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The Weekly Tiger: Outside the bubble

There were so many things that I wished to escape from. I wished for fresh air, safety and comfort. I wanted to be rid of the fear of someone following me home. I sought clarity and release. And honestly, after being on a campus other than Wittenberg for the past few weeks, I found all those things and more.

For those still wondering where in the world I am, I took a vacation, you could say. This semester, I am at Duke University Marine Lab (DUML) in Beaufort, NC taking classes that contribute toward my Biology major and Marine Science minor. I will also be conducting a research independent study with a professor to analyze the consumption of microplastics by fiddler crabs.

Being here the first week was undoubtably the spring vacation I was robbed of last year when the pandemic hit. Of course, it was in January, but here in the Outer Banks, it was a pleasant 50 degrees each day with the warm sun on your back.

Sure, it’s hard being so far away from my family. I think of them every single day. I talk with my parents often, and I am constantly in communication with my Wittenberg gang. On club Zoom calls, I find it difficult to not want to be there with them, but when I look up to appreciate the water and the wind, I know I made the best choice I may have ever made.

This past fall was so tiring, and I think many Wittenberg students can agree with me that the energy of the campus felt dark, draining, and like life itself was being sucked from your veins. The very air I breathed seemed toxic, so I often felt like needing a gas mask instead of an N-95.

However, at DUML, I feel like I’m the healthiest I’ve been in such a long time. I can actually motivate myself to go for a walk or even a run because it’s just too pretty not to be outside. Finding time, although, is difficult, due to the classes and labs running longer than normal, but I don’t mind. Just being in a different element is bringing my mental health upwards.

Lastly, I am so thankful for all those that helped push me to this point on my academic path. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

Here’s to a fresh start, Tigers! May your spring semester go smooth as sand.

Chicago Public Schools fighting city COVID-19 orders

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With rates of COVID-19 at an all-time high, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has extended the city’s “stay at home” order until Jan. 22. The order “calls on all Chicagoans to follow clear measures to protect their community.” It consists of a list of don’ts, ranging from indoor dining to non-essential businesses being open past 11 ‘o clock PM.

Despite these restrictions, Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy pre-k teacher Sol Camano was instructed to return to school on Jan. 4. Camano’s students had all opted for remote learning. Concerned about what she felt were unsafe working conditions, Camano decided to work from home the same way she has since the stay-at-home order was first put into place. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) gave her a series of warnings. She continued to work from home despite not receiving pay since Jan. 4.

On Jan. 12, Camano, along with all other teachers who had opted to work from home, found herself locked out of her CPS Google Suite account, cutting her off from programs necessary to do her job. Unable to log in, she and these other teachers were effectively denied the ability to provide instruction and no substitutes were called in to take their places.

Camano, one of 147 teachers who were labeled “absent without leave,” said to The Wittenberg Torch, “They’re taking education from the students.” 

That night, Camano joined a group of teachers for a press conference in front of the home of Board of Education president Miguel del Valle, who they felt was not doing enough to fight for teachers. They told stories outlining their frustration, not just at the lockout, but at the way in which the entire pandemic has been handled by CPS. 

Sol Camano, a preschool teacher in Chicago’s public school system, was instructed to return to work on Jan. 4, amidst a worsening COVID-19 outbreak. Photo courtesy Sol Camano.

Special-needs teacher Brian Yuhas pointed out that CDC guidelines were not being followed in CPS.

Yuhas said that the parents of his students, “know it’s not safe to go back in our rooms. They know that instead of having hand sanitizer and soap and water and proper social distancing—they know that they don’t have that. What they do have are cockroaches and windows that don’t open and rooms that are at 62 degrees.” Yuhas, like Camano, only had students who were learning remotely.

Yuhas’ students are the most affected by the absence of a teacher. He expressed frustration that students who relied on him for direction were denied a day of Zoom school that he otherwise could have provided.

“CPS should have made sure and administration should have made sure there was a substitute in the room,” Yuhas said.

In early December, the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU) issued a list of demands for reopening schools.

The preamble to their list reads: “The CTU is putting forward a safe reopening plan that undercuts CPS’ ability to lie about us being the people who are hurting education.”

CEO of CPS Janice Jackson dismissed the list of demands.

“There is no reason for teachers to teach anywhere except in the classroom or the other places that have been identified by the district,” Jackson said.

At a press conference on Monday, Jackson also claimed that teachers who would be locked out of their accounts, “have had several conversations and warnings and reminders and opportunities to explain why they aren’t at work.” While teachers did receive warnings, Camano took issue with the idea that she had an opportunity to “explain.” She said to The Wittenberg Torch she was given a form to fill out and The Wittenberg Torch inquired if she had received a response she answered with a flat, “No.” She now plans on filing a grievance with the Department of Labor.

Maria Xoy, a teacher’s assistant who spoke at the Tuesday-night press conference, also took issue with Jackson’s use of the word “explain.” Xoy is a caregiver to her 85-year-old grandmother, who is on chemotherapy.

Xoy said, “Although I’ve requested accommodations three times, I have received no answer. My answer is that I refuse to walk into an unsafe building.”

Many teachers have expressed that they feel the move by CPS was more about pressuring CTU than providing the best care for kids. While they are willing to work from home, CPS has denied them this. 

We reached out to CPS chief of communications, Michael Passman, for a comment on the recent lock-out and have yet to receive a response.

The best albums of 2020

According to my Apple Music Replay, I listened to a lot of music this year: nearly 1,000 hours of listening time, over 1,500 artists and nearly 400 albums graced my headphones over the last 12 months. In a normal year, I would balance the technical, musical and narrative elements of all of my favorite records to produce a ranked list of the “best” albums of the year; but 2020 is a different beast. This year was a year for music for the soul, music that inspired and music that engendered a sense of calm amidst a whirlwind of viral, social and political upheaval. To reflect this tone and to honor the calming and grounding role music played in our lives this year, I will be covering not the five best albums of 2020, but my five favorite albums of 2020– these are the albums that released this year that I listened to most, got the most out of or connected to most of all.

5. The Weeknd- “After Hours”

After 2016’s pop-tinged “Starboy,” Toronto-based R&B veteran Abel Tesfaye returned just as the first series of American COVID-19 lockdowns set in with the synth-heavy, 80’s-inspired “After Hours.” Often moody, dark and brooding, the album reaches high points with the mega-hit “Blinding Lights” and the progressive, shimmering title track. His most cohesive record ever and one of his most enjoyable, “After Hours” certainly put The Weeknd’s prowess on display.

4. Phoebe Bridgers- “Punisher”

Returning to the indie scene with her beautiful and brutally honest sophomore LP, Phoebe Bridgers systematically deconstructs modern life across “Punisher.” Sweet, crisp vocals find themselves swimming through sweeping synths and soft guitar lines. On the closing track “I Know the End,” Bridgers’ screams are drowned out by a symphony of horns and strings, each fading into the other before crashing into silence. “Punisher” successfully modernizes the indie genre and brilliantly scorns the world around it.

3. Run The Jewels- “RTJ4”

Released amidst the social upheaval and nationwide Black Lives Matter protests of May and June, Atlanta-based rapper and Brooklyn-based producer El-P come together for their fourth project under the Run the Jewels name to deliver 11 anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and anti- anthems. The record is uncompromising, offering track after track of blistering production and slick bars. “RTJ4” is easily the duo’s best work, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

2. Watsky- “Placement”

Poet, rapper and author George Watsky has notched a half-dozen albums of brainy, dorky and wordy rap since his 2009 self-titled debut and a half-dozen more EP’s, secret projects and live albums. Many of Watsky’s works have not reached critical acclaim or done much in the way of chart numbers, but his music has always been a comfortable kind of quirky for me. His 2020 LP “Placement,” the second in a planned trilogy, veers sharply away from his traditional role of simple production and cheesy bars: heavy, experimental and glitchy production, complex, meandering verses and a newfound singing voice makes “Placement” an artistic evolution in all the right ways. The album certainly isn’t for everyone, but its daring leaps, its happy sounds and its willingness to try something new checked all the right boxes for me.

1. Fleet Foxes- “Shore”

Amidst a chaotic, miserable and often painful year, music that soothed, calmed and inspired was the crutch that kept many limping towards the finish line. Fleet Foxes, the ubiquitous indie outfit that reached massive popularity for their medievalist folk LP’s in the late 2000’s, returned to the musical scene for their second record in nine years with “Shore,” an inspiring, soaring LP that turns new tides for the seasoned group and provides a desperately needed refuge from the rough waters outside it. “Sunblind” provides the backbone for the record’s shimmering demeanor (also serves the dual role of my favorite song of the year), while the closing title track smooths and calms. “Shore” is a beautiful, glistening north star for the turmoil of the moment.

OPINION: Inauguration security dissuaded protests and toxified the atmosphere in D.C.

On Jan. 6, far-right rioters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., set up gallows outside the building, broke windows, feverishly searched for congresspeople whom they disagreed with and beat up cops and security guards that got in their way. All this resulted in the death of five people.

Soon after the first storming, conversations began to be held on the social media platform Parler by extremists plotting a second siege on Inauguration Day. As countermeasures were taken in D.C. in preparation for another incursion, those conversations started to peter out. An inside source who infiltrated forums held by the far-right group, the Proud Boys, told The Wittenberg Torch that following the deployment of the National Guard, members of the group began backing out.

Ethan Bochicchio (’23) stands in front of a barricade in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. Photo courtesy Ethan Bochicchio (’23).

The Capitol Building was surrounded by fencing in the days leading up to inauguration. Parts of the city were shut down, including the bridges that connect Washington D.C. to West Virginia, and more than 20,000 National Guard troops were deployed. Dozens of checkpoints were established, stopping and searching cars that drove through them. While it was reported in various news outlets that two zones had been designated for protests, the parks that they were set to take place in were blocked off by the National Guard. The city also closed houseless encampments, forcing some to relocate outside of the perimeter.

The security problems with the far-right became marginal though they did not disappear. 12 guardsmen were removed from their posts prior to Inauguration Day, with at least two for having potential ties to far-right groups. Several people were arrested for impersonating police officers in an attempt to breach the perimeter and one individual was arrested for attempting to enter the city with multiple firearms.

Ultimately, the hyper-militarization of the nation’s capital succeeded in dissuading protesters from either the left or the right from showing up on Inauguration Day. Press far outnumbered civilians, only around half of whom delineated their political beliefs through their clothing, flags or signs. A group of religious fanatics with signs decrying homosexuality and abortion set up shop in front of Union Station, attracting vitriol and denunciation from some passing by.

But more noticeable than the small number of unsavory encounters that took place was the lack of action that defined much of the space surrounding the perimeter established by the National Guard. An overwhelming number of soldiers marched as police and army vehicles patrolled the streets. The barbed wire fence could be heard rattling against a light breeze. Unhoused individuals held comparable numbers to politically motivated individuals who came to the perimeter that day.

An overcast sky blocked out the sun as the day went on. Numbers grew, though only to the hundreds on NW New Jersey Ave., where a clear view of the Capitol could be seen. A small contingent of the religious fanatics split off to make their presence felt in the gathering on New Jersey. A group of six or seven activists calling for an end to deportations led chants while holding a banner. With the slight growing of the crowd, the small police contingent was replaced with a slew of riot police, most of them behind a barrier, though some of them mixed in with the crowd. Despite the lack of a protest, let alone a riot, around the corner another group of riot police stood ready to strike.

Protestors against Trump and Biden converged beyond the police barricade. Photo by Ethan Bochicchio (’23).

Press covered anything that they could from the radical religious fanatics, to two kids who had Biden flags and to people who brought out their dogs. One excited reporter could be heard on his way to NW New Jersey Ave. telling a live stream that left wing and right-wing protesters were clashing; only to find that nothing of the sort had taken place all day. 

Noticing that absurdity attracted attention, the actions of some individuals became increasingly broad. A woman in her underwear and a fur tie-dye coat put on a Biden mask and wandered around with a spool of string as she was followed by people with cameras. Famous YouTuber, All Gas No Brakes, showed up, getting people to do ridiculous things on camera. A few people on bikes and electric skateboards zoomed through the crowd, going back and forth, succeeding in attracting the attention of the many bored journalists.

The eerie atmosphere seemed to serve as omen for the return to neoliberalism engendered in the Biden-Harris presidency. The interests of the unhoused will be put behind the interests of security. The individual will seek actualization through the approval of others. Religious extremism will grow in the absence of economic opportunity. Millions will be spent on the state’s capacity for violence. While the United States averted a fascist takeover on Jan. 6, neoliberalism will still present significant challenges to the realization of democracy, peace and prosperity.  

The Weekly Tiger: Holiday Sendoff

We’re nearing the end of the semester, Tigers, and I’m so ready for it.

This whole semester has been a roller coaster that only has steep declines. So, technically, it’s just a downhill slope with an angle of 75 degrees. We’ve all been riding along, each in our own seat but still linked together by anxiety, 3:00am Door Dash orders, and secret drinking parties.

A whole weight has been sitting on my chest this whole fall term, and I know for a fact that it will go away as soon as I step back into my own home in Akron, OH. To even be around an optimistic energy like my dog is a blessing. The sweet taste of real, home-cooked meals that don’t give me second thoughts or an upset stomach dances through my dreams. It’s self-torture that I didn’t mean to inflict onto myself. I can’t wait to be in the presence of people that I don’t want to punch every hour of the day. I miss the feeling of safety that my home has, and I’m heartbroken at the idea that Wittenberg doesn’t make me feel that way anymore.

I’m ready to go home and ready to start my spring semester in a new location. No, I’m not transferring, but I am taking a semester to go “abroad” to the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. I can finally pop that Wittenberg bubble and have an experience that I’ve been working towards since my first day on this campus.

With that, this here is my sendoff to you. I want you all to try your very hardest in the next few weeks and end this marathon of a semester strong. It’s truly been hard for all of us in our own ways, and this might not mean a lot to you, but I’m proud of you. Enduring this situation and then coming out of it still alive shows how resilient and strong each of you all are.

The spring semester, hopefully, will go more smoothly because we all are not diving into COVID-19 college life blindly. Here’s to the additional hope that you will be once again in-person, or at least hybrid, for spring classes. Man, what would a whole semester of online classes look like? Gosh, what a scary thought.

I wish you all, once more, the best of luck with your finals, projects, and tests. Let your November and December holidays be merry, bright, and relieved of tension from academics. Enjoy the little things that come along and be thankful for those moments you have with family and friends. COVID-19 has taken so much from us, so, try to appreciate what you still have left this holiday season.

Wittenberg plans COVID-19 testing program for spring

During the Spring Semester, Wittenberg plans to test 3% of the student body for COVID-19 each week. The testing will be done as part of a combined program by the Office of the Governor, Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department on Higher Education to test for the virus at colleges and universities.

“The opportunity to test more broadly and more often make this an important step forward in our fight against [the spread of] COVID-19,” Governor Mike DeWine said in a press conference announcing the testing plan on Oct. 13. The Torch first learned about Wittenberg’s participation in an Oct. 30 interview with President Michael Frandsen.

“The governor has recommended that [Wittenberg] test 3% of the students every week and we will receive tests so we can do that,” Frandsen said of the testing plan. Since Nov. 2, Wittenberg has been running a pilot program to iron out test logistics for spring semester. During the pilot program, athletes participating in sports defined as high contact by the NCAA have been randomly selected for testing. One such student selected for testing was Women’s Lacrosse attacker Shannon Brown (’21) who was tested on Nov. 5.

“I got an email [from Bret Billhardt] saying that I was selected to be randomly tested for COVID-19,” Brown said. After receiving Billhardt’s email, Brown had to select a time to head to the nursing lab in the Science Center for testing.

“[The test] was a giant Q-tip [which] you put up either side of your nose and twist five times in either side. Then you would put [Q-tip] in a two by two-inch booklet with a solution and close the booklet,” Brown said. The test process which Brown is describing is Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen test which was granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration in late August.

Abbott’s test looks for specific proteins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which cases COVID-19 and is known as an antigen test. According to the FDA, antigen tests can return results within 15-30 minutes of testing, far exceeding the 24-72-hour turnaround time of PCR tests. Abbott claims that their BinaxNOW test delivers results within 15 minutes.

With the quick turnaround of tests results, antigen tests are more likely to miss an active COVID-19 infection compared to PCR tests according to the FDA. Abbott claims that their test can catch 97.1% of positive COVID-19 cases while confirming 98.5% of negative cases. Abbott claims these numbers from a study which conducted a mere 102 tests to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA. During the study, zero individuals between the ages of 0 and 21 were tested using Abbott’s BinaxNOW test. Meanwhile 77 individuals between 22 and 59 years-old were tested and 25 individuals age 60 and older participated in the study.

When asked why Wittenberg did not implement a COVID-19 testing strategy, Young claimed that the COVID-19 Response Team “did not deem [testing necessary if people were following our other protocols.” As The Torch reported on Sept. 7, Wittenberg was the only institution in the North Coast Athletic Conference to not implement or mandate a COVID-19 testing strategy before the start of the fall semester. Even as students are forced to leave campus by Nov. 25, senior staff members seemed relucent to push students towards getting a COVID-19 test prior to leaving.

“If people feel like they need a test or it’s required based on where they live, Student Development can help route them to the proper place.” Young said, “It won’t be mass testing like we had [on Sept. 9] but if there are students who are concerned and feel like they need tests, contact the health center or Student Development.”

When The Torch reached out to Casey Gill to request additional details regarding the COVID-19 testing program for the spring, Gill directed questions to Karen Gerboth, vice president for Marketing and Communications for Wittenberg. Gerboth refused to provide responses to The Torch’s questions, citing a high number of interviews with the COVID-19 Response Team within a short timeframe.

Spring 2021: How will it look?

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As students pack their bags and begin to head home from Wittenberg University’s fall semester, the question of what the spring semester will look like lingers in the air. With the first semester being fraught with uncertainty and consistent changes, the questions students have regarding how the academic and social calendars will change, has yet to be answered.

According to the university’s senior staff, students will complete the move-in process from Jan. 14–17, with classes not starting until the 19 to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday taking place on Monday, Jan. 18. With less than 10% of classes taking place fully online, the university is installing new cameras in classrooms that would address the lack of equitable course delivery if the university were to completely shift to a virtual format due to an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19, or if the governor and his office dictated the need to do so.

“[Earlier this fall], after the outbreak on campus caused by students in social settings not following basic public health strategies, we elected to move to remote instruction to ensure a more equitable learning experience,” said Karen Gerboth, vice president for marketing and communications. “If the university found itself in a similar situation, we would likely consider shifting to remote instruction for similar reasons. The university will also be attempting to improve air quality in some of our facilities, but if it ends up not being enough and we do shift to remote learning, we believe that the cameras we will be adding into classrooms will provide as an adequate substitute.”

Despite the university’s preparations for a possible shift to remote learning and an added testing regimen for students, much of the plans for spring semester have remained the same. While the university claims that it will observe public health guidelines to dictate what events will be available for them to put on, their persistence in trying to put on traditional events is a testament to the university’s dedication to keeping tradition alive. One event that has already seen a tremendous amount of preparation is commencement, and how to conduct that event regardless of what is available from a public health standpoint.

“The Commencement committee will be planning for both an in-person and virtual Commencement experience since we simply do not know at this point what will be possible in regard to hosting,” Gerboth said.

“We hope that we can have a big graduation ceremony for everybody, including the class of 2020, who missed out on theirs to be involved,” said Michael Frandsen, president of Wittenberg. “However, if this coming weekend were graduation weekend, we could not have more than 450 people in commencement hall. So, we would have to have at least three, maybe four different graduation ceremonies to accommodate all the graduates and their families with them.”

As seniors question whether their graduation will look anything like they’ve seen in the past, Wittenberg sets its sights on the incoming class of 2025.

“We are pleased that our current enrollment remains stable despite COVID-19,” Gerboth said. “The engagement level among prospective students and families has been consistent with prior years at this point in the cycle. Our virtual opportunities to attend a class, learn more about what makes Wittenberg distinctive, and understand the financial aid process are proving attractive to students and families.”

With Wittenberg’s plans for spring semester as clear as they were at the beginning of fall semester, students can only hope that a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed and distributed quickly enough that the consistent changes to the academic calendar are few and far in between.

Mental Space: The Importance of Good Food

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We all eat. It’s a fact and a necessity of life. But have you ever considered the importance of good, healthy food and its impact on your mental health?

Good days and bad days are normal, but how are you coping with stressful situations? Are you stress eating an entire package of Oreos or are you chowing down on some carrot sticks? Now, I understand that carrot sticks might not be your go to when you’re stressed out, and that’s okay!

Not everyone likes fruits and vegetables all the time, but it’s important to make sure you’re including them in your meals. I understand that it’s not always fun to sit down and eat some broccoli, but it’s better for you than strictly eating McDonald’s all the time.

In my experience, eating healthy foods is actually better for my mental health than just eating junk all the time. Yeah, a bar of chocolate tastes good and will boost my mood when I’m stressed out, but it’s not going to fill me up the way that a nice bowl of sesame chicken and some rice will. And if I eat a salad or something with protein, I tend to feel a little better about myself.

I’m not saying go pig out on grilled chicken from the CDR. We all know that it’s not the best food in the world, but it’s better than just eating pizza or fries from the CDR every day. You’re going to feel better if you eat chicken, rice or something healthy. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, it’s important to realize that you’re going to eat a lot of good food in the coming weeks. But you need balance in what you eat.

If you snack on some carrots or broccoli, it’s going to make your mentality a little better because you aren’t eating junk. Plus, it’s better for your physical health too. I know that we’ve all gained a little weight because of the COVID-19, but it’s not the end of the world. If you choose to start eating healthier, it’s gonna help you to lose any extra weight – in a healthy way. Learning to find a balance in what you’re eating is so important.

Your brain needs fuel, and the best fuel is going to be from healthier snacks and meals. The better the fuel for your mind and body, the better your mental health is going to be. If you like snacking on chips all day while you’re doing your homework, maybe try finding a healthier alternative like sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Those are still salty and crunchy treats, but they’re better for you than a family size bag of Lay’s chips.

Another option, and one that I find to be delicious, is kale chips. You can make them yourself, as long as you have access to a stove, and they don’t take long to make. All you need is some kale, olive oil, salt and pepper and any other seasonings you like. You can even skip the salt and pepper and just go straight to whatever you want. I’m going to try kale chips with ranch seasoning soon because my therapist recommended them to me.

Just remember: what you put into your body is what’s going to come out of it. Healthy food is going to lead to a healthier mentality and healthier lifestyle. Junk food isn’t going to make your mental health better in the long run. Stay healthy this holiday season and find some good alternatives to junk foods that you find to be a staple in your daily life. But don’t forget to eat some pie!

The Weekly Tiger: Five Free Vibes

I was recently reminded that I am never alone in my strafes, no matter how thick of a torment I wrap myself up into. That thought sets me free, whether I am beside a trusted friend or have my headphones sitting comfortably in my ears. Here are five songs, new and old, that help me feel like a newly free woman.

“Dancing in the Dark”—Lucy Dacus

For the person that introduced me to Dacus, I thank you. I am now hypnotized by her soft yet strong voice. Dacus’ cover of Bruce Springsteen’s popular 80’s hit really speaks to the inner depressed voice. While the song itself is about depression, Dacus’ new modern take on the song really allows me to not feel down, but like I’m going up right along with the tempo of the beats. The spark is within me, and I can admit that I did dance in the dark to this beautiful rendition.

“I Always Knew”—The Vaccines

The wonders of love rip at me. When I hear the chugging of the bass, I am drawn into the words. Most would say that it’s a love song, and I can see it with how all the words are directed towards a special someone. However, I see it as a love that didn’t work out. It seems more delicate then, more beautiful in a hopeless, devastating way. The upbeat instrumentation pairs wonderfully with the sorrowful words, altogether lifting me into a fleeting spirit. I take the song as advice more than anything, really. When it goes, “I’m hanging on to what I don’t know, so let’s go to bed, before you say something real”, I let go. I let go of what I don’t know, and I sleep, free of unanswered questions.

“Gotta Get Away”—The Black Keys

I have to admit, this one just gets me up and moving. I mean, most songs from The Black Keys do, and maybe that’s the Akron girl in me talking, but they do. And the lyrics match my mood so perfectly because “now I can’t stay”. Gosh, the song seems so classic at times for the band, yet it breaks barriers on the guitar side of things. The sad tones of an ended relationship hang in the air, yet again, the upbeat riffs of that guitar echo for longer than a few seconds, drawing me to hit replay. This song pairs perfectly with my mindset: driving down the highway toward a new experience away from toxic auras, completely and truly free.

“Box Full of Letters”—Wilco

Delving now deep into my Spotify and going back years, I pull out this hell of a song once again just to appreciate Jeff Tweedy’s writing and his angsty voice that just is so relatable. The words seem to describe a relationship of some sort, but in reality, it’s more of a self-versus-self scenario. From its record, “A.M.”, one of the most quoted lyrics really drives into mindfulness: “Just can’t find the time to write my mind the way I want it to read”. And truly, other than this song being an absolute bop and jam, this whole year has caused my mind has felt like that. But just this past week, it’s cleared up, and this song really reminds me of the personal growth I’ve done and how strong I’ve had to be.

“Try Everything”—Shakira

Well, my love for Disney songs never fails me at any moment. They always lift me up and make me feel better than I did three minutes and 16 seconds ago. I interpret the lyrics as if they’re just for me, telling me to take a deep breath, not beat myself up and that I did my best. I feel like I can fly when I hear Shakira’s voice bounce up and up. That lift is exactly what keeps me going to start again “even though I could fall”. Confidence blooms and I see myself stronger than ever despite the deep pains I’ve endured these past few months. I’ve always told myself that I persevere, and with this song pumping through my soul, I know that I can try and accomplish everything.

4PAWs Pup of the Semester: Zazpi

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This is Zazpi! He’s a 4PAWs puppy from the Seven litter. He loves to eat hands, as most puppies do, and he likes his bone. Zazpi (pronounced Zaz-pee) is a good boy who works hard in Wittenberg’s Information Technology department with handler Amber Modlin. If you see Zazpi around campus, be sure to give him a pet or maybe a scratch behind his ears.

Zazpi is very sweet but cannot have stuffed animals, just like all 4PAWs puppies. He is very energetic up until he walks around campus all day. He will bring you joy to brighten up your day with kisses and might take a nap on your shoe. He is curious, sweet and honestly brings a smile to everyone he meets because he’s such a good boy. Zazpi loves people and his toys, so don’t try to take them away while he’s chewing on them because that’s mean.

What Does the COVID-19 Response Team Do?

While many universities decided to remain virtual for the fall semester, Wittenberg has been able to hold the fall semester in person, a difficult decision made possible by the work of Wittenberg’s COVID-19 Response Team. 

The Response Team is made up of seven staff members and six senior staff members. Among the senior staff members are co-chairs Dean of Students Casey Gill and VP of Finances and Administration Robert Young.

According to Casey Gill, the number one goal of the Response Team is to “reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the campus safe.” 

Co-chair Rob Young was focused on maintaining the Wittenberg experience.

“We want to let Wittenberg be as reasonably close to what Wittenberg is regularly and that’s in-person classes,” Young said.

Gill agreed with Young about the value of on-campus learning.

“We’ve tried to create as much as an experience in person for our students as possible knowing that it’s not an ideal situation of what students want,” Gill said. “We tried through our decision making to give them the best shot at it as possible.”

In fact, Casey Gill believes that the best decision that the Response Team has made was the decision to conduct in-person classes for the fall semester.

“There were a lot of different risks to evaluate in making that decision. We made a commitment to try to bring everybody back unless they wanted to be approved for remote learning or work,” Gill said. “For the most part, it’s been a success in the middle of a pandemic.”

One of the successes this semester was that the spread of the virus was limited to social gatherings.

“All of our contact tracing will show that any spread of COVID on campus has not been tied back to our structured and academic settings,” Gill said. “Any of the spread has happened in social situations or in living environments for students.”

When asked about their individual duties as members of the COVID Response Team, Young attested to Gill’s capabilities.

“Casey does everything,” he said.

Gill laid out her responsibilities as a senior member of the team.

“I’m working on student health protocol, how do we communicate updates with students regularly, how do we manage living environments, how do we manage guest policies, how do we manage compliance expectations from a conduct perspective, how do we manage dining, how do we get students food if they’re in quarantine or isolation, how do we make sure that students are aware of the policies and procedures has been pretty much a bulk of my responsibilities in collaboration with Rob,” Gill said.

In addition to information from the Centers for Disease Control and the Ohio Department of Health, the COVID Response Team has three medical doctors on their staff, all of whom are Wittenberg alumni. Dr. Alan Stewart (‘69) is a retired family physician, Dr. Dave Hopper (‘63) is a retired pediatric immunologist and Dr. Laurice Moore (‘95) is a pediatrician. 

This team of doctors has been present to guide every decision that the Response Team has made, but their perspective might be especially valuable as a promising vaccine is on the horizon. 

If a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Gill believes that it will not be required for Wittenberg students, but guidance from the CDC and ODH will be considered.

“The COVID response team will probably provide a recommendation to the president and to the board,” she said. “The Ohio Department of Health may make some decisions for us, specifically around residential environments and congregate living settings…if there’s a directive from the state of Ohio or from the federal government, that might trump what the COVID Response Team’s recommendation might be.”

Gill continues to be proud of the sacrifices Wittenberg students have made.

“I would just like to thank the students,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky as a campus to be able to have in-person operations this semester and I think that’s primarily because the students are doing their part to keep everybody safe.”

Photos: Track and Field Intra-Squad Scrimmage

Mental Space: The Wintery Gloom of Seasonal Affective Disorder

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It’s getting to be that time of year again; the sun sets earlier in the day and rises later. If it’s making you feel down, you aren’t the only one. In fact, Seasonal Affective Disorder is rather common.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the most common form of SAD is winter-pattern SAD, which is also referred to as the “winter blues.” That being said, there is also summer-pattern SAD, which is less common. SAD typically has symptoms that last for four to five months and thus falls under the umbrella of major depression.

Symptoms of winter-pattern SAD include oversleeping, overeating (specifically craving carbs), weight gain and social withdrawal. Symptoms of summer-pattern SAD include insomnia, poor appetite (leading to weight loss), restlessness, agitation, anxiety and episodes of violent behavior. In both forms of SAD, these symptoms are in addition to those of Major Depressive Disorder.

In order to be diagnosed with SAD, you must meet several requirements. First, you “must have symptoms of major depression or the more specific symptoms,” a guidance on the disorder by NIMH, said. Second, “the depressive episodes must occur during specific seasons (i.e., only during the winter months or the summer months) for at least two consecutive years… episodes must be much more frequent than other depressive episodes that the person may have had at other times of the year during their lifetime.”

SAD is more common in women than in men, and it is found to be more common in individuals who live further north, i.e. Ohio versus Florida. It is co-morbid, or common to overlap, with MDD or Bipolar, especially type II, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders or panic disorders.

There are several ways to treat SAD, including psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, Vitamin D and light therapy. One reason Vitamin D is a treatment option for SAD is that, during the fall and winter months, there are fewer hours during the day in which the sun is shining, which can lead to a vitamin deficiency.

In light therapy, a person “sits in front of a very bright light box (10,000 lux) every day for about 30 to 45 minutes, usually first thing in the morning, from fall to spring,” NIMH said. “The light boxes, which are about 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor light, filter out potentially damaging UV light, making [light therapy] safe treatment for most.”

With winter coming, it’s okay for you to be sad that summer is over; but remember that it will come back. If you think you may be experiencing this form of depression, reach out to the Tiger Counseling Center to give psychotherapy a try with one of the counselors. I also urge you to talk with your healthcare provider if you feel that medication may be the best route to take, as there may be side effects.

The Weekly Tiger: Friends

When everything seems to come apart, you typically want to be alone, right? In my experience, I’ve realized that even just telling a friend just to air out the negativity is good. That’s what true friends are really for: being there for you at your lowest and loneliest times.

The whole past week has been hell, and I’m sure we can all attest to that in one way or another.

For me, it wasn’t a week. It was just that one day, and I’m sure you all can imagine which day that was.

I felt so low and lost within myself that I feared I would never resurface. Dark, haunting images of just leaving swam before my eyes. But I told myself that running was cowardly, and the problems would only grow and follow you, just as shadows do. I believe that shadows hide my darkest demons, so that’s why they’re always behind us, sometimes never fully in view but always there.

Friends, true friends, make those shadows and fears smaller. Maybe it’s just a hug that gets me through the next day. Maybe it’s a long phone call filled with their patience and them listening to my tears hitting the phone screen as I go on about how I never cry, but for some reason, something caused the floodgates to open. Maybe it’s just a text saying ‘ily’. Maybe it’s a long conversation of them just listening and once I finish, they just say that they care about me and will support me no matter what because they see me as a strong individual. I treasure each and every interaction. They keep me going.

Not all my friends have the same views as I do, but I still acknowledge and accept their views because I love that person. No matter who they voted for or what they believe in, they are still my friend because they come back to me time and time again supporting me as I do for them. That kind of generosity and dependability is only found a few times in a lifetime, and I’m so glad to have found those relationships so early on in life.

It’s funny, really: when you meet someone, you have no idea how important they will be later on. It makes me wonder if I could go back in time and tell myself that before one friend graduates, or before one goes off to another college, appreciate the days you have.

I wish there was a way to know we were in the good old days before we left them. Because, right now, it may not seem wonderful or good, but these are our college days. These are meant to be the best years of our lives and they are supposed to be spent with people that make relationships last for lifetimes.

Through all our troubles, I don’t think I could have made it without the people I have met here at Wittenberg. So, try to really appreciate the people beside you because before you know it, you’ll be stomping on that seal and leaving the good old days behind.

Lack of Athletic Commitment or a Smaller Student Body?

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Recent athletic recruitment for Wittenberg may be “lacking” in certain areas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It seems the numbers of winter athletic sports commitments have decreased significantly, based upon statistics from the school’s enrollment. The Wittenberg Torch spoke with coaches to discuss what the lack of athletic recruitment and how recruitment seemed to be little bit of a different this year.

When speaking with Head Football Coach Joe Fincham, Fincham had no worries about the commitment numbers as far as the football program.

Statistically, the numbers are “safe and sound”, Fincham said, granting injuries and those who drop the program. At the moment, the program allows the minimum of 140 members on the entire team. The members are on a staggered schedule for each position, and this schedule allows for each position to be filled with starters, back-ups and practice squad members. This also allows for anticipation for spots in positions, injuries, grade issues and those students who drop the program.

Fincham says the numbers for the program are exactly where they need to be since the recruiting and commitments are not made during the fall season, but are performed during the spring and summer to make way for any contingencies. The Wittenberg University is a member of the NCAA Division III, meaning no athletic scholarships are offered to students.

Some athletes, understandably due to the pandemic, may not want to continue any athletic program at this time, and some of the seniors may want to find a way to come back to invoke their last year of eligibility. Even though the winter sports were cancelled for competition, Fincham is still very optimistic about the practices, even though they were shortened, and future seasons.

As far as the rest of the sports go, Softball is in the same mindset. After speaking with Head Coach Shannon Schaub, she seems very enthusiastic about the ladies who have joined the program this year and the ones who are veterans. Schaub added that the team was only in its second week of practice and were on a staggered schedule of practices three times a week and each member was doing individual work.

The recruitment was pretty normal this year, as the softball team is a normal size.

“[The girls] would appreciate the support from everybody in [the battle of sports and COVID-19],” Schaub said.

In addition, Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach Jay Owen seemed just as optimistic about the upcoming season, as the team is currently in phase two of their schedule. They have currently held 16 practices, each 120 minutes long in a staggered schedule.

“The team had a good season last year and they hope to have another one this year,” Owen said. It may seem as if the numbers for recruitment were low, but after making a deduction in speaking with the coaches, it looks like it wasn’t the athletics, but the school’s low number of incoming and returning students.

OPINION: This is Only the Beginning.

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This is the United States at the end of four years of Trump:

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has predicted that the United States will have reached 400,000 deaths due to COVID-19 by January 2021.

Real unemployment is at 12.1%, higher than it was during the Great Recession.

Militarized police continue to shoot civilians, disproportionately black civilians, including recent high-profile names include Walter Wallace, Fred Williams, and Jacob Blake.

The United States is no longer a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency has been rendered impotent.

Tensions have increased between the United States and Iran, Russia, and China, the latter two being nuclear powers.

The United States is drone and air-striking eight different countries and running covert military operations throughout the Middle East and Africa.

Women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainment centers are undergoing forced hysterectomies and more than 500 children have yet to be reunited with their parents after barbaric family separations.

In his opinion documentary, Ethan Bochicchio (’23) details his experiences with protests in Los Angeles amid fallout from the 2020 U.S. presidential election. (Ethan Bochicchio/Contributed).

While few Democrats were thrilled with Biden as a candidate, for many people, the prospect of Trump leaving the White House was enough to throw their vote the Democrat’s way. CNN’s exit polls showed that 70% of voters thought of their vote as a vote against Trump rather than a vote for Biden. The far left overwhelmingly put aside their distaste for the Democratic Party, with radicals ranging from the anarchist and linguist Noam Chomsky to the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party Bob Avakian endorsing Biden on the grounds that the world might not survive a second Trump term. Following the announcement of Trump’s defeat, people around the country took to the streets in celebration, the product of four years of hard-fought resistance seeming to have paid off.

That was the sentiment on Nov. 7 when a coalition of labor unions joined with the Democratic Socialists of America, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Party of Socialism and Liberation and a group of anarchists to host a rally and march celebrating the defeat of Trump.

Cofounder of Black Lives Matter LA Melina Abdulla told the crowd at Los Angeles’ Pershing Square unequivocally that her vote was not a vote for Biden but a vote against Trump.

“This is the first, this is the dawning of a new day, this is the first of a new era of victories that are gonna come daily,” she said. “Because when we fight, we win! All power to the people!”

Pastor Q of the Church Without Walls spoke to a crowd that had at that point marched in front of City Hall.

“I wanna be clear about something,” he said. “Biden is not our hope. We are our hope… We are not here to play. We are not here to play. We are here to seize power and dismantle the system that continues to oppress our people!”

Los Angeles faced a different set of challenges from swing states this week. For the most part, the Trump-supporting presence was absent from downtown, the center of most organizing and demonstrating. Protests favoring the downfall of Trump and calling for police abolition were met with violence from the police. Those protests intensified during the last days leading up to the election and the days it took to count the votes. Activists were out in full force attempting to make it know that Trump’s brand of fascism had to go and that the police violence that seemed to be emboldened by it would continue to be fought fearlessly regardless of who won the election.

On election night, Nov. 3, a group numbering between 30 and 50 protesters marched from the Staples Center south along Figueroa Street. After they turned onto 18th Street, police cornered them from both sides with at least one officer having their gun drawn. Many were arrested, including Legal Observers of the National Lawyers Guild.

I drove in a car with two other activists, attempting to safely transport two other people away from the protest. On Olympic Blvd, our car was pulled over by four police cars. All five of us were pulled out of the car without being given a reason despite us explicitly requesting one. We were asked about our phone numbers, social security numbers, occupations and tattoos. After 16 minutes of standing with our hands behind our backs facing a wall, we were told why we were detained.

“Basically, you guys were observed by an undercover officer behind the skirmish line,” One of the officers said of the line being a line of cops that was separating protesters from the outside world. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you this: we absolutely never crossed the skirmish line.

The next night, downtown was flooded with activism. In front of the Hall of Justice, Black Lives Matter held a celebration of the successful electoral ousting of the city’s District Attorney Jackie Lacey. While at this point, the presidential election was yet to be decided, results of local elections had been announced and it was declared that George Gascon would be the new DA. His victory was the product of years of activism carried out by Black Lives Matter including weekly marches to ballot boxes where people cast early votes for Gascon. The Revolutionary Communist Party led a demonstration around 5:00PM. Later in the evening, a group of anarchists took to the streets. Both protests had a heavy police presence. Police in riot gear with batons followed RevCom despite the organizers affirming that the protest was nonviolent. The anarchists were followed by police cars the entire time they marched. At one point, two individual protesters believed to be undercover cops were sighted filming protesters.

I was filming to document the police’s clear infringement on the right of its citizens to dissent. I don’t think that’s why he was filming.

Ethan Bochicchio (’23)

On Nov. 6, antifascists gathered at City Hall and Father Serra Park to defend Los Angeles from what had been rumored to be planned incursions from far-right elements from outside of the city. Throughout the whole day, fewer than 10 Trump supporters showed up, to whom the antifascists gave little time.

Instead, the day turned out to be a massive infringement by police against the First Amendment rights of protesters. For hours at City Hall, police drove by filming a small contingent of protesters who were expecting to be met by the other group from Father Serra. A massive police-bus periodically drove in and out of a parking lot menacingly as if to show the antifascists how ready the police were to throw them in jail. Around the corner from City Hall, a police presence of some 15 cars had built up. Before the group at Father Serra could even begin to march, police surrounded the park, ensuring that no protester would set foot in the street.

By the time the two groups converged on the steps of City Hall, the police numbers had grown larger than the protesters. Both sides of Spring Street, the street that City Hall’s front steps face, were blocked by police vehicles, not allowing traffic through. Police still asserted that if protesters or press stepped into the street, they could be subject to legal penalty.

Many police refused to wear their masks or put their masks over their noses despite pleas from protesters, albeit some, not all, of the protestors were quite rude. Police were armed with batons, rubber bullets and absurd numbers of zip ties on their belts, signaling a planned mass arrest. One cop filmed protestors with a camcorder the whole time, refusing to provide an explanation despite many requests for one. A local journalist told me that he heard the police captain explicitly tell the cop who was filming to “only film faces.”

Cops followed the protesters who marched a couple blocks to the park across the street from Union Station. The entire time, protesters were being filmed by the cop with the camcorder. When I asked why he was filming, the closest thing I got to an explanation from him was: “The same reason you’re filming.” I was filming to document the police’s clear infringement on the right of its citizens to dissent. I don’t think that’s why he was filming.

As we marched, some police began to become visibly irritated by protesters, attempting to engage in staring contests, stepping closer and closer to the sidewalk. Even at the park, where there was clearly no threat of the entirely non-violent protest (a fact corroborated on video by one of the officers) stepping into the street, officers formed a perimeter around the park and reinforcements arrived. Vans carrying dozens of cops holding on to the van with one hand, with weapons in the other, began to pull up and more cars arrived with their sirens on. Only as protesters began to leave did the police finally let up and leave the area.

Scenes like this have taken place since May, drawing out to the forefront what seems to many to be the fascist truth of our nation. It was tireless efforts against Trump and all that he represents that brought so many to downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 7 with joy over Trump’s defeat. Not one of the far-left contingencies downtown that day were under any impression that the work was over.

On the issue of policing in particular, Biden has consistently been on the wrong side of history. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that put more than one million people behind bars in six years was authored by Biden. Under the Obama administration, militarization of the police accelerated. But by all metrics, Biden is better than Trump, Gascon defeated Lacey and two Democratic Socialists were elected to the city councils of Los Angeles and Burbank. The celebration was, as Melina Abdulla put it, for the “new era of victories that are gonna come daily… Because when we fight, we win!”

Students Observe Presidential Election at Watch Party

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, The Office of Student Involvement in collaboration with Student Senate and The Office of Scheduling and Special Events hosted a Presidential Election Watch Party. From 7⁠–12PM, students and staff gathered in various locations around the student center including the CDR, Post 95 and the Geil Lounge to accommodate for social distancing.

In addition to Post 95, the CDR and Geil Lounge were decked out in red, white and blue streamers and balloons, all aglow with patriotic themes. As students sat not socially distant with friends, large projection screens covered live news footage from CNN and NBC News. Featuring Giant Connect Four, Giant Bowling, Photo Booths and free food, students came together to enjoy the night.

“We partnered with a lot of Springfield businesses, for the balloon, the screens and the decorations,” Charlotte Hurst, Senior Class President, said. “We wanted to have some sort of program since we knew there would be a lot of anxiety surrounding tonight, so we wanted to be able to provide food and an outlet of discussion for students.”

Director of Student Involvement Liz Artz also commented on the planning of the watch party.

“We love planning events, with the current political climate we are nervous about how tonight would go,” Artz said. “Our office is offering open office hours, where we will have stress reliever bags. We have bubble wrap, tea and coloring pencils and pages, we also have candy and stickers. We will be there to talk for those if they want to destress and debrief the election.”

For many students, the 2020 U.S. presidential election marked the first time they would be eligible to cast their vote for the next president. The night was filled with excitement, but for others, it was overflowing with anxiety.

Many students showed up in support of their candidate, while some came to be part of the community.

“I came because I wanted to see if my vote would sway the election in any certain way,” Jonathan Golden (’24) said. “I also came because our campus community is pushing voting so much and I wanted to be with others and see what the results would be instead of being in my room.”

“I went to the event to see how the election would turn out due to my own personal hypothesis,” Valentin Polanco-Amparo (’23) said. “I already knew Ohio was going to be a rat. However, I had faith in Texas being a swing state and that would potentially swing him [Biden] by them, for now I see that as a detrimental loss. While Hope is slim, I hope that Biden will win by the 270 mark. But I did my part as a citizen and voted. I wanted to see prosperity in my democratic and human right to vote.”

Wittenberg President Michael Frandsen also came by the event to speak with students.

“I am really excited about the turnout across the country,” he said. “It is exciting to see people participating in the process of voting, it’s really a privilege and it’s disappointing when people don’t take advantage of such an important event. I am excited for the turnout of students especially at a time of limited capacity. I hope we can get our results sooner than later and stay safe.”

Over the course of the evening, results from swing states came in causing an emotional charge for some, while others tried to have fun.

“I thought it was a well put together event that allowed students from all views to come together and support their candidate,” Mya Staysinak (’23) said. “The bowling and food [were] great perks. Sitting with friends to watch the historic election turned out to be a wonderful evening.”

Photos: Election Week in Clark County