In breaking news at his weekly press conference today, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and state health officials revealed that the COVID-19 outbreak at Saint Michael’s College was sparked by an outbreak in Central Vermont earlier this month and COVID fatigue may also have contributed.
“There are 89 total cases now associated with the central Vermont outbreak. The outbreak led to four additional outbreaks although much smaller in size, in exception of the larger outbreak at Saint Michael’s College, where there are now 47 cases,” said Michael Pieciak, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation.
The four outbreaks are all linked to two cases that have been traced to a central Vermont hockey league that within days led to 13 cases spreading outwards. “We have noticed in our own data that individuals are spending more time not just outside of their homes but further away from their homes since the spring. With increased mobility, you’re seeing cases easily being spread through geographic areas,” Pieciak said.
“A few days later the first few cases at Saint Michael’s College were identified. Initially there were eight individual cases detected through campus surveillance testing,” Pieciak said. “The first reported case of transmission among the college was just a few days later on Oct. 21st”
“This is the worst time to let COVID fatigue set in” said the Commissioner of Health for Vermont, Dr. Mark Levine who also appeared at a Student Town Hall at Saint Michael’s Thursday evening.
“Covid fatigue is our fatigue around all of the difficult efforts we are called upon to do in order to lessen the spread of covid,” said Mary Masson, the Director of Student Health Services at Saint Michael’s College.
“It’s the sacrifices we make, the loneliness we feel, the inability to live life as we did a year ago. It’s constantly being called upon to think of the common good versus just ourselves. And we are feeling the effects, which can be loneliness, general anxiety, exhaustion and yes, grief.”
With this sort of pandemic fatigue on the rise, we also see a rise in the number of people who have contracted COVID-19.
In regard to the outbreak largely stemming from St. Michael’s there are now a total 11 situations being monitored by the Vermont Department of Health Dr. Levine explained.
In the press conference, health officials were adamant that Vermonters must continue to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, especially now with a spike in case numbers. “That means masking up, keeping six feet apart, washing your hands, keeping social gatherings small and just amongst those you trust, especially as we move indoors and make sure to follow our travel guidelines” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott.
During the first week back on campus, I received a phone call from Student Life, in reference to an anonymous report that was made about me by another student through the Live- Safe app. I was confused as to why I was singled out from the many other students who may have bent the rules the first night on campus. Sure enough, it was through social media. A screenshot from my private social media account, showing a possible violation of a new rule on campus, had been sent anonymously through LiveSafe. I was appalled because one of my friends would rather hide through the LiveSafe app, rather than confront me personally about their feelings on the situation.
The new COVID-19 rules were an adjustment for everyone the first day back, and there were definitely some misunderstandings about the rules throughout the first couple of weeks. I had expressed to Student Life that I was unclear about the new COVID-19 rules when the report was made, but I was willing to face the consequences. Student Life reassured me they were just taking precautionary measures to limit contact before test results returned. Though I had misunderstood the rules, knowing that students had the ability to anonymously report others at their fingertips made me feel extremely uncomfortable. How can students just sit behind a screen and feel the need to tattle on others? Aren’t we old enough to confront others in person? What happened to our striving community of integrity and inclusion?
“Our ability to influence people and their actions from behind a digital curtain offers a challenge, we’re in a society that needs more trust not less, and we have more and more devices that break down trust than we do build it,” said Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety.
“Everyone is on the same page. We all want to stay here but we need to find a happy medium where we can communicate directly with each other, rather than resort to reporting through LiveSafe,” says Maddie Gervais ’21.
In contrast to the normal college experience, this semester, students are more concerned for their health and safety which has created an overwhelming sense of anxiety around the virus. There are many students who take COVID-19 seriously. Most are looking out for the safety of our campus, which is totally valid. But should minor reports regarding the new protocols be sent through the LiveSafe app?
Technology today has given us an easy way to communicate but has us straying away from real face to face communication. Why are we using technology to tiptoe around confrontation? Though LiveSafe is intended to keep people safe and keep users anonymous, it allows easy access to single others out, creating a whistleblowing culture where students can use it in spite of others.
As young adults preparing for the real world, it is unsettling that some students are unable to confront others about small issues. An issue regarding another student could be discussed directly with the student or with an RA, before reporting through the LiveSafe app, which notifies Public Safety.
“That’s the learning process. Part of it should be learning interpersonal relationships, you’re not always going to have LiveSafe. Our society has moved more towards a reliance on external authority rather than empowering ourselves,” Babcock said.
After discussing the frequent Live- Safe reports with public safety and student life, I was not surprised that there was an overflow of tips regarding small coronavirus guidelines such as students not wearing masks outside. Some tips have been made through screenshots, showing students off-campus, that are sent in from others social media accounts. The issue with reports like this is that students aren’t breaking any rules because they have the freedom to go off campus but it’s their responsibility to take precautions and stay safe. Social media has made it easier to find out what others are doing at all times, leaving no room for privacy.
I experienced this first hand, and I take full responsibility for my actions, but not all reports from social media are valid. Rather than making a report right away, first, try talking to the student you feel is violating a rule. Even sending them a text expressing your concern is a better solution before getting public safety involved.
The last thing we need right now is to create a toxic culture on our campus. We are all trying our best to follow the new COVID protocol in keeping our campus safe and healthy. Now more than ever, it is crucial for us to stick together and get through this pandemic.
Annie Serkes is a junior majoring in Business Administration. She is a student-athlete on the Women’s Tennis team and a representative for Hope Happens Here.
“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say they need to stand down?” My heart fell to my stomach as I waited for the president to answer the question. Feeling a wave of second hand embarrassment, I watched him stumble on his words. He said, “Almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing.” Wait, did he really just say that? Trying not to scream, I wrestled with the idea that many people actually believe that Trump is what is best for the future of our country.
During the first presidential debate on September 29, my friends and I anxiously gathered to watch the TV. We were nervous, hoping Biden would be able to hold his own and prove that he is the best option to be the next president of the United States. He brought up points that demonstrate the reasons Trump is far from the right person for the job. Stating how Trump has done nothing for “anybody needing health- care,” as well as how he has failed during the coronavirus, not being able “to fund what needs to be done to save lives.” Yet Biden almost didn’t have to speak for that to be obvious.
At one point during the debate Trump even made fun of Biden for “wearing the biggest mask he has ever seen.” How dare he make fun of people for wearing a mask to try and stop the spread of the most dangerous and unknown disease of our time?
Trump has done nothing but look away at the inequality in America in regards to the coronavirus, tweeting after he had gotten it “Don’t be afraid of COVID.” The President of the United States of America told everyone to not be afraid of a virus that has killed over one million people. Where is his empathy? The truth of the matter is that Biden recognizes the many inequalities in America, rather than ignoring them.
Biden spoke of the inequality in regards to coronavirus. He looked directly into the camera lens, and with confidence stated how Trump “ talk[s] about helping African Americans — one in 1,000 African Americans [have] been killed because of the coronavirus. … And if [Trump] doesn’t do something quickly, by the end of the year, one in 500 will have been killed,” and that American citizens “ have to look at what he did, and what he did has been disastrous for the African American community.”
Biden has his own shortcomings. Unlike some of the other favorites in the Democratic Party, Biden does not support “Medicare for all,” which would reduce out of pocket pay for health care. He also had a major role in pushing the 1994 Violent Control and Law Enforcement act through, leading to the mass incarceration of Black Americans. He has made stereotypical comments regarding Indian-Americans, and has also been accused of sexual misconduct.
Yet, Biden’s failures do not compare to those of Donald Trump. Over the past four years, Trump has proven time and time again power is his main political prerogative. Trump has called white supremacists “fine people.” Twenty-six women have accused him of sexual assault. He encouraged the use of violence against Black Lives Matter protests, following the death of George Floyd. He also accepted an endorsement from Joe Arpaio, and pardoned his conviction for racially profiling “individuals suspected to be in the U.S. illegally.”
Biden wasn’t my first choice. But, at least he condemns white supremicists, believes in science, and thinks that immigrants to the United States should be granted citizenship. At least he believes women should be able to make decisions regarding their own bodies, and recognizes the dangers of COVID-19. His stances on global warming, immigration, abortion, and economics will work to create a society that embodies equality. Recognize the difference between a stepping stone, and stepping into quicksand.
Look around. Think about what is best for us and our entire community. Step inside the shoes of someone different than you. Ask yourself how you would feel if Trump was reelected when he stands against everything you are. Think about your brother, sister, mother, or best friends. Recognize that when you vote for Biden, you are casting a vote to stand with the LGBTQ+ community. You are casting a vote to show that Black Lives Matter. You are casting a vote to recognize that women deserve a say in what they do with their bodies. You are casting a vote to emphasize that immigrants deserve to be treated as equal. You are casting a vote for science. You are casting a vote for the future.
Kara Bassett ’21 is an English major with an Education minor who plays on the Saint Michael’s Women’s Soccer team. She chose to write about the upcoming election because “I want everyone to vote and use their voice!”
Amidst, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, political polarization, and the racial justice movement, we as students feel the constant strains of society. As a voice for the student body and our community, we feel compelled to report the honest truth whenever we have the opportunity to do so. No amount of backlash, controversy, or difference in opinion will stop us from seeking the truth.
Here’s the truth.
There have been repeated occurrences of racially unjust incidents on this campus that are constantly pushed under the rug by the administration. It is about time we shed light on what’s been hidden in the dark. Incident after incident, we find ourselves questioning the people who teach us and lead us throughout this chapter of our lives, our own professors.
On the first day of the Fall semester, a professor used a racial epithet in class. There was a lack of advocacy shown by professors, and many excuses were made to defend his racist behavior. As journalists, we were told not to report on this incident.
Again, on Friday, Oct. 16, the same racial epithet was used in class by another professor, also in the context of “education.” Five days following this incident, it has yet to be addressed to the student body. (Re: ‘It’s too much pain,’ p.2)
As students, we find ourselves holding our breath for faculty and staff to advocate against these incidents. Why aren’t more professors standing up? We rely on professors to teach us, to guide us. We should also be able to rely on them to advocate for us when we feel like we aren’t in the position to do so.
However, with the recent and perpetual incidents, our fellow classmates, friends, and teammates are being neglected both at a personal level and educational level.
We want racism called out, we want faculty required to attend mandatory training, we want trust restored.
Students are waiting to find out… what will happen next? Will we contin- ue to receive censored emails that are buried in our inboxes? Will we see a difference made by the administration? Will professors speak up? If you are a professor reading this, what will you do to ease the burden of your students?
We will take a stand to report the truth, but will you take a stand to defend it?
As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, we find ourselves living amidst a public health crisis in which death tolls soar, cases increase, and our economy plummets. It has become clear that those hardest hit by the virus are members of marginalized groups including the poor, uninsured, and racial and ethnic minorities. Yet, there is another key group of individuals often left out of the discussion: People living with HIV/AIDS.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with HIV who are on effective HIV treatment have the same risk for COVID-19 as people who do not have HIV. But HIV positive individuals who are not on treatment, or who are not virally suppressed may have a compromised immune system, that makes them vulnerable to severe illnesses such as COVID-19. As reported by HealthGlobal Access Project, of the 38 million people living with HIV worldwide, one in three lacks access to life-saving treatment. Although a cure does not exist for HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep HIV positive individuals healthy for many years by reducing the viral load in their blood and body fluids which in turn, reduces the risk of passing HIV to others. Above all, antiretroviral therapy helps keep the immune system strong and better equipped to fight off severe infections such as COVID-19. For this reason, we must fight to ensure that those living with HIV have access to treatment, particularly in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Here at St. Michael’s College, the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) takes part in the fight for life-saving HIV/AIDS treatment through advocacy and education. Our chapter has been influential in the adoption of progressive AIDS policies through our work with Senator Patrick Leahy, to increase funding to the Global Fund for HIV, TB, and malaria. We continue to fight for our policy objective: To increase funding to the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEP- FAR), a program created in 2003 under the Bush administration, and provided more than $80 billion worth of funding for HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and research. Since its creation, PEP- FAR enabled strong bipartisan support across nine U.S. congresses and three presidential administrations. SGAC seeks to further bipartisan support for PEPFAR through organizing and lobbying, to ensure people living with AIDS are protected under each political administration.
Natalie Bates is a senior political science and sociology double major, and member of SGAC.
Lily Denslow, Secretary of Academics for the Student Government Association sat down over a zoom call while sitting in her vibrant dorm room on Monday Oct. 12.She had recently finished a survey to measure student response to hybrid, in-person, and online classes. The survey includes a lot more too including questions about how students feel about having class in certain places like the Mccarthy arts recital hall.
Denslow said she originally thought that the survey would bring in only 50 responses, However on Monday the total number of responses from the student body was just over 400, “enough to get a pretty decently representative sample of what students are going through this semester,” she said. “I am going to be writing about all of what was put into the survey in a report that is going to the dean of faculty, vice president of academic affairs and probably faculty, information technology, and the Covid Action Network.” Lily also thought that the amount of responses is
The results are widely varied in what students say about hybrid, in person, and online classes for this fall semester. Some students said in the survey they only want in-person classes, “Which obviously can’t be done,” she said. On the other side of the spectrum some students said “Let’s trash in-person for mixed model.” One student wrote “I’ve experienced so many students and professors havingtechnical difficulties that interrupt class time. Here on campus, my WIFI keeps getting bogged down from the sheer band width that it takes to run online classes.” “Students are more likely to not participate,” said Nicholas Johnson 22’ about online classes.
Here are some responses from the student body:
“Help students and professors with mental health please. This situation isn’t easy on everyone, so having more resources available or just being able to talk about it might help”
(About virtual classes) “I don’t feel like I’m actually in class; I feel like I’m just watching an interactive documentary”
“I think that students need constant reminders on appropriate mask wearing. In my in-person class meetings, I’ve seen kids wearing masks only over their mouths, or in some cases around their chin, which is unacceptable.”
Despite my minor in political science and broad daily readings of politically oriented news, I am not a political person. I do not talk politics and if the subject comes up, I remain a neutral contributor, if I contribute at all. Often, I prefer to listen. In the months leading up to the election, my social media feeds have become inundated with political views and peers imploring their followers to vote. These posts swept away almost every other non-political post to the point that I already knew what tapping into Instagram would reveal.
Woven into my mix of friends are the accounts of student-athlete organizations on campus, including SAAC, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which acts as a connection point between the teams on campus, the college, and the NCAA. It came as no surprise when SAAC began to advocate for voting, but their message made me bristle: provide the necessary information for student-athletes, their audience, to register and ultimately vote with an aim of having all student-athletes do so.
Athletes run on competition.
Competing to win is a rallying point, a motivator, and so, with a politically oriented post at my fingertips, naturally it seemed as though SAAC had laid the grounds to compete amongst ourselves in voter turnout. Why not motivate a base of young voters who, in broad terms of young voters, do not vote, by making it a competition?
Over the months, SAAC has followed the lead of our conference, the Northeast-10 (NE-10), in their campaign to #EMBRACEyourVOTE. The campaign provides all of the necessary links to equip student-athletes with the ability to learn how to register, how to do so, and how to vote. The depth of information is admirable because it allows for student-athletes to skip the pains of setting aside time to gather the information for themselves, which is cited as a deterrent for young voters, an opportunity cost, of sorts, where our already laden schedules make itdifficult to make the time to do something else.
In seeing the SAAC initiative to equip student-athletes with the tools to have their vote counted this coming November, and as a non-political person, my own competitive side pushed back against the idea of turning a highly personal decision, voting, into a competition. While these posts never contained a particular orientation or slant toward one candidate or another, at a liberal college, we all know who that vote is for. This election is weighted so heavily because of the two candidates on the ballot and every unknown that hangs in the balance of political turmoil.
With this in mind, I sought to understand the initiative from its origin rather than simply through social media. I spoke with my team’s own representative, fellow senior, and SAAC secretary, Shelagh (Shay) Fluharty, who noted that the intent of the initiative was not at all a competition with the acknowledgement that, for various reasons, not every student-athlete, or student, for that matter, will be able to register and/or to vote. The intent was to simply provide the information, the sense of competition was all mine.
Fluharty directed me to the co-vice president of SAAC, senior member of the Men’s Ice Hockey team, Ethan Hen- drickson, who helped lead the voting initiative on campus. Our conversation emphasized and expanded on the notes Fluharty had already provided, but Hendrickson added a new layer in noting that he didn’t care enough to vote in the previous presidential election, but had he been provided the information to do so he might have.
This is a sentiment that I believe many of us can understand. If the hurdle of learning how to register and to vote is removed, we can focus on the act itself and what the candidates stand to offer. Hendrickson led an initiative around voting to help make it possible for student-athletes to care. If we care collectively, both on campus and across campuses, then our voice is amplified through our right to vote.
If all of us categorized under the broad term of “young people” vote, we wield substantial political power. According to an NPR piece, “Millennials and some members of Gen Z comprise 37% of eligible voters, roughly the same share of the electorate that baby boomers and pre-boomers make up.”
I am not a political person and I bristled at yet another group telling me that I should vote, but SAAC did what many of my friends did not, which was to enable the act through providing the information to vote.
Molly Humiston ’21 is a MJD major with a Political Science minor who plays on the Saint Michael’s Field Hockey team.
When the world is falling apart, the relaxing effects of an array of different substances can be enticing. People are ditching the planes and hotels and instead opting to take a trip on psilocy- bin-containing mushrooms these days. But can you stay safe from COVID-19 when you are buying or selling?
A user can do themself harm by taking a substance, but an entire community can be infected with COVID causing widespread damage.
To get a sense of the situation, I decided to talk with Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety at St. Michael’s College, as well as two drug dealers and one person who buys weed, about their concerns, their ethics, and the safety precautions they have in place.
Weed and mushrooms, if tested and confirmed to be the substances they claim to be, are both physically non-addictive according to the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, and chemically safe according to a 2019 study done by King’s College London. These substances can, however, be psychologically addictive. The physical safety is surprising considering both are federally classified as Schedule I, the harshest classification that can be given by the DEA. But take note, psychological complications can occur if there is a family history of schizophrenia or other serious mental disorders.
Greg Fowler (not his real name), who has been dealing out of northern New York and Vermont for a few years, managed and distributed over ten thousand dollars in drugs since 2020 started. “I’m a firm believer in not touching anything that’s addictive. I would never give anyone anything that I haven’t already tried myself to know that it’s safe. I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt someone.”
COVID-19 has changed some of the dealing experience, Fowler said, noting that he has seen a significant increase in the demand for mushrooms. “Nowadays,” he said, “psychedelics have been super popular because nobody wants to leave the house, so with psychedelics, you can go on a trip without moving.”
Making COVID Changes
“I wasn’t gonna drop out of it. It’s a pretty easy source of income and for the most part, people are pretty respectful.” Fowler said. Focusing on the safety of his customers and the community as a whole during the pandemic has resulted in some changes. The biggest reason why his concerns for his personal safety are low regarding COVID is that he doesn’t have direct contact with customers. “I do the logistics, ordering, and financing.”
Fowler said he has used his contacts and knowledge of managing the back end of drug distribution to make the front end safer for everybody involved. “Instead of dealing with people face to face, a lot of the time what I’ve been doing is processing a lot of custom orders for people,” he said. “I’m basically able to operate on a global scale, if I want to, from the comfort of my own home.” For any in-person sales, Fowler said he requires customers to use a mask, and pay through Venmo or Bitcoin to decrease the length of time required for a sale. But he, along with his suppliers, use a combination of Bitcoin, cash, and Venmo. For the sake of safety and decreasing the length of time required for a sale, he prefers Venmo or Bitcoin. “I always treat everyone like my best friend. You never wanna hurt one of your friends.”
On a smaller scale, Ricky Talbot (not his real name), a student, who sells weed to other students, said that sales have been slow this semester. There’s no demand for anything other than weed, and even weed sales are dwindling. “I feel like there’s less going on because we can’t access everybody’s buildings anymore. I feel like with Pub Safe always being around there’s just less activity happening,” Talbot explained.
Describing the sales, Talbot said it’s a quick turnaround. “They say what’s up and they leave. It’s not really a long interaction.” Sales are definitely down because of that decreased opportunity to sell, he said. “We just kinda stopped pushing because nobody really hits us up anymore. It was popular for the first two weeks of school and now nobody really asks.”
When it comes to spreading COVID-19, it takes at least two. I spoke with another anonymous source, who I’ll call Anthony Trenton, about what it’s like being on the other side of the equation. “I’m in a lower-risk age group,” said Trenton, “so I’m not really as worried but I’ve seen some pretty weird effects on younger people like NBA stars that have breathing problems still months after they’ve had it. That’s kind of worrying to me.”
Describing his own purchases from dealers, Trenton said the interactions are “mostly contactless,” but he added that “most dealers do request cash even in this time which I think is kind of odd.” To some drug dealers, leaving a trail of money through apps like Venmo is worse than the possibility of catching COVID.
“I wear my mask when I’m in my dealer’s residence,” Trenton told me. “They usually do not, that’s kind of their decision. Out of respect, I keep my mask on but it’s their decision to wear it or not in their own residence.”
Without taking the proper precautions, the person who sells him weed could not only give Anthony COVID-19 but also his other customers.
I wanted to talk with Doug Babcock, head of Public Safety at the college, for more information. The main way drugs are discovered on campus is through people with behavioral issues caused by drugs. “I think overall, activity on campus is lower,” he explained. “But I can’t speak to anything specific about the drug trade.”
As for COVID concerns, Babcock said there are no COVID guidelines specifically targeting drug deals, saying “Any restriction we have on campus, beyond what the normal expectations for behavior and life are, that are related to COVID, are related to COVID. Nothing else.”
Babcock’s take on drugs is plain and simple — “Don’t do drugs, don’t buy drugs, and don’t sell drugs. There’s no justification for that on campus.” The federal laws surrounding all drugs, including cannabis, override the state’s choice to allow recreational use. The college and Public Safety have to follow federal guidelines for enforcing drug possession and sales on campus.
For weed, psychedelics, and other non-opioids, “You’re along for the ride and wherever that train goes, you’re going. We had a kid back probably eight or ten years ago now who jumped off the Lime Kiln bridge onto the train tracks and broke both of his legs. It’s brutal,” Babcock recalled. “Safety doesn’t exist.”
Even if you’re sober, you aren’t in the clear. The process of obtaining drugs can go south, fast. “A few years ago we had an incident where someone brought somebody on to campus in reference to a drug deal. It ended up involving a huge mess and the police and the end of educational careers for people,” Babcock told me. “The effects that the person doing this has on their own life are massive.”
But if you do choose drugs, how can you minimize the risk of COVID and protect our campus? “COVID doesn’t care what the deal is, what the product is,” Babcock warned. “It only cares that it gets the chance to be transmitted through the ways that we know and gets limited by the things that we know and have in place on campus.”
Wear a mask, social distance, keep the transfer contactless if possible, and use apps like Venmo, Cashapp, or, if you insist on there being absolutely no paper trail, use a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Ethereum. “COVID is the same whether you’re buying groceries, toys, or drugs,” Babcock said. For the safety of yourself and the campus as a whole, if you’re buying drugs, use the safety precautions that the college enforces in any other interaction on campus.
A survey of 4,000 full-time college students by the Knight Foundation and College Pulsed revealed that 71 percent are “absolutely certain” they will vote in the 2020 election. College-students, many of whom are voting for the first-time, may wonder why many political conversations consistently circle back to the economy.
Ray Kubiak, a portfolio manager (CFA) explains that this election is a strange political era: “There’s a lot of rhetoric, name-calling, and a lot of stuff that’s going on that really doesn’t explain policy, but reflects personality and character,” he said. “As college students, when you are thinking about voting, think about our value system: what do we value more? Which candidate is more in line with our values.”
With this uncertainty and lack of policy, Marc Law, professor of economics at the University of Vermont says the symbolic concept of a leader is important. “There is a great suspicion that Trump doesn’t represent the values of a lot of people. While economics is there and we are in the midst of a recession, there are a lot of other issues that might dominate most people’s minds,” he said.
Students may vote for a number of reasons, from the pandemic to social justice issues. “I just sent in my ballot last week. For me, my determination for voting was dependent on other issues that I am passionate about. For example civil rights issues and whether or not the candidate believes in the science right now of both climate change and with the virus,” said biology major, Ashley McCormick ’21.
“If students are looking at the economy and wanting to base their vote in part on what is going to help the economy, you have to take a step back to say what can my vote do to address the pandemic.” -Patrick Walsh , professor of economics
Why Should You Care?
Roughly one-sixth of the U.S population has a student loan with a cumulative $1.5 trillion in Federal student loan debt in addition to the $119 billion in student loans from private sources, according to the Center for American Progress. The average college student leaves school with around $30,000 in student debt.
“When it comes to student loans, I have not heard much from either party at least from the news I watched. I wish it was broadcasted more and it was more of an issue that was talked about,” said McCormick.
With the current state of the economy in recession, Devon Carroll, senior accountant (CPA) at a private equity firm says it will be more difficult for college-students to receive student loans in the future.“The banks won’t want to lend as much money to people. If they think there is a potential of you losing your job. They are afraid you won’t be able to pay them back and will be less likely to give you a loan,” she said.
The Democratic party presidential candidate, Joe Biden and vice president candidate Kamala Harris are campaigning that for families earning less than $125,000, public colleges and universities will be tuition-free. In August 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to suspend federal loan interest and payments until December 31, 2020. However, Law says that he wouldn’t count on Biden and Harris’s plan for public college and universities to be tuition free within the lines of their campaign, specifically because of the economic crash from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recession is when the economy experiences rising levels of unemployment and negative gross domestic product (GDP) for an extended period of time; however experts say it is a part of the inevitable business cycle, according to Forbes. “All these big problems go away once COVID-19 goes away. That is the big cloud that is hanging over all of us,” said Kubiak.
When thinking about the future of the economy, Patrick Walsh professor of economics at St. Michael’s college says the economy is very dependent on how the pandemic is handled. “The evidence suggests that there are plenty of developed countries who have done a lot better than we have,” said Walsh. “If students are looking at the economy and wanting to base their vote in part on what is going to help the economy, you have to take a step back to say what can my vote do to address the pandemic,” he continued.
The economic state of America will potentially affect graduating seniors. With the current unemployment rate at 7.9 percent in comparison to the average unemployment rate around four percent, according to the U.S Department of Labor, 2021 graduates may wonder how this will affect them getting a job out of school. “Having a college degree is a tremendous leg up in the job market,” said Walsh. “For college students the unemployment rate is only half of what it would be for someone with a high school degree,” he said.
McCormick said she is not as worried about the unemployment rates because her professors have provided her with hope. “I am lucky because I have heard from many of my science professors that the job market with newly science graduates is good because all of the jobs that have opened up for epidemic research.”
“As college-students, when you are thinking about voting, think about which candidate is more in line with our values.” -Ray Kubiak , portfolio manager
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic the theater department at St. Michael’s College has decided that “the show must go on” by finding new COVID safe ways to put on their fall production.
This semester’s production is the play “Mill Girls” which was created by theater professor Peter Harrigan through the use of primary source materials and featuring musical score by Burlington pianist Tom Cleary.
“We are changing everything, live performance is one of the most difficult things to do in the current pandemic and was one of the first things to shut down, and it will probably be one of the last things to open back up,” said John Devlin professor of fine arts as well as a resident designer and technical director in the theater department. “This is simply because it is a recipe for disaster, you are bringing 350 people into a room and have them breathe together for two hours, which is not a good thing with COVID.” The play tells the story of the lives of 19th century girls who worked in the mills of New England towns.The play first premiered on campus in November of 2017 for large crowds. But, due to the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic the format of the play will now be an online video project, so that it can be executed in a safe and socially distant manner.
“ so much of the energy of a performance comes from having an audience there. We have signs in the theater of all the seats you can’t sit on and when you look at it there are not that many left. It wouldn’t be much of a show even if we did have one because everybody would be so spread out and then even the actors on stage would be spread out,” said Harrigan.
Since there is no chance of a live performance the theater department has planned for what they feel will be the next best thing, an online video production that will be edited together and then uploaded to YouTube.
“One of the challenges is that we are moving from a live stage performance to a film essentially. Neither Peter nor I have ever worked in film before and so it changes everything about the way in which we think about the scenes and the way in which we can think about staging those scenes,” Devlin said. “But, the hope is that it has a longer shelf life then our usual productions and it is something that could potentially be used in educational settings for high schools, as it is talking about the early labor movement in the United States. We are looking specifically at young women who were moving off the farm into town and going to work in the mills,” Devlin said.
Student actors must also take the necessary precautions to remain safe from the COVID-19 virus. This includes wearing masks while acting in group settings, even when singing. This led to some students creating masks which are specially made for singers.
“Singing is kind of a unique thing because you really need to be able to use your mouth and lips in a way that most masks wouldn’t allow you to do,” Harrigan said. “ So, these masks have almost a little duck bill, like it sort of sticks way out in front of you and has wire in it and has some plastic structure in it so that you have room to sort of do what your mouth needs to do in order to sing.
“We are making singers masks for the mill girls themselves and the masks will actually match their costumes” said HarriganThe student spearheading the creation of the singer’s masks is Dove Frishkoff ‘23 who is in Harrigan’s costume design course. Frishkoff has had a lot of prior experience with sewing, but had no prior experience with singer’s masks.
“Over quarantine I ordered a few professionally made masks that basically look like a duck bill that projects out at the mouth. So I put that on a piece of design paper and then just marked out the design and started figuring out how I could make one. Peter as soon as I made the one decided we needed eight, so that threw me for a little bit of a loop. I said alright and I guess I will try to make eight of these things” said Frishkoff.
Though Frishkoff has a lot on his plate with only a few of his peers willing to help take on the challenging task of creating these masks, he said he is up for the challenge. “I’m definitely getting ready for this industry through challenges like this,” said Frishkoff. Regular masks are also being made for actors in the play who will not be singing, many of which have designs on them which playfully relate to their characters.
Despite all of the challenges that come with trying to put on a production during a global pandemic, both the students and faculty involved are excited to have an opportunity to practice their craft.
“I think every student at St. Mike’s is dealing with the challenges of COVID. S,tudents in the performing arts are being impacted in ways similar to the athletes on campus. For athletes the game is what you play for and for performing artists the performance with the audience present in the same space is what we go for. So, we are suffering some of the same challenges. It’s different from many academic departments and programs who are struggling to figure out how to deliver the information, we are dealing with that as well as struggling with how to produce our craft” said Devlin.
“I think we’re all getting a little antsy and we are almost seven months in now,” Harrigan said. “. For the people who are in the play it is really a wonderful release just singing with other people. I was disappointed at first because the play was very successful last time that we couldn’t have in-person shows, but I think this way people’s grandparents, family, and cousins can watch it” said Harrigan.