Problematic TikTok sparks admissions scandal

CLAIRE HIPPS
STAFF WRITER

A tiktok user under the username “coochiee.scouttt,” which has since been deleted, published a controversial video that sparked outrage among Alma College students early this month. The video in question, in which the user explained that they were admitted to Alma College on a scholarship despite the college knowing about their tendency to spread problematic and backward rhetoric, received 463,100+ views on Tiktok. Students were quick to share the video, tagging the admissions department and Jeff Abernathy, the president of Alma College.

The Alma College Admissions Department was quick to dispel these claims, replying within 24 hours to the outraged students sharing the video. “We can confirm that the individual has not applied to the college and is not an admitted student,” said Admissions in their response to the student body. “Once we are notified, the college engages in an immediate review process for any instance of this nature. Alma College denounces all forms of hate speech and we will continue to do all that we can to provide a safe and welcoming community to all.”

This response is consistent with the college’s goals for upholding practices of diversity and inclusion on campus, and campus administrators are also committed to reviewing and improving these practices. “I appreciate the swift response from Admissions and from the student body,” said Donnesha Blake, director of diversity and inclusion on campus. “There is

always much more work to do to educate our campus and incoming students about the importance of creating a safe and inclusive campus for LGBTQIA+ people.”

While it is reassuring to know that admissions and campus administration does take steps to protect both current and prospective LGBTQIA+ students in the admissions process, it is helpful to know what this process looks like.

“All reports of this nature are investigated in partnership with our Civil Rights and Title IX process,” said Admissions. “That review process leads to any subsequent actions, such as rescinding a student’s offer of admission.”

With this comes a responsibility to market Alma College as a place where attitudes of inclusion and acceptance are not just encouraged, but necessary. “We always have a responsibility to outline our values related to equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Blake. “[We must] make them clear to prospective students and families at every stage of the admissions and onboarding process.”

In regards to the students who found the video and called on Admissions for a response, they are a good example of what it means to be an ally for marginalized communities. They have made it clear that inclusion is important to the student body.

“It was disheartening to see the image of Alma’s acceptance email because Alma is trying to take notes to diversify the campus,” said Carrie LaFranchi, ’22. “The fact that they launched an investigation and got the response to students out so quickly meant a lot to the student body to assure us that inclusivity is extremely important to this institution.”

“[One way to be an ally is to] speak up when someone is being harmed and share it with others,” said Blake. “I believe that a person working toward a more inclusive and welcoming campus cannot and should not be doing the work alone.”

Allyship, however, can take many forms. “Allyship is an ongoing process and it begins with learning about the communities we seek to support,” said Blake. “There are so many ways to be an ally, but simply identifying as an ally and doing none of the work to actively create change is not allyship.”

Some ways that students can learn about an actively support LGBTQIA+ students on Alma’s campus include joining or requesting a Safe Zone training session hosted by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and joining the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Club.

At Alma College and in the wider world, it is important that we remember to use our individual power for good. Creating a more equitable and just world benefits everyone, and it should be a priority in everything that we do.

COVID-19 updates on campus

MADDISON LUEBKE
COPY EDITOR

PHOTO BY LIZZY DERMODY

As the school year continues, policies regarding COVID-19 have adapted both statewide and here at Alma College. While some restrictions have been eased across the state, measures from within the college have been further reinforced.

At the beginning of October, news spread that a group was filing a lawsuit against Governor Whitmer saying that the policies implemented to combat COVID-19 over the summer were unconstitutional and an overreach of her power.

The Michigan Supreme Court overturned many of Whitmer’s policies, including social distancing measures and mask policies. Courts drew the line between safety protocol and total government control.

“I completely understand that she was in a hard spot, but at the same time, I think that there were other alternatives that she could have gone with that would have caused fewer restrictions and fear,” said Nicki Crump (’23). “I do feel she overstepped her powers, but I can also see how she was doing her best in a bad situation.”

The conflicting opinions on these policies are not just a statewide concern, but a concern of our own community.

”Alma Public Schools set the state record for K-12 outbreaks,” said Kathryn Blanchard, professor of religious studies. “And there’s been a huge spike in state cases, which seems to have come about 2 weeks after the court struck down the governor’s authority; lots of people seem to have taken that as a sign that they didn’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing anymore (if they ever did).”

While the statewide regulations have become less restrictive, Alma College has reverted to Phase 1 of the Return to Campus plan. Immediately after the move back to Phase 1, the third round of campus-wide testing resulted in 31 current positive cases on campus.

“The third round of testing was a wake-up call,” said Blanchard. “Alma students, like people everywhere, are getting “Covid fatigue” and not being as careful as they were before. I guess we’ll see if this wake-up call changes people’s behaviors or if it’s just the beginning of a bigger spike in cases.”

While many are very concerned about the number of cases, many students have brought up the impact the Return to Campus Plan has had on their mental health.

“They are hurting the students more than helping,” said Crump. “We are stressed, tired, and lonely enough as it is, the policies are only making it worse. We want our freedom back.”

This past week, President Abernathy released a statement saying that the campus had run out of quarantine rooms for students. Students that have been exposed will not be asked to quarantine for 14 days at home, rather than keeping them on campus.

While the campus looks for answers to all of these problems in the last 4 weeks of the semester, some believe that there is no perfect solution.

“I know the administration is doing its best, and campus-wide testing is a very good thing, but we already ran out of quarantine space once and students were forced to move; I suppose that could happen again,” said Blanchard. “I’m also not sure that small housing is a good idea, because if one person tests positive, a whole house full of people can’t go to class for two weeks. That’s really disruptive.”

The staff of The Almanian encourages all Alma College students to continue following the Phase 1 guidelines and keeping our campus safe from any further outbreaks. Daily temparture checks and following the rules are the best way to guarantee we can continue classes on campus this year.

Campus community reacts to academic program cuts

JORDYN BRADLEY
SPORTS EDITOR

PHOTO BY RAUL RIVERA

On Friday, Oct. 16, President Abernathy issued a statement regarding the phasing out of certain academic programs and disciplines at Alma College due to budget cuts.

The programs affected by this change are as follows: both the French and German majors and minors will be phased out, but courses in the languages will be offered to fulfill language requirements; the Religious Studies major will be phased out, but the minor and Pre-Ministry program will be retained; the Bachelor of Music in Music Performance and the Alma Symphony Orchestra will be phased out, but the B.A. in Music and B.M. in Music Education will remain intact; the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art will be phased out, but the B.A. in Art will remain; and the Anthropology program will be phased out completely.

This decision was made by the Task Force on Reducing College Costs, which was composed of six faculty and six staff members. Half of the task force were elected, and the others were appointed to establish diverse representation within the group.

“The aim was to ensure that Alma College thrives long into the future while honoring the college’s mission, vision and values and supporting the overall student experience,” said President of Alma College, Jeff Abernathy.

However, not all students and alumni feel the same way.

“I no longer feel the initial pride I felt when I said I was an Alma Scot because of how the administration has taken the mission statement and thrown it out,” said Gabrielle Alter (‘19).

The task force was formed in April and began its collaborative work in May, but Abernathy says that the Coronavirus pandemic was not the sole reason for these cuts.

“The pandemic was a catalyst for this phase of the process; however, this was the final phase of an extensive budget review the college has undergone over the last three years to help to ensure our long-term financial vitality, reduce yearly tuition increases and expand student financial assistance,” said Abernathy.

An academic sub-committee of Alma College met and considered quantitative and qualitative factors when making recommendations regarding programs, positions and initiatives to help the college financially.

“Qualitative factors included items like impact on institutional identity and priorities; quantitative data included such considerations as departmental costs, average class size and overall program enrollment,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kathleen Dougherty.

Dougherty said that the sub-committee worked to find reductions that would have the least impact on students and faculty, as well as the ongoing ability to deliver academic programs Alma College is known for.

“Achieving the necessary cost reductions required some difficult decisions regarding the phase out of academic programs that have seen reduced enrollments and in which the institution cannot continue the necessary investment to promote academic excellence,” said Dougherty.

Many students who choose to attend Alma do so because the idea of a liberal arts education appeals to them. According to Oxford Languages, liberal arts generally covers three areas: sciences, arts and humanities. With this academic program update, many people in the campus

community question whether Alma College can still consider itself a liberal arts school, as the academic programs that are being phased out are in both the arts and the humanities.

“I chose a small liberal arts college because I wanted to be able to learn about things that didn’t fall into my major,” said Najelle Gilmore (‘19).

“Alma provided me with the opportunity to get an expansive education, discover new passions and pursue multiple interests. I am really disheartened to hear that they had to come to this decision. These classes are at the heart of who we are and I don’t know what Alma College will be without them.”

Another alumni, Ellie Woertz (‘20), had similar beliefs.

“Alma is supposed to be a liberal arts college, but the programs that are being cut seem to be the programs that show our liberal arts,” said Woertz.

Professor of Religious Studies, Kate Blanchard, believes that Alma can still call itself a liberal arts college despite the budget cuts to the arts and humanities programs while maintaining funding for STEM and pre-professional programs.

“But it will also be incumbent upon the college to keep making the case that the label of ‘liberal arts’ still fits, especially the farther away it moves from traditional orthodoxy,” said Blanchard.

“If we don’t offer humanities majors, what role do the humanities play in the curriculum overall? What makes an Alma business major or pre-med graduate different from business major or pre-med graduate [at a different school]? We’ll have to keep thinking about how we answer that with integrity.”

Joe Tighe (‘21), a student with an interest in German–one of the language programs that are being phased out–described the effect he believes these changes will have on campus.

“I feel like [Alma is] going to see smaller classes coming in [and] retention rates drastically changing for the worst,” said Tighe.

As previously mentioned, many students choose to attend Alma for specific programs, and many of those include programs in the arts or humanities.

“Alma needs to realize that some of the new changes they are implementing are not what is best for its students. Alma College is acting more like a business making business decisions than a place that teaches and inspires students to be great,” said Tighe.

“I loved my time at Alma, but I will only be able to speak about Alma in the past tense,” said Gilmore.

“A change of this magnitude that directly contradicts a part of what it means to be Scot proves to me that I don’t know Alma. I couldn’t in good conscience encourage someone to attend Alma because I would be speaking to an experience that no longer exists.”

Blanchard has been the only faculty member of the Religious Studies department for over two years, and she has been trying to make the case for another person to be hired since her colleague Brian Stratton left. She argued that she cannot offer a Religious Studies major on her own, despite help from occasional adjunct instructors.

“I was notified over the summer that they weren’t prepared to fill Dr. Stratton’s position, which meant the Religious Studies major had to go,” said Blanchard.

“I chose the Religious Studies program as one of my majors because of how it allowed me to choose my own path and how all ideas were accepted,” said Alter.

“As someone who was able to engage in a fair amount of religious exploration through this major, others are being denied the same opportunity.”

Luckily for Blanchard and those interested in Religious Studies, courses will still be offered, and a minor can still be obtained in the program. The same thing cannot be said for the Anthropology department, which is being phased out completely.

“I am saddened by the elimination of the Anthropology department here at Alma College,” said Anthropology major, Eryn Corinth (‘21).

“Anthropology allows for expansion of world views and a global perspective through looking at the past to better understand the present and future. Losing the Anthropology department at Alma means losing a key integral aspect of the humanities and social sciences of which cannot be obtained through any other discipline.”

Alma College is not the first campus community to be hit by a decision like this. Adrian College–a fellow MIAA private liberal arts college–recently announced that they intended to eliminate the history, theatre, religion, philosophy and leadership departments due to budget cuts. This decision was set to be implemented before the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year. However, Adrian College received a large public outcry demanding the programs remain, and the president of the institution, Jeffrey Docking, reversed the decision.

Many are wondering if Alma College will follow suit.

“I believe this is a decision Alma College administration should look into more deeply, because to fully participate in the liberal arts arena, students need a background from an array of disciplines that will challenge normative expectations and expand horizons,” said Corinth.

Alma College Administration stresses that the decisions that were made were not easy to come to.

“We acknowledge that these changes are disappointing for members of our campus community, but by making them, we are ensuring our ability to promote vibrant and engaging academic programming, and securing our long-term financial viability, so that students can attend Alma College for generations to come,” said Abernathy.

Senior Staff Farewell: Maddison Luebke

Dear Almanian,

It has been a crazy ride over the past 2.5 years. I was brought into the editor’s office on a whim and you trusted me to help put together a newspaper within a week of working there. The Editor in Chief at the time saw that I was willing to do just about anything for The Almanian, and I did just that. I worked and assisted with every job at my time at the paper and loved working for this group. I’ve written more articles than I can remember, some last minute; I took pictures; I saw articles go from concept to draft to final copy to printed in a newspaper.

This job was always about the writing, but the bond formed between the current editing staff is unmatched. We have all grown together since we were sophomores/juniors, and we have worked our tails off to make The Almanian better every semester. These people are a family to me, and I’m so sad to see my time with these people over.

The Almanian has never been a perfect system, and it will never be a perfect system. There will be articles missed, deadlines forgotten, and miscommunications among the entire staff. We are a college newspaper, we cant be perfect, but we can try every semester, every edition, every day to make The Almanian a way to bridge the gap between Alma College and the real world. That was always the goal, and I hope future generations of Almanian employees will continue this work that seems unimportant, but is almost essential to the crazy times we are in.

Thank you for giving me a place to learn, to teach, and to grow as a person. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to work with this organization, and I will take everything you taught me and move into the world.

All my best,

Maddison Luebke

Greek events look different this semester

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Photo by RAUL RIVERA

Due to the ongoing pandemic students may have noticed a few changes to this year’s events. Derby Days and Greek week are no different.

Greek week has recently come to a close, with many having participated in the events. Greek week is an event that all the Greek organizations on campus took part in and was created as a way for these groups to earn money for their various philanthropies.

This year Greek week may have looked different than years prior, with a lot of in-person events being moved to a virtual format to ensure the safety of those participating.

Some of the events included different dress-up days during the week such as letters day or formal attire. There were also different challenges that occurred throughout the week. A scavenger hunt, trivia night and social media challenge were just a few of the events that took place during this week-long event.

“Anything that is done in person is meant to be socially distanced and obviously requires masks,” said Julia Neuvirth (‘21).

Social distancing as well as mask wearing were required to participate in any of the in-person events that occurred during the week, as well as any event that is hosted at Alma College.

This year Greek week was hosted as a way for these organizations to earn money for their philanthropic ventures.

If you missed the happenings from this year’s Greek week fret not, as more philanthropic events are just around the corner. Sigma Chi’s annual philanthropic event Derby Days will commence this year in just a few short days.

The brothers of Sigma Chi will host a myriad of events during the week to raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institution.

The Huntsman Cancer Institution, founded in 1995, is an organization that works towards cancer research and is located in the state of Utah. All Sigma Chi fraternities across the nation have been raising money for the Huntsman Cancer Institution since 2012.

The question at the forefront of many minds is how the brothers will be able to host these events in a way that is safe for all.

“Derby Days will be different this year due to the pandemic. There will be a mix of socially distanced events and online events that consist of virtual events and social media challenges,” said Brandon Ralston (‘21).

Events this year will allow for students to be able to donate and participate while still remaining healthy and distant. While Greek week focuses more on those a part of Greek life, Sigma Chi’s Derby Days is meant for all students to enjoy.

“We love having non-Greek students participate because it demonstrates that Greek life is about more than partying,” said Ralston.

Many Greek organizations focus on hosting events meant to raise money for their philanthropic venture and are a way for students to donate money to organizations while also participating in different happenings on campus.

Updates regarding future academic offerings

JORDYN BRADLEY
SPORTS EDITOR

On Friday, Oct.16, President Abernathy sent out a communication to campus regarding the goal to strategically reduce the college’s overall budget. Alma College’s Task Force on Reducing College Costs came to the conclusion to phase out certain academic programs in order to adhere to these budget cuts.

Alma College will be phasing out the French and German majors and minors, but will still offer classes in the languages to cover language requirements.

The Religious Studies major will also be phased out, but the minor and the Pre-Ministry programs will remain intact.

The Bachelor of Music in Music Performance and the Alma Symphony Orchestra will also be phased out. The B.A. in Music and B.M. in Music
Education will be retained, and the college says they will continue to have other support for string instrumentalists.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art will be phased out, but the school will retain the B.A. in Art.

The Anthropology program will be phased out completely.

Alma College stresses that anyone who has declared a major in any of the programs impacted by these changes will be contacted by the Registrar in
regard to next steps and degree completion. If anyone was considering one of the programs but has yet to declare, they should consult with the Registrar’s Office and their academic advisor to look at the next steps.

More information regarding this update will be published soon.

Political organizations pop up on campus

WADE FULLERTON
STAFF WRITER

Graphic by Weston Hirvela

As campus adapts to the changes of hybrid student life, many of the former – and some new – political organizations have begun to meet and plan for future events.

Despite many of the recent restrictions, the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and Students of Liberty have made an effort to make an impact on campus politics.

YSDA has come into the new semester after a string of successful events following the campus shutdown. Although most are virtual, they have seen a great amount of success with their latest endeavors.

“We have to be more flexible to the changing rules on campus due to social distancing, but having virtual events can be effective,” said Tanvi Sharma (’21), YDSA Co-Chair.

YSDA holds their meetings at 7:30 every Thursday on the Chapel Lawn. Their meetings are welcome to all students interested in the political process, and ideas of socialism. The YDSA is among the most active clubs on campus and hosted a fruitful fundraising event over the summer.

“We had a successful conspiracy themed event that was entirely virtual. It was incredible to see the effort our members put into their presentations, and we were able to raise so much money over Zoom!” said Sharma.

The Conspiracy Night event was conducted entirely online, and members were able to raise over $500 for R.I.S.E. Advocacy. The YDSA has worked with R.I.S.E. in previous semesters, and intends to hold further Conspiracy Night fundraisers in the future.

As prior established groups make plans, a recent political student club has formed to hold open discussions.

A new student political organization – Students for Liberty – has been approved by Student Congress to move forward in the process of becoming a permanent campus group. Students for Liberty is a local political organization organized by students of multiple political positions, and has plans to establish themselves in the campus community in the near future.

The organizations aim to welcome students of all backgrounds to their discussions. Students of Liberty meet Monday nights at 9:45 in DOW Science Center.

Students for Liberty was organized by several students over the summer to provide an outlet for third party ideas on campus.

“When you come to college, it’s the time to explore who you are as a person. Understanding who you are before you get involved in the election process is important,” said Austin Popp (’21), Students of Liberty Co-Founder.

“The aim of our group is to not force libertarian values on campus. It’s to help students find their beliefs,” said Popp.

“We are not exclusive to libertarians. We want to accept people of all creeds and have them feel welcome. The goal of our group is to have conversations about modern issues,” said Ethan Zalac (’22), Students for Liberty Co-Founder.

Students for Liberty plans to set up tables for voter registration on campus before the 2020 election in November. The Students for Liberty also plan to work closely with YDSA to open voter registration tables to encourage the voting process.

As November draws closer, YDSA and Students for Liberty will plan on hosting regular meetings and encouraging students to venture forth and continue developing their political philosophies.

Pollution damages the Pine River

AISHWARYA SINGH
STAFF WRITER

“It’s startling to watch birds drop from the air, flop around and die”, were the words of a St. Louis, MI, resident who was one of the many that came forward to report dystopian consequences in a town where a former industrial site once stood. Fifty years after The Velsicol Chemical Company, also known as Michigan Chemicals, was simply knocked to the ground and buried under a slab of concrete the people living around the former chemical plant are raising alarm.

The reason for birds falling to the ground, sky rocketing cancer rates and the need for an alternate water source all have a single reason behind them—the insecticide DDT. This pesticide is one of the best-known examples of how synthetic chemicals can harm an ecosystem, threaten human health and endanger the very existence of important species.

Banned in the United States in 1972, the chemical is infamous for persisting in the environment for abnormally long periods of time. It’s pollution of the Pine River is so colossal that it has led to the largest and one of the most expensive pollution cleanup projects in the state’s history. Ironically, the presence of DDT may have made it harder to deal with the original target pests.

For the 2020 worldwide synthetic biology competition, iGem (International Genetically Engineered Machine), The Alma College iGem team has proposed a way to help solve this perennial problem that plagues the perennial river.

“The iGEM Foundation is an non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration,” said Conner Arens (’23), a member of this year’s iGem team. “This is done by fostering an open, cooperative community and friendly competition. The goal of the jamboree, or competitions are not pitting teams against one another.”

The team that has competed with universities like the University of Michigan was ranked the highest of all midwestern universities participating in the 2019 competition and bagged the silver medal.

This project by the college team could be the be a new hope for a tale of pollution, destruction and environmental degradation that is bound to have everlasting impacts for many more generations to come.

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