Mixed feelings on new FYS curriculum



For the 2022-23 academic year, Alma College decided to change the First Year Seminar curriculum in hopes of a more engaging course that develops critical thinking and communication skills inside and outside of the classroom. 

FYS is an introduction-to-college class that focuses on setting first-year students up for success at Alma College and allows them to explore topics beyond their major. But after last semester’s section, many students are left questioning whether this was truly accomplished or not. 

“It didn’t feel like [our discussions] had a direction sometimes and that was a little frustrating. [I wish] there was more of a point to the end of the semester, …like one big takeaway,” said first-year student Ella Cusack (‘26)

Students like Cusack note how there were many topics crammed into one class, making it seem unorganized at times and lacking a final purpose that most other classes have. 

Natashia Swalve, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology and Sociology, Interim Associate Provost and FYS Director, is part of the committee tasked with structuring FYS. This year “it was set up to be one single class with the theme of ‘college in the good life,” said Swalve. 

According to Swalve, “this year there were a lot of transitions…the previous person in charge ended up leaving and we had to last minute take over everything which meant that the vision wasn’t really fully able to be seen through the semester and that probably didn’t lead to as much success as we would have hoped,” said Swalve. 

As a first-year student myself, I experienced the flaws firsthand. The course primarily focused on reading and response type assignments with several reflection pieces throughout the semester. Much of the content felt thrown together which made it difficult to find a common theme for the course. 

Additionally, the initial rubric for writing assignments made it near impossible to get a perfect score, or anywhere close for the matter. Instead of developing writing skills it pressured students to write under rigorous guidelines with little room for leeway.

Despite its flaws, some students still believe that FYS was a beneficial course overall. 

“I liked when we would have people come in through different departments and explain things to us … [like] how to rent a computer or check out books at the library and stuff like that,” said Noah Murphy (‘26)

Like many other students, Murphy felt it was helpful when the course focused on the integration of first-year students into Alma and college life in general. FYS made him more “comfortable” in navigating the transition from high school to college.

Another thing students liked about FYS was how it connected them to others in their year that they would not have gotten to know otherwise. 

“I liked getting to meet different people in my grade,” said Cusack. “In my class we did a lot of ‘Socratic discussion’ where we put our chairs in a circle, so we got familiar with each other really fast.”

Swalve is hoping to get feedback from this year’s FYS students in order to improve the course for future students. She held two FYS focus groups on Jan. 17 and 18 for students to share “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” 

“What we’re doing is trying to …hear from you all in terms of …what things you hated, what things you actually enjoyed, what you want more of and what things you want less of,” said Swalve. 

The college already has some ideas on how to alter the curriculum, like “involving a community engaged learning aspect” and “more skill building activities so it’s not as much learning how to write based on a reading but learning how to take a test or give a presentation,” said Swalve.

If you missed the focus groups and would like to share your opinions on FYS, Swalve emailed out a survey for feedback.

The trouble with Metz



Ever since Metz Culinary Management took over as Alma’s dining vendor this fall, some students have been hoping for massive improvements from Sodexo’s subpar food and services. Unfortunately for the student body, Alma’s campus has been left with few food options and few improvements have been seen. 

“In this industry, it takes time to transition between contractors,” said Micah Braman, General Manager of the Food Service Management Team at Alma. 

This transition has been difficult for some students because of the unpredictability of the quality of food and what’s being offered. 

Part of the issue with Metz has been a lack of food choices both in Hamilton Commons and in Joe’s. After Joe’s old location was shut down due to plumbing issues, Metz had to quickly turn around and open a temporary location in the Thistle Room to accommodate students’ needs.

Despite this temporary location being opened so quickly, the lack of products in the store left students with little more than snacks and drinks to spend their Munch Money on. In Joe’s previous location, there was a variety of options available including simple grocery items, snacks and drinks. 

“We’re struggling with, as the industry is, trying to find consistent products,” said Braman. Due to supply chain issues from Metz’s distributors, products like the grocery items in old Joe’s are harder to order and keep on the shelves. 

I’m understanding of supply issues and how it leaves the Alma College Food Management Team with few options, but it’s difficult as a student to understand these struggles when we have gone through multiple semesters with few food options.

Also, while understanding why Joe’s is so limited in its merchandise, it has left those on the senior meal plan without many other options besides light snacks and candy. Even then, switching back to the 210 meal plan isn’t feasible for many students given the reduced meal options in Hamilton Commons. 

“If I’m being honest, the quality of food isn’t fantastic,” said Faron Grossman (‘24). Although Alma students were told there would be an increase in [the] quality and variety of food, Metz hasn’t been able to deliver. “They both seemed really bad [at] the moment,” said Grossman when asked to compare Metz to Sodexo. 

“I’m vegetarian and can’t eat meat. When I go to get vegetables, half of the time they’re just dripping in oil,” said Grossman. A regular meal plan at Alma costs $2,900, and yet many students are struggling to find safe and healthy meals at the only place that serves hot meals on campus. 

“There was one time earlier this semester when we got lettuce from the salad bar and there were worms in it. Not just a few, it was teeming with worms,” said Grossman. This seems to have happened more than once, as videos have been uploaded to Yik Yak and shared over social media at least twice throughout the last semester.

Hopefully, with the opening of the new Joe’s-esque store in the Learning Commons, students will go back to having a variety of meal options and having more control over what they eat. However, we’ll have to wait until March 6 for this new location to officially open.

Winter break: tips and tricks



With the first semester coming to an end students have to start planning for winter break. Alma College housing including residence halls, apartments and small housing closes for winter break at 5:00 pm on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Housing will reopen at noon on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. All students are expected to leave campus for breaks unless they are approved to stay. 

If a student wishes to stay on campus over winter break, they need to fill out the break stay request form in the housing portal to request permission. The break stay request form is available and will stay open until 5:00 pm on Monday, Dec. 5. 

There are many activities students can do over the break, whether on campus or off. “Get 8 hours of sleep, maintain a regular schedule, be active, find temporary work, catch up on movies, enjoy time with friends and family, read a book, journal, learn a new hobby or connect with an old one, explore something new in your area and try a new recipe,” said Anne Lambrecht, the Associate Vice President for Student Life at Alma College.

“Honestly, my main plan for winter break is to get some long-needed rest. This semester has been my busiest at Alma so far, so taking time to relax and do things I enjoy, like hanging out with old and new friends, is my plan,” said Kylee Lary (’25)

In the 2021-22 academic year, Alma’s students had a three-week winter break. This year, students ha ve a four-week break which can have some positive and negative consequences. “I have my likes and dislikes about break being a month long. Some students, who have a healthy home life, love the long amount of time to spend with family and loved ones back home. However, for those who find more comfort and joy back in Alma, winter break can sometimes be challenging,” said Lary. 

“No matter what my environment is, I always try to take time for myself and do things available to me that I can enjoy. As much as part of me wants it to come faster so that the before-the- week-of-finals-stress can go away, I am going to miss my very close friends from Alma during this time,” said Lary.

“Having a month-long winter break can be beneficial to give students a chance to let their brain take a break after finals and finishing up things for the term. This can be a stressful time and having a break allows students time to celebrate accomplishments from the fall term and get ready both mentally and physically for the next term,” said Lambrecht. 

For students who are staying on campus, there are resources available for students to get food. “The most important thing a student can do is check “yes” on the food access question on the break stay request form. We have a new partnership with Metz this year, and they have started putting together food boxes for students who are on campus during breaks. We contact students who indicate a need, and they can pick up the boxes in Hamilton,” said Alice Kramer, Alma College’s Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement.

There are also alternative break opportunities. “I chose to go on an Alternative Break because I wanted to help others and give back to people in a worse situation than myself. I wanted to be able to have a new experience that I know would help better me as a person and give me a new perspective on life,” said Elaina Gross (’25).

“This is my first alternative break and everyone I know who has been on one has had nothing but good things to say so I am excited for what the experience will be. I don’t really know what to expect so I am excited to learn new things and build new relationships with new people,” said Gross.

Ticketmaster’s Swift catastrophe



The recent Taylor Swift, “TheErasTour,” ticket sale has caused me, and many others across the country, a lot of frustration. Ticketmaster headed the sale but failed to moderate the massive demand for the tickets. 

Swift announced the first leg of “The Eras Tour” on Nov. 1 with 27 stadium tour dates across the United States. Three days later, she added another eight shows that were to be followed by an additional 17 the next week. The addition of shows makes it clear how high of a demand was expected. Even prior to the tour being announced, fans were speculating it would be hard to get tickets, especially considering this is Swift’s first tour in seven years. 

On Nov. 15, Ticketmaster hosted the TaylorSwiftTix Presale. Despite following all the instructions, there seemed to be some issues. When I got to the front of the queue, I got an error message and was kicked out. Then, the queue didn’t seem to be moving. 

However, this didn’t appear to be an issue only on my end. “Some fans faced a myriad of error messages, while others endured an hours- long wait in Ticketmaster’s virtual queue, only to find there were no reasonably priced tickets left,” said Laura McQuillan of CBC News. 

In a statement on Twitter on the day of the presale, Ticketmaster said, “There has been historically unprecedented demand with millions showing up to buy tickets for the TaylorSwiftTix Presale.” 

If they were the ones who sent out the codes to access the sale, how were there too many people trying to purchase the tickets? Other fans have noticed issues with their presale code methods as well. 

“I noticed that a lot of people had gotten presale codes. Ticketmaster had said whoever had tickets to her previous tour, which was canceled due to COVID-19, were going to get priority in getting the presale codes, and I know a lot of people who had those tickets did not get those codes,” said Kara Sutherland (‘24)

I thought I would still have the chance to secure tickets at the general sale planned for Nov. 18. This was not the case. Unfortunately, many fans never got the chance to try for tickets as Ticketmaster ended up canceling it.

Following the presale and cancellation of the general sale, I saw a lot of distraught fans in my media feeds. Even fans who got tickets were not entirely pleased with the process.  

“I feel like the sticker price of the tickets were reasonably priced, but with dynamic pricing and also Ticketmaster fees, they got to be really expensive and much more than what people were expecting,” said Sutherland. 

Swift even expressed frustration when she released an apology and statement to her fans. “I’m not going to make excuses for anyone because we asked them, multiple times if they could handle this kind of demand and we were assured they could. It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them,” said Swift. 

I appreciate the message assuring fans and that she is aware of the issues that occurred. However, it doesn’t account for the fact that massive amounts of tickets are being resold for alarmingly high rates. 

“I find that the Taylor Swift presales have been worse than I have ever seen before, especially with lots of resellers marking tickets up to $50,000… This was especially disheartening because fans were promised affordable tickets between $49-500,” said Kimberlyn Hollon-Morseau (’23).

Ticketmaster also released an apology following these events. “Historically, we’ve been able to manage huge volume coming into the site to shop for tickets, so those with Verified Fan codes have a smooth shopping process. However, this time the staggering number of bot attacks, as well as fans who didn’t have codes, drove unprecedented traffic on our site,” said Ticketmaster. 

Many fans seem to agree with this narrative, and I had never had serious issues using the platform to purchase tickets previously. 

“I have gotten other tickets from Ticketmaster and the experience was so much easier and smoother than these tickets,” said Kylee Lary (‘24). 

Additionally, the bot situation still raises serious concerns. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn are trying to get some answers about it by writing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair, Lina Kahn. 

“Given the numerous high-profile incidents in the online ticket marketplace, it would be helpful to understand how the FTC intends to act to address such conduct going forward,” said Blumenthal and Blackburn in the letter. 

In the end, many fans got tickets, and many did not, which is not uncommon for popular artists. It will be interesting to see how the resale prices change as the current cheapest option is close to $600 for nosebleed seats, excluding ticket vendor fees.

Kanye West and the pervasiveness of antisemitism



On October 25, Adidas officially cut ties with Kanye West, adding to the long list of brands and companies that have dropped the artist, who now goes by Ye.

The dissolution of Ye’s and Adidas’s partnership has been a long time coming as Ye has made more and more insensitive and antisemitic remarks, coupled with actions that have been traditionally associated with white supremacists.

This past September, at Paris Fashion Week, Ye showed up at an impromptu show with a shirt that had “White Lives Matter” printed on the back. This phrase was popularized by white supremacists in 2015 as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In early October, Ye accused the rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs of “being controlled by Jewish people,” said Remy Tumin in a New York Times article.

After being suspended from Instagram, he “tweeted that he would soon go ‘death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,’” said Tumin. Soon after, Twitter also suspended him.

Additionally, he “falsely said George Floyd died from fentanyl use, not from a Minneapolis police officer’s kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes,” said Tumin. These are only a handful of the comments and actions that Ye has said and done in recent months.

In a non-exhaustive list, Ye has been dropped from Adidas, Balenciaga, Vogue and Anna Wintour, CAA (a talent agency) and his lawyer.

Also, his streams, sales and airplay have dramatically decreased, he has been suspended from Instagram and Twitter, his stadium shows were cancelled and his documentary was shelved.

While dropping Ye was a step in the right direction for Adidas, the company only made the decision after being pressured to do so as their stock had “dropped 23 percent over the past month as Ye’s erratic behavior drew criticism,” said Sorkin et al. of the New York Times.

But just because Ye is finally seeing the consequence of his actions does not mean that antisemitism will automatically go away.

Antisemitism is not isolated to just one person, and it did not die after the Holocaust. It is still very much alive and is picking up more traction every year.

In the 2017 report of the Anti-Defamation League’s index, they “tracked 2,107 incidents of vandalism, violence and harassment toward Jews in the United States,” said Michelle Boorstein and Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post.

Today, and every day, it is important to show support for the Jewish community. Some of the ways we can support the community is to “amplify Jewish voices and check in with your Jewish friends, loved ones and colleagues,” said Ariel Loves from her blog arielloves.com.

Furthermore, we can “support Jewish-owned businesses, read up on Jewish history and donate to organizations and initiatives that fight antisemitism,” said Loves.

It is important that we speak up when we hear “antisemitic or stereotypical remarks or jokes…even though [these conversations] may be difficult or uncomfortable,” said Loves.

Fighting antisemitism is just as important as fighting against any other injustice we may know about. We should not become complacent because we believe that antisemitism does not exist today. It does, and it will take all of us to fight against it.

‘Lover’ or hate her, just don’t silence her



Following the release of Taylor Swift’s latest album, ‘Midnights’, the singer is facing criticism for “fatphobia” in her music video for the song, ‘Anti-Hero’. For years, Swift was silent about her eating disorder. We owe it to her and to countless others to not silence her again.

At one point in the ‘Anti-Hero’ video, we see Swift standing on a bathroom scale, another “version” of Swift peering over her shoulder. The scale reads one word: Fat. The original Swift’s shoulders drop in dismay as the other Swift shakes her head, disappointed.

Twitter users were quick to bring attention to the scene, calling out the singer for her use of the word “fat” and for implying that she is afraid of being viewed in this way. Less than a week after the video’s release, the scene was edited so the word “fat” is no longer visible.

It is not fair to say Swift cannot or should not speak about body image and insecurity simply because she is a thin person. No matter how others might perceive her, her experiences with insecurities and disordered eating are valid.

When Swift revealed she had struggled with an eating disorder in her Netflix documentary Miss Americana, even people who had not considered themselves fans responded with empathy. And yet, the ‘Anti-Hero’ video was met with backlash.

So, is Swift only allowed to discuss her eating disorder in a way that we are all comfortable with? She was considered strong for bringing attention to this issue until she didn’t bring attention to it “right.”

Swift should not have to discuss her eating disorder and insecurities in a way that everyone can relate to or understand for it to be deemed acceptable for her to talk about them. We cannot expect people with platforms to draw attention to difficult topics and then police how they do it.

Many critics of the music video argued that Swift’s use of the word “fat” in a negative way was offensive to them because they choose to identify with the word in an indifferent or even positive way. This perspective is valid, but it simply does not align with Swift’s experiences.

In an interview with Variety, Swift explained that she does not view herself as an expert on the topic of eating disorders or body image insecurities in general and she understands that she cannot speak for everyone.

“I’m not as articulate as I should be about this topic because there are so many people who could talk about it in a better way. But all I know is my own experience,” said Swift.

In the Miss Americana documentary, Swift describes the way she reacts to the public’s criticism of her body. “It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day,” said Swift. “[The pictures and criticism] just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”

Like Swift said, she can only speak on her own experience, and that’s what she has done. Some people relate to these experiences, some people don’t. And that’s okay.

By censoring Swift, her message is lost. This is harmful not only to Swift, whose experiences are being diminished and even dismissed but also to the people who relate to these experiences.

When Swift discusses her history of disordered eating, my heart breaks for her, but I also feel incredibly seen. Having grown up with Swift’s music and influence, hearing her speak on serious issues that have impacted me is very important.

I know not everyone can relate to what Swift has gone through. And Swift knows this, too. But in many ways, I do feel that I can understand and relate to Swift’s experiences, and I know I am not alone in this.

Even if Swift’s message is not one everyone likes or can relate to, she deserves to have this message heard. So, let’s not silence her. Her experiences are valid, and she deserves to share them how she wants to.

The pros and cons of being an education major




Since I declared my major my freshman year at Alma College, I have been a Secondary Education/ English double major for going on three years now. In that time, I’ve completed one placement and am currently completing another, accepted a work study position within Gratiot County, taken what seems like a boatload of education credits and have become President of the Education Club. You could say I’m rather involved with the education department and all things education related. 

Over the course of my time here at Alma, I’ve heard multiple things regarding the pros and cons of being an education major from my peers. Ash Holland (’23) said that there are both ups and downs to the major. 

“Some pros of being an education major are being part of an amazing community of people and the feeling of being supported and able to ask as many questions as needed,” said Holland. “I like how we have a lot of placement opportunities before we student teach.” However, Holland also recognizes the cons of being an education major. “A con of being an education major is being busy especially when doing a placement. Many times, education students have to drive to do a placement and it is a major time commitment to achieve,” said Holland. An overall change that is suggested to be made is to have students complete less “busy work” and a larger focus on assignments regarding teaching, such as creating lesson plans. 

Dr. Brian Hancock, an Assistant Professor of Education at Alma College, is happy with the work being done within the education department. “The program is nationally recognized and our faculty and clinical partners do an amazing job at preparing well- started teachers who are ready to do great work with Pk- 12 students,” said Hancock.

“The changes to our education program offerings are in-line with the new requirements from the state of Michigan and, especially important for the Pk-6 major, now include a clinical placement in a classroom during the first year of study,” said Hancock. Dr. Hancock also shared some advice for students. “I always encourage education students (and all students, for that matter) to take advantage of any and all travel opportunities during their time at Alma College. So much of “good” teaching is being responsive to students needs and interests and is not scriptable within a curriculum. We collectively can learn so much about ourselves and others when we visit new places, and it’s important to take advantage of those opportunities when they present themselves,” said Hancock.

As an education major, I greatly sympathize with other students in the field as I have worried about driving to and from placements, about completing my hours in a timely fashion and awaiting acceptance into the Teacher Education Program since some of the requirements do not fit the content area in which I am going into.

With this being said, I have had an overall positive experience with the education program here at Alma. I have enjoyed going into classrooms early in my years here so that I can determine whether or not teaching is what I truly want to pursue. I have endless gratitude and appreciation to the education department faculty, for they are always willing to answer any questions I may have as well as instruct classes that have given me new perspectives about my field. 

I additionally love being President of the Education Club as I get to connect with members while also acting as a bridge between student and faculty communication.

In conclusion, I commend my fellow education majors that are passionate about what they do. I believe the pandemic has been one of the greatest examples of how overlooked and overworked teachers are, and just how much we impact our students.

When I went to New York City this summer, I bought a pin in Central Park that reads “Teacher Power”. A dear friend of mine asked what that meant. After thinking about what it means, I took a few notes that I would like to share with you now.

Teacher power is inspiring students to become the best version of themselves. It’s acting as a role model when there’s no one to look up to. It’s providing stability when the home life of a student is rocky. 

It’s supporting them when there’s no one to hold them up. It’s motivating them to get what they want out of life and to not let go. It’s shielding students from gunfire.

It’s the bookmark my teacher made me that I use to this day. It’s the sympathy cards I received when my grandfather died. It’s the conversation I recently had with one of my past English teachers. 

It’s every hug I received at my high school graduation and every conference my parents attended. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if I could take care of every single child in the world, I would. And that’s teacher power. 

Title IX concerns at Alma College



While several Alma College students have voiced concerns about how the college handles Title IX cases, it is also important to consider how misuse of the Title IX system causes victims to suffer. 

One student who chose to remain anonymous has seen their peers resort to filing Title IX cases in instances where they felt it may not have been appropriate. 

“I have witnessed many situations in which friends [or people in relationships] find themselves in an argument . . . and instead of solving these issues interpersonally or even through third-party mediation, one person will choose to file a Title IX case. This usually leads to the second person counter-filing a case.” 

This person believes fewer students would misuse the system if the college was more transparent about what Title IX really is. 

“[The college should teach students] the severity and weight of Title IX. These situations are not jokes, petty fights or minor disputes,” they said. “These are cases of genuine discrimination or abuse.” 

Another student who filed a Title IX case and wishes to remain anonymous also commented on misuse of the system. 

“When students abuse or manipulate the system for their own gain or advantage, it makes it so that legitimate cases are not taken as seriously and are more heavily stigmatized,” they said. 

“I can remember shortly after . . . my Title IX investigation…[people believed] I was lying . . . just for going to Title IX,” they said.

Aware of these students’ experiences, Alma College has made significant changes to the Title IX system. The college recently announced a partnership with Grand River Solutions and appointed a new Civil Rights/Title IX coordinator, David Blandford.

The college also expanded from two to four Deputy Title IX Coordinators: Alice Kramer, Kelley Peatross, Jonathan Glenn and John MacArthur.

“I oversee the process and make sure that we are doing our best to provide supportive measures, ensure the process is fair and timely and I also assign investigators, hearing officers and advisors as needed,” said Blandford.

Blandford wants students to know that they have options when filing a Title IX case. Students filing Title IX cases can choose to undertake a formal investigation, alternative resolution or seek supportive measures without formal action.

“. . . Alternative resolution, which isn’t always appropriate, brings people together to agree on a resolution and requires the parties to work together,” said Blandford. “Formal investigation is a long process that can require people to retell their story and is often the hardest; it is also the option that holds the greatest accountability and has the least amount of flexibility.”

While Blandford does not see misuse of the Title IX system as a major problem at the college, he understands why some students have concerns about it.

“I do not feel this is currently an issue on campus, but I can understand why students may feel that way,” said Blandford. “The process is very prescribed on handling false information and retaliation, and those things are taken very seriously.”

“This process also does not allow for any punitive measures to be taken against a responding party until [a verdict has been reached] at the end of a hearing,” said Blandford. “It does allow supportive measures to be put in place at any time to help support both reporting and responding parties.”

“All complaints filed with the Title IX office must be followed up on, and we will take every report seriously, regardless of what else is happening. We also investigate claims to make sure they are valid,” said Blandford.

For more information about the Title IX system, students can talk to Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator David Blandford in the Center for Student Opportunity (CSO).


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