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The first annual Defender fall photo contest captured what autumn means to people in the St. Michael’s College community. The images displayed on this page represent the top three photo’s submitted to The Defender on Instagram. Thank you to all who participated.

PHOTO BY HANNAH WILMOT
“The amazing sunsets I see in fall on the Champlain shore always makes Vermont feel like home.” -Hannah Wilmot,’21


PHOTO BY MARY HAY
“When I think of fall, I think of Vermont.”-Mary Hay, ’20
PHOTO BY RACHEL PROCTOR
When Rachel Proctor, ’17, thinks of fall she said she thinks of “leaving the office for the weekend during peak leaf peeping, and the perfect lighting.”
Photo by Jessie Anderson, ’21
To me fall means a time of reflection and gathering of inner peace through watching sunsets.

By Molly Humiston
Staff Writer

Your head feels trapped in an impenetrable fog; maybe it’s a head cold, maybe it’s something more, but either way you’ve gone from class to class, building to building, trying to shake it until your feet, or your internal parent’s nags, land you in the waiting room of Bergeron Wellness Center.

You’re not sure you really want to be there, but in your hands is a single page survey, it’s not even double-sided, asking a simple question through a handful of others: How are you doing?

With a student body of roughly 1,700, nearly half go to Bergeron annually for both student health and personal counseling. According to Mary Masson, the Director of Health Services, 1,588 students have already been to Bergeron this year alone.

This year brought two primary changes for students at Bergeron: increased walk-in availability for all counselors and a Brief Health Screen, which is a general survey completed by all students who make an appointment. The latter offers the Bergeron staff insight into how the student is doing and what might be affecting them beyond what the appointment was made for.

“I think it gives a holistic view of the patient that’s coming in, so whether it be for a counseling appointment or a visit with a nurse practitioner, they can know what outside influences are in the student’s life that may alter their plan of treatment,” said Talia Torkomian ’21, who has gone to Bergeron for both of their services.

The survey screens for substance use, mood, partner violence, and bias, said Kathy Butts, director of counseling, adding that it allows for a greater depth of care in getting to know the student and the outside factors they are dealing with.

It can be “an opportunity to open up a conversation about the fact that [the student] may need something more than the physical issue that brought them initially,” Butts said.

The use of these surveys creates an opportunity to provide the student with a greater benefit through a discussion of their options, both on campus and off, if they need it. “I’ve heard that other people have problems, but I’ve gone for several different reasons and each time has led me in a better direction than beforehand,” said Claire Scherf ’20, who has primarily used the counseling services at Bergeron. She, like other students, was unaware of the walk-in changes, but noted the difficulty some students may have in making appointments “I think it’s a hard thing to initialize, but…you have more choices, flexibility.”
In addition to the change in availability of counselors and the Brief Health Screen, there are two more surveys to be aware of. One is every few weeks through Survey Monkey to a selection of students who have gone to Bergeron to assess general satisfaction, and one will be sent at the end of the semester to those who used the counseling services for feedback on the changes made.

Both surveys offer students the opportunity to provide Bergeron with direct information on what worked and what didn’t, so that services can be better tailored to the needs of students.

By Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor

Bras. They’re expensive. They can be uncomfortable. And more often than not they are annoying. It’s not just the process of putting a bra on that can be annoying. It’s the whole concept, and it’s one more way that sets women back economically.

The fact that some people carry around anywhere from five to 23 pounds (if not more) on their chest is frankly unfair. So the concept of a bra was created to make life easier and became a societal norm. But why is something considered a necessity to some, so darn uncomfortable and expensive?

Men currently earn about $23,300 more than women when both parties have bachelor degrees.

Talia Perrea ’20

To find a super comfortable, and supportive bra comes at a plus-size price– $65 or over, a price that is highly marked up. Women’s clothing in general is more expensive than men’s. A study done by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs found that women pay 15 percent more for shirts, 13 percent more for dress shirts,
and 10 percent more for jeans. The bra comes as an added expense.

It doesn’t end there. Women on average pay more for shampoo and conditioner, body wash, deodorant, girl’s bookbags, bicycles, helmets and padding, toys, medical items such as braces, and canes according to the study. Despite the fact that women are being charged more for basic necessities, women still make less than men in every sector. Why are women charged more? Why aren’t we pushing back? How are companies and businesses getting away with this outrageous inequality?

And consider that the “luxury” tax, also known as the tampon tax still exists in certain states. Women are being forced to pay more for an item that they need to use if they don’t want to risk ruining their clothes.

It’s 2019 and we’re still facing a gender inequality in the most intimate of places…our breasts, and our vaginas. women now make up slightly more than 50 percent of the college-educated workforce, according to a study by the Pew Research Center This development could finally lead to a decrease in the wage gap. Men currently earn about $23,300 more than women when both parties have bachelor degrees. But if our basic necessities are expensive, that pay gap still exists.

I may only represent the voice of a cis white female, but if the world is unfair for me, then imagine the people who struggle on a daily basis.

So a bra might be a strange place to start, but it’s a place. If we could change the way bras are marketed and priced in modern day corporate America, then we have the power to change anything. And corporate America, if you’re reading this: make bras more comfortable and affordable, cause I’m tired of this nonsense.

By Haeleigh Lange
Staff Writer

When Abigail “Abby” Bozzuti, ’22, was 4 years old, she was bitten by a tick while living with her family in Bethel, CT, which is about a half an hour away from Lyme, CT, where the first official cases of Lyme disease occurred. She soon developed joint pain, migraines, and sensitivity to light and noise. “I went to countless doctor’s appointments, had blood drawn repeatedly, and I had an EEG (Electroencephalogram) and an MRI performed. The biggest thing was trying to convince doctors that it wasn’t in my head. Many wanted to write off my symptoms as physical manifestations of anxiety and depression,” Bozzuti said.

She suffered for 13 years without being treated for Lyme disease. “My biggest symptoms were chronic fatigue, severe joint pain, brain fog, migraines, temperature, light and noise sensitivity, POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome,) anxiety, and nausea/stomach pain,” she added.

Lyme disease is on the rise in New England, and Vermont is the second most populous Lyme disease case state in the country, with approximately 78 cases for every 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“Vermont has had increasingly hard struggles with Lyme disease spreading,” said Brad Richards, media consultant of the Vermont Department of Health.“The people living here are some of the most likely to get it across the entire country due to the fact that Vermont is within the black-legged or deer ticks’ habitat, which are the ticks
that carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” he said.

Bottuzi said she went from a straight-A student, to one who barely graduated high school. To recover from her body trying to fight off Lyme disease, she had to take a gap year before going to college to be mentally and physically rested. She has suffered with the consequences of going untreated for Lyme disease and Post Treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) and still suffers from adrenal fatigue.

To prevent Lyme disease, Eben Widlund, Assistant Director of the Adventure Sports Center at St. Michael’s College, recommends checking your
body for ticks while you are taking a shower or getting dressed in the morning. Even if you’re not going hiking or mountain climbing, there is a chance that a tick can bite you just walking to work or school, so checking for them regularly can save you from having to go through contracting Lyme disease and treating it.

According to the CDC, the medication used to treat Lyme disease, which are the most common medications, are Doxycycline and Tetracycline, can cause someone to have digestive issues, super-sun sensitivity, muscle aches, fatigue, etc. Some people don’t feel the side effects of Lyme disease after being
treated, but others can experience Post Treatment Lyme disease syndrome, also known as PTLDS. PTLDS is when a patient experiences the symptoms of Lyme disease after months or years after being treated or even for the rest of their lives, the reason why patients experience this is unknown.

Widlund also explained that it takes at least 24 to 48 hours after having a tick on you to get Lyme disease transmission. Even if you get the symptoms of Lyme disease, it does not always mean you have it. The only way to accurately detect whether or not you have Lyme disease is by going to the doctor and getting blood tests done.

There are two common blood tests that doctors use to distinguish whether or not someone just has the flu or if they have Lyme disease. If you get a negative on the first blood test, then you are almost guaranteed not to have Lyme disease, but if the first test comes back positive, then you will have to go back and get another blood test and that one will determine whether or not you truly have Lyme disease.

Going outside, hiking and doing activities can still be safe activities, as long as you check your body every time you are done going outside into nature. By checking for ticks so frequently, you can make sure that if
you do have a tick on you, you don’t surpass that 24 to 48 hours window that passes the bacterium into your bloodstream that causes you to contract Lyme disease. If you do find a tick on you, but you are sure that it was on you less than 24 hours, for the next few days after you pulled the tick off, be aware of how your body is acting. If you are developing flu-like symptoms, or even get a bull’s eye rash, then it doesn’t always mean you have Lyme disease, as Widlund explained, it could just mean you are getting the flu or another common cold. But if you don’t develop any of these symptoms after pulling off a tick, then you can almost be sure that you don’t have Lyme disease, but if you want to be certain, then you can go to the doctors and get the blood tests done.

“My body was so worn out from fighting Lyme that my adrenal system pretty much crashed. I’m a lot better than I was, but I get tired more quickly than usual and I have to allocate my energy carefully if I have a lot going on at any given time. Every once in a while I’ll have flareups of joint pain,” Bozzuti said, when referring to her state now after not being treated for Lyme disease for 13 years.

By Lena O’Donnell
Visual Editor

I am white. I asked students of color on campus what they thought the school could do to better to approach racism and hate on this campus. I have also been thinking about a community mural, and asked students if it was something that could be an option for inclusion. But like I wanted to know whether it would be something for people to consider or just another idea pitched by a white person who thinks they can help? Here were some of their answers:

Diego Calderon ‘20 has seen how racism has impacted not only himself but other students on campus. “These stickers have been appearing since I was a freshman, and I am a senior now. So…” Curious about where this statement led I then asked what sort of approach the school should take to address these issues. “I think this is a conversation for white people to have amongst themselves about what they have to do to stop this type of ignorance.” When racism comes up in a conversation Calderon sees that things instantly get tense “Natural conversation and an actual dialogue does have to happen, not only for the St Mike’s community but probably for the surrounding communities as well.”

I pitched the idea of a community mural to Calderon, “What is a mural gonna do?” University of Vermont contains a beautiful mural in their Mosaic center on campus. Now alumni and other members of the UVM community of all colors are represented. When I visited awhile ago I asked students there what they thought, I heard nothing but positive feedback about the mural. “Art and music, and those types of outlets are always universal. They can connect humans,”Calderon said.

In Sebastian Morales’ ‘21 first year on campus he experienced racist, white supremacy posters put up around our campus. Our peers did not feel safe on campus at that time maybe even now they do not. Morales admired the way the school addressed it then “We had like a mini convocation thing and the Edmundites and the administration came together.” He said the message that came across during this convocation was, “We are not standing with this [racism and discrimination], we are standing with you guys.”

Morales liked the idea of a community art project. “I think a mural is a great idea.” As a Frida Kahlo enthusiast, he has seen the impact that art can have on a
person. “I think the more we fill our campus with art the better, bottom line.”

When the school addressed the issue campus-wide they set up a forum for students, faculty and staff members to discuss what had happened. Some few people showed up because it was on Friday, the final day before fall break. I was not able to make it, other students had already left. “I think that the school having meetings to discuss, for example, inappropriate stickers being posted on campus, is a good way to allow students to let their voices be heard,” said Felicity Rodriguez ‘22. “They [administration] need to reassure the students on campus that their safety is the school’s number one priority”she said. A response to the first meeting administration said “As we continue to build a culture of inclusion, we invite and encourage you to attend a second meeting on Wednesday, October 16 from 2:45-4:15 p.m. in the
Roy Room (3rd Floor, Dion Student Center) so that we can work together in listening and learning.”

Rodriguez said that a mural could help promote a sense of community and inclusion on campus and allow people who normally do not feel that they are recognized on campus know that they are being acknowledged and represented in some shape or form.”

Even though this is only her second year here Christelle Celestin ‘22 has still seen how the school approaches issues on campus. “I think instead of having pointless conversations over and over again the school needs to actually make actions against these issues” she said. She acknowledges the approaches of a physical experience can have on an individual. “The school needs to have the kids actually go out and meet people different from them. It’s one thing to talk but it’s another to actually try to get students to experience what it’s like to be different.” On campus we have options: attending International Coffee Hour on Wednesday afternoons in St Eddie’s lounge, opting for international housing, taking a classes like Race, Gender, and Ethnicity in Media that address
injustices and how they impact our everyday life. Or visit the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services (CMAS) which you can find on the second floor of Alliot. On November 19 there will be the annual International Festival bringing together different people and their cultures with food, music, and dance.

We need individuals, not just students but faculty and staff too, to take responsibility for learning about other cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, races and even the history behind why they exist,” said Kayla Erb ‘22. “Without awareness of what the problem is and educated people to fix it, Saint Michael’s as a campus cannot move forward in creating a comfortable campus for ALL people living on it. An email will not suffice in making a home to anxiety-ridden students of color who are already uneasy about the predominantly white campus they reside on.” She also questioned whether a mural would be enough to make a change.

Another question to consider is where? Last year the school conducted a plan to paint a walkway with rainbow stripes to represent the LGBTQIA+ community. When it actually went into action it was placed in a small area of the sidewalk near the Bergeron Wellness Center. As someone who is a part of this community I thought it did nothing to promote inclusion, especially because it was not centralized on campus. I would hope that if this works we could get it on campus, where it can be seen and recognized.

When I first thought of this idea it stemmed from the Vermont Story Lab Summit that I attended just a few weeks ago. I met Jill Badolato, a “creative community builder.” She has helped get a numerous of art projects created all over Burlington and other areas in Vermont. Her passion for building a strong community was what got me to wondering if this could be something that could help us. Badolato also found ways to save money by recycling paints and other resources so that it would not break her budget. I will do further research with her to hopefully reach out to artists to get an idea financially of what we would be getting at.

What are your thoughts of the mural idea? How do you think the school should have addressed the issue? There will be a survey posted on our website, https://defender.smcvt.edu/. Let’s keep the conversation going so maybe it’ll lead to change. Staff, faculty, students and anyone else who has a word to say let us know what YOU think. It’s valid.

By Hannah McKelvey

Staff Writer

On Friday morning, students broke ground on the new Native Tree Nursery in the grassed areas between Alliot, Joyce, and Dion Hall. 

Trees planted at the nursery will start their life under student care, and will then move across Route 15 to St. Michael’s Natural Area, where they can grow on their own; creating a unique dynamic of a restoration conservation process. The plan is to plant trees specifically chosen for the Champlain Valley, obtaining the saplings from Burlington’s Intervale Center, a local conservation nursery.

Anna Beach (left) and Olivia Hansen (right) add dirt to one of the beds on Friday. (Photo by Matt Heller)

Students from Trevien Stanger’s Ecological Restoration class started the process by making tree beds, putting down landscape fabric, cardboard, and mulch to get the area ready for trees. “[Cardboard] will add organic material to the soil and help it regain nutrients because the soil that is on campus is not necessarily beneficial to tree growth because it’s only had grass on it,” explained Ethan Brookner ’20.

“This project will allow students at St. Michael’s to do more placed-based education, utilizing the natural area as a classroom to continue to build our relationship to it as a site and as a place,” Stanger said.

One goal for this project is to get more people involved with the Center for the Environment, the St. Michael’s Farm, and the Natural Area. “It will allow folks right on their daily paths to stop and learn more about what’s going on and hopefully even consider getting involved,” Stanger said.  

Members of professor Stanger’s Ecological Restoration class shovel dirt and woodchips to prepare beds for the Native Tree Nursery last Friday. The trees, which will be planted this Friday, will spend time under the care of the Center for the Environment and environmental classes before eventually moving to the Natural Area across Route 15.  
(Photo by Matt Heller)

By having the Natural Area and the St. Michael’s Farm on the other side of Route 15, it makes it hard for students not involved in environmental programs to know what the school has to offer. Professor Brian Collier’s Ecological Art class will be participating by making signs to give people a baseline knowledge about the site. Ecological Art “is a genre of artworks that address or work directly with ecological systems, ecological restoration, and environmental issues through interdisciplinary, often collaborative projects,” Collier said. His class will also unveil a surprise contribution to the nursery that the campus will have to wait to see. 

As for the future of the Native Tree Nursery, trees will be planted on Friday. If you want to get involved, head over to the site in between Alliot and Joyce starting at 11 a.m. Students and faculty will be there until all the trees are planted. 

By Erin Mikson
Staff Writer

If you happen to be walking through the second floor of Alliot on a Friday night you might stumble upon a small group of girls, also known as Girl Talk.

On a recent Friday the group of five played Uno, made tea, and chatted. The topics ranged from Korean pop to how to use a tea press.

“I heard of Girl Talk through word of mouth,” said Vicky Luciano ’21. “It’s a safe space for me to just hang out with friends, talk to people, and it’s just a fun thing to do to destress since I’m always busy,” Luciano said.

“The hope is that people feel comfortable talking about things,”said President Jessie Anderson ’21 said, emphasizing that she wants the group to be a safe space for everyone. “If they have a concern they would like to talk about, I want them to feel like they have a place to do that. It’s important to have that place to chill with other girls,” Anderson said.

The atmosphere of the club is calm and welcome. During meetings the members can be seen playing games, chatting, and listening to various types of music, from Latin to Beyoncé, depending on the week.

“You don’t have to be a constant member, I don’t want it to feel like you have to come to this every week,” said Anderson. “I will be here every week even if nobody’s here. I just want that space to be there in case someone needs it.”

President Jessie Anderson ’21 and her twin sister Vice President Jessica Anderson ’21, said they try to make the meetings open and flexible. Each individual person has a say in what they are looking to do within the club activities. Jessie is hoping to expand the number of members in the club. “When I came to St. Mike’s Girl Talk was a much smaller group, if you didn’t know about it you wouldn’t even know it existed,” Anderson said.

“The meeting could be planned out, but we could also talk about something completely different for the whole meeting. It changes to whatever everyone else wants,” said Faith Shive ‘23.

During the rest of October, there will be a “slay the stress away” meeting where they will be doing eye makeup on Oct. 18. There will be a mystery murder theme meeting on Friday the 25th. In November, some of their meeting themes include “Let’s Talk – Microaggression on Campus”, and an international Thanksgiving.

In the future, Girl Talk is hoping to get funds from Student Government so that they can take this club to off-campus locations, [have] meals at meetings, and tee shirts. “If we were to go off campus, we don’t want to have people pay, it also might limit who will come,” Anderson said.

“We hope that more people hear about the club and know that other women on campus want to support one another,” Anderson said.

Girl Talk meetings happen every Friday night at 5 p.m. on the second floor of Alliot in the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

By Talia Perrea
Visionary Editor

A lot has happened over the last four years on this campus. Professors, staff, and students have come and gone. But we like to live under the assumption that the community remains supportive of each other.

The recent stickering of campus with white supremacy language echoes past incidences. A few years ago, the administration sat us down in the chapel and told us steps were being taken to keep us safe. As a result, we now have a Diversity Coalition on campus. But, in light of recent events and ongoing microaggressions, a form of racism in which the protagonist might be unaware of what they’re doing, students are left wondering if anything has really changed at all.

In light of ongoing microaggressions, students are left wondering if anything has really changed at all.

Each year our marketing team is trying to recruit internationally and students of color. They market St. Mike’s as a safe space, but many students say those words with quotation marks. Is the “safe space” that many people call home, really safe for everyone?

The world is wrong. Racism shouldn’t exist, but it does. St. Mike’s should be a safe space, but it isn’t. Along with the mandatory sexual assault and drinking courses that we take, there should be a mandatory course on racism and microaggressions as well – but there isn’t.

On the most recent incident public action that occurred happened almost a week after the stickers appeared, in a venue that couldn’t even hold half the student population, as if the administration predicted that no one would show up to a meeting right before a two day break. The meeting once again promised us a safe space.

We don’t want to be told we’re safe, we want to be safe. The college needs to come out and make a public statement, not only to the campus community, but to Burlington, that they won’t stand for these incidents — and they need to prove it.

The Defender staff often asks if we’re representing the St. Mike’s community as a whole. Do we have diverse representation in our articles? Are we doing enough? If not, how can we do more?

At the end of the day, we collect and compile the cold hard facts, so that anyone can pick up the paper and figure out what’s going on around
campus. It is our responsibility as journalists to say when something is wrong, but it’s not enough.

We can only hope to raise awareness about what some students face every single day, and not just when a sticker goes up.

Black lives matter is more than just an earworm. It represents a story that most people on campus can’t even begin to imagine. A story that directly affects our college. A story that needs to be told. The cover story of this issue of the Defender has displayed the facts, but it only scratches the surface. These stories need to be told by the people experiencing them.

Use this publication, the voice of the college, to tell your stories. We’ll provide a platform and any assistance you may need. We’ll be a support system to help you tell your story, and we’ll try to help you find a way to feel
safe while doing so.

If the administration isn’t doing enough to encourage change, then it’s up to the students, faculty, and staff to shake off their apathy.

We encourage you to submit your opinions on what the college should and could be doing. If we all work together, we can truly make St. Mike’s a safe space again, story by story. If the students speak, The Defender will listen, and the community will respond.

By Marlon Hyde
Contributing Writer

When I was first thinking about getting tattoos I wanted them to tell my story. I have three tattoos –currently, a hyacinth bush, roses and the New York skyline. A hyacinth Bush to pay tribute to my grandma, Roses to symbolize my hometown Rosedale, NY in Queens and a lion to symbolize Jamaica the land where my culture comes from. Beyond the skin-deep ink, they have become part of me, helping me feel more confident. I’m hardly alone in my feelings here. According to recent Pinterest data, searches for “self-love tattoos” grew 1320 percent compared to last year, and psychologically, it totally makes sense. I had my first tattoo a year ago during October break. I had recently lost a friend at UVM and was under pressure from academics to my home life, so I did what any rational person would do; I made a tattoo appointment.

Body art is having a moment. Once the venue of sailors and bikers and fashion statements within popular culture, tattoos now offer a kind of alternative therapy, adding something unique to the evolving conversation around mental health.

A tattoo while suffering through depression won’t instantly fix everything, but the dose of positivity a tattoo can help contribute to better body positivity and fight depression and anxiety.

“One of the most noxious aspects of mental illness and psychological suffering is that it often, and at least initially, makes people feel out of control and passive,”said New York City psychologist Heather Sylvester, in a Byrdie interview. “A mental health-related tattoo can serve to flip the equation because you are affirmatively engaging your own psychological struggle,” Not only that, but they can be helpful down the road.

Lorant Peeler works at the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, hosting events that showcase LGBTQ+ students.

My tattoos were spurred by depression and anxiety heightened at times by the loss of my friend to suicide. I felt that I needed to do something for me. I wanted to affirm a new beginning. The whizzing of the tattoo gun sounded attractive. Staring in the mirror imagining how it would look, lost and empty despair transformed into excitement.

During these times, when I was grasping for something to control, getting meaningful images etched onto my skin felt powerful. Sitting in that chair and getting ink under my skin allowed me to see a version of self I love the most, the one that makes me feel more like me.

For other people, tattoos can represent a more long-term or severe struggle with mental illness.

The stories behind many of these tattoos include intense struggles and pain. During recovery, mental health-related tattoos can aid in being helpful reminders to continue to push.

“My first tattoo was inspired by my family. They were crucial when it came to me teaching myself to enjoy more in life,” said Josh Dionne ‘20,

“It makes me feel like I have more power over my body,” Dionne said. “I’ve always been self-conscious about taking my shirt off and when I had to take off my shirt for my first tattoo it was surreal.” His tattoos have helped him become more comfortable in his skin connecting the outside world and his bare skin. “It brought me into a community of people that have a more holistic sense of body image. It helped open up a dialogue that made it easier to talk about how I felt in my own skin,” said Josh. He felt less exposed.

“I was ushered into a new community that allowed me to heal and grow as a person,” he added.

Josh Dionne’s tattoo was inspired by him wanting to always remember to try to do better and to not compare himself to others.

Tattoos that symbolize mental health have taken off . One common tattoo is the molecular structure for serotonin. “I got the chemical molecule of serotonin tattooed behind my right ear one year after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. It is the chemical in your brain that makes you happy and if you have low amounts of it then different mental health issues can occur,” said Kelsey Nudd ‘21,

According to Dictionary.com, “A semicolon tattoo is a tattoo of the semicolon punctuation mark used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues”. The semicolon represents a brush with suicide–a sentence that the inked person could have ended but ultimately chose to continue. It stands as a symbol of the darkest of moments, but also of “hope and continuation.”

The semicolon tattoo ,usually small and subtle makes a difference to those who have it.

Tattoos displaying different gender identities and sexualities have also become more popular. Laying atop Lorant Peeler’s, a recent graduate at Eastern Michigan University, shoulder lies a succulent with the words “still growing” alongside it. While on their other shoulder, a modified version of the symbol for agender people along with their pronouns in their best friend’s handwriting paints their skin. What inspired Peeler’s tattoos were their identities. “I really wanted something to affirm my identity as a non-binary/agender person”.

“No matter how the world perceives me, I have a reminder of who I am permanently in my skin.”

“The succulent I got this summer after a pretty bad few months mental health-wise. I was in a rut and couldn’t do anything to better myself” said Peeler. They felt the need for some change. The succulent meant a new beginning filled with self-love.

The succulent also serves as a reminder to Peeler that, “Even if I can’t care for my body correctly all the time, the attention I can give it will keep me going,”

Demery Coppola, ‘21 has three tattoos. Her jellyfish tattoo stems from her appreciation for the boneless sea creature’s ability to adapt to the dangerous conditions of global warming and benefit from it. The olive branch on her right wrist plays on the phrase extending an olive branch which can be commonly seen as a gesture of peace.

“The forget-me-nots remind me of when I lost my virginity and didn’t really want to,” she said

It was the day before Coppola’s high school orientation. She did not know about having rights to her body and was taken advantage of by someone she trusted. She figured he must know what to do and that this must be normal. It took her until last year to confront that and come to terms with it. “I got forget-menots on my hip so if someone ever tries to take advantage of me like that, or any other way, I’m going to remember myself,” she added.

The tattoo helps with making peace with herself and moving on, she said. “It’s such a comforting reminder to look down [at the tattoo] and know that I had that realization and can move forward from it,” she said as a smile grew larger on her face. The unifying theme between these stories appears to be control. Getting a tattoo can be a declaration of authority. As to say, I am the captain of this ship, my body, and my mental health. It can also be a reminder that not having that control is okay too.

“The forget-me-nots remind me of when I lost my virginity and didn’t really want to,” she said

It was the day before Coppola’s high school orientation. She did not know about having rights to her body and was taken advantage of by someone she trusted.

She figured he must know what to do and that this must be normal. It took her until last year to confront that and come to terms with it. “I got forget-menots on my hip so if someone ever tries to take advantage of me like that, or any other way, I’m going to remember myself,” she added.

The tattoo helps with making peace with herself and moving on, she said. “It’s such a comforting reminder to look down [at the tattoo] and know that I had that realization and can move forward from it,” she said as a smile grew larger on her face.

The unifying theme between these stories appears to be control. Getting a tattoo can be a declaration of authority. As to say, I am the captain of this ship, my body, and my mental health. It can also be a reminder that not having that control is okay too.

By Rusul Mustafa
Contributing Writer

I was only nine years old at the beginning of the American-Iraqi war, but I vividly remember every single detail. My family and I were eating dinner at the table on a March evening in 2003 when all of a sudden, we heard an alarm indicating an American bombing on the Iraqi military. Since then, the Iraqi people have not lived in peace as attacks like this from different parties continued until now, sixteen years later.

We had to leave everything at that moment and hide in a small underground room that my father set up to protect and prevent us from hearing loud noises caused by the bombs. The war lasted only one month before America took complete control over Iraq, and everything drastically changed. I remember the time my father and I went out to deliver food to our neighbor—a family tradition—when we saw two American military tanks standing 15 feet away from our house. Not only did the Americans not let us go, but they shot their guns in the air to scare us into making us go back inside our house. After five years of a complete and total mess, America finally withdrew, but not without leaving unknown, unskilled, and uneducated people to govern the country upon their leave. These are some of the worst times for Iraqi citizens.

According to the American government, the purpose of the invasion was to provide the Iraqi people a better life by eliminating their dictator at the time, President Saddam Hussain. Most people assume that the American government did Iraq a favor by invading it and providing new people to govern the country and its sources, but unfortunately, the truth is totally different. I lived in Iraq up until 2016 and struggled, like any other Iraqi citizen, from the lack of basic life services such as electricity, employment, and good education. Most Iraqis were in a complete shock because we know our country is very rich due to the oil that we have. Perhaps that’s the real reason behind the United States’ invasion of Iraq anyway: personal economic interest. The situation in Iraq was so severe that my brothers and I were not allowed to leave the house except for school because our parents were so scared that we could get kidnapped or killed by unknown forces. Although several elections happened in order to elect a better government, forgery of the election documents always occurred to keep the existing
Iraqi government intact.

My family left Iraq in 2016 to find a better life for ourselves. My middle brother left to Sweden while my father, mother and I came to the United States. Unfortunately, my older brother could not leave because he and his family did not get approval to travel. I made sure to stay in contact with him all the time. The situation almost stabilized between 2017 and 2018, but the lack of basic life services and poverty still exist till this day. Although many small protests have happened demanding these services, the government never responded.

On October 1, another peaceful protest started demanding the same simple things, particularly employment but, this time the Iraqi government, especially the new American and Iranian-supported prime minister Adel Abud-Al Mahdi, responded with violence: Tear gas, bombs, live bullets, and snipers were attacking innocent people only because they wanted simple things. Violent videos on social media showed the suppression. But then the prime minister cut off the Internet and attacked TV platforms live-streaming protests, completely isolating Iraqis from the world, some of them imprisoned at home, others dying in the streets. My parents and I could not get a hold of my brother until three days later he called to say his family was “ok as long as they stay at home.” This is the same phrase that our parents told me and my siblings sixteen years ago during the American-Iraqi war.

A whole new generation came, and Iraq never changed only because of a corrupted government supported by powerful countries. In the last few weeks, one hundred protesters, who went out with no guns to demand their rights, the same rights that we never got even after 16 years of the United States withdrawing from Iraq, were killed, almost 4,000 were injured, and 500 were arrested. They were young ranging between 20-24 years old and some of them were under 15 years old. Watching these violent videos makes me feel powerless and even guilty. Had I remained in Iraq, I would have been there fighting for my rights amidst all these protests. I may be one of the lucky ones who’ve escaped, but there are still hundreds of Iraqi people who did not.

It’s no surprise that the American people are completely ignorant of what’s happening in Iraq, and that’s what I want to bring your attention. Even though social media has been filled with videos and pictures of these protests, world leaders have not intervened to stop the Iraqi government from killing its own people, news channels are not broadcasting these events as a matter of importance, and no one around me seems to be distressed. After 16 years, Iraq suffers from the same turmoil it faced before and increasingly after the US invasion.

Enough is enough: we will not settle down until our voices are heard; we will not stop until our rights are returned; we will not stop until every member of the Iraqi government pays for these violent attacks.

Please—become aware of the situation and help spread the message showing the violence of the Iraqi government. Please— help us get our country back.