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English Professor Detail Progress on Her Campaign for State Representative

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Cynthia Richards stands outside the now closed Kroger in Springfield's Southside neighborhood during a photoshoot on Sept. 6, 2020. (Braeden Bowen/The Wittenberg Torch)

Wittenberg professor of English Cynthia Richards announced her campaign for State Representative on Nov. 21, 2019. Since then, she has made great strides and climbed over mountains to get where she is today.

A state representative’s duty is to make policies and laws at the state level while cooperating with views from the people inhabiting that state. As a Democrat, Richards is running against Republican candidate Kyle Koehler, who has been in the seat for the past six years. The position has not been held by a Democrat in the district since District 79 has been drawn.

In regard to Clark County and Ohio, Richards has goals for improvement in people’s daily lives.

“My biggest goal is to really work to fix our education funding system here in Ohio,” Richards said. “You may know this, but since the late 1990s, the Supreme Court ruled for Ohio that our funding mechanism is unconstitutional, [that] it is not equitable…. And we do not have a solution to that problem. [Our] students are suffering for that reason. But I’m also concerned about healthcare, what can we do at the state level. Our county has one of the lowest health outcomes in the state of Ohio. We need better paying jobs. A lot of people in Springfield are working two or three jobs and still struggling to pay the bills. I would support an increase in our minimum wage. I would support working with local leaders to establish a wage that allows small local businesses to thrive.”

Interestingly, Richards does not call herself a politician, nor have a passion for politics.

“When we think about what the political game is, I have a passion for empowering people and helping them become their best selves,” Richards said. “I love to be a part of that process. My passion has been for teaching. I love my job. I love empowering my students, I love their best selves, their best writing selves [and] their best reading selves.”

She defines herself simply as an “advocate.” Richards is also constantly doing research to gain more knowledge on the issues she cares about, especially since she is a newcomer to politics.

“It’s the first job of a representative to listen and to learn, and to listen and learn from one’s constituents,” Richards said. “When I began this process, I began by meeting with local leaders and learning about what the needs of our community were. Learning about what would help them achieve their goals at the state level, what could a state representative do…. Secondly, you have to build a team. This job is impossible to do by yourself, so you really need a team.”

Her team includes multiple Wittenberg students and staff. Political science professor Staci Rhine is the policy director. Braeden Bowen (’21) takes part with photography, videography, data analytics, political intelligence, and stands as the campaign manager. Anna-Claire Crichton (‘21) is currently the social media director. Samuel Scharff (’20) has been a researcher for Richards. Angela Gialanella (’21) and Caroline Marlow (‘23) assist with fieldwork that includes writing postcards, delivering literature and campaign signs and making phone calls. Amiee Maryama is a part of the advancement team and helping with fundraising. Austin Smith has been Richards’ field director in head of operations.

Dealing with campaign duties can be a struggle, especially in a time of a pandemic. Prior to the rise of cases of COVID-19 and cities engaging in quarantine, Richards took part in canvasing about the community, lots of public appearances, forums, speeches, and fundraising events. She also even ran a 10K and went to rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. But after the pandemic surge hit Springfield, she and her campaign team had to calibrate.

“I love the classroom. I love the dynamics. I love the ways you work collaboratively together to arrive at new insights. I find it absolutely the euphoria of collaborative learning. And that’s hard to reproduce virtually, right? It’s really hard to have those same rhythms…. What we had to do was we shifted into more media presence. We shifted toward those virtual town halls and other events that allowed us to do that. When the summer hit, we were able to embrace outdoor events where we wore masks and socially distanced. And I think those have increased as the summer has gone on… I would say that early on in spring, that was a frustrating place to be because I knew that I needed to fight hard for this community, but I had lost so many of the tools that I had needed for that. But we’ve recovered. We’ve figured out new ways, and we are out and about as much as we can to continue to do that good work,” Richards said.

The stakes have certainly been raised for Richards and her campaign, and she has come to realize that winning is now more important than before because of how drastic things have gotten. Yet, she retains optimism due to her current place in the race.

“I was told that the odds were against me, that it would be like pushing Mount Everest up Mount Everest,” Richards said. “That’s what I was told to be able to win. First, I resolved: I can do that. The second was, I thought, no matter what in this campaign, I’m going to do good. I’m going to use my platform to do good…. Because of many factors, we really have a chance of winning. Now, my odds are more like climbing Mount Rainier… so it’s now it’s a very clear, doable task as the momentum is on our side. Especially if people come out to vote, especially young people.”

Additionally, so many negative emotions surround the campus bubble and seem to sink within and often these emotions are results from the current way the pandemic is being handled. Richards sympathized for her students and her community.

“We needed to trust each other, and we needed to trust our government,” she said. “We have gotten minimum conflicting signals from those who are our leadership. So that has compromised the second thing we needed, which was a sense of community, a shared purpose. We’re going to get through this incredible catastrophe. We have to trust each other and come together. But because of that lack of trust in our leadership and consistent messaging, we then lost our sense of community. And without that sense of community, we will not make it through this.”

On a lighter note, Richards found that working on her campaign and teaching at Wittenberg never seemed to cause issues. They often worked together collaboratively and helped her gain core motivation for her to run for state representative.

“I don’t feel torn in terms of my energy,” she said. “What I’m doing in the classroom is empowering my students to speak, to grow, to learn. I’m informing them about issues. I’m researching, presenting, and framing those issues so that I can educate well. Well, that’s what I’m doing on the campaign trail too…. Who I am as a person in the classroom is exactly the person I am on the campaign trail.”

Lots of students on campus have big goals like Richards, and Richards recognizes this in the Wittenberg student body. She offered advice to those with similar big aspirations to her.

“I never imagined [running for public office],” she said. “But it happened, and what I would do is stay true to your values. Stay true to your purpose. Continue to grow and develop as a human being. When the time is right, the opportunity that you’re looking for will come. And then you just have to have the courage to say yes to your dreams and yes to that new challenge.”           

State representative elections will take place on Nov. 3, 2020. If you have not registered to vote, please visit https://ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/site/residents/resources/register-to-vote-or-update-your-registration to register.

Wittenberg Hires New Assistant Tennis Coach

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Luke Minard ('19) volleys the tennis ball back during a fall season match with Thomas More College on Sept 20, 2018. Minard won his match in two sets, 6-0, and 6-2. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

Game, set… whoa, new coach? This shocking news might have come across some tennis players’ minds at Wittenberg University when they hired a new graduate assistant coach for the program. 

Jeremy Mokry accepted the of Assistant Coach position in early August of this academic school year. Mokry grew up in Columbus, OH, before he left to work in various tennis academies. He graduated from Ohio Dominican University, a NCAA Division II school.

Mokry touches on topics ranging from his coaching techniques, his favorite tennis player, his favorite tennis grand slam, the matches he has watched on both television and in real life and advice he would give to his younger self.

Q: What techniques do you use as a tennis coach to help tennis players be their best?

A: Tennis, being an individual sport, requires a lot of style, and every single player has a certain style. Every single player has unique styles, so depending upon what any physical attributes they have. Some are shorter, some are very, very tall, some are great athletes [and] some are not. I try to tail my approaches to what they are very, very specifically as players. The universal things I try to hammer into each player is to develop really, really good technique. After that, being very, very constant.

Q: What inspired you to be a tennis coach?

A: Being a tennis player, to be brutally honest. I played a whole bunch of sports as a kid, and tennis was the one thing that stuck.

Q: Who is your favorite tennis player and why?

A: Novak Djokovic, I would say primarily, because he’s one of those players that show everything he’s accomplished that I think is completely teachable.

Q: What is your favorite tennis grand slam?

A: I really like the U.S. Open just because of the format that was done. They are really good at organizing their primetime matches.

Q: What advice would you give your younger self?

A: I would say just bust your butt off a lot harder and have a much better work ethic.

Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He doesn’t deserve it.

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President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question during a press conference Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

For the second time, Donald Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by right-wing Norwegian MP, Christian Tybring-Gjedde. In Tybring-Gjedde’s own words, Trump was nominated, “For his merit … trying to create peace between nations.” In his letter of nomination, Tybring-Gjedde notes specifically Trump’s role in the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel.

Alfred Nobel intended that the Peace Prize would be granted “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” It would be easy to go through Trump’s record in the past year of human-rights violations at home and abroad. But we don’t actually have to go any further than what he is actually being nominated for. Facilitating the cultivation of relations between the UAE and Israel is merely a consolidation of regional power that benefits no one other than the most powerful and is detrimental to human rights and the cause of Palestinian statehood.

Over the years, the prospects of Palestinian statehood have diminished as Israel has made peace with former advocates of the Palestinian cause, namely Jordan and Egypt, and Israeli settlers divide the West Bank into enclaves that make a contiguous state seem impossible. Egypt, for example, once an ally of the Palestinians, has maintained its side of the crushing blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel in 2007. Even when the Muslim Brotherhood held power for a year in Egypt, the blockade remained despite Hamas, the democratically-elected leadership of Gaza, being a member organization of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since Trump has taken power, American foreign policy has escalated in favor of Israeli control over the occupied territories. In March, the Trump administration unveiled its version of the two-state solution, which was written without any input from Palestinians. It would effectively divide the West Bank into three sections and dismiss the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Later that month, based on an unsubstantiated allegation that an attack from Islamic Jihad was being planned, Israeli air raids were conducted in Gaza, killing more than thirty people.

On May 14, the United States moved its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a symbolic gesture, as half of Jerusalem was allocated to Palestinians in 1949 and is currently occupied by the Israeli state. In response, Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza and were met with sniper fire. Thousands were shot and more than one hundred were killed, including medics and journalists who clearly identified themselves. Between August 6 and 31, Israeli attacks were carried out almost daily against Gaza, allegedly in response to “airborne incendiary devices.”

With the peace deal between the UAE and Israel, trade is expected to surpass $4 billion dollars as the UAE has promised to end its economic boycott. Of course, other than economic tensions, Bahrain, Israel and the UAE have not been at war with each other and have cooperated in regional disputes on a number of occasions. In 2011, Wikileaks revealed that Bahrain and Israel had also been communicating over security issues in the region. Effectively, the UAE and Bahrain went from turning their backs on the Palestinians, who were absent from of the 2020 peace talks, to openly opposing their cause, removing the only viable leverage that the UAE could have held over Israel to bring about a Palestinian state: the economic boycott.

Four American presidents have received the Nobel Peace Prize, each one equally undeserving. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the prize in 1906 for having negotiated peace between the imperialist powers of Russia and Japan. Between 1903 and 1913, American troops were crushing a rebellion in the southern Philippines, which killed some one hundred thousand people.

Also, on Roosevelt’s record is the construction of the Panama Canal, a violent and deadly endeavor, the history of which has largely been forgotten in the American education system that Trump believes is not “pro-American” enough. After Colombia refused to give up Panama, then a region of Colombia, Roosevelt began sponsoring Panamanian separatists. American naval forces were sent to Panama in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, preventing sea-transports of Colombian forces. American railroads to Panama were shut down as well.

Immediately after Panamanian independence was declared, a French engineer involved in earlier canal attempts was named “Envoy Extraordinary” and “Minister Plenipotentiary” to negotiate the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty between Panama and the United States, granting the U.S. military bases in the region and control over the Panama Canal. During American construction, between 1904 and 1914, 5,600 Panamanian workers died from diseases and accidents. In order to cut costs and time, the U.S. relied heavily on the use of dynamite in construction. Disproportionately, black West Indian labor was used to transport and deploy the oftentimes deadly dynamite. As Howard Zinn, a “propagandist” according to Trump, wrote:

“The canal was a pure example of American imperialism. It saved American companies $1.5 billion a year in delivery costs, and the United States collected $150 million a year in tolls, out of which it paid the Panama government $2.3 million dollars, while maintaining fourteen military bases in the area.”

Cornel West forcefully has called Barack Obama, “a war criminal with a Nobel Peace Prize.” Obama won the prize in 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The Nobel Committee noted that it had “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons,” and that because of Obama, “democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”

On the question of “human rights,” Obama spent the rest of his presidency ensuring the detriment of both around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, notably with his use of drone warfare and air strikes. By the time he was done, the Obama administration had struck seven different countries with drones: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

On July 1, 2016, National Intelligence Director James Clapper released a report claiming that at most, 117 civilians were killed by Obama’s drone program in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. But in Pakistan alone, of the estimated 2,400 people that were killed, at least 213 have been identified as civilians. In Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, according to Airwars, an organization dedicated to “monitoring and assessing civilian casualties from international airstrikes,” between 384 and 807 civilians were killed over the course of 563 drone strikes. In Iraq and Syria, by conservative estimates, 2,727 civilians were killed by Obama’s air campaign. In 2016, Obama’s last year, 26,171 bombs were dropped, or three bombs an hour. Not exactly actions worthy of a Peace Prize.

Even in the case of nuclear proliferation, Obama’s record is less than average. During his tenure, he escalated tensions with Iran over alleged nuclear proliferation despite Iran being a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. All the while, Obama continued support for Israel, signing a $36 billion aid package to be distributed over ten years, though Israel is not a signatory and is estimated to have some 200 nuclear warheads. Obama also made moves to develop the Long-Range Standoff cruise missile, which could be used in limited capacity, normalizing nuclear weapons on the battlefield, despite ten Democratic senators signing a letter urging him to abandon the project. The missile can be both nuclear and non-nuclear, creating a type of warfare where two parties will be ignorant of what kind of destruction is coming their way.

President Woodrow Wilson won the prize for creating the League of Nations. Of course, this was after Wilson took the U.S. into a war that killed millions despite having campaigned on keeping the U.S. out of the First World War. At home, he launched the first Red Scare, imprisoning or deporting anyone who opposed sending Americans into Europe to die over a conflict that was predicated on economic and territorial disputes. With the passing of the Espionage Act, 900 people were arrested for their political beliefs. In one instance, six members of Frayhat, a Jewish anarchist organization in New York, were arrested for publishing articles critical of U.S. involvement in the war. Jacob Schwartz, one of the six, was beaten so badly while being arrested, he died in custody.

Wilson’s imperialism took a terrible toll on Latin America. In 1915, Wilson sent troops to occupy Haiti, an occupation that lasted until 1934. At this time American economic interests reigned supreme, with the American government taking control of the Haitian banks, ensuring American companies were repaid debts. Charlemagne Peralte, Haitian resistance leader, was killed by American Marines and crucified on a door for Haitians to see. During the first five years of the occupation, more than two thousand Haitians were killed by Marines. Wilson also sent Marines to the Dominican Republic in 1916 where they would stay until 1924. Three hundred Dominicans were killed in the first five years—this to allow sugar plantations to be taken over by American companies.

President Jimmy Carter won the prize for reasons most similar to those that have earned Trump the nomination. In 1978, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David Accords, normalizing relations between the Egypt and Israel. Following the agreements, Israel and Egypt became the two largest yearly recipients of military aid from the U.S. The next year, Carter used Israel to covertly send sixteen warplanes to Indonesia as Indonesia was conducting a genocide in East Timor, which by the end would result in the deaths of two to three hundred thousand people. Also during Carter’s administration in 1978, using American weapons, Israel engaged in a bombing campaign in Lebanon that killed more than 1,000 civilians. The regime in Egypt that would be propped up by U.S. aid following the deal was a dictatorship that lasted until 2011.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘peace’ in three parts: “1. a situation or a period of time in which there is no war or violence in a country or an area. 2. The state of being calm or quiet. 3. the state of living in friendship with somebody without arguing.” Considering these definitions, it makes sense why someone like Malala Yousafzai or the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons would win the Nobel Peace Prize. However, there is a fourth meaning used by Western imperialists. Peace for them is defined by a state of affairs where Western political hegemony is intact and where Western economic interests are secured. For this reason, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama are Nobel laureates. Trump has ensured there will never be a Palestinian state, allowing for Western hegemony in the region to reign supreme. Going by the fourth definition of peace, he deserves the prize. Otherwise, no American president does.

“We were on our own:” Quarantine at Wittenberg

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Polis House (front) and Tower Hall (rear) are seen in the evening of Sept. 27, 2020. Polis House is Wittenberg University's quarantine housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

At the peak of Wittenberg’s COVID-19 outbreak on Sept. 12, over 250 students or 15% of the student body were in quarantine or isolation. The Wittenberg Torch spoke with several students who spoke of limited communication from Wittenberg, academic struggles and students sneaking out of quarantine.

As Wittenberg’s COVID-19 outbreak worsened and reached a peak of 114 active cases on Sept. 14, Tiana Hughes (’23) was nearing her fourth day in isolation at Polis House after testing positive for COVID-19. Hughes, an English and psychology double major, shared that she had received limited information from Wittenberg regarding isolation restrictions.

“Wittenberg sent an email introducing us to Polis [House], after that we were on our own,” Hughes said. While Clark County Combined Health District (CCCHD) officially orders individuals to quarantine or isolate, Wittenberg’s COVID-19 Response Team provides students with information regarding academic and other support resources while in quarantine and isolation.

According to documents provided to The Wittenberg Torch by CCCHD, individuals in isolation are required to limit movement, monitor symptoms and remain isolated until ten days following the appearance of symptoms in addition to 24 hours without a fever. Individuals in quarantine are under the same criteria for a minimum of 14 days.

According to Jack Keri (’23), Wittenberg did not provide information on quarantine guidelines or meal ordering until a day after he was told to start quarantining by a contact tracer.

“There was no information that first day about what quarantine would look like, what I was supposed to do, or if I would even be contacted again,” Keri said.

“I don’t think [the restrictions] were enforced by [Wittenberg]” said a senior who requested anonymity due to fears about their personal safety. The senior had been quarantined twice in their campus residence after being tested for COVID-19.

The limited communication from Wittenberg and limited quarantine enforcement allowed for students to leave the confines of Polis House and roam campus in the evenings as confirmed by Hughes and other individuals who requested anonymity. Keri went as far as confirming that students were sneaking out of quarantine and visiting individuals infected with COVID-19.

“This is not the first time the [COVID-19] Response Team has been made aware of students violating the University’s established protocols for quarantine or isolation,” University spokesperson Karen Gerboth said in a statement to The Wittenberg Torch on Sept. 27, “Quarantine and isolation orders are public health orders enforceable under the law. As such, Wittenberg expects students and employees to abide by these public health orders.”

According to documents provided to The Wittenberg Torch by CCCHD, individuals ordered to quarantine are bound by section 3707.08 of the Ohio Revised Code which states that “No person isolated or quarantined by a board shall leave the premises to which [they] has been restricted without the written permission of such board until released from isolation or quarantine.” Additionally, documents from CCCHD state that violation of quarantine or isolation orders is a minor misdemeanor under section 3707.99 of the Ohio Revised Code which allows a fine up to $150. Additionally, Wittenberg University Athletics has reserved the right to apply athletic suspensions to student-athletes who repeatably violate Wittenberg’s COVID-19 guidelines.

“[The suspensions] could range anywhere from a week out of an athletic activity all the way up to a year, depending on the severity of your act,” said Associate Athletic Director for Athletic Compliance Bret Billhardt in a presentation to student athletes on Sept. 24.

Members of Wittenberg University’s Men’s Cross Country Team run past tents on Stoughton Lawn in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, 2020. Wittenberg University erected the tents prior to classes starting to allow for easier social distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

For students who obeyed the order of quarantine or isolation, daily life is boring as senior Miles Caine explained. Caine tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 8 after being identified as a close contact on Sept. 4.

“I would wake up and get some food that I had already made that way I wasn’t spending time in common area, go back to my room, eat, read and do homework,” Caine said of his daily routine while in isolation. According to documents from CCCHD, isolated individuals are supposed to limit their time in public spaces.

Academics in quarantine also had a different effect on each student as Caine felt that his time in isolation had a large effect on his motivation for academic work.

“Personally, I dropped the ball on [homework] big time,” Caine said, “You don’t feel productive at all because you’re sitting in your room all the time.”

Hughes had a similar experience, for she said, “It was really hard to even think clearly and that was partly because of [COVID-19] and [partly] being in that one room all day.”

“It was draining and I forgot how much I miss campus and people,” Hughes said of the mental effects of quarantine, “We literally would just sit there and look out the window at night and hope somebody walked by to talk to us.”

Zeke Bennett (’23) had a difference academic experience while isolating off-campus.

“I’m so far ahead in classes right now. I have projects that are due in a few weeks that I have started if not completed.” Bennett said, “I’m just using this time to get ahead in class and it’s the best thing I can do right now.

As of Friday, Sept. 25, Wittenberg had ten active COVID-19 cases with one probable case. The University has a total of 178 positive cases or 11% of the student body having been infected. In a statement to students on Thursday, Sept. 24, all 178 cases had been traced back to student living and social environments.

Mental Space: Panic Attacks

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The human mind is complex and interconnected. Follow Amber Gauss along as she breaks down mental health at Wittenberg and beyond. Graphic by Atticus Dewey/The Wittenberg Torch

Panic attacks are not a fun experience for anyone. A panic attack is more than just being unable to calm your thoughts and breathing. A panic attack can easily be pacing because it’s the only thing keeping you together. It can also involve you being curled up in a ball sobbing uncontrollably and hyperventilating. Either way, it’s not a fun experience.

People who experience panic attacks aren’t crazy or weird. They’re neuro-divergent people who suffer from one or more mental anxiety-related disorders. They might have panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety, or even generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). There are many other anxiety-related disorders that cause panic attacks as well. I personally suffer from two of these and have panic attacks.

For me, panic attacks involve me curling up in a ball and sobbing uncontrollably. Many people think that that is what a panic attack “must be,” but it isn’t. Panic, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is “recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur; Note: The abrupt surge can occur from a calm state or an anxious state.

1. Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.

2. Sweating.

3. Trembling or shaking.

4. Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.

5. Feelings of choking.

6. Chest pain or discomfort.

7. Nausea or abdominal distress.

8. Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.

9. Chills or heat sensations.

10. Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).

11. Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).

12. Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”

13. Fear of dying.

Note: Culture-specific symptoms (e.g., tinnitus, neck soreness, headache, uncontrollable screaming or crying) may be seen. Such symptoms should not count as one of the four required symptoms.”

Now, there are several ways to help someone who is experiencing a panic attack, and not all of these ways are suitable for everyone. For example, some people might want to be held or hugged to help them calm down, but others might lash out if they’re touched. Another example that may help someone experiencing a panic attack would be grounding techniques, such as the Five-Four-Three-Two-One technique. This technique helps bring a person out of their panicked state by having them list five things they can see, four things they can feel, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. This technique is beneficial in that it brings the individual back to the present by having them identify aspects of their surroundings.

Hopefully, you won’t need these techniques for yourself or anyone you know. But at least you have some ideas of what to do if you or someone you know experiences a panic attack.

Decorating Mugs Creates a Memorable Campus Experience

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Clay bowls made by Wittenberg University art students await purchase ahead of the 25th annual Empty Bowls on March 14, 2019. Empty Bowls raises money for food banks in the Springfield area. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

On Friday, Sept. 18 at the Diversity House along Alumni Way, students showed their creativity using only a sharpie to make the perfect DIY mug. 

As students attended the event, many felt the need to comment on how making mugs really seemed to help them cope during the uncertain and recent issues regarding the COVID pandemic. 

“Decorating our mugs with sharpies is very relaxing and fun to do with friends during our social  quarantine,” said Kristin Stein (’24). Stein also mentioned to point out that it was a great bonding experience for seniors and upperclassmen who wanted to remember their last years at Wittenberg. 

Audra Metzger (’24) also attended the event. “I love the sharpie idea because it provides a mess free and clean atmosphere to help student create their mugs safely,” Metzger said.

Kristie Kalis (’24) also agreed. “Making mugs is a cool way to stay safe and social distance”.

According to the attendees, not only was the event a great way for students to bond and create their mugs safely while following COVID guidelines, it was a great way to meet new people and socialize outside. 

“Making mugs is very fun and cute. It is a great way to meet new people and create new interactions with other people on campus,” said Emma Wilson (’24), a student also in attendance. 

Base on student’s experiences, many agreed that making these mugs was something very uplifting and was a great reminder that although we are going through this rough time, together with a sparkle of creativity we can persevere through anything. 

We’ve Forgotten About Jamal Khashoggi

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To mark the one-year anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder, POMED and 12 other human rights and press freedom organizations held a public event on Capitol Hill to commemorate Jamal’s life, to call for accountability, and to cast a light on the Saudi government’s repression of those who are perceived to be critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his regime. (April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy via Flickr)

American foreign policy tows a tricky line between securing the geopolitical interests of multinational corporations that depend on open markets and access to resources, and in operating in such a way so as not to ruffle the feathers of institutions that are democratically accountable to the citizenry. One might think that this would manifest as the American military mitigating some of its most violent practices or American allies being chosen based on human-rights standards. In reality, the United States has pursued a policy of secrecy and silencing.

Sticking with the post-Cold War period, I find that there is ample evidence of these practices continuing to take place. Historically, the American news-media have played along. In April of 1999, a NATO missile attack destroyed Radio Television of Serbia’s headquarters, killing sixteen journalists.

“Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic’s murder machine as his military,” then-Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said, defending it.

The Times article reporting on the event only offers space for quotes from those favorable to the bombing. In 2010, Julian Assange, who if extradited to the United States faces up to 175 years in prison, published on WikiLeaks a video of an American attack helicopter killing eleven civilians, including two Reuters journalists. The Times threatened to fire journalist Chris Hedges if he kept up his public denouncements of the war, forcing Hedges to resign while continuing the employment of Judith Miller, who published inaccurate information fed to her from the intelligence community. Barack Obama prosecuted more journalists’ sources under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all other presidents combined. Journalist James Risen battled both Bush’s and Obama’s Departments of Justice, which attempted to legally compel him to identify sources for his 2006 book “State of War.” Abroad, Obama requested that Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who had been brutally tortured in prison, not be pardoned, as Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh had planned. As journalist Jeremy Scahill noted at the time, the U.S. voicing concerns over terrorist operatives being freed is normal; however, “Shaye is not an Islamist militant or an Al Qaeda operative. He is a journalist.” Not a single article about this story can be found on the websites of the Times or the Washington Post.

On October 2, 2018, Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to acquire paperwork to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Khashoggi had published several articles in the Post critical of the Saudi government. He never left that embassy. According to the findings of the CIA, he was murdered and dismembered with a bone saw by a team of fifteen Saudi agents ordered to carry out the hit by the crown prince himself, Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). MBS denies the claim.

With Khashoggi a member of the American media establishment, his murder was more or less given the attention it deserved. CNN, MSNBC and Fox spent much of their twenty-four-hour news cycles covering the story and updating the public on new information. Much of the outrage was directed at President Donald Trump for his soft stance and reluctance to condemn the murder. In Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage,” Trump is quoted as saying, “I saved [MBS’] ass… I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

In one op-ed titled “Letting Them Get Away with Murder,” conservative political commentator Jennifer Rubin writes in the Post, “In the Trump era, we aren’t tired of winning. We’re tired of Trump and his minions pretending that their appeasement of foes and hostility toward allies amount to winning.” On December 11, 2018, Time named Khashoggi person of the year. Writing for Fox News, Miller herself called the Saudi government’s announcement that the hit-squad had been arrested, “a pathetic attempt not only to salvage the vital strategic U.S.-Saudi relationship but to exonerate the man responsible directly or tactically for Khashoggi’s brutal murder.”

[The U.S. response] is a pathetic attempt not only to salvage the vital strategic U.S.-Saudi relationship but to exonerate the man responsible directly or tactically for Khashoggi’s brutal murder.

Jennifer Rubin, “Letting Them Get Away with Murder”

Of course, that strategic alliance was safe. On Nov. 20, 2018, Donald Trump seemed to give the game away as he explained why Saudi Arabia would receive no consequences. “If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake,” he said. “They’re buying hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of things from this country. If I say we don’t wanna take your business, if I say we’re gonna cut it off, they will get the equipment, military equipment and other things from Russia and China… I’m not gonna tell a country that’s spending hundreds of billions of dollars and has helped me do one thing very importantly, keep oil prices down so that they’re not going to a hundred and a hundred and fifty dollars a barrel. Right now, we have oil prices in great shape. I’m not going to destroy the world economy and I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.”

That strategic relationship seems to have influenced those in the news media and government to ignore a plethora of human rights violations committed by Saudi leadership for years. MBS came to power as somewhat of a mastermind of public relations. He became the crown prince on June 21, 2017 at just 32 years old. In an extremely conservative and theocratic country like Saudi Arabia, any liberalization will seem like progress by leaps and bounds. For a long time, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to have a ban on women driving. On June 24, 2018, MBS lifted that ban although, of course, at the same time he imprisoned ten women’s rights activists. In Dec. of 2017, a thirty-five-year ban on movies was lifted. In April of 2018, Saudi Arabia kicked of a gender-segregated fashion week, unique in the country’s history. Ishaan Tharoor of the Post called these, “dramatic social changes,” while Nic Robertson of CNN said, the “atmosphere” in Saudi Arabia, “seems more relaxed” now that MBS is in power.

Saudi Arabia has been on the forefront of a brutal air campaign in Yemen, which has been fully supported by the United States, with U.S. aircraft performing mid-air refueling of Saudi planes, many of which were bought from the U.S., in order for bombing to continue without Saudi planes having to land.

As Amnesty International wrote in 2016, “Since the start of the conflict, Amnesty International has documented thirty-six coalition strikes that appear to have violated international humanitarian law, many of which may amount to war crimes. These have resulted in 513 civilian deaths (including at least 157 children and 379 civilian injuries).”

Saudi Arabia has also implemented a crushing aerial, naval and land blockade, creating conditions in which 80% of the population relies on humanitarian aid. By 2017, a quarter of the population was starving according to the UN. Human Rights Watch has called for the UN Security Council to, “impose travel bans and asset freezes on senior coalition leaders, including the Saudi crown prince and defense minister, Mohammad bin Salman,” should the status-quo be maintained.

Nic Robertson writes about the war in Yemen, “Over the intervening years the conflict has escalated, several thousand Yemenis have been killed, a third of the country’s population is short of food, and Houthi-fired, Iranian-made missiles frequently scud over hundreds of kilometers of desert to be shot down near the Saudi capital.” He doesn’t, however, identify why conditions in Yemen are this way but alludes to Iranian aggression as a possible factor. He adds, “The lives of Riyadh’s more than 7 million people are in MBS’s hands, but the region as a whole is at risk: A mass-casualty event in the capital could push the young crown prince into open conflict with Iran,” i.e., the slaughter is justified.

When MBS was interviewed on 60 Minutes, a grand total of two minutes was spent on Yemen. MBS made sure to deflect each question back onto Iran; “The Iranian ideology penetrated some parts of Yemen. During that time, this militia was conducting military maneuvers right next to our borders and positioning missiles at our borders… I can’t imagine that the United States will accept one militia in Mexico launching missiles on Washington D.C., New York and LA.” When bin Salman was asked if he acknowledges that there is suffering, he said that it was “very painful,” and that he hoped that the rebels stop, “using the humanitarian situation to their advantage in order to draw sympathy from the international community.”

Most notably in November of 2017, the New York Times published an article by Thomas L. Friedman, titled “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring at Last.” Written after Friedman’s visit with MBS in Saudi Arabia, the article only uses the word “Yemen” once.

[MBS] insisted that the Saudi-backed war in Yemen, which has been a humanitarian nightmare, was tilting in the direction of the pro-Saudi legitimate government there, which he said is now in control of eighty-five percent of the country, but given the fact that pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, who hold the rest, launched a missile at Riyadh airport, anything less than one percent is still problematic.

Thomas L. Friedman, “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring at Last”

Friedman fails to mention the cholera outbreak, the starving children, or civilian casualties. He does, however, manage to mention that the government that Saudi Arabia is supporting is legitimate and the rebels are pro-Iranian.

On Nov. 4, 2017, Saudi forces rounded up members of the Saudi royal family as well as prominent members of Saudi Arabia’s business community, on charges of corruption and placed them in the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. Among the prisoners were rivals and critics of MBS. For example, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, freed only after paying a fee of $1 billion, is a rival to the throne. Also, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest investor in the Middle East and MBS’ cousin, was arrested on no charges.

Despite the setting of the Ritz Carlton, the conditions that the prisoners were subjected to were inhumane. A video surfaced of Alwaleed bin Talal looking visibly thinner than he had before being sent to the hotel. One general who was imprisoned was tortured to death, dying of a broken neck. Sixteen other prisoners were hospitalized due to physical abuse. Human Rights Watch stated, “Saudi Arabia should immediately investigate the claims that authorities physically mistreated or coerced prominent people detained.”

Friedman had a different take on what took place. “One thing I know for sure: Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive,” he wrote. “The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country. While foreigners, like me, were inquiring about the legal framework for this operation, the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: “Just turn them all upside down.”

Friedman’s article doesn’t use the words torture or abuse. Neither did the Washington Post article “Saudi Arabia Releases Most Detainees in Corruption Probe after Settlements Totaling Nearly $107 Billion.” This article did mention that the prisoners had been held in a “luxury hotel.” Nic Robertson’s opinion piece also forgot to use the words torture or abuse. In fact, the Ritz Carlton episode was only mentioned once when Robertson said that the event could potentially hurt business in Saudi Arabia and “didn’t do [MBS] any favors when he hit the boardrooms.”

Under the logo for the Post it reads, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Certainly, democracy has suffered as the news media has neglected to adequately hold accountable Saudi Arabia. While coverage of Khashoggi’s murder was encouraging, two things should be noted. First, that it was a journalist of the Post who was killed. As history shows, unless it is one of their own, the news media cares little for the harassment, torture, or death of journalists. The second is that this level of attention is fleeting even for Khashoggi. On Sept. 7, 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death penalties for those convicted of Khashoggi’s murder. The Times ran one article on the topic. Not surprisingly, the Post published more than the Times, a less than impressive six articles, but they were all published the day of the ruling or the day after. Otherwise, the ruling was lost to the memory hole. If this is the care they give for one of their own, how many in history have been forgotten?

The Weekly Tiger: Be Thankful

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Don’t tell me the latest statistics. Don’t tell me how you hate your classes. Don’t come to me asking if you can vent about your test that you just failed because we both know it was open note. Just don’t. Instead, say something you’re thankful for or nothing at all.

Maybe it’s the late nights, how it’s getting colder or that the leaves are turning color, but I am now thinking on the upside. Or at least I’m trying to. Every morning, I try to not grumble at the fact that campus is an infected prison. I smile.

Looking at my post-it’s on my mirror, I read the same message every day: How can I improve myself today? Another above it reads: You got this. And I got this. I’m working this, even if it’s slow. I am dancing on clouds. Plop goes the needle on a record. Spinning, the music lifts me into high spirits, and the coffee pouring out of my off-brand Keurig sends scents of vanilla and caramel into my soul. Starting my morning with a routine temperature check with a thermometer and a bowl of homemade granola is essential and always makes me feel collected. Having a routine allows me to feel a little more in control, and for that I am thankful.

Walking around campus each morning is pure and quiet. Almost no one is around, and that’s because it’s before nine and everyone most likely takes their first class in bed. Sometimes a mist hovers over the grass. Once in a while, the sun peeks through the trees, illuminating them in nature’s version of a stained-glass window. I watch the neighborhood black cat roam through the thickets, playing with tumbling leaves or pinecones. I scratch its head, for the kind heart of this creature reminds me of my own pet at home. It brings warmth to my heart. For this, I am thankful.

Every day, I find something different to appreciate, whether or not it is on this campus. It can be a brother hundreds of miles away, sitting in an apartment in Nashville along with two other people, hundreds of records and multiple house plants. It can be my aunt and uncle across the Pacific Ocean, wandering the landscapes of New Zealand. It can be a heartwarming Instagram post. It can be the song I heard on the radio the other day. It can be the coffee that I made today because I added the perfect amount of sugar and creamer to compliment the flavors. It can even be someone’s laugh or just the chance that I got to see them today. I send a thank you to whoever’s listening for what you do to lift me up.

Because I know it’s not easy. But I am thankful every day that I have the tiny things and tiny people that keep me going.

Avenue Beat Criticizes 2020 on Viral Hit “F2020”

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The Album Cover for F2020. Contributed by Avenue Beat/Big Machine Label Group.

“Low-key, f*ck 2020” has been a motto for this year. With threats of WWIII, the whole pandemic, fires and floods and murder hornets, it just all seems a little excessive. I give the year a 0/10, would not recommend. The group Avenue Beat released their song “F2020” this year, and it’s pretty fun.

The story told starts out with the general optimism that one has on New Years Eve, with saying that the coming year is going to be “your year.” Then, it goes into how 2020 is nothing like anyone expected. The Avenue Beat girls keep the song relatable, talking about pets, the pandemic and being “really sad and bored at the same time.”

The chorus is catchy and keeps listeners connected. Avenue Beat sings about not having money, which describes a lot of people after COVID-19 hit the United States in March. The lyrics are very explicit, but I admit that it embodies how I have felt all year.

In the second verse, lead singer Savana Santos explains that everything that’s happened to her might not be as bad as what fans have endured. However, she doesn’t hide her desire to skip the rest of this year and go straight to 2021, because the world won’t stop throwing everything it has at us.

This song was made famous due to TikTok, but it’s genuinely good. Don’t mind me if you hear me singing “F2020” under my breath for the rest of the year. I can easily listen to this song on repeat for hours, so give it a listen and have some fun waiting for 2021 to hit. The song gets a 10/10 from me!

What Goes on in Polis House?

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Polis House, the quarantine housing location for Wittenberg students, is seen on Aug. 23, 2020. Wittenberg is using the residence hall to house quarantined students until testing results return from the Clark County Combined Health District. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)
Polis House, the quarantine housing location for Wittenberg students, is seen on Aug. 23, 2020. Wittenberg is using the residence hall to house quarantined students until testing results return from the Clark County Combined Health District. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

After managing to escape COVID-19 for the entire summer, I found myself here at Wittenberg. A friend of a friend of a friend tested positive, and I thought I was in the clear. Unfortunately, that’s not how this disease works. 

Within a week of hearing about the distant friend’s positive result, there was a spike in cases on campus. My roommate and I shared our anxious thoughts and reassured each other that our likelihood of getting it was slim. Then, our close friend tested positive. That same day, I received a call from a contact tracer and an email instructing my roommate and me to meet outside of Polis House at 5:15 pm with our bags. 

At first, the move was admittedly a bit exciting. We were put in a double room together and had not yet tested positive ourselves, so we were ready for the small break in our daily lives. We saw this as our very own, on-campus corona-cation. If we were going to be sick anyway, why not attempt to make the best of it? We packed quickly, leaving our dorm room in its very occupied state. The next week was sure to pass by quickly. 

Just two days after beginning our quarantine, we received our positive results. It was no surprise, as we had already begun to show symptoms. The realization that we had the same disease that is currently causing a worldwide pandemic slowly set in after we broke the news to our families, and our outlook on the future worsened. We tried to focus on our classes and keep a positive mindset while new symptoms began to appear.

We quickly realized that life in Polis House is not very desirable. I love my roommate, but being shoved into a room for a week with one other person with whatever you were able to pack in two hours is not my definition of a fun time. My first official full day there, I failed to order my CDR meal two hours ahead of time, finding out the hard way that this means you don’t receive food until the next meal time. Luckily, I had brought snacks and kept myself satisfied until my pre-ordered dinner arrived downstairs. These always arrived in grocery bags with your name and room number attached, and contained one of three courses the CDR offered that day. Those who graciously volunteered to deliver them would also include a drink, fruit or desert of your choice.

For some reason, I was convinced that all the symptoms of COVID-19 wouldn’t apply to me. The most shocking one was the loss of smell and taste. This was helpful when I wasn’t interested in any of CDR’s choices of the day but it completely caught me off guard. Food tasted like water, and I became used to nothing having an aroma. Other major symptoms included extreme fatigue, inability to focus, a stuffy nose, chest pains and body aches. Sleep was a thing of the past, and the mere thought of writing an essay I’d usually be enthusiastic about brought yet another wave of anxiety. 

As the days begrudgingly went by, we became accustomed to living in Polis House. We missed our fish and worried about the health of our succulents. Our nights in Polis consisted of us observing campus through an open window, watching others interact and drive past. Occasionally, a friend would stop by and have a conversation through the window in a Rapunzel/Romeo and Juliet type fashion.

It was great to be back in our dorm. I really missed my Keurig. Although having COVID-19 is no fun, my quarantine allowed me to reflect. My experience in Polis reminded me of the strength in Wittenberg’s community, and how important it is that we’re in this together.

Mental Space: Eating Disorders

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The human mind is complex and interconnected. Follow Amber Gauss along as she breaks down mental health at Wittenberg and beyond. Graphic by Atticus Dewey/The Wittenberg Torch

Eating disorders are a serious illness. And sadly, they are all too common in college-aged individuals across the United States. Most people think of young women and teenage girls when they think about eating disorders, but men and non-binary individuals suffer from them as well.

Eating disorders are a form of mental illness that stems from societal beauty standards and a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. There are many forms of eating disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V). Today, I will cover the two most common eating disorders using the DSM-V as a source for their symptoms and diagnostic criteria.

The first eating disorder I would like to cover is anorexia nervosa. Anorexia, as defined by dictionary.com, means “loss of appetite and inability to eat.” In psychiatry and psychology, it is a disorder in which individuals restrict what they eat and sometimes purge in order to lose weight to achieve the “ideal” body image. According to the DSM-V, there are two types of Anorexia Nervosa:

Restricting – “During the last 3 months, the individual has not engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas). This subtype describes presentations in which weight loss is accomplished primarily through dieting, fasting, and/or excessive exercise”; and

Binge Eating/Purging – “During the last 3 months, the individual has engaged in recurrent episodes of binge eating or purging behavior (i.e., self-induced vomiting or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas)” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

There is crossover between the two types listed above, specifically with individuals purging after only eating a small amount of food. This is dangerous to the individual as it can lead to heart failure, muscle deterioration and unhealthy weight loss. Individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa lose weight rapidly from not eating enough nutrients and calories, and potentially purging. It is, of course, important to know the signs of anorexia nervosa for any and all individuals. If you notice a friend isn’t eating much at dinner for a while and that they’re exercising constantly, try talking to them, asking if they’re okay or refer them to the Tiger Counseling Center.

The second eating disorder I want to talk about is bulimia nervosa. Bulimia has similar symptoms of anorexia nervosa subtype two: “Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:

1. Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances; [and]

2. A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).

Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behaviors in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting; misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications; fasting; or excessive exercise.

The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.

Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight.

The disturbance does not occur exclusively during episodes of anorexia nervosa,” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Bulimia nervosa is as dangerous as anorexia nervosa, as it includes binge eating and purging to lose a significant amount of weight. However, it can be less noticeable than anorexia nervosa, for the individual is eating more than someone with anorexia. This can potentially make bulimia nervosa more dangerous, as it can go unnoticed for longer periods of time. However, it can cause tooth decay and damage to the throat if the individual affected is inducing vomiting.

All eating disorders are dangerous, make no mistake in thinking they are harmless. Eating disorders can lead to extremely low weight and other health conditions, such as organ failure. Ultimately, they can lead to hospitalizations and even death in affected individuals. If you are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder, contact the Tiger Counseling Center at (937) 327-7946 or email counseling@wittenberg.edu. You can also contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) 24 hours a day by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Campus Life: Then and Now

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A Spring Semester 2020 class schedule is seen near the Kuss Science Center Grab and Go lunch location on Aug. 7, 2020. Wittenberg University moved the remainder of the Spring Semester online on March 18, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg)

When you think of campus life before the virus, it seems like a very distant memory of being social and not even thinking about wearing a mask. When you think of life now, you think of 6-foot markers, wearing a mask everywhere you go and making sure you have your Pumpkin Spice-smelling hand sanitizer in your backpack.

COVID-19 hit the United States in early March of this year. Everyone on campus went home for spring break thinking they would come back to school and resume a normal life. However, things do not always go as planned. COVID-19 caused most universities and schools to move their academic semester to online learning. For some, online learning is way more beneficial to learning in person. You don’t have to worry about the pressure of raising your hand in class and getting the answer wrong, for when it was online, it made things better for some people. They had more room and time to think about the lesson they are learning.

Personally, I did a lot better learning online than in person. I did not like to sit in a classroom and stress over if I knew an answer or not. Another reason why I preferred online learning to in person was that I saw my family every day. My mom, my dad, my brother and I quarantined together at home. My brother had to do his semester at home too, so it was really fun to see him every day when I did my schoolwork.

Before the coronavirus was a thing, we all lived a normal life. College students would go to class and sit closer than 6 feet. We also knew life, before COVID-19, as going to parties and large social events with out even thinking how many people will be there.

Now, the virus has impacted the student’s semesters, but not in a good way, I suppose. All the students must wear a mask everywhere they go to protect others from coughs or contamination. Also, parties with more than 10 people are strictly not a good idea, which is hard for some college students to fathom. College is about studying, but it is also about getting out of your comfort zone and meeting people. But that is very hard to do now thanks to the coronavirus.

Even when people eat on campus it is a very different situation than before. Before, you could easily go into the dining hall and find a random spot and eat. Now, you must do a reservation system and pick a time you are going to sit in the dining hall and eat. It is a way to control the crowds. Also around campus, there are white tents where people can sit and eat to-go meals.

Students also must wear a mask everywhere they go, from sitting in Post 95 to sitting in the library. For two weeks, all in person classes were moved online due to the increased number of positive cases of coronavirus.

A lot of students are also quarantined after they get tested for the virus to keep themselves and other students on campus safe. So, online learning does come in handy when you are stuck in your room all day.

Sure, things are not the way they were in the past, but at least we are at school. A lot of universities throughout the country are doing at-home learning. So, think on the bright side: you’re here with your friends even though you have to stay a tiger apart.

The Weekly Tiger: Quarentunes

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We all seek forms of escape, especially in times like this. Some find it in literature, binge-watching movies or shows, video games, wandering through nature or in one’s own mind. For me, I escape in music, sinking away for two, three or maybe five minutes to completely leave my old mindset and enter a new one. I’m not saying that this form of melodic therapy is for everyone or that my vast liking in music are for all ears. These nine songs serve wonderful purposes individually, but collectively, they keep me moving forward.

The Wombats – “Curveballs”

Perfect to dance to, easy to sing along to and has enough energy to get your anger flowing, the song by the English indie band allows anyone with too much going on to relate. The repetitive line “I can’t, I can’t keep-keep up with these curveballs” is far too relevant with everything changing by the day with COVID-19. And that goes for things happening on campus and off of it. “Curveballs” expresses that stress and that desire to just be rid of frustration.

John Denver – “Sunshine on my Shoulders”

On a sleepy Sunday morning, just before I am ready to throw myself into a pile of unfinished work, I take a breather to listen to what my boy John has to say. The lightness, positivity, smooth strings and oboes playing along slowly and that soothing voice just puts you at ease. If the sun is out, I take a walk and the sunshine really does “make me happy”, as the song goes. I am able to take a step back, breathe and prepare myself for the day. It’s a song powerful enough to lift you up and gentle enough to lay you back down to rest.

Billie Eilish, Khalid – “lovely”

For my deep moments and the depression that haunts me on a daily basis, “lovely” captures it all. The song jokes at the idea that one could be happy being so miserable, depressed and tired all the time. Not only does the song pair with the energy that follows many all over the world, it says what we are all thinking: “wanna feel alive, outside I can’t fight my fear”. The repetition of “hello, welcome home” allows me to imagine our minds as homes, and that we can stay locked in our own thoughts, enclosing ourselves in a continuous film roll of dark imagery. All in all, “lovely” suits the purpose of filling my ears with the shadows I always have attached.

John Mayer- “Waiting on the World to Change”

Perhaps Mayer was about 14 years too early with this release of the song because he had all of it right. He repeatedly hints at corruption among leaders and our generation’s eventual ascension to power with the weight of responsibility. Even the lyric “It’s hard to beat the system when we’re standing at a distance” is calling out to our current situation in 2020. Yes, the song was perfect for its release date too back in 2006, but I can’t help but ignore the message it can send today. The upbeat jazz-rock edge plays with the fact that things will get better, bumping that optimism into my groove.

The Black Keys – “These Days”

If you know anything about me, I’m always reaching back into my Akron roots and trying to feel a little touch of home. For those moods when you just want to lie back on your bed or floor, stare up at the ceiling and have those deep conversations with yourself about life, this is the song is perfect for those moments. “Wasted times and broken dreams… is all I see these days”, and well, isn’t that relatable as hell? The slow, soft voice of Dan Auerbach coaxes us into a blue state, as does the dragging out of those bass notes. It makes you want to sway away from your problems.

Miley Cyrus – “The Climb”

I mean, I had to. Go ahead, give me sh*t about it. Whatever. But after a long, hard day, I don’t have a lot of other options to turn to. I had actually never listened to this song fully until this year, and honestly, I could have really used it in the past. The upbeat guitar, the raspy grit of Cyrus’ voice and the full power it all has to get you going is absolutely unbelievable. I feel motivated to get stuff done when I hear those words, especially how I “gotta keep my head held high” and that “sometimes I’m gonna have to lose”. The energy gained from those near four minutes is enough for me to remember that I can’t give up and that if I do, I won’t be able to see what’s beyond that mountain.

Mumford & Sons – “Holland Road”

We’re in a time of stress and anger. Instead of lashing out and causing more pain, we should be forgiving and kind. “Holland Road” reminds me of this, and how that no matter who or what beats us down (*cough* ‘rona *cough*), we should turn the other cheek and offer kindness and love. The folk-rock twist of the instruments hint at optimism as the lyrics mention destruction, being on one’s knees and loss. All of which we see here now, in one form or another. The one lyric that always sticks with me, even after listening on repeat to feel all the feels, is “so I hit my low, but little did I know that would not be the end”. And I know that it won’t be the end, no matter how many times I hit my lowest point and the ringing of the banjo brings me back in.

Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle”

To relieve a little stress, why not have a little alternative rock? In a song revolving around the idea of being looked down on and trying be positive, it serves the purpose of lifting one out of the dumps. Not only does the song take me back to my angsty teenage years, it reminds me that everything will, indeed, “be alright”. And I really need that reminder, because I know it will take some time for everything to go back to normal and I want to do everything I can to help make it happen.

Louis Armstrong- “La vie en Rose”

“La vie en Rose” never ceases to make me sway and calm my mind with its lovely piano and trumpet. Originally written by French artist Édith Piaf in 1945 and made popular again by Armstrong in the mid-80’s, the song tells a short tale of love. I imagine myself dancing in a ballroom, completely at peace, when I hear the smooth tunes roll over one another. Translating from French, the title means “life in pink”, hinting at a lifestyle of absolute love and happiness, a perfect reality to escape into. I often find myself singing along and picturing a life such as that. Oh, to live a life in pink and jazz.

Wittenberg Holds COVID-19 Testing for Students, Faculty and Staff

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A Wittenberg student walks up the stairs to Pam Evans Smith Arena for COVID-19 testing on Sept. 9, 2020. Wittenberg held the testing event after cases spiked 2000% between Aug. 31 and Sept. 4.

Wittenberg held a free COVID-19 testing event on Wednesday, Sept. 9 as the university saw an 8,500% increase in COVID-19 cases in a two-week period starting Aug. 28. Wittenberg has 86 confirmed cases as of Friday, Sept. 11 with 13 probable cases.

Students were first informed of the testing opportunity in an email from the COVID-19 Response Team on Monday, Sept. 7. To test a larger percentage of campus and allow individuals without symptoms to be tested, Wittenberg connected with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Education Chancellor Randy Gardner to set up a pop-up test facility on campus.

The testing event was held in the Pam Evans Smith Arena and saw Wittenberg staff checking in students, faculty and staff to wait to be seen by a member of the Ohio National Guard.

“Wittenberg did a very good job with the flow,” said Katie Hiestand (’22), “I thought I was going to be there waiting in line, but I was in and out of there.”

The National Guard conducted nasopharyngeal swabs in both the nostrils to ensure that enough material was collected for each sample. Wittenberg told The Wittenberg Torch in a statement that it conducted 446 tests during the five-hour testing event.

“That was my first time, I didn’t know they swab for ten seconds,” said Anthony Petruzzi (’22) of the testing experience. “He [talked] me through the whole time, which I though was very nice.”

Petruzzi said that one of the reasons he got tested was the idea of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to his friends, housemates and family was a “very scary thought.” This fear of spreading to friends and family was echoed by Hiestand who got tested for “peace of mind” after encountering an individual who was positive.

In DeWine’s daily COVID-19 press conference on Thursday, Sept. 10, President Mike Frandsen described a concern that CCCHD was seeing a high number of close contacts from Wittenberg’s positive COVID-19 cases, approximately ten to 15 close contacts per case compared to a typical two to three contacts per case.

“Wittenberg is somewhat of a close-knit community,” said Petruzzi, “It’s hard to adhere to the guidelines sometimes.” Wittenberg’s community acts as a breeding ground for COVID-19 as Frandsen explained during his time in DeWine’s press conference Thursday.

“It’s really the resident units and social gathering that are driving our challenges. We are seeing the spread in the [Witten’burbs], neighbor to neighbor, block to block,” said Frandsen. This high level of spread was cited as reasons that Wittenberg moved to remote instruction beginning Sept. 7 in statements to The Wittenberg Torch from the Office of University Communication.

Wittenberg Police Division break up a party at Faculty Court on the night of Sept. 12. Wittenberg students are currently prohibited from having guests in residence halls and campus houses in a effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

When asked by The Wittenberg Torch why the Wittenberg did not pursue testing prior to or during move-in as performed by other schools in the NCAC, Wittenberg responded with a statement that cited long test turn-around time and little known benefit beyond other measures already in place. The statement also stated that “the resources necessary to conduct and manage such testing were cost-prohibitive.”

 “I think if we had [testing], I think people would listen a little better and see how big of an issue [COVID-19] truly is,” Hiestand said of testing at Wittenberg. The University partners with Mercy Health to offer a testing clinic to symptomatic students on Monday-Thursdays between 1-4pm at The Steemer Lobby.

When asked if they had a plan when a test came back positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, Hiestand responded that she would likely quarantine off-campus with a family member in order to allow her roommates to stay at Wittenberg.

“How many people have I seen face to face, how many things have I touched? Have I washed my hands enough,” Petruzzi said of his thoughts while waiting for test results. “The idea that I could have been spreading it unknowingly was a pit in my stomach.”

Young’s Dairy Takes a Trip to Witt

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Wittenberg sophomore Maddie Engelau orders food from a Young's Jersey Dairy food truck during Food Truck Friday's at Wittenberg on Sept. 11, 2020. The event was part of several Food Truck Friday's hosted by Wittenberg in September. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” Albeit an old saying, it was very much true on the day when Young’s Dairy made a trip to Wittenberg campus.

Family-owned since 1869, Young’s Jersey Dairy is best known for its homemade ice cream, milkshakes and of course, its cheese. Young’s also is known for its welcoming, family friendly environment with fun seasonal events for all to enjoy, regardless of age.

With their “On the Moove” food truck, the company sold a limited amount of items, including some of their most popular sellers including grilled cheese, pulled pork and steak hoagies. Included were half pints of their famous ice cream and, last but not least, their cheese curds.

As someone who attended the event, I was taken aback by their food but was not disappointed. My recommendation would be the cheese curds and the pulled pork sandwich. Between the two, the cheese curds were my favorite. They were fresh and packed with flavor, and besides, who doesn’t like cheese? It was melting in your mouth with goodness all around. As for the pulled pork, I enjoyed the tanginess of the sauce, which wasn’t overbearing or spicy. The meat and sauce sat atop a nice, soft potato bun. Hey, it saved me a trip to CDR. I’m not complaining. After all, it was a nice change around campus.

It was pleasant to see the amount of people that showed up and I was surprised, not going to lie. Due to the pandemic and with classes now being online for two weeks, campus has seemed a bit lonely. It was wonderful to see people enjoying ice cream with friends during these times. It gave a sense of hope that even during this, we as a community can enjoy the little things together and still be safe. Maybe the world can go back to normal, not right now, but one day…one cheese curd at a time.

Next time you are in the mood for ice cream, take a trip down to Young’s Dairy, located in Yellow Springs, OH. Support your local companies and get ice cream, and that concept just can’t be beat!

Wittenberg Professor’s Podcast Sticks with the Times

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One of Wittenberg University’s philosophy professors, Dr. Julius Bailey, launched Straight No Chaser, a podcast that centers around critical current issues that challenge the world. On his podcast, he chats with many different guests (both locally and nationally) to discuss the topic that an episode centers around. Here, Bailey touches on the name of the podcast and why he came up with the idea of it, the success of the podcast, what his life was like before entering the world of a philosophy professor, why he is so passionate about these topics, and what it’s like to be the only African American professor working at Wittenberg. 

“There is a rap song that says ‘I’m bored in the house and I’m in the house bored’,” Bailey said, referring to the song “Bored in the House” by American rappers Tyga and Curtis Roach. Like everyone else around the world, Bailey found himself in a similar situation in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he was losing his mind and he needed to do something and talk to about the current issues in America.

“I needed interactions, and I just had this crazy idea what about just starting a podcast, so I called a former employee, Ray Jones,” Bailey said. Due to him having a fear of technology, Bailey had the idea of purchasing the equipment for the podcast and hiring someone to run the technical aspect of the podcast.  Just like most people in the world, Bailey had no idea that the podcast would attract so many viewers.

“I didn’t know that it would kick off as well, I didn’t know that it was going to do as well [and] I didn’t even know what it was going to look like,” Bailey said. “Straight No Chaser has two meanings: (1) an album by a jazz album from musician called Thelonious Monk, and  (2) those who go to the club and want their drinks straight with no coke in or rum…I wanted somewhat of a jazz like improvisational fluid show, that gives it to the people straight.” 

Bailey’s had a life as a pastor before he become a philosophy professor. He grew on the south side of Chicago in a neighborhood notorious for gang activity. Bailey grew up in a household with his grandfather as a pastor. 

“To preach is more of a calling, than a job, but I never really (maybe up until lately) that I wanted to answer the call to accrual pastoralship,” Bailey said. “I became interested in philosophy and the process and the sort of the quest of not wisdom… and to understand his life itself.” Being a pastor is a lot of work and haven growing up experiencing what his grandfather went through, Bailey knew that it wasn’t the job for him.

Bailey lastly touched on what it’s like to be the only full-time African American professor at the university.

“It hurts because, [for] five or six years I’ve been fighting for diversity [on this campus] and we did it. We brought in ShaDawn Battle. Going into fall 2018 and spring 2019, I was the happiest that I have ever been. I had a crew. I can finally build community with my people and not have the weight of the world kind of on me on campus. We watched nine black facility and staff leave the university,” Bailey said.

Entering in his 11th year on campus, he is in pain because half of the black facility and staff left. 

So what is next for Straight No Chaser? Well, check it out from 11:00 to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays with the links to the Facebook and YouTube pages below. 

https://www.facebook.com/search/videos/q=straight%20no%20chaser%20w%2F%20dr.%20julius%20bailey&f=AbrP2EpFe6JNribTVob2d3en55lKN7gKK1jH_NEGvgmHZHQ7jG3iSRp6rXNoOWlHJqGXAMW8bUmiXfdoElIBAt1LPt3M6qDeZjzWaFPxqgmNlzh8hq6BSyS96WkBcCBOfaeraXS60K4IUUblkHzADWKXn00fBSIjQD5RWTbiXp8C6g59M0kFvvqa0-3rrx_0Sk

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCji6Q3UV5snZkZvkJHcsDoA

Mental Space: The Addiction

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Amber Gauss ('22) looks out a window at Winan's Chocolate & Coffees on Jan 13, 2019. Gauss is an Psychology and Russian double major at Wittenberg University. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

Addiction is a mental illness. It can also be genetic. Addiction is not a choice, but smoking for the first time or getting drunk for the first time is a choice. Addiction comes in many forms, and some are less expected than others. But I think it’s important to stress that addiction can start at any age, especially in college where we’re all stressed.

As humans, we are predisposed to addiction. Most people are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or caffeine, but in all honesty, it’s possible to become addicted to anything. You can become addicted to love or to a person. But the one addiction that no one seems to expect is self-harm.

People who deal with severe mental illness- typically depression, bipolar disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder- have a tendency to self-harm. And there’s such a stigma around it that causes neurotypical people to view them as “attention seeking.” But in reality, they’re just doing what they need to in order to deal with stress or to feel something.

What neurotypical people don’t realize, though, is that after the first time, these people become addicted to the release. The need to feel something or to release extreme stress is real, it can become overwhelming and it’s not always something that can be dealt with by taking medication for their illness. The people who self-harm are addicts, and they need to be looked at as such.

In a conversation with my personal counselor, in which I brought up a recent relapse in self-harm, she told me that self-harm is an addiction. There are many other phrases that mean self-harm, such as self-mutilation, self-abuse, self-injury, and engaging in self-injurious behavior.

According to Safe Harbor Home, “Self-harm such as cutting often begins in early adolescence. Teenage or younger girls are most susceptible to cutting, though older women and males are also treated for self-harm practices.

The cuts a person makes on the body are often small, straight lines that are not very deep. Some people who cut to self-harm carve words instead of lines that often spell out terms that are self-derogatory, such as “fat” or “stupid.”

Cutting tends to escalate, requiring more cuts, done more often in order to make the person experience the same feelings of relief or calm. This is similar to people who are addicted to substances needing increased dosages to achieve the same high.

However, this same source says that there are other forms of self-harm, such as head banging, burning oneself, and pulling out hair. These are only a few of the many types of self-harm. It is important to know that self-harm may also be considered to be a part of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as self-harming actions are typically done as a compulsive action and do not mean that the person harming themself is trying to kill themself.

Although self-harm may escalate, it is not always an indication of suicide. It is most often a cry for help, but not attention seeking. As someone who has struggled with this, I can attest that it is an unhealthy way to release stress, but it can be affective. However, I do not recommend self-harm to anyone as it can become dangerous and isn’t healthy at all.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm or thoughts of self-harm, please contact the Tiger Counseling Center at: (937) 327-7946 or email counseling@wittenberg.edu. You can also call (937) 399-9500, which is the phone number for Mental Health Services of Clark County. There is also Talk One-2-One which is a 24 hour service that can be reached at (800) 756-3124.

Source: https://safeharborhouse.com/what-we-treat/co-occurring-disorders/self-harm/

Race Issues within Campus Housing

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Wittenberg University is seen on Sept. 6, 2020 during a COVID-19 Outbreak in the third week of in-person classes. Wittenberg had a 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a 2000% increase since Aug. 31 where the university claimed to have one active case.

A liberal arts college in the state of Ohio claims to strive for diversity within in its community and doesn’t tolerate when its faculty, students or staff are treated differently based on their race, age, sexual orientation, religion or class status. 

Part of Wittenberg University’s diversity, equity, and inclusion from President Frandsen’s council reads “…a diverse and inclusive campus enhances the living, learning, and working environment for every member of our community” [1].  Out of all the three years of living in Wittenberg’s on campus housing, I heard that this statement doesn’t reflect. Some rumors have showed that the Office of Residence Life doesn’t treat their Residential Advisors (RAs) with equality. However, this rumor has ben claimed to be false due to an interview that I had with the Dean of Students Casey Gill and the Associate Director of Residence Life Sherri Sadowski.

When I interviewed Gill, she touched on what she would do if two RAs were caught smoking illicit drug and the process it initials.

“If two RAs are reported in behavior that  is in violation [of] the [school’s] code of conduct, they would get processed through our conduct system the same as any student would, because they are still full time Wittenberg students obligated to up hold the code,” Gill said.

With the rumor that two RAs of different races were caught smoking illicit drugs, it would again be proven to be inaccurate. There needs to be proof that both of the RAs were caught smoking the drugs and they need to have the right to be heard.  Then, during the process, just like any other student who is employed at Witt, the hearing board looks at to see if they violated their contract through their employer. If they did they could face either suspension or termination depending on how severe it is.

“It depends on the complexity of the  situation,” Sadowski said.  

So in your mind, you may see the situation that didn’t happen as an act of racism, but in reality, it didn’t happen.  So, I leave you with this: don’t listen to what you want to here, but find the facts before you make an assumption. 

[1] Diversity & Inclusion. Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Wittenberg University. https://www.wittenberg.edu/student-life/diversity/statement-diversity-equity-and-inclusion.

Say His Name: Dijon Kizzee

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Ethan Bocchichio ('22) protests in LA. Photo by Ethan Bocchichio ('22).

On Monday, Aug. 31, two officers of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department shot and killed unarmed Dijon Kizzee. Police claim Kizzee was stopped for an alleged bicycle violation and that after an altercation, he dropped a bag of clothes with a gun in it and reached for the gun. The officers, who feared for their lives, opened fire, shooting Kizzee at least 18 times. However, surveillance video from a nearby home shows that after the bag with the alleged gun is dropped, Kizzee struggles with an officer, turns to run, and then is hit in the back with four bullets. After he falls to the ground, a second barrage of bullets hits the unarmed Kizzee, who lies, possibly already dead, on the ground.

“Dijon Kizzee did not deserve to be executed like this in cold blood as he was running away,” Kizzee family attorney Benjamin Crump said during a virtual news conference.

Opinion video by Ehtan Bocchichio (’22).

Not long after Kizzee was killed, a protest gathered on one side of the yellow tape on Budlong Avenue. A rumor circulated in the crowd as to the number of shots fired, possibly originating from a member of the family with inside information, that Kizzee had been shot 27 times. Police in riot gear with rubber bullet guns and rifles stood behind police vehicles shining bright lights at the crowd, obstructing the vision of onlookers. Protesters stood quietly for most of the night. At one moment as chanting broke out, Black Lives Matter LA activists requested that the crowd respect the wishes of the family, who had called for quiet, peaceful protests. For the most part, this quiet was sustained despite police escalating the situation, at one point by pushing back protesters who had not attempted to cross the yellow tape.

After Kizzee was slain, his killers stood with guns pointed at the body until more police showed up. A bystander posted a series of clips of the scene on Instagram Live. Judging by these videos, which do have time gaps in them, guns were pointed at Kizzee’s presumably dead body for at least one minute and 14 seconds before reinforcements arrived. It is not clear how long the gaps are in the footage.

“He’s already dead!” said the person filming, and saying that [the police] shot Kizzee, “Like 20 times.”

Crump corroborated this claim in his press conference when he stated, based on pre-autopsy investigation, that he and his team estimate that Kizzee was shot between 15 and 20 times. After reinforcements arrived, two police officers joined the officers who had fired the shots in walking slowly towards Kizzee’s bullet-riddled corpse to handcuff it.

Handcuffs are used to neutralize the physical threat that suspects may pose to police officers. The dead body of Dijon Kizzee, however, could not have posed such a threat. So, what was the purpose of handcuffing a dead man? The only threat Kizzee posed to the police in that moment was as a potential symbol of another unarmed black man killed unjustly. The handcuffs were used in an attempt to neutralize the threat of popular outrage. Kizzee’s death is one in a year characterized by police brutality and protests that respond to it. Handcuffing his lifeless body seemed to be a symbolic gesture, suggesting criminality and justification for violence against a posed threat. They were used as if to say, “No, no. Not this one. This one actually deserved it.”

Because of the lights obstructing the view of protesters, the status of Kizzee’s body was unknown to the people who gathered. At one point, around 8:45 PM, members of Kizzee’s family came from the other side of the yellow tape, vocalizing frustration that Kizzee’s body had not even been covered up yet. Kizzee was shot around 3:15 PM, meaning his body laid out uncovered for at least five hours and 30 minutes. How long he laid like that afterward remains unknown.

The numbers of slain unarmed individuals are not uniquely high in 2020, but the response from protesters has been uniquely fierce.

At 10:45 PM, a group of police in riot gear reinforced the line despite no significant change in the behavior of the crowd of protesters. As the night went on, numbers began to run thin. The fleeting nature of this protest seemed clear to everyone except police. A few minutes after the line of police was reinforced, word got out that a group of police in riot gear had begun to gather at 109th and Normandie, just around the corner. This was confirmed by one of my partners who investigated the matter personally. The protest was confined to a street that had only one way in and out, due to the yellow tape. Just a few nights earlier police had “kettled” a group of protesters in a tunnel downtown, a technique whereby police surround protesters and use crowd dispersal techniques such as tear gas, flash bangs, baton swinging, and pepper spray, despite there being nowhere for the group to go. If the intention was to kettle this protest, should anyone escape, one of the only two options to flee would have been on the side where Dijon Kizzee’s dead body possibly still lay.

At this point Kizzee’s family asked protesters to go the sheriff’s station. The rest of what happened that night was witnessed by my partner on the ground. By their account, there was some property damage from the protesters: vandalism, and graffiti, but no violence. Cops encircled the station. Armed deputies manned the rooftop. A helicopter circled the scene. The crowd was told that it was an unlawful assembly, police citing a fist fight as the justification. My partner claims no fight took place. Protesters were threatened with tear gas and “less than lethal” munitions but took to the streets instead of standing off with the police.

Every day since, protests have taken place in response to Kizzee’s killing. Since the killing of George Floyd, Los Angeles has seen consistent protests calling for justice for people killed by police. Demonstrations have taken place to honor Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Jacob Blake. On August 16, police in Pasadena, a city in LA County, shot Anthony McLain in the back, killing him as he ran holding a firearm. Small protests across the county took place, and just two weeks later, the unarmed Dijon Kizzee was killed.

Due to social media, resistance against the State in response to Kizzee’s killing was immediate. Within an hour of his death, people showed up in solidarity with his family. Social media has also allowed for greater dispersal of information regarding the killing of black people in the United States at the hands of law enforcement. The numbers of slain unarmed individuals are not uniquely high in 2020, but the response from protesters has been uniquely fierce. Still, police seem to act as if they’re not under the microscope of social media. So long as this remains the case, the unrestful will take the streets.

Witt Administrators Discuss Campus Safety Strategies

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A sign reminding Wittenberg visitors to social distance amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic sits outside of Recitation Hall on Aug. 7, 2020. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

What good is a college without a campus? That phrase is taken quite literally here at Wittenberg, as it should. Most students would not want to be stuck studying at home, and the staff themselves much prefer to be meeting face to face; something we’ve been lucky enough to be doing so far as we continue the transition into September.

So, what has the faculty been up to with holding back the virus? In conversations with Senior Associate Athletic Director Bret Billhardt, Director of Admissions Kelsey Ellis, and Vice President of Enrollment Management Carola Thorson, issues addressed were about what strategies their departments are undertaking to keep the campus open and safe.

Billhardt goes into new initiatives that have been put in place to ensure the wellness of both the campus and visitors.

“You’ll notice when you enter [the HWA], you’ll check in at the desk and have your temperature and symptoms taken. A couple other measures that are in place right now are some of the sign up measures you’re seeing. In the new weight room, we’ve also got 16 individual lifting racks spaced six feet apart, so we allow 16 [people] in there on the hour, every hour,” Billhardt said.

Billhardt also mentioned these spacing guidelines have applied to the fitness center, as well as the now-opened pool. Hand sanitizing stations are up all over the building, as well as wipes and sanitizing solutions in the weight rooms.

“One of the pieces that we have put into place is a health and wellness questionnaire our visitors have to complete prior to visiting, we also have a hand-washing station we’ve installed right outside the office of admissions for guests and our team members as well,” Billhardt said.

Ellis then discussed some of the general guidelines being followed, such as widely available sanitizer dispensers, the campus mask policy and how recruiting and retention will differ from the year before.

“We’ve implemented quite a few new pieces, for example we’re starting online sample classes over Zoom. They’re 30-minute sessions with interactive parts as well, so faculty members can both teach and give prospective students feedback. We also have virtual information sessions through a webinar format, and that is given by admissions counselors, and we’re also going to be doing student-led social media streams on Fridays to really engage with some of the new students, and give them that kind of inside look at what it’s like to be at Witt,” Ellis said.

Additionally, Ellis explained that off-campus visits, formerly done at schools, college fairs and coffee shops, would also be set up online, yet still retaining that personal connection the department strives for.

Billhardt opens up when asked specifically about recruitment.

“In terms of recruiting incoming student athletes, we really didn’t see any downturn at all in athletics this year. Now we’ve had a few that have chosen not to come or withdrawn due to COVID, which is understandable, but I think now it gives our coaches a unique opportunity that they’ve never really had, and they’re taking full advantage of it. Recruiting, as you know, it’s a very personal connection, and our coaches have had more time than ever to make those connections. Our numbers are actually up right now, with visits and tours, and I really think part of the importance of us staying open means we can show students and recruits that this is a strong community, and I think if anything we’re not seeing a negative impact,” Billhardt said.

Billhardt, Ellis, and Thorson were all asked about anyone who is struggling to roll through the punches of the pandemic and the advice each would give.

“I think it’s important to remind the students that yeah, we’re in this together, but don’t forget there’s still actual people around you, and still being able to talk and interact with each other breaks that barrier, and you’ll know that other people are there for you. At the end of the day, we have such a wonderful community, and we have wonderful support. Our students are just phenomenal, and it’s a gift to have the community that we do,” Ellis said.

“While we know that some of these things put in place make it look different than what we’re used to seeing, it’s for the right reasons. We want to be here and be together. We’ve had everyone’s health and safety as our top priority, and I would say just stick with us and keep helping us drive home the point of following the protocols so that sooner rather than later we can unmask, if you will, and get things back to being a little bit more normal,” Billhardt said.

“Something that we do within our own office is that we acknowledge that its hard. There isn’t something that’s easy about saying ‘I’m going to wear a mask’, or ‘I’m going to distance’. But what we can do to help ourselves and each other is just acknowledge that yes, it’s hard. But even then, we’re still together. Just remember it’s not forever, we can get through this and then we can do all of the things that bring us joy again,” Thorson said.

The Weekly Tiger: Love and Hope

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Enjoy all that our campus has to offer. Photo credit: Meghan Nadzam '22

So much has changed. I look around and I almost don’t recognize it. White tents flood the lawns. Red squares cover the carpets, tiles, and bricks. Yard signs line the sidewalks. Faces are hidden. I almost don’t recognize myself some days.

Wittenberg has evolved with the times, and as much as it might pain us all to live in this format, this evolution is necessary for the preservation, for the hope and for the love of what we once had not even a year ago.

I don’t think anyone saw the dramatic changes coming straight at us. And, to be honest, it’s okay. We have done everything and will continue to do everything we can to continue our education on this campus.

I fell in love with this campus and its aura when I first visited it over three years ago. I knew this is where I belonged. The color of leaves in the Hollow, the overall happiness of the students, the kindness of the professors, and the inviting feeling of being a part of something is what made me want to be a Tiger.

Now, as each day goes by, the Wittenberg I fell in love with slips further and further away. It all could be because of COVID-19, the way the campus is being run, or that I have changed as a person. The latter has definitely occurred, but one thing still remains: hope. I still have a deep hope for this campus, and that one day it will return to the place I fell in love with.

I fear that the Wittenberg I love will not return while I am still a student here, and if that is the case, it will be a wound that I will carry with me for a long time. You came to Wittenberg for a reason or another. You love something about this campus, whether it’s the people, the classes, the programs, the sports or whatever, but you have a purpose here.

So, while we dwell in this evolutionary stage, enjoy what you have, and spread the hope of having our old Wittenberg being returned to us.

Wittenberg Temporarily Moves Classes Online as Cases Rise

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A sign encouraging Wittenberg students to #maskup is seen on Sept. 6, 2020 during a COVID-19 Outbreak in the third week of in-person classes. Wittenberg has 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a 2000% increase since Aug. 31 where the university claimed to have one active case. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

On Sunday, Sept. 6, Wittenberg University’s COVID-19 Response Team announced a two-week shift to remote instruction starting Monday, Sept. 7, currently scheduled to last until Sept. 21. Student resources and campus facilities including the CDR, Thomas Library and HPER Center will remain open with their normal schedules during remote instruction.

In the statement, the COVID-19 Response Team cited an “abundance of caution” in their decision, as well as “[ensuring] a more equitable learning model.” The statement also lauded the expanded presence of testing on campus, just days after encouraging asymptomatic students not to get tested in a Friday, Sept. 4 communication announcing a steep rise in cases on campus.

Just hours before the Sept. 4 communiqué, the Wittenberg COVID-19 Response Team announced via the online COVID-19 dashboard that 21 students on campus had tested positive for the coronavirus at the center of the international pandemic, a 2000% increase in cases since Aug. 31. In total, 22 students have tested positive for the virus on campus, representing 1.52% of all cases reported in Clark County.

The Sept. 4 number represented a 50% increase in active cases since Sept. 3, when only 14 cases were active, and a 600% increase since Wednesday, Sep. 2, when just three cases were active. In response, the Wittenberg COVID-19 Response Team introduced a new set of guidelines and expectations on Sept. 3, including an order prohibiting all guests in both residence halls and Witten’Burbs properties and an order restricting travel away from campus except for essential purposes.

The Sept. 4 protocol update by the COVID-19 Response Team also clarified that asymptomatic students are not required to be tested. Students potentially exposed to COVID-19 but not directed by the university contact tracing process or the Clark County Combined Health District are not encouraged to be tested unless they develop symptoms. Neither group is excused from class, approved for remote learning or subject to university quarantine procedures.

The update also announced increased testing hours on campus in the Student Health Center from 1-4 PM, Monday- Friday. The testing is optional, reserved exclusively for symptomatic students.

“Initially, the plan was to contain the virus from coming onto campus from the community, and now the opposite is in effect.” 

Charles Patterson, Clark County Combined Health District

Of the ten colleges in the North Coast Athletic Conference, Wittenberg is the only member institution that did not require testing of any kind before or upon move-in. Allegheny, DePauw and Wabash each required tests before students came to campus at all. Denison, Hiram, Kenyon, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster all tested students as they arrived on campus and implemented mandatory quarantine until tests were returned. Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan, Allegheny and Wabash will continue to randomly test students on campus through at least November.

As of Sept. 4, Kenyon and Wooster currently had zero active cases, while Allegheny, DePauw, Hiram and Oberlin had less than ten active cases. Ohio Wesleyan has a confirmed total of 27 cases but had just 14 students remaining in isolation as of Aug. 28.

Wittenberg President Mike Frandsen defended the university’s decision not to mandatorily test students.

“That was the advice that we received from the CCCHD and from the medical professionals who were working with us,” Frandsen said. “We considered all sorts of different testing options and reviewed scientific literature on different testing. The challenge with testing is it’s a point in time. And you and I could get tested right now, and not show symptoms, not show positive test, but be contagious. And so, if you can’t do a testing regimen, it’s not particularly effective; at least, that’s what we’re hearing from the [Clark County Combined] Health District and the medical professionals.”

Health Commissioner Charles Patterson of the CCCHD, with which Wittenberg cooperated to develop its early COVID-19 protocol, seemed to be in favor of more testing than Frandsen. “We support testing of symptomatic persons as well as those who are direct contacts of confirmed cases,” Patterson said. “Immediate testing of contacts is discouraged due to the incubation period of the COVID-19 virus. A negative test does not allow for a shorter quarantine period if the individual is a close contact of a confirmed case.” 

Frandsen also suggested that the CCCHD was concerned about Clark County’s testing capacity.

“In Clark County, there’s still a concern about capacity of [available] tests for those who really need them,” Frandsen said. “The advice we got as recently as [Friday] morning from the Health District is that symptomatic testing is what we should be pursuing and what the system can really support right now.”

The COVID-19 Response Team’s protocol update seemed to corroborate Frandsen’s concern. “Asymptomatic students are highly encouraged NOT to test for COVID-19 until directed by a medical professional or a contact tracer,” the update said. “In most cases, these produce false negatives that misrepresent your health situation and will create unnecessary backlogs to the lab that will slow down return times.”

Patterson contrasted Frandsen’s characterization of Clark County’s testing capacity. “There are plenty of tests available in Clark County,” he said. “The problem is the limited hours when tests are available here.” His greater concern was Wittenberg’s lack of resources as it begins expanded testing regiments. “Random asymptomatic testing off campus is not discouraged but it could tax the on-campus testing system,” he said. 

The Harvard Medical School’s COVID-19 research team’s conclusion opposes Wittenberg’s COVID-19 Response Team characterization of the incubation period. An Aug. 25 article on the team’s Harvard Health Publishing website stated that COVID-19’s incubation period, the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms, may be as little as three days, with symptoms usually appearing four to five days after infection. The research team also reported that people may become contagious as many as 48 hours before symptoms begin.

As cases continued to rise on campus, President Frandsen characterized Wittenberg’s potential threat to the community as “minor.” Patterson expressed more concern. “Wittenberg’s current outbreak presents an added strain to the ongoing pandemic,” he said. “Initially, the plan was to contain the virus from coming onto campus from the community, and now the opposite is in effect.” 

Kenyon College, with zero active cases, has limited campus to freshmen and sophomores for the fall semester. Since move-in began on Aug. 22, the college has conducted at least 2,247 tests of students and faculty. The college developed its own COVID-19 protocol in collaboration with the Knox County Health Department, a county with less than half of the residents of Clark County and 83% fewer COVID-19 cases.

Kenyon’s protocol skirted scarce COVID-19 resources by outsourcing testing to Everlywell, an Austin, TX-based home test producer that charges $109 for a 72-hour COVID-19 test. For the limited on-campus testing that it does, Wittenberg partners with the Cincinnati-based Mercy Health system, which runs all on-campus student health facilities.

Despite the recent spike in cases and shifts in tactics on the part of the university, both Frandsen and Patterson praised the Wittenberg team’s rapid response and dedication to student safety.

“The University and it’s [sic] COVID-19 Response Team has worked tirelessly to have a fantastic, flexible plan and is now implementing the same,” Patterson said. “We have not experienced any team in our community that has worked harder or more often to prepare for the pandemic than Witt’s COVID-19 Response Team. We are truly blessed to work with a team who has the health of the entire Wittenberg community in mind and has strived to be able to reopen campus this fall.”

And despite his praise of the COVID-19 Response Team, Patterson indicated that more moderate measures by the university may not be sufficient to stop the outbreak. “We need the entire student body to band together to keep school in session and also protect the faculty, staff and greater community. It is time to discuss a reset to get this under control.” 

Frandsen also expressed a rare frustration with students who are not following university protocols. “We still have people who are not wearing masks when they should be and who are not distancing when they should be,” he said. “But we all have a role to play here, right? Students have a role to play. Faculty have a role to play. Administrators have a role to play… the majority of the members of the community are doing what they need to do. But there is a minority who are not, and they are putting all of us at risk… They owe it to all of us to be concerned. And if they’re not concerned about their own health or the health of others on campus…. maybe they should go home. But this is real. This is real. And people should absolutely be concerned about it.”

Read the Torch’s full conversation with President Frandsen here.

President Mike Frandsen Discusses COVID-19 Cases

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Braeden Bowen, Editor in Chief of The Wittenberg Torch, interviews Wittenberg University President Mike Frandsen on Sept. 4, 2020. Wittenberg had seen a surge of COVID-19 cases over the prior two days. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

On Friday, Sept. 4, Wittenberg University president Mike Frandsen sat down with Braeden Bowen of The Wittenberg Torch to answer questions about the rising COVID-19 outbreak on campus.

Q: How many positive COVID-19 cases are on campus right now?

A: 21.

Q: What happens when a student on campus tests positive for COVID-19?

A: If they test positive, they would go into isolation for our protocols. Some students have chosen to isolate at home and have left campus to do that.

Q: Does Wittenberg keep track of students who are self-quarantining?

A: We can’t keep track of people who don’t let us know, and so I don’t know how accurate our numbers are. I know who we’ve asked to quarantine. I know who the County Health District has asked to quarantine. But I don’t know if people have made that choice on their own.

Q: Do you believe Wittenberg’s COVID-19 restrictions are sufficient to contain the spread of the virus?

A: I’m concerned that they may not be.

Q: If a student tests positive for COVID-19 and is sent home, are they eligible for a housing refund? What about negative tests?

A: We aren’t sending anybody home. We are providing the option to isolate on campus. So if they go home, that that’s a choice that they’re making.

Frandsen later issued a correction. I was mistaken in saying we are not asking them to. We are asking them to return to their permanent residence if possible.

Q: How many cases or percentages will it take before Wittenberg sends all students home? What will that process look like?

A: Sending everyone home will really be the result of an outside agent. It’ll be the State or the County Health District making that demand of us. I think we would not choose that, unless directed to we may choose to have everyone shelter in place for remote instruction but on campus

Q: Are you concerned about Wittenberg’s financial situation if students are sent home?

A: Yes.

Q: Will finances be a deciding factor in the decision on whether students go home?

A: No. We’re not going to send people home unless we’re directed to, but whether we shift to remote from campus is not going to be a financial question. It’s going to be a health and safety question.

Q: Does the COVID-19 Response Team have preparations for multiple scenarios of infection on campus?

A: I think we have a lot of scenarios and I think they’re constantly evolving because the information is constantly evolving and the circumstances are constantly evolving. The COVID-19 Response Team has a daily meeting, and the County Health District is involved with that. Some medical professionals who are helping guide us are involved in that. And so, you know, we’re doing a daily assessment of what’s going on on [sic] campus, what’s going on in the county, so I think the scenarios evolve as new information becomes available every day.

Q: Are there cases on campus that Wittenberg is not officially reporting?

A: No. Similar to the self quarantine, if someone has a is a case and has not told us, there may be things we don’t know about. But all that we know is reporting.

Q: There have been reports from involved students that secret societies are hosting hazing events where inductees are required to share drinks. To your knowledge, are secret societies still practicing this semester?

A: This is the first I’ve heard, no, so I would be very disappointed if that were the case.

Q: To your knowledge, are fraternities and/or sororities still hosting parties in their respective houses?

Again, I’d be disappointed if they are. I have not heard reports of that. I have heard reports of people hosting parties, both in dormitories and in the ‘Burbs.

Q: Are there repercussions these actions? What are they?

A: Not following the protocols is a violation the student code of conduct, and I can tell you that the conduct people are incredibly busy. There have been a number of violations of the student code of conduct. The punishment for that violation is dependent on first time versus second time severity, as it would be for any other conduct violation. Now, if the conduct gets severe enough, we will send people home for bad conduct. We haven’t done that to date. But if it gets to the point where it’s severe enough on behalf of an individual or group of individuals, we’ll send them home.

Q: Do you have concerns about Labor Day weekend?

A: I have a concern about every weekend. You know, this is this is a two day weekend. There are classes on Monday. So it’s not different in that regard, but I’m concerned about every weekend. I Hope my phone doesn’t ring too many times every weekend. And that was a that was a pre-COVID-19 thing too, right? That’s the riskiest time on any campus under any circumstances.

Q: When a WittTip is submitted, what action does the university take immediately?

A: There’s a group of people who receives those and depending on the nature of the WittTip, the follow up and there would be follow up always will depend, right? If it’s something that would [Police Division] needs to handle then they would be charged to handle that if it’s something that’s best handled by somebody in an office because it’s related to activity in an office. You know, it would go that direction. If it’s a WittTip for a student in distress, somebody in Student Development would reach out.

Q: Has the university response been successful thus far in curbing unwanted behavior?

A: Hard to tell. I think we have certainly worse where there have been student concerns that were an individual student feels at risk. I think we’ve responded to those. Well, I haven’t heard otherwise. Have we eliminated all the behavior that shouldn’t be happening? Of course not. We still have people who are not wearing masks when they should be who are not distancing when they should be. Have the actions lessened that? Have they lessened it to where I’d like to see it? No. But we all have a role to play here, right? Students have a role to play. Faculty have a role to play. Administrators have a role to play. WittPD and everybody has a role to play. In keeping this community safe, and the majority of the members of the community are doing what they need to do. But there is a minority who are not. And they are putting all of us at risk, not only health risks, but instruction risk and keeping the quality of the instruction and the experience that students are having. And that’s frustrating. I think, again, we’re doing what we can to seek compliance with behavior that we need from a public health standpoint. I hope all of us are calling people out when they’re not exhibiting the behavior we need.

Q: Why did Wittenberg choose not to test for COVID-19 upon arrival when every other member of the NCAC either has pre-arrival protocols or have mandatory on-campus testing?

A: That was the advice that we received from the Clark County combined Health District and from the medical professionals who were working with this to seek advice and we serve Considered all sorts of different testing options and reviewed scientific literature on different testing. The challenge with testing is it’s a point in time. And you and I could get tested right now, and not show symptoms, not show positive test, but be contagious. And so, if you can’t do a testing regimen, it’s not particularly effective; at least, that’s what we’re hearing from the [Clark County Combined] Health District and the medical professionals. And in Clark County, there’s still a concern about capacity of availability of tests for those who really need them. The advice we get as recently as this morning from the Health District, is that symptomatic testing is what we should be pursuing and what the system can really support right now.

Q: Do you think Wittenberg poses a financial or health threat to Clark County and Springfield?

A: Minor? Yes, sure. But if students are out in the community, whether they’re out working at a job, some students have jobs and businesses in the community, or students who are out socially at the bars or whatever, they could be carrying the virus and putting people at risk. No doubt.

Q: Is Wittenberg doing any COVID-19 testing on campus?

A: We have an arrangement with MercyHealth to do symptomatic COVID-19 testing for those people who have self identified, we are also referring people to Mercy’s RED clinic, which does some asymptomatic testing. But again, the Health District is concerned about Overall testing capacity and using tests for asymptomatic people, when there’s concern that those with symptoms or those who’ve had direct exposure may not be able to get tests if the capacity is used by people just walking into do asymptomatic testing. So yeah, so it started being done on campus this week. There’s limited hours. It was being done in a tent over by Shouvlin. We’re going to find a better location for that and expand the hours. But it will be done on campus for certain periods at a certain level, we won’t be able to handle all of the need, probably. I mean, our whole health center is Mercy run. So they’re the ones who bring that expertise to us and are members of the open board.

Q: Is anyone from Mercy Health on the COVID-19 Response Team?

A: There’s no one from Mercy on the COVID response team, but Mercy has participated in those conversations periodically. There was somebody from Mercy on the working group that kind of formed the COVID response team and the FIT group, which was the faculty group. So Mercy was involved at the front end on a regular basis and have been involved periodically since.

Q: An article in the Springfield News-Sun was released earlier this week discussing the school’s success with the virus. Did the university have any role in determining the content of the article?
A: You know, they never talked to me. Obviously they talked to Gary [Williams]. So you know, they used whatever information they were provided in writing that article and we certainly don’t have any say over what they publish.

Q: In the News-Sun article, Gary Williams said that “he hopes he will be proud of how [COVID-19] was handled.” This morning, another News-Sun article was released announcing a 600% increase in active cases on campus over a five-day period. Are you proud of the results so far?

A: I’m proud of the process we’ve put in place in the work people have done. I’m disappointed in the results. But I’m absolutely proud of all the faculty and staff and community resources who’ve been involved in putting together our plans. They have done incredible work. We keep hearing from the Health District that no one that they’re working with is doing a better job. We have one of the more challenging situations because we have a residential situation. So you know, I’m disappointed in the results, no doubt, but I’m absolutely proud of the people have been working on this for weeks.

Q: Is Wittenberg considering more stringent measures in addition to those announced [on Sept. 3]?

A: Yes.

Q: What words do you have for seniors who are concerned about their senior year?

A: We all have a role to play in helping keep the community safe and healthy. And part of that role, which can be uncomfortable for all of us, but maybe particularly for students in a peer to peer kind of way is, is to remind people sometimes assertively that you need to wear your mask, or you need to stay six feet apart, or you need to go in through the entrance and out through the exit. And I think that, you know, I would ask seniors in particular as leaders on this campus or hope, hopefully leaders on this campus to be particularly vigilant about helping us stay safe.

Q: What advice do you have for students on campus who are scared?

A: You know, I think that probably the best thing for those students to do is reach out to campus and have compass put them in touch with resources that can help them. You know, if they have a pre existing relationship with the Counseling Center, then then skip right over compass, or they can always go straight to the counseling center if they need, they feel they need that kind of support. You know, certainly if they just have questions to send those in to the code response team. We’re getting lots of questions. And we’re posting answers to questions on the web as we can.

And but you know, the response may not be immediate or five minutes or Two hours it might be next day. But, you know that certainly, as we, as we compile answers to frequently asked questions, they can refer to the COVID-19 website. And, you know, again, if if people are scared, they should make sure they were amazed. They should make sure they stay six feet apart. You know, they should be careful about cleaning and the like, you know, we all have to protect ourselves, right? You know, when, when you’re driving, you have to be aware of the other drivers. And you have to anticipate what they may or may not do. And when you’re living in a campus community, during a global health pandemic, you’ve got a responsibility to take care of yourself as well as to the community and you know, the More of the science has evolved on this surface spread doesn’t seem to be nearly the concern that we thought it was three months ago. Right. The concern is really aerosol and droplets. And a lot of that can be alleviated. Just as we’re doing now, wearing a mask, being at distance, not having long duration contact. That’s another key piece of it. So, you know, again, take care of yourself, as well as taking care of the community.

Q: What advice do you have for students who are not concerned?

A: Yeah, they should be. They owe it to all of us to be concerned. And if they’re not concerned about their own health or the health of others on campus, The ability for all of us to do what we’re here for and that’s, you know, create a healthy educational environment. Maybe they should go home. But this is real. This is real. And people should absolutely should be concerned about it.

BREAKING: Wittenberg moving to temporary remote learning starting Sept. 7.

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On Sunday, Wittenberg’s COVID-19 Response Team announced a temporary move to remote instruction starting Monday, Sept. 7. Remote Instruction is currently scheduled to last until Sept. 21. Student resources including the CDR, Thomas Library and HPER Center will remain open following regular schedules during this time.

This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated.

National Poll Worker Shortage Creates Interesting Opportunity for College Students

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A Voter stands outside the Hull Plaza Building in Springfield on Nov. 6, 2018 a few hours before polls closed for the 2018 Midterm Elections. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

For those seeking to be politically engaged, the coronavirus pandemic poses significant issues. Across the country, local and state governments have created restrictions which bar large gatherings and discourage social interactions. With college campuses at their mercy, many universities have shut down for the fall semester. For those fortunate enough to remain on campus, engagement, especially that of a political nature, has been stifled. However, college students aren’t the only ones who face this issue. These troubles reach far past universities themselves, and deep into the communities in which these campuses reside.

Older populations are notorious for their political involvement. According to a 2019 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 64% of eligible Baby Boomers voted in the 2018 midterms, while only 42% of eligible millennials and 30% of eligible Generation Z voters. This November, as many older voters stay home to remain safe, this will not only lower the number of voters at the polls, but the number of poll workers as well.

In another study conducted in 2020 by PRC, it was found that during the 2018 midterm, around six in ten poll workers were over the age of 61, and approximately 27% were over the age of 70. With citizens in this demographic being more likely to contract the novel coronavirus, poll worker shortages will be inevitable in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. 

History has shown that poll worker shortages are a direct cause of voter disenfranchisement, with effects ranging from long lines to complete poll closures. With many touting the 2020 election as one of the most important in recent history, and the growing doubt surrounding the use of mail-in voting, ensuring polling locations are adequately staffed is imperative.

Campaigns such as Power The Polls, the Campus Compact Safe Elections Project, and the Campus Vote Project seek to make sure that voting as a form of civic engagement remains accessible to all. As students still on campus strategize ways which to both respect social distancing policies while also furthering their respective political causes, becoming a poll worker appears to be a strong option. In most places, poll workers are paid, which, along with protecting democracy, is a lucrative incentive for college students, who are usually low on money. Additionally, with many universities discussing the possibility of cancelling class on Election Day, being a poll worker is more accessible to students than ever.

For those seeking more information on how to become involved in their respective areas, visit Power The Polls for more information.

The Question I Didn’t Ask

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Graphic by Atticus Dewey '24

I’m an opinionated person. Worse, I’m an opinionated woman. This means that when I drop a comment on any sort of social media post, I take a risk. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I made the mistake of commenting on an anti-feminist post. A random man replied to my comment by saying, “Typical feminist, I took a look at your profile and it looks like you don’t have a boyfriend and you gained weight. No wonder men don’t call you back!”

This man took one look at my adorable Instagram profile filled with pictures of my friends and came to the conclusion that because I don’t have a picture of myself with a man, I’m desperate and “men don’t call me back.” I’m a “typical feminist” because I exist outside a man’s ownership. And what if I had pictures with multiple men? What if I were skinnier and prettier? He would have used that to invalidate me just the same. 

His rebuttal is the answer to a question I never asked, the question that none of us asked, and the one that men keep answering for us without provocation. The question is: is this woman desirable? 

I’ve heard the answer to this question constantly throughout my life. It was answered in a catcall when I was twelve: a wordless, two-note call in which a man told me he thought my prepubescent body was desirable. It was answered when I stepped out of my office building and an old man yelled, “Hey baby!” It was answered when the man bagging my groceries ogled at me with huge bug eyes and said, “How tall are you?” It was answered when this guy decided men don’t call me back. 

This invalidation isn’t always sexual, and it happens everywhere. Like when the oil grease salesman at the car dealership told my dad that “All women crazy, every last one of them.” And you should trust him, he said, because he has daughters. He has raised women. They grew up right before his eyes with all their intricacies and interests. He has been given every opportunity to see these girls as dynamic individuals, and he can reduce them to an age-old stereotype. He, as a man, is the authority on the female psyche because even after being given an intimate glimpse into the female experience, he has still defaulted on what is designed to silence us. And after I can’t help but smirk at the audacity he must have, he makes sure to point out my smile as though I am actually agreeing with his jab at everything I am.

And that’s the problem. Before you speak, (some) men will answer this question that determines if they’ll hear what you have to say. Think of the female politicians, the actresses and the models who you’ve seen men answer this question about. Think if you’ve answered this question. Think if anyone has answered this question about you. If thinking like this makes me an angry feminist who men don’t call back, so be it. I don’t want a man who sees me like that to call me back. 

2020: A Revolutionary Summer

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Protesters gather at Pan Pacific Park preparing to take over the streets of Los Angeles, CA. Days earlier, national outrage sparked in response to the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, MN. (Ethan Bochicchio/The Wittenberg Torch)
Opinion video by Ethan Bocchichio (’22).

This summer, the United States witnessed a revolution sustain itself through overwhelming state-sponsored violence. Protests erupted almost immediately following the murder of George Floyd committed by Minneapolis police. On May 30, in Los Angeles’ Pan Pacific Park, I joined thousands of protesters who gathered and then took to the streets. While police presence was minimal, the protest was peaceful. But after a group unaffiliated with organizers burned a police car left mysteriously unmanned, things changed dramatically.

Armed with riot gear and rubber-bullet guns, the police blocked off streets around protestors and beat unarmed men and women with batons. I saw rubber bullets fired into crowds, along with tear gas and other means of violence used. After hours of this, a violent reaction was finally provoked, turning into the looting and rioting being broadcast on television. Employing  the “violent protest” narrative, the State radically escalated violence around the country. At least fifteen people have been killed by police since demonstrations began in May. Protesters, journalists, medics and bystanders have been tear gassed, pepper sprayed and shot with rubber bullets.

31 states and Washington, D.C. deployed their National Guards. In Los Angeles, soldiers guarded banks and high-end shopping malls. Nationwide, eighty localities implemented curfews, over which the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the City of LA, saying that it constituted an, “extraordinary suppression of all political protest in the evening hours” and that it, “plainly violates the First Amendment.” By early June, more than 10,000 protesters had been arrested and more than 140 cases of violence towards journalists had been reported by the Press Freedom Tracker.

Still, calls to “defund the police” were heard nationwide. In Seattle, Black Lives Matter called for a $100 million divestment, a 50% reduction to the budget. On Aug. 10, Seattle City Council voted to defund police by 14%. In Los Angeles, the demand is for a reduction of police spending from 54% of the budget to 1.64%. Portland City Council cut the police budget by $15 million, despite calls for a $50 million cut. In Minneapolis, nine council members proposed completely replacing the police department with a public safety department.

To maintain pressure, 24-hour protest zones popped up around the country. On June 9, the Black Future Project occupied Grand Park, by City Hall. Professors and activists were invited to educate the occupants and visitors on history and local politics. In response, the City removed public porta-potties and maintained a menacing police presence. Today, Grand Park continues to be occupied, now under the leadership of Black Unity L.A. In June, a park close to New York City’s City Hall was occupied. At 4:00 in the morning on July 22, at the direction of Mayor Bill de Blasio, police raided the encampment without warning, destroying temporary structures and people’s possessions. Many in this occupation were homeless; estimates ranged between 40% to 50%.

In Seattle, protestors took over six blocks in the police department’s East Precinct. After weeks of police brutality against them, the brother of a precinct officer drove through a group of protesters, shot a protester, and ran behind the police line, allowing himself to be arrested. Next day, police abandoned the precinct and mutual aid and activist organizations took over.

For weeks, the zone was characterized by music and free expression, but as attacks from right-wing groups grew, it became more militarized. During the day, there was political cohesion and organized protests and activities, but the homeless population within the zone grew, bringing elements of drug abuse and mental illness. Shootings and sexual assaults occurred and booths began to be dismantled. On July 1, after more than three weeks of the occupation, police raided at five in the morning, like the NYPD, destroying people’s possessions.

I got to Seattle one day after the zone was shut down, witnessing the ghostly remnants of a revolution: beautiful graffiti and murals; memorials for those lost to police violence; and a community garden. On July 4, a chapter of the Proud Boys arrived at the zone carrying guns and pepper-spraying leftists who confronted them, myself included. Six leftists, but not a single gun carrying, pepper spraying Proud Boy, got arrested that day.

In Portland this July, federal agents in unmarked cars went outside their legal jurisdiction of federal buildings, to arrest protesters at gunpoint without identifying themselves. When this was revealed Department of Homeland Security agents built a fence around the Federal Courthouse. Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, attended a protest there and got tear gassed.

When I got to Portland, protestors had been in the streets more than fifty nights. Since federal troops now occupied the courthouse, nightly clashes ensued around its fence. I can testify that the violence from protesters came in response to the maliciously violent tactics of the feds. Tear gas, meant to be a dispersal method, was used to encircle protestors. After getting gassed near the gate, my group and I turned to escape, only to run into more tear gas. Pepper balls were shot without warning. Fireworks and flash bangs were fired into highly populated areas. One of my comrades got hit by something flying from a flash bang.

A group of mothers joined the resistance, placing their bodies in front of protestors so that people of color could use their voices without being threatened by State violence. Fathers with leaf blowers joined the mothers to protect them and the others from tear gas. Protesters stood their ground, firing fireworks and water bottles right back at the feds, sometimes forcing them back into the courthouse.

The shooting of Jacob Blake has reignited protests, proving the people will not yield in the face of State violence. But the State has also proven it will not yield in the face of popular uprising. In Kenosha we saw police sympathize with a white supremacist who murdered two people. In Los Angeles, on Aug. 26, police surrounded protesters firing rubber bullets and flash bangs at them. State violence and the resistance to it both lack a clear end in sight.

Under the Umbrella of a New Season

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Photo courtesy of: Netflix.

(Warning: Contains Spoilers)

2020, the year of the pandemic, promotes the possibility of spending everyday in your pajamas watching Netflix. Many Americans are streaming dozens of shows and movies on various platforms, getting hooked on more content than ever.

In 2019, Netflix and Gerald Way, lead singer of the band “My Chemical Romance,” joined to put out a show called “Umbrella Academy”. The show’s diverse cast consists of Aidan Gallagher, Ellen Page, Tom Hopper, Robert Sheehan, Emmy Raver-Lampman and David Castañeda. The cast is very different from a typical television show, which is a good thing. I think we need to be more open to more diverse actors and actresses.

At the time, there was only one season of the show. But now, there are currently two seasons on the popular streaming service. The Hargreeves siblings are back in the new season full of comedy, drama and action-packed fighting scenes. Like the beginning of most television shows, the first season revolved around the audience getting to know the characters and what they are like, including flashbacks and family life. In this second season, the family is split up and they must face challenges on their own.

Each challenge they face, however, seems to mirror what their personality, image and style is like as a person. For instance, Klaus Hargreeves, or Number Four, is a leader of a cult-like group and his followers believe he is a person of a higher power. Weirdly, Klaus has no leadership background at all, so that attracts the viewers.

Another instance of where the character matches their style is with Alison Hargreeves. Throughout the new season, Alison is a civil rights leader during the 1960’s, which makes sense because she always seems to stand up for what she believes in. In one episode, her character conducts sit-in’s at “white’s only” diner.

The show seems to hit on sensitive subjects throughout the new season, like the Civil Rights Movement. The timing of the new season couldn’t be more superstitious because, for months now, there have been riots and protest concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. Alison is a good role model for younger viewers watching, showing them that they can stand up for what they believe in and not be unjustly served.

This new season has only been out for a few weeks, but it already has some positive reviews. According to the popular movie review website, Rotten Tomatoes, the new season is “ exhilarating second season lightens its tonal load without losing its emotional core, giving the super siblings room to grow while doubling down on the time traveling fun.” This new season is a must watch because it has funny characters, an attention-grabbing plot, and some iconic music.

The music in this new season seems to have some classical undertones and upbeat pop tunes all rolled into one. You won’t know what to pay attention to more, the music or the actual new season itself, but both seem to be very good when focused on individually and together.

There is a third season in the works for the show, but nothing is certain yet. A popular show like this would hopefully have another widely popular season too. A lot of people have been waiting for the second season to come out, it is been a year since the first one and now everyone can watch both seasons repeatedly.

Mental Space: The Hospital

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Amber Gauss ('22) looks out a window at Winan's Chocolate & Coffees on Jan 13, 2019. Gauss is an Psychology and Russian double major at Wittenberg University. (Trent Sprague/The Wittenberg Torch)

I’ve been sick for a long time, but not the kind of sick you’re thinking of. I mean mentally sick; and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped with it. I’m not blaming COVID-19 for my illnesses or my breakdown, but it definitely hasn’t done anything to improve my mental health.

This past April, I had a complete mental breakdown and was severely suicidal. The only thing that kept me from doing anything to hurt myself was the fact that I couldn’t motivate myself to get up off the couch. At this point, I realized I needed help, and more than what I was getting from weekly Skype meetings with someone at the Tiger Counseling Center.

I called my mother asking for help, and she agreed to help me financially with going to the hospital and she even had my dad drive me to the emergency room. While in the ER on April 15, I explained my situation to the doctors, psychiatrists and social workers that I saw. I waited hours before being transferred from the ER to a different hospital. By the time I got there, it was late and my parents were unable to give me my personal belongings in person.

So, imagine being in a completely unfamiliar place for an extended period of time and not be allowed to have something that is a main part of what makes you who you are. That’s how I felt, being unable to have my teddy bear. I felt alone and scared and I didn’t sleep well at all.

My first full day in the hospital, I barely ate anything; I’m a very picky eater and I didn’t get to choose what I ate. But the rest of my time there, I did get to choose what I ate and I was actually excited about food for the first time in a while. I attended almost every group therapy session. I only missed two because I was sleeping.

I was allowed to make phone calls, so my first full day consisted of me getting crucial phone numbers for people from my mother and calling my roommate and boyfriend as soon as I could. It felt amazing to hear their voices in a place where I was unfamiliar and scared. I may have cried a little.

Showering was weird. We only got 10 minutes before they checked on us to make sure we weren’t doing anything we shouldn’t. I only got checked on once, and that was awkward because I was washing my face and couldn’t grab a towel to cover up. On that same note, I wasn’t able to hold on to my soaps, for they kept them with the sharp objects. Thankfully, my roommate brought me a body wash that smelled like piña colada.

I was there for a total of five days, but it felt like it lasted forever and like no time passed all at once. I wanted to go home so I could sleep in my own bed, but I wasn’t sure if I was really better. Being told I was going home was strange. I wasn’t told by my social worker or doctor. I was told by my group therapy leader. Once group was over, I called my roommate and asked her if she was available to pick me up, and she was so happy. I was ready to go home, but I was going to have to follow a plan to keep my mental health in check.

So, that’s the story of my time in the hospital. While I was there, they diagnosed me with a different disorder than I was initially diagnosed with in high school. I started new medication and had others adjusted. I had a schedule that I was able to stick to, but now I can’t. After it all, I hope to never enter an experience like it again.

Tie-Dying Your Own Masks Lights Up Student Life

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Bailee Lyons, a freshman at Wittenberg, creates a tie-dye mask on Aug. 26.

Using their fingers and imaginations, students showed their colors between the Student Center and New Hall happily with colorful tie-dyed masks on the evening of August 27.

Union Board hosted the event, which was mostly attended by underclassmen. Many of the freshman that attended commented on the difficulties that social distancing had caused when making new friends.

“Coming to this event helped me explore campus more and the events going on. It’s been more difficult trying to connect and socialize with new people,” Bailee Lyons ’24 said. She remains optimistic about meeting others as the semester continues. 

Emma Wilson ’24 agreed on the increased difficulty in making friends.

“People are staying in, so it’s more difficult to see new people. I’ve been on campus before committing here, and one of the main draws in coming here was the sense of community the students and staff bring. It’s a whole rush of different emotions and feelings,” Wilson said. 

When students were asked for advice on making new friends as underclassmen, lots of ideas came up: send out messages in GroupMe asking people to meet up, talk to students that share similar class schedules, and join clubs, organizations, and other activities that you’d find interesting. It helps substantially to put yourself out there.

The general consensus of students that were asked agreed that they had felt safe on campus.

“I think people are mostly doing a good job in following COVID-19 protocols. It helps being on a small campus, and people can hold each other accountable,” Bryce Anderson ’23 said. If we continue to hold each other accountable, then students will be able to stay on campus to have a better college experience, rather than sitting at home. 

With that being said, remember to keep your masks on, social distance, and Tiger Up.