Sarah Knickerbocker

Design Editor 

Religious freedom and the rights of the queer community have always had a tumultuous relationship in the United States. Now, with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the tension has built and left the LGBTQI+ community even more uneasy because of her conservative views.          

Barrett is a devout Catholic and taught at a school affiliated with the “People of Praise” group which strongly believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. While she has a right to religious freedom like anyone else, the fear is that she will bring her conservative, religious beliefs to the courtroom and allow her religious beliefs to influence decisions on individual rights for the LGBTQI+ community. In fact, Pope Francis warned about lay-led groups like People of Praise in 2014 saying that they were “usurping individual freedom” and delegating “important decisions about their lives to others.” 

“Love your neighbor doesn’t have exceptions,” said Oliver Hogan ‘22, who was raised in a Roman Catholic family and advocates for the queer community in the church. 

Due to the bipartisanship of the government, many citizens feel the need to pick a side with these issues leaving America heavily divided including in the Supreme Court. 

“I think that one of the hardest things for those of us in the LGBTQ community is that it doesn’t seem right, fair, or correct that we have to ask people for basic civil rights and liberties. nevertheless, it’s the society we live in,” said professor of political science, Daniel Simmons. 

The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped pave the way for LGBTQI+ equality in the Supreme Court. But as soon as Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, President Trump and his administration worked quickly to fill her spot to benefit their political views. Despite being determined “qualified” by the New York City Bar, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing raised significant concerns such as “maturity of judgment” especially when it came to issues that are considered “politically controversial” according to the NYC Bar. Ten days before the 2020 presidential election, and seven days before RBG’s funeral, Barrett was indeed confirmed. 

“She’s going to walk through all of the doors RGB opened for her and close them for everyone else,” said international relations and Spanish major, Micayla O’Connor ’22. Barrett’s confirmation shows how Republicans can be elected for their religious beliefs to promote a political agenda that they will call a religious imperative. Therefore, many students are worried about the rights of the LGBTQI+ community now that the Supreme Court has a 6-3 Republican majority. “It’s fine to be strictly religious, but don’t take your Catholic views and tell me how I should live my life based on your views,” said O’Connor. 

Once confirmed, Barrett was automatically put on the ongoing case, Fulton vs. Philadelphia which addresses the tension between religious freedoms and LGBTQ rights. The case concerns a Roman Catholic adoption agency in Philadelphia that claims that it can’t match foster children with same-sex households without violating its religious beliefs. 

This is contrary to what Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, has said when speaking on the topic. “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” he said in a documentary released last month. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

“The whole point of an adoption agency is to give those children a loving home,” Hogan said. “People use the Catholic church as an excuse for their own fear and hatred of others.” The addition of Barrett in the Supreme Court may tip the decision scales in favor of the adoption agency which would leave the LGBTQI+ community at risk for discrimination.  

“There are real problems with people using religion as a cloak for further discrimination and I think that’s something that rightly should be focused and called out,” Simmons said. 

The projected results 2020 presidential election gave many people hope for democracy and for the rights of queer people in the future. But, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over. “It is soul-crushing to have to justify your own existence in what some people would consider a ‘political dispute.’ 

“Who we are should never be up for debate,” said political science professor, Michael Bosia. His advice?, “Be aware, and vote as if your life depends on it because somebody’s life does depend on it.” 

Illustration by Sarah Knickerbocker

By Victoria Zambello

Executive Editor 

“Mr. Vice President, I am speaking,” said Kamala Harris during the 2020 vice presidential debate. 

Chills rippled through my body, recognizing that Harris was unapologetically tired of being interrupted and mansplained. Energy rose in my house of eight women, as we sat and watched the debate; but then, I began to realize that her assertiveness would turn voters away. I remembered the frustrating, yet prevalent stereotype of a woman using her voice to be labeled as bossy and aggressive. Four weeks after that debate, with fear, I waited for the results and a few days later I was filled with amazement that Kamala Harris did it. Harris became the first female, Black, South Asian Vice President of America. 

Illustration by Victoria Zambello

 As Harris relentlessly paves the way for women who are confident and beyond competent, she inspires solidarity for all genders and helps us recognize the value of women leaders. The concept of perfectionism, often expected of women, combined with confidence, presents a frustrating barrier that many women, including myself, struggle with daily. This standard enforces women to be anything but what society deems as desirable qualities, actions, and characteristics. We know, now more than ever, that going against societal norms and defying the odds is what sparks change. When Kamala Harris stood on the stage of her 2020 election speech – for the first time in a while, I felt a surge of confidence and power across the nation. Harris concluded her speech with, “See yourself in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before.” Can you imagine what the destruction of perfectionism will do to the next generation of girls and women? 

In addition to perfection and competence women leaders also face the expectation of emotion.   Research shows that many voters have a baseline gender preference for candidates. This means that during the voting process voters connect female candidates with gender stereotypes such as emotion and compassion; whereas men represent the characteristic of strength and power. 

In 1866, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the first woman to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. With the audacity to run, even though she was not allowed to vote, Stanton won and is continued to be known for her dominance within the women’s suffrage movement. In 1977, Barbara Ann Mikulski, served in the Senate, founding her campaign off of her passion for social work. The Maryland Democrat served both in the Senate and U.S. House Representatives until 2017, becoming the longest-serving woman in the history of congress. Like Harris, these women are the foundation of cracking the stereotypes of a woman in politics, showing America that a woman can lead with both compassion and dominance simultaneously. 

This research is also applied to women in the workplace. In their award-winning book, “Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” authors Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg showed that when women apply for promotion most only apply when they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. Men, on the other hand, apply when they meet 50 percent of the qualifications. 

U.S. Representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez famously said in 2018, “They’ll tell you you’re too loud, that you need to wait your turn, and ask the right people for permission. Do it anyway.” 

Harris is far from perfect, and that is what I admire most about her. Harris never apologized for being strong-minded. She never backed down. When she stood against Pence in the debate, she made room for herself, whether he wanted her there or not. Better yet, she embraced her imperfections, refusing to change how she spoke because of the female gender stereotype of women in politics. She showed America that as we all know politicians aren’t perfect, but that the concept of perfectionism, specifically with women, is a sad social construct created from a decade of generations. 

This impact goes beyond inspiring women, to inspiring all genders, people within the BIPOC community, and people across a variety of demographics. In 2020, Vermont elected its first openly transgender lawmaker, Taylor Small. 

“The impact of Taylor’s groundbreaking victory cannot be overstated,” Victory Fund President and CEO, Mayor Annise Parker wrote in a statement. “There are so few transgender people in elected office that nearly every win is a historic one, yet with each barrier broken comes more trans people inspired to do the same.” 

Each milestone for women in politics, each win for minorities in politics, holds an inevitable snowball effect of opportunity, creating a better world filled with a variety of perspectives, unity, kindness, and grit. 

No – I do not agree with every policy Harris stands behind. But, isn’t that the essence of a democracy? We will all never fully agree. What is important to me is that I hold trust and respect for the people in power. Harris has squashed stereotypes of women, by staying true to her ambitious and powerful self. To me, that makes the world a better place, for all genders. 

 In a society surrounded by stereotypes, critiques, and at times, hatred, I will follow Harris’s advice, understanding that seeing myself in a way that others may not, will continue to shatter stereotypes and open up new doors for all, regardless of how society expects a young-lady to act. 

Victoria Zambello is the Executive Editor for The Defender. She is a Senior Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts major with a minor in Sociology. She holds a strong interest in law & policy and is an advocate for gender and race equality.

By Elijah Radoncic

Staff Writer

Following the outbreak of 77 total COVID-19 cases on the Saint Michael’s campus, over 150 students have been placed in either quarantine or isolation. In order to contain the virus and prevent its spread to other members of the community, these students are not able to leave their residences, which means that food must be delivered to them.

For quarantined senior Andrew Jones, that meant very regular delivery times, something he welcomed to break up the monotony of long days inside. “We got lunch around 12:00 every day. Dinner and breakfast came together around 5 p.m. Dinner always has a salad and the meal changes between a stir fry and pasta. Breakfast is a bagel and muffin, and lunch is a sandwich and chips,” he said.

The Associate Deans on campus play a major role in both the delivery process of meals, and the relocation of students for quarantine/isolation as necessary. “Once the Associate Dean on Duty hears from Bergeron Wellness that a student needs to isolate or quarantine, the Associate Dean will make contact with the student to assist in their relocation to isolation or quarantine,” said Meghan Ohler, director of residential operations & systems, and senior associate dean of students.

During the initial process of a student’s transition to either quarantine or isolation, their dietary needs are discussed with the Associate Dean. “Part of the conversation is around whether or not that person has any allergies or dietary restrictions. Once we know that information, we make a note so that we can notify Sodexo,” said Ohler.

“We have a system that tracks who we have and where,” added Jeffery Vincent, associate dean of students and director of residence life and community standards.“It takes a little while to put that document together because unfortunately, every morning that list is changing. Then that goes to Sodexo, and to the volunteers for the day. Sodexo uses that document to put the meals together. For example, it may say 45 meals to Joyce, 20 to Ryan, and 5 to Senior Hall. The volunteers divide that list up, and then they go disperse the meals. That happens every day, twice a day. It’s a real testament to the communal aspect of Saint Michael’s College,” said Vincent.

 “Everybody is trying to do their best to meet students where they are at. The volunteers who are students, staff and faculty, the residence life and student life staff who are organizing it, and the Sodexo employees who are putting their best foot forward. It is truly an effort of everyone,” Vincent said.

Photo by Kaitlin Woolery

By Mikey Halligan

Staff Writer

With the uptick in cases on campus, as well as the current surge in COVID-19 around the country, many Saint Michael’s coaches, parents, and athletes are still unsure if winter athletics will be able to compete for this upcoming 2020-2021 season.

On Nov. 12, Chris Kenny, Director of Athletics, sent an email to all winter sports athletes stating: “winter sports teams will not be allowed to return to organized athletic activity between now and Thanksgiving, and will also not be allowed to remain on campus to practice over the first half of the semester break.”

“In the past, two or three weeks since we had the outbreak, it has certainly taken a toll on athletes and they still have the option to go home if they feel that is best for them… we are not going to force them to stay,” explained Bollhardt. “We coaches had a plan, but then we got new restrictions put in place so we are trying to figure out what our new plan can be… we are hoping to play early January, so it would be beneficial to get some practices in before we go home for Christmas,” said Shannon Bollhardt, Head Coach of Women’s Basketball and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Advisor (SAAC).

While winter sports teams are still figuring out the unknown about their competitive seasons, many student-athletes are becoming anxious and nervous about not hearing anything from college and coaches.   

Illustration by Nicole Anderson

“Mentally the fact that we have been constantly waiting for any sort of news has left me and my teammates feeling anxious. We know that the decision is not in our hands, but the best thing for us to do now is to prepare as if we are playing in the second semester,” said Andrew DeCristoforo ’22, a player on the Men’s Ice Hockey team.

 “It has been difficult to remain positive in this time of uncertainty,” said Abby Sullivan ’21, a member of the Alpine Skiing team. “I hope the athletic department will soon confirm a plan and notify the winter sports teams regarding the fate of our seasons.”

While communicating with Kenny about the return-to-campus dates for student-athletes next semester, he explained that there are no set dates athletes are expected to come back. “The decision on when to return is made by a combination of the head coach, athletics administration, and college leadership. Of course, the State of Vermont is also involved if conditions merit.”

“I’m really conflicted because I want to be excited to play but I’m not convinced we will actually be having a season,” explained Mikaila Langbacka ’24 a player on the Women’s Ice Hockey team. “These are probably the last four years of hockey I will ever play and I don’t want one of those years to be taken from me.”

“So, given the news, our team moving forward will be focusing on academics as well as strength and conditioning,” said Bollhardt. “We know they are limited in how much access they have to basketball courts at home, so the focus will be to have them return to campus after the holidays as fit as possible so we can focus on basketball!”  

“As of right now competitive seasons are planned for next semester,” said Kenny. “Northeast-10 member institutions continue to monitor and adjust to, on a daily basis, the impact of the virus at the national, regional, and state levels and stay in constant communication with each other as we move forward together.”

Although the winter sports seasons are still unclear, the NCAA made it public on Oct. 20 that Division II winter athletes will receive an additional season of competition through a waiver the Division II Management Council approved earlier that week. However, the NCAA has no part in offering students financial aid for the extra eligibility season’s academic year. It is up to the institution on how the student-athletes will pay for their tuition if granted eligibility.

By Charles Wilson

Multimedia Editor

  As the spike of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed on campus in late October, the need to clean isolation areas became more and more apparent, but that meant custodians would have to enter bathrooms and common areas of buildings where positive cases were waiting out their isolation and quarantine.  The pandemic rages on, and the luxury of “going virtual” can be impossible for a significant portion of jobs in America. On-campus, custodial staff not only can’t work remotely but have to venture into buildings with a dense student population. A few of these custodians have volunteered to work in a residence hall with positive cases of COVID-19. Graham Lebel,  chapter chair of the Saint Michael’s College custodial workers’ union, is one of a few who did so.

     “I volunteered because I felt I was low risk enough for it to be safe,” said Lebel. “I am 41 and don’t have any health issues that would make me higher risk.” But that doesn’t mean he isn’t concerned about exposure. His concerns surrounding COVID-19 mainly involve his wife and three-year-old son, and his mother, who takes care of his son three times a week. “Since the outbreak, I no longer enter my mom’s house when I drop him off,” Lebel said. “I’ll probably be extra careful at least until 14 days after Thanksgiving.”

    “The original plan was to not clean isolation areas,” said Lebel. “I believe the assumption was that the population in isolation would be small enough that we could get away with not cleaning the area.” With a semester total of 79 positive cases, nearly five percent of the undergraduate population, that became unrealistic. “The amount of trash generated by takeout containers alone made cleaning necessary,” Lebel said.

     Armed with his N95 mask and gloves provided by the college, Lebel cleans Joyce Hall during a designated hour when students are required to stay in their rooms. Since COVID travels through the air, it’s important that there is as little contamination as possible. “The students are supposed to stay in their rooms, but this does not always happen,” Lebel said.

     The college has put notable effort into helping the custodial workers according to Jim Durkin, Communications Director for AFSCME Council 93. They’ve cooperated with the union representing them, AFSCME Council 93, which has been working across New England to secure benefits for the people they represent.

    “The college has been extremely helpful and cooperative throughout the pandemic,” said Jim Durkin, noting that even with a decrease in hours during the lockdown, custodians received full pay. “The college did what they could to keep income steady for these workers.”

     The union also requested that all the quarantined students be housed in one residence hall, which the college agreed to. “I’m told that the director of facilities, Joel Ribout, has been great about listening to our concerns and has worked closely with us to address any COVID-related issues as they come up,” Durkin said, noting that these concerns include accommodating flexible hours for people with childcare issues. 

     To enter these buildings more safely, custodians need to use Personal Protective Equipment such as an N95 mask and gloves. “They’ve done a solid job making sure that we have access to adequate PPE,” Durkin explained.

Illustration by Charles Wilson

     It’s unclear whether hazard pay would offer more for the custodial workers as a whole or if the workers who volunteer to clean quarantine buildings would receive higher pay than those who don’t, but regardless the inclusion of hazard pay at all would be a good gesture from the college. Unfortunately, due to complications with stimulus packages and qualification restrictions, Saint Mike’s hasn’t secured a stimulus package since the CARES act in April. AFSCME Council 93 has been at the forefront of advocating for hazard pay and, in many cases across New England, has delivered. For the college to award hazard pay to their custodians, they would have to qualify for further stimulus money.

     We asked you on Instagram if you think custodial staff working in quarantine and isolation buildings should receive hazard pay, and almost 97% of you answered yes. “If they aren’t, that’s ridiculous,” said one anonymous response. The state and federal government are the only things standing between a stimulus package and the custodian’s hazard pay, but in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, tensions are higher than ever.

     “From a practical standpoint, we should certainly qualify. We were exposed to one of the biggest outbreaks in Vermont and it was entirely predictable,” said Lebel regarding hazard pay.

      The option to test externally using the health insurance provided by the college’s employees is an option, but sometimes an unrealistic one. Transportation, availability, and external responsibilities are some of the many reasons why external testing could be difficult. “I reached out to the SGA president [about custodial staff being tested for COVID] and the response wasn’t necessarily urgent,” said Lena O’Donnell, a member of the Student Labor Action Movement, or SLAM. “It didn’t really seem like the custodial staff and their safety was an issue.”

     Maddi Sousa, the President of SLAM, added “To say that custodians can just ‘go off-campus’ on their own free time and get tested assumes that they don’t have another job, that they have the transportation to get there, that they have the resources to get there and know where to go. It’s adding a lot more responsibility on their part when really they’re doing the most for us and we’re giving them nothing back.”

     Vanessa Bonebo, the SGA president, clarified that her response wasn’t meant to convey a lack of urgency. She and others at the college recognize the need for on-campus testing, but the Broad Institute simply wasn’t able to take on the additional tests for staff members, including custodial staff. This issue has been confirmed to be a priority for the college, as both Bonebo and Joel Ribout, Director of Facilities, made it clear that the college is hard at work to address the issue. “Details of that have not been worked out yet, but they are being actively discussed,” said Ribout.

     While Lebel may not be at high risk for complications, he is indirectly in contact with people who are. “I do not regret volunteering,” said Lebel, “but my hope is that the college will offer voluntary testing for staff in the future. My biggest fear is that I will get COVID-19, but be asymptomatic and spread it to my three-year-old son, who could then be asymptomatic and spread it to my mom or his pre-school.”

Kaitlin Woolery

Photo Editor

Life at Saint Michael’s College suddenly changed the third week in October when several students tested positive for COVID-19 immediately sending those students into isolation, while many other students identified as “close contacts” were asked to quarantine. The number of students in isolation and in quarantine reached over 150. As a result, classes immediately went remote for a few days, which extended to a week, followed by an announcement that all classes were to remain online the duration of the semester. 

During the 2020 Spring semester many college students across the country were faced with an unprecedented pandemic and lockdowns at home. St. Michael’s College, along with many other colleges and universities offered students the option of receiving a grade of pass/no pass which helped alleviate stress affiliated with the hardships caused by the disruption in education. Students did not have to worry about grades negatively impacting their GPA.

This Fall, many schools are again deciding to offer the pass/no pass option due to stress and disruptions caused by the increased cases of Coronavirus. According to their websites, UMass Boston, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, and Georgetown University recently implemented pass/fail policies for the Fall term. Middlebury College in Vermont is offering a credit/no credit option limited to one class this semester. Will Saint Michael’s College offer this option again for the Fall 2020 semester?

I reached out to Registrar & Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Marnie Owen and Associate Dean Tim Mackin to answer the following questions:

Q: How was the decision made to offer a pass/no pass option to students last Spring?

A: “The Pass/No Pass was implemented as a response to the unprecedented and unexpected disruptions of the spring semester due to COVID-19. The move to virtual or remote instruction was a necessary response to the rapid onset of the pandemic, but it was also not part of the academic plan when classes began in January 2020. Students and faculty thus had to make relatively abrupt and unexpected adjustments to these new circumstances. While those adjustments went well overall, we wanted to provide options for students who were concerned about any effects on their academic performance. Changing to Pass/No pass was also in keeping with how many colleges and universities were responding to the relatively sudden change to virtual or remote courses across the country. Because of this, we felt the Pass/No pass would not put our students at a competitive disadvantage when they chose to apply to graduate and professional programs after graduation.”

Q: What percentage of students took advantage of this option last Spring?

A: “Out of the 1,893 people who took a class in the spring of 2021 – including undergrads, graduate students and non-degree students – 471 (or ~25%) elected to convert one or more passing grades to “P” grades.”

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of offering a pass/no pass option?

A: “The Pass/No Pass relieved pressure on students who struggled with the unexpected adjustments, and it minimized any negative consequences for their GPA by eliminating failing grades and diminishing lower ones. It did create some problems, however. GPA is a helpful indicator of students who are struggling academically, so the Pass/No Pass has made it more difficult to identify those students and provide extra help and guidance. Many of our majors and programs also build upon previous coursework, where students need to master skills and concepts to be fully prepared for upper-level courses. The Pass/No Pass makes it harder to gauge whether a student is ready for those courses, which can lead to struggles down the road. We’re already seeing the effect of both of these concerns with students this fall, and those problems would be magnified if a Pass/No Pass were offered in back-to-back semesters.”

Q: With the spike in positive COVID cases and classes going online, has there been any thoughts on offering a pass/no pass option for Fall 2020?

A: “The Pass/No Pass was an important part of our adjustments to the shock of the pandemic, but it also involved a significant compromise of our academic standards. In addition to the problems for individual students described above, persistent compromise of academic standards could diminish the perception of a Saint Michael’s degree and possibly create problems for our accreditation. Those problems would be compounded by the fact that there’s been no larger movement in Higher Education toward Pass/Fail or Pass/No Pass grading this fall, which also could create issues for our students pursuing graduate and professional degrees. Unlike Spring 2020, we’ve also known about COVID, the potential for an outbreak, and the possibility of moving to virtual courses on short-notice since the beginning of the semester. That possibility has been a central part of our academic and campus planning and our communications to the SMC community about the fall. For all of these reasons, we have decided that an additional semester of Pass/No Pass grading would not be in the best interest of the college and its students.”

By Grace Filloramo and Sarah Knickerbocker

Online Editor and Design Editor

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. 

By Annie Serkes

Contributing Writer

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.

By Kara Basset

Contributing Writer

“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?