Education during a pandemic

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of daily life. Many people lost their jobs, lost their homes, lost their family members and even lost out on educational opportunities. Weforum.org stated that globally, over 1.2 billion students were moved out of the classroom and into a virtual world of learning.

Education has changed drastically since the coronavirus became a widespread problem. Many students are now at home, learning in a virtual setting because of that constant fear of the virus.

“Adjusting to learning online has not been super difficult because I am very independent in my learning style,” said Brenna Kilby (‘24). “There have been challenges with motivation, and it can be very frustrating because technology does not always work, but for the most part it has not been too bad.”

Not only have students had to adjust to this change, teachers and educators did too.

“Teaching online is different, and for me, it is far less satisfying and for more stressful,” said Laura Von Wallmenich, a professor of English. “I have realized I need to design class in a totally different way. It is working, but it does not feel the same. I do not get the same sense of joy from the energy of a great discussion.”

Weforum.org stated that there has been an increase in retention of information being taught and learned, and that it takes less time to go over new material. With moving online though, students do not have to be in person to do their homework or even possibly take tests, which could constitute cheating or lead to finding the answers online instead.

There has been discussion of permanently implementing hy-flex courses in schools. With research finding that students seem to be learning better online, this is likely going to become an option. There is still some uncertainty among students and teachers about whether learning and teaching online has been completely beneficial.

“If a teacher is not good with technology or is just disorganized in general, it becomes extremely difficult to learn online,” said Kilby. “On the other hand, if a professor is organized, it makes it easier to go back and watch lessons and to understand the material even more. In the end, the difficulty of learning virtually really depends on the professor.”

Before COVID-19 spread throughout the world, the market for edtech investments was $18.6 billion in 2019. It has since been projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. It has been predicted that this is due to online educational programs, virtual tutoring and video conferencing apps.

Because of this surge of online learning, many academic software businesses have offered their programs for free to the public. Since then, programs like BYJU have seen a significant increase in their number of students.

While moving classes to a virtual setting has its benefits, it also has negative impacts. Many students do not have internet access in their homes, and while some schools are providing those students with the options of either being completely in person or receiving paper copies of their work, it still takes away from their education as a whole.

Moving to a virtual setting has taken away a lot of social interaction between students and teachers. Everyone is required to remain six feet apart, and some people are even completely isolated because of the possibility of getting sick. This has affected both mental and physical health.

In.style.yahoo.com stated that parents have also had to become teachers for their children. Because so many classes are now online, parents are having to find time to help their kids during class or are even teaching their kin themselves. Before COVID-19, many parents were not as involved in their student’s education as they are now.

Although the virus has affected education in many different ways, it has required many to overcome any obstacle that they face. In the end, students and teachers are learning how to be resilient and conquer anything that challenges them.

Winter activities occur on campus

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

This year, ACUB and Residence Life created an event called the Winter Festival. The celebration was meant to welcome students back on campus and help them appreciate the winter season. It took place on Jan. 30th in McIntyre Mall, Dow Science Center and the Rec Center.

“ACUB and residence life just sat down and came up with the ideas,” said Jennifer Kowalczyk, coordinator of student activities/organizations.

“Grand Valley State University was hosting a winter festival the weekend after us so both myself and their student activities director were in contact about different ideas and what would and what would not.”

As the event was being planned, many Alma alumni approached the planning committee to inform them that this was not something new to the campus. A tradition that began in the 1960s, known back then as “Snow Carnival,” had many similar happenings as the modern-day Winterfest.

“This will definitely become a yearly tradition at Alma, hopefully getting bigger and bigger every year,” said Kowalczyk. “We already decided to reach out to past alumni and even get faculty and staff and other student organizations involved.”

There were many incidents that occurred during the duration of the commemoration: a hot chocolate and ice cream bar, a variety of “winter” Carnival games, a wood sign making station, a winter gnome making station, a campus-wide snowball fight, a volleyball tournament and a crowning of Winter Court Royalty.

During the 60s, the crowning was only open to women but was opened to all who were nominated this year, freshmen-juniors.

“I think this event was very successful,” said Kowalczyk. “We had around 85 total people combined at both locations so as a new event that is a great number especially during COVID times.”

The Winter Court was designed to exclude seniors since only seniors can be involved in the court during homecoming. Despite this, many students still enjoyed all the events that went on.

“I believe students loved this event,” said Kowalczyk. “We have heard a lot of positive feedback after the event, and it gave the students something different to do than the every other weekend events.”

When it came to picking who would end up on the Winter Court, the choice was up to the student body. Students were able to vote for their friends or whoever they wanted to nominate onto the court.

“When I found out I made court, it made me feel super appreciative,” said Sara Lesnesky (’22). “I have such great friends here on campus and I think getting on court reflected them and how great and supportive friends they are to me. It definitely made me feel honored to get to represent Alma in an event that I hope takes off in the future.”

The idea of Winterfest seemed to sit well with the students. Many were excited for a new event like this to come to campus, despite the lack of communication about all the occurrences.

“My impression of Winterfest when I first heard about it was kind of exciting,” said Lesnesky. “It reminded me of when we were in high school again and had something to look forward to other than just homecoming, kind of like the normal snow fest or winter-themed dance that we

always had. I thought it was super underrated and if it were maybe better marketed it could have been a super popular event.”

It is likely that Winterfest is going to become a yearly custom here at Alma College, per all the great feedback and different activities that were provided. Like the tradition of Snow Carnival that started in the 60s, Alma is creating a brand-new version of that but with a more modern twist.

Pandemic affects mental health

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

COVID-19 has easily taken so much from everyone. Indoor dining in restaurants has been restricted, public and recreational facilities are closed and some schools have moved their students online. Because of these limitations, many people are stuck inside of their homes to prevent spreading or catching the coronavirus.

While it is important to stay home when feeling ill, physical health is not the only health COVID-19 has affected. Studies are showing that mental health has been greatly altered. Healthing.ca stated that more than 50 percent of people have reported substantially high levels of distress specific to the pandemic.

Looking into specifics, research shows that more people are panic buying, excessively avoiding public places, and using unhelpful coping mechanisms, such as overeating and overusing drugs and alcohol. The pandemic has also been linked to a significant increase in anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychologytoday.com explained that university students show high levels of depression and increases in stress and loneliness.

“I believe that COVID-19 has, at times, negatively impacted students mentally,” said Kaelyn Wojtylko (’22). “Many students, especially those without roommates or a solid friend group, seem to be the ones impacted the most.”

UNR.edu conducted a study where they found that students are more easily bored, anxious, and frustrated during their now mostly virtual classes. It is evident that many students have lost or forgotten what their education means to them.

“So many students are having a lot of trouble learning with an online setting versus in person,” said Megan Hope (’24). “It is a lot more to keep track of.”

Many students struggle with trying to find motivation to keep up with classes and extracurricular activities. Having to keep a distance of at least six feet, constantly wearing masks, and avoiding large crowds or contact with others has caused many to feel much more disconnected from the world.

“It is super stressful trying to find ways to hang out with friends without getting in trouble for something that would normally be fine,” said Hope.

Schools and universities have had to implement restrictions and rules that many students are struggling to keep up with. It is hard to tell if these constraints will be permanently implemented, or if they are just a temporary approach to combat the coronavirus.

“I honestly hope that the restrictions are only for while we are learning more about COVID-19 and that we can go back to normal one day.” Said Wojtylko. “I find myself thinking about how things were last year compared to this year, and it kind of makes me sad.”

Not only has COVID-19 caused many students a lot of stress and mental deterioration, but it has also caused a decrease in enrollment for higher education. It is apparent that many students do not feel the need to continue to undergraduate or graduate school.

“Enrollment will likely decrease because of students not being able to keep up with the difference in learning,” said Hope. “I know some do not find going to college worthwhile if they cannot learn in person or be able to hang out with friends.”

With all that has been affected, researchers are coming out with more methods people can use to help cope with these new restrictions. The CDC released an article that provided healthy ways to

handle stress. They contributed methods like taking deep breaths, meditating, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to unwind.

While it is very important to take care of yourself during these unprecedented times, it is also important to check in on friends and family to see how they are holding up. Although in-person contact is not recommended, things like phone calls or video chats can really help a loved one feel less lonely. Try to be there for those who have loved and cared for you.

Anti-racism vs. ICE Detention Centers

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

The following contributions are solely of the writer’s own views and are not affiliated with the Almanian and Alma College.

Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, defines anti-racism as, “…an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism.” President Donald J. Trump has taken down efforts to expand on the ideas of anti-racism and white privilege in schools and even the White House. The New York Times said that the White house called these trainings ‘divisive, anti-American propaganda’.

In some aspect these views may seem understandable, but I cannot consciously agree with that. We have reached a point in society where it is racists VS anti-racists. It is not enough to just be against racism; you must advocate and fight for those who are being affected by these foul ideas.

“I do think that the language around anti-racism in this moment and in our climate has become a way of division, even if it has not intended to be,” said director of Diversity and Inclusion, Donnesha A. Blake.

Mr. Trump has stated that he does not believe that there is a systemic racial bias in the United States, and that those who believe they are more targeted by the police, etc. are viewing things in the wrong way. This is simply not the case. Business Insider provided 26 charts of statistics stating how systemic racism exists in the United States.

This is no longer a case of just how racist some people are, or even how racist people believe Mr. Trump to be. This has become a matter of what we can do to rid our society of these biases. Reach out to your local politicians, read up on the different laws and policies, do whatever you can to help be a part of that change.

Critical race theory looks at how society and culture play a role in race, law and power. It closely examines how white supremacy and racial power have been protected possibly unconsciously by the law.

Mr. Trump has criticized critical race theory and said that he will not allow it to be a main priority in schools across America. The New York Times said that he advocates for a more patriotic education for students.

While it is important for students to learn about American history, it is also very important for them to understand the mistakes that past politicians and even society have made. If we prevent our students from learning about racism and what they can do to help make a change, we will never grow and develop.

There is a certain stigma that stands with the idea of Mr. Trump being against anti-racist education and him constantly advocating for stronger immigration laws and the ICE detention centers. The intention of the detention centers was to hold immigrants who have traveled to the United States illegally. These detention centers are supposed to just a holding place; they are no longer that. Conditions [of the centers] are horrid and vile.

While it is important to do things rightfully by the law, the immigration laws in America have reached a point to where it is nearly impossible to even apply for a visa, let alone citizenship. They have made it so difficult for immigrants to become citizens. It seems that this was intentional, with the way Mr. Trump speaks about people of certain ethnicities and backgrounds.

Whether you stand with or against President Trump, it is evident that there must be more done for anti-racism in America. Imagine if this was something that you had to deal with on a daily basis; racial slurs being said to you for your skin tone, people throwing things because of what you are wearing or even just being afraid to leave your house because of encounters you may have heard of. Do not let racism be the thing that America stands for. This is a conscious act that we must all be a part of.

An update on the 2020 Presidential Election

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

As students get into the routine of classes and their new environment, the time continues to tick closer to Election Day. More updates come daily on who is doing well, who is not, what is being said and what is being done.

CNN recently posted an update on the polls and it seems that the Democratic Candidate Joe Biden is leading by a 9.1 point average. Unlike the 2016 election, the challenger for this round is receiving much higher ratings. President Donald J. Trump seems to be dropping in popularity as most of the swing states are leaning more towards Biden. CNN says that Mr. Trump is in poor shape when it comes to his political career.

“It’s extremely unlikely that [Trump] will carry the popular vote,” said professor of Political Science, William A. Gorton. “He’s still somewhat of an underdog to win at this point, but he has a very decent shot according to some political scientists and statisticians.”

COVID-19 has also had a great impact on the election. Many are concerned with the idea of holding rallies, mail-in voting and potential voter turnout. DailyDot said that when COVID-19 initially became a significant issue, both Biden and Trump cancelled all rallies and gatherings for the upcoming months.

Voting by mail became a highly considerable idea not only for the safety and well-being of all, but it is also much more convenient for those who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day. This would likely increase the turnout for voters, therefore allowing more people to feel engaged in the approaching election.

When it comes to voting by mail, there is also the worry that not all ballots will be counted properly or on time. Mr. Trump believes that there will be voter fraud involved, so he leans more towards people voting at the polls instead of through the post office.

“Political scientists today speak of what they call the Blue Shift, which is the tendency in recent elections for democrats to gain in the days after the election after the mail-in ballots are counted.” said Gorton.

Police brutality has also played an important role in how the election will play out. People believe that Mr. Trump has done a poor job when it comes to handling the riots, lootings and protests, but mainly their worry stems from his failure to acknowledge the intensity of police brutality. Others believe that he has done a great job with handling it; the main issue comes from how polarized both sides of the political system are.

“It has energized, in particular, the black folks, so you can anticipate high black turnout [at the polls].” said Gorton.

The economy took a brutal hit when the coronavirus stopped production of many businesses and corporations, shut down schools, and much more. WEForum said that it could take the economy possibly up to three years to recover from the impact. Consumer demand is now at a low, which heavily affects the quality of the economy itself.

The overall atmosphere of the 2020 election seems to be frightening for most. Tensions are extremely high on both sides of the scale. The worry tends to lie with the thought of who will end up winning the presidential election.

“Our democracy is going under an extreme stress test.” said Gorton.

It is unknown what these next two months will bring, but voting is the way to make your voice heard.

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