Who deserves the COVID-19 vaccine?


Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, all of humanity has been searching for a light at the end of the tunnel. That light, for many, arrives in the form of a vaccine. The state of Michigan has administered COVID-19 vaccines for the past six months; however, due to limited availability of vaccines, healthcare administrators released the vaccine in tiers according to age, occupation, and health status.

“Since December 2020, COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan became available for front line workers such as healthcare workers and first responders in congregate settings, and those aged 65 and older,” said professor of integrated physiology and health sciences, Hyun Kim. “Pre-K-12 teachers, school staff, and licensed child care workers were also vaccinated after these groups. The state of Michigan has been expanding vaccination eligibility for those aged 16 and older with disabilities or medical beginning March 22nd, and starting April 5th, everyone over 16 will become eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The public as well as the campus community have expressed mixed opinions on what groups of people deserve to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before others. Much controversy has arisen from the exclusion of college students from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine before the general public, as they live in communal settings in which the virus spreads rapidly.

“Since last year, health inequity has been the topic in the area of public health,” said Kim. “One of the ethical principles of COVID-19 vaccine priority groups was to promote justice and to mitigate health inequities. Alma College is one of a few higher-educational institutions who has opened the campus for in-person learning while many others, especially large state universities, have not. I think the student population cannot be prioritized due to these reasons mentioned above unless they have high-risk underlying conditions or work at the healthcare settings. Again, I believe vaccine priorities should be given to those, no matter if they are students or faculty members, at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.”

Another source of controversy arose when Alma College faculty members were offered the COVID-19 vaccine prior to students, even though many of these faculty members had opportunities to receive the vaccine at prior dates.

“The COVID-19 vaccine was provided first to the faculty of Alma College,” said Kim. “There were a fair number of faculty members with underlying health conditions who did not get vaccinated due to delays in vaccination scheduling in Michigan. I think this was why COVID-19 vaccine was offered prior to students.”

Although many felt that college students should have qualified for the COVID-19 vaccine at an earlier date, various different factors were considered in determining vaccine eligibility.

“Mortality and morbidity data of COVID-19 in the United States has shown that individuals aged 65 and older or with high-risk health conditions have been significantly affected by severe complications such as trouble breathing, heart problems, and additional bacterial infections,” said Kim. “Based on this evidence, I personally think the vaccine could have been offered to students at the same time to faculty, but to those with underlying conditions prior to everyone,

because we, as a campus community, have been working together diligently to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”

At the end of the day, each vaccine administered in our campus community brings us one step closer to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic to a close.

First female Scouts to achieve Eagle Scout Status


This past February, Scouts BSA, formerly known as Boy Scouts of America, inaugurated a class of nearly 1,000 females into the National Eagle Scout Association. The Eagle Scout ranking is the highest ranking in the Scouts BSA program. This is the first inaugural class to include females since the organization’s founding in 1911.

This is not the first radical change to come to the Scouts BSA program in recent years. In 2019, Scouts BSA officially began accepting female membership. At that time, Scouts BSA changed their name from “Boy Scouts of America” in an effort to reflect their newly inclusive membership.

“I see this as a welcome change, especially after years of regressive and abusive sex, gender and sexuality policies by BSA,” said Dr. Prathim-Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies.

Accomplishing the rank of Eagle Scout requires a lot of hard work on behalf of the scout, regardless of gender. Eagle Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project of choice. At the present, 2.5 million scouts have been inducted into the National Eagle Scout Association.

“Of course we should celebrate all new Eagle Scouts and the first 1,000 girl Eagle Scouts. I’m happy to know that so many girls decided to sign up, were able to thrive and made it to the pinnacle of scouting achievement,” said Dora-Laskey.

Although many feel excited about the inclusion of girls into the Scouts BSA program and the National Eagle Scout Association, many also feel concerned about the future of the Girl Scouts and the continuation of the two separate scouting organizations.

“I think girls are a valuable addition to The Scouts of America, but many families and girl scouts may not want to see their girl-centric spaces vanish,” said Dora-Laskey. “There’s plenty of research emphasizing enhanced leadership opportunities and development for girls in girl-centric spaces.”

The separation of the scouting organizations based on gender may be arbitrary in our modern society as traditional gender roles progressively recede. Additionally, the goal of both the Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA programs are very similar.

“Ultimately, both girl and boy scouts set opportunities for social interaction and encourage an appreciation of the outdoors, but because of the way we make gender so binary, we may end up reinforcing gender socializations,” said Dora-Laskey.

As the Scouts BSA and the Girl Scouts reassess who should be permitted to participate in each respective program, they may also need to reassess scouting as a whole to ensure inclusivity to all scouts and provide equal opportunities for the growth and success of participants.

“Perhaps there needs to be a mission change. What can be done to make scouting feel welcoming? Are there ways in which scouting is an activity not predicated on gender designations whether arbitrary or self-chosen as well as a place where children are encouraged to collaborate on projects and appreciate nature and do something caring every day,” said Dora-Laskey.

Regardless of how people feel about the separation of scouting organizations based on gender, the Scouts BSA program made major changes in recent years to become more inclusive to all scouts. Will the Girl Scouts follow suit in the near future?

“The Girl Scouts had always seemed like the more progressive scouting organization. They set up troops in homeless shelters, support reproductive rights, welcome transgender members, etcetera. I’m sure they can do it,” said Dora-Laskey.

Celebrating Black History Month


Many Americans recognize February as the month of love with Valentine’s Day on the calendar, but February also serves as Black History Month nationwide.

“The campus observes Black History Month to honor the past, present and future lives, struggles and achievements of Black people,” said Donnesha Blake, Director of Diversity and Inclusion on campus.

The observation of Black History Month in the United States has a rich historical background and has been dynamic since its beginning.

“Black history month started in 1926 in the second week of February as Negro History Week and was extended to the full month in 1976,” said Autumn Montgomery ‘23. “To me, Black History Month is about not celebrating the achievements of Black Americans but recognizing that Black history is American history. Throughout the existence of our country, time and time again the stories, identities and contributions of minorities have been whitewashed and erased. Black history month is a time to take claim of the impact that we have had on this country.”

Alma College’s Black Student Union worked hard to plan the campus’ observation of Black History Month this year to reflect the modern political and social climate.

“This year our theme is ‘Unapologetically Black,’” said Dr. Blake. “We chose this theme because oftentimes Black people are asked to apologize for their histories, lives and cultures. We have certainly seen that last year during the global uprising for and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We wanted to explore what it means to be bold, brave and unapologetic in our celebration of Black history and culture.”

Black History Month serves not only as an opportunity to highlight the historical accomplishments of Black people, which are too often overshadowed, but also as a source of empowerment and solidarity for people of color.

“To me, the goal of Black History Month is not to simply acknowledge it and move on, but it’s an opportunity to re-engage, strengthen and renew our efforts to love, honor and respect Black life. For some, Black History Month can be a catalyst to learn and honor the lives of Black people, their history and culture throughout the year. For others, BHM celebrations can be sources of renewed energy after months, years and even centuries of struggle.”

Throughout the month of February, the Diversity and Inclusion Office will host many different activities for students to become engaged in Black History Month.

“All month long my office is hosting the Discover Our Glory Contest,” said Dr. Blake. “The Discover Our Glory is a self-guided worksheet that includes prompts related to African American history that students can research. Faculty and staff can participate too, but the prizes are for students. Those who complete it will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift[card] to the bookstore.”

Alma College’s Black Student Union will also be hosting a variety of different events throughout the month for students to celebrate and learn about Black culture.

“On Sunday, February 14, 7:00-9:00 p.m. in DOW L1 and on Zoom, we are doing a special Valentine’s Day screening of the Oscar-winning short film Hair Love and the documentary Pelo Malo,” said Dr. Blake. “We are going to use that film to have a conversation about how we combat anti-blackness in beauty standards and media representations. There will be special Valentine’s Day treats if you join in-person or you can grab some treats from Dow L1 to take back to your room to watch virtually.”

Students should be sure to frequently check the campus calendar and register for these events beforehand to ensure they can celebrate Black History Month to the fullest.

COVID-19 restrictions on campus


The campus community here at Alma College has undergone drastic changes since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in February of 2020. Residence Life staff, professors and students alike scrambled to adjust to the dynamic guidelines, and continue to do so every day to ensure our campus remains safe and healthy.

Many of the new campus guidelines relating to COVID-19 remain in place from the fall semester, but some new guidelines have been implemented as students settle in for the winter semester.

“We made some changes to campus policies, especially in the residence halls, to try to create better options for students to gather socially and safely,” said Residence Life staff.

Many of the new guidelines implemented on campus serve as responses to unexpected challenges the campus community faced last semester. Some students struggled to follow guidelines relating to visiting friends during these isolating times.

“When we looked at what we learned last semester, we knew that we could not safely allow students to visit each other in their rooms at this time, so we wanted to create other spaces so students can get together socially,” said Residence Life Staff.

“The solution we implemented was opening the residence hall lobbies and study rooms to all students, even if they do not live in that building. We want students to use these spaces since they are big enough to support socially distanced groups of people and give students more options during cold weather.”

Although some students struggled to follow new COVID-19-related guidelines last semester, the overall response of the campus community to new guidelines has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The majority of Alma students have been doing a great job following safety precautions,” said Residence Life staff.

“I have been impressed by the community-minded approach that many students have – you know that the decisions you make during a pandemic affect more than just yourselves. They affect your friends, professors, staff, neighbors, and families. That said, all of us make mistakes, and it helps when someone notices and gives a friendly reminder. As students, you can always help remind a friend or classmate. The conversations you have with each other can be powerful! If you notice something that is serious or that you aren’t comfortable confronting on your own, you can always share your concern with student affairs through our reporting form.”

Keeping the campus community safe and healthy can feel like a daunting task as students maneuver new testing protocols and new campus-wide restrictions as they also settle-in to new classes and schedules, but administration rewards the hard work and dedication of Alma students.

“We know that we are asking a lot to keep our campus and community safe, but we are also working hard to create some positive things on campus,” said Residence Life staff.

“Here are my top tips for this semester: Check the campus calendar for events that are happening on campus. ACUB and other groups have planned some great events for this semester, especially on the weekends. Most of these events have an in-person component and are free for all students.”

“Plan something fun with your friends in one of the lobbies. Use the TVs for a movie night, start up a game night, or just get together to talk. These spaces are for you, and we want them to be used.”

“If you need help, please ask for it. There are lots of people on campus who are here to help. If you’re not sure where to go, you can always ask an RA or raise your hand on Starfish. If you have ideas, please let us know! We can’t guarantee that everything will be possible, but we always want to hear your thoughts.”

COVID-19 affects grad school applicants


Each year around this time, college juniors and seniors all across the country are working diligently on their applications to a variety of different graduate programs. However, COVID-19 impacts many different aspects of the application process. Applicants should expect to be highly flexible throughout their application process, as it could look very different from previous years.

“Many interviews are now done online and campus visitations are virtual,” said Dr. John Rowe, chair of the biology department. “Many graduate programs, as well as med and vet schools, have been emphasizing student experiences and personal attributes rather than basing admissions solely on transcripts and standardized tests.”

One major aspect of the graduate program application process affected by COVID-19 involves the various entrance exams for different programs, such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. Many graduate program applicants have been preparing for these exams throughout the entirety of their academic careers.

“Some graduate programs seem to be following the expanding number of undergraduate institutions, like ours, seem to be dropping entrance exams such as SAT and ACT at least for the time-being,” said Rowe. “The Educational Testing Service has modified its formatting for at-home administration of the GRE and some graduate programs have waived or dropped the requirement altogether. Some med schools are granting leniency to applicants who have not submitted their MCAT scores in a timely manner given test date cancellations while some programs are not requiring the MCAT.”

Many juniors and seniors may be grappling with the decision of whether to apply to graduate schools now in accordance to pre-pandemic plans, or wait to apply after the pandemic ends.

“There is some evidence that suggests that some students may delay their application to graduate programs until they can enter under ‘more normal’ and certain times,” said Rowe. “I saw a survey that indicated that about 50% of potential grad student applicants were considering delaying their application to grad school, but many students will continue on as planned prior to COVID…time will tell.”

Students who are on the fence about their decision to apply to graduate school now or postpone until later have a lot to consider, especially as the application process requires a lot from applicants.

“Before embarking on the strenuous and time-consuming application process, however, students should look into their program of interest in order to glean as much information as possible about entrance standards, dates, and deadlines, said Rowe. “There could be some

information on predicted application rates that could be useful when deciding on whether to apply or not.”

Regardless of whether students decide to apply to their graduate programs of choice now or take a rain check for after the pandemic, they should remain vigilant in achieving their current academic goals and striving to do their very best during these difficult times.

“Becoming acclimated to our new learning environment is critical for both students and faculty alike,” said Rowe. “I think that students should embrace these times as we pursue new directions in learning. It is quite possible that portions of graduate school learning will occur online in the near future and students should be ready for that reality. Also, professional schools, internships, shadowing and service opportunities are difficult to land but should be actively pursued when possible.”

GEO on strike at University of Michigan


Last Tuesday, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, also known as GEO, commenced a strike at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Over three quarters of GEO’s 2,000 graduate student instructors and assistants support the strike, which took place over four days.

Those on the picket lines wore masks and maintained social-distancing guidelines to remain safe while they relayed their message.

GEO’s strike was in response to two major concerns at the U of M campus. The first of their concerns involves the health and safety of students after the university welcomed its 45,000 students back to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most classes are offered online, many feel that the close-proximity living quarters on campus facilitate the spread of the virus.

The second of GEO’s concerns involves anti-policing demands after U of M decided to increase on-campus policing as a means of enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing among students. Many feel this increase in policing at U of M could cause a subsequent increase in racist policing activities.

GEO’s decision to strike serves part of a long-running history of workers demanding policy-change by applying pressure to the administrations that oppress them.

“The strike is one of the oldest forms of protests,” said Dr. Ben Peterson, professor of history and political science. “Some point to Secession of the Plebs in ancient Rome as the first example, but I would suspect that strikes have existed in one form or another from the very beginning of the concept of ‘work.’”

With the increase of strikes and protests across the United States throughout 2020, many possess strong opinions about whether they serve as effective, valid forms of creating change.

“Like the power of labor in general, their effectiveness tends to ebb-and-flow across time depending on a variety of legal, social, and economic forces. Despite this they have clearly had a defining impact on the country,” said Peterson.

Many liberties we enjoy today were fought for on picket lines and accomplished through strikes and protests by past generations.

“The strike waves in the 1930s not only improved conditions for striking workers, they established new patterns of wages and labor relations that helped to redistribute wealth throughout the country,” said Peterson. “In Michigan in particular, the UAW strikes in 1936 transformed labor conditions in the automotive industry and helped to build a period of prosperity for the workers of the Midwest.”

Regardless of the spectrum of approval for the rise in strikes and protests across the United States, GEO’s strike at U of M sparks controversy because the state of Michigan prohibits public employees, such as professors at public universities, from striking.

“Public sector employees are regulated under different systems depending on the state,” said Peterson. “Some states treat public workers as regular workers, but others severely restrain what they can, and cannot do.”

In spite of these restrictions imposed by the state, GEO successfully picketed for four days, concluding last Friday. Strikes and pickets such as this may not always conclude in instantaneous policy change, but they open the door to discussing change.

Protests over return to in-person classes


Late at night on August 20th, over 40 protesters congregated outside of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s home in Holland, Michigan, donning signs that read “Wake up Betsy,” and “People over profit.”

Protests just like this one are happening all over the country in response to the return of students to in-person classes for the 2020/21 school year. These gatherings consist of educators, administrators and parents concerned for the health and safety of local school systems during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision-making process regarding how each school district should respond to delivering quality education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic proved a difficult and divisive task.

According to Dr. Nicola Findley, professor of education, “In Michigan, the governor and legislators presented a plan in mid-August for safe return to schools. This made it clear that the decision about in-person classes would be up to local school districts, although districts are required to submit plans for how they intend to educate students at this time.”

Because each school district implemented different plans and protocols for COVID-19, policies vary widely from district to district, as does the public’s approval.

“I think the decisions that have been made in different districts do tend to reflect local community wishes and that’s good, but any decision has pros and cons and will be met with some resistance,” said Findley.

The pros and cons of resuming in-person classes entail many different issues, a major one involving the ability of both teachers and students to follow the safety protocols prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Personally, I don’t think that allowing public schools to open was a very sound idea,” said Martin Betancourt (‘21).

“The student to teacher ratio is already eighteen to one and few classrooms are going to allow proper distancing. Hallways are also a huge problem with the class rotation and all of the students walking through. Of course, if schools do open, students and staff should be required to wear masks.”

Another highly contested matter each school district considered in their COVID-19 response plans involves whether or not quality education can be delivered via online courses.

“I think that online classes can be useful to many students, especially younger students. These kids are part of a generation that is growing with technology so adjusting would be fairly easy for them. That is, if they have the means to attend remotely,” said Betancourt.

Whether online-learning is an acceptable substitute for in-person classes proves a divisive issue among educators as much as it is among parents of students.

“Most early grade educators argue that online classes may include some helpful ways to individualize learning, provide alternative experiences, support practice and other advantages,” said Findley.

“However, they often argue that this is best done in an in-person environment with the support of a skilled teacher who has a relationship with each child.”

Regardless of how each school district responds to the coronavirus pandemic, each district crafted their unique plan with two things in mind delivering a quality education and keeping students safe.

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.


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