Cries to end teenage fatality

HADEN GROSS
STAFF WRITER

Tragedy Struck New York’s east side this past weekend as rapid gun fire left two dead and fourteen wounded. The teens were attending a house party when the firing began in the early hours of Sep. 19. Sources project there was around a hundred adolescents at the house party when gunshots began. When asking students how they would react to a shooting targeted towards young adults, the response was one of unimaginable fear.

“I would be scared and not know how to react,” said Megan Schreur (’24). “This especially worries me now because I am at college and even though there are not any parties right now, there are still lots of social events where a shooting could happen unexpectedly.”

The victim’s range in ages between 16 and 22. As the city grieves lives of a young man and woman who were killed due to senseless slaughter and the other children wounded. The type of gun used has not yet been identified; however, police report that several rounds of ammunition were fired. The blocks surrounding the crime scene were littered with caution tape as police officers’ attempt to make sense of the crime scene.

“What seems to make the situation more surreal is that kids my age were killed for going to a house party,” said Danielle Dumoulin (’24). “I couldn’t imagine the fear and panic that they must have felt when they heard gunshots ring out.”

When first arriving, NY police described the scene as chaotic, with hundreds of teenagers in varying levels of distress and many in need of immediate assistance due to gun shot wounds according to USA Today.

The victims were sent to Rochester General and Strong Memorial hospitals, in a varying condition. Both hospitals have released little information on the wounded; however, it was gleaned that none of the injuries sustained were fatal. This shooting is one of many that have terrorized Rochester NY in recent years. In 2015, the city fell victim to four shootings that left 6 dead and 18 wounded, making this shooting this year the largest in the city’s history.

“Because I come from a small town, I have never had the ingrained fear that myself or people I know will die and or be subject to a shooting,” said Dumoulin. “I feel so incredibly bad for the teens and young adults who will never have the opportunity to grow up in an environment that is safe.”

Adding to the exponential list of mass shootings that have taken place in America this year, Rochester will mark 455 according to the Gun Violence Archive.

“I think that it is honestly inevitable to prevent people from having access to guns, but I do think that there are measures that could be taken to further prevent incidents like this to happen,” said Schreur.

The community has been in a state of unrest since the death of Daniel Prude, a young African American man who was suffocated to death by police restraint. Police officials ask that the

community joins to bring peace, and put an end to the suffering in Rochester, according to USA Today.

Coupled with the state of unrest in the nation, tragedies are still taking place in small communities. The shooting in Rochester has caught the eye of national and local news, and even students here at Alma. The shooter, motive and victim’s names are still unknown, and as local police work to uncover the truth the city remains in unrest. The loss of two young adults and other wounded children has sparked an even larger cry for peace across America.

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.

American Nightmare

ATULYA DORA-LASKEY
STAFF WRITER

Last Tuesday, the first debate of the 2020 Election got underway, and it went just as poorly as most Americans expected. Interruptions, yelling, and personal attacks dominated the stage. Yet, one moment seemed particularly horrific. The President refused to directly condemn white supremacist, and called for a group called the Proud Boys to “Stand back and stand by.”

The group granted this Presidential endorsement are a far-right, neo-fascist organization. The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center designate the Proud Boys as a hate group, citing their numerous ties to white supremacy. The organization has made a name for themselves by assaulting leftists. Yet, the Proud Boys are not alone in their beliefs about violence. Recently, the amount of Americans open to committing political violence has increased drastically. In 2017, only 8% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans were open to using political violence to achieve their goals. In a Politico poll published this October, they found that the number had risen to 33% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans. These are symptoms of a sick and poorly functioning democracy, and it appears as though the fabric of American society is quickly unraveling.

No one can capture this moment in history better than filmmaker (and Michigan-native) Paul Schrader. Writing films such as Raging Bull (1980) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Schrader has a well-deserved reputation as “one of the crucial creators of the modern cinema.” If you want to viscerally grasp why this country is teetering so closely to the edge, both Schrader’s Taxi Driver (1976) and First Reformed (2017) are required viewing.

At first, the protagonists at the heart of both these films appear starkly different. In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a cabbie in New York City taking night shifts to cope with his insomnia. In First Reformed, Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a pastor who is struggling with his faith, preaching at the 250-year old First Reformed church that has now turned into a glorified tourist attraction.

As both films progress, you find that the two characters are united in their belief in an American dream that ultimately betrays them. Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran, who believes that working hard at an honest job will lead him to some kind of satisfaction. Ernst Toller is a veteran as well, and because his family considered military enlistment to be patriotic tradition he encouraged his son to sign-up. Bickle gets no fulfillment from his life as a taxi driver, and his isolation from others only grows in the process as Bickle finds that his job is “…like you’re not even there…like a taxi driver doesn’t even exist.” Toller’s life falls apart after his son is killed in Iraq during a war that Toller believes “…had no moral justification.”

The two men have their betrayals compounded as they are submerged repeatedly into a societal sickness, and they turn to uniquely American outlets in order to cope. Bickle, surrounded by poverty, violent misogyny, and child trafficking, decides to buy an assortment of guns and frequent a shooting range. Toller, surrounded by environmental destruction, the undeniable proof of climate change, and the refusal of world leaders to do anything about it, incorporates environmental activism into his preaching. Again these two are betrayed by their understandings of America. Even after shooting a man robbing a local store, Bickle can not satisfy his

increasingly violent urges. Toller is forced to stop his environmental activism as the megachurch that owns First Reformed is financed heavily by a wealthy polluter. Toller’s helpless torment watching the world light itself on fire is deeply relatable. During an argument with the director of the megachurch, he screams “Well, somebody has to do something!”

In the third acts of both their films, both men decide to fully embrace political violence. Bickle plans to assassinate a progressive senator running for President while Toller prepares to blow himself up in an act of eco-terrorism. Bickle’s plan is the result of untreated paranoia and isolation, while Toller’s believes his plan to be the only logical conclusion for a world that refuses to properly face an existential crisis.

These men are obviously not blameless for their actions, but it is undeniable that these men would not emerge in a society that was functioning properly. Throughout this country we have isolated Americans with no sense of support or community, stuck in jobs that do nothing for them and a political system that does even less. There are hundreds of Bickles and Tollers being created across the nation. If we don’t fix these issues, we can expect America’s third act to be just as violent.

E-Sports and intramural sports have a new look

ALYSSA GALL
SPORTS WRITER

With some sport seasons on hold and others up in the air, the few sports that are currently happening at Alma College are taking on a new and safe look. Fall sports, such as football, soccer, cross country and volleyball, may be getting pushed into the spring season, but one lucky sport, Esports, is gearing to start their fall season.

With their sport predominantly taking place online, Esports players are in the clear when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions and are set to have a smooth sailing season.

“Last year many of the Esports teams were forced to end their seasons early and we were forced to cut off the tail end of our season because of Covid,” said senior Esports player, Nolan Rowland (’21). “This year we are planning on going ahead with the full season and are, thankfully, able to practice together while still abiding by the rules set by the college,” said Rowland.

With their 2020 season coming to an abrupt end, the Esports team looks to cherish every moment of their upcoming season, which escaped the postponement many other fall sports fell victim to.

On September 17, the Esports team kicked off their season against Davenport university with their League of Legends team. This was their first match of the regular season as they strive towards becoming GG League Champions again.

“The type of Esport depends on the game being played, but for League of Legends, the matches consist of two teams of five players, with each player choosing a unique champion,” said Rowland. “The goal is to destroy the opposing team’s Nexus, a structure that lies at the heart of their base, which is protected by defensive structures.” In this match, Rowland led the team with six assists and deaths as well as twelve eliminations.

Although the team fell to Davenport 2-0, the team remains optimistic and looks hopeful towards the rest of their season and upcoming match against Western Illinois University on October 1.

“While we were not able to beat Davenport this time, we learned very valuable lessons from those matches, and we are not necessarily expecting immediate results at the beginning of the season,” said Rowland. “While we have some veterans on the team, we are still quite new and I believe once we develop more chemistry, we should have no problem finding success for the rest of the season.”

As Esports continues to make its way through their season, many other athletes have found themselves with more free time than usual in the wake of many sports being put on hold. With campus looking quieter these days, Alma’s Recreational Center is finding ways to keep students active and safe through the use of intramural (IM) sports.

While IM sports occur throughout the school year, the need for activity and student interaction has placed high interest on the need for fall season IM sports.

“Covid has really put a strain on all activities,” said IM Student Assistant, Jarod Arendsen (’22). “We have implemented a number of regulations and policies to safely play IM sports. Before students can play, they must show their green check marks for their daily health screening. If they don’t have them, we have a temperature gun so they can get their temperature. We also are enforcing that everyone wears a mask while participating in IM sports along with adhering to social distancing.”

Along with these new regulations, new changes have also been made to the set-up of the competitions. Although the games may be running differently, the typical sports of basketball, volleyball, softball, kickball, pickle ball and soccer as well as some other smaller sports will still be offered.

“Before Covid, many IM sports would be a week or two long,” said Arendsen. “Each team would play in pool play for the first week and then go into a single elimination tournament. With Covid, we have had to make many changes. Since many sports you cannot socially distance, we have been limited to outdoor sports. We have been doing weekend tournaments. The number of participants depends on the sport. At each game, we have 1-2 referees to regulate the games and make sure they go smoothly.”

With the new adaptable competitions to current safety regulations, this enables not only the same sports students love and know to be offered, but it provides all students with the opportunity to participate. Even if students have never tried the sport before, it enables them to break out of their comfort zone and try something new—especially during a pandemic.

“I participate in the sports because of the social aspects,” said senior wrestler, Joseph Vondrasek (’21). “I do not fancy myself as competitive outside of wrestling, so I take the time to just enjoy the experience. Sometime the best part is making team jerseys and laughing when things go wrong!”

Although sports and many other on-campus activities may be postponed because of the pandemic, IM sports offer students the ability to not only stay active, but to stay connected and socialize in a time when social interaction is limited. It is something students can do safely and for fun.

“Alma students seem to be longing to have those casual social interactions that we know and love,” said Vondrasek. “Intramural sports create opportunities to socialize and be safe.”

Belarus – the last European Dictatorship

ARYAAN MISRA
STAFF WRITER

100,000 people on the streets, 12,000 arrested, 450 injured, and 50 missing.

These seemingly plain numbers carry on their shoulders the largest protest that Belarus has ever seen. A small landlocked country in Eastern Europe, Belarus emerged an independent state in 1991 after the Soviet Union collapsed. The country first held elections in 1994 which saw Alexander Lukashenko rise to power. Almost 25 years later, in 2020, the sixth Presidential elections were held, and Lukashenko won, again, for the sixth time. Belarusians took to the streets fearing five more years of the same leader that a majority of young Belarusians view as tyrannical. The protests were instigated when the election results gave Lukashenko an 80% majority of votes, which the opposition as well as some poll workers declared to be fraudulent.

Last week marked the 50th day of these protests, with protestors amassing support instead of diminishing in numbers. Belarusians between the ages of 18-40 seek change in a country fettered between unemployment and inflation. The real frustration of the protestors however doesn’t stem from economic issues, which are very real, but from the dictatorial style of governance adopted by the Lukashenko administration. Early 2020 saw the rise of a popular political commentator and blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky. His internet streams against President Lukashenko gained mass popularity, and he was seen by many as an alternative; an alternative with a real chance of victory. The popular will however was quashed before it bloomed into democratic participation as the present administration arrested Sergei under charges of treason.

This did not stop the movement, which was absorbed by Sergei’s wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an English school teacher. The unprecedented presidential candidate rose to popularity, contrary to what most pundits speculated, including Lukashenko who claimed that a woman isn’t capable of the Office. Belarusians thought otherwise, and soon Svetlana became the face of the opposition movement—‘Stop the Coakroach’— alluding to the current President.

But popular support and democratic participation can go only so far while operating in a corrupt and dictatorial system. There is a reason Western scholars and journalists argue that Belarus is Europe’s last dictatorship, and this was exemplified once the results were out. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was forced to seek political asylum in Lithuania as she faced threats from the current administration.

In the aftermath of the results several other female leaders disappeared from Minsk, capital of Belarus. One of them was Maria Kolesnikova. She was kidnapped by masked assailants and dragged into a van that drove up to the Ukraine border. There, she was forced to exile in Ukraine so as to limit her political influence. Political suppression isn’t new in this country, and this fact is driving the largest protests in the history of independent Belarus.

From BLM protests in US, to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, this year has been characterized by mass protests engulfing nations. But the impact of each protest has varied, and to understand this better we approached Dr. Hulme, professor of political science at Alma College. “The repression of post-election protests in Belarus continues a longstanding pattern of authoritarian rule in the country”, said Dr. Hulme. We also asked him about the future of the protests, and whether the international community can help. “While the international community, including the European Union and the United Nations, have urged authorities to refrain from violence, such key figures as China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have expressed support for the government and opposition to any external interference in the internal affairs of Belarus, making meaningful change unlikely in the foreseeable future.”

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.

Anti-racism vs. ICE Detention Centers

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

The following contributions are solely of the writer’s own views and are not affiliated with the Almanian and Alma College.

Robert J. Patterson, professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University, defines anti-racism as, “…an active and conscious effort to work against multidimensional aspects of racism.” President Donald J. Trump has taken down efforts to expand on the ideas of anti-racism and white privilege in schools and even the White House. The New York Times said that the White house called these trainings ‘divisive, anti-American propaganda’.

In some aspect these views may seem understandable, but I cannot consciously agree with that. We have reached a point in society where it is racists VS anti-racists. It is not enough to just be against racism; you must advocate and fight for those who are being affected by these foul ideas.

“I do think that the language around anti-racism in this moment and in our climate has become a way of division, even if it has not intended to be,” said director of Diversity and Inclusion, Donnesha A. Blake.

Mr. Trump has stated that he does not believe that there is a systemic racial bias in the United States, and that those who believe they are more targeted by the police, etc. are viewing things in the wrong way. This is simply not the case. Business Insider provided 26 charts of statistics stating how systemic racism exists in the United States.

This is no longer a case of just how racist some people are, or even how racist people believe Mr. Trump to be. This has become a matter of what we can do to rid our society of these biases. Reach out to your local politicians, read up on the different laws and policies, do whatever you can to help be a part of that change.

Critical race theory looks at how society and culture play a role in race, law and power. It closely examines how white supremacy and racial power have been protected possibly unconsciously by the law.

Mr. Trump has criticized critical race theory and said that he will not allow it to be a main priority in schools across America. The New York Times said that he advocates for a more patriotic education for students.

While it is important for students to learn about American history, it is also very important for them to understand the mistakes that past politicians and even society have made. If we prevent our students from learning about racism and what they can do to help make a change, we will never grow and develop.

There is a certain stigma that stands with the idea of Mr. Trump being against anti-racist education and him constantly advocating for stronger immigration laws and the ICE detention centers. The intention of the detention centers was to hold immigrants who have traveled to the United States illegally. These detention centers are supposed to just a holding place; they are no longer that. Conditions [of the centers] are horrid and vile.

While it is important to do things rightfully by the law, the immigration laws in America have reached a point to where it is nearly impossible to even apply for a visa, let alone citizenship. They have made it so difficult for immigrants to become citizens. It seems that this was intentional, with the way Mr. Trump speaks about people of certain ethnicities and backgrounds.

Whether you stand with or against President Trump, it is evident that there must be more done for anti-racism in America. Imagine if this was something that you had to deal with on a daily basis; racial slurs being said to you for your skin tone, people throwing things because of what you are wearing or even just being afraid to leave your house because of encounters you may have heard of. Do not let racism be the thing that America stands for. This is a conscious act that we must all be a part of.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves a legacy

JORDYN BRADLEY
STAFF WRITER

Graphic by MORGAN GUST

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, passed away on Sept.18 from metastatic cancer of the pancreas. In her 87 years of life, Ginsburg was a trailblazer for gender equality.

“I was shocked, but not surprised,” said Claire Wittlieff (‘24), who noted Ginsburg’s declining health.

“When I opened up Twitter (I follow a lot of historians and legal scholars), I was struck at first by their overwhelming grief at her loss, and then their concern about what her absence on the Court would mean for issues of gender equality and other important issues,” said Professor of History Kristen Olbertson.

Because of the severity of her health, Ginsburg said just before she passed that her fervent wish was that the Senate wait until after a new president is installed to fill her seat on the Supreme Court.

Her untimely death, just 45 days before the Presidential Election, brings up many consequences for the court. Ginsburg was the lead liberal seat of the Supreme Court and without her presence, the seat may be filled instead by a Republican.

When Former Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016 under President Barack Obama, this also sparked a debate within the Senate.

“It has already been announced that [President] Donald Trump is nominating Amy Coney Barrett for Justice Ginsburg’s seat,” said Olbertson. “I expect the Senate to confirm Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite the fact that in 2016, Senate Republicans refused to hold confirmation hearings for Obama-nominated Judge Merrick Garland, claiming it was improper to do so in an election year.”

Olbertson also added that Justice Ginsburg’s influence on law and the American society as a whole has been “undeniable.”

“I think there [are] definitely some people that don’t realize what she’s accomplished in both her law and judicial career,” said Wittlieff.

Ginsburg’s mother was a big proponent for women being independent and going after what they wanted professionally. Ginsburg herself graduated from Harvard Law School at the top of her class but was turned away from multiple law firms post-graduation because she was a woman.

“Throughout her entire career, she remained dedicated to the idea that the Constitution guaranteed every person equality under the law, regardless of their gender,” said Olbertson.

Ginsburg’s work as a litigator and as a Supreme Court Justice helped advocate for greater gender equality in a plethora of aspects. Ginsburg pushed for gender equality in social security and wages, as well as in marriages for gay men and women. Because of Ginsburg, women can also have a mortgage or open a bank account without needing male approval. These are just a few examples of rights that are relevant due to her influence.

Though she pioneered for gender equality, Ginsburg has been criticized in the past for being compliant to issues relating to the treatment and equality of minority groups. She was criticized for not joining Justice Sonya Sotomayor’s endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement and for not being knowledgeable in matters of tribal sovereignty.

“I think the important thing about both of these issues is that she kept learning and adapting,” said Olbertson. “As brilliant as she was, she obviously didn’t know everything–and when she got feedback, she took it in, she considered it, and she incorporated it into her thinking.”

Just this summer, Ginsburg joined the majority in the McGirt v. Oklahoma case, which was a major victory for indigenous rights.

“There are some viewpoints and opinions she had that not everyone agrees with, but you have to give her some form of credit,” said Wifflieff.

Justice Ginsburg spent the majority of her life pining for gender equality, and her memory will live on in all the judicial changes that came about because of her.

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