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November 2019

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By Lorelei Poch
Environment Editor

The band played folk music in the back of the dance room as beginners learned the first steps and swings of contra dancing. The caller invites the first-timers to the floor 15 minutes early to feel out how the dances go. My sister and I timidly followed the music down the halls and were immediately welcomed to join the email list and hop into the beginner’s tutorial.

As we took our first tentative steps, trying to keep up with the fiddle and guitar band’s energy, young and old dancers joined the room, placing their belongings against the walls and their jackets on hangers. Most couldn’t help but tap their feet while watching we beginners.

Once the clock struck 8 p.m. the regulars crowd the floor and ask others to dance; it is an accepting community where males can dance with males, females with females, and older goers with younger goers. “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” said Marj Power, who has been contra dancing since 2000. Power believes one of the most genuine aspects of contra dancing is the sense of community and breadth of diversity. Partners typically switch between songs which encourages people to dance with strangers. “You have to dance with whoever comes at you or the dance breaks, you have to dance with the whole community,” Power said.

Lila Inyengar Lehman, a junior at Burlington High School, has been dancing since she was very young when her parents took her to contra dance events. “I’ve gotten more excited in the past couple of years. It’s really great exercise, I meet lots of interesting people and have lots of interesting conversations, ” said Inyengar Lehman.

She has also experienced personal growth as she dances independently from her family. “I’ve become more confident through dancing with strangers and making new friends — it’s great for self esteem,” she said. Lehman said she enjoys interacting with not only older generations, including her mother’s, but also her own as more high school and college students joined the community.

Power has danced with kids as young as three and adults pushing 90, people of diverse backgrounds, and people with disabilities of all kinds, including some in wheelchairs. Another calling to contra dancing is the gender neutrality of the groups. “It used to be gents and ladies, but now they’re making it more gender neutral,” explained Power. The “ladies” part was traditionally considered the followers, and the “gents” the leaders. Now some callers use terms such as ravens and larks or separate groups by the presence or lack of an armband.

Caller and musician Don Stratton started calling when his band was playing for a high school graduation six years ago and needed a caller. He also plays the fiddle, guitar and banjo. “What’s keeps me coming back is moving with music with your friends, or strangers, but having a moment of just sharing the music. It’s the kind of music you can’t just sit still for,” said Stratton. “You don’t need a partner, people will change partners every dance so you can just show up and be ready to have a good time.”

I tried contra dancing two recent Fridays and brought my twin sister, Amelia Poch, to the latter event. Although I planned to take photos and audio I ended up having some of the most genuine fun I have had since coming to college. Although I did not know dance moves and would never consider myself a dancer, I picked it up quickly. Soon I was dancing in synchrony with the regulars, laughing and holding eye contact while in passing and adding twists and stomps where I could.

As someone who has struggled with recovering from post-concussion syndrome and countless concussions throughout my college career this was a healthy and liberating alternative to partying on a Friday night. I worked up a sweat, made new friends spoke with strangers and couldn’t help but tap my feet.

If you give contra dancing a try you will experience the wide acceptance and friendliness extended to all attendees of the events. If you’re looking for a new healthy and exciting Friday night activity visit queencitycontras.org or http://www.contradancelinks.com/schedule_VT.html for more information regarding local contra dance events.

By Matthew Pramas
Managing Editor

Xavier Collins ’21* was no stranger to smoking cannabis or vaping nicotine on a daily basis when doctors diagnosed him with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), a newly discovered illness associated with habitual cannabis usage.

Collins’s first CHS episode happened as a Sophomore, a year into smoking daly, had him throwing up for four hours straight. “It was the most pain I’d ever been in,” Collins said.

The rise in reported CHS cases comes at a time of declining cannabis stigma but also the reporting of a cluster of lung-illnesses and deaths associated with vaping.

“It’s actually a big deal for the individual to have [CHS],” said Executive Director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing at UVM, Harry Chen.“Basically, they’re afflicted with bouts of debilitating abdominal pain and vomiting.”

“I thought I had a stomach ulcer and I went to the hospital a lot this summer,” Collins said, “If you smoke pot every day on a consistent basis for a long period of time, you can basically grow allergic to it.”

This surprised Collins during a time of declining stigma as states legalize recreational cannabis. Chen in part associates the rise of CHS with the increased potency and the availability of modern cannabis, something he says will likely continue as states legalize.

CHS is tricky to pinpoint because it’s a diagnosis of exclusion, Chen said. “I think there are a lot of unreported cases. It’s not a syndrome you can diagnose with blood work or x-rays.” .

Chen said that it can take some time, but if a user stops smoking, symptoms will subside.

“If you use cannabis regularly (four times or more a week) and vomit, I would tell them as a physician to stop.”

Collins was a sophomore when he realized that his habits were wearing him down. “The only thing that [society] tells you is ok to smoke is the only thing I’m not supposed to be smoking,” he said. That made quitting his other habit, nicotine, even harder.

“For a while I was just addicted to smoking [weed] in general,” Collins said. “The idea of JUUL is so convenient, I just got so addicted to it, even knowing how bad it was for me and seeing the bad effects it was having on my body.”

While CHS strictly includes cannabis, Collins understood vaping could also bring health consequences like shortness of breath, which he said he experiences occasionally. He said he also knew that with the recent cluster of vaping related illnesses, possibly more severe problems lay down the road for habitual vape users. This helped push Collins to end his relationship with the two drugs that controlled the first half of his college career.

“If you smoke pot every day, you can
basically grow allergic to it.”

-Xavier Collins ‘21

Collins finds the recent news about vaping related illnesses concerning, but not surprising, given his experiences. After trying a bootlegged THC cart at home, he knew that it wasn’t good. “It’s just scary, you don’t know what people are putting in there,” he said.

Experts still doesn’t know exactly what’s causing the cluster of illnesses and deaths, Chen said. In an October 24 email Chen warned the UVM student body about vaping. The current CDC numbers Chen shared are 1888 cases cases of lung damage and 37 deaths, all connected to vaping.

Black market THC vaping products seem most accountable at the moment, Chen said, but he wrote in the UVM email that “There have also been a number of individuals reported only using nicotine products.”

Chronic Disease Prevention Chief at the Vermont Department of Health Rhonda Williams said that her department focuses more on how tobacco products are marketed, including the flavored nicotine juices.

“While most people who have gotten sick reported using products containing THC, we cannot exclude the possibility that nicotine may play a role,” Williams said in an email.

Photo-Illustration by Matthew Pramas
Even though cannabis isn’t physically addictive like nicotine or alcohol, Harry Chen M.D. explains that as a drug, it can cause dependency.


Kicking the Habit

It wasn’t easy for Collins to stop using substances he had used using everyday. “You have to ease your way out of it because cold turkey doesn’t work. It took me a couple of tries,” Collins said. He tried quitting JUUL even before his health problems or the media coverage on its risks.

He still occasionally uses on the weekends, but for him, people aren’t aware enough about the issue and the risk of developing CHS.

“The hardest part about [stopping was] seeing my friends do it and not being able to hang out with them, having to spend more time with other people so I could avoid putting myself into a bad situation where I would want to do that,” he said.

Rediscovering things that made Collins happy before the cycle of smoking and vaping began has helped him stay away from two expensive and harmful addictions.

There are a number of other options for people wishing to exit a negative cycle, according to Chen and Williams. Both suggest 802Quits, which offers free nicotine replacements and therapy. Chen also suggested UVM students to text VtVapeFree, a service to help students quit vaping.

There are options on campus for students, such as the Bergeron Wellness Center.

But like any depency, it can take time, effort and help to end an unhealthy cycle of behavior.
In high school, Collins had occasionally smoked cannabis and had never heard of a JUUL before college.

Now, Collins sees high schoolers using nicotine and cannabis purchased illegally in his hometown.

“Kids get so addicted to these things they just don’t even care and they’ll just buy whatever just to get high. For a while, that was me.”

*Name changed for anonymity

By Mallory Bauer
Contributing Writer

As stated by the National Center for Student Statistics, 8 in 10 students at Saint Mike’s identify as White. Are 80% of students not going to speak up to support the safety and honor the humanity of 20% of our students? It is no lie when I say – we should all be scared.

There is a threat on campus. Are you scared? Well it’s not scaring all of us.

Fortunately, 8 out of 10 students are able to walk out of our dorms each morning, let the door slam, and walk on our way to class with our headphones in and the volume up.

Unfortunately, 2 out of 10 of us are afraid to walk out our door, afraid the person we walk by on our way to class might want us dead and are willing to take action, afraid that if we do not lock our door in the bathroom tight, we too could be the next target. Some Saint Mike’s students are living in fear.

Not all students have the privilege to simply talk about racist issues when they arise every now and then. Instead, racism is their daily reality. Not all students feel safe on campus. Not all students are feeling protected by administration, Public Safety, faculty, or the student body.

If 8 out of 10 students spoke out for the safety of the community, would there be a change?

Why do 8 out of 10 students relax, lean on their privilege, and pursue no change for the safety of the 2 of 10 students who are currently not safe on campus? If all of us are not safe, then we are not safe. I call upon folks like myself, to become a critical mass. Your voice matters, and together we can influence change for the safety of the community as a whole. In the words adapted from Emma Lazarus: None of us are free until all of us are free. *And this freedom is achieved by critical discussions between students, faculty, Public Safety, administration and peers alike.

I write to update my previous statement and to thank President Sterritt for her conscientious efforts to highlight student voice in the face of the recent racism on campus.

To that, I respond with the request to enact an extension of the threat response alert system, to include bias response alerts. Additionally, in an effort to unite us further, I ask Public Safety officials to make a greater attempt to connect to the campus community, by joining us for lunch in Alliot and offering their time for conversation with us.

Furthermore, I ask for upgraded and functioning security in all buildings to better ensure our safety. Lastly, I ask us to be active and engaged members of a community in need of understanding and respect for one and other. I look forward to the changes St. Mike’s students will implement with the support of our whole campus.

Mallory Bauer ‘21 is a Psychology major from West Dover, VT.

By Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor


Pontigny raid

Around 3 p.m. on October 23 cop cars, public safety, and some officials from the office of student life were around Pontigny. There were also some reports of police K9’s in the building.
“The nature of the incident is protected under federal privacy laws,” said Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety and Emergency Management. Babcock did share the public crime log, which stated that the incident was a drug violation involving paraphernalia. The incident ended with a judicial referral. There is no danger to the public from this incident Babcock said.


Sexual assault reported

Friday, November 1, students recieved a campus wide email from Public Safety about a sexual assult that happened on campus.
The assault reported by a female was said to have happened on the September 7, in Lyons hall. The incident was reported to officials on October 31, and is currently under investigation.


Student Steering committee

On Tuesday, Oct 29, the Student Government Association proposed an idea for a new group on campus, the “Student Steering Committee.”
“The idea is to put together a group of students to talk about what things are changing for the better, what’s not working, so that administrators have a better idea of what they’re not doing,” said Brenna Broderick ‘20, Student Government Association vice president. The group will consist of 6-10 students, said Broderick ‘20, along with administration and professors.
“It’s a long term project in changing campus culture,” Broderick said.


Construction mess

Photo by Talia Perrea
Oct. 30, 2:40 p.m.The start of what is to be the new walkway allowing safe passage for students when trying to access the field and the natural area across the street.

Construction on Route 15 near the jug handle and the cemetery by Campus Road began Oct 28, affecting the flow of traffic through campus.
St. Michael’s has been working with the State of Vermont Agency of Transportation, and the Town of Colchester for the past two years to get a crosswalk installed that connects the campus to the jug handle. “They will be installing a lighted crosswalk signal as well as a painted crosswalk,” Babcock said. Construction is set to finish before Thanksgiving.


Founders Hall

According to Joel Ribout, Associate Director of Facilities, Planning, and Construction, the school is still waiting to hear from Act 250, Vermont’s land use and development act. The original plan was to have the building demolished in the fall, but it now looks like it won’t be down until January or February.