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By TJ Sangare

Contributing Writer

“Write your own story, dramatic scene or collection of at least five poems inspired by the readings of the course.”

For my final project in African American Literature, we had the option to choose any direction that demonstrates our understanding of the texts, and synthesize the work of the semester. I chose the Creative Call and Response. I never thought I would say, “I enjoyed this final assignment,” but unlike most finals, the format of this project allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and explore poetry. For all but one of the poems, I explored different themes and writers from this semester and connected their work to ideas and events relevant today. In “Bullet or the Ballot,” I sought to convey some of the same feelings I share with Malcolm X and highlight the wickedness of the country we live in. In “Black Woman,” I outline some struggles and hardships Black womxn endure that are often ignored by society. “I’ve Known Rivers” is a cento poem with lines from various Langston Hughes’ poems; this piece regards the anxiety, PTSD, and generational trauma of being Black in America. Lastly, “Middle Passage,” the name speaks for itself.

Photo Courtesy of TJ Sangare

The Bullet or the Ballot / How many more times

The Bullet or the ballot

Some freedom or some bullshit

Telling me “pursue his dream”

Nah, I feel like it aint working

“Stay calm, and stay peaceful”

“Keep ya hands up, don’t resist”

“They wouldn’t shoot for no reason”

“I don’t care if he got 4 kids”

It’s crazy what I’ve seen.

I’m ready to explode.

George yelled “I can’t breath”

Trayvon only 17 years-old

They telling us to chill

Don’t riot, don’t loot

Trump’s exact words were,

“When they loot, we shoot”

They’re supposed to protect us 

They’re supposed to serve

But they killing us on the daily

And control us like a herd

I can’t imagine if it was my own mama

Got her child stolen, because they black

8:46 with his knee on his neck

How fucked up is that?

Uncle Sam is the problem

Uncle Sam is the criminal

Uncle Sam will look you in your eyes and unload 16 shots

And keep a straight face, as if he got nothing on his subliminal

Malcolm I need you

Why cant they understand?

They think we got a death wish

We just want peace and equality, cause aint no freedom in this land

We spell “Amerikkka” with three K’s

How many more will we let them kill?

They traded their robes in for a badge

Trayvon Martin, Darryl Mount, Laquan McDonald, those are my Emmet Till’s

If I could change matters, I would spare a life

I’m up all night, thinking about these lost souls

Rest in power

Rest in paradise

Not everyone rests in peace, what goes around comes around

Keep thinking you got away with it

Cause you goin rest in piss

And you karma goin’ be my favorite

It ain’t goin’ be no regular piss

Its comin straight from me

Got my hoodie on, fist up, head down

Screaming “I’M A REVOLUTIONARY…BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY”

They killing us in the streets

They killing us in our homes

They don’t even try to hide it

Just like them colonizers, call it Columbus Syndrome

I’ve had enough of this peaceful shit

They ain’t goin’ take none of mine

Got the boots strapped, and I’m ready for war

We screaming out, “how many more times?”

To be black and women

Ingredients;

1 tablespoon of the sun’s nectar

3 drops of colonizer tears

4 cups of oppression   

and

2 teaspoons of unnoticed 

Blood

Sweat

and 

Tears.

I am the angry black woman.

The same angry black woman

Who carries her child just to die

By the hands of the ones with a

Stethoscope and a pointy hood

I am an angry black woman

The same angry black woman

Who defies the gender norms.

Beret on tight glock on the hip of the right

I am an angry black woman

The same angry black woman

Who receives unlimited bullets

By the pigs 

when i’m sleeping

I am an angry black woman

The same angry black woman

Who had someone’s unmentionables

Stuffed into her 

By the very black men

That are supposed to set fire to the world for us

i will never understand 

why the world 

will pour it’s misogynoir into my belly

like pure gasoline

and then leave 

when i explode

the middle passage

It is dark. I don’t know how many days have passed. How many weeks it has been. I think I might be dead. But I cannot smell feces and rotting flesh. Both others and my own. The pale ones let us crawl out of this confined space once a week. Always naked. Always cold. They make us dance. They throw the dead ones over for the big fish with fins that stick up from this never ending blue abyss. They stalk us. They whisper to me, “you must taste so juicy let me get some of that dark meat.” my chest no longer produces the nutrients for my daughter. I am afraid she will be the big fish next meal. There are hundreds of us. Packed in on top of eachother. Different tongues. Connected by chains. I would rather drown for the next 400 years than to see where the pale ones will bring us. And what the pale ones will do with us next.

Illustration By Sarah Knickerbocker

By Sarah Knickerbocker

Design Editor

Being in a foreign country can have its challenges, but on top of that, Minqi Kong, a media studies, journalism, and digital arts major from the town of Wenzhou, China, had to worry about the COVID-19 pandemic once it infiltrated the United States.

“I first heard about coronavirus when I was here [SMC], and I was really worried about my parents, but now they are more worried about me,” said Kong ’23. She has spent the past seven months in the U.S. during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kong, who is inspired by Japanese anime and shows, aspires to be a creative film director in China.“I came here to study and learn English, but because of COVID-19 it’s so difficult to talk to native speakers in person.” 

Kong’s family couldn’t help but be worried about her safety living on SMC’s campus this fall with thousands of students in close proximity. “At first, my parents were so happy when we were getting tested and that there weren’t any cases. But after that campus outbreak, they are really worried about me and want me to go home,” said Kong, who is currently with her aunt and uncle in New York City. She plans on flying home for break and is uncertain about what the spring semester will look like for her. 

Illustration By Sarah Knickerbocker

COVID-19 has greatly limited the college experience, especially for international students like Nahoko Sugimoto, an international relations and environmental studies double major with a keen interest in food system policies. She’s from the rural town of Kumamoto, Japan, and enjoys watching dramas, horseback riding, and drawing. 

“It’s really hard. I think that it’s not only because of the COVID-19 situation but everything that comes with the new semester. Some of my Japanese friends aren’t here because they transferred or went back home,” said Sugimoto ’23. St. Michael’s has been struggling with enrollment for several years now and COVID-19’s restrictions on travel have not helped the international student population on campus. 

“One of the first things I learned after coming to America as an international student is how hard it is to live as a minority, Sugimoto said, “I’m from Japan and almost all people are Japanese and I never realized that I’m one of the majority in Japan. So I feel like I really should get to know the minorities in Japan and how they are suffering from the pressure of the Japanese people and culture.”  

Illustration By Sarah Knickerbocker

Ethan Li is an art and media studies, journalism, & digital arts double major at SMC from the city of Wuhan, China. When not in the classroom, Li is usually studying at his Winooski apartment or working in his art studio on north campus. He said  COVID-19 has affected his ability to learn especially after transitioning to completely virtual classes. 

“Our first MJD class last year was great. We got to talk and discuss, but now we’re just sitting there with masks and I can’t see anyone’s face,” said Li ’22.“This is the first semester that I haven’t made any new friends.” 

Ethan is still three semesters away from graduating but is already worried about the virus interfering with that plan. “COVID-19 has made traveling so challenging and my parents really want to come to my graduation next year, but I don’t know if that will happen,” Li said, adding that he is trying to stay as optimistic as possible about the future, and “hopes the vaccine will come quickly and stop this pandemic.” 

“I try to read a lot of books out loud so I can be speaking English,” said Baimaji, a biochemical and statistics double major from China.” During the summer, one of the books was written by a holocaust survivor and compared to her story, mine is like nothing. I feel grateful to be born in a relatively peaceful time,” said Baimaji ’21. 

     Baimaji is living on campus this break to guarantee her attendance at her long-awaited commencement in the spring. After graduating, Baimaji hopes to explore a more urban area in the U.S. and study public health. She’s been in Vermont throughout the whole pandemic and has spent a lot of time by herself. 

“Being in a foreign country during a pandemic is definitely challenging; sometimes it’s lonely or I get homesick, but you know there are things you have to get through in your life and for me, this is one of them. I hope this whole experience can make me a stronger person.” 

Illustration By Sarah Knickerbocker

“COVID-19 is so awful in Panama City, they’ve all been in quarantine since March. For me, being away from home for so long is stressful because I have my duties here as a student, but my mind is there worrying about them,” said Jose Aldahir Ortega, a graduate student getting his degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages. He is a teacher at an elementary school in his beloved home of Panama City, Panama. 

COVID-19 restrictions have made his job as a student even more difficult. “I’ve never done online classes before in my life. I feel like I have twice as much work online to generate an online discussion,” said Ortega, “I miss the classroom and to have that cultural exchange with my peers from other countries who are also taking the course. We usually talk before and after class which was really nice but then it completely changed.” 

Ortega’s experience has taught him many lessons about himself and life in general. “I feel like I have to separate my feelings and emotions from my duties on campus which has helped make me more independent and mature,” he said.

By Brendan Looney

Staff Writer

Worried about how you’re going to celebrate this holiday season with the threat of the pandemic ever-looming? You’re certainly not alone. Many families are adjusting their holiday plans in order to protect their loved ones from COVID-19. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “The safest way to celebrate winter holidays is at home with the people who live with you. Travel and gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19.” 

In this unprecedented time, I decided to go out and ask students in my area what their plans are for the upcoming holidays. 

“We’re going to have a socially distanced outdoor Christmas Eve party with only 6-8 people,” said Shane McCadden, Endicott College ’21. “Everyone is going to eat dinner at their house before, and then come to my uncle’s house for drinks after.” The CDC defines social distancing as keeping a safe space between yourself and other people not from your household by staying at least six feet (about two arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Illustration by Sarah Knickerbocker

“Even though we are going through a pandemic I think that it is necessary to spend this time alongside my relatives,” said Brett Grace ’22, University of Mass. Lowell. “In order to see my family, I am going to get a COVID test before I go. If the COVID test is negative I will not have to quarantine. If I test positive for any reason, I will probably set up a Zoom meeting to share the holiday with my parents and sister.” 

The actual timing of a test matters, as we know from the CDC. Not everyone needs to be tested, but if you do get tested, you should self-quarantine at home pending test results. “If you test negative, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected,” according to the CDC’s website. “The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.” 

Jacob Hunt ’23 from Salve Regina University said that he will still have gatherings, but they will be smaller. “We’re taking precautions like staying away from non-family members and wearing masks when out in public.” 

 Resorting to virtual methods of communication such as Zoom or Facetime is a safer method of communicating and may be crucial in preventing the spread of the disease within their families.“We will have virtual meetings with family members that live far away,” said Ava Melo ’24, University of Alabama Tuscaloosa. “We plan on virtually meeting with family members who are immunocompromised or get sick easily.” 

The more steps you and your family can take to prevent the spread of COVID, the safer you will be.​ For example, wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from the virus. However you decide to celebrate, please do so responsibly and help fight the spread of COVID together. 

Emma is definitely a connoisseur of coffee, and usually takes her coffee as some type of mocha cold brew with milk, and sometimes will throw a sweet-n-low into the mix to make it extra sugary. After working at Dunkin’ for almost six years now, she went into this fully prepared, as she has tasted all, and it was time to rate these drinks.

Photo Courtesy of Emma Shortall

Liz buys coffee almost every single day, her go-to is usually a caramel iced coffee with almond milk. She usually tries different holiday drinks when they come out, but is very picky about her coffee making her a tough critic of these drinks.

Dunkin’

Iced Sugarplum Macchiato 

Emma: This drink took me back to childhood days of grape cough medicine, on first taste. Macchiatos are supposed to be layered, but we decided to mix the drink to improve its taste. This helped, but I still wouldn’t order another Sugarplum macchiato.  

Liz: It seems like it has grapes at the bottom of it. It was like you put fruity cereal milk and espresso into one cup. It’s a super weird mix of flavors and I would not recommend getting this drink. 

Rated:

Emma: 1 out of 5 stars

Liz: 1 out of 5 stars

Photo Courtesy of Emma Shortall

Iced Gingerbread Latte:

Emma: Going into this I knew this wouldn’t be my favorite because I’m not the biggest fan of gingerbread. The taste of the gingerbread was way too overpowering and it did not excite my taste buds at all. 

Liz: It’s a bit overpowering on the gingerbread, so I’d recommend doing one pump of the swirl. If you really like the flavor of gingerbread I would recommend this drink.

Rated:

Emma: 2 out of 5 stars

Liz: 3 out of 5 stars

Photo Courtesy of Emma Shortall

Hot Peppermint Mocha Latte:

Emma: This is essentially Christmas in a cup. This reminds me of stirring a candy cane into my hot chocolate when I was a kid, but adding a bit of a caffeine kick to it. It’s my favorite all-time holiday drink, you can’t go wrong. 

Liz: If you melted an Altoid into a coffee, this would be the resulting concoction. This drink tastes a little like toothpaste. It definitely is better hot than iced because the iced one is terrible. It’s not my favorite, but it’s definitely better than the Sugarplum. 

Rated:

Emma: 4 out of 5 stars

Liz: 2 out of 5 stars

Photo Courtesy of Emma Shortall

Starbucks

Hot Peppermint Mocha Latte:

Emma: This is my ultimate favorite drink, a Starbucks just does it right. But the one thing I wish is that there was a bit less peppermint. The strong taste overpowers the mocha a bit.

Liz: This tastes like peppermint hot chocolate to me, but it’s definitely better than Dunkin’, and more “Christmasy”. If you’re balling on a budget go for the Dunkin’ one, but it’s not so much better that it’s worth the price difference.

Rated:

Emma: 5 out of 5 stars

Liz: 3 out of 5 stars

Photo Courtesy of Emma Shortall

Iced Caramel Brulee Latte:

Emma: I get the caramel aspect of it, but what makes this “Brulee”?  I couldn’t really taste the espresso either, which is definitely a big part of a latte, which turned me off. 

Liz: Tastes like caramel milk, but there isn’t enough espresso in it. I’m surprised I don’t love it because I love caramel.  Maybe it would be better hot?

Rated:

Emma: 2 out of 5 stars

Liz: 2 out of 5 stars 

Iced Chestnut Praline Latte:

Emma: This tasted like peanut butter, but not a good kind of peanut butter. But perhaps if you like peanut butter coffee this might be for you. 

Liz: I definitely get the chestnut. It tastes like Ferrero Roche. I like it, but I don’t love it.

Rated:

Emma: 2 out of 5 stars

Liz: 3 out of 5 stars

By Kit Geary

Politics Editor

On January 20, 2021, the United States will transfer the power of the presidency from one political party to the other. On this day Donald Trump is scheduled to exit the White House along with his cabinet. Over the next several weeks president-elect Joe Biden will be creating his own cabinet, a group of appointed officials to lead departments in the executive branch. The appointees are rolling in daily as the composition of America’s most diverse presidential cabinet comes together.

Who to choose who to choose
The truth is the thought process behind choosing a cabinet varies greatly for each president-elect. Trump’s 2016 appointments were familiar faces to the American public, whether they be former governors or some of the nation’s most prominent business moguls. “The Trump cabinet had more people well known to those who followed politics, they were prominent members of the Republican establishment,” said Paul Heintz of SevenDays VT, who was recently named one of the nation’s outstanding political reporters by the Washington Post. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was a face people knew as being a former opponent of Trump’s during the Republican primaries. More recently, in 2019 Eugene Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was appointed Secretary of Labor.

A president-elect’s cabinet appointees give insight into what the executive branch is going to look like. Who an elect chooses reflects on the values and ideologies they are going to take into office with them. We are learning more about Biden’s cabinet each day as we grow closer to that Jan. 20 transition day. What values and ideologies can we gather from his early picks?

“We see Biden’s priorities reflected not only in the personnel but in the offices themselves. There is a clear emphasis on expertise and experience. The choosing of cabinet members is a fascinating process because we learn a lot about the president and how they tend to govern,” said political writer and blogger Steve Benen, who is also the producer for The Rachel Maddow Show.

A new White House position that was created –Climate Envoy– was telling of Biden’s plans for the future. John Kerry was appointed to this position that will lead a national security council. This position is within the executive branch, it is not a cabinet position and does not require Senate confirmation. Kerry will be focusing on foreign policy as it relates to climate change. Gina McCarthy will be taking a similar role as a climate czar taking the role of Biden’s top domestic climate coordinator. Making a point to elevate positions such as these sheds light on the fact that for Biden climate change is a threat to national security and tackling it is a major priority.

Illustration by Kit Geary

In terms of filling the longstanding cabinet positions, Biden’s approach differs greatly from Trump’s. Trump had many of what Heintz refers to as “razzle-dazzle candidates” who were great on camera and who had impressive credentials and name recognition.

Biden’s cabinet does not hold as many recognizable shining stars, in fact, many people might not be familiar with these candidates at all. “Biden’s current appointments and suspected appointments, they know the job pretty well, even if the public doesn’t know them very well,” Heintz said. Many of these people held deputy positions in Obama’s administration. Rather than being in the spotlight, they were behind the scenes. They have experience and an understanding of what the job demands.

Diverse Decisions
NPR accused Donald Trump of “breaking a trend towards diversity” with his 2016 cabinet picks and despite some changes made since 2016, the cabinet still mainly consists of white men. Biden’s on the other hand has representation from many demographics. While Trump’s cabinet resembled America’s elite, Biden’s represents the general American public.

“Biden is bringing different voices to the table, voices who usually don’t have a seat at the table,” said Michael Bosia, Professor of Political Science at St. Michael’s. Biden has committed to having half of his cabinet be women. Already the U.S. is seeing a few firsts including Janet Yellen who will be the first woman to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury for the first time in the treasury’s 231 year history and General Lloyd Austin who will be the first person of color to serve as the Secretary of Defense.

“There are certainly constituencies within the Democratic party, particularly communities of color, who have made it clear to the incoming president that they want to see a new administration reflect the diverse communities who supported him getting into office in the first place. The president-elect appears to be listening,” Benen said. One notable community is black women. 90 percent of whom voted for Biden when they showed up to the polls with historic numbers.

On Dec. 15 Biden appointed Pete Buttigieg to be the Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg will be the first openly gay cabinet member. Buttigieg will be the first millennial added to Biden’s cabinet, this makes him one of the youngest cabinet members in history.

Closing Critiques
Some prominent Republicans are not pleased with Biden’s picks. Senator Marco Rubio leading the pack tweeting that Biden’s cabinet picks will be “polite and orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”

“You saw critics early on in this process of the Biden administration saying he is choosing from the same old Washington insiders who are well connected and may not bring independent views to their position,” Heintz said. Critics are coming at Biden not only from the opposing party but his own as well.

Progressive members are watching Biden closely as he has not appointed many progressive Democrats to be a part of his cabinet. Prominent progressives such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders rallied for Biden when he needed the support most. Anticipate that the members will feel a sense of betrayal if Biden does not gather some more left-leaning politicians to serve on his cabinet.

By Victoria Zambello

Executive Editor

On Dec. 14, Vermont Governor Phil Scott announced the incoming of 1,950 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. With the recent news of the vaccine, 90.2 percent of the St. Michael’s Community said they would take the vaccine and 9.8 percent said they would not take the vaccine based on a Defender poll with 173 responses. 

“Of all the vaccines that are being developed right now, this is the most rigorously studied and watched,” said Tracy Dolan, Deputy Commissioner for Public Health in a recent interview. “The best minds in the world have been contributing to this. The effectiveness is unprecedented, with a 95 percent effectiveness rate coming out of the gate and we do trust the FDA and CDC in terms of their protocols.” 

But college students shouldn’t toss their masks away yet. The vaccine will be given out based on a list of criteria created by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). With initial doses provided to high-risk health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, the typical college student will be far down on the phase list for the vaccine. Based on Oct. 23 Vermont Governor’s press release, college-aged students will be vaccinated in phase three.  

It will take time for enough of the public to have the community immunity needed to fight this virus, Dolan explained.“Even though we have a vaccine starting now, which is really the very best news for this virus, it will be months before we see real changes in masking and social distancing.”

“This is just the start of a long process to receive and administer enough vaccines to bring COVID-19 under control,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD in his recent press statement on Dec. 14. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of everyone keeping up their efforts to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. This is a time for great optimism and even greater vigilance to make it all happen.”

How it works

The vaccine works with two doses, and unlike vaccines such as the flu shot, experts believe that the vaccine will last long-term. “Coronavirus has a very slow mutation and we anticipate that this round of vaccines, getting the first, and then the second will keep you protected for the long term. We anticipate it to be a long-term vaccine like you would get for measles that require usually one or two as a whole,” Dolan said. 

According to the CDC, a second shot is applied after the first shot, in order to gain immunity from the disease. Common side effects, similar to any vaccine, include fever, chills, tiredness, and headaches. 

St. Michael’s students, attending school on campus this spring, will still need to follow the Vermont guidelines on the vaccine, regardless of their home state. Although some students may have tested positive in the past, the Department of Health will not ask you about your history with COVID. 

“Even though you may have tested positive for COVID and you may have an antibody response, you don’t know how strong that response is. With this vaccine, because we are controlling it, we know that this response will be very effective based on the trials we’ve done,” Dolan said. “For students that will eventually mean they will be less likely to get COVID and even more importantly less likely to pass it along to those who are most vulnerable.”

“I think the vaccine is going to make a huge difference with the fear that a lot of people are facing right now,” said Jordy Fenton ’22. “A lot are nervous about what it will mean, but to me, it’s a hopeful start in getting back some of the normalcy that we’re missing. Of course, it won’t happen all of a sudden and we still need to be careful, but it will feel so much better to be able to hug my grandmother without feeling like I’m putting her at risk.”

When students return back to campus in February, even with the vaccine, normalcy should not be expected. 

Photo Courtesy of Vermont Department of Health

“There is a practical light at the end of this tunnel and where we will come out the other side and hopefully will have a population that has achieved enough immunity that we can go back to what we thought of as normal life before,” Dolan said. 

By Abby Poisson

Contributing Writer 

As of Dec. 1, there have been 225, 946 cases of COVID in both state and federal prisons throughout the United States; things are not slowing down as hoped. 

This past year has been a lot of things for a lot of people: frustrating, overwhelming, devastating, and unprecedented to say the least. As independent beings, we often view the world from a self-centered and self-serving perspective. This year took from many a sense of stability, basic fiscal security, ease in seeing loved ones, and precious moments. It is natural to feel anger. 

However, it is important that we acknowledge the ways in which our most marginalized and vulnerable communities have been impacted by this pandemic. 

Many different communities and populations have been disproportionately impacted by COVID, one of which is the prison population. As is comprehensible, prisons breed infectious disease, as social distancing measures are inherently more difficult. Prisons generally hold large populations of people who are already at a higher risk for contraction, due to chronic disease or substance misuse. 

Illustration by Victoria Zambello

The six prison facilities within Vermont have ensured that incarcerated individuals are practicing social distancing to the best of their ability, although as one can imagine, distancing within a prison is incredibly difficult.

Vermont prisons had a high rate of infection as of broad testing conducted in August; there have been 200 infected prisoners among just over 1700 total Vermont prisoners. Although in comparison to the national prison rate, Vermont only represents a very small proportion of COVID cases, they still had the highest proportion of their prisoners test positive in August, according to the Council of Criminal Justice. 

“The prison system [and the Department of Corrections] in Vermont has been fairly successful in keeping COVID out of its facilities,” said Marybeth Remond, member of Vermont’s House of Representatives.

For a population of people who are already incredibly isolated, the past nine months have been further isolating. According to the CDC, social isolation can correlate with higher risks of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Now take this statistic and compare it to an incarcerated person who has been socially isolated from friends, family, and at times any human being. 

“We have to do everything we can to make sure they’re not further isolated,” Redmond said. “There have been tremendous mental health impacts due to increased isolation.”

Prior to COVID, incarcerated people were able to receive in-person visitation by family or friends; however, since the State of Emergency was placed on March 13th, the only means of contact is now through video chat and phone calls. As we might understand from our own experiences, these do not replace in-person communication. 

Eighty-five percent of women who are incarcerated are mothers, Redmond said. In fact, “it is estimated that there are more than 2.7 million children who have parents in state and federal prisons. According to the Charles Koch Institute, many of these parents were the sole caretaker for these children before they were incarcerated. COVID has not only impacted parents within the criminal justice system but also their children on the outside. Effectively practicing safe and conscious choices in prison facilities is also to seek to ensure the well-being of children and their reunion with parents. 

Since March, rehabilitation and social service programs were put on a hold for these men and women in facilities. While some GED programs are now running again, it is not an adequate replacement for outside social interaction. It is a function of life. 

It is for the above reasons – as well as the importance of containment within the prison system and outward into greater communities – that there has been a substantial argument for vaccine distribution to be highly prioritized for the incarcerated. While it is important that the CDC Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices has made recommendations for the vaccination of correctional officers, we cannot forget that incarcerated individuals must also be vaccinated to ensure a greater likelihood against a mass outbreak in facilities.

It is our job to keep them safe, as they are still members of society who are deserving of rights and well-being. These are also people who may potentially rejoin the outside community as productive members of society; 600,000 people are released each year from prisons, both state and federal. Investing in incarcerated people now is to invest in their rehabilitation and reentry into society. 

However, there is little more to do for these facilities than to make these continued efforts to keep COVID outside of the bounds of the prison. There is much for us to do, those of us in the outside community, who are capable of making conscious and independent choices around our health and well-being. Think of those who have been impacted in unimaginable ways and then make your choices. Because our choices have and will continue to determine the extent to which this pandemic will reach. 

By Kaitlin Woolery

Photography Editor 

Reducing waste is an important issue to the Saint Michael’s College community. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, faculty, staff, and students are required to wear face masks on campus. Ingrid Boland ’22 has noticed several single-use masks being disposed of improperly. “I’ve noticed masks on the ground more so on campus than at home. When I noticed masks on the ground it was on sidewalks near cars and I don’t know if there could be a correlation there,” she said. 

Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Woolery

Vermont is one of several states that recently passed a single-use product law. This law prohibits businesses from using single-use products such as plastic bags, foam containers, and plastic straws. According to The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, “Single-use items, paper, and packaging make up almost 1/3 of Vermont’s trash.” This law’s intent is to help protect the environment from harmful wastes.

According to the National Institute of Health, disposable single-use face masks are produced from micro-plastic polymers such as polypropylene, polyurethane, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester. Some of the materials used in the masks’ layers which are meant to shield us from germs and water vapor are similar to those found in disposable diapers. 

Clay Williams, assistant professor of environmental studies and science says that in addition to litter reducing the aesthetic appeal to our environment, improper disposal of masks may harm the wildlife.“They can get tangled in wildlife and pose a choking hazard to wildlife on land and in the water,” said Williams. He added, “They break down into micro-plastics which can harm aquatic life.” Humans may also be impacted by the disposing of these masks. “They likely aren’t able to be recycled in our conventional system, and thus would end up in the landfill, ocean or environment after use. They are likely to release toxins into the environment as they break down,” said Williams.

Wearing disposable face masks is an effective way to filter aerosols that may contain the virus. However, proper disposal of the masks in designated trash bins is necessary to prevent unsightly litter on campus as well as protecting our environment, waterways and wildlife.

“It made me frustrated at not only the effects on the environment in terms of the fact that the masks do not decompose, but also in the people’s lack of following the policies to help prevent the virus. It also made me wonder the reason this might be happening,” said Boland.

By Victoria Zambello

Executive Editor

For the first time in college skiing history, Nordic skiing will guarantee equal distances for men and women for this upcoming season. However, athletes will need to wait until next year to see this play out on the trails. On Dec. 15, the Northeast-10 Conference announced that all NE-10 winter sports and championships will be canceled, including Nordic and Alpine skiing, which is part of the EISA league. 

In a typical Nordic skiing race, the men race 10 kilometers, whereas the women race five kilometers. In an average competition weekend, where there are up to two races varying in distance, women can end up racing 15 kilometers fewer than the men. Due to efforts made by Nordic Skiing and Cross Country Coach, Molly Peters, the upcoming schedule will guarantee equal racing distances for men and women. 

Peters has been pushing for this decision for her nine seasons at Saint Michael’s College, with the recent support from her fellow coaches and athletes. “In college, I raced for Middlebury and graduated in ‘97. Even back then it always bothered me that the women raced five kilometers less than the men. When I became a coach, I decided that I had a platform to be able to bring attention to it,” said Peters. 

The decision for unequal distances is based on tradition. For the Olympic level, the men’s events began in 1924 and the women’s side debuted in 1952. “In Norway, Sweden, and Finland, is where Nordic Skiing all started, and there was this belief that women aren’t as capable as men. They made the distances shorter because they didn’t think that women could handle the longer distances,” said Peters. 

This reasoning is based on racing time disparities between the male side and women side. However, there is a bigger disparity within male participants than there is between men and women, explained Peters. Therefore, if the league was to create races based on these disparities, about half of the men’s team would also be racing the shorter distances, explained Peters.  

 “Initially, when I brought it up, it was met with a lot of people uninterested. They didn’t see why they needed to change it. I brought it up at the coaches’ meeting at least three times and was met with a no,” Peters said. With more time on her hands due to COVID-19, Peters decided to put all of her efforts into achieving equal distances. 

With more than 400 petition signatures on Change.org in November, Peters decided the way for her to do so would be to publicly call these groups out.     

 “Tradition is not an excuse to continuously disregard inequity. Women race the same distances as men in virtually every other sport and are fully capable of racing the same distances in Nordic races. This is not fair and certainly not an equal opportunity that the Civil Rights Act and Title IX were created to protect,” Peters wrote in her petition on Change.org.  

 “At practices, we always ski together, we train together, we do the workouts together,” said Emma Bellefleur ’21, a member of the women’s Nordic Skiing team. “Racing is the only time that we aren’t, and we see a difference. I always saw it as normal and I didn’t know there could be a way to change it,” she said. 

Photo Courtesy of Molly Peters St. Mike’s 3x5km relay team members, Cecelia Schmelzle ’23 (left), Grace Erholtz ’23 (middle), and Rachel Smith ’22 (right) at the Lake Placid Carnival in 2019.

St. Michael’s Nordic Ski team competes in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association, which includes schools such as Harvard, University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Saint Lawrence, and the University of Vermont. At the most recent EISA meeting, the Boating, Harvard, and Colby coaches spoke up about the unequal distances, leading to a league-wide decision to change the upcoming ski schedule to equal distance races. However, this decision is not finalized for future seasons, nor within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  

“The training for guys and girls isn’t different, we put the same hours each week. It is cool to see that now, especially since the races will be similar,  we can fully have the same training plans and we can push ourselves as a team together,” said Sam Heyliger ’23, a member of the men’s Nordic Skiing team. 

A lot of this derives from the conversation around what does equal opportunity and equality qualify as. 

“If you compare it to soccer, it’s like if you put the women on a smaller soccer field with smaller goals. The same idea with basketball if you lower the rim height. It just sends the wrong message. It makes them feel like they are not capable of doing what the guys are doing,” he said. 

Peters said that her next project is finding equal distances for men and women in cross country, because men typically run 8-10 kilometers versus women who run 5-6 kilometers at the collegiate level. 

“This is really awesome, but it took too long in my opinion for this to happen,” said Grace Erholtz ’23, a member of the Nordic Skiing team. “We are not done yet, because we don’t know if this will be a temporary decision or a final decision for the EISA. The distances still haven’t changed for the NCAA championships at the professional levels, so fingers crossed we can keep moving forward.” 

By Kit Geary

Politics Editor

“He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand.” There was a moment on November 7th where I forgot if I was live-streaming a mass or watching the president-elect’s victory speech. 

As a Catholic, I sat staring at my laptop with my jaw dropped. Did the president-elect really use religious rhetoric twice during his victory speech after running his campaign advocating for diversity? Does the president-elect realize this means he cannot say a hymn from a historically oppressive language while addressing the entire nation? 

I pondered whether this use of religion was intentional. Was he trying to reach some of Trump’s Christian supporters? I questioned whether the president-elect was cognizant of the fact that not everyone was going to be able to relate to or conceptualize his biblical language. By using biblical language in a speech broadcasted to the whole nation, Biden had the expectation that everyone was not only going to understand what he was saying, yet it would console them and provide encouragement during a pandemic. 

I personally know that if someone read a passage to me from the Torah I would probably have no idea what it meant or what they wanted me to do with it. I pictured someone Jewish, someone Buddhist, someone Muslim watching their television screen witnessing the man elected to run the nation bring religion into politics. This man was just voted into office and he already set the precedent that Christianity is the nation’s religion.

The Atlantic reported in June that the separation of Church and State was breaking down under the Trump administration. Religious groups were receiving what many viewed as special treatment in terms of pandemic aid. I’m sure Biden’s speech did not boost morale for those thinking that policies based in religion were going to leave the White House with the Trump administration. 

“There is a history in this country of using scripture, weaponizing and abusing scripture, to justify bigotry,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez this past February. White supremacists have used Christianity to back their beliefs and actions for years. Christianity is the official religion of the KKK, not America. When it comes down to it Biden incorporated a religion that many people associated with fear into his politics. This does not promote the diversity he campaigned on. It does the exact opposite. It promotes a single way of thinking, and honestly a single way of being and believing. 

There are multiple reasons we as a society should not accept this. A major one being it ostracizes the 35% of Americans who do not identify as Christian. This is something society should not normalize, otherwise, we will keep seeing it. How many more speeches are we going to sit through these next four years that have religion tied into them? The answer should be none. The leader of “the free world,” should keep it that way. Keep religion out of politics. 


Kit Geary ’22 is a Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts major, Kit has been a contributing member of The Defender in the past, She grew up in Newburyport, MA, and is a member of the Best Buddies on campus.