Week one of The Almanian Podcast starring co hosts Chlesea Faber and Jacob Smith
CLAIRE HIPPS, JACOB SMITH
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.
Since Alma College’s founding in 1886, it has only offered undergraduate programs. However recently, the school has considered adding a select offering of graduate degrees.
A MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in Creative Writing is one of the programs and it is the farthest along in the process of being added.
“It [The MFA Program] is for people who are serious about writing; who are interested in doing works that are significant in length,” said Michael Selmon, Alma College English Professor and Department Chair.
“Typically, the requirements for any MFA in creative writing is by the end of your program, you have the equivalent of a publishable book of poetry, novel or whichever genre your working with in creative nonfiction,” said Selmon.
The goal of adding graduate programs has evolved over a three-year period of planning. The college issued a Call for Proposals for graduate program ideas, which led to roughly 96 being submitted.
These proposals were then vetted by the Educational Policy Committee and a Budget Review Committee from the year prior, which consisted of executive staff.
“I think if we do this well and we select programs thoughtfully, carefully and strategically this can actually be enriching for the undergraduate students,” said Kathleen Dougherty, Alma College Provost and Senior Vice President.
These groups took the proposals down to sixteen and then another group was formed to decide on programs to implement from there.
“The Strategic Allocation Task Force reviewed those and said, ‘Which one of these does it make since for us to add’? The group finally recommended four proposals… But of those programs the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing seemed to be one of the best opportunities to start with,” said Selmon.
At this time, the college does not know what other graduate programs they will pursue adding. The MFA in Creative Writing will be the first of more to come.
“Our goal is to develop a few select graduate programs. How many overall down the road, I don’t think we know for sure. But a few select graduate programs that will complement and hopefully enhance the undergraduate experience. We want these programs to be consistent with our mission, our institutional vision and our institutional identity. I think in Liberal Arts Colleges like Alma; a few graduate programs can really enhance the overarching curricular offerings of the institution while allowing the undergraduate experience to still be the hallmark of what we do,” said Dougherty.
The job search for a MFA in Creative Writing Director has already begun and a preliminary curriculum has been made. The process for accreditation is the only barrier keeping the college from starting the creative writing graduate program.
“Because this is a Master’s Program and because Alma has not offered Master’s programs in the past, we have to get approval from both the state and especially the Higher Learning Commission, which is our accrediting agency,” said Selmon.
The process can take anywhere between nine and twelve months to complete. A site visit is included by the Higher Learning Commission to get approval and that alone can take up to six months to happen.
“The most realistic time for a program start would not be this summer but summer of 2021.” said Dr. Selmon.
This program will be a “low residence MFA program,” meaning students will meet once in the summer and winter each year for 10 days at a time.
These days will be very intensive with readings and writing, approximately 12 hour days, according to Selmon. The other duration of this curriculum will be spent off-location working with writers electronically to complete more intensive course work until the next meeting period.
“The audience for Low Residency MFA Programs is typically an older group. Often professional people who have jobs and have wanted to write with a particular project in mind… many people are in their forties and sometimes people are in sixties and seventies who enter these programs,” said Selmon.
Though the location of the meeting periods is undetermined, the college is considering more of an inspirational writing setting with more of a “retreat feel” as opposed to on campus, according to Selmon. The reason for a possible off-campus meeting location is because of the intentions that graduate students have with their writing when entering into these programs, their older age is also a factor and the fact that the college doesn’t have the facilities for these students during the winter when undergraduate students are on campus plays a major role in the decision.
The college will also be hiring new faculty to teach the program’s courses because of the requirements it takes to do so.
“We want the program to meet the handbook for the criteria set by the AWP, Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and what they say is, to teach in a MFA program you should have a book published by reputable press in that particular area… typically the people who teach in the MFA in Creative Writing Low Residency programs are professional writers and so they work with a small number of students; they are also doing their own writing. They have their job and commitment but it enables them to be part of a community where they too benefit,” said Selmon.
Kathleen Dougherty, believes implementing graduate programs will allow the college to expand its reach in terms of populations, provide good service to the region and expand the overall impact the institution gives. This is all in hopes of bringing more recognition to Alma College.
Despite many rumors, Alma College will keep its name and not become Alma University as a result of this transition.
The Opera House has welcomed a new tenant in their street side business space. Healthies of Mid Mitten is a health shake bar.
The husband and wife duo of Michele and Ron Welch own Healthies. As friends of owners of a similar shake bar in Mt. Pleasant, they were encouraged to pursue their goal of opening one of their own.
Healthies, like the Mt. Pleasant location, is a Herbalife Nutrition Club, which means it is affiliated with the multi-level marketing organization, Herbalife Nutrition.
“A Herbalife Nutrition Club is a healthy place for people to stop in and grab breakfast, lunch, a snack and get energized with our teas or energy bombs,” said Michele Welch.
“Something healthy as opposed to driving through a fast food place and eating crude. It is also meant to be a positive place for people to come in to gather, make friendships, feel good about themselves or bless them with some positive energy on their way to work,” said Welch.
Welch has been doing weight loss challenges through Herbalife since 2009. She evolved this into community workouts in roughly 2012 to 2013. She also does a weekly friendship walk in the summer with an option of a 1.5 or 4.2-mile course to get people to be active and develop friendships at the same time.
“This is all stuff we want to incorporate in Alma just to get people feeling better,” said Michele Welch, speaking on incorporating her past fitness programs in with her new business.
Healthies is also looking to hire coaches to work independently through Herbalife to help clients who seek assistance in reaching their fitness goals.
“We train them [health coaches] on helping people to make healthy choices… they’ll coach clients through weight loss challenges or to gain weight… and coach people on what to eat and that will set them on Herbalife plans of Herbalife nutrition and tell them what to consume to help get those results,” said Michele Welch.
Healthies has also been working close with Alma College students, particularly athletes. For example, they did a fundraiser on Saturday, January 11 where for every combo purchased that day, one dollar was donated to the dance team.
“Overall it turned out pretty well, I went in there myself and there was a lot of people in there. And for my overall opinion of Healthies, I think it is pretty good and it is convenient having one here [in Alma] because I have been to the one in Mt. Pleasant and obviously that is a farther drive. I think it is a new cute little thing to add to downtown,” said Dance Team Member, Sara Scott (‘21).
Though Michele and her husband have good intentions of improving the health of the community, the Herbalife Nutrition company has faced continuous scrutiny from the legal and medical nutrition communities.
According to NPR, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Herbalife for deceiving consumers regarding the amount of profits that selling their products could earn. The FTC added that Herbalife distributors were making almost no money at all.
Even though the FTC did see this practice as deceptive, they did not go as far in there ruling as to label Herbalife Nutrition a pyramid scheme and, ultimately, allowed them to keep operating. This case was settled by Herbalife paying 200 million dollars in 2016 to reimburse consumers who lost money as distributors and agreeing to make changes in the way they do business.
“Our [Alma College’s] agreement is with a specific business not with Herbalife. I do not think it is really our place to tell them what products [to sell] as long as they are selling products that are legal,” said Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Alan Gatlin, who leased the business space to the Healthies owners.
“They’ve [multilevel marketing companies] been around for decades and they are completely legal and a lot of people do well in those and some people don’t. They [Healthies] are not trying to get college students to become franchisees or to become marketers. I am dealing with a husband and wife team from St. Johns that seem like really nice people… it seems like a very legitimate business and so I don’t see any down side for our students from that,” said Gatlin.
The nutritional value of Herbalife products has also been questioned in the past. Meal replacement options tend to contain far less calories than the recommended intake. Various studies, cases, and news reports over the past few years have linked heavy usage of Herbalife products to potential liver failure although it is important to note no sustained causality has been found between the products and these health issues.
“As far as the meal replacement shakes, if you look on the internet at our respective website (WebMD), they will say the best way to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables but if you can’t do that because of your lifestyle, it will say having a shake or two a week is not a bad alternative,” said Gatlin.
Though Herbalife Nutrition as large organization brings with it a host of concerning questions, the intentions of Michele Welch and her husband, who did not return comment regarding Herbalife Nutrition’s past issues, seem focused on offering healthy options to Alma area residents.
The store is currently offering many promotions such as having customers pass out half-off coupons. Referring three customers through the coupon cards to make a purchase at the store will result in that person’s name being recognized on a board inside the store.
Healthies is also pushing word of mouth marketing and social media publicity by customers and of their own as a focus instead of paid advertising.
Healthies is open weekdays from 6:30AM until 7:00PM and weekends from 8:00AM until 3:00PM.
Twitter backfires on Facebook’s “hands off stance” by banning all political ads on their platform.
Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, spoke out recently and said that political ads can be misleading and present challenges to society.
Dorsey tweeted, “We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought”.
This is has struck up a lot of discussion on campus between both students and faculty. Alexander Stephenson ’21 is currently doing research on political communication on social media.
“I think Twitter’s decision to ban political ads is extremely dangerous for the future of politics. The main goal for people in politics is to improve political participation right now. There have been disputes around Twitter’s algorithm censoring people from the right wing, and in turn, creating one big echo chamber on Twitter. The studies do not provide any evidence of that, however, they do show that there are more liberal users than conservative users on Twitter. When it comes to improving political participation, there is a relationship between seeing and sharing political news on social media and political participation,” said Stephenson.
An immediate response to this decision came from the economy after Twitter’s stock dropped over 1% after Twitter made their announcement.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made a decision before Twitter’s that essentially allows any political ads to be shown on their platform without fact checking.
Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff at Alma College, Elizabeth Hall, also has a strong opinion on the issue.
“I think there are extremes right now that are going on. Twitter has taken the position that we are not going to do any political advertising at all, and Facebook has taken the position as we are going to accept all paid advertising and not do any effort to fact check. I think there is probably a middle ground, and I would prefer to see companies go there,” said Hall.
Since a lot of social media is made up by younger users, there is worry that these recent decisions will affect political decisions and beliefs that they have.
“Again, seeing and sharing politics directly leads to more political participation. This is especially true with the younger generations. The generations that are growing up in the age of social media will be the most affected because this ban limits the amount of exposure young people have to learning about political dilemmas. If our goal is to conserve our sense of democracy, we should not censor political ads, instead we should encourage them,” said Stephenson.
With a background in marketing and as a current marketing professor on campus, Hall also sees this concern for the younger population.
“I worry that Twitter has taken this positon because there as so many, in particular young adults, on Twitter that may be one of the primary means that they have of keeping up with what is going on in the world. Do they then miss an opportunity to find out what different political candidates are advocating and will we then lose some momentum in terms of voting if they are not engaged in the presidential campaigns, particularly? I think they are important constituents, obviously, we want more students voting and we want them engaged in the politics of the country,” said Hall.
Another concern on campus and nationally is whether this policy is going to be permanent or not.
“I don’t think this ban will be permanent. I don’t know the cause of the ban, but I know limiting political speech is not something that usually goes over well with the American people. If it were a permanent ban, I think Facebook may transition to a predominantly political venue for people. That would be worst-case scenario, as we know how questionable Facebook’s algorithm is. Facebook would definitely be a wild place too, because as of now they allow politicians to lie in their ads. It would definitely be interesting,” said Stephenson.
The future of social media and politics is unknown as the 2020 presidential election continues.
Elizabeth Hall’s preference of, “paid political advertising with fact checking”, would be the obvious middle ground to these extremes but for now, that does not seem to be the solution for these social media CEO’s. Whether either of these policies are the best for the future of social media or not, it has surely caused an uproar of debate in the nation.
Alma College Football faced off against Olivet on Saturday Nov. 9. The team suffered a loss on the field but they secured a win through the honor they showed in this memorial game to a fallen veteran and football alumni.
Chris O’Connor was a 1985 graduate of Alma College and former member of the football team. O’Connor then joined the Marine Corps and in 1989 he passed away in a tragic helicopter training exercise in South Korea.
“Each and every day we honor Chris by doing so touching the victory bell, but Saturday was a day to inform others of Chris’ unselfishness and also honor all the other veterans who lived similar admirable traits as Chris. Alumni that knew Chris speak very highly of him. I think it is always important to remember and appreciate those that have come before us and many alumni have reached out to express their support of the Chris O’Connor Veteran’s Day Game,” said Head Football Coach Jason Couch.
The victory bell sits in the grass by the entrance into Bhalke Field. It is a memorial to Chris O’Connor and the bell is rung by a brother of his fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, every time the Scots score a touchdown.
“This game means so much because of the bond I share with my brothers from the military, football, and from the TKE household. It’s an honor to represent a man who was so well respected,” said Veteran, Football Player, and TKE Brother, Stephen White ‘22.
The Scots fell in a 28-13 game to the Comets. Though the Scots surpassed Olivet in both passing yards, with 207, and rushing yards, 184, they still suffered 4 turnovers compared to Olivet’s 1 which contributed to the loss.
“I am extremely happy with how hard the team worked and every week they competed. If they take that same mentality into everything else they do, they will be successful. It was fun to be a part of this team, it’s obvious they care about each other and have a deep desire to do their best for one another,” said Coach Couch.
The Scots will end their season on Saturday Nov. 15 in a game against Finlandia University. For some players, this will be the last game they ever play.
The team has come a long way from last season and they look forward to ending their season on a high note.
“The progression of our team has been steady ever since the end of last season. The senior group we had this year have stepped up and created a culture that I feel will be around for a long time. Seniors such as Max Kretzschmar, Steve Sowa, Zeke Ramirez deserve a lot of credit for the impact they have left on this program and have set the bar high for the years to come,” said Couch.
Coach Couch spoke his thoughts on the season ending game.
“WIN, and honor the seniors who are going to put on the Scots jersey one last time. They have spent countless hours preparing themselves, making sure they are physically and mentally ready to represent Alma College the best they can. When you work so hard on something and it comes to an end it is very difficult and emotional. We will share laughs and tears following the game. The Seniors and their parents should be proud of what they have accomplished. They will be missed,” Said Couch.
After Saturday’s season ending game, the coaches will get to work to replace and build next year’s team.
“Coaches will hit the road Monday, working hard to bring in a strong 2020 class. We will travel to most of the schools in the state of Michigan and target a 40-50 schools out of state,” said Couch.
The Alma College Women’s Soccer team concluded their season after a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Albion on Saturday, Nov. 2. This loss came in the first round of the 2019 MIAA conference tournament.
The Scot’s started the scoring in the 30th minute with a goal from Ashley Odham (’22) to take the lead. Lily Stephan (‘23) earned an assist on the scoring play.
In the 68th minute, Albion returned the favor to tie the game at one. A second goal was scored just three minutes after by the Britons and was the last goal scored in the game.
Goalkeeper, Ally Wentworth (’21) made six saves in the game but Albion outshot the Scots 12-3 overall; allowing them to secure the victory.
“The conference tournament was very exciting for our team. As a current junior, it was our first appearance in the tournament! The nerves were high as we were ready to get revenge on Albion. Obviously, the outcome was not what we expected and wanted, but it just gives our team more motivation to put the work in now to get the outcome we want next year!” said Makenzie Rajewski (’21).
Head coach Meghan Gorsuch spoke about the team progression throughout the year and how that prepared them to go into conference play strong.
“We played a lot of tough matches early on in the season and suffered in particular two overtime losses. Later on, in the season during conference play, we had a huge overtime win against Olivet, we were able to learn from our previous experiences and apply moving forward. Winning non-conference games in the first half of season definitely gave us confidence and helped us to establish our style of play that applied in conference season,” said Gorsuch.
The team also had four women make the All-Conference team this season. Makenzie Rajewski and Lily Stephan were voted first team; Lexi Russell (’22) and Dakota Booher (’23) earned second team.
A lot of young players were playing big roles this season, including transfer sophomore Lexi Russell.
“As a transfer sophomore, I found this transition to be amazing. My individual growth and success this season came largely from the team and the positive environment they provided all season. They brought competition, excitement, energy, and encouragement every day whether it be to practices, games, lifts or team events. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to be a part of this team this past season and help contribute to the team’s success,” said Russell.
Though the team is young there is still a vital part that is filled by upperclassman, including junior Makenzie Rajewski.
“I am very proud of our team this year. We are a very young team and are full of potential! We were ranked last in preseason rankings and ended up in 4th place. We had many come-back wins and also defeated the number 1 ranked team. We fought hard this year and it showed. To say the least, we have grown so much in the past year and have a lot of growing to still do!” said Rajewski.
A major accomplishment for the team this season was their major strides in performance from last season, Coach Meghan Gorsuch gave some insight on that.
“There was a belief in the team’s mission and process to get there this season. There was a willingness to learn and less of an ego problem this year. Everybody was willing to put in the work and accepted their roles, which is essential for genuine team chemistry. There are always things to work on, but we connected on and off the field and that makes a difference,” said Gorsuch.
The team moves into next season with big goals and lots of confidence after their promising season.
“Moving into next season our goals are focused around our performance and commitment in the off-season. By holding ourselves accountable, lifting, and practicing in the off-season, we can work towards even greater success next season. Being ranked first in conference is a goal we have for next season and, of course, the main goal will be to win our conference tournament and be selected for the D3 NCAA tournament,” said Russell.
The Scots’ Women’s Soccer team finished with a 10-6-1 overall record and 5-3 in the conference. This was a strong finish compared to last season, when they only had two wins overall.