Whitmer or Dixon to become Michigan’s next Governor

CLAIRE HIPPS AND MEGAN NEELEY
STAFF WRITER

11/7/2022

Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Tudor Dixon (R) are facing off in Michigan’s (MI) 2022 gubernatorial election, or the election for governor.

Whitmer, the incumbent, highlights infrastructure development, investments in business and access to abortion as key aspects of her campaign.

Dixon, endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is focusing on education, “pro-growth” economic policy, infrastructure, ending most legal abortion access and the second amendment, according to her website. Dixon has criticized Whitmer’s COVID-19 response and “will block mask mandates in schools,” according to her website.

Students at Alma College have numerous issues they take into consideration when deciding how to cast their vote, however, many students feel they must prioritize key issues. 

“My top issues are student debt and access to healthcare,” said Luke Losie (’23), Co-Chair of Alma College YDSA. “With the repeal of Roe v. Wade, I have been forced as a voter to consider exclusively the abortion issue in this election.”

On abortion, Whitmer has taken actions to protect access. Most recently, the MI Court of Claims ruled a 1931 MI law banning abortions without exceptions unconstitutional. 

The MI House of Representatives introduced Proposal 3, which will “amend the state constitution to provide that every individual has a right to reproductive freedom” if passed, according to the official proposal. Proposal 3 will also be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Alternatively, Dixon believes abortion should only be allowed to save the life of the mother, according to MLive and her website.

Students are also concerned about infrastructure, education and taxes.

“This election has me hyper focused on the state-wide infrastructure issues…[MI’s] problematic decline in test [scores] and educational facilities and the role tax cuts or hikes will play in handling both,” said Jacob Keeley (’24), President of the Alma College Republicans. “Over the last four years, [Whitmer’s] administration’s lack of [economic] planning has become incredibly obvious.”

Whitmer’s proposed $2.1 billion “MI New Economy” plan focuses on supporting the middle class, small businesses and making community investments into infrastructure like high-speed internet and housing units, according to a press release.

Dixon wants to reduce personal income taxes, encourage workforce training, promote trade and cut MI’s regulatory code by “40%…in 4 years,” according to her website. 

“I support Dixon’s broad usage of public-private partnerships as well as restructuring Michigan road management agencies,” said Keeley.

According to Dixon’s website, her goals for education include the following. Dixon wants to finance individual tutoring using federal COVID-19 relief funding, “ban school personnel from talking to [K-3] children about sex and gender theory secretly behind their parents’ backs, protect young girls from being forced to compete against biological boys,” improve civic and financial literacy and create education savings accounts.

According to Chalkbeat Detroit, among Whitmer’s education priorities are “tripling the number of school literacy coaches[,] closing the school funding gap [and] creating a college scholarship program for education majors.”

Voting for MI’s next governor will take place on Nov. 8. If you have not yet voted, be sure to do so at your precinct-specific voting location.

Hurricane Ian’s devastating consequences

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

DARCY DAENZER
STAFF WRITER

10/24/2022

On September 28, Hurricane Ian, the landmark Category 4 storm, wreaked devastation on Florida with winds up to 155 miles per hour.

The storm was responsible for “at least 119 [lives], more deaths than any other hurricane had caused in Florida since 1935,” said Smith et al. of the New York Times.

Furthermore, estimated insured losses of infrastructure “could reach up to $40 billion,” said Mazzei et al. of the New York Times.

Both the devastation caused, and the lives lost make Hurricane Ian one of the most destructive hurricanes in Florida’s history.

The damage in Florida has been felt as far away as Michigan. “I have numerous family members who live in Florida. My family worried that we could not contact them when the storm first hit,” said Haden Gross (’23).

“Luckily, those relatives affected managed to come out unscathed. However, severe damage was done to many of their friends’ homes, and it caused them not to be able to go to work,” said Gross.

Gross, who is also an education major at Alma, was at her placement at a local middle school when she first heard the news.

“I was with my middle school students. They start their day by watching CNN 10. The news seemed to be devastating. It was the first time I had seen thirty middle schoolers quiet,” said Gross.

Hurricanes like these have become more and more frequent– Hurricane Harvey and Irma both striking the U.S. in 2017, Michael in 2018, Laura in 2020 and Ida in 2021–with all being either Category 4 or 5 storms.

The frequency and violence of these storms are not a coincidence. September is usually the peak of hurricane season due to warmer ocean temperatures caused by the phenomenon known as La Niña.

However, “waters off the coast were also two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual for this time of year, according to preliminary data from NASA,” said Shao, Popovich and Rojanasakul of the New York Times.

Higher water temperatures mean more energy for the storms, which means more devastation is caused, and higher water temperatures are not caused overnight.

“More than 90 percent of the excess heat from human- caused global warming over the past 50 years has been absorbed by the oceans, and a majority of it is stored in the top few hundred meters,” said Shao, Popovich and Rojanasakul.

Climate change does not necessarily mean more frequent hurricanes, but rather more powerful ones. And more powerful hurricanes mean more devastation to human civilizations and our way of life.

“Disasters like this should remind politicians and CEOs that the climate crisis rests on their shoulders. We as individuals should do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and hold others accountable,” said Gross.

It is important that lawmakers take climate change into account when rebuilding infrastructure. This can mean implementing better building codes, which will make homes less likely to collapse, as well as the possibility of relocating homes and communities.

Another way to protect shorelines would be to invest in “gray” infrastructure such as “dams, levees, flood gates and sea walls,” said Elena Shao of the New York Times. This would be the first line of defense, along with “green” infrastructure such as “wetlands, oyster reefs and mangrove forests,” said Shao.

Until we adequately reduce global carbon emissions and bring down the temperature of our oceans, it is important to rebuild with climate change in mind. If we do not, we will continue to see increased destruction and loss of life.

Natural disasters are inevitable, but there are things we can and must do to prevent the severity caused by such storms like Hurricane Ian.

Potential SCOTUS ruling jeopardizes Voting Rights Act

CLAIRE HIPPS
COPY EDITOR

10/24/2022

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is currently considering the case Merrill v. Milligan, where the State of Alabama allegedly attempted to redistrict their congressional map in a way that under represents black voters.

Alabama has been accused by Evan Milligan, the executive director of Alabama Forward, and his associates of illegally packing black voters into a single district while dividing other pockets of black voters across multiple districts. The case deals with Alabama’s 2021 redistricting plan for their seven seats in the House of Representatives.

In other words, Alabama is accused of gerrymandering.

“Gerrymandering” is essentially “laying out voting districts for political advantage,” said Benjamin Peterson, lecturer of history and political science at Alma College. In conjunction with other systems that do not represent most Americans, gerrymandering “creates a very real risk of the government only representing a minority of the people,” said Peterson.

Depriving voters of congressional representation “violates the 14th Amendment and the [Voting Rights Act],” said Kristin Olbertson, associate professor of history and pre- law program coordinator at Alma College. “[A ruling in Alabama’s favor has] potential to undermine citizens’ ability to translate their will into representation and policy.” The 1965 Voting Rights Act

(VRA) was signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, outlawing discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, according to the National Archives.

The VRA “provides a series of systemic protections against measures intended to deprive people of the right to vote, or to simply make their vote less important,” said Peterson.

Alabama argues that to prove the VRA was violated, the plaintiffs must show the legislature was intentionally designed to discriminate against black voters. Further, the defense contends that the plaintiffs must provide maps of the districts based on other factors that would still result in majority- minority districts, electoral districts where most voters are racial or ethnic minorities.

“Neither of these standards [for the plaintiffs] are required by precedent or by the VRA,” said Olbertson.

“[The argument is essentially] that you cannot prove that it was an illegitimate gerrymander unless you could make a map that would produce the new district without considering race,” said Peterson. “If the Supreme Court did not have its current composition, I think Alabama’s argument would be weak.”

Despite weaknesses in the defense, SCOTUS is likely rule to in Alabama’s favor.

“This case is ultimately about the larger question of representative democracy,” said Olbertson. “The conservative supermajority on the Court has [been] skeptical about its role in preserving or protecting our democracy.”

Olbertson pointed to the Court’s position in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), where SCOTUS ruled parts of the VRA unconstitutional. SCOTUS argued in Shelby County v. Holder that “racism no longer [affects the American] electoral system,” said Olbertson.

Olbertson also noted that SCOTUS has overturned precedence-setting cases and that such cases are in danger of being overturned.

“It wouldn’t be shocking of SCOTUS overturned [Thornburg v. Jingles],” said Olbertson. Thornburg v. Jingles is a case from 1986 in which SCOTUS unanimously ruled that a North Carolina redistricting plan unlawfully discriminated against black voters.

So, in the case of Merrill v. Milligan, the question becomes one of how large the margin in Alabama’s favor will be.

“The margin might be Chief Justice John Roberts,” said Olbertson. “[He seems] slightly uncomfortable at times about how fast and loose [SCOTUS] is playing with institutional norms and has concerns about [SCOTUS]’s legitimacy.”

SCOTUS is expected to release their decision following November elections.

Lockhart Chemical Company Controversey

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

CLAIRE WITTLIEF
STAFF WRITER

10/3/2022

In July of 2022, the Lockhart Chemical Company located in Flint, Michigan, was identified as releasing discharge from a storm sewer due to a main breach. As of September 19, 2022, the company has been ordered to stop the usage of their wastewater and stormwater conveyance systems, which have been proven defective.    

The news of the spill is an additional tragedy contributing to the Flint water crisis, in which lead from aging pipes exposed around 100,000 residents to high lead levels after failure from officials to apply corrosion inhibitors. The order was authorized under Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. Three months after the spill, thousands of gallons of waste oil have been collected.

According to WNEM of Saginaw, the Lockhart Chemical Company was operating under a cease and desist letter from the city of Flint, ordering the company to not discharge any liquid waste from their on-site tanks into the city’s sewer system.                                                                      

“As a citizen of Flint who grew up blocks away from the Flint River and was a teenager through the time of the water crisis, it’s extremely frustrating to see this repeated disregard for not only the health of the citizens, but the health of the local environment as well,” said Audrey Plouffe (’23)

Dr. Amanda Harwood, an associate professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, also shared her thoughts on the matter. “Unfortunately, this is just another example of a company violating their operating permits. [Enviornment, Great Lakes, and Engery (EGLE)] and now the Attorney General are doing what is in their legal power to stop these violations and prevent further ones,” said Harwood.    

“If people are concerned about continued violations and continued risks to humans and the environment, the best thing they can do is make their voices heard publicly by elected officials. One simple way to do this is to vote for candidates who support stronger environmental regulations and their enforcement.”

The state of Michigan claims that they are committed to helping Flint recover from the public health crisis. Michigan has provided more than $350 million to the city of Flint, along with $100 million from the federal government that supports water quality improvements, pipe replacement, food and educational resources, healthcare, and job training and creation.    However, there are many more ways that action can be taken besides providing monetary support, including raising awareness around the situation in Flint and voting for officials that insist on creating change in the upcoming election.

“When things like this happen anywhere, not just in Flint, the culprits would far rather it be forgotten and brushed aside, but we have a responsibility to ourselves, others, and the world we live in to not let that happen,” said Plouffe.

Noah Schnapp faces campus safety concerns

ALIVIA GILES
LAYOUT EDITOR

9/19/2022

Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp recently began his first year at the University of Pennsylvania. Concerning images, including screenshots of what appear to be other students’ private conversations about Schnapp, have surfaced on Twitter. This has caused fans to worry about the actor’s safety.

Since starting school, images of the 17-year-old Canadian actor, best known for playing Will Byers in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, at fraternity parties have circulated online.

In a recent video uploaded to Twitter, Schnapp can be seen jumping off a small bridge into a pool at the Bamboo Bar near the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

While some social media users are happy to see Schnapp appearing to have fun at college, many fans expressed concern. Fans of the Netflix star have also shared screenshots of other University of Pennsylvania students’ supposedly leaked conversations. 

Some of the leaked messages seem to reveal that Schnapp’s friends are using him because of his fame and some students have taken pictures of the actor to sell to paparazzi. Other messages indicate much more sinister intentions.

According to anonymous Twitter user @burner4noah, who claims to have a friend who attends the University of Pennsylvania, Schnapp has been pressured to engage in dangerous acts such as using hard drugs. Other messages suggest that other students have discussed committing acts of physical and sexual violence toward Schnapp.

When Schnapp revealed on his Tiktok account last winter that he had been accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, many fans took to social media to share their excitement for the actor. 

Schnapp called going to college “the biggest transition [he will] ever make in [his] life, but . . . very exciting.”

While most college students don’t face the same kind of scrutiny as the Netflix star, Schnapp’s situation brings up important questions about the reality of many students’ college experience.

  Wiley Delisa (’24) is the president of Phi Mu Alpha at Alma College. Delisa believes that, while Schnapp’s fans may be acting out of concern for the young actor, they should not take to social media to weigh in on his decisions.

“. . . I am very conscious of the fact that having fun also means being responsible. However, I feel that fans are taking way too much active participation in Noah’s life,” said Delisa.

“He’s a 17-year-old college student. He’s allowed to go to parties and enjoy his time, he’s allowed to choose who he hangs out with and, most importantly, he’s allowed to make mistakes,” said Delisa.

While Delisa feels that Schnapp may have behaved recklessly, he also acknowledges that many college students have made similar mistakes and he does not want to see Schnapp penalized on social media.

“Many of us make bad choices, that’s what college is for, but very few of us have to experience those choices being watched by millions of people who think they know what’s best for us,” said Delisa. “. . . It saddens me to see that his teenage choices are being put under a microscope by fans.”

Despite fans’ concerns, Delisa is not convinced that the supposed leaked messages indicate any real threat to Schnapp’s safety. Delisa believes the posts are most likely the work of someone using Schnapp’s fame to gain attention. 

“. . . If this anonymous Twitter user was really concerned about his safety, they would have and should have reached out to the proper staff members at their college or the Title XI office,” said Delisa. “Posting something like this on Twitter is clearly just an attempt at clout or an attempt at riling up his fans.”

Russia cuts its gas from Europe

WESTON HIREVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

MARIA KOLB
STAFF WRITER

9/19/2022

On August 31, Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom halted gas flows to Europe via a major pipeline, Nord Stream, citing maintenance works on its only remaining compressor.

This is believed to be in response to new sanctions levied against Russia by the G7 nations, an informal group of seven of the world’s advanced economies, due to the Ukraine Crisis. 

These sanctions imposed on Russia include the following: a full block on Russia’s largest financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank; the prohibition of new investments in the Russian Federation and making debt payments with funds subject to U.S jurisdiction; full blocking major Russian state-owned enterprises, as well as Russian elites and their family members; and prohibiting outside commitment to supporting sectors essential to humanitarian activities in Russia.

These sanctions have prompted retaliation by the Russian government, who cut off gas to Europe due to European dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

“Historically, European countries have relied on relatively cheap natural gas from Russia. Ninety percent of [their] natural gas is imported, and forty-five percent of that comes from Russia. So, the reduction in that supply… has driven up energy prices across Europe and led to what many are calling an energy crisis in Europe,” said Robert Cunningham, professor of economics.

In the perspective of the Russian government, “when Europeans have suffered enough, they will pressure their government to lift the trade embargo against Russia over the Ukraine war. [However, in the long run] Russia doesn’t benefit from this since they’re not selling their gas, so they’re causing themselves to suffer while also causing Europeans to suffer…it’s like a game of chicken.” said Britt Cartrite, professor of political science. 

This might not be all bad for Europe. The reduction in Russian natural gas and fossil fuel exports can benefit the environment. As of 2020, Russia’s oil and gas industry led the world in methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

If Europe loses its dependency on Russia’s natural gas, “this will accelerate their movement away from reliance on fossil fuels and prompt investment and innovation in alternative energy sources… [this will be] good for [Europeans] in the long run,” Cunningham said.

In brief, Russia has displayed numerous defensive and offensive actions politically, militaristically, and economically this year. This situation has brought a new light to modern warfare.

“Russians overestimate their capacity and underestimate Ukraine’s ability to resist, [due to] new technology, new tactics… every war kind of updates, but [the Russian government] got it really wrong,” said Cartrite.

The Russian government’s recent actions have undoubtedly caused unfortunate events amidst the citizens of Ukraine, Russia and some countries in Europe affected by the gas cuts. “We will continue working with our European partners to reduce dependence on Russian energy and support their efforts to prepare for further Russian destabilization of energy markets,” said Press Secretary Jen Psaki and a Deputy National Security Council spokesperson for International Economics.

January 6 and Mar-a-lago update

CLAIRE WITTLIEFF
STAFF WRITER

9/19/2022

On January 6, 2021, the United States capitol building was insurrected by a number of Americans, anywhere between 3,000 and 20,000 people. Since the day of the insurrection, a string of hearings has taken place that have concentrated on the January 6 incident. 

Along with the hearings, an investigation of former president Donald Trump’s resort, Mar-a-Lago, took place on August 8, 2022. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who first executed a search warrant.

The Mar-a-Lago, located in Palm Beach, Florida, was investigated for the purpose of finding any concealed records regarding the intention to hinder federal government activity, possible violations of the Espionage Act, and illegal removal of government documents.    

As of September 9, 2022, the United States House-Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has not announced the next steps of the hearings or how many more hearings can be expected. 

Dr. Benjamin Peterson, a History and Political Science professor at Alma College, expressed his thoughts on the matter. “Smart historians never make predictions and smart political scientists never make predictions without sufficient data. My sense is that the center of effort among the Democrats has shifted to passing legislation and preparing for the midterms, so it is hard to say when it will return to the January 6 investigations. They may also be waiting to see how things work out with the classified files,” said Peterson.               

“One thing that hasn’t received enough attention is that the recent special master was appointed to review not only attorney client issues, but also issues of executive privilege. Over the past three decades executive privilege has been expanded beyond being a narrow protection in exceptional situations.”

“The concept that a former president somehow has the ex post facto ability to claim executive privilege strikes me as the largest and most bizarre expansion yet. But we will see how that plays out in appeals,” said Peterson.     

Jacob Keeley ’24 also gave insight into the situation. “What will come of the Jan. 6th hearings are unclear to me at this time. As for the Mar-a-Lago investigation, it is almost certain that former President Trump will be indicted for the national defence information documents that were taken and then improperly stored. 

Indictment is a simpler case for the Department of Justice to levy. As for criminal charges coming out of the indictment, the answer is less simple. 

There is certainly an on-going conversation right now regarding whether Trump agreeing to ‘back-off’ a 2024 Presidential run and step away from the political scene would affect the force of the investigation. 

Personally, that view of the DOJ and our system seems wildly inaccurate and cynical. Even if the purpose of the investigation were to take Trump out of the Presidential election in 2024, the best way to do that would be through a proper and fair investigation. The evidence does not lie in this case,” said Keeley. Many Americans will be interested to see the conclusion of this case. 

Reproductive Rights: What November’s Election may mean for Alma

DANIELLE NYKANEN
STAFF WRITER

9/9/2022

The upcoming November election between Gretchen Whitmer and Tudor Dixon may clarify where the citizens of Michigan stand, as there is potential for the Michigan Right to Reproductive Freedom Initiative to appear on the ballot as an initiated constitutional right.

If this initiative is placed on the ballot and passed it would legalize abortions in Michigan. In contrast, Michigan’s 1931 law would make it a felony crime to provide an abortion, unless the mother’s life is at risk.

A Michigan Court of Claims judge suspended enforcement of this law in May, temporarily. With two candidates for Governor who have strongly conflicting views, the November election may hold more weight than once thought.

Tudor Dixon, the republican nominee for Governor, has expressed that she is pro-life with exceptions for life of the mother which is in line with the 1931 law. If Tudor Dixon wins, it is more likely Michigan will have a ban on abortions.  This could mean some major changes for our colleges.

In an article by Politico, Bayliss Fiddman, the director of educational equity at the National Women’s Law Center said, “Colleges should be prepared for a larger population of students who are pregnant and parenting.”

If this is the case, there are a lot of things that Alma may need to consider. Schedule flexibility and housing are two main concerns that arise for students who are pregnant and parenting, Alma may need to prepare for this. Additionally, childcare, lactation rooms and meal plan exemptions should be discussed if necessary.

We could also see small scale changes in our ability to recruit students as many high school students have indicated states abortion laws are now a factor in college decisions. This may be more of a concern for larger schools, however, as Alma often does not see a high percent of out-of-state students.

Gretchen Whitmer, the democratic candidate for Governor, has made her pro-choice stance central to her campaign. In doing so, she has made the issue of abortion particularly salient to the election.

If Whitmer wins, it is likely abortion will be legal in the state of Michigan, which could also result in changes on Alma’s campus.

There may be more protests across the state as “anti-choice activists will be reorienting their protests to states that have stronger protections for abortion care.” said Kristin Olbertson, Associate Professor of History at Alma College. This is because “Dobbs has returned control over abortion access to the states.”

Similarly, in the upcoming months we may see a shift in the political climate on campus. Abortion rights are an issue of tremendous importance to young voters and its presence in the upcoming election may motivate students to get involved. It is “entirely plausible that we will see more political events on campus this year”, said William Gorton, Associate Professor of Political Science at Alma College.

“The salience of the abortion debate may increase the turnout for the election, especially considering ballot initiatives often increase voting”, said Professor Gorton.

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