COVID-19 affects grad school applicants


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.”

Child trafficking cases rise in the U.S.


The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the first publishing of the Trafficking in Persons Report. Over 25 million children have been bought and sold into slavery, thus violating their civil liberties as a human being. Young girls and boys are subjected to sexual labor at an alarmingly increasing rate. In 2019 alone, the United States alone had 220 child trafficking cases according to the US Department of Justice. “

The idea of child trafficking is an underlying fear anyone with kids always has in the back of their head when they take their children out in public,” said Miranda Avolio (’24).

 “In America, the sentence for a child sex offender involved in human trafficking is not enough time for the hell they put both the victims and parents through. Human trafficking is not only degrading physically, but mentally as well.”

Of these cases, child traffickers were prosecuted anywhere from a one-month sentence to a lifetime. The vast majority of sentences ranging in five years or longer; however, some traffickers were sentenced only to probation which sparked major controversy in both media and activist groups. It is estimated that 80 percent of all child trafficking violations have involved American citizens according to the Federal Bureau.

While child enslavement is not a new offence, it had recently gained large attention of mass media with the introduction of the Jeffery Epstein case. A case involving 36 girls ranging with the youngest of the victims being fourteen, Epstein subjected these young girls to various levels of sexual assault and rape.

While this case is one of the larger ones publicized, many young men and women across the United States are being subjected to sexual labor on a daily basis. These offenders range anywhere from wealthy businessmen to gas station employees. Yasmin Vafa, a worker for RIGHTS4GIRlS explained that their organization has cared for victims as young as ten years old within in the last three months according to a PBS News segment.

“I have a younger sister that is 10 years old,” said Abby Strait (’24). “As a protective older sister, I fear that I am not able to save her from child trafficking as it is an ever-growing problem within America.”

Nonprofit organizations have released a barrage of facts, and preventative measures young women can take in order to better protect themselves and others around them. Of which include, traveling in large groups, avoiding malls and other shopping centers after dark, carrying pepper spray and informing parents or legal guardians of their location at all times according to Help Save the Next Girl.

“I do not ever feel comfortable going to local malls and stores near me by myself because of the numerous reports of child trafficking that have been reported in my area,” said Avolio.

It is understood that 1 in 6 girls have experienced sexual assault before the age of twelve, according to

“I protect myself when I go out by keeping my phone and keys in hand,” said Strait. “Checking surrounding and staying up to date with social media and other news channels in order to be aware of new tactic sex traffickers are using.”

Sex trafficking is a growing pandemic that effects young men and women across the globe. In order to keep yourself and others safe, you must stay up to date on new efforts made by sex traffickers. Some methods to know include honey or a sticky substance on your windshield, leaving notes claiming “damage” on vehicles and zip ties on your property and or vehicle.

For more information or to donate visit RIGHTS4GIRLS. Org, and Help Save the Next

Attempted kidnapping of Governor Whitmer


Earlier this week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer was the target of an attempted kidnapping. Thirteen men were charged in the kidnapping plot; seven of the men face state charges and the other six face federal charges.

Of the six federal charges, five men were from Michigan: Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris, and Brandon Caserta. One man was from Delaware: Barry Croft. Other people are still suspected in the crime.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been holding tight restrictions on public gatherings and mask mandates in Michigan. While some citizens of Michigan are grateful for her restrictions, but there are people who are displeased. A group of men decided to kidnap Governor Whitmer and leave her on her boat in lake Michigan.

Adam Fox was the leader of the “Michigan III%ers, and they worked together with the Wolverine Watchmen to plan and train for various acts of violence including kidnapping politicians and storming the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing.

In early discussions, before the conspirators focused more exclusively on Governor Whitmer, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who like Governor Whitmer is a Democrat, was mentioned as a possible kidnapping target.

“This was a highly strategic operation with a lot of moving parts, and that would be up to law enforcement to inform people who needed to know. [Whitmer] received the information confidentially, said Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Attorney General. “One person talking to the wrong individual could have cost numerous law enforcement officers their lives.”

Through confidential informants and undercover agents, federal agents learned that some of the men had staked out Governor Whitmer’s vacation home in northern Michigan. They had also planned to detonate a bomb to divert law enforcement away from her home. Other elected officials and members of law enforcement were also targeted.

“I believe they should be tried for the premeditated attempted kidnapping and any other charges connected to the surveillance,” said Kayla Koepf (’23). “Those people made a plan, thought it out, and were going to act on it if their plan did not go wrong.”

The men trained together in tactical exercises, and they discussed plans to kidnap Governor Whitmer before the November election. They were also preparing for “the boogaloo,” or a racial or political civil war.

“Training with weapons and learning how to use them seems like they were intending on actually hurting her,” said Emily Krolikowski (’21).

In early discussions among the Michigan III%ers and the Wolverine Watchmen, Fox and others took close-up still photos and videos outside Governor Whitmer’s vacation home as part of the planning to kidnap her. Prosecutors showed in the courtroom photos of Fox shooting photos just outside the cottage, in daylight.

By the time the Michigan III%ers and the Wolverine Watchmen conducted a second surveillance outside the cottage, this time at night, they had been so thoroughly infiltrated by the FBI that two undercover FBI agents and two confidential informants were part of the surveillance group.

“There is a reason we as a country have set up a system in which we can protest rather than enact violence,” said Sarah Ward (’21).

A suspect in the case, Paul Bellar, is facing extradition from South Carolina where he was arrested last week. Bellar had the role of “Sergeant,” based on his expertise in firearms, medical training and his ability to design tactical exercises.

The other suspects facing state charges are in custody in Michigan jails according to the attorney general’s office.

Hepatitis C discovery wins Nobel Prize


Three scientists, one from Britian and two from the United States, have received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Psychology for their discovery of the Hepatitis C virus.

Michael Houghton, Harvey Alter and Charles Rice were announced the winners of the 2020 Nobel Prize at a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden last week. According to the news release, these three scientists “made a decisive contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis, a major global health problem that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world.” Hepatitis C is typically transmitted through shared or reused needles and syringes, infected blood transfusions and sexual practices that lead to blood exposure. Many of those infected aren’t aware that they are infected with it; in most low-income countries, most can’t even afford to be tested for it. This unknown exposure can lead to further transmission of the virus, and liver cancer, later in life.

The discovery of this virus means that for the first time in history, it can be cured, which will save millions of lives, according to the Nobel Prize committee.

In the 1960s, Hepatitis C was an unknown killer, leaving many patients mysteriously infected with chronic hepatitis after blood transfusions that contained an unknown infecting agent. After decades of trial and error, Houghton, Alter and Rice made the discovery of Hepatitis C. Because of this discovery made by the three scientists, the Nobel committee has stated that blood tests for the virus are now available and have essentially eliminated the transmission of the virus through blood transfusions.

About 71 million people worldwide live with the virus, and the Nobel committee has stated that it has killed about as many or more people than the COVID-19 pandemic has, and it has been plaguing scientists and all people across the world for decades.

“For the longest time, we had nothing to treat this virus with,” said Dr. Guadalupe Garcia Tsao in an interview with the New York Times. “For most of my career, it was the bane of my existence. But from the moment they made these discoveries, the numbers of sick people went down dramatically.”

One of the recipients of the award, Dr. Alger from the United States, is hopeful for the future with this discovery of Hepatitis C. He believes that with increased testing, the world can “eradicate this disease over the next decades, even in the absence of a vaccine,” he said.

Students at Alma College also felt excited and hopeful about this discovery and the probability of how many people these scientists have helped and will help.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Racheal VanLoo (‘24). “I think they deserve the award for all their accomplishments. Discovering a virus is just as important as curing it because they have to know what they’re fighting off.”

“I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Rachael Dahl (‘24). “Hopefully a vaccine will come soon and help all these people that have been suffering for so long.”

The process in which the virus was recorded, and then many years later, discovered, seems to mirror the COVID-19 pandemic currently plaguing the U.S. “The nature of biological research doesn’t change much simply because the world is attaching much greater importance to it,” said biology researcher John Timmer in an article for ARS Technica. Timmer believes that a vaccine and eventual cure to the coronavirus is on its way but will also take lots of time to comprehend and understand what tools are needed to fight it, just as the Hepatitis C virus did.

“With the state of the world right now, I think all of us are looking for good news,” said Dahl. Knowing that millions of lives will be saved because of this is the exact kind of thing we need right now.”

Cries to end teenage fatality


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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves a legacy


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.

Puerto Rico to Receive Billions


On Friday, Sept. 18, President Trump announced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be sending almost $13 billion, including $11.6 billion in federal funding, in aid to Puerto Rico to help rebuild. This announcement came almost exactly three years after Hurricane Maria caused devastating damage in Sept. 2017. Congress had approved this allocation of funds in 2018.

The grants are two of the largest grants ever awarded by FEMA and, according to the White House website, “illustrate President Trump’s unwavering commitment to rebuilding Puerto Rico and aiding Puerto Ricans as they continue to recover from multiple natural disasters.”

In what was called the “most devastating U.S.-based natural disaster in 100 years,” Hurricane Maria slammed the island with winds of 155 mph, killed almost 3000 residents of Puerto Rico (leaving even more of them without homes) and caused about $100 million in damage. Since then, earthquakes, flash floods, an economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic have caused even more devastation to the island.

The announcement of this aid came less than fifty days before the presidential election. President Trump had previously criticized the officials of Puerto Rico and stated that no more money needed to go there because it would be “wasted.”

When asked why he had approved money to go there so close to the election, Trump responded that he had been advocating for this money to be sent for a long time but it had been held up by Democrats in Congress.

The White House announced that $9.6 million included in this aid sent by FEMA will be used to restore electrical grids that had left Puerto Rico with the longest blackout in U.S. history. $2 billion will be used for the Department of Education to help repair school buildings across the island. With this new amount of aid, the White House announced they had thus far sent about $26 billion to Puerto Rico. Congress has approved about $43 billion.

In an interview with CBS news, Puerto Rican resident Angel Perez said the United States government has been of very little help in Puerto Rico’s recovery. “As a community social worker, I can tell you that Puerto Rico’s recovery, if it can be called that, didn’t come thanks to the government,” said Perez. It came from nonprofit associations, it came from the neighbors themselves. It came from foundations. It came from the hands of other people who supported the families that suffered the most.”

When asked about this new announcement of funding, students at Alma had some different opinions. Some felt straightforwardly about the aid. “I believe that the U.S. should fulfill this promise as best they can to help Puerto Rico,” said Lucy Woods (‘24). “I would like for all of that money to get there. I believe that when you promise something, you should fulfill that promise.”

Some students felt rather conflicted about this amount of money sent to Puerto Rico. “I would like for America to send as much aid as they possibly can to Puerto Rico because they’ve got a lot of problems,” said David Troyer (‘24). “The hurricane caused so much devastation and they need all the help they can get. However, national debt has increased and with the election, I think this decision needs to be postponed for a couple more months unless the current administration can figure something out.”

The 3.2 million residents of Puerto Rico are not eligible to vote in the U.S. election, but they will be electing a governor and a few other local officials on the same day. However, all the residents of Puerto Rico that fled the island and now reside in the United States will be voting in the election on Nov. 3.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month


September is the month for “National Happy Cat Day” and “National Talk Like a Pirate Day”, but what makes it most special is that it celebrates Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time to recognize and support the children and families who have been affected by this disease and emphasizes the importance of research for the cure. Cancer is bad enough without it affecting children who already cannot advocate for themselves. Cancer affects everyone in some way – you or someone you know has most likely received a cancer diagnosis. I was a kid with cancer. I was fourteen when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had a front row seat to the effects of this disease. I underwent both chemotherapy and radiation treatments over 6 months and was declared cancer-free! I was lucky, but many children are still in the fight for their lives. It is up to us to help find the cure! I encourage you all to donate to the American Cancer Society. Something as simple as wearing gold for childhood cancer or the ribbon color of a cancer that has affected you, can make a difference. Go Gold for the Cure! Scan the QR code to donate now!

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