Parking predicaments frustrate campus



Parking has been a hot topic on campus, especially since the overnight street parking is now no longer allowed between the hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Many students have been parking in the streets since the beginning of the semester, which has taken a few of the spots students with passes for the lots usually use.

Students across campus have had their fair share of complaints about the overflow of students parking in their desired lot near their building. Many students do not pay attention to the regulations on Alma’s website in regard to the parking. For instance, if a student finds their lot full, then they can contact Campus Safety and get a temporary permit to park in an overflow lot.

Also, according to the regulations, if you are an owner of a maroon or teal pass, you may park in any of the silver lots if your assigned parking lot is at its maximum capacity. One thing to remember is that overflow parking is only allowed until noon the following day.

“I have not been able to park in my lot near my building since early October,” said Rachel Whipple (’20)

Students have, however, shown how upset they are that they even have to park in overflow lots, especially with the amount they pay to park.

“I pay $300 to park in the teal lots around campus, and there are only three lots that are teal on campus,” said Carrielynn LaFranchi (’22). “There are multiple other people that do the exact same, yet there are people who do not own a pass or park in random lots still and get away with it, which makes it hard for people who actually own the pass for the lots to find a parking spot.”

Students had the option to choose between several lots at the beginning of the year. Those lots are the Teal (north side by Gelston, Newberry, Mitchell and Bruske), Maroon (south side of campus near the fraternity and sorority houses, along with Brazell/Nisbet, Carey/Bonbright, Wright Hall and then on North side of campus by Wright Ave), Silver (across from Starbuck’s and by the softball field), Gold (behind Starbucks) and Magenta (First Presbyterian Church).

“For the amount of money I both pay to go here and pay for a parking pass, there should be open spots located in the lots close to where I live,” said Sophia Payne (’22). Students have been struggling to find parking spots due to the mass amount of students having a car on campus and either parking in the wrong spot, not owning a parking pass or not having the current parking pass for that specific lot. 

“My friend and I always park in the same lot by our sorority house, and that lot has been consistently full, so we have not been able to park in our lot and have had to park relatively far away from where we live,” said Lauren Sandtveit (’21). “The other night, we couldn’t find a spot and called security to tell them, and they said to come get a pass for an overflow lot and gave us a pass for the Heritage lot, which is a distance away from our housing, and the pass was just for the day. The way parking is grouped together this year does not seem like it has a reason; the way the old parking lots were set up made more sense.”

With the parking lots being consistently overflowing, students have been creating their own parking spots in their assigned lots and not in assigned spots which is going against regulations.  Campus Security is ticketing people who are violating these regulations. If you have any questions about the regulations, you can look them up on Alma’s website under Parking on Campus.

If you so happen to receive a ticket, you should get a charge on your account, and you have seven days to appeal the ticket before having to pay the amount specified at the Financial Services Office in the basement of Hamilton. 

This is the first year the new lots have been in placement compared to the old system, so kinks are still being worked out, and everyone is still trying to get used to the new lot setup. While many students do not care for the new set up, some do because it gives them more options where they can park. If you have any questions regarding parking do not hesitate to look online to see if your question is answered there, or contact Campus Safety.

Changes coming for Alma College Venture experiences



Fall 2020 will bring some big changes to our small campus. Beginning next fall term, Alma College will open up more travel experiences for students, in the hopes that more individuals will be able to make use of the opportunities offered through the college.

Currently, any student who has taken advantage of a Posey Global Grant to travel abroad is not eligible to use a Venture Grant. Starting in the fall of 2020 that will change.

“Students can now complete multiple experiences and they will not take away from their access to other opportunities,” said Assistant Director of the Venture Program and Off-Campus Study, Carla Jensen.

The goal of this change is to open up opportunities to students on campus that may otherwise be closed. Some say that Alma’s off-campus experiences help to distinguish the college from other small liberal arts schools.

Not only will students be able to use these grants in any order they see fit, there will even be opportunities for those traveling to get more funding.

“All traditional Venture funding will still be in place, but additional funding is available, thanks to generous donor support, for experiences like local service learning, social justice and advocacy work,” said Carla Jensen.

Some students now wonder what this means for those that have already received a Posey Global Grant and were denied for a Venture Grant.

“The Venture Grant was falsely advertised to me as a prospective student and I was very angry to learn that I could not access it because I took the opportunity to use a P-Global in my first year,” said Destiny Herbers (‘21).

While students still currently cannot apply for a Venture Grant if they have already used a P-Global, the opportunity for some will come soon enough.

“This change I do think must be frustrating for people who were denied their Venture due to using P-Global money first, but that doesn’t mean that Administration shouldn’t make this change,” said Lillian Blaisdell (‘21).

For many this change seems to be a case of “better late than never,” but still brings some disappointment as they won’t be able to take advantage of this opportunity for this upcoming spring term.

The changes of the order in which the Venture Grant and P-Global can be used is not the only change to this system, though.

“Beginning next fall, all experiential and service learning programs will now fall under the Venture umbrella and most will have a shared application and committee review process,” said Carla Jensen. “Students can dream up their Venture and apply for the funding needed and the committee will determine the awards.” 

While the entire process hasn’t yet been fully decided or released, the college is planning on big changes that involve opening more doors for students who are willing and wanting to travel abroad. The upcoming changes have many students giddy about the prospect of being able to travel even more, but they feel as though there are still issues that remain unsolved.

“I do think a major flaw that still exists in the Venture program system is why [and] why not some students receive the “full” $2,500.  I think, especially since $2,500 is advertised for every student, it really stirs up bitterness and confusion when people aren’t awarded the full amount,” said Blaisdell.

Although some students feel as though there are issues within the Venture system here at Alma, there are changes being made in hopes of allowing more students to venture off campus and explore the world around them.

“We believe every Alma College student should have a transformative experiential learning opportunity and the college is expanding our commitment to making that possible,” said Carla Jensen. “College is a great place to explore new things and we believe your college experience should include the opportunity to pursue something you care deeply about or maybe just to step out of your comfort zone and try something you never imagined”

Polar Express passes through Alma



Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 was a historic day for the Pere Marquette 1225, better known as the Polar Express, because of the 44-year anniversary of the train’s first fire-up on Michigan State University’s campus. 

The Steam Railroading Institute planned this special day to celebrate two milestones– the Michigan State University Railroad Club’s 50-year anniversary and the 44-year anniversary of the first fire up of the 1225 after it came out of retirement. Made in Lima, Ohio for the Pere Marquette Railway in 1941, the 1225 was used to haul products between cities including Detroit, Chicago, Toledo, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Flint. 

After ten years of serving the cities on the Pere Marquette Railway, the steam locomotive was put into retirement due to the rise in popularity of diesel locomotives. Diesel locomotives were more cost efficient because they ran faster and worked longer. The 1225 sat until 1957 when it was saved by Forest Akers. 

Forest Akers, a Michigan State University trustee in 1969, took the Pere Marquette 1225 to MSU’s campus for learning purposes. While being on campus, a group of students took interest in the steam locomotive and decided to try and restore it. The group the students formed is now known as the MSU Railroad Club. The restoration continued until it was finished in 1985 and was moved to Owosso, Michigan. 

Today, the 1225 is used for The Polar Express Train Ride where the train takes passengers from Owosso to Ashley. On the ride, they serve hot chocolate just like Robert Zemeckis’ production The Polar Express shows. When arriving in Ashley, Michigan, passengers can get off of the train and explore the Christmas themed town. When ready to go, the passengers will board back on the 1225 and travel back to Owosso where they came from.  

These major milestones were celebrated by the Steam Railroad Institute holding the “Cadillac Limited”. This was a tour for passengers to see the fall colors, travelling from Mount Pleasant to Cadillac. While traveling from Owosso to Mount Pleasant’s train station to pick up passengers, it passed through Alma. The first time it passed through Alma was at 7:30 in the morning. The first time Alma College students heard it, there was a lot of concern and confusion. 

“I don’t know how to describe the sound; it was something I’ve never heard before,” said Cosette Coston (‘20). “At first I thought it was the emergency alarm that goes off on the first Saturday of the month, but because of how long the sound was, I was just confused on what it could be.”

Throughout the day, students were wondering what exactly it could be. 12 hours later, the train came back through Alma after the Cadillac Limited was finished. Some students did not wake up in the morning to the haunting sound of the train whistle, so when it came back, it was the first time they heard it.

“We thought it was a train, but it sounded like someone screaming, and it was really weird,” said Hannah Flemming (‘20).

That day was a very special day in history for the MSU Railroad Club and the Pere Marquette 1225, and they will continue to grow and hit more major milestones in the future.

Contaminated soybeans raise a larger issue


Photo by Emma Grossbauer

Michigan grown soybeans have been ordered by state officials to be destroyed after discovering a portion of the crop had been grown on contaminated land. These beans were grown in an area that contained soils dredged from the Kalamazoo River Superfund site.

The Kalamazoo river has its own share of problems. “It has mostly dioxins from paper mills along the river and also PCBs,” said Professor Murray Borrello.

The land was not designated for farming, however in 2016 Golden Grain Farms located in Caledonia, harvested almost 150 bushels grown on the land.

The crop was bought by CHS, a farm cooperative based in Minnesota, but it never left the state, the beans have been locked up by order of the state while the situation was assessed.

More than 90,000 bushel of beans must be destroyed, even though only a small amount was contaminated. In their dry form the beans are indistinguishable and cannot effectively be separated.

Luckily, none of the soybeans were used to produce food, but this situation sparks a larger conversation. “I think this incident is another reminder about how quickly and unintentionally our food chain can become tainted with man-made pollutants,” said Tom Zimnicki, Agricultural Policy Director at Michigan Environmental Council.

Earlier this year a report was published examining the amount of Glyphosate – an ingredient found in chemical pesticide – contained within breakfast cereal. “That situation is a testament to how pervasive these compounds can be in our environment and also the growing interest/ concern from consumers about what is in their food” said Zimnicki.

Since the dawn of the industrial chemical age, humans have been using toxic substances in an effort to improve lives, while simultaneously endangering themselves and the environment. “We are no longer able to take for granted that we live in any way in an unspoiled environment,” said Borrello.

Borrello also raised the concern surrounding residents along the Tittabawassee River in Midland and Saginaw counties, in that they were irrigating their gardens with water contaminated with pollutants and therefore consuming them through plant uptake.

New on the scene is the chemical compound known as PFAS, a substance in which there is little information on due to the sudden realization of its presence. “We’re also starting to see growing concern pop up across the country and Michigan about PFAS contamination in agricultural products which is [PFAS] a relatively new contaminant on the public’s radar,” said Zimnicki.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has yet to release information concerning toxicity and exposure. Zimnicki also said, “For compounds like PFAS we are still waiting on federal guidance on the protocols and standards for PFAS exposure in food.”

With more contamination existing than any individual can comprehend, Borrello worries that “we have proliferated contamination to such a degree that we must always check and make sure that what we are doing on any property anywhere is not going to cause harm to humans and the environment.”

While cleanup efforts are strong from the USEPA, as well as state agencies, these forces may not be strong enough to fully protect residents. “Are we at such a point that our regulators are unable to protect us from simple exposure such as gardens behind our homes,” said Borrello.

This is not an isolated issue, Borrello suggests that educating yourself on the risks of pollution as well as understanding what substances are in your area is the key to remaining safe.

Borrello also said,”to get a better idea of how pervasive our environment is effected, anyone can go to and under ‘my community’ type in your zip code and look at the map. You will find information related to air, water and land pollution.”

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