April 2021


By Ashley DeLeon– Executive Editor

The College community gathered at 7 p.m. last Tuesday for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the death of George Floyd. This came hours after the Minnesota state court convicted Derek Chauvin on three counts of murder. Students, faculty and staff members stood in silence for nine minutes and 29 seconds, the exact amount of time Derek Chauvin’s knee was placed on Floyd’s neck. 

Fr. Michael Carter led the vigil with an address to the community, beginning with a prayer and then a personal reflection. Watch more at

By Connor Torpey

Arts & Culture Editor

Hello intrepid readers of the St. Michaels Defender, today I have for you an extraordinary story, one that can only be told in the context of video. You see, I have been tasked with proving the existence of a ghost in Canterbury to my roommates. For some reason they believe me to be causing disturbances in the suite, disturbances mind you that can only be caused by extraplanar beings (i.e. missing leftovers in the fridge, dropping someone’s toothbrush in the toilet, breaking a chair and repairing it with scotch tape). If these accusations against me are not proven to be false, my suitemates are prepared to have me evicted from the suite.

Thankfully, I have recently declared my major as Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts, with an emphasis in journalism. Because of journalistic integrity I can no longer tell a lie, and only believe in the truth. Truth is all that exists in my mind now, all and any nonfactual statements and ideas have been flushed out of my mind and have been replaced with only hunger for a clearer view on reality. Why are puppies cute? Why is the sky blue? Is the earth really round? If dinosaurs existed how come I’ve never seen one? Who or what is haunting Canterbury hall? These are the questions that I must and will answer, and if I can’t I’ll find myself looking for new housing.

Spring play allows for in-person seating for the first time in a year

By Finn McGillivray

News Editor

On Thursday, March 25 the Department of Fine Arts debuted their production of “Silent Sky”. The play, written by Lauren Gunderson, is based on the true story of Henrietta Leavitt, an American astronomer whose work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s contributed to significant scientific breakthroughs in her field. Though she did not always receive credit due to the male-dominated nature of the scientific community at that time, it was in large part her discoveries that allowed us to understand the size of our universe.

In addition, to live streaming the event, a format that has become the norm for all live performances during the past year, the show was also open for in-person viewing to a limited number of members within the St. Michael’s community. Despite the masked actors and socially distanced audience, the show provided a refreshing taste of pre-pandemic normalcy for those in attendance.

“It’s really good I think for the students who are involved in the show to be able to have the feedback of a live audience,” said the show’s director John Devlin, professor of Fine Arts. He detailed some of the logistical challenges they overcame, including having to hold auditions online, as well as one of the actors being quarantined just weeks before the show’s opening.“It set us back a little bit but we took it in stride, and we were able to keep working forward,” he said. “We made lemonade.”

Benoit Fumeoux ’22, who was surprised by the precision of the acting on stage, described his impression of the performance. “I found it was cool that we could go in person because following theatre online is not exactly the same.” With regard to the KN95 masks dawned by the cast, he was surprised that they didn’t take away from the experience. “I noticed at the beginning because I was thinking it would be hard to speak with a mask, but I understood everything,” Fumeoux said.

“Normally you show your emotion through the face, but they showed the emotion differently, through their body language. It took nothing away from the play.”

The play’s lead Mckenzie Rowbotham ’24 described the novelty of the experience from her perspective as a performer. “Normally I’m never nervous before opening night, but I think the fact that I hadn’t performed live on stage in over a year contributed to that initial nervousness,” she said. She detailed the hurdles that masking and socially distancing created for the performers.

“I think because we practiced with the masks, they just sort of became a part of the costume for me, and thus a part of my character,” Rowbotham said. “There were so many times when I felt like there should be some sort of hug in a scene, and other actors felt it too, but we had to abstain in order to stay healthy.”

For students interested in attending an upcoming show in person, there will be two student-directed projects opening in McCarthy in the coming weeks. Limited in-person seating will be available if possible depending on COVID levels.

By Ashley DeLeon
Executive Editor

Logan Hailey ’23, his roommate, and a friend were smoking marijuana in an Alumni Hall dorm when they heard a loud knock. They opened the door to two public safety officers who noticed a towel under the door. The officers asked if non-household members were present, and if there was marijuana in the living space. Hailey said yes. He handed a bag of marijuana to the officers, and they made him flush it down the toilet. After they left, Hailey slammed the door out of frustration. 

Someone knocked on Hailey’s door again. The officers had returned. “That’ll be $500 for disrespect,” an officer said. 

     In total, the cumulative fines added up to over $800. 

     “We do have the authority to issue a ticket for disrespectful behavior, and that is left broad by the College intentionally,” said Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety. 

     Hailey’s case is one of several, as fines are becoming an increasingly large issue for students living on campus at St. Michael’s College. Babcock declined to comment on the cumulative number of fines students received this year, but noted a high prevalence of COVID violations. Each COVID violation warrants a $250 fine and probationary status.

     “I feel comfortable saying, you know, there’s 30 to 40 COVID violations a week. And we’ve had between 10 and 15 students a week miss testing,” said Jeff Vincent, director of Residence Life and Community Standards. Vincent explained that within 30 to 40 violations, one violation can include ten people, for example, leading to an overwhelming number of sanctions. Household violations and off-campus guests on campus are the most common violations this year. 

     “The number is high. Too high,” he said. 

     Students claim, however, that they are fined for offenses they believe are unwarranted, and have led people to speculate why Public Safety is cracking down. Public Safety is rumored to receive financial benefits from fines. According to Babcock, this information is false. 

     “No fines whatsoever come back to the department in any form of revenue or budget,” he said. 

     Though an interaction may involve a Public Safety officer, or a report leads to a fine, Babcock explained that it is not always accurate to assume that Public Safety is issuing the fine. The director of Public Safety also denied rumors of a quota system put in place to make up for a budget deficit. “None of that is true. That has nothing to do with the way we do business,” he stated. 

     What students don’t understand, according to Babcock, is that most types of violations that lead to fines are levied by the Office of Student Conduct. “Public Safety has a very small number of things that we can write for citations and that we issue fines on,” he said. 

     At heart, each fine issued is an invitation for conversation, Babcock explained. “When we’re dealing with folks out in whatever space they’re in and whatever the reason we were called, it’s often not when everybody’s having their best day for one reason or another,” he said. Babcock uses this as an opportunity to educate people, and in some instances, the fine is waived.

Tensions between students and officers

     “I’ve always had respect for Public Safety, but the way I was treated made me feel like less of a person,” Hailey said. 

     The public safety officers coerced Hailey to open drawers and search his room for additional marijuana after he verbally expressed that none was left, he said. After they watched him search the room and claimed there was marijuana hidden, the officers realized that Hailey was telling the truth. He was then led to the bathroom and asked to flush what was previously handed to the officers.

     “I’m not even mad that they got us for doing something we really weren’t supposed to do, like smoking weed. You know, it’s off the rules. I was more mad about how they treated us,” Hailey explained. 

    The interaction with Public Safety had a particular impact on Hailey’s roommate. “For most of the week [when the incident occurred], I felt really on edge and had bad anxiety. I had nightmares for days,” said Julian Harris ’23.

     Tensions between students and Public Safety officers has been a contentious topic of conversation on campus, with some claiming that Public Safety is on a “power trip.” 

     People have also expressed concerns with the intentions of officers, and if their intent is deeper than wanting to keep the community safe. 

     “I think the incentive changed. Like last semester went from trying to keep students safe and helping them, and this semester was like trying to get kids in trouble, get part of that 250 dollar fine,” said Kenny Cesar ’22.

     Cesar explained an encounter he had with Public Safety, where he was caught in a residence hall other than his own. 

     “A Public Safety officer that’s been here for like a couple of years was like, ‘yeah, just leave… I don’t want you here. You shouldn’t be here,’” Cesar said. 

     For Julia Fitzgerald ’22, the switch in the behavior of officers, compared to her freshman year, is clear, she said. “[In the past], I remember them wanting to just make sure we’re OK, make sure everything was safe. And now it feels like they just have a bit of a power trip issue going on,” Fitzgerald explained. Within the past few years, she noticed many new, younger officers on campus. “I think that has really affected the way they treat us,” she said.

     “Whether or not conflicts between Public Safety officers and students are on the rise or of a different tone or nature, I don’t have statistics to verify,” Babcock said.  

     Regardless of the conflicts between officers and students, however, Babcock attributes the perceptions of hostility to the lack of bonding activities between officers and students due to COVID-19.

     “We have not been able to conduct our usual outreach activities such as the campus safety field day, pizza social, Fresh Check day and more. When we are able to hold those events again, I believe we will see a positive shift in relations,” Babcock said.  

     In the meantime, Babcock wants everyone to remember that COVID-19 has created a very stressful environment that has changed our daily lives, disrupted our rhythm, and heightened overall stress and anxiety.  

     “We must all work to get through this together,” he said.

By Jackson Stoever

Videography Editor

In our culture, turning 21 is a huge milestone and is considered an achievement for all adults. With the impending superpower of adulthood within my grasp, I will be able to (legally) fuel myself with alcohol and if questioned, whip out my junior operator’s license with a 17-year-old me on the front to prove that I am in fact, a big kid now.

With the COVID-19 restrictions in place on campus, I had prepared myself weeks before my birthday that it may not live up to the “hype” that a 21st birthday would normally have. I anticipated that my birthday would blend with every other day that has passed amidst the pandemic. I knew that I would be turning 21, but would it truly feel like I was? Don’t I need a massive celebration to accommodate for such a milestone?

Nevertheless, there I was on Thursday March 25 at 11:30 p.m. too excited to fall asleep. I had the same butterflies in my stomach that I have every year. You would think that after 20 birthdays I would be over it by now, but there is nothing like anticipation of turning a year older to get you all antsy. I laid awake, watching the time go by on my phone. In 30 minutes, I would be the first to congratulate myself on turning the infamous 21.

I did not make it to midnight.

I woke up the next day. March 26. My 21st birthday. The first few birthday texts had rolled in. Since God was holding onto my social media profiles for safe keeping during Lent, I had to leave the rest of the birthday wishes up to my imagination.

With my birthday residing during spring break each year, I was not accustomed to waking up early and groggily stumbling to my classes. Alas, just as I had survived 20 years of being me, I survived my weekly two-and-a-half-hour lecture on the bubonic plague.

Now that all that was out of the way, it was time for a birthday dinner of champions. Together, with a (small) party of seven, I made my way to my favorite restaurant, Texas Roadhouse. After patiently waiting in a very cramped car for our party to be called in, we were seated and given time to look over the menu. Within minutes, the waiter returned and asked for our selection of drinks.

This was the big moment. So many options were at my fingertips as I glanced through the menu at the brightly colored beverages. Without much thought, I settled for a “Kenny’s Cooler,” the most vibrant of the selection.

Part of me wants to say that I chose it for the contents, but the deciding factor was that it was blue.
When asked for a form of identification by the waiter, I proudly handed over my debit card. After a proper teasing from my table, I vocally proclaimed that I would get used to this process eventually.

Dinner was great. I felt the most “normal” since arriving on campus this year. At the end of the meal, in classic Texas Roadhouse fashion, the staff brought out a saddle, customary for all birthday celebrations. The concept of this saddle is simple. The birthday girl or boy hops up on the imaginary horse while the staff announces your birthday to the entire restaurant. From there, they proceed to make a big deal about the occasion as if it were your 21st birthday or something. The saddle was unusually comfortable.

With COVID precautions in effect, the party slowly dwindled in numbers after dinner and I eventually found myself back in my room at a reasonable hour.

Admittingly, there was not a bad thing to be said about the night that ensued. I had expected a lackluster birthday; one that was to be celebrated virtually or even by myself. Though the safety of myself and my friends was always a concern, I did not find myself worrying about such problems the entire night.

The party did not end there.

The next day, my parents and girlfriend met up with me for the second installment of my birthday celebration. Upon arrival, I was gifted with their presence, and a carload of gifts and a fair share of snacks for those long nights. It felt good to follow through on a request from my mom that she had asked of me the night before.

“Don’t be hungover,” she texted.

It did not take long until the celebrating continued with a family lunch at Ken’s Pizzeria on Church Street in Burlington. Afterwards, we walked the crowded streets of Burlington, window-shopping for the sake of spending more time together. I was surprised to see the amount of people in the streets that day. It was as if the world suddenly opened back up after its extended time away.

When it finally came time for them to head home, I realized that my 21st birthday had finally come to a close. Though prolonged over two days, it felt more like one long day to me.

Despite the circumstances, it was the best birthday ever. This was the big one. The one to remember. There was no need for a massive party for that day to be remembered. There was no reason to black out after a long townhouse excursion. Not only was there no reason, but I simply did not find it necessary. With all the hype that this milestone brings with it, I felt as though I owed it to everyone who has ever been in my shoes to celebrate harder than I had ever before.

The day came and went in a heartbeat and I was satisfied. I feel as though having such a landmark of a birthday amidst a global pandemic made me aware of what truly matters.

Rapid vaccine distribution in Vermont

By Jacob Perkins

Staff Writer

On March 13, 2020, St. Michael’s College students were sent home for Spring break, and wouldn’t return due to the national outbreak of COVID-19. One year later, a vaccine for the virus that has taken over 500,000 lives is being distributed nationwide.

The time for students to get vaccinated is approaching. According to the Vermont Department of Health, the vaccine will be available to any Vermonter 16 years and older beginning on April 19.
While many students are waiting to receive their vaccine, there are a few who received theirs earlier.

Christain Vogt ’23, received his vaccine due to his role within the St. Michael’s College Fire Department.

“Initially…I kind of thought it [COVID-19] was something like a flu and probably not that bad, until I actually did some research,” he said. Vogt learned about the preliminary results and potential fatality rates, and discovered just how serious it really was. “Then I was like, oh no, this is actually something bad,” he said.

“After the first one [dose], my arm was sore for a day. After the second one, I felt like I had caught a bad flu for a day and a half,” he said “The night was pretty rough and the day after that, but after that it went as quickly as it came.”

Kurt Dirmaier ’23 also received the vaccine, and said that he experienced mild symptoms after the second dose. “I felt pretty tired for about a day,” he said.

Rosemary Marr ’23 who has chronic Lyme Disease, wanted to get the vaccine to not only protect herself, but others as well. “I wanted to get the vaccine because both my mom and I have compromised immune systems, so if either of us got sick it would be really scary,” she said.
Marr said she would feel awful if she was an asymptomatic carrier and transmitted it to someone else.

On March 29, Mary Masson stated, via email, that “there is no indication from the State of Vermont that colleges will hold vaccine clinics for students before May. That said, all persons 16 years of age and older can register for the vaccine as of April 19.”

When asked if it will be mandatory for students to have the vaccine next fall, Mary Masson answered via email, “We’re not sure yet. Stay tuned!”

At a press conference on March 30, Governor Phil Scott stated in a press conference that college students in Vermont who “maintain their out-of-state status” cannot be vaccinated.

Out-of-state college students would be considered state residents if they stay in Vermont over the summer.

Liz Winterbauer, a public health instructor at St. Michael’s College, stated that “there is no public health rationale for this decision.” Winterbauer further commented, “Everyone in the state is transmitting the virus, and what we need to do right now is reduce transmission.”

Mary Masson, of the Bergeron Wellness Center, when asked about this statement said, “Know that we as colleges are fighting hard on this issue.”

After receiving a vaccine, the Vermont Department of Health advises people to continue using face masks and practice social distancing. New strains of the virus are still emerging, and further research must be done to see how effective the vaccines are against them, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

The B117 strain or the U.K. strain, poses a 61 percent higher risk of a 28 day mortality and is more contagious than the original strain.

As of April 4, there have been 30.7 million confirmed cases and 554,000 confirmed deaths in the United States. To put in perspective, 554 thousand is 88.7 percent of the population of Vermont
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, stated at a White House briefing, “I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom,” due to rising cases in the U.S.

According to the CDC, the U.S had reached 60,000 COVID-19 cases a day and cases have risen quickly in the north east.

As college President Lorraine Sterritt stated at the March 25 Town Hall, though the vaccines are a “light at the end of this long tunnel… we are regrettably not out of the woods.”

To register for a vaccine appointment, visit the Vermont Department of Health’s website, click COVID-19,” After, press “Vaccine” on the left sidebar, then click “Vaccine appointments.”

A driver’s license or any form of state-issued ID that contains name, age, state residency, and health insurance, if possible, is necessary for an appointment.

Association fails to meet quorum last week

By Bobby Grady

Staff Writer

A list of demands for racial justice were presented at the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting on March 23. Due to low Senate attendance, the SGA failed to meet quorum.

This is the second time in the College’s history that the SGA Senate failed to meet quorum.

The list of demands are centered around “propagating a greater sense of feeling and belonging,” according to James Russo ’21, secretary of Student Policy. Russo has held an SGA position for two years.

In order to even vote on these matters, Senate meetings must meet quorum. “A quorum is when we have half plus one sitting Senate members attend an SGA meeting, anything less and the only votes than can be held are those regarding adjournment,” Russo said. Essentially, without the quorum, nothing can be voted on. On March 23, an emergency meeting was held to vote on the demands, and the SGA failed to meet quorum due to lack of attendance.

Last Tuesday, they met quorum. The SGA debated and voted on several significant issues. The first vote that occurred was the approval of last week’s minutes, followed by a vote to approve the list of demands presented the previous week. The motions passed. Next, the Senate voted to suspend four clubs and terminate two. A club can be suspended or terminated for violating the SGA constitution, or if the club violates a federal or state law. Clubs can also be suspended or terminated if they are inactive. Suspended clubs still exist, but cannot access their funding until they prove to the Senate that they are able to meet the requirements needed for club status, according to Russo. A terminated club will no longer exist.

Last week, the clubs voted for termination and suspension were all inactive. The motion to suspend the Business Society, Psychology Club, Knitting Club and Track club passed. Water Polo and the Japanese Culture Club were terminated.

Following suspensions and terminations was the impeachment of a first-year representative. However, there was not much debate, as the member being impeached had transferred schools and never officially resigned from SGA. This forced the SGA to commence the impeachment trials.
Normally, SGA Senate meetings at St. Michael’s College are filled with students in Cheray 101 debating ideas that can benefit student life. Though COVID-19 forced the SGA to hold all meetings virtually, members of the organization are still working to safely engage with the student body.

In its simplest form, the SGA is a student organization composed of elected class officers, club and area representatives, faculty and staff advisors, and an appointed executive board. Members of the SGA meet to discuss how they can improve the college experience and address student concerns. The purpose of the SGA is to be a liaison between the student body and administration. The organization also works to ensure strong feelings of belonging for every student.

Despite all the SGA has accomplished at Senate meetings, they are not as lively as they used to be. Throughout Russo’s tenure, the sounds of strong debate amongst the Senate are familiar, but not as lively now that meetings are held over Zoom.

Though engagement is lower, according to Russo, the productivity of the meetings has not slowed down at all. “I’d say this has probably been one of the most productive e-boards in recent years,” he said.

Russo is not the only one who noticed these changes.

Tenley Mazerolle ’21, secretary of finance and veteran member of the SGA, has also noticed that discussions at Senate meetings haven’t been as active as they have been in the past, but the SGA is still accomplishing what they need to.

“The Senate would ask a lot more questions and just be more involved during my first and second year,” Mazerolle said. But much like Russo, she suspects that COVID has impacted the engagement of the Senate. “The end of last year and all of this year was totally different because of COVID,” she said.

Russo said he is hopeful that next year will be different. He is confident that the incoming executive board will be able to transition back into in-person Senate meetings.

“I have high hopes for the SGA moving forward because we have adapted very well … and I see nothing but better things coming once COVID rolls over,” Russo said. A big change the SGA had to overcome was how to get work done remotely. They were able to persevere through this when they released the COVID student learning survey last semester, and all of the work that went into making and distributing the survey online.

The SGA has helped many people and those who have participated are able to take their experience and use it in the real world. Rob Robinson, vice president of finance, has been an SGA advisor for over 10 years, and has witnessed how the SGA can impact students and help them develop leadership and organizational skills to help them in careers after College.
He worked with Nicole Ouellette, former secretary of finance for two years, and she went on to work at the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium after graduation. Her work there includes finding “points of collaboration,” Robinson said, and that “it was great to see someone like Nicole get a first out of college job at the consortium.”

By Mikey Halligan

Managing & Visual Design Editor

A couple of weekends ago on a Saturday night, I was hanging out with some friends at their townhouse along with two or three other people that lived elsewhere. I hadn’t been there for long and I was planning on leaving when a group of three Public Safety officers knocked on both the front and back door, came inside, and had us cornered in the common room.

My friends and I answered all of their questions respectfully and didn’t want to give them a hard time. They asked for our KnightCards. While the officer was taking photos of our KnightCards, we were still getting interrogated by the other two officers, with questions like: “Who said Pub Safe was coming;” and “Who was looking through the window?” We had no idea what they were talking about. I had never been interrogated by Public Safety like this before. I thought the only reason why students would be annoyed and frustrated at Public Safety was because students wanted to have fun and Public Safety was just shutting it down, but I quickly learned there was more to it than that.

After I got my KnightCard back, the officer asked who doesn’t live here. Three other students and I raised our hands. The officer moved closer to us, looked at us with a power-hungry stare in his eyes and told us to “get the f*** out!” That’s when I realized it’s more than just parties getting shut down, it’s the lack of respect that Public Safety has towards the students, and that’s why the students have this lack of respect towards Public Safety.

For the most part, Public Safety and students have been butting heads since I was a freshman, and I’m sure there has been conflict long before my time at St. Michael’s as well. But this semester is like no other. The pandemic has brought challenges that the students, Public Safety and the school as a whole have never had to deal with until this year, and it’s taking a toll on everyone.

I understand that I was in the wrong for being at my friend’s townhouse, but if Public Safety handled the situation with a more understanding and sympathetic tone, then the situation didn’t have to play out as it did. The officers made it seem like a good idea to surround and interrogate us, made me feel like I was a prisoner at my own school.

With tension building up recently around the high number of weekly student COVID violations, and the students getting frustrated over strict and sometimes unclear school rules, patience and overall respect between both parties has recently declined. It is not all Public Safety’s fault, however. Students have to understand that Public Safety is just doing their jobs. There have been a lot of COVID violations so far this semester, some weeks averaging 30 to 40 violations.

I understand why Public Safety and the school is frustrated at the student body. It is important to keep in mind, though, that we aren’t breaking these rules just to break rules. We are doing it because we are struggling. We are struggling mentally and emotionally during a global pandemic that has surpassed a year, and we are being told to not see friends and socialize in ways that support our positive mental health.

Public Safety and the school have said in many different ways that they sympathize with us, understand how we feel, and want us to be on campus. But it is hard to believe when we continue the same overwhelming routine every week.

Something needs to change. There needs to be a more equal level of patience, respect and understanding towards both parties if we want to salvage some kind of positive college experience. If Public Safety shows a little more understanding towards the students, then tension doesn’t need to rise and respect doesn’t have to fall. I’d like to think of Public Safety officers as allies I can turn to, but I need them to respect me and my fellow students and understand what we are going through before I can start thinking that way again.

By Julia Callini

Staff Writer

Brendan Looney ’23 laid in bed and stared at the ceiling, wondering why he couldn’t get up. For an entire week, he experienced nausea, fatigue and shortness of breath. He had never been this sick before.

The cause was a vape, a small piece of plastic with a battery and a nicotine extract and it would make him reexamine his entire way of life.

“I knew exactly what the issue was,” Looney said. “I was vaping these manmade and unnatural chemicals which were affecting my immune system.”

The start of Looney’s nicotine dependence dates back to high school. Looney didn’t want to vape, but his friends persuaded him to try it. At first, he vaped once every few hours. At the time of his highest consumption, this number grew to 30 times a day– or twice an hour.

“I would get an itch in the middle of class, and I would just have to go to the bathroom, take my JUUL out, rip it,” Looney said. “It was easy, simple, and felt good.”

The e-cigarette, more commonly known as a vape, was invented in 2003 to wean tobacco smokers off traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, many vapes have a higher concentration of nicotine than a tobacco cigarette.

“High concentration nicotine vape acts as a conduit for a younger generation of folks to switch over to smoking cigarettes,” said Ari Kirshenbaum, professor of psychology and psychopharmacology. “There are concerns that vaping is renormalizing smoking and nicotine use once again,” he said.

Vapes are specifically dangerous to adolescents from ages 12-17. In this period of development, nicotine can cause lasting neurobiological changes, and increase susceptibility to having a substance dependence later in life, Kirshenbaum said.

Looney became nicotine dependent at sixteen years old. He started vaping with a JUUL, a vape popular with young adults because of its small size, fruity taste and discreet smell. The JUUL was created in 2015 and was an instant success.

The Truth Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nicotine prevention, found that in 2018, JUULs made up 75 percent of all e-cigarette sales. Adolescents from age 15 -17 are 16 times more likely to have tried a JUUL than a user ages 25-34, said the Truth Initiative. A single JUUL pod has 40 milligrams of nicotine, which is the equivalent to 20 tobacco cigarettes, says UnhypedVT, an organization working to prevent vaping in teens.

Nicotine consumption impacts several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, a neurotransmitter that sends pleasure messages between neurons, and acetylcholine and serotonin, two chemicals responsible for memory.

Many students claim that nicotine products help them focus and improve academic performance, but Kirshenbaum says otherwise.

“No, [nicotine] is not going to improve your grades,” Kirshenbaum said. “It’s just going to make it more likely that you’re just going to get your work done faster, so that then you can drink and party more.”

According to Kirshenbaum, vape users are more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorders, better known as ADHD, because they are trying to lessen their concentration deficit. Instead of turning to a nicotine product, Kirshenbaum urges people who believe they have a concentration problem to visit a doctor and see if they’re eligible for a stimulant prescription.

Although vapes were originally thought to be safer than tobacco cigarettes, vapes often have a higher concentration of nicotine than their tobacco counterparts, Kirshenbaum said. The highest legal dose of nicotine in a vape is 18 milligrams per milliliter. Compared to a tobacco cigarette, a user could consume more nicotine in a single puff of vape than in a single puff of a cigarette. In fact, the JUUL patent says “nicotine salt formulation provides satisfaction comparable to smoking a traditional cigarette.”

For many nicotine users, stopping their dependency on the substance is the biggest obstacle they’ll face. In fact, 75 percent of smokers who try to quit cannot, said Kirshenbaum.

“On a scale of one to ten, [the difficulty of quitting] was a 15,” Looney said.

Kirshenbaum suggests that users who are serious about quitting should talk to a doctor and receive the help of a medical professional. He also notes that data has pointed to nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum and patches, being a good way to quit.

Like other nicotine dependents, Looney’s road to quitting hasn’t been easy or straightforward. He put down the pen for over a year, but in the throws of college, picked up the pen once more. He decided to leave vaping behind him last year after catching the flu, and experiencing severe symptoms. However, Looney couldn’t give the habit up immediately.

“I still had cravings for [a vape] after I got all healthy,” Looney said. “I was still using, but I kept telling myself, “you were almost dying last week, and you’re out here doing the same thing now.” I know that if I want to be here later, I have to take care of myself now.”

Currently, Looney does whatever he can to stop himself from picking up a vape. He distracts himself by hanging out with friends, playing video games, or doing homework. He recently picked up photography, which allows him to explore campus and appreciate the outdoors. He also enjoys playing with his dogs.

“Animals bring me a satisfaction that vaping can’t,” Looney said.

A critical part of quitting is having a team of people who support the journey to sobriety, which can include doctors, psychotherapists, family, friends, and significant others, said Kirshenbaum. Many users turn to support groups when trying to quit. The Bergeron Wellness Center. However, there currently isn’t a support group at St. Michael’s College for substance abuse of any kind, whether it be nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs.

“If this school offered a support group, I would have gone,” Looney said. “About 60% of my friends here vape, and most of them [are fine], but there’s another few of them that are like, ‘well, I don’t really want to keep doing this, but I have nowhere to go.’” he said.

By Hannah Bishop

Staff Writer

With the recent increase in anti-racism movements and calls for racial justice locally, national and internationally, faculty and staff at St. Michael’s College have created new initiatives on campus. Two of the main groups rising to the occasion include the Racial Justice Task Force (RJTF) and the Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC).

“The creation of the RJTF was my idea,” said Margaret Bass, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, and chair of the Racial Justice Task Force. “When I presented the proposal to the administration, I received complete support,” Bass explained.

“All members of the RJTF hold in common commitments to social justice and to a definition of diversity and inclusion that includes all marginalized and underrepresented populations in our nation and on our campus,” Bass said.

Bass wanted people to recognize that although we must remain vigilant with regard to diversity and inclusion, racial diversity and racial justice are two of the most apparent and urgent needs of our campus community.

“We work toward a campus community that welcomes BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and that fosters kindness and care for others. We also make it clear that each person has the responsibility to work toward the eradication of racial intolerance and injustice,” she explained.
Already, the group has stepped up to create change in our campus community. From the creation of several reading groups focused on anti-racism, to an affinity group for BIPOC faculty and staff, to working with departments and Human Resources toward recruiting BIPOC faculty, the Racial Justice Task Force has made an imprint on campus, and have even recruited three African American adjunct faculty members.

“Our greatest achievement, however, is the Edmundite Graduate Fellowship for African-American Scholars.”

The Edmundite Graduate Fellows Program for African American Scholars is a program that welcomes scholars in the final stages of their doctoral work to the SMC community to jumpstart their careers. Scholars are further provided a stipend of $20,000, housing, health benefits, and up to $3,000 toward relocation expenses.

This program understands that a diverse faculty enriches the learning environment as a whole by bringing underrepresented voices and perspectives into our community. “Indeed, it is the obligation of a quality liberal arts institution to include those perspectives and voices as part of the educational experience,” the program outline states.

“There’s so much work to do with regard to recruitment and retention of faculty and staff. We’re making some progress, but we need faculty departments, in particular, to support this work. I hope that SMC won’t need an RJTF in five years,” she said.

The Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC), is an emerging collective of St. Michael’s faculty and staff, who share an interest in recognizing, uprooting and dismantling racism on our campus.
Goals of the Anti-Racism Coalition aim to not only listen to BIPOC colleagues and students, but to amplify BIPOC voices, and decenter whiteness. This group hopes to learn to recognize individual and institutional racism while pursuing mindfulness and personal awareness as they stand up and speak out against racism. By working to foster partnerships with other campus groups including but not limited to The Racial Justice Task Force, Center for Multicultural Affairs & Services, and Diversity Coalition, ARC hopes to decolonize St. Michael’s by addressing the existing institutional and structural racism present on campus.

“We have a lot of faculty and staff on campus who are interested in educating ourselves and taking action to support our BIPOC community members, as well as unearthing the ways that racism lives in us as individuals and in the institutions of SMC,” said Kathy Butts, ARC member and director of counseling at Bergeron Wellness Center.

In looking to the future and reflecting on the past, Butts said she is eager to see what faculty and staff can do to decolonize themselves at the College. “There have been many efforts among us in the past, but we have had only very small successes, as we know from hearing about the lived experiences of our BIPOC community members,” she said.

Recently, the group has welcomed 70 new members. Butts is encouraged by the large numbers of faculty and staff who want to get involved, and it makes her hopeful. “The time is ripe now for more substantive change,” Butts said. Butts also noted, however, that this work is going to take a lot of effort from all areas of the college to bring about this change.

According to Trish Siplon, professor of political science and director of public health, “Racism is adaptive, complex and pervasive; that means that anti-racism efforts need to be as well. It is important to have formal structures that are explicitly anti-racist, but it is equally important for all of us to think about all the ways in our everyday lives we need to change and grow,” she said.
Siplon further articulated the role of ARC as a vehicle used to support the individual and collective efforts on our campus in addressing racism at the individual and institutional level.

Similarly to Butts, Siplon shared her feelings of hope for ARC. “The April Calendar of ARC events is a nice example of some of the work that has already been initiated by participants. I am excited that so many people have already gotten involved.”

The Racial Justice Task Force will welcome its first two Edmundite Graduate Fellowship Scholars in the 2021-2022 academic year.

The Anti-Racism Coalition will be sponsoring a Weekly Witness for Peace and Racial Justice every Monday in April, and has two meetings left for the remainder of the semester, on April 7 at 3:30 pm and on April 21 at 3:30 pm.