expressive mark making. I developed my own artistic vocabulary, and I feel like I learned about myself while working on this show.” said Clow.

Although the senior art show is a pleasure for all attendees, there are greater implications to viewing and appreciating the arts in the present day.

“With a lack of funding for the arts, this is a time more than ever that we need creative thinking. I always encourage people to come out and see the art.” said Clow.

With all of the hard work the seniors have put into this show, students can show their appreciation by visiting the gallery any time between March 16th to April 17th.

“I think all the senior art majors have done an amazing job on pieces and I hope everyone enjoys it!” said VanPoppelin.

Trigger warnings in Gun Play stir campus opinions


Two weeks ago, Gunplay debuted on Alma College Campus. This unique theatrical work was produced entirely by the students of Dr. Joanne Gilbert’s Performing Advocacy class the previous semester, and was directed by Dr. GIlbert herself.

Gunplay highlights the byproducts of gun violence in America. The plotline addresses themes of school shootings, police brutality, domestic violence and suicide.

Because the portrayal of topics such as these can be upsetting to audience members, trigger warnings were issued before the production began.

“The posters for the show featured a stylized graphic of an AR-15 and a message in large font that read: WARNING: ADULT CONTENT,” said Dr. Gilbert, Charles A. Dana professor of communication.” “I discussed this with Scott Mackenzie, chair of the theatre and dance department, and we agreed that the posters, programs and pre-show audio should all feature this warning due to the subject matter of the production.”

Issuing trigger warnings for a variety of different content has become standardized over the last decade. Trigger warnings allow audience members a chance to prepare themselves for potentially upsetting content. They also provide the audience members a choice to opt out of viewing the production.

“A trigger warning to me means that the content you are about to see will make you feel uncomfortable. If it’s something that would be offensive to viewers – take certain parts of the play for example – I would mention them on the poster and at the start of the show.” said Sophia Lioli, (’22).

Although trigger warnings were issued prior to each of the four productions of Gunplay, some students felt that certain content required a more specified announcement to allow audience members to prepare themselves.

“The suicide scene was deeply disturbing and was not something I thought was going to happen when watching the play in spite of the trigger warnings,” said Lioli.

Others felt that the trigger warnings issued sufficed in preparing the audience for any potentially shocking content, and that the presence of certain content in the play could be inferred prior to the performance.

“The warning for Gunplay was intended to alert potential audiences that the show featured disturbing content. We did not want to be stipulative and describe the entire plot, and believed that the combination of the topic, the title, the warning and the promotion of the show was sufficient to convey to potential audiences that this play was about gun violence.” said Gilbert.

Certain audience members felt that Gunplay could have been produced without some of the more disturbing and graphic content and that the omission of such content would not distort the overall message of the show.

“It would have been better without the suicide scene. I am sure they could have given their message to the audience in a more comfortable way — a way that would not resort to a person committing suicide in the second to final scene,” said Lioli.

However, the producers of Gunplay included vivid, uninhibited content, although it made some feel uncomfortable, in order to make a strong impact on the audience.

“Early on, I told our set designer, Sam Moretti, that I never wanted the audience to feel comfortable because comfort leads to complacency–the opposite of action–and I wanted audiences to leave with the desire to act,” said Gilbert.

In spite of controversy surrounding trigger warnings, Gunplay was the product of dedication of many hardworking individuals and sent a strong message to viewers, which was the desired goal.

“I am incredibly proud of and grateful for the work my students did to create dramatic scenes and represent actual community voices through their interviews, statistical research, writing and performing,” said Gilbert

Climate change versus industry


As of Jan. 3rd, the Trump Administration ruled that industries no longer need to account for climate change when assessing the environmental effects of major infrastructure projects. Previously, the half-a-century old National Environmental Policy Act served to both limit the entry of planet-warming greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, as well as properly assess the effects of global warming such as rising sea levels and increased temperatures on the infrastructure projects themselves.

The government plays a major role in environmental policy changes such as this. According to Dr. Amanda Harwood, professor of environmental science, “At the most basic level, the legislative branch makes decisions, and the president or governor will veto those decisions. On the national level, the president selects cabinet members such as the head of the E.P.A. Those higher officials are not chosen necessarily because they’re superior scientists, but because of politics.”

Because politics so heavily mingle with environmental policy, major changes to policies may be made without the main goal in mind — safety. “The main thing about policy is that it’s supposed to protect you. You don’t want to have to think ‘Can I breathe outside today?’ or ‘Can I drink the water from my tap?’ because, hypothetically, the Safe Drinking Water Act should be protecting you,” said Harwood.

Proponents of the changes to the National Environmental Policy Act may not know the environmental risks associated with large infrastructure projects. In some cases, environmentally negligent shortcuts may be taken to complete infrastructure projects as quickly as possible. “There are lots of different things that could happen with big infrastructure projects from chemical spills to habitat destruction. The effects are site and project specific. Generally, impact statements must be done before starting major infrastructure projects,” said Harwood.

Many disagree with the Trump Administration’s ruling on the changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, and feel that it favors the interests of big businesses over environmental concerns.

“Of course, industries should take climate change into consideration before major infrastructure projects. Especially with the extent of how the climate crisis is going at the moment, I definitely believe we should not be giving outs to companies, and there needs to be more restrictions with everything going on in the country and other countries as well,” said Monika Tomica, (‘20).

The battles between environmentalists and big businesses often seem never ending. In order for one to thrive, the other must suffer as they compete to either build-upon or conserve the same plots of land. “We have to prioritize. We have to decide where our compromise is. Do we care that we have clean air and clean water? To what degree are we willing to sacrifice habitats to build a bridge or a pipeline?” said Harwood.

In spite of the government’s heavy hand on environmental policy, citizens of the United States still have a large role in selecting the people who make these major decisions. Voting for environmentally conscious candidates ensures that environmental concerns are addressed with thoughtfulness and care. “You can drive policy when you vote. If you want clean air, clean water and clean food, you have to vote for people who want you to have clean air, water and food,” said Harwood.

Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day


Over the past several years, there have been many movements to replace the observation of Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day in light of the acts of terrorism committed by Columbus on indigenous communities during the Age of Exploration. The origins of Columbus Day prove much more complex than many know.

“Columbus day actually emerged as part of a movement of Italian Americans who wanted to have their own heritage recognized. They advocated for celebrating Columbus as the origin of American stories and American heritage as a way to counter, at the time, some pretty strong anti-Italian sentiment.” said professor of english Laura von Wallmenich, professor of English and Native American Literature.

In spite of the complex roots of Columbus Day, many feel that the observation of Columbus Day is harmful to Native Americans.

“By making that a holiday that we celebrate and suggesting that Columbus is an origin for American identity is at the very least insulting to indigenous peoples.” said von Wallmenich.

In addition, many feel that the portrayal of Columbus as a heroic historical figure neglects to address the suffering many indigenous communities experienced at the hands of Columbus during colonization.

“To celebrate Columbus Day, and to celebrate Columbus as a kind of founder figure is historically not entirely accurate. It’s also to celebrate and elevate as an individual hero something that was actually a complex colonizing force that displaced indigenous people.” said von Wallmenich.

Some argue that the heroic representation of Columbus stems from a lack of education on the suffering of Native Americans during colonization.

“My school didn’t teach me a lot about what Columbus did to indigenous communities. Admittedly, part of what history is involves how it’s remembered. Unfortunately, history is often rewritten to not show some of the bad parts” said Jared Wilson, (‘20).

The movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day began with grassroots movements by Native Americans, and has made tremendous progress in a short period of time.

“The organized movement to protest and resist Columbus Day has really been a fairly recent movement, in the last few decades, but the roots of that go all the way back to the 1970’s during the American Indian Movements where there began to be politically organized indigenous communities from across the United States protesting U.S. policies.” said von Wallmenich.

Part of the success of these movements for Indigenous Peoples’ Day can be attributed to the passion and devotion of Native Americans for their history to be accurately addressed.

“I think Indigenous People’s Day is fueled by a desire to acknowledge that indigenous communities are still here, they still grapple with the legacies of colonization, and they are still wounded every time we tell a falsely heroic story of conquest and colonization.” said von Wallmenich.

Although the simple change of a holiday’s title seems miniscule, it speaks volumes on the level of respect the United States has for indigenous people.

“I think that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a very small step of acknowledging that the United States exists on land that was indigenous land and that indigenous people are still part of the United States. It seems like a small thing to say that if we think about a day commemorating our origins, it might be better to begin by commemorating indigenous people, who have not vanished. The stories we tell as a nation matter.” said von Wallmenich.

First Year halls host Fire Safety Events


Living on Alma College campus, the reverberating sound of fire alarms quickly becomes a familiarity for all students. Fire alarms are particularly prevalent among the first-year dorms, Bruske Hall and Gelston Hall.

“The fire alarms go off often – about once a week, if not more.” said Bruske resident Annabelle Avolio (‘23).

There are many reasons for these frequent fire alarms, most of which are cooking-related. Smoke from improperly cooked microwave meals often results in a fire alarm.

“Because they’re transitioning into college, they might have never made food for themselves before and have no idea how those things work. Every year we have the same trends where somebody makes mac and cheese or ramen noodles without water.” said Nicholas Benjamin, Assistant Director of Residence Life and First Year Experience.

However, many different activities could set the fire alarms off at any moment. Most of these activities are common everyday actions that could result in a fire alarm by complete accident.

“I typically find that it’s just students who aren’t necessarily aware of what they’re doing. They might put something in the microwave for too long. A lot of times hairspray will cause the alarms to go off if they spray way too much of it. It’s a case-by-case basis.” said Benjamin.

Although many first-year students know the proper fire evacuation process, some students choose to not evacuate their dorms because they assume it’s caused by a false alarm. However, there’s no guarantee that any alarm is a false alarm until the residence hall is declared safe by staff.

“I know where to go. I always evacuate the building, even if I assume it’s a false alarm. I don’t think everyone else in the building necessarily evacuates though.” said Avolio.

Because of the frequent fire alarms, there will be fire safety informational events for first-year students hosted on November 21st from 7-9 p.m. in the lobbies of Gelston and Bruske. These events were a new idea proposed by the RAs to provide first-year students with the information they need to hopefully prevent the fire alarm from ringing and perhaps reduce the amount of false alarms.

“The RAs  thought it was a really good idea so everyone knows how to make food if they don’t want to go to the cafeteria or if they’re studying and need something quick without causing the fire alarms to go off.” said Benjamin.

The new fire safety events will feature games to make the experience both informative as well as enjoyable for first-year students.

“They’re gonna have a Kahoot, and that’s gonna cover things like what our actual fire policy says, some fun facts about fire safety and just in general how to make certain kinds of food.” said Benjamin.

Although most of the fire alarms among the residence halls turn out to be false alarms, it’s important that students take each alarm seriously.

“We know to get out of the building, stand outside, and don’t go back in until it’s been cleared.” said Bruske resident Madie Acosta (‘23).

In order to ensure that all students are safe in the event of a fire, those living in residence halls should read the Alma College fire policy carefully and memorize the evacuation protocols. Never just assume that any alarm is a false alarm; doing so could put students’ lives at risk.

“If the fire alarm does go off, what I tell all students is to treat it seriously because at the end of the day, you never know and it’s better to be safe than sorry. My recommendation is always to get out of the building, stay away from the doors and stay far away from the building.” said Benjamin.

Amazon ablaze: what is to blame?



The Amazon rainforest has undergone record-breaking fires this year, and the usual drought of Amazonia’s dry season is not the only cause. In addition to drought, illegal logging and deforestation further feed the flames.

“The rainforest has had intensive fires these past few months, naturally occurring as well as man-made,” said Holly Barnum (‘20). “The Brazil President Jaor Bolsonaro has rolled back protections of the rainforests and introduced far-right policies that pretty much lets miners, farmers, and loggers set fire to the forest to clear more land to use.”

Recent changes to environmental policies which previously protected the Amazon rainforest now leave Amazonia vulnerable to various destructive forces. These changes were economically-driven, but their harmful effects will long outlast their benefits.

“The recent president of Brazil has been very anti-environmental,” said Dr. Rowe, professor of biology. “It’s for short-term economic gain. But, of course, we all know these forests are worth much more than the availability for the oil and gas industry, because oil dries up.” 

Many feel that the short-term economic gains of deforestation pale in comparison to the long-term benefits of leaving the rainforest intact.

“The Amazon rainforest helps to revert climate change because of its ability to process CO,” said Rowe. “The Amazon is also a hot-bed for natural products. There’s a lot of natural products and chemicals in plants and other things that are used for medicinal purposes.”

The Amazon rainforest serves home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which could be at risk amidst the destruction of the rainforest.

“Of all the plant species, around 70-75% of the plant species are endemic to the Amazon,” said Rowe. They’re found nowhere else. It’s also got the greatest concentration of freshwater fish in the world.”

In addition to the rich biodiversity of plants and animals residing in the rainforest, Amazonia serves home to many indigenous people. The fire threatens the land occupied by their ancestors for centuries, as well as their way of life.

“There are numerous indigenous tribes that have lived in the rainforest for generations, with extensive experience and knowledge of the species-rich environment.” said Barum.

Various factors have destroyed large portions of the Amazon rainforest already, and the future foretells even greater loss.

“They’ve lost a considerable amount of their forest,” said Rowe. “About twenty percent or so of the Amazonian rainforest is just gone. It’s been converted to other sorts of things. By 2030, I think we’re looking at somewhere closer to twenty-five percent loss.” 

In spite of the damage Amazonia has undergone already, people from all over the world possess the potential to make contributions towards saving the rainforest.

“Donations to organizations such as the and Amazon Watch, Rainforest Trust, World Wildlife Fund, and the Rainforest Action Network’s “Protect an Acre” grants are a few options for people to get involved.” said Barnum.

In addition to financial contributions, small changes of habit here at Alma College can make big contributions towards rainforest conservation.

“Using less wood and paper as well as consuming less beef, cheese, and pork can help reduce commercial pressures in the Amazon,” said Barnum. “Buying from ethical sources is also a beneficial method, such as buying items certified by the Forest Stewardship  Council (FSC) or by the Rainforest Alliance (RA).”

HIV outbreak in Pakistan


Last Wednesday, Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro, a pediatrician, was suspended from his practice after accusations that his reuse of syringe needles caused an outbreak of H.I.V. in the small city of Ratodero, Pakistan. To date, there are around 1,200 known H.I.V. infections to have occurred among Ghangro’s patients, 900 of which are children.

H.I.V. is a virus that causes a drastic  weakening of the immune system. It is spread via contact with body fluids from an infected individual, or in this case, the reuse of hypodermic needles. In spite of being dangerous and harmful, the reuse of syringe needles occurs all over the world.

“The reuse of needles is very common in general, but actually not only in third-world countries. It happens in the United States as well. Thirty to forty percent of Hepatitis cases come from needle reuse, twenty percent of new HIV infections come from needle reuse.” said Dr. Hyun Kim, professor of Integrative Health & Physical Science.

This outbreak is not an isolated incident, and is the product of the drastically under-resourced healthcare system in Pakistan.

“Third-world healthcare needs to be improved. That depends not only upon the third-world countries, but also the first-world countries that need to step in and be good human beings and take care of other people.” said Brooke Longman (‘21).

There are many factors to consider when studying third-world healthcare systems and determining where they require resources. Some argue that a lack of health education is to blame.

“There might not be enough access to education for those who practice, and at the same time, not enough access to those who receive care.” said Dr. Kim.

In addition to a lack of education, many Pakistan civilians lack basic sanitation equipment, which causes detrimental effects to their health.

“There’s not a lot of awareness of basic healthcare essentials. It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices” said Isabella Binkley (‘21).

In spite of all of the issues among the healthcare system in Pakistan, hasty intervention may be more detrimental than helpful. Intervening in healthcare affairs requires an approach of cultural relativity and willingness to understand the perspectives of healthcare providers.

“To improve the healthcare of third-world countries, we want to understand the religion and culture of the country as a whole so we can better communicate with their government to work on national healthcare policy.” said Dr. Kim.

Working with third-world legislators on creating national healthcare policy is vital to change among the failing healthcare systems. Without legislation and policy, any efforts made to improve the healthcare system might not be upheld.

“Pakistan has a lack of social support from the government. Until that changes, there will be a lack of healthcare service. There will still be a lack of infrastructure. If there’s no support from the government, the whole new system isn’t going to work, even though we’re trying to help them out.” said Dr. Kim.

In spite of the obstacles in place, assisting third-world countries in establishing national healthcare policy and improving health-related education available to both practitioners and civilians is vital.

“It’s our responsibility to help them with that when they don’t have the knowledge or the resources available there to improve their healthcare system or basic hygiene practices.” said Binkely.

First all-female spacewalk takes place


Last Friday, two NASA astronauts made history by partaking in the first ever all-female spacewalk. The team of Christina Koch and Jessica Meir embarked on a mission to replace lithium-ion batteries for a solar power system located at the space station after a recent failure of a power controller. Koch and Meir became two of only fourteen women ever to participate in a spacewalk since NASA’s first in 1965. 

“I think it’s symbolic. It represents another step of seeing women in a traditionally male world having their presence. It’s encouraging,” said Chih-Ping Chen, professor of English and coordinator of women’s and gender studies.

In order for Koch and Meir to perform this momentous feat, they overcame many boundaries of systematic sexism. The first all-female spacewalk was scheduled to occur earlier in the year, but was cancelled due to a lack of two medium-sized women’s spacesuits at NASA. In spite of this, many feel that opportunities in the STEM fields are becoming more gender-inclusive.

“I really don’t think men and women have equal opportunities to work in science industries, but it’s getting better. You definitely see a lot more female representation coming into play nowadays than you used to see,” said Sarah Sheathelm (’22)

Many argue that there is an unproportionate representation of female participants in the STEM careers such as those at NASA due to a lack of opportunities provided to school-aged girls. 

“I think opportunity should always be equal,” said Chen. “It just depends on what kind of work women might be interested in and also how we encourage women to look at those different roles that they can take.”

In addition, many feel that STEM careers fail to provide equal opportunities to both men and women due to bias about which gender proves better-suited for tasks such as space travel. Stereotypes portraying men as the smarter, stronger sex harm women’s chances of filling physically demanding careers as astronauts.

“I feel like the majority of astronauts are men, and they discriminate by thinking that only men can explore space and that they’re a better fit,” said Emily West (’22).

Many feel that the first all-female spacewalk came too late, but others argue that different fields progress at different paces for many different reasons. 

“I believe that in different fields, we are seeing some changes, but maybe at different paces because maybe they have different considerations,” said Chen. 

In spite of the adversity Koch and Meir faced in order to perform the first all-female spacewalk, many are so glad they did because their act inspired young girls and women all over the world. The first all-female spacewalk set an optimistic tone for more gender-inclusive opportunities at NASA in the future. 

“It shows that women can do anything men do. I think it would be cool if there was a space mission where men and women were both equal on the mission to show we can work together and there’s no fear of one gender being superior to the other,” said Chloe Sandborn (’22).

Although many argue that all-female space missions fail to represent true gender equality among the space program, many believe they are important in empowering females to aim for the stars and shoot for the moon.

“I think there were always all-male space explorations, so there is definitely a need for all-female space explorations. We want equal representation. We can do it too,” said Sheathelm.

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