Unionization of Chipotle includes Alma alum

CLAIRE WITTLIEFF
STAFF WRITER

9/9/2022

On Thursday, August 25, staff members of a Lansing-area Chipotle restaurant voted to form a union. The workers will be forming with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The next steps consist of polling workers to find out what should be included in the upcoming contract which will be brought to the bargaining table.

The organizing seems like a timely event in honor of the celebration of Labor Day, a holiday which pays tribute to the dedication and hard work of American workers.

Alma alumnus Atulya Dora-Laskey was among the staff members to inspire a union organization and is optimistic about the changes being made. 

“The unionization of Chipotle workers is an important step to helping workers build collective power to not only improve their working conditions and pay but also the entire country. I’m very excited to be part of an organizing effort to help unite fast food workers into a union,” Dora-Laskey said.

Along with his excitement, Dora-Laskey also explains what got the wheels in motion for forming a union. 

“For a while many Chipotle crew members tried bringing up concerns and requests up to management individually only to get ignored––and in one case even fired. We decided that this wasn’t workable, and that the history of workers in this country pointed to unions being the only solution.”

Dora-Laskey also recognizes possible drawbacks to workers unionizing. “The most prominent drawback to unionizing is that sometimes a corporation will try to informally retaliate against you for unionizing,” he said.

“There have been a lot of Starbucks and Amazon workers who have been fired over the last year after they helped lead union efforts at their stores. Retaliation like this just goes to show how much power a union can give workers.”

Further emphasis was placed on how the Chipotle company did not agree with the idea of their employees unionizing, where they acted “super concerned” about workers paying union dues.

“One aspect they kept mentioning was that we would pay dues to a union. Like any organization, unions take money to run. Dues are great because it means that your union is accountable to you and your coworkers, no one else. With the Teamsters, we would also get to vote on our contract before we start paying dues, and no one would vote for a contract where they were making less money than before,” according to Dora-Laskey.

Maris Fett, another Alma College alumnus who is a union organizer for the Michigan Nurses Association, expressed how the recent union organization could impact other fast food chains, as well as benefit other workers.

“I think this will benefit the union in general. I definitely think this has really inspired a new generation of union leaders,” Fett said, further mentioning that a few popular chains with locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have also decided to unionize based on the action of other businesses. “Similar businesses are realizing that if [other] places are doing it, [they] can do it too. It really is amazing.” As of September 1, workers of the Lansing-area Chipotle location are fearing closure after voting to unionize. Nevertheless, thirteen other Chipotle locations in the states of New York and Maine are documented to unionize.

Alma welcomes eleven new faculty members

CLAIRE HIPPS
COPY EDITOR

9/9/2022

You may have been asked to attend teaching demonstrations by faculty candidates last semester, or even asked to eat breakfast with a potential new professor. Given the large number of faculty vacancies, Alma is welcoming eleven new faculty members to campus this fall.

The psychology department is welcoming both Janelle Blazek and Jacob Sawyer as assistant professors of psychology.

Blazek’s work focuses on gender and race in developmental psychology. Sawyer specializes in clinical and counseling psychology and is excited to “work with students on group and independent research projects.”

Beth Spinner is joining the education department as an assistant professor. Spinner is passionate about making education applicable and meaningful to her students. She was drawn to Alma because “it was clear… that students are the center of the college.”

New to the sociology department are two new assistant professors: Emma Bosley-Smith and Dion Campbell.

Bosley-Smith is a sociologist “focusing on sexualities, gender, family and economic inequality.” Her research focuses on “LGBTQ adults [and their] relationships with their parents” as well as economic insecurity for young LGBTQ people.

Campbell researches “community, culture and identity”. Campbell earned his undergraduate degree at Central Michigan and is looking forward to “learning more about the gaming scene [at Alma].”

The Department of Business Administration has three new faculty members.

James Haupt was hired as an instructor. Andrew Sellers, an assistant professor, specializes in sports management and ethics. Since sports ethics is a new concentration at Alma, Sellers is excited to “bring the subject to any Alma student that is interested in the field.”

Sangchul Park has also been hired as an assistant professor of business administration. Having worked as an analyst, marketing assistant and advertisement operator on a global scale, he will specifically teach Business Analytics and Global Strategic Management courses at Alma College.

Mathew Smith is a new assistant professor of religious studies. Smith specializes in the study of “religion, race and colonialism/imperialism in the Americas” while also working on research related to gender, sexuality, and environmental humanities.

Additionally, new to Alma’s Dance department is Catherine MacMaster. Macmaster is an assistant professor of dance who uses choreography to study dance “in relation to space.” MacMaster hopes to “broaden the awareness and appreciation of dance as both an art form and a research methodology” at Alma.

Finally, Matthew Kinkel is joining the economics department as an assistant professor, specializing in labor economics and sports economics. He has researched labor market dynamics, “public policy in the construction industry,” and “labor union activism in sports.”

Candidates for Alma College faculty “are evaluated on three criteria – teaching, scholarship and service,” said Janie Diels, Interim Provost. Coming from diverse backgrounds to contribute to seven departments, all new faculty members cited the community feel and emphasis on the student body as reasons for coming to campus.

The reality of Tartan 101

RAUL RIVERA
PHOTOGRAPHER

EMMA FIGLEWICZ
STAFF WRITER

9/9/2022

As summer wraps up, Alma College again opens its doors to the incoming freshmen class of 2026. To welcome the students to their new homes for the next four years, the college holds an annual freshmen orientation program called Tartan 101.

Tartan 101 is a four-day orientation program that offers numerous resources and activities to acclimate the new students to their new environment. Before the academic year, the students are divided into groups. Each group is led by their first-year guide [FYG] to help show them through the orientation schedule and answer any questions freshmen may have about Alma College.

Tartan 101 differs from many other college orientation programs in numerous aspects. Typically, a college or university holds freshmen orientation for one or two days, usually lasting 8-10 hours. Tartan 101, on the other hand, can have students participating in activities for 10-12 hours all four days.

Though many fun events are offered throughout the four days to help keep students engaged and interested, Tartan 101 primarily has students sitting in what I recall being boring lectures and presentations for the majority of the time. By the end of the orientation, students are typically burnt out and do not want to participate in the fun events scheduled on the last day.

On average, a student will have spent over fifteen hours in both lectures and presentations during orientation. Though these experiences can provide safety and essential information about the school, many students mentally check out. They go on their phones instead of paying attention to the presented material.

Nevertheless, freshmen orientation may have its drawbacks; it is an important event that serves an essential purpose for the school. Tartan 101 establishes the foundation for a successful career at Alma College by giving incoming students the resources and tools they will need to excel. Orientation allows students to explore their new home, tour around downtown and introduce them to how classroom lectures will be set up. 

The events of Tartan 101 offer an excellent way for incoming freshmen to meet other classmates and faculty before the school year begins. For most students, college is the first time being away from home, away from the peers they have grown up with. Tartan 101 allows incoming students to meet and converse with their peers with whom they may have classes over the next four years. Seeing a familiar face walking into a classroom or the dining hall on the first day of classes can be a major anxiety reliever for countless students.

“Tartan 101 was an amazing experience that introduced me to many of my friends. When I came to Alma College, I knew no one here. My FYG was amazing as she was always eager during our check-ins. And I could continuously say hello to her in the hallways during the first week of school. It was always great to see a friendly face!” said Brent Triehl (’26).

One change I believe would make Tartan 101 a more enjoyable experience is shortening the activity days by one or two hours. This change can be implanted by starting orientation at 9 am instead of 8 am or ending earlier than the typical end time. Another proposal is to extend lunch and dinner by 30-60 minutes. This will allow students to eat and get some rest between scheduled events.

Overall, the goal of Tartan 101 is to create a welcoming and exciting experience for the incoming freshman class; the program usually ends as a tiring week process that many will look back at, glad they will never have to participate again.

Joe’s closed for the fall semester

RAUL RIVERA
PHOTOGRAPHER

EMMA FIGLEWICZ
STAFF WRITER

9/9/2022

As students return to Alma this year, they will notice many changes to the campus and its facilities. One of the significant changes will be the closure of the popular dining service, Joe’s.

Joe’s Place was a dining service located in Tyler VanDusen which offered dining options such as burgers, wraps, salads and more.

It was a popular location on campus for its late-night hours and various snacks and drinks. For many students, Joe’s was a second option if their practices ran late or if the menu of Hamilton Commons was not appealing to them for that day.

Many students would stop by in between classes to pick up a quick meal when the dining hall was closed.

At the end of summer, the school found Joe’s Place to have a plumbing issue leading to the facility being shut down for the fall term. This unexpected situation has created a stir among the student body as students are now only given one option for their meal swipes.

The school has created Joe’s Retail Store inside Hamilton Commons to remedy the situation. This store will be selling candy, snack food and cold drinks. However, unlike Joe’s Place, there will be no hot food served and a limited variety of snack food offered.

The retail store provides later hours like Joe’s Place did, allowing students to find snack food later in the day once the dining hall closes after dinner. Though this is an excellent attempt to solve the issue of the closure at Joe’s Place, numerous problems still aren’t fixed.

One major issue arising from Joe’s closure is the topic of meal swipes. Before each term, every student is asked to choose between a few different meal plans. Some focus more on meal swipes, while others focus more on munch money. With Joe’s being shut down, students are now forced to use more munch money, disproportionately affecting those who chose the meal swipe-based plan. 

Students spend thousands of dollars on meal plans per year, and it is frustrating when one of the two options to use our meal swipes is taken away. Many students struggle to spend their meal swipes already with two options. Now, with only one chance to use our meal swipes, numerous people will be left with many more unused meal swipes compared to when Joe’s was open.

Though the dining hall offers a variety of food options, some people are picky eaters and will not want to eat what is served on the menu. These students are now forced to choose to use their munch money or their personal money and eat off campus. With food prices on the rise, this option will not be available to many.

Until winter term begins, students will have to learn to adapt to this unfortunate situation. In the coming months, Alma College will continue to update the study body on the state the facility is in. Luckily this change is not permanent and will be fixed in the next few months.

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.

Biden announces student relief plan

ALIVIA GILES
COPY EDITOR

9/9/2022

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, President Biden revealed a plan to cancel tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for a subset of Americans. The announcement came just ahead of another deadline for the restart of payments for the nation’s $1.7 trillion in federal student loans.

Biden’s loan forgiveness plan, which is explained in detail on a post uploaded to the President’s official Twitter, focuses on individuals earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 as a household, in the 2020 or 2021 tax year.

“An entire generation is now saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for an attempt at least at a college degree,” Biden said in a press conference, “The burden is so heavy that even if you graduate, you may not have access to the middle-class life that the college degree once provided.”

The impact of the Covid pandemic continues to weigh heavily on the nation. Many middle-class Americans cannot afford to buy a house or are putting off starting a family due to their financial situation.

Americans who took out Pell Grants – grants provided to low-income borrowers – are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief. Student loan borrowers who do not have Pell Grants will have loans forgiven up to $10,000.

“If all borrowers claim the relief that they’re entitled to, 43 million federal student loan borrowers will benefit, and of those, 20 million will have their debt completely canceled,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters on Aug. 24.

According to data from the White House, 60% of student loan borrowers have Pell Grants, so most borrowers will receive the largest forgiveness.

In addition to Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan, the President announced an extension of the pause on student loan payments through Dec. 31, 2022.

Biden defended the major decision, saying in a statement on Aug. 24 that there is “plenty of deficit reduction” to fund the proposals. “I will never apologize for helping people and middle-class Americans,” Biden said.

While many Americans have viewed the loan forgiveness plan as a victory, the president’s announcement has received pushback from others, including several Republican politicians and even some notable Democrats.

“Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless,” Jason Furman, former top Obama economic official said in a tweet on Aug. 24.

Some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP Senator Ted Cruz, feel that the relief plan is “unfair” to individuals who paid off their student loan debt or did not attend college.

Benjamin Schall (’24) is supportive of President Biden’s plan. “I was happy and excited to hear that there was something being done to help with college affordability,” Schall said.

“I thought ‘it’s not forgiveness of the full debt like was promised, but it’s something,’” Schall said. “I was curious how to get it myself.”

Although Schall is happy some of their student loan debt will potentially be forgiven, they will not receive the same amount as some borrowers. “It’s somewhat disappointing for me, as I don’t have a Pell Grant, because that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work a lot to make sure I can pay for college or that I won’t struggle to repay loans in the future,” Schall said

“I am happy about what this means for low-income individuals with student debt, though it seems unclear to me whether it will continue to be renewed for future students who would qualify and future debt that current students will accrue,” Schall said.

Schall is hoping the recent student debt forgiveness announcement will get the ball rolling on other major plans.

“The ship seems to have sailed but pushing for better coverage for some of the ideas in the recent Inflation Reduction Act would help Americans financially in the long run, in the case of the climate sections, and in the present, like with the section tackling prescription costs,” Schall said.

Alma College COVID-19 policy changes

MEGAN NEELEY
COPY EDITOR

9/9/2022

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, college students have had to adapt and persevere through the hardships, hazards and COVID-19 restrictions that were necessary to keep staff members and students safe through these challenging times.

Over time, Alma College has changed its COVID-19 policies in line with recommendations by local, state and national health officials. This is the first time since 2020 that COVID-19 policies at Alma College are looking more relaxed.

To start, face masks are no longer a requirement on campus. Faculty, however, can still require students to wear face masks to their individual classes if they wish to stay masked this semester.

“I continue to require masks in my class,” Patrick Furlong, professor of history said. “Due to my age and health issues that leave me vulnerable to serious complications from a breakthrough COVID-19 infection, I need to [do] what I can to avoid contracting the disease,” Furlong said.

Furthermore, the email regarding the updated COVID-19 policies explained that quarantine and isolation after exposure to someone positive is only necessary if the affected individual is symptomatic.

Students and staff exposed to a positive case will need to be tested regardless of being asymptomatic and must wear a mask for ten days past the date of exposure.

The email emphasized in bold that “if you test positive for COVID-19, feel generally sick, or are exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please notify the college by filling out the Health Screening app.”

Relaxed regulations mean a return to normalcy, to some extent. An email from Damon Brown, the Vice President of Student Affairs, stated that Alma College “will begin the 2022-23 academic year without restrictions on food service, events and gatherings or guests and visitors.”

Many students have accepted relaxed regulations.

“I think the new COVID-19 policies are fine until cases start ticking up again,” said Ryan Gray ’25.

“I think this is great for the school because it will allow students to get the full FSL rush experience, which is something I am looking forward to. Plus, it will be the first almost normal year since I have been at Alma College,” Jon Beerbower ‘24 said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be coming to a close, the monkeypox virus has begun to raise concerns about another mass public health issue. Alma College has made it clear that they are working closely with public health officials to monitor the situation.

“I suspect it is only a matter of time before monkeypox becomes an issue on campus, spreading from high-risk groups to the general student population and beyond,” Furlong said.

In contrast, Gray said that he does not “think Monkeypox will spread like COVID-19 did… There are already vaccine strategies ready to mitigate the threat.”

Although more relaxed COVID-19 policies promise a more normal college experience, Alma College will continue to observe the situation in order to “make the best decisions related to our COVID-19 policies and… will continue to do so this term.”

FSL recruitment underway

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

9/9/2022

With the start of the Fall semester underway, Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) is in full swing preparing for recruitment. This year will look slightly different though as both fraternities and sororities are allowing freshmen to rush during their first semester. Historically only sororities have allowed students to rush during their first semester.

Alma College currently has five social fraternities: Delta Gamma Tau, Phi Mu Alpha, Sigma Chi, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Zeta Sigma. Alma College also has five social sororities: Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Xi Delta, Gamma Phi Beta, Kappa Iota and Phi Sigma Sigma. All of them will host a variety of events in the upcoming weeks and the best way to stay up to date is by following social media accounts for the various organizations.

Two accounts in particular are worth following on Instagram, @ac_ifc and @acpanhellenic. On both of these accounts, updates will be posted about upcoming events as well as access to sign the rush list.

Some examples of events that have already occurred are the FSL Movie on the Lawn which was Aug. 26 and the Meet the Greek BBQ which was Aug. 28. Both of these events allowed for Alma College students to go out and get to meet some of the FSL members on campus.

“I think freshmen looking at going through sorority recruitment should look forward to the experience of it all,” said Madison Hall (‘23), and President of Panhellenic Council. “[Students] can learn about philanthropy and service, leadership, alumni connections, friendships, [and] DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion).”

For freshmen students hoping to join fraternities, the long debated topic of their ability to rush during their first semester of college came to an end following an Inter Fraternity Council (IFC) vote last April. The vote came one year after Panhellenic Council voted to allow students to rush sororities during their first semester on campus.

“I hope that letting freshman rush [fraternities] will be a net positive,” said Sawyer Hill (‘23), IFC Rush Chairperson.

“It used to take place in the second semester because it gave [freshmen] time to think about their place on campus, however, I think that by allowing them to rush the first semester, it will help them find their place on campus earlier,” said Hill.

A topic that many new students may be concerned about is the “cult-like” atmosphere that many have seen on apps such as TikTok. Trends such as ‘BamaRush’ have cast a bad light on Greek life on campuses across the country.

“There is ‘BamaRush’ on TikTok [but] the chapters on Alma’s campus are definitely not like what that side of social media shows,” said Hall.

Many members of FSL on Alma College’s campus highlight important factors when looking to join a fraternity or sorority such as leadership and networking opportunities. Alma College students also tend to highlight the importance of giving back to the community.

“[Students] thinking about rushing should look into the great ways [they] can hold leadership positions and also give back to the local and campus communities,” said Anika Ried (‘23), a sister at Gamma Phi Beta.

Anyone looking into FSL is encouraged to check all of their options by both IFC and Panhellenic Council. In the coming weeks more events such as house walkthroughs for potential new members and other events will occur for people to begin getting a feel for FSL at Alma College. 

Signing the rush lists through Panhellenic Council and IFC will help potential new members keep informed about upcoming events as well.

“Listen to upperclassmen, especially upperclassmen that are involved in [FSL], they will help to answer all of your questions and point you in the right direction,” said Hill.

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