Diverse election shakes up congress


The 116th Congress began on Jan. 3 this year with a multitude of new members, both Democratic and Republican. 10 new senators and 101 new representatives were elected this year, leading to what many people claim is the most diverse set of politicians elected to the House. More than 60 percent of the seats that Democrats flipped were won by women. 67 Democrats and 44 Republicans were sworn in to Congress at the beginning of this year, some of which are already making waves. Notable members from each party include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Andy Kim from the Democratic Party and Anthony Gonzalez, Marsha Blackburn, and Kevin Cramer from the Republican Party.

Alexandria OcasioCortez was elected as a Democratic representative of New York’s 14th district and holds the unique honor of being the youngest ever member of Congress. She ran her campaign on the idea of creating an America that works for everyone, not just a select wealthy few. Her main stances included Medicare for all, housing as a human right, immigration justice, and reforming criminal justice.

Rashida Tlaib was elected as a Democratic representative of Michigan’s 13th district and is the first Palestinian-American women in Congress, as well one of the first two Muslim women in Congress. Previously serving as a State Representative in Lansing, Tlaib ran for Congress to fight for others and to encourage people to do more for communities. Her priorities include standing up for unions, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, preventing cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and making public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free.

Andy Kim was elected as a Democratic representative of New Jersey’s 3rd district and is the first Democrat of Korean descent in Congress. Kim campaigned on the vision of an America “Of, By, and For the People.” His pledges include lowering healthcare and drug costs, expanding care for veterans, speaking out about climate change, and fighting against corruption in government.

Anthony Gonzalez was elected as a Republican representative of Ohio’s 16th district and took an open seat in the House. Previously, he was a wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Indianapolis Colts. He ran his campaign on the main idea of protecting the American people. Gonzalez’s main issues that he plans to push are improving the education system and creating a pro-worker and pro-business environment in today’s economic system.

Marsha Blackburn was elected as a US Senator from Tennessee and was a US House Representative for Tennessee’s 7th district previously. She defeated Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen in November’s election to secure her spot in the Senate. Blackburn said she ran for the U.S. Senate “to straighten up the mess in Washington and remind the Senate that it serves you.” During her term in Congress, she wants to create jobs, support the troops, and raise support for the border wall.

Kevin Cramer was elected as a US Senator for North Dakota and was a US House Representative from 2013 until 2019. He defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp by 11 percent in November’s election. His main issues include strengthening border security, protecting the Second Amendment, supporting the military and its veterans, and protecting and maintaining Social Security and Medicare.

Alternative breaks encourage service


Alma College offers students the opportunity to participate in Alternative Breaks. Alternative Breaks allow students to perform community service in lieu of going home for major breaks. These community service opportunities can vary from working with the homeless to providing disaster relief.

According to the Alma College website, most alternative breaks include teams of eight to twelve students, along with a staff advisor. Before departing, students will attend meetings in order to better understand the expectations of the trip. These trips are available for affordable prices through a subsidy from the Responsible Leadership Institute.

“When I attended my last alternative break, I made a bunch of new best friends and connections with people I never thought I would talk to,” said Bridget Flanery (‘20). Flanery most recently attended the trip to the Everglades in National Parks, Florida, in December of 2018.

During this trip, students assisted the park with maintenance, and completed several tasks that otherwise would not have been completed due to lack of funding for the national park.

“This trip had a lot to do with nature and the environment, but when we reflected at the end of each day, we realized it was about more than that,” said Flanery. “I met so many people and made so many new inside jokes. I made lots of new friends while also serving”

“I did an alternative break to the Fowler Center in Mayville,” said Alexia Miller (‘20). According to the Fowler Center website, the Fowler Center provides yearround camping experiences for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

“I want to work with the special needs population so I got to do that very hands on,” said Miller. “I enjoyed helping them get to their various activities.”

Miller and Flanery both said that alternative breaks are about more than just the service. “I will admit I was scared at first, but it was a lot of fun and rewarding,” said Miller. Similarly, Flanery said, “when people would walk through the parks, we would realize just how rewarding it was to be behind the scenes. We also would start to realize that the sheer beauty of the national parks is not done without hard work by everyone that works there.”

“It brings joy into people’s lives,” said Miller, “it’s definitely an experience I don’t regret, and I want to go on another one soon.”

“Alternative breaks make you value what you have at Alma. It’s comforting knowing that you have made new friends, and alternative breaks bring awareness to all of the opportunities you really have on campus,” said Flanery.

If you would like more information on alternative breaks, you can find more information on the Alma College website, or on the Alma Alternative breaks instagram-@ac_altbreak.

Getting up to date on winter sports


While students were enjoying winter break at home with their families, a select group of student athletes stayed on campus to compete.

The winter sports teams that were on campus during break included both the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the wrestling team, among others. The wrestling team had one event during break and overall the team did well.

“Over break the team did well at the Waynesburg Invitational,” said Brandan Ladd (’20).

“We were able to finish the tournament first overall as a team,” said Zeke Nave (’20).

“Among our team, 7 guys were able to earn individual medals with two being champions.”

From here on out, the wrestling team is getting into the full swing of the season.

“Most of the rest of our season consists of league dual meets and individual tournaments on the weekend,” said Ladd.

“Our goals are simple: stay healthy and continue to work hard in practice and prepare for competition within the conference as well as getting ready for the postseason,” said Nave.

The men’s basketball team struggled in a few ranked games over the break, but kept a good attitude about the rest of the conference season.

“During break, the team had a lot of great competition with teams that are ranked nationally,” said Tyler Edwards, Assistant Coach for the men’s basketball team.

“The goals for the rest of the season are to just learn from past mistakes and overcome to hopefully make the conference tournament.”

As for the women’s basketball team, winter break started slow and ended fast.

“We started off break a little rough with a couple losses, but we rebounded nicely with a pair of conference wins over Kalamazoo and Calvin to start the new year off right,” said Ryan Clark, Head Coach of the women’s basketball team.

“Our main goal for the rest of the season is to finish out our second half of the conference strong and make our league tournament,” said Clark.

Clark also said the team has goals to host a tournament game at home in the playoffs.

“Our goals for the rest of the season are to keep winning, to hopefully win the conference, and to keep taking steps forward as a team and getting better,” said Jessie Jordan (’20).

Aside from competition, student athletes got to spend a lot of time on campus during winter break.

“Even though we sacrifice spending more time with our families, being on campus still gives us a great opportunity to spend quality time with our teammates,” said Nave.

“We spend a lot of time together over break from practicing, lifting, team dinners, team building activities, and even Christmas festivities,” said Ladd.

“Winter break life for athletes on campus is not boring that’s for sure,” said Jordan. “Your teammates definitely become your family and we enjoy all the time we spend together.”

Alma welcomes Professor Camenares


Last semester Alma College gained a new professor in the science department: Professor Devin Camenares, PhD. Camenares moved to Alma at the end of last June, and this past fall was his first semester as an Alma professor.

Camenares first discovered his love for science in high school when he took a biotechnology class. “It really struck me at that time how it [biotechnology] is almost like a different programing language [and that] you can change the programing,” said Camenares.

Camenares came to Alma after teaching for four years at Kingsborough Community College in New York. At Alma, Camenares started up an iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team. “I wanted to gain teaching experience and help promote awareness of biotechnology and synthetic biology across the campus,” said Camenares.

Once in Alma, Camenaresfelt  that he had found the perfect place for his family, a small city that is not crowded and fast paced like New York, where he had been teaching before.

“The position at Alma, both as it was advertised and now as it has been realized, was a dream come true—a chance to not only teach and conduct research, but to develop an iGEM team with the full support of the college.

In his first semester of teaching, Camenares was given many opportunities to have some impactful memories. One of his favorites took place via email with one of his students. “It was great to see a student taking the material we were reading [in class] and going a step further [by doing his own research and asking questions],” Camenares said.

Camenares enjoys teaching the biotechnological sciences because of the coding and language they are written in. “I teach these courses because of how they relate to the ability to understand and reprogram living systems at a molecular level,” said Camenares.

When not in the classroom, Camenares can be found around the campus partaking in the hobbies he has rediscovered time for, such as chess tournaments. Camenares was also able to discover new hobbies he is considering once the weather is warmer, such as biking the trails.

One hobby that Camenares picked up once he came to Alma was tennis. He used to play some when he was living in New York, but thanks to Alma’s small campus and the short commute to work, Camenares is able to play the sport again, using the courts on South Campus and at the Rec Center.

Along with tennis, Camenares has strengthened his friendships with other faculty members by joining in on their games of Dungeons and Dragons (DND). Camenares has also acted in one of the local Gratiot County plays along with his wife.

“Alma is an improvement in almost every way!” said Camenares. “I particularly like how interconnected everything is: there seems to be more interdisciplinary connections among the faculty, and (in keeping with the tradition of a liberal arts college) a focus on a more holistic education and experience for the students.”

Camenares offered advice to future teachers, saying that they need to try to keep an open mind with their students, and to experiment with what teaching methods will work with those students.

“It is about taking full advantage of the experience not just to find a good position upon graduation, but to realize your potential for long term growth,” said Camenares. “It’s not about your first job upon graduation, but instead you’re last before retirement.”

Resisting I.C.E.: Radical or American?


When President Trump instituted his “Zero Tolerance” policy, he instituted a policy that empowered I.C.E. to separate over 2,500 children from their parents. Leaked audio from I.C.E. detention centers painted a grim picture of children crying for their families, and dozens of now infamous photos of distraught and sobbing children quickly blanketed social media.

The outrage in Michigan was enormous. On Jun. 30, over 1,000 protestors met for a “Families Belong Together” rally in Lansing and dozens of people took the podium on the steps of the state capitol to decry the agency’s cruel practices. The most notable speaker was thencandidate Gretchen Whitmer.

At the rally, Whitmer eloquently stated “I think we need a governor who’s going to stand up to the federal government when they violate our rights,” elaborating that what I.C.E. was doing was “fundamentally cruel and unconstitutional and undemocratic.”

Governor Whitmer’s comments cut right to the core of I.C.E.’s inhuman practices. Yet despite her strong stance, Governor Whitmer hasn’t announced any action or policy to push back against the violation of our rights by the federal government in the six months since the rally.

Perhaps the Governor’s disheartening silence after her exemplary criticism of I.C.E. is representative of what a lot of Americans feel –– we know that what I.C.E. is doing is wrong but we think resisting the agency is too radical. When, in reality, resisting I.C.E. is a matter of following what the Founding Fathers and Constitution tells us to do.

The most common form of resistance: following the 4th amendment and requiring warrants. When non-federal law enforcement come into contact with undocumented immigrants, I.C.E. will often request that these people be detained until the agency can obtain a warrant for deportation.

Some areas comply with I.C.E.’s warrantless request, while others do not. Areas that don’t comply with I.C.E. unless it has a warrant are called “sanctuary cities” or “sanctuary counties.” There are over 60 of these “sanctuary cities” and “sanctuary counties” across the entire country.

“One of the problems currently is how people talk about this concept,” said Professor Slaughter, “many of the people who support sanctuary cities, with or without that name, are actually saying that immigration enforcement must be separate from law enforcement,.” said Stephany Slaughter, associate professor of Spanish.

Law enforcement officers often support the use of sanctuary cities for logical reasons, not political ones. “When law enforcement does the job of immigration enforcement, it undermines community safety,” said Slaughter. “Law enforcement depends on community buy-in,” she said.

Many police officers have shared this sentiment publicly. Shelly Knight of the Dallas Sheriff’s Office stated that a Texas bill that would potentially criminalize noncooperation with I.C.E. if passed was “causing trust in the community to deteriorate,” and that undocumented immigrants are “not wanting to talk to us, they’re not wanting to open the door out of fear that something’s going to happen to them.”

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley stated that “Every Police Chief that spends time working on immigration matters is one less officer investigating serious crime.”

In a Washington Post poll of a San Diego immigrant community, 64.2% of residents said that they were less likely to report a crime they witnessed to local police if the police were working with I.C.E., and 46% said they were less likely to report a crime they had been a victim of. It is hard to even justify a law enforcement focus on undocumented immigrant to begin with. According to a 2018 Cato Institute poll, undocumented immigrants commit 56% less crime than native-born Americans.

Michigan State Police do not arrest people based on immigration status, but are required by policy to inform I.C.E. when they come into contact with people of questionable immigration status.

At the time of publishing, the Whitmer administration has not responded to the Almanian’s request for information on whether or not the Governor supports a pledges of noncooperation with I.C.E. at a state level or if she would endorse pledges of non-cooperation of other local law enforcement and collegial institutions.

Michiganders must ask themselves, why are we disregarding the 4th amendment and the safety of our communities in order to appease a federal agency and administration whose tenure seems to be marked with unspeakable cruelty at every turn?

College changes tobacco policy


Alma College students were notified through Student Congress last semester about changes in the tobacco policies on campus. There have been questions about what falls under this policy and how it will take effect.

According to The American Cancer Society, of the roughly 20 million college and university students in the United States, more than 1 million are projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking. The American Cancer Society, under the direction of its Center for Tobacco Control, launched the Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative (TFGCI), to accelerate and expand the adoption and implementation of 100% smoke- and tobacco-free policies on college and university campuses across the nation.

The standing tobacco policy on campus bans the use of cigarettes, vaporizers, and e-cigarettes inside of all college owned buildings— including dorms and small housing. This policy was last updated in January of 2018.

The draft of the new policy prohibits tobacco use across Alma College campus, including small housing and the surrounding areas. “The new policy is applicable to all campus buildings and housing, both inside and out and includes all facilities and grounds owned by Alma College. including but not limited to athletic fields, college owned vehicles, parking lots and surrounding college-owned properties,” said Anna Lambrecht, Associate Vice President for Student Life.

This policy makes Alma College a smoke-free, vapefree, and chew-free campus. There are no exceptions being made for tobacco-free vaporizers and similar devices that use essential oils.

“Alma College received a grant from the American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation to help us become a 100-percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus,” said Lambrecht. “This grant is a part of the nationwide TobaccoFree Generation Campus Initiative designed to reduce the number of people who get sick and die from tobacco-related diseases.”

After Alma College received this grant, they put together the Alma College Tobacco Free Task Force and met monthly. “Members of the task force began research to explore best policies & practices from other campuses in the nation that had already accomplished the goal of becoming Tobacco Free,” said Lambrecht.

Some students have been vocal on social media concerning these changes in policy, but many students do not have very strong opinions. “It doesn’t really affect me. I understand their reasoning behind changing the policy, but it might cause more issues than the money is worth,” said Kara Tredway (’20).

If students are caught in violation of this policy, they will receive disciplinary action from the Director of Student Affairs. This is different than disciplinary action towards faculty and community members.

Alma College conducted a survey—completed by 939 students—that said 44.4% of students are concerned about second hand smoke on campus and 51.2% of students have tried tobacco one or more time.

There is nothing in these changes to smoking policies that reference marijuana usage on campus. Thought it is legalized in the state, it is still banned on Alma College’s campus.

Government shutdown threatens taxes


President Donald J Trump set into motion a government shutdown – the second longest in United States history – after negations on the boarder wall. The duration of the shutdown remains uncertain, but its affect resonates throughout the lives of the students on campus.

The government shutdown affects the pay of federal employees, the maintenance of National Parks, government funding and the disposal of street garbage in Washington DC.

A main concern of the recent government shutdown has revolved around the anticipation of tax returns. For most students on campus, tax returns are beneficial to those who work a part-time job that pays less than ten thousand dollars per year.

The chief concern of some students going into the shutdown was whether or not they’ll receive their tax returns. With the recent government shutdown looming close to the month of April, tensions run high on whether or not people will receive their tax returns.

“They need to figure out how to get the government back on their feet sooner rather than later. An alternate solution needs to be established in order to pay government employees,” said Molly Strunk (’20).

The IRS made a statement promising to keep tax returns open following the concerns of those who voiced their opinions after the government shutdown. Whether or not the tax returns will be filed smoothly and on time will be answered within the next coming weeks of the shutdown.

“I need tax return money to pay off my college payments. Imagining that the government would hold back on handing back tax returns would be wrong,” said Strunk. The government shutdown affects students through other means of financial tension. For some students on campus, their parents have government positions. The duration of the government shutdown wears at the finances of those who rely on government paychecks.

“I realize that things like this happen, but it’s gotten out of hand. Both of my parents work for the Forest Service. Another month that the government is shutdown means another month without a paycheck,” said Jack Montgomery (’20).

The amount of government employees that are affected by the government shutdown continues to grow. They continue to work without pay until the government is reopened. The length at which the shutdown will last could turn into weeks or months according to the speculations of some students.

“Hopefully the shutdown will be lifted within the next few weeks or so,” said Joey Tighe (’21).

Tighe later mentioned that he knew his friend’s family worked for the Coast Guard and that the government shutdown is affecting their pay as well. This government shutdown has become the longest in the history of the United States. The IRS promising tax returns is clear at the present moment, but further details will soon be known.

What’s going on at the Rec?


The Stone Recreational Center (The Rec) offers many activities for Alma’s students to enjoy.

The Rec has a program called The Adventure Rec. This program allows students to be involved, stay active and travel. In the coming weeks, The Rec is hosting an event to take students to the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. The trip is $15 and covers the cost of an all-day sports pass, which includes many winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, skating, as well as a luge session and lunch.

The Rec also has opportunities to stay active that do not require students to leave campus. The four versatile basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and tennis courts, the rock wall, the indoor suspended track and the indoor roller rink or inline skating rink keep students active. The Rec opens at 5 a.m. on week days and 10 a.m. on weekends.

“I like to use The Rec and utilize the indoor track to get my steps in and to get my daily exercise,” said Hannah Gibbs (’21). Gibbs likes to go to The Rec with her friends and exercise. “The rock wall is a lot of fun. I use it a lot with my friends during open climb times,” said Gibbs.

Outside of various exercise machines and sports offered at The Rec, Zumba classes, aerobic classes, fencing and different types of Martial Arts classes can be taken. Recreational activities are not only held in The Rec. Included in The Recreation of campus are the open swim times of the pool in the Hogan Center.

The Rec is used by students who want easy access to different types of things to do on campus. “I like The Rec because it’s easily accessible and I only have to swipe my ID to get in. Then I can do anything I want once I’m in. I also haven’t had the chance to utilize The Rec yet this semester, but I do plan on using it in the future and even possibly taking a Zumba class,” said Bridget McCaffery (’21).

The Rec sends out a monthly email to everyone at Alma to inform campus of what is going on and what is new. “I like getting the monthly email because it gives me an option of activities I can take part in in the future instead of having to go see it in person,” said Emma Grossbauer (’22).

The Rec center has events of their own, but other organizations also utilize the space in The Rec. ACUB utilized The Rec last weekend when they held their event to invite students to play bubble soccer, giant Uno and giant bowling. Other organizations frequently use The Rec for their space and materials too, such as Phi Mu Alpha who uses The Rec around rush season to host “Cluster-duck of Fun,” which is an event in which members play games and sports and get to know potential new members.

Once a month The Rec also hosts the “Kitty Fun Night” hosted by Counseling and Wellness. This event takes place in the multipurpose room and a local shelter brings in kittens, cats, and sometimes a ferret for students to relax and unwind. “I like that they bring the kittens in contrast to the dogs because sometimes big dogs can actually be overwhelming while small cats are calming,” said Raul Rivera (’22).


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