Heavy rain causes flooding in library

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Photo by DYLAN COUR

Not too long ago the city of Alma was hit with quite the rainstorm, causing a pipe to burst beneath the library. A drain connected to the archival room in the basement was where the water came spewing out.

“A storm water drain pump from the city failed during the heavy rain, and so storm water backed up through a drain and into the archives area of the library; that’s how it flooded,” said Matthew Collins, the library director on campus.

The archival room, as well as the MacCurdy room at the library, is where the college’s collection of rare books can be found.

Alma College is home to quite the collection of rare books, all given to the college by donors with a love and passion for them.

“[Alma College] doesn’t actively buy rare books. Rare books tend to be quite expensive and we don’t collect books in any particular area. What we have was donated to us at some point,” said Collins.

This flooding caused concern for the rare books, as water is detrimental to the condition of a book.

Luckily none of the rare books were ruined due to the flood water.

“We really kind of lucked out that [the water] wasn’t higher, because if it had been a lot of books there would have been damaged. Really it was just some boxes,” said Collins.

Many students may remember seeing large dryers in the basement for quite some time, accompanied by a putrid odor.

“The carpet got wet and the [debris] in the water made the carpet really smell–it was gross. Ryan in facilities told me that they had to vacuum out almost 2,000 gallons of water from the basement,” said Collins.

While the water did bring a horrendous smell, there was no sewage among the debris. The carpet has been completely dried, and the decision is still being made as to whether or not the carpet will be pulled up and replaced.

Rare books do not come easily, and are extremely expensive. Not only do they cost a pretty penny, but they must be maintained in a climate controlled room, and have minimal contact in order to preserve them.

“If you’re going to [keep] books that are older than about the 1800s you would have to have special environmental conditions to keep them under, and you’d need to restrict access and we’re just not set up to do that here. It’s a little beyond us, and quite frankly most small colleges don’t collect rare books,” said Collins.

Due to these factors, many colleges like Alma are unable to properly store rare books, which in turn makes them not last as long. This is another reason why these books are hard to acquire.

“Alma College does not really have anyone who specializes in rare books and for that reason not much has been done with them. I worked with some books that are located in the MacCurdy room that had never been catalogued formally and hadn’t been touched since the ‘60s. It is not really the fault of the library staff that they haven’t been taken care of properly, there just isn’t anyone to do that job,” said Cassie Florian (‘20).

While the college may not have the best available space to maintain these works as best as they wish they could, the college is still home to many rare books. These books are important to have so that students with an interest in rare books have a place to go to get their fix.

“Rare books are important not only because of their monetary value, but also because they are great historical artifacts. They are also just really cool to look at,” said Florian.

Collins said that while none of these books are currently considered damaged, there is still the potential for mold to grow. Only time will tell how many of these rare books truly made it out of this flood unscathed. 

Polar Express passes through Alma

EMMA GROSSBAUER
STAFF WRITER

Photo by EMMA GROSSBAUER

Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 was a historic day for the Pere Marquette 1225, better known as the Polar Express, because of the 44-year anniversary of the train’s first fire-up on Michigan State University’s campus. 

The Steam Railroading Institute planned this special day to celebrate two milestones– the Michigan State University Railroad Club’s 50-year anniversary and the 44-year anniversary of the first fire up of the 1225 after it came out of retirement. Made in Lima, Ohio for the Pere Marquette Railway in 1941, the 1225 was used to haul products between cities including Detroit, Chicago, Toledo, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Flint. 

After ten years of serving the cities on the Pere Marquette Railway, the steam locomotive was put into retirement due to the rise in popularity of diesel locomotives. Diesel locomotives were more cost efficient because they ran faster and worked longer. The 1225 sat until 1957 when it was saved by Forest Akers. 

Forest Akers, a Michigan State University trustee in 1969, took the Pere Marquette 1225 to MSU’s campus for learning purposes. While being on campus, a group of students took interest in the steam locomotive and decided to try and restore it. The group the students formed is now known as the MSU Railroad Club. The restoration continued until it was finished in 1985 and was moved to Owosso, Michigan. 

Today, the 1225 is used for The Polar Express Train Ride where the train takes passengers from Owosso to Ashley. On the ride, they serve hot chocolate just like Robert Zemeckis’ production The Polar Express shows. When arriving in Ashley, Michigan, passengers can get off of the train and explore the Christmas themed town. When ready to go, the passengers will board back on the 1225 and travel back to Owosso where they came from.  

These major milestones were celebrated by the Steam Railroad Institute holding the “Cadillac Limited”. This was a tour for passengers to see the fall colors, travelling from Mount Pleasant to Cadillac. While traveling from Owosso to Mount Pleasant’s train station to pick up passengers, it passed through Alma. The first time it passed through Alma was at 7:30 in the morning. The first time Alma College students heard it, there was a lot of concern and confusion. 

“I don’t know how to describe the sound; it was something I’ve never heard before,” said Cosette Coston (‘20). “At first I thought it was the emergency alarm that goes off on the first Saturday of the month, but because of how long the sound was, I was just confused on what it could be.”

Throughout the day, students were wondering what exactly it could be. 12 hours later, the train came back through Alma after the Cadillac Limited was finished. Some students did not wake up in the morning to the haunting sound of the train whistle, so when it came back, it was the first time they heard it.

“We thought it was a train, but it sounded like someone screaming, and it was really weird,” said Hannah Flemming (‘20).

That day was a very special day in history for the MSU Railroad Club and the Pere Marquette 1225, and they will continue to grow and hit more major milestones in the future.

State budget woes impact Alma Students

CHELSEA FABER
STAFF WRITER

Alma College students could feel a new wave of financial aid woes, as Governor Gretchen Whitmer has cut millions of dollars in financial aid from small colleges through a line item veto.  The Michigan Tuition Grant can award students with up to $2,000 per year, which is decided based on financial need. 

As retention has been a priority item for the college, this loss of funding could pose a new challenge to students who without this funding, their education may not be possible.

Many Alma students will feel the impact of this loss of funding. “This grant makes an Alma College education possible for many of our highest need students,” said Michelle McNier, Director of Financial Aid. “Without this continued funding, some of these students may not be able to financially afford to make this education a possibility in future years.”   

The college as a whole has lost approximately 1.5 million dollars, impacting around 800 Alma College Students. “Students may have to increase their efforts to find external scholarship opportunities and may also need to look at additional loans or payment plan options” said McNier. 

President Abernathy issued a statement to students via email on this issue. He gave a brief overview of the situation and explained that the college was working diligently to mediate the funding loss. “Since the notification, the college’s leadership team, along with the Financial Aid and Financial Services Offices, have been working to develop a plan of action with a goal of minimizing the impact on our students” said Abernathy. 

This email also assured students that any losses in state dollars for the fall semester would not impact students.  “the funds you have already received for the fall term will not be withdrawn from your account” said Abernathy. 

Students have expressed their frustrations through social media, citing the Governor’s cuts as an attack to college students statewide, “Placing their budget concerns and their lack of money on college students, 18-22 year old’s, seems irresponsible,” said Elizabeth Flatoff (’21).

There is also frustration considering that many individuals currently in college who were receiving this scholarship and were anticipating these funds to remain available.  “I also believe it is highly irresponsible to just pull this aid away from students already in college who depend on it,” said Flatoff. 

Whitmer’s line item veto may not be a permanent removal of educational grants, “We will closely follow updates from the capital as the legislature continues to work on budget matters,” said Abernathy. 

As this is an issue that can be resolved through legislation and budget negotiation, Alma has been in conversation with state officials to help restore these grants.  “The college is actively working in the best interests of our students by reaching out to our elected representatives in support of continuing this funding,” said Abernathy. 

Students who are interested in advocating for the restoration of these grants are encouraged to contact their state representatives or senators.  “We also encourage students to reach out to their elected representative to share how this decision has impacted them personally,” said McNier. 

Included within the email from President Abernathy on this issue, is a template letter for Governor Whitmer as well as members of the legislature.  There are also links provided to identify your local legislators. 

Those not impacted are also being encouraged to inform their elected officials, “I wish that everyone will fight this, talk to your representative, whether it affects you or not, because I guarantee it affects someone you know,” said Flatoff.

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