By Sam Mercer • Staff Writer

Phil Gadzekpo sits in his office in St. Edmund’s 115, he works diligently on two desktop computer monitors while simultaneously live streaming world news on a laptop next to them. The shelves behind his desk are adorned with sculptures and art pieces from several different continents. A chalk board mounted on his wall is scribbled with every possible academic opportunity for an international graduate student at St. Michael’s College. 

An assortment of bagged snacks are arranged next to a Costco coffee maker on the table by the door for the enjoyment of his visitors, who pop in frequently. 

“Almost every day, students come here, get a snack, sit down, chat for a few minutes, and just do the assignments and things like that, and then go to class,” Gadzekpo said. 

As the new director of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS), Gadzekpo has numerous responsibilities. He provides support to both undergraduate and graduate international students, ranging from guidance with visa applications to weekly trips to the grocery store. 

Originally from Ghana, Gadzekpo has worked in the field of international education for nearly a decade. In 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, and went on to work in their Center for International Education. 

“My first task was to work with students from the University of Wisconsin,” he said. “They had a project in Ghana, so I was part of the welcome team. So we worked with them, and that kind of aroused my interest [in international education].”

[What was the exact moment that aroused his interest] 

Gadzekpo came to the United States in 2015 to earn a master’s degree in early childhood education from East Tennessee State University, he worked simultaneously in their Office of International Programs. In 2018, he started work on his doctorate of higher education from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, a process that remains ongoing. 

Gadzekpo then moved to Washington State in March, 2020 and worked as an international admissions coordinator for Washington State University for a year, before he discovered the open position at St. Michael’s College. 

“I was going through this [website] and I saw the position at St. Michael’s College, and I Googled it. And I was like, well, it’s very interesting,” Gadzekpo said. “I did a lot of research on St. Mike’s. And I thought it was great. I liked the fact that they support social justice. They had a lot of programs and activities and events supporting minorities.”

Gadzekpo was hired in July as the director of the OISS, which is part of a broader effort to bolster the College’s appeal to international students. The OISS is overseen by the newly minted Center for Global Engagement (CGE), which opened in July. The CCE coordinates all international activity for the college.

Jeffrey Ayres, professor of political science and director of the CGE, said that Gadzekpo impressed him with his personable nature and extensive experience in international education.

“We had a very good sense that Phil would not only have the skill set to fulfill the responsibilities of the office, but he also would really be a great mentor to students, which is what we’re all about in a small student-centered institution,” Ayres said. 

Gadzekpo quickly established a rapport with Ayres over their shared goals for international engagement. He said it was more like a conversation than a job interview. 

“During my interview, we had a lot of things in common come up… we [Ayres and Gadzekpo] both supported globalization, promoting our students to be global citizens, and also increasing internationalization at St. Mike’s,” Gadzekpo said.  

Gadzekpo’s primary objective is to sustain and support the international student population on campus. He works closely with Peggy Imai, director of study abroad, to encourage more international travel among the student body. He also works with Lisa Lagerquist, associate director of international admissions to increase international student numbers. 

Gadzekpo’s work with international students begins after they are admitted to the College. Enrollment and Marketing Vice President Kristin McAndrew explained the importance of his role at St. Michael’s. 

“He [Gadzekpo]… serves in a critical role as the College’s Principal Designated School Official, which means he is our on-campus expert in immigration regulations,” she said.

Gadzekpo provides guidance in the visa application process, which is a vital step for any international student before they can even enter the country. After helping international students retrieve their visas, he coordinates with a myriad of other services on campus to prepare for their arrival. 

Gadzekpo said he teams up with a wide range of departments including counseling, CMAS [Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services], Bergeron Wellness Center, the Durick Library, dining services, the registrar, and financial services.

 “So pretty much you know, almost all the departments on campus. I reach out to them and make sure that we can help our students feel comfortable and safe,” Gadzekpo said. 

Once students actually arrive in the country, Gadzekpo works to ensure a seamless transition.  Francois Wemniga, an international graduate Fulbright scholar from Burkina Faso, said he was initially concerned about his arrival to the United States. 

“One of my concerns was how I would do once at the airport, but my Director Phil made it easy for me. That day, I even arrived late but he was waiting for me, and even cooked for me because we could not find any open restaurant at that time,” he said.

Senegalese Fulbright Scholar Oumar Djigo said Gadzekpo’s previous academic experience provides him with unique insights into the challenges international students face. 

“As an international scholar himself, he is in a good position to have a bird’s eye view of the actions that need to be taken to support international scholars and promote Saint Mike’s at the international level,” Djigo said. “He takes us shopping regularly despite his busy schedule and does his best to satisfy our needs.”

Wemniga describes an almost familial relationship between Gadzekpo and his fellow scholars, all of whom live in the Townhouse 100s. 

“What I really appreciate with our director as a neighbor is that he does not expect us to call him ‘director.’ He does not put distance between him and us,” Wemniga said. “He considers us as his brothers and sisters. We sometimes have dinner together where he gives us advice on questions we have.” 

Jolivette Anderson-Douoning, an Edmundite Graduate Fellow and neighbor of Gadzepko said his presence and role on campus will enhance the success of the community. 

“I think what Phil does, simply by being a good, decent person combined with his academic research and his work at St. Michael’s will open up the St. Mike’s community to much success in the future,” she said.

Ethan Li ‘22, an international student from China, first interacted with Gadzekpo over the summer via email, and was impressed by his accessibility. “He loves to help people out. We will send an email to him and he will respond really quick. I think that’s the kind of person who really loves his jobs,” he said.

President Lorraine Sterritt expressed optimism for Gadzekpo’s work in rebuilding an international presence at St. Michael’s. “Phil has a very student-centered approach, and that is exactly what we need in this role. We are fortunate to have him at the helm of OISS!” Sterritt said. 

Though Gadzekpo has made significant inroads among the international student population, there remains a long journey ahead for him and Ayres to turn St. Michael’s into the globally engaged institution they envision. The COVID-19 pandemic remains an ongoing impediment for international students entering the United States.

“After COVID, so many schools need to rebuild their international student population,” Aryes said. “[There is] a sense that the United States isn’t as welcoming to foreigners or international students, we’ve really seen a dramatic decline in international students.” 

Gadzekpo considers obstruction in the immigration system as a significant obstacle. 

“We do our part, for admitted students, to make sure that they are the best fit for St. Michael’s. However, we don’t have control over whether or not they get a visa at the embassy,” Gadzekpo said. 

Though he may spend weeks preparing an international student for arrival, he has no guarantee they will even be allowed in the country. 

“That’s a huge challenge. You prepare your students, you’re excited to see them, and the next day, they send you an email that they’ve been denied a visa, and you know, it’s a bummer, but it’s something that we can’t control,” Gadzekpo said

A major emphasis of the OISS has been the cross-cultural diffusion the program can create. “As we grow our international student population, that can only help to promote global citizenship skills and a sense of intercultural engagement amongst existing domestic students,” Ayres said. 

Gadzekpo has considered implementing a mentor program for domestic students to guide international students through American culture. He believes both groups have a lot to learn from each other. 

“My goal is just not for them to come in and increase our population, but at the same time, get to leave their bubble and do something that is not within the culture. That way, we can have two side effects,” Gadzekpo said.

Shefali Misra, professor of political science, said that a robust international presence would be beneficial to her courses. 

“As a teacher, it is so useful if I have two international students in my class, it seems to enhance the diversity of perspectives threefold,” Misra said. “Simply by coming from a different place, they just have an outlook on things that is shaped by experiences.” 

Though Gadzekpo has a long road ahead for international student engagement at St. Michael’s, he remains optimistic. He and Ayres are particularly excited for the International Student Lounge being renovated in St. Edmund’s 120, which is expected to provide international students with a welcoming space to do work or relax. 

Until then however, Gazekpo’s office is the heart of the OISS. His students can stop by almost any time of the day, whether they need help with immigration documents or just a friendly face to chat with. His door remains open, regardless if they have an appointment or not.

By Connor Starr – Staff Writer

Ashley DeLeon – Executive Editor – contributed to the reporting of this story

St. Michael’s College reported a spike of 87 positive COVID-19 cases within the past week, which is the highest uptick the institution experienced since last spring. President Lorraine Sterritt informed the College of the outbreak in a series of emails from Nov. 3-9 and alleged that Halloween weekend activities served as probable cause.

“We were doing really well as a community up to the point where there were numerous Halloween parties where students were unmasked and in close contact,” Sterritt wrote in a campus-wide email on Nov. 7. “We are deeply saddened that the investigation of the genesis of this increase in positive cases points to Halloween parties as being a significant part of the problem.” 

In-person classes were suspended last Friday resulting from the outbreak and resumed on Monday at instructor discretion. Sterritt also announced that in-person student social gatherings have been suspended, and that party registration would be reevaluated after Thanksgiving break. 

“I can see and hear the impact that this difficult week has had on our community. I’m feeling grateful to our students, faculty, and staff for responding quickly and adjusting, and for adhering to COVID policies. I recognize the sacrifices and stresses involved, and I feel for everyone as we navigate our way through this wretched pandemic. I want our students to have fun, and I want them to be safe. We are a strong community. We will pull through this, and we look forward to brighter days ahead,” Sterritt said in an email to the Defender. 

Following the outbreak, Sterritt announced that there would be an asymptomatic testing center in response to the rise in cases. Dawn Ellinwood, vice president for student affairs, informed the College that the center would be located in Eddie’s Lounge. 

The outbreak made national headlines and was reported by The New York Times on Tuesday. The story was temporarily featured on the landing page of their web site and was later migrated to the COVID-19 updates section.

On Wednesday, the Student Government Association executive board responded to the email from Nov. 7 with a statement on behalf of students and their concerns.

“First and foremost, masking at social gatherings in a student’s living space has been communicated to students as only being needed at their discretion. This guidance was given at a residence hall meeting for townhouses, apartments, and suites by the Director of Residence Life. The College now asserting the guideline has always been proper masking indoors is still required, even in social gatherings with people you know presents a contradiction of what students were told earlier in the year. It has created a sense of frustration, as students who have had small, safe social gatherings within the guidance they were given are now being seen as reckless and unsafe. Further, as students’ homes are considered a private space on campus, this guideline may ultimately prove to be unenforceable without further restricting a student’s ability to live comfortably on this campus,” the board wrote. 

Marketing and Communications Director Alex Bertoni said he felt sad and proud in an email to the Defender. “I am sad because despite so many students doing the right thing, we have this situation. I feel proud because of the students, faculty, and staff that have come together to help out,” he said.

Political Science and International Relations Professor Mike Bosia expressed his perspective as to how state policies may have played a role in this outbreak.

“We are in this position because the governor has been unable to explain why Vermont is experiencing a surge in COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths since August – some of the highest numbers since March 2020… St. Mike’s is part of the larger community, and when public health authorities allow you to go to bars and clubs unvaccinated and without a mask, we can predict that there will be an outbreak,” he said.  

Bosia also believes that the governor is “relying on our impatience instead of our best selves.”

Robert McCabe ’23, explained his frustration about the suspension of social gatherings. “One of the main things students have to look away to is seeing our friends and going to social gatherings, and this gives us a way to get away from the stresses of COVID and school. COVID fatigue is adding up, and we need a way to escape.” 

Gabby Doe ’23 believes that engaging in off campus activities could have contributed to the outbreak. “It seemed like we were doing a pretty good job at containing them, but the spike from Halloween weekend made sense because a lot of people were going to other schools or bars to party. And that’s just introducing COVID from somewhere else into our environment. There’s nothing they could do to prevent that… They can’t force us to stay on campus,” she said.

Sterritt expressed her desire for students to enjoy the college experience, though the spike has heightened a need for an increase in precautionary measures.

“I know you want to enjoy your St. Michael’s experience to the fullest, but this spike in cases, the onset of winter, and the power of this virus call for even more thoughtful consideration and personal responsibility,” Sterritt said in an email. She called upon students to join a collective effort to “do well and do good.” 

Sterritt also added that no student experienced symptoms that required hospitalization. 

On Nov. 5, Sterritt informed the College community about 54 reported cases and that the Executive Policy Group would meet to assess the status of campus. 

“I can’t emphasize enough the crucial importance of abiding by the College’s COVID policies. There are vulnerable people on campus and vulnerable family members in the homes of faculty and staff. It is imperative that everyone make wise choices, choices that take into account the wellbeing of every member of our community,” she wrote in an email on Nov. 5. 

Faith Morgan ’23 said she felt confused and scared about how the remainder of the semester would pan out after seeing the first two emails. 

“I remember seeing the first email about the 10 cases, and I was  a little anxious about that, but then I was also kind of okay, because 10 is still pretty low, given that we’re all vaccinated,” she said.

“Then we got the email about 31 more cases. With this one, I felt a lot more anxious and I felt like my mind was all over the place. I would have moments where I’d be super anxious, but then I’d tell myself well we’re doing what we can. This spike is kind of inevitable, it was going to happen at some point.”

COVID-19 cases have increased in Vermont since this summer. The Vermont Department of Health reported that the highest number of daily cases throughout most of the summer was 59, until a recent spike in August led to over 100 reported cases per day. 

Months later, the state is experiencing a spike as daily cases reach the highest they have ever been at 591 cases yesterday.

Gov. Scott said in a press conference on Nov. 4 that this pandemic is “driven by the unvaccinated.”

Sterritt announced last week that boosters would be required for vaccinated students, faculty and staff. 

“The vaccine is an incredibly effective tool – the most effective tool – we have.  It’s greatest strength is in reducing severe illness requiring hospitalizations and reducing deaths,” said Trish Siplon, public health director and political science professor. 

Bertoni, who also serves as a member of the Executive Policy Group, explained that the deadline to receive boosters is undecided. 

“The booster shot is required for students as they become eligible, but a deadline has not yet been established because it varies from student to student,” Bertoni said. “We will provide ample time for students to get their boosters. We just ask that students schedule their booster as they become eligible, which is six months after receiving their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” 

Vermonters who expect to receive a COVID-19 booster can select a different vaccine brand than their initial shot. 

The FDA and CDC announced the approval of vaccines to children ages 5-11 on Oct. 29. 

“Thankfully, 44,000 more Vermonters [children ages 5-11] just became eligible for vaccination. Today’s data underscores the urgency for parents and caregivers to sign their children up to be vaccinated if they are eligible. Vaccines are safe, effective and free. Not only will they limit spread of the virus, but also limit disruptions, like the need to quarantine after exposure, which leads to kids missing school and other activities that help their social and emotional wellbeing,” Scott said in his Nov. 4 press conference.  

As some community members live with unvaccinated children, this can mitigate potential fears of bringing the virus home.

In regards to the safety of the College community, Sterritt added that “With regard to the current increase in cases, it is absolutely imperative that everyone follow the College’s COVID policies. Everyone must remember that there are vulnerable people on campus and that there are faculty and staff who have unvaccinated children and other vulnerable people at home.” 

Though the St. Michael’s community has been rattled by the outbreak, Bertoni is hopeful that our community will overcome this.

To register for a booster or to check for eligibility, visit the Vermont Department of Health website.

Asymptomatic faculty, staff and students can schedule a COVID-19 test through the Sign-Up Genius linked in a Nov. 9 email from the Office of Student Life.

Symptomatic students can call or visit the Bergeron Wellness Center to receive a test. 

By Alexander Foy

Sports & Opinion Editor

The Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont took steps towards racial diversity and inclusion by featuring BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists in the “Storytelling Salon,” “Learning Studio” and “Abstraction” exhibitions for its reopening on Sept. 21. This push for change was fueled by 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings following the death of George Floyd, said Janie Cohen, Director of the Fleming Museum. 

In the early stages, the Museum’s staff members spent a lot of time learning and unlearning what they knew about the layouts of their galleries, said Cynthia Cagle, guest services coordinator at the Fleming Museum. 

This has been done with the help of Ferene Paris Meyer, the founder of All Heart Inspirations, who works to create spaces for community dialogue, Cohen said. 

Paired with transparency and communication to the public, the Museum plans to create a space of inclusivity, said Chris Dissinger, associate director of the Fleming Museum.

“Our intention is to always have listening sessions, opportunities for our audience, all aspects of our audience, all members, to feel comfortable in the museum and to share their stories, their interests and concerns,” Dissinger said. 

While trying to become more inclusive, Dissinger said that the Fleming Museum has considered hosting meetings with other colleges in the region, like St. Michael’s College.

These meetings could be an opportunity for members of the St. Michael’s community to share their opinions about the Fleming’s reimagining, he said.  

“I think that museums need to be used more for [community gatherings] and be more open to a lot of different public functions,” said Brian Collier, associate professor of fine arts at St. Michael’s.

For the Fleming Museum of Art, this isn’t a new topic of discussion. “Many years ago we said we are going to make expanding our BIPOC artist collection, but we didn’t really direct resources towards it,” said Museum Director Janie Cohen. “We didn’t make it a priority that would make a difference,” she said.

However, with new and significant acquisition resources, they can. 

The bulk of new acquisition resources is expected to be used for acquiring contemporary art created by BIPOC artists. With this new fund, paired with the build-up of other unused funds, Cohen and her staff plan to move the museum into a more culturally sensitive direction. The Museum has already made this push with their newest exhibitions, “Storytelling Salon,” “Learning Studio” and “Abstraction,” with nearly half of the artists who premiered are BIPOC artists.

Beyond the addition of the acquisition fund, Dissinger said the Fleming Museum is committed to building a two-way street of communication with the community. The Museum recently implemented a feedback form on their website that allows people to communicate ideas about how the space can be more inclusive. 

“We are going to have regular staff sessions where we will share that feedback and help that guide our values and priorities moving forward,” Dissinger said. The Museum is also restructuring its membership system to allow all members of the community to experience the exhibitions, he explained. The previous membership structure of the museum functioned like a hierarchy, where visitors received more benefits based on the amount of money they paid.  

However, this system is expected to change.

That system is being replaced by the Fleming Community Circle, available free of charge. This allows the museum to send community updates about upcoming exhibitions and events. 

Upcoming events are expected to serve as opportunities to discuss a variety of topics ranging from meanings and interpretations of art to incorporating diversity and inclusion in the Museum. These meetings are expected to occur every few weeks.

“When we are open to the public, we will have six panels up in the museum referencing either art that has been removed or galleries that have been closed. [For] instance, there is one gallery — our African and Egyptian gallery — that is currently under complete renovation and we don’t know if it’s going to reopen as that,” Dissinger said. Fleming plans to continue reviewing art displays, which may result in a second round of removals, he explained.

“It’s exciting after all the work we have put in to see some of the early response of people coming in,” said Cynthia Cagle, guest services coordinator. Cagle described initial reactions as positive.

The Fleming Museum of Art is not alone in this effort towards its inclusion efforts in the museum. A number of museums around the world, like the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, are working towards decolonizing their exhibits, Cohen said.

“I would have thought that university museums would have been out ahead of everybody else and interestingly not. Some of the real leaders are major museums,” she said.

“We are deeply committed to it as a staff and we’re not being timid about it,” Cohen said. 

By Sam Heyliger

Managing & Visuals Editor

It was a typical Saturday morning for Scott Cheney. Wake up at around 5 a.m., drive the dark fifteen minute commute from Burlington, and begin an early morning inspection of campus. 

“This is nothing. They didn’t even party last night. Sometimes you have to come in with shovels,” Scott Cheney said while driving through the Townhouse 300s at 6:34 am. The ground was littered with cans, bottles, food, and other miscellaneous garbage from the night before. Cheney said it would take about an hour to pick up everything in the Townhouse 300s before the students started to wake up. 

Scott Cheney is a member of the grounds maintenance staff at St. Michael’s College. He and his fellow staff members are in charge of maintaining the fields and outdoor spaces around campus, keeping them free of any excess sticks, leaves, snow, and garbage. 

“We’re pretty detail oriented. We always want everything to look the best it can. You’ll start eyeing everything as you’re going through because we’re thinking of it like the students are paying the money to come here, so when I come here, I want it to look right,” Cheney said. 

The grounds crew on campus has a long history with weekend party cleanup, having frequently picked up garbage, furniture, and other miscellaneous objects left on the campus grounds overnight. Cheney and his coworkers were tasked this weekend with keeping the campus clean for the oncoming visitors for Family and Alumni Weekend. 

“As you come through you’re going to start to have the memories you had coming here and this is how we represent St. Michael’s. We want it to look good,” Cheney said. “Any eyesoar you pick out immediately. I do. And you will too when your child is going to school. You don’t want to see that.”

During his campus inspection, Cheney drove his Gator up to the front of the Townhouse 400s to inspect some new chalk markings from the night before. “That’s gotta be removed. We can’t have that stuff right there,” Cheney said. 

Plastered on the ground were inappropriate illustrations and profane language. “At least it’s chalk and not spray paint,” Cheney said before washing off the chalk with gallon buckets of water and an old broom being hauled in the bed of his Gator. 

This fall marks the 17th year that Cheney has worked as a member of grounds and facilities at St. Michael’s. Cleaning up garbage from parties has been par for the course over the years. “You don’t really think about [the messes], you just do it. It’s all love for the job really. It’s what it basically comes down to,” Cheney said. 

Working long weekend hours is nothing new according to Cheney. Anticipating the job at hand helps him know what he’s getting into before arriving at campus, “You have to be here between 5:30 and 6:00 depending on how bad the mess is. It’s like imagining the Boston Red Sox winning the world series in Game 7, do you know what that’s going to look like the next day?” Cheney said. 

Scott and his four coworkers are what is left of the grounds crew at St. Michael’s amidst severe understaffing following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“When I first started in the early 2000s, there were probably 17 to 18 people on our crew, now there’s like 4. It has dropped dramatically. It puts a lot of pressure on all of us when we don’t have the numbers. There’s a lot more responsibility on everybody,” Cheney said.  

Facilities Director Joel Ribout took on the task of helping lighten this pressure through new ways of looking at what the grounds crew should be responsible for around campus. “We started shifting the responsibility more to the students within the past three years. COVID put a big hiccup on that because there weren’t allowed to be parties technically. There was virtually no cleanup in 2020, so I think what we’re doing now with the help of Jeff Vincent and the RDs is a great step to get where we have to get,” Ribout said. 

Through several meetings, residence life and grounds have decided to start decreasing the grounds crew’s presence on early morning cleanups around campus after large gatherings. Specifically around townhouses, said Nicole Noce, resident director of townhouses and apartments. 

“One thing that we, residence life staff, Jeff Vincent, facilities, and grounds crew agreed on is that other than big weekends like alumni weekend, grounds are not responsible for cleaning up in the townhouses because we really want the seniors to be owning their area,” Noce said. 

Scott Cheney was positive about this change in philosophy when asked while driving past the empty, dew laden quad. 

“Joel is the third boss we’ve had. My other two bosses would think this is what has been done for a hundred years, this is the way it’s going to be. Joel was the first one that came in and as the first one who said why are we the ones picking up after them,” Cheney said. “This is something we’re just recently trying is to see if we leave the trash the way it sits in mornings like this. If the students come out and start picking up after themselves, we’re hoping they’ll learn that it needs to not be a mess.”

Once the inspection of campus was complete, Scott promptly drove over to the Townhouse 300s and proceeded to pick up the fattened beer cans, broken glass, and food scraps pressed into trodden dirt in front of the townhouses. 

 The 300s have been the center of party culture for many generations of St. Michael’s students, Cheney explained. “It’s always been the armpit because that’s where everything happens,” Cheney said.  “We’re going to pick all that up Friday morning, and guess what they’re going to do tonight, party. And this same area is going to look like this again tomorrow morning.” 

Scott Cheney’s experience on campus with students has been marked with various moments and interactions over the years. “There’s a lot of students that kind of treat us like ‘the garbage people’, and there’s other people that are thankful. So we get a mix. A lot of the time they don’t understand what we have to do,” Cheney said. “Sometimes they’re drunk and they’ll throw [beer cans] out their windows and it will hit us if we’re underneath them.”

The root of this problem, however, could be more than just an impulse decision to litter, explained Nicole Noce, “The students need healthy peer pressure. Calling people out and telling people to pick up their garbage. Owning that it’s our community and we don’t leave [campus] gross. We pick up after ourselves.” 

Cheney, however, is not completely opposed to the party culture on campus.

“They can party all they want. They should be able to let loose. College is tough, college is really tough. So every once in a while they need to release. We don’t hold anything against them as far as that goes, it’s the whole picking up after them gets tiring,” Cheney said.

The time is 8:00 am. The Townhouse 300s lawns are nearly all clean, and parents and alumni are starting to trickle on to campus as Scott Cheney takes his fourth and final trash bin to the dumpster behind the parking lot. 

Tomorrow morning, the second cleanup crew will come in and repeat the morning process that the grounds crew undergo every weekend, while Scott Cheney gets his day off before the busy week ahead.

By Emma Shortall

Managing Editor

I open the email from President Sterritt and instantly I start shaking. I am in full disbelief. I should’ve known it was coming, but this all changed so quickly and so abruptly. Why did it change within 24 hours, why yesterday could we have people over, but now we can’t?

In the email from President Sterritt, she states that as a result of our rising COVID-19 positive cases (we currently have 66 on the dashboard) the rest of this semester’s classes will be conducted remotely, there will be no in-person group activities, we will continue with take-out dining and all gatherings of any size are prohibited, therefore no on-campus or off-campus guests are allowed in any residences, including rooms and common areas. 

As someone who has followed the COVID-19 protocol for the whole semester, I am extremely hurt by the decision that we are not allowed to have any on-campus visitors or students, other than of course our roommates. I only live with one other person, so she and I plan to tough it out and go stir crazy together. I believe other students and myself would be more than happy to be wearing masks all day every day if it just meant we could even spend a minute with our other friends on campus. 

Trust the majority of your student body, we want this all to go away too.  

Looking at the COVID-19 Dashboard, it looks as though there are around 1,400 students on campus and there have been 66 positive cases. Doing simple math, that is around 5% of the campus has tested positive, but what about the other 95%? 

We are sent this email, yet there are still so many unanswered questions. Are we still allowed off campus for essentials? Can we still go to the grocery store? We have been able to this whole semester despite possibilities of exposure. Can we not see our friend while wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and getting tested regularly? Can we not even see our neighbors who live in the same residential area as us, despite all of us testing negative time and time again? It simply doesn’t make sense.

What if we completely shut down campus, with no one allowed in? This would limit outside exposure while still allowing us to socially distance with our friends. We would still have online classes, but even the slightest social interaction would make this all a tiny bit better. Food from Alliot could be delivered to the students on the meal plan, and for others we could InstaCart our groceries and order delivery. I’d rather be using all my Alliot swipes to see my friends’ faces. 

Who is enforcing these new rules? I messaged a Resident Assistant shortly after we got this email and she had no clue about what steps the school is going to take next. How can the people who are supposed to be our support system in the residences not even know what’s going on? There needs to be a warning for these Resident Assistants, as well as for the students so we are prepared when our lives are suddenly flipped upside down.

This situation seems like a subtle way of getting us off-campus without the school losing money. By making it our choice, it’s no one else’s fault but our own for leaving. The Administration seems to be gently guiding us out the gates, yet that is the last thing we want to do. 

I am extremely hurt by these decisions, in particular, the no visitor rule, and I’m sure many of my fellow peers feel the same. No one wants to be isolated from their friends when they’ve done nothing wrong. Work with us who have been following these rules so we can stay healthy while also staying sane these next few weeks.

By Lena O’Donnell

Visual Editor

On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 5, around 50 students and community members waited in the Farrell Room, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate, they wrote on cards to declare their commitments to combat racism. Students were busy writing before Rebecca Haslam, an assistant professor in the Education Department spoke up to introduce the discussion : “This all of our work, this is all of our problem, this impacts all of us,” Haslam said.

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
December 5 at 8:00 pm in the Farrell Room, (MIDDLE) Rebecca Haslam starts off the event with talking about racism and how there needs to be more done on this campus to fight it.

“We wanted to do something sooner rather than later in order to “show up” literally and metaphorically for Students of Color on campus,” Haslam said, before reading aloud an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham Jail. “We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied,” she said. After they stepped outside to the Teaching Gardens, where they spoke their commitment while lighting a candle.

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
Saint Michael’s College President Lorraine Sterritt wrote her commitment to make our campus more inclusive, welcoming, and accepting of all.

“It was great to see my peers take time out of their busy schedules to recognize and participate in the efforts the Ed department is making toward a more inclusive, welcoming, and aware community, said Mallory Bauer ‘21.

Connor Vezina ‘22 also came in support representing the Diversity Coalition. “I really appreciated what the Ed department did. I’ve been waiting for faculty to become more involved and I think this was a great first step to make the campus as a whole more aware that actions need to be taken,” said Vezina. 

Photo by Lena O’Donnell
Shaun Clem ’23 writes his commitment to combat racism in our community.

The event wrapped up with singing around their commitments that were placed on a string of lights. Elementary Ed Professor John Tapper led the singing while strumming his guitar. All the written commitments are displayed around the third floor of St. Eds.

Photos by Lena O’Donnell

By Justin Madison

Contributing Writer

Suicide. One word and anyone who hears it mentally flinches. We all know what it means and what it implies and we shudder when we’re forced to talk about it. It’s a topic that reaches more people than many, meaning it should be easier to talk about, yet it isn’t.

Knowing someone who dies is a difficult thing to go through, and I know from personal experience how the absence reaches more people than the person who is gone would expect. 

When one of my high school classmates killed himself, people from all over the town came together. Even people from neighboring towns and cities who knew him or even knew of him showed up at many of the services offered to grieve his departure. 

In his life, he touched so many people and all of them felt the effects of his death. One person can have a lasting impact on someone and when that person passes, all the people they have interacted with are affected as well. So many people who had all split off on branching paths of life all are affected in the same way when someone decides to kill themselves. 

I have seen the tragedy firsthand on multiple occasions.

One would think that in a society where we have access to social media boards and discussions, we would be more open to the ideas of reaching out for help when we experience feelings of depression or begin to contemplate suicide. Instead, there seems to be an online environment that encourages suicide and in a way that glorifies the systemic problem. 

How often has someone scrolled through their feed and seen a post about how, “If I kill myself then technically the problem would be gone,” and chuckled. It’s become casual to humorize the topic in order to avoid any sense of awkwardness that may arise. We’ve all heard things like this, and although we may laugh at first it is a laugh of discomfort. When we move on from the surface concepts of these jokes there is a real epidemic that is being ignored. It’s easier to jibe about suicide than it is to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Knowing what I know about the topic, I always feel guilty for laughing and guilty for playing along, just because it is easier.

It’s in this awkwardness that makes it taboo to seek help. In her TED talk, “Casually Suicidal” Sarah Liberti, a student at Adelphi University, shares her experience with this taboo topic with her friend. This friend had told her before that people who want to commit suicide are better off dead. When Sarah comes to this friend for emotional support in her depression and suicidal thoughts, her friend abandons her and essentially encourages Sarah to do it. Seeking help only brought Sarah to a dead end. 

But if her friend had been more accepting and educated about the ideas of suicide, then maybe there wouldn’t have been a barrier in the discussion in the first place. 

Help is always available, with hotlines and services almost everywhere to seek out if someone is feeling depressed. But not everyone utilizes these as much as they should. I should know because I used to know many people who were too conscious of their image to admit that they needed help. They put on a strong face and made it impossible to tell they were even struggling in the first place. 

They lived for so long with all their emotions and insecurities bottled up inside until they eventually consumed them and they couldn’t take it anymore. And now they’re gone, and they didn’t have the strength to admit that they needed help. 

It could have been prevented, all of them. The issue arises in the fact that people in our digital society chose to humorize the situation because it makes them feel weird because it makes them mentally flinch. With so many young people on the internet who may or may not possess suicidal thoughts, we can expect to see future increases in suicides of college-aged students. 

So long as it remains taboo to talk about your faults and seek help, nothing will change. Suicide may be an epidemic as of today, but it is preventable so long as we take the right actions and make a change. Be the type of person, in real life and online, that instead of humorizing the topic, reach out to those who need it. Instead of making it a taboo conversation, make it something that we should be proud to talk about.

People should be able to say, “I got help and now I want to live” instead of shedding tears at their friend’s funeral. My final word to anyone reading this is that if you yourself are feeling any suicidal thoughts or if you know someone who might, It is okay to seek help. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling, and when you finally admit to someone else that you are, you’ll feel so much better. 

I couldn’t say it to my friends and classmates who have killed themselves, but I can at least say it now. 

By Courtney Kelly

Staff Writer

“Classes are so small here that teachers really notice when you’re not there, and it reflects poorly on your effort. Then if you ever need help later in the semester, having not been in class can really work against you. It’s important to make being present in class a priority ” 

“Socially, reaching out to upperclassman can really help. Seniors aren’t as scary as they may seem.”-Jacob Kent ‘20

“I thought I could just apply the same study habits I had in high school to college, which involved me doing everything last minute and procrastinating. Second semester, I realized I needed to get it together and manage my time better. I started trying harder and made sure to plan out time to get my assignments done before the night they were due, then I handled my classes much better.” -Madeleine Morse ‘20

“You’re going to stress over work, we all do, but you have to just sit down and get through it anyway. Most of our parents are out working hard to be able to pay to put us through college, so doing the best you can in classes is returning the favor” -Jake Brodbine ‘20

 “Don’t take it so seriously. Be more present in your experience. We live in a beautiful state, appreciate the nature that’s out there. Appreciate time with your friends. You’re not going to remember some quiz you had in business class, verses a real experience. Go into the mountains, go into the city.”

“Having patience with yourself that you’re not going to have a bunch of friends and things are going to be figured out in the next two weeks. Patience. You think everything is supposed to be figured out right away, and it’s not.” -Todd Wright, Director of the Adventure Sports Center

“I thankfully figured out that everybody was at least a little stressed out in social situations, so that helped me. Everybody is an awkward weirdo and everybody feels awkward, uncomfortable, and anxious staring new conversations, and new social experiences.”

“I would definitely tell my freshman year self that ‘this is not representative of college, this is just an unpleasant transition time, and that will get better.” 

“You’ve got to come to class, even if you’re in a miserable place, and feel like can’t do anything. Even if you just sit there. Even if you’re behind on work. No matter what, the first thing you should try to do is get to class. We’re going to be supportive and in most cases be more than willing to help you. You have to communicate.” -Allison Luedtke, Professor of Economics

“I worried a lot about my appearance, I always felt fat. I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in, or other people seemed to be more put together than me. I look back now and think to myself

‘What was I worried about? I think it’s an age where you just never feel quite right all the time. I wish I could tell myself ‘you’re really cute, stop worrying about how you look’.”

“I’m a huge advocate of talk therapy and all those professionals that can help you with those big questions and whatnot.”

“I knit all the time. That always helps calm me down and focus. Finding a hobby that takes your mind off things is something I would suggest to cope with stress.” -Jane Kay, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics

Talia Perrea Visionary Editor

Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor

On November 22 and 23 Katherine Ort, ’20 presented her senior seminar project “Trapped.” The show was a 40 minute long movement piece written by Talia Perrea, ’20 about anxiety. This show depicts what it may feel like to experience an anxiety attack through movement with no spoken dialogue in the show. Ort, Perrea, Patrick Richards, ’20. Charles Thompson, ’20, and Madeline Shanley, ’22 all starred in the show.

By Melanie Roberge

Staff Writer

Stuck in a snow rut? Not sure you’re a winter person? As the snow creeps in it’s easy to lock yourself inside to escape the cold. But even if you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, there are plenty of fun, outdoor activities to stay physically and mentally healthy during these colder months. Here are five ways you can get outdoors and moving this winter season.

“We do ice climbing, mountaineering, and snowshoe trips for the spring season,” said Adventure Sports Center student-instructor Stephen Higgins ‘20, emphasizing that you don’t have to have any experience to go on these trips. “You come in, you pay anywhere between 5 and 15 bucks depending on which trip you go on and that gets you all the gear.” 

“If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” said Eben Widlund, the assistant director of the Adventure Sports Center. “Ice climbing and mountaineering are a little more technical but not any more physically challenging.”

The Adventure Sports Center has a variety of equipment for every outing, always included in the single outing fee. “If people are interested in getting out on their own, most of the equipment you would need to go out snowshoeing is available for rental,” Widlund said.

Demery Coppola ’21 repels down a steep slope in Smuggler’s Notch last March. Mountaineering trips with the Adventure Sports Center are only $15 and provide all technical gear necessary
(Photo by Matt Heller)

It’s really important to find something to do during the winter here if you don’t ski or snowboard. The three winters before this year have been filled with me learning how to ice climb and getting to the point where I can teach other people how to ice climb,” Higgins said. “We live in Vermont and it’s a really beautiful place.”

For only $65, students get access to Petra Cliffs Climbing Center in Burlington as well as two guest passes a month to try it with a friend during the academic year. The Learn to Ski and Ride program is an affordable option for those students who wish to join the ski and snowboard community. For only $50, this Sugarbush program includes two full-day lessons, rentals, lift tickets, and (at the end of the program) a free season pass.

Anna Tuttle ’20 climbs in Smuggler’s Notch last February. Ice climbing trips with the Adventure Sports Center are only $15 and provide all technical gear necessary
(Photo by Matt Heller)

Ice Skating: $5

Local ice arenas also offer public skating hours for a low price. The C. Douglas Cairns Recreation Arena in South Burlington and Leddy Park Arena in Burlington both offer public skating for only $5 and $3 for rentals.


For students who don’t or can’t ski or snowboard and feel trapped in snow and homework, they have to be creative when pondering activities to do outside. “I had knee surgery my Freshmen year and couldn’t snowboard for a few years,” said Kenzie Day ‘21. “Me and my friends bought really cheap sleds at Walmart and went sledding a few times at the huge hill at the Burlington Country Club. It was wicked fun.”

Indoor Sports:

SMC Intramurals plans to offer Wally Ball, Basketball, Soccer, and Floor Hockey for the upcoming Spring semester. Sign-ups begin in January. The link to sign up is on the SMC Athletics website under Intramurals. Join as an individual or with friends to make a team!