COMIC BY WESTON HIRVELA
Each year around this time, college juniors and seniors all across the country are working diligently on their applications to a variety of different graduate programs. However, COVID-19 impacts many different aspects of the application process. Applicants should expect to be highly flexible throughout their application process, as it could look very different from previous years.
“Many interviews are now done online and campus visitations are virtual,” said Dr. John Rowe, chair of the biology department. “Many graduate programs, as well as med and vet schools, have been emphasizing student experiences and personal attributes rather than basing admissions solely on transcripts and standardized tests.”
One major aspect of the graduate program application process affected by COVID-19 involves the various entrance exams for different programs, such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. Many graduate program applicants have been preparing for these exams throughout the entirety of their academic careers.
“Some graduate programs seem to be following the expanding number of undergraduate institutions, like ours, seem to be dropping entrance exams such as SAT and ACT at least for the time-being,” said Rowe. “The Educational Testing Service has modified its formatting for at-home administration of the GRE and some graduate programs have waived or dropped the requirement altogether. Some med schools are granting leniency to applicants who have not submitted their MCAT scores in a timely manner given test date cancellations while some programs are not requiring the MCAT.”
Many juniors and seniors may be grappling with the decision of whether to apply to graduate schools now in accordance to pre-pandemic plans, or wait to apply after the pandemic ends.
“There is some evidence that suggests that some students may delay their application to graduate programs until they can enter under ‘more normal’ and certain times,” said Rowe. “I saw a survey that indicated that about 50% of potential grad student applicants were considering delaying their application to grad school, but many students will continue on as planned prior to COVID…time will tell.”
Students who are on the fence about their decision to apply to graduate school now or postpone until later have a lot to consider, especially as the application process requires a lot from applicants.
“Before embarking on the strenuous and time-consuming application process, however, students should look into their program of interest in order to glean as much information as possible about entrance standards, dates, and deadlines, said Rowe. “There could be some
information on predicted application rates that could be useful when deciding on whether to apply or not.”
Regardless of whether students decide to apply to their graduate programs of choice now or take a rain check for after the pandemic, they should remain vigilant in achieving their current academic goals and striving to do their very best during these difficult times.
“Becoming acclimated to our new learning environment is critical for both students and faculty alike,” said Rowe. “I think that students should embrace these times as we pursue new directions in learning. It is quite possible that portions of graduate school learning will occur online in the near future and students should be ready for that reality. Also, professional schools, internships, shadowing and service opportunities are difficult to land but should be actively pursued when possible.”
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.
With sports’ seasons put on hold and social gatherings limited on campus, Alma College’s Athletic Department seeks to find new ways to keep student-athletes connected, even when they are off the field. One new way is through the use of the latest form of communication during this disconnected time: video.
While student-athletes may have to wait to put on their uniforms and see the field, the Athletic Department, along with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), has created a new way to get to know the athletes beyond their jerseys. In the new weekly video series posted to YouTube, Inside Scots Sports, each video takes a deeper look into the lives of some of Alma’s athletes.
“Our Inside Scots Sports videos are made to give athletes and faculty something to look forward to during this troubling time with no athletic events,” said SAAC Social Media Coordinator and host of the show, Hunter Nash(’22). “We aim to show that there is more to our student athletes here at Alma than just being an athlete. In saying that, I try to focus my questions not only on what made the athlete or faculty member come to Alma but what sparked their love for sports and competition in the first place!”
In these videos, each episode focuses on interviewing a student-athlete or even a college staff member within the Athletic Department. When interviewing, Nash dives into more than just questions about the athlete and their sport. Each video centers around getting to know the student-athlete on a more personal level rather than just being a number on the field.
“The idea for these videos was to give our community more information about our athletes here on campus to solidify a bond that athletes across campus all have with each other,” said Nash. “We want all athletes to look at the Athletic Department as a community where they can reach out to anyone if need be!”
With the aim being to strengthen the athletic community, it is no surprise that the push behind the formation of the videos stems from the Athletic Department’s own Sports Information Director, Matt Moran. The concept for the videos started as an idea to increase not only a sense of family amongst athletes, but to introduce the Alma community to the variety of students, who make up Alma’s 27 different sports’ teams. All Moran had to do was pitch the idea, find a host, and the rest was history.
“The idea is something I came up with as I wanted to feature our student-athletes more on a personal level,” said Moran. “I was suggested to reach out to Hunter because he has a passion for these kinds of projects. Hunter basically took the idea and ran with it by coming up with the name of the show and deciding what questions would be asked. I then worked with Hunter as well as our Assistant AD Kiana Verdugo on how we would go about putting it all together.”
When it comes to the production of these videos, Nash was eager to accept the challenge as the host with his interests in the business field and wanting to focus on his professionalism in public speaking. In each seven to ten-minute-long video, Nash interviews a different student-athlete to not only get to know them as an athlete, but a student as well through his wide array of witty questions.
“A typical video consists of some easy questions to get to know why the individual started playing their sport and how they found their way to Alma,” said Nash. “I then like to get into some questions about them so that myself and the community can learn more behind their name on their jersey. I then like to keep it light and fun by throwing in some weird and out of the box
questions to make it interesting and something to be talked about around campus. Finally, we have a speed round to see how many quick off-the-bat questions the participant can answer in 60 seconds!”
Just like how Nash switches up his questions to keep the interview interesting and participants on their toes, he also looks to interview student-athletes from all across the athletic community. This is notable in the videos posted, which consist of interviews featuring Men’s Soccer junior, Jarod Arendsen(’22), Volleyball and Softball Junior, Haley Ullrich(’22) and Men’s Golf and Tennis senior, Tait Morrissey(’21).
“I started the first couple interviews by interviewing individuals from other sports teams that I know, but it is completely open to anyone who wants to participate, so if you want to be on the show….Send me an email!” said Nash. “However, if I do not get volunteers, then I plan to make my way through the Athletic Department and hit someone from every team before going back through.”
With the future of sports’ seasons up in the air, it is important to take this time to reflect on not only what these sports mean to athletes, but to acknowledge what these athletes mean to the sports and athletic community. Thanks to the Athletic Department, Moran and Nash’s push for the Inside Scots Sports videos, it helps give the community something to rally around and learn more about the athletes, who they will cheer on when sports go back into action.
“I think it’s important, especially during this time, that we feature the members of the Alma College family,” said Moran. “With no competitions going on, it gives us more time to do these projects and tell the stories of these people. At the end of the day, I hope people are entertained by them and that they learn something they never knew before about the person being featured.”
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.
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.
As the Northern Hemisphere of our planet tilts further away from the sun, cold and freezing winds have already started to take over our days. The windbreakers are out, the socks are never off and a warm bowl of soup has become a Saga staple. But as the season to be jolly rolls around this year, there is a unique worry on our minds- COVID-19 cases all around us are getting worse.
Alma College saw its highest spike in cases ever since the semester began (28 positive cases) and the state’s trends reflect the same. The number of new coronavirus cases in Michigan has increased 39% in the past week, with many cities seeing their highest spike ever.
With this sudden and sharp rise in cases, scientists from all around the country are speaking up about the the impacts of the winter on the coronavirus. “This virus is going to have a heyday,” says David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California. “We are looking at some pretty sobering and difficult months ahead.”
In the past, a number of the most dangerous viral infections we’ve experienced have shown seasonal trends and while it may be too early to determine seasonal trends for COVID-19, its predicted the winter will only make things worse. For example, laboratory experiments revealed that SARS-CoV-2 favors cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight; the 1918 influenza outbreak, the only pandemic that killed more Americans than COVID-19, was five times higher during the winter than other seasons. Even the flu gets significantly worse during the winter with 40 times more cases during fall and winter than in spring and summer.
While this virus may just like the winter better, that isn’t the only reason why COVID-19 cases might rise in the upcoming season. As winter comes along, indoor activities increase and more people gather together in confined spaces, many times with poor ventilation, to meet with each other. In times like these, the importance of social distancing and mask wearing has become more prominent than ever.
If these predictions come to fruition, the United States is likely to see another 400,000 deaths on top of the current death toll of 230,000. Just the current number of COVID-19 cases in the US (nine million as of October 29) have made it home to 25% of all positive cases in the world while it is home to only 4% of the world’s population.
States like Michigan which experience cold and long winters, a subsequent rise in indoor activities and an already existing high number of cases (the seventh highest out of all 50 states) have a task ahead of them, a task the college must undertake for its students too. The state must incentivize mask-wearing not just in public spaces but also in private spaces. The college, too, must continue with its Phase-I policy of minimal contact among students and regulated events around campus.
While Alma College only has only three weeks of classes remaining, our collective fight against the virus is far from over. Winter is coming and it’s time to prepare!
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,