Eugenics bring controversy

HANNAH STIFFLER
STAFF WRITER

BAILEY LANGBO
HEAD EDITOR

Eugenics are defined as the arrangement of reproduction within the human population in order to increase the occurrence of certain desirable characteristics. The eugenics movement was first introduced to America in the early 20th century, despite its principles dating back to Ancient Greece. It was originally coined by Francis Galton in the late 1800s.

In 1897, Michigan was the first state to propose eugenics in legislation, which did not pass at the time. Several years later in 1913, Michigan passed this piece of legislation but primarily enforced it on those who were deemed “mentally defective” or “insane.”

The law was then adapted in 1923 for the addition of x-rays for vasectomies and salpingectomies and was expanded to those who were considered imbeciles but not insane. In 1929, the law was expanded to include those who were found to be harmful to the general public such as pedophiles, which was an even larger number of the population.

“In the 1920s, the Supreme Court voted on Buck v. Bell, which boiled down to the legalization of eugenics and forced sterilization of those deemed “unfit” to reproduce,” said Maria Ruedisueli (‘21).

“This statute has not been overturned and there have been thousands of forced sterilizations across the country since this passed.”

Since mid-September, there have been reports to the Department of Homeland Security about forced hysterectomies performed on immigrants who are located at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention center in Georgia. Hysterectomies are female sterilization, which cuts or blocks the fallopian tubes to prevent eggs and sperm from meeting. Dawn Wooten, who used to work full-time at the detention center, was the nurse who raised these concerns.

In her report, she explained that immigrants were not receiving accurate information in regard to their treatments.

Forced sterilization has long been an issue within minority groups, and it appears that this time is no different. “Minorities have always been a target for the upper and middle Anglo-Saxton population,” said Ruedisueli. “It is fueled by an irrational fear of displacement and losing their status in society.”

Such is the case in prisons and detention centers now. Official complaints received by the Department of Homeland Security say that immigrants have specifically been targeted as of lately, as shown in Georgia. This maltreatment of immigrants and minority groups is a concept that has long been practiced within the United States.

There have been at least 148 women in California’s prisons from 2006-2010 who have reported forced hysterectomies. “Sterilization of women is still taking place in prisons as of quite recently, and with new reports, it appears that this trend is back again at the border,” said Ruedisueli.

While forced sterilization within the United States is still a problem, steps have been taken to lessen its frequency. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the government of the United States had begun to provide funding towards reproductive health for both men and women. President Obama signed the Eugenics Compensation Act into law in 2016 which has provided thousands of Americans federal safety net programs.

Election day in the United States is arriving quickly. There has been a lack of response from political officials regarding forced hysterectomies at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Irwin County Detention center in Georgia.

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.”

Registering to vote in the upcoming election

EMILY HENDERSON
STAFF WRITER

Photo by Lizzy Dermody

Voting season is now upon us. This presidential election is said to be one for the books as Donald Trump and Joe Biden take the stage to discuss their policies and ideals.

Politics is often seen as stressful and burdensome, and young voters are the least likely to turn out to the polls yet are the most affected by each election.

“Voting is crucial, but still a first step. Get involved with a political group as soon as you can,” said Sam Nelson (‘21).

Alma College offers various clubs that allow students to understand and learn about different political groups. Many say that getting involved is an integral part of becoming an informed citizen.

Registering to vote is the first dive into the ocean of politics. Each state has a different date in which registering to vote must be completed, and other avenues such as mail-in voting exist to help those who may not be able to vote in person.

For Michigan the final date one can register to vote is Oct. 19th. If you would like to mail in your vote you can do so now through Oct. 19th in order to ensure your vote is counted.

Unlike some states, Michigan does allow for voters to register on voting day, but it is only available at specific locations in your town, not your polling place.

Voting has long been seen as a tedious task, and one that many Americans feel has lost its value within the Electoral College.

“Voting has that benefit of encouraging you to be involved and aware. There are some studies that show that people feel better about the country when they vote,” said Dr. Britt Cartrite, professor of political science.

Although voting has been proven to boost morale among Americans, young voters are the least likely to turn out to the polls and vote. Many feel as though their vote doesn’t count and are oftentimes discontent with one or more party’s representatives.

Mail-in voting has often been an avenue for those who find themselves in a different state than their home state during this time, or for those who simply can’t make it to the polls.

Many worry about whether or not their vote will make it on time, due in part to the ongoing pandemic but also the issues that have arisen this year with the USPS.

“It is safe to vote by mail, but there is potential for delays. If you want your ballot to count, you should make a plan to get your absentee ballot today,” said Nelson.

For those who are in a different state, or in a different part of the state, mail-in voting is a useful tool. Those who utilize mail-in voting can track their ballot online to ensure everything goes through, and can even request a new ballot if there is an issue with the one they previously sent in.

Voting goes beyond registering and showing up to the polls, though. In order to vote one must be aware of the state of our government and its systems.

Many citizens currently feel as though a shift needs to happen within our government, be them from the left or right.

“You can actually have a real impact at the local level. That’s another reason to get involved and participate. Most of the rules, regulations and laws that impact your day to day life are done at the state level, not the national or local level,” said Cartrite.

There has often been talk of change happening at the local, state and national levels of our government. Many political scientists are seeing a shift in the people’s wants, as well as institutions and systems within our government that may be failing.

“It seems like our institutions are starting to struggle. I think it’s a good time to get involved, especially as a young person, because the world is changing fast,” said Cartrite.

Collective thinking of the people is what moves the country along, and voting is one avenue that allows voices to be heard and change to be made no matter what you stand for.

Political chaos: America’s update

CHELSEA FABER
STAFF WRITER

Chaotic times have flooded Washington D.C. days before the election. A string of damaging news broke leading up to the President’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

On Sunday Sept. 27, The New York Times announced they had received decades of Donald Trump’s tax returns and published shocking takeaways. It was revealed that the president had paid $750 in federal taxes in both 2016 and 2017.

It also revealed that Trump’s businesses had reported massive losses, showing he had paid no income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years. Tax experts also have questioned the legitimacy of some of his tax deductions, including consulting fees for his children and $70,000 in ‘styling fees’ for his television appearances.

This report came just days before the Sept. 29 Presidential debate, where the sitting president faced off against the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Tensions were high as the two hopefuls spoke over each other, preventing either of them from announcing serious policy stances.

The President was criticized following the debate for his repeated interruptions of former Vice President Biden, as well as speaking over moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace. Biden was also cited for missing opportunities to outline his policies on the presented topics and rather was caught up trying to respond to Trump.

Heavy criticism came in regard to Trump’s stance on white supremacist groups. Wallace asked the president if he would denounce white supremacist groups, to which Trump did not give an answer, he rather said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Overall, the debate was regarded as perhaps the worst debate in American history and could be seen as a greater reflection of the current divided nature of the country. Those weighing in after the debate concluded agreed that there was little advancement in either party’s hope to sway voters.

Questions about the pandemic were unavoidable, as Trump’s COVID-19 response has fielded criticism from public health experts as well as the American public. His defense of his handling of this crisis came just days before his own October 2 diagnosis.

On par with other announcements from this Administration, the public found out about his diagnosis from a 1 am tweet. At the time Trump said he and the First Lady would be quarantining in the White House, however within hours this plan changed.

Trump was transported via Marine One to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he could be monitored closer by health care professionals. He also revealed he had been given an experimental dose of Regeneron, an experimental drug cocktail. The treatment had shown promising results but has not been approved for mass usage.

As the President seems to be experiencing mild symptoms, his symptoms were “very concerning” on Friday, a White House Official said Saturday-Monday would be critical in his battle with the virus.

Other high-profile government officials have also tested positive for the coronavirus, including former adviser Kellyanne Conway, Senators Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, and Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie among others close to the President.

Speculation has fallen on the Rose Garden Ceremony in which Amy Coney Barrett was announced as Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee. Photos show that few attendees were wearing masks and no social distancing was observed. Many individuals who have subsequently tested positive were in attendance.

The remaining weeks leading up to the election are poised to be explosive, as the American voters head to the ballot box to cast their votes for president.

An update on the 2020 Presidential Election

TAYLOR PEPITONE
STAFF WRITER

As students get into the routine of classes and their new environment, the time continues to tick closer to Election Day. More updates come daily on who is doing well, who is not, what is being said and what is being done.

CNN recently posted an update on the polls and it seems that the Democratic Candidate Joe Biden is leading by a 9.1 point average. Unlike the 2016 election, the challenger for this round is receiving much higher ratings. President Donald J. Trump seems to be dropping in popularity as most of the swing states are leaning more towards Biden. CNN says that Mr. Trump is in poor shape when it comes to his political career.

“It’s extremely unlikely that [Trump] will carry the popular vote,” said professor of Political Science, William A. Gorton. “He’s still somewhat of an underdog to win at this point, but he has a very decent shot according to some political scientists and statisticians.”

COVID-19 has also had a great impact on the election. Many are concerned with the idea of holding rallies, mail-in voting and potential voter turnout. DailyDot said that when COVID-19 initially became a significant issue, both Biden and Trump cancelled all rallies and gatherings for the upcoming months.

Voting by mail became a highly considerable idea not only for the safety and well-being of all, but it is also much more convenient for those who cannot make it to the polls on Election Day. This would likely increase the turnout for voters, therefore allowing more people to feel engaged in the approaching election.

When it comes to voting by mail, there is also the worry that not all ballots will be counted properly or on time. Mr. Trump believes that there will be voter fraud involved, so he leans more towards people voting at the polls instead of through the post office.

“Political scientists today speak of what they call the Blue Shift, which is the tendency in recent elections for democrats to gain in the days after the election after the mail-in ballots are counted.” said Gorton.

Police brutality has also played an important role in how the election will play out. People believe that Mr. Trump has done a poor job when it comes to handling the riots, lootings and protests, but mainly their worry stems from his failure to acknowledge the intensity of police brutality. Others believe that he has done a great job with handling it; the main issue comes from how polarized both sides of the political system are.

“It has energized, in particular, the black folks, so you can anticipate high black turnout [at the polls].” said Gorton.

The economy took a brutal hit when the coronavirus stopped production of many businesses and corporations, shut down schools, and much more. WEForum said that it could take the economy possibly up to three years to recover from the impact. Consumer demand is now at a low, which heavily affects the quality of the economy itself.

The overall atmosphere of the 2020 election seems to be frightening for most. Tensions are extremely high on both sides of the scale. The worry tends to lie with the thought of who will end up winning the presidential election.

“Our democracy is going under an extreme stress test.” said Gorton.

It is unknown what these next two months will bring, but voting is the way to make your voice heard.

GEO on strike at University of Michigan

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

Last Tuesday, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, also known as GEO, commenced a strike at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Over three quarters of GEO’s 2,000 graduate student instructors and assistants support the strike, which took place over four days.

Those on the picket lines wore masks and maintained social-distancing guidelines to remain safe while they relayed their message.

GEO’s strike was in response to two major concerns at the U of M campus. The first of their concerns involves the health and safety of students after the university welcomed its 45,000 students back to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although most classes are offered online, many feel that the close-proximity living quarters on campus facilitate the spread of the virus.

The second of GEO’s concerns involves anti-policing demands after U of M decided to increase on-campus policing as a means of enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing among students. Many feel this increase in policing at U of M could cause a subsequent increase in racist policing activities.

GEO’s decision to strike serves part of a long-running history of workers demanding policy-change by applying pressure to the administrations that oppress them.

“The strike is one of the oldest forms of protests,” said Dr. Ben Peterson, professor of history and political science. “Some point to Secession of the Plebs in ancient Rome as the first example, but I would suspect that strikes have existed in one form or another from the very beginning of the concept of ‘work.’”

With the increase of strikes and protests across the United States throughout 2020, many possess strong opinions about whether they serve as effective, valid forms of creating change.

“Like the power of labor in general, their effectiveness tends to ebb-and-flow across time depending on a variety of legal, social, and economic forces. Despite this they have clearly had a defining impact on the country,” said Peterson.

Many liberties we enjoy today were fought for on picket lines and accomplished through strikes and protests by past generations.

“The strike waves in the 1930s not only improved conditions for striking workers, they established new patterns of wages and labor relations that helped to redistribute wealth throughout the country,” said Peterson. “In Michigan in particular, the UAW strikes in 1936 transformed labor conditions in the automotive industry and helped to build a period of prosperity for the workers of the Midwest.”

Regardless of the spectrum of approval for the rise in strikes and protests across the United States, GEO’s strike at U of M sparks controversy because the state of Michigan prohibits public employees, such as professors at public universities, from striking.

“Public sector employees are regulated under different systems depending on the state,” said Peterson. “Some states treat public workers as regular workers, but others severely restrain what they can, and cannot do.”

In spite of these restrictions imposed by the state, GEO successfully picketed for four days, concluding last Friday. Strikes and pickets such as this may not always conclude in instantaneous policy change, but they open the door to discussing change.

More than a challenge

HADEN GROSS
STAFF WRITER

Cries for change could be heard all around the world Aug 5 as Turkish women took to the streets chanting “The choice is ours, the decision is ours, the night is ours, the streets are ours!”. These women were protesting President Erdogan’s consideration to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention: a pact to end gender-based violence.

Women taking action against gender-based violence has increased exponentially in recent years. In 2019 a total of 419 women were murdered, the death tolls this year have reached 201 women according to Balkan Insight.

“The coalitions the protest has engendered have been heartwarming and inspiring–activists are working across party lines in Turkey to protest systemic violence against women.” Said Professor of English and Gender Studies Maya Dora-Laskey. “Further when prominent detractors have cited their opposition of LGBTQ values as the reason for the withdrawal, activists have refused to let themselves be conned by this sort of patriarchal divide-and conquer tactic.”

The protests, however, did not just take place on Turkish soil, many American women took to social media in support of the convention. Hundreds of celebrities and other women posted black and white photos of themselves with the caption #ChallengeAccepted and #WomenSupportingWomen. This challenge, however, sparked major controversy according to CNN, it was said to be distracting from the actual social justice issue occurring.

“I think the Instagram challenge is really good for raising awareness, but it immediately ends there,” said Kate Stymiest (’21), “Raising awareness is only the first step and these challenges give online social justice warriors an easy way out.”

The social media challenge has changed many forms over the last few days, many claiming that any awareness is still awareness.

“While there have been charges leveled against those who participated in the photo “challenge” that range from co-optation and slacktivism to narcissism, the B&W challenge was reported to have generated 8.5 million posts,” said Dora-Laskey, “That is a lot of attention and awareness generated for an important cause that is often ignored. I’m notoriously camera-shy and have found other ways to contribute; but I’m proud and happy for those who participated–any level of participation is better than apathy.”

This social justice movement is not the first of its kind, Turkish Feminists have called for change since 1930. Their need for emancipation created the Turkish Women’s Union and banded together with the IAW (International Alliance of Women) who held their convention in Turkey circa 1935.

According to the IAW the convention served as a merge between western and eastern feminists. The conventions goal is to address systematic violence and aims to prevent domestic abuse leading to mass femicide. In the following years, the convention gained many rights for women across the globe thus, bolstering civil liberties for Turkish women.

Speaking on topics such as Sex Trafficking, Domestic violence and a plethora of laws that hinder women’s rights. In recent years Turkish woman have rallied and called for change in unfair dress codes, domestic violence, and the rising murder rate within the country.

When asking faculty and staff at Alma what they believed would happen if Turkey was to pull out of the convention, a barrage of hypotheses was given with relatively the same result.

“Turkey has a long history of constitutional rights for women (since 1930!) so this development is particularly unfortunate and made even more so by the fact that the withdrawal the Turkish government is contemplating was signed in the Turkish city of Istanbul and is popularly known as the Istanbul Convention!” said Dora-Laskey.

“Any refusal to enact or stay apart of legislature that protects women will leave women more vulnerable than they are already are,” said Stymiest. “The protection of women needs to be at the forefront of every policy in every country and failure to do so will leave women left out and in turn, keep the whole country in arrears.”

Ways you can help Turkish women would be signing the petition to keep the convention on Change.Org.

According to KQued, the Women Against Child Sexual Abuse has also put together a letter and provided the emails of representatives from the Central Executive Committee of the Justice and Development Party, in effort to keep the Istanbul Convention.

Protests over return to in-person classes

COURTNEY SMITH
STAFF WRITER

Late at night on August 20th, over 40 protesters congregated outside of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s home in Holland, Michigan, donning signs that read “Wake up Betsy,” and “People over profit.”

Protests just like this one are happening all over the country in response to the return of students to in-person classes for the 2020/21 school year. These gatherings consist of educators, administrators and parents concerned for the health and safety of local school systems during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision-making process regarding how each school district should respond to delivering quality education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic proved a difficult and divisive task.

According to Dr. Nicola Findley, professor of education, “In Michigan, the governor and legislators presented a plan in mid-August for safe return to schools. This made it clear that the decision about in-person classes would be up to local school districts, although districts are required to submit plans for how they intend to educate students at this time.”

Because each school district implemented different plans and protocols for COVID-19, policies vary widely from district to district, as does the public’s approval.

“I think the decisions that have been made in different districts do tend to reflect local community wishes and that’s good, but any decision has pros and cons and will be met with some resistance,” said Findley.

The pros and cons of resuming in-person classes entail many different issues, a major one involving the ability of both teachers and students to follow the safety protocols prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Personally, I don’t think that allowing public schools to open was a very sound idea,” said Martin Betancourt (‘21).

“The student to teacher ratio is already eighteen to one and few classrooms are going to allow proper distancing. Hallways are also a huge problem with the class rotation and all of the students walking through. Of course, if schools do open, students and staff should be required to wear masks.”

Another highly contested matter each school district considered in their COVID-19 response plans involves whether or not quality education can be delivered via online courses.

“I think that online classes can be useful to many students, especially younger students. These kids are part of a generation that is growing with technology so adjusting would be fairly easy for them. That is, if they have the means to attend remotely,” said Betancourt.

Whether online-learning is an acceptable substitute for in-person classes proves a divisive issue among educators as much as it is among parents of students.

“Most early grade educators argue that online classes may include some helpful ways to individualize learning, provide alternative experiences, support practice and other advantages,” said Findley.

“However, they often argue that this is best done in an in-person environment with the support of a skilled teacher who has a relationship with each child.”

Regardless of how each school district responds to the coronavirus pandemic, each district crafted their unique plan with two things in mind delivering a quality education and keeping students safe.

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