Disability visibility on campus

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

March is Disability Awareness month. Alma College hasn’t always offered a plethora of information on disability awareness, but this year may be different.

This semester the Center for Student Opportunity has created a reading club for faculty and students. The material concerns disability visibility.

The subject matter for this group was Disability Visibility written by Alice Wong, and it’s a collection of short stories by those with disabilities about their lives.

“We talked about how this book brings light to the lives and narratives of people with disabilities written specifically by people with disabilities,” said Julia Dang, a graduate assistant for the office of diversity and inclusion.

This book was chosen for a myriad of reasons. One reason is that Alice Wong, the author of the highlighted book, will be speaking at the Women’s History and Disability Awareness Month Keynote that will be happening on March 25th.

Not only is March Disability Awareness month, but it is also Women’s History month. The CSO is hoping to celebrate and highlight these together at the end of this month.

This book was also chosen because it offers a closer look into the life of more than one disabled individual.

Throughout history disability visibility has been lacking in all societies, but those with disabilities and their allies are hoping to change this narrative.

“Disability visibility is having those experiences recognized and validated and to have their voices and concerns heard rather than doing what our society is known to do, which is push away the topic of disability and accessibility because it’s difficult,” said Dang.

Disability visibility is important more than just one month out of the year, and is something that has not received a lot of attention through media or other outlets, and when it does it may be from the perspective of a non-disabled individual.

“Oftentimes, we are told about disabilities by medical practitioners or even by media, and it’s really not their story to tell, so we thought it would be really beneficial for our campus to hear about what they have to say about their own community,” said Dang.

Many feel that the only way to know about the oppression that minority groups face is to hear their story from them, without the presence of the majority’s opinion obstructing the truth.

This club has more than one motive. Not only do they want students and faculty to learn about the struggles that those with disabilities face in their lifetime, but they are also hoping to spark a change among those on campus.

“I wanted us to be disturbed about the lack of accessibility that is around us so that we can be fired up to make a change to be more inclusive,” said Dang.

The Center for Student Opportunity doesn’t plan on stopping here. As momentum gains within our academic community, they hope to see more students join them in future meetings discussing other books regarding this topic.

“This was our first book club; however, based on the engagement and success, I’d love to host another one of these in the future,” said Dang.

The CSO is hoping to hold another reading club in the future, and are open to student suggestions on the material that is covered regarding the lives of those with disabilities.

While nothing has currently been planned regarding the next book that will be highlighted in this group, those who partook have a good feeling about the direction the campus is headed in regards to disability visibility.

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.

A taste of victory

WADE FULLERTON
STAFF WRITER

In the section “From Our Boys in the Service,” writes Major Frank Knox, alumni of Alma College in the November issue of The Weekly Almanian. On September 21, 1918, Knox led a 150 square mile offensive into French territory held on by the German army since 1914. Despite the resistance, the Yankees brought fresh soldiers onto the Western Front—a sight that the British and French were more than ecstatic to witness by this point in the war.

Major Knox had experienced combat on the Western Front for the first time, but this was far from his first war. Knox left Alma his senior year and joined Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War in 1898. As an experienced combat officer, he writes a letter about his offensive in Europe.

He describes his first battle as “a wonderful experience [and] quite impossible to picture on paper.” Major Knox was on the ground with the first offensive actions by the United States against the German army since entering the war.

“Thank God I lost no men killed and only a few sent to the hospital without exaggeration I think I may say I have lived my greatest hour. A second battle can hardly come up to the first in the wealth of experience given.” By this point in the war, the German Spring Offensive had failed to bring a decisive victory in the Western Front before the Americans could arrive. Morale among German soldiers had reached its lowest point since the beginning in 1914.

Major Knox was confident with his judgment and the men he oversaw. “Our boys are employing their natural skill in baseball in handling grenades. They use a short arm quick throw like a catcher trying to nip a runner at second—and their aim is deadly.”

The concept of a round hand grenade—from its conception—was designed around the size and shape. Until the second World War, they were made to simulate a baseball for physical familiarity among soldiers. Perhaps, Knox may have had some bearing on this concept in practice. One may speculate, but we may never know for sure.

Major Knox’s infantry battalion in the camp away from the fighting. “Our camp is pitched in a woods which forms a part of our front and we find at least some security from shells and bombs by sleeping in holes in the ground.”

Artillery accounted for a majority of the casualties in The Great War. Arguably, only second to disease, such as the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. A reality of the human condition that is all too familiar to the people of the modern world.

Major Knox had an enormous responsibility on his shoulders. He and many other United States officers have been handed problems that the Allies have been struggling with since the war began. Only with this new help and the German War economy’s wearing down can the United States make a difference to end the bloodshed.

Health screening emails and leaving campus

HANNAH STIFFLER
STAFF WRITER

A change to the COVID-19 guidelines the Winter 2021 semester at Alma College included students remaining on campus for the entirety of the semester with the exception of the three weekends granted by the school for students to visit back home. To ensure that students are following the new protocol, Alma College is using students’ daily health screenings to determine the location of the students.

If the college’s data shows that a student has left campus, they are sent an email from the COVID-19 Student Conduct and Compliance Assistant, Shelby Shawl. Within the email, it states that if the student has left campus they must begin to self-quarantine, which includes all meals to-go and avoiding in-person activities.

If the student received the email by error, then they can disregard the email. If the student’s device is not connected to Alma College’s Wi-Fi when the health screening form is filled out, this can result in error in data. Director of Residence Life, Alice Kramer, said “The best way to avoid this is to make sure your device is connected to Wi-Fi before you submit the form each day.” She adds “All the student needs to do is reply to the email. Again, we encourage students to be honest about their situation so we keep our campus safe.”

Kramer said that besides the daily health screenings, the other way in which the college recieves information about students leaving campus are students self-reporting. She adds “I have been impressed with our students’ honesty and commitment to keeping themselves and our campus safe by letting us know when they need to leave campus.”

This change on campus has become a concern to students who have family emergencies and appointments outside of the greater Alma area. Emma Keith (‘23) had to leave campus for a medical appointment. Keith said “I called Shelby Shawl. If it is for a medical appointment, you are allowed to leave campus as long as you are going to that appointment and come right back to campus. As long as you only go to those two places then you do not have to quarantine or get tested when you arrive back on campus.”

“All of our decisions have been grounded in what we learned about COVID-19 spread on campus last semester. When we analyzed our case information, we found that COVID spread at Alma College when students left campus, caught the virus, returned to campus, and spread it to their roommates and other close friends” said Kramer.

Since the pandemic is still evolving, there is little knowledge as to how much longer Alma College will have to continue tracking students through health screenings. Kramer adds “We are committed to evaluating the situation regularly and making changes when it is safe to do so.”

Students discuss weekend restrictions

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Alma College announced over winter break that students would only be permitted to return home on three specific weekends this semester. This decision was made in order to hopefully lower COVID-19 cases on campus this winter term.

Many students have opinions regarding this decision.

“I feel conflicted that students are only allowed to go home three weekends of the semester. I understand that they want us to have less chances of bringing Covid cases onto campus,” said Chloe Sandborn (‘21).

On campus, many students may feel as though going home only a few times in the semester is isolating and restrictive. For others, their health is a major concern during this pandemic.

“I find it frustrating because I’m immunocompromised and I know that people over the weekend [may] potentially get sick,” said Elizabeth Elliott-Redlin (‘23).

Decisions like this go through a myriad of individuals before anything is finalized, and the college spends much time grueling over such a topic.

“What we really saw was that when students went home that’s when they caught COVID and brought it back to campus,” said Alan Gatlin, senior vice president and chief operating officer here at Alma College. “That was the primary driver of our decision to restrict how frequently students go home.”

While the college may be trying to curb COVID rates on campus this semester, some individuals feel as though the decision doesn’t affect all on campus in the same way.

“It’s frustrating to see sports and some campus groups being able to travel while we are stuck here,” said Sandborn.

While some students are unable to return home as much as they have in previous semesters, others are still permitted to attend away sporting events.

“We didn’t see one instance where it spread at an athletic practice or athletic event,” said Gatlin.

Some students not only feel as though those on sports teams have received special privileges, but as have those that are not yet enrolled here at Alma.

“I also don’t understand why students are only allowed to leave three times a semester while the college allows potential students to come and tour,” said Sandborn.

Current students that live on campus are not permitted to leave the greater Alma area except for three specific weekends that have been laid out by the college, but that doesn’t mean that prospective students are not allowed to visit our campus with their families.

The entire campus was tested after their weekend absence. This has led some to wonder what changes may occur upon the results of this round of COVID testing.

“We’ve laid out two more weekends that students can go home. It would take a pretty dramatic upturn in cases for us to cancel those,” said Gatlin.

If less than one percent of students return a positive test the college will move into Phase II, permitting one other student in each other’s room with masks. Many students remain hopeful for this to become the case, as campus can be an isolating place during this pandemic.

There are some students that wish for campus to change in other ways however.

“I’d much rather have Phase II or have them be more firm on their stance,” said Elliot-Redlin.

Many students can’t help but feel down during these uncertain and lonely times.

“Campus is depressing and only being allowed to leave three times just makes it hard to enjoy my college experience,” said Sandborn.

While students may be permitted to go home or leave the Alma area on just three weekends, the decision makers at Alma College feel as though this is the best plan of action.

“We don’t enjoy having these restrictions in place, we’re just trying to make the best common sense decisions we can,” said Gatlin.

Campus moves to Phase II of guest policy

JORDYN BRADLEY
SPORTS EDITOR

On Monday, Mar. 1, the campus community received an email from Damon Brown, Vice President of Student Affairs, regarding the move to Phase II of the campus visitor and guest policy.

The decision to move to Phase II was made after the campus-wide COVID-19 testing that happened Feb. 24 and 25 resulted in two positive cases.

Phase II of the visitor and guest policy states that each student may have one visitor in on-campus housing and all visitors must be current Alma College students. Visitors are required to be escorted by the host resident at all times and must wear masks.

With this update, there are still things regarding guests and visitors that are not permitted.

Outside guests and overnight guests are not allowed in college-owned housing and no social events are permitted.

Additionally, common areas in college-owned houses remain closed to guests and visitors. However, policies regarding common areas in residence halls remain the same as they were in Phase I.

Administration will continue to evaluate all COVID-19 policies on a weekly basis for the remainder of the term. The full guest and visitor policy can be found on the Return to Campus page of the Alma College website.

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.

Career Week hits campus

HANNAH STIFFLER
STAFF WRITER

Each semester at Alma College, the Career and Personal Development Office holds a week of events for students of all majors to develop personal and professional experience for life after Alma College. During this winter semester, Career Week was held from Sunday, January 31 until Saturday, February 6.

The events were as follows: Suit up! with JC Penny online, Choose Your Own AdVenture, Resume Café with Alma College Alumni, Clifton Strengths Workshop for Seniors, Grad School & Gap Year Fair, Headshots and Alumni Speed Interviews.

A few of the recurring events that are held during Career Week are Suit Up with JC Penny, Alumni Speed Interviews and the annual fair offered in the Fall term called Career EXPLO. The registration for Career Week can always be found on Handshake.

Assistant Director of Career and Personal Development, Madelyn Wentwork, said “We also do our best to provide students with resources to help them launch their careers such as discounted professional clothing, mock interviews, and resume reviews. Additionally, and especially this year, we focused on connecting students with alumni so they can learn from professionals in their fields.”

One of the new events for Career Week this semester is called Roundtable Represent. Madelyn Wentwork added, “at this event, we connected students and alumni of color to discuss their experiences at Alma and in the workplace. This was just one of many networking events that we’re hosting this month.”

Additionally, the Career and Personal Development Office added a new program called Choose Your Own adVenture. This program is meant for first-year students in preparation for the next four years at Alma College and life after it, along with information on how they can take advantage of the Venture Program. This new program can be found at www.alma.edu/adventure.

One of the most popular events during Career Weeks happens to be the free headshots offered. “We collaborated with Communication and Marketing and Bitworks to provide free professional headshots to over 50 students, faculty, and staff members” said Madelyn Wentworth.

By next fall, the Career and Personal Development Office is hoping to include more asynchronous programs. This will allow more students to have the opportunity to interact with the events and programs that Alma College has to offer.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Career and Personal Development Office held all events virtually, with the exception of the free headshots, which were held in-person. Despite most events being virtual, there was still a great turn out from students who were invested in their future after Alma College.

“I find it very rewarding to talk to students who participate in our programs who are excited about the people they’ve met and the opportunities they’ve discovered. There’s no limit to what networking can do” added Madelyn Wentworth. “We hope to encourage students to start thinking about their plans for after graduation. It’s never too early!”

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