The First Gigafire in the United States for over a Decade

Written By: Clare Kelly 

CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.

Unfortunately, the California fire that’s been closely monitored since the beginning of August, as grown in magnitude across the state. On Monday, Oct. 5, the classification of California’s fire grew a “megafire” to a “gigafire.” 

According to The Guardian, this fire has grown to be larger than Rhode Island. ” The Smithsonian Magazine reports that this fire became upgraded from a “mega-fire” which applies when the fire burns hundreds of thousands of acres, to “‘gigafire’” which applies when the fire expands to burn over a million acres. The Guardian reports that the fire consumes land in seven different counties of California and has now been burning for 50 days with only half the burning areas being contained by Cal Fire. 

As reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, the fire emerged from a huge thunderstorm that ravaged the area and kindled many smaller fires that blended to create “the August Complex Fire”—California’s first-ever “gigafire. Another contributing factor to the intensity of these fires includes how California was inflicted by a heatwave throughout the summer. Additionally, The Guardian reports that scientists see an increase in fires due to the climate crisis of both rising temperatures and the extended drought. The smoke created from these fires has covered the west coast and has even “blot out the sun.”

Rasha Aridi of Smithsonian Magazine reports this as the “first gigafire in the United States for ten years.” She writes that California lost four million acres of land to these fires, a staggering amount that increased the state’s preceding record by two-fold. Aridi shares that “[o]f the states 2 largest wildfires in history, 17 have occurred since 2000; four of the top five occurred during fire season alone, reports Gizmodo.” As reported by Andrew Freedman of the Washington Post, this year alone, over 8,400 wildfires burned in California, killing 31 people and destroying more than 9,200 structures. 

CNN reports that the last gigafire in the United States was in 2004, located in Alaska when the Taylor Complex burned around 1.3 million acres in 2004. And in 1998, the Yellowstone Fire, located in Montana and Idaho, burned around 1.58 million acres. 

Andrew Freedman reported for The Washington Post, that the mixture of heat and wind concurring this week comes from a comprehensive area that has high pressure, called a heat dome. This system, building in from the west, brings above-average temperatures for both the area and the period of the year. These temperatures might even exceed the “century mark” for areas that are more inland in California. Rasha Aridi of the Smithsonian Magazine stated a study completed by Climate Central that implied these wildfires “have become three times more common and the fire season lasts three months longer since the 1970s,” as reported by Brian Kahn of  Gizmodo

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, reported over 11,500 firefighters still attempting to control the 21 wildfires, of which 13 are substantial incidents. On Oct. 12, many firefighters answered the spread of the fires as 34 new wildfires emerged, but each became quickly controlled. 

Meanwhile, according to the Cal Fire Twitter Account, the Glass Fire located in Napa County extended to 67, 484 acres with about 97% containment, and the Zogg Fire in Shasta County sits at 56, 338 acres but 100% has been contained.

Ceremony at the Rose Garden Leads to a Concerning COVID-19 Outbreak

Written By: Eleanor Pratt

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. – Barrett, if confirmed by the US Senate, will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Saturday, Sept. 26, President Donald Trump held a ceremony outside the Rose Garden to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. The majority of those who attended the event were not wearing any kind of face mask, and there were very little social distancing measures in place. As of Oct. 14, 11 people who attended the event tested positive for COVID-19, including the President himself and the First Lady.

Currently, it is difficult to know how many people who went to the event have contracted the virus as signs and symptoms can take around 14 days to appear. According to Newsweek, of the 328 people who attended the Rose Garden event or who were in close contact with someone who attended, around 11% have tested positive for COVID-19, 23% have tested negative, and a concerning 66% are unknown.

Following the event, President Trump was in close proximity to a number of people, many of whom are now testing positive for the virus. According to the New York Times, the President chose to attend the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 and then held large campaign events in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota in the following days. It has been reported that at least five people who flew with the President on Air Force One during this period have now contracted the virus.

Many of the president’s closest advisors and supporters contracted COVID-19 either at the Rose Garden Event or shortly afterward. For example, Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and his former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway both tested positive, as well as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Although there was little to no social distancing and almost no masks to be seen during the ceremony outside, experts told The New York Times that the indoor reception before the event was probably the main cause of the spread. Mask-less people gathering in a tight indoor space is an excellent way to spread COVID-19, as it has been proven time and time again that the virus thrives indoors.

Unfortunately, the White House seems to be doing very little in terms of contact tracing. The New York Times reports that the White House decided to only notify anyone who came into close contact with the president within the two days before he tested positive rather than the week beforehand. In a bizarre turn of events, the White House has also chosen to cut the CDC almost completely out of the process.

In response to this, Dr. Joshua Barocas, a public health expert at Boston University, said “This is a total abdication of responsibility by the Trump administration,” and that “The idea that we’re not involving the CDC to do contact tracing at this point seems like a massive public health threat.”

It seems that even the contact tracing for the two-day window is severely limited, with people only receiving emails about potential exposure rather than a phone call with detailed explanations and guidance for what to do if one does test positive. The White House claims that there is a “robust contract tracing program” going on that is being led by an epidemiologist from the CDC; however, the White House also declined to name the scientist, and two anonymous senior scientists from the CDC claim to be completely unaware of anyone occupying that role.

With more and more information coming out about the White House’s mismanagement of the situation, many experts are blaming the administration for putting all their faith in constant testing rather than using masks and social distancing. The tests only tell you whether you are positive or negative at the time of the test, and often someone who tests negative in the morning can test positive later that afternoon. Experts stress that the general public must not follow the White House’s lead, and should instead continue to constantly wear masks and social distance.

Sources

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/10/05/rose-garden-super-spreader-event-do-have-wear-mask-outside/3626219001/https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/03/us/rose-garden-event-covid.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/health/contact-tracing-white-house.htmlhttps://www.newsweek.com/amy-coney-barrett-rose-garden-event-was-wh-covid-superspreader-new-data-suggests-1537865

Harris-Pence Face off in Vice Presidential Debate

Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – OCTOBER 7, 2020: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Vice President Mike Pence participate in the vice-presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The candidates were seated at a 12-foot distance and separated by plexiglass as a precaution against the coronavirus, and anyone in the audience who isnt wearing a mask will be kicked out. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2020 running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), faced off in a largely televised debate, covering topics ranging from the nation’s COVID-19 response to the Affordable Care Act. The debate drew 57.9 million viewers, becoming the second most-watched vice-presidential debate in US history.
The vice-presidential face-off took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, and replaced the scheduled presidential one, in which President Trump and Vice President Biden were set to follow-up their Sept. 26 debate. However, the hospitalization of Trump from COVID-19 prevented his participation and the vice presidential candidates instead took the stage.
Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, moderated the debate, which was in a modified format meant to limit interruptions and reframe questions more productively. “Americans … deserve a discussion that is civil,” she said, emphasizing the importance of respecting the other candidates and limiting disruptions, a decision made after backlash from Trump and Biden’s first debate.
Many topics were covered throughout the night. According to a breakdown from NBC News, the largest topic of discussion was Trump and his administration’s policies, totaling over 14 total minutes of talk time. The debate over COVID-19 policies and the economy, were close seconds at just under ten minutes and nearly eight minutes, respectively. Biden, the election, and the Supreme court were also extensively covered, with other topics such as China, health care, climate change and crime taking up a smaller but prevalent portion of the night. The largest social media takeaway from the night, however, was focused on a fly that landed on Pence’s head which shot to fame on social media, inspired a Twitter fandom, and sparked some SNL skits and memes.
The debate was live-streamed on most major news platforms, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN, and was the second most-watched debate in U.S. history, following the 2008 Palen-Biden debate which brought in 70 million viewers. Highlights of the night included an intense discussion on the Trump administration’s handling of coronavirus.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said during the debate, “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you.” Pence responded strongly, saying that Trump “suspended all travel from China” and “That decision alone…. Bought us valuable time to set up the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”
Harris and Pence were each given one to two minutes to answer questions and as a whole, the debate had significantly fewer interruptions than occurred in the Trump-Biden face-off one week earlier. Other modifications included large plexiglass shields, put up as protection equipment against the potential spread of COVID-19.
This debate occurred a little under a month from the Nov. 3 presidential election. The next presidential debate, in which candidates Trump and Biden are set to face off in a modified debate format, will take place in Nashville, Tennessee on Oct. 22, following the cancellation of an expected Oct. 15 face-off, canceled due to COVID-19 and other concerns.

Supreme Court Allows Trump Administration to End Census Count Early

Written By: Hannah Yale

The Supreme Court decided on Tuesday, Oct. 13 to allow the Trump Administration to end the 2020 Census count early, blocking a lower court decision that would have required the Census to continue collecting field information until the end of October. The Census Bureau said they wanted to stop the count on Oct. 5 to start processing data in order to meet a Dec. 31 deadline, although the Bureau had originally chosen Oct. 31 as its stopping point for data collection. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Census Bureau to keep going with its count until Oct. 31, concluding that dedicating more time to accumulate information would increase the Census’ accuracy and allow hard-to-reach communities the opportunity to be counted in the numbers that will be used to reallocate congressional seats and Electoral College votes for the next 10 years. Trump’s Commerce Department intervened and unofficially brought the case before the Supreme Court. 

In a brief unsigned order, the Court blocked the Ninth Circuit’s decision and granted the Trump Administration permission to halt the Census count immediately. After the decision was released, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would continue accepting responses online at My2020Census.gov and via phone through Oct. 15. The same date was set as the postmark deadline for sending in paper responses. According to the Census Bureau, over 99.9% of housing units had been accounted for by Tuesday, Oct. 13, but some civil rights advocacy groups like the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have concerns that the Court’s decision could negatively impact racial and ethnic minorities.

The verdict was supported by seven of the Court’s eight Justices. Justice Sonya Sotomayor officially registered a dissent, saying: “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census counts are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next ten years.” The respondents referred to in Sotomayor’s dissent are a collection of advocacy groups, cities, counties, and Native tribes. If the Census does not get an accurate count of people living in the U.S., low-income communities, ethnic minorities and indigenous people will feel the effects most severely.

On a separate track, the Trump Administration has asked the Supreme Court to allow the Census Bureau to report two different census figures to the President— one calculated the usual way and one excluding people who are undocumented immigrants. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to make a decision on the issue by the end of 2020, but the Court has not yet announced when it will hear the case. Citizens and non-citizens alike, regardless of immigration status, have always been included in the Census since 1790.

Anglo-Saxon Grave Discovered in England

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Research on the body of an Anglo-Saxon warlord makes archeologists question the accuracy of the current historical map of Britain following Roman rule. On Oct. 6, Science Daily reported the uncovering of the burial of a warrior in Berkshire that transformed the way historians view and conceptualize the Anglo-Saxon Era. Archeologists suggest that the warlord must have held a high status in order to be buried upon a hilltop that overlooks the Thames Valley. Kiona N. Smith reports in Ars Technica that the land “was supposed to have been an unimportant patch of the borderland between neighboring tribes 1,400 years ago” but that the position of the grave overlooking the Thames Valley makes researchers reanalyze these ideas. 

The position of the grave implies the new importance of the area. Originally, researchers believed the land between London and Oxford was “borderland,” but the uncovering of the grave reveals that this land was not touched. This means that the maps of the locations of Anglo-Saxon tribes might need altering as they prove inhabitants settled in this “borderland,” or at the very least, they used the land to bury their dead. The grave remained untouched until metal detectorists, Sue and Mick Washington, discovered the burial in 201, as reported by Science Daily. 

Sue Washington comments that “On two earlier visits I had received a large signal from this area which appeared to be deep iron and most likely not to be of interest. However, the uncertainty preyed on my mind and on my next trip I just had to investigate, and this proved to be third time lucky!” 

Ars Technica reports that his skeleton depicts the warrior as a “towering figure, especially in early medieval Europe, where people were smaller on average than modern populations,” standing at six feet tall. University of Reading archeologist, Gabor Thomas, and his group of researchers plan to conduct a forensic study and isotopic analysis to determine “the man’s age at death, how he died, what he ate, and where he lived.” The researchers know that this buried warrior was a warrior by the garment and equipment buried with him. Archeologists found a “sword lay in a scabbard of wood and leather, decorated with elaborate bronze fittings…bronze and glass bowls, two iron spearheads, and the metal fittings” usually found on wealthy men’s clothing during the early Anglo-Saxon Era in England. The buried warlord has been nicknamed Marlow Warlord. 

Ars Technica reports Archeologist Gabor Thomas’s thoughts on the discovery, “‘This is the first burial of its kind found in the mid-Thames basin, which is often overlooked in favor of the Upper Thames and London,” said Thomas. “It suggests that the people living in this region may have been more important than historians previously suggested.”

As Science Daily reports, The Head of the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, Michael Lewis, exclaims, “This is a great example of archaeologists and metal-detectorists working together. Especially important is the fact that the finders stopped when they realised they had discovered something significant and called in archaeological assistance. By doing so they ensure much more could be learnt about this interesting burial.”

Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation currently holds the obtained objects and plans to conduct further analysis that the Department of Archeology at the University of Reading will oversee. Concurrently, the group of researchers is seeking funds to continue their research.

Amy Coney Barrett Nomination

Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. – Barrett, if confirmed by the US Senate, will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sept. 26, President Donald Trump nominated conservative judge Amy Coney Barret to fill the empty US Supreme Court seat vacated by the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The nomination, and its proximity to the Nov. 3 presidential election, sparked a fierce political battle and has become a central aspect of the 2020 election.

The Senate Confirmation meeting, in which Barrett’s judicial merits are  being discussed, spans from Monday, Oct. 12 to Thursday, Oct.18. If accepted to the Supreme Court, she will be Trump’s third nominee to be placed on the SCOTUS bench, following Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the fifth woman to ever take a seat on the high court. Her nomination will shift the nine-member Supreme Court to a 6-3 Conservative majority, resulting in a potential long-lasting ideological shift since seats are lifetime appointments.

The 48 Barrett is a former law professor at Notre Dame who has been serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017 when she was nominated by Trump to the position. She is a self-declared originalist, and believes in interpreting the constitution as it was written. In her opening remarks, she connected her judicial policies to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were.”

She also paid respects to the deceased Ginsburg, saying “I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place… I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.” As a Supreme Court nominee, Barrett said she is “honored and humbled” to be Trump’s choice and has vowed to judge legal cases impartially. 

Senate and political leaders, however, have remained tense over the strongly partisan nomination. On Monday, the Republican Chairhead of the Senate Confirmation Meeting, said he expected a “contentious week” of discussions within the confirmation hearing. Across the aisle, Senator Amy Kloubachar (D-MN), who competed for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier in the year, called the nomination a “sham” and said that Americans “cannot divorce this nominee and her views from the election we are in.”

A particular point of contention surrounds Barrett’s opposition to the 2012 Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. When asked on Tuesday, Oct. 13 for her stances on the issues, she neglected to confirm or deny any intent to overrule key aspects of either. In the early days of the confirmation hearing, she has refrained from declaring a strong stance on any opinion, maintaining that she will be “unbiased” and follow the legal proceedings mandated in making decisions. Left-leaning politicians, however, worry that her historical stances on topics ranging from gun control to LGBQT+ rights will push the Supreme Court further to the right on key issues.

Democrats also accused the Republican party of hypocrisy surrounding the nomination, citing former President Obama’s attempted nomination for a SCOTUS seat in March 2016, when Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing due to the proximity of the 2016 presidential election. Many Senators are critical of the push to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election, in which millions of Americans have already voted. 

“Instead of passing a COVID relief package that will help millions of Americans who are unemployed, who have been infected, whose businesses or employers have closed, we’re focusing on jamming through Justice Barrett,” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said in an interview, “I think this constitutes court-packing.”

When People Don’t Vote

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

As we are all aware, the Presidential election is less than a month away and the time has come for us to vote, either by going to vote at the polls in person or through mailing in an absentee ballot. However, there are people who, similar to four years ago in the 2016 election, are making the choice not to vote. While the arguments given for not voting are not without logic, there are just as many reasons to vote and there are even more consequences for not doing so.

The main reason that people listed for not voting in the 2016 election was that it was not  necessary, or that their vote would not matter. This line of thinking was especially prevalent for those living in states where their preferred candidate won the popular vote. It is for a similar reason that people are considering forgoing voting in this election. Especially with the COVID-19 virus making going to a polling place in person more dangerous and with the uncertainty of mail in ballots, which are in danger of being lost or not reaching the polls in time. These thoughts and fears are all logical. However, that does not erase the fact that outright refusing to vote because you may not be heard does more harm than good in the long run.

As humans, we tend to forget that we are one in a crowd. We might lean towards the frame of mind that if we do something, then it can be an exception, not a rule. But we forget that we are not the only ones who think that. If a good portion of the population keep the frame of mind that, if they do not vote it will not matter because they are only one person and one ballot, then that could cause a real shift in the voting tide. After all, one of the main reasons that Donald Trump won the previous election, according to survey information by pewresearch.org was because enough people who supported Hillary Clinton chose not to vote because they held this frame of mind. One singular vote may not sway much but there is a reason that the entire country votes and not just one select person. All votes add up. If enough people vote, then there will be an effect. And if enough people do not vote, there will be consequences as well. People who do not vote still feel the right to complain about the state of the country while feeling as if they are powerless to change it. We are not powerless. We live in a democracy. Not a dictatorship, not a monarchy, not a theocracy. One person is not responsible for making all the decisions in this country. It is the right of the people. A right that was fought for and earned with countless struggles, deaths and atrocities committed. We can continue to move forward and progress towards a better future, but we cannot do that if people don’t actually exercise their right to vote.

Yes, we only have one vote, we are only one voice in a crowd, but it takes many voices to make a chorus. Just because one voice blends in with the others does not mean it is not heard.  Therefore this coming November, if you want to change the world you see, there is one simple answer to the problem. Vote.

Trump and COVID – A Sign of Things To Come?

Written By: Annilee Hampton

There are many rumors surrounding President Donald Trump contracting COVID-19. It is unknown just how serious Trump’s condition is or was, but one thing is clear: his response following his own infection dangerously downplays the severity of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The White House COVID-19 outbreak can be traced to a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden on September 26 announcing Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Over one hundred people attended the event, most of whom were not wearing masks. Photos of the event show a lack of  social distancing. Following the event, at least eight people tested positive for the coronavirus, including President Trump himself, first lady Melania Trump, former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Utah Senator Mike Lee, North Carolina Senator Thomas Tillis, University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, close presidential aide Hope Hicks, and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also tested positive, but did not attend the Rose Garden event, which Dr. Anthony Fauci. called a ‘superspreader’ event  

Following this event, multiple White House personnel attended the first presidential debate on Sept. 29. While both campaigns initially agreed that all attendees would be masked, excepting the two presidential candidates and moderator Chris Wallace, the First Lady, as well as Trump’s sons, daughters, and many of his guests, removed their masks as soon as they sat down in the hall. An official from the Cleveland Clinic, which co-hosted the debate, offered them masks, but they neglected to wear them. The Cleveland Clinic released a statement following the debate, stating “Individuals entering the debate hall were masked and in some cases removed their masks once seated. A Cleveland Clinic physician did offer audience members masks, but some did not adhere to the requirement.”

In a tweet on Oct. 2, Trump stated, “Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Later that day, Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland “out of an abundance of caution,” the White House said. Despite many rumors regarding Trump’s declining condition, Trump was discharged from the hospital and returned to the White House three days later, on Oct. 5. Two days after his discharge, Trump tweeted, “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Twitter later added a disclaimer to the Tweet, stating that it violated Twitter rules and contained potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. Trump’s fast recovery, if he is truly as recovered as White House officials say, is likely due to the fact that he had access to much more powerful treatments than the average person infected with the virus would. 

All of these events lead to a grim conclusion: if President Trump remains in power, the coronavirus pandemic in the United States will get much, much worse before it gets any better. Trump has displayed blatant disregard for the virus on many occasions, most notably the Tulsa rally on June 20 as well as, more recently, a rally in Pennsylvania on Oct. 14. Despite Trump tossing masks out to the crowd, Trump himself did not wear a mask, nor did many supporters that attended the rally. At one point, he asked the crowd how many of them had recovered from the coronavirus, and, after a smattering of applause, asserted, “A lot of people.”

Trump’s constant downplay of the severity of this pandemic could lead to terrible consequences for the American people if he is to be reelected. The Rose Garden superspreader event would not be a one-time occurrence, but would become one of many superspreader events not just amongst government officials, but also amongst the American people. It is paramount that as many people vote in the upcoming election as possible in order to influence the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that voters think critically about exactly what the consequences of their votes may be.

Does PS Hold Student Safety as Top Priority?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

As the primary law enforcement on campus, Public Safety is responsible for keeping the students of St. Mary’s safe and out of harm’s way. However, is it safe to assume that Public Safety might not hold the wellbeing of the students as their most important value?

One might assume that Public Safety officers are there to first and foremost protect students. Since it is their job to make sure that students, visitors, faculty and staff are as safe as they can be, it would not  be that unusual of a judgement. However one thing that has been found with recent Public Safety callings is that arrival times for Public Safety officers vary between arriving in a timely manner and arriving long after an event has happened. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, suffers from chronic pain and last year suffered from a leg injury which made walking around campus extremely difficult. They were instructed to call Public Safety in order to be escorted to and from the campus center so they could get food. Even when there were plenty of officers on call and when the student in question was waiting at the campus center, which is perhaps a five to ten minute drive from the Public Safety headquarters, it would take Public Safety between 45 and 50 minutes to arrive and escort the student. If this is the case, how quickly does it take them to arrive on scene when there’s an actual emergency? If a student is in danger, either from an attack or from a health issue, every minute counts and if nobody arrives to help in a timely manner, it could have disastrous results.

Even when Public Safety does arrive on time, there are situations where they are in danger of causing more harm than good. According to an article by psycom.net, there is no mental health or sensitivity training for the police officers hired by the government. If this is the case, it’s unlikely that there is training for Public Safety officers. So if they encounter a student who has had some kind of violence committed against them, they may not be able to get the needed information from the student without causing more damage than necessary. Talking about a trauma, especially talking about it so soon after it has happened, is mentally devastating and the officers are not equipped to  appropriately handle the situation. The same can be said for when they are encountering people who they either speak with or detain for doing something wrong. For example, on the night of October 8, a group of five students who were on the roof of Montgomery hall, not for purposes of self harm or property damage, but simply behaving as college students who were bored. Public safety was called and according to one student, who wished to remain anonymous, the conduct of the officers and the questions they asked regarding the student’s personal life and mental health were quite inappropriate. Since there is no formal training for Public Safety officers, when they encounter a student with mental health complications, disorders, or illnesses, they are unable to handle the situation in a manner that won’t risk serious trauma or harm to the student in question. Rather than treat the situation with sensitivity and treat whomever it is they encounter as a person and not a criminal, there are officers who simply judge the situation before having a clear grasp on it. Protocol is important to a person in authority but if protocol is made a priority over students’ overall safety, are we really trusting our well being with the right people?

Dealing with Stress During Exam Time: Tips and Tricks

Written By: Eleanor Pratt

 For most college students, midterms are now finishing up and finals are right around the corner. This can be an incredibly stressful part of the semester with big exams and projects all due around the same time. It sometimes feels like there is too much to do and too little time to accomplish everything. However, do not lose hope because there are many ways to prepare for finals and to reduce the stress and anxiety surrounding them.

One of the best things you can do to reduce the amount of stress you feel during exam season is to begin studying early. Colin Gruenwald of Kaplan Test Prep says “Three to four weeks ahead of time is the latest that you want to create a study plan for yourself. Cramming is toxic.” It is easy to procrastinate studying and revising because finals seem to be far away, but in reality, this will only cause more pain. Set up a schedule to revise a little each day leading up to exams and you will feel much more relaxed and prepared. If you work better with others, form a study group with classmates and discuss concerns or anxieties you all might feel about upcoming tests and projects.

It is helpful to consistently study every day, however it is also important to take regular breaks to combat being overwhelmed. Take 20 minutes to walk around and stretch your muscles in between subjects. Fix yourself some food and find a hot drink to calm you down. It may also be helpful to plan some fun activities for when you are done studying to give yourself something to look forward to and to work towards. 

One of the more practical things to do to prepare for exams is to take mock exams. There may be examples of past exam questions online that could be similar to your exam, and this will give you a good idea of what you need to study and focus on. If there are not any examples online, think back to topics of assignments and discussions in class and make your own exam questions that might relate to these things. Creating your own fake exam questions is an excellent study technique according to leading psychologists on memory. In an article for Science Daily, Dr. Katherine Rawson, a psychology researcher at Kent State University, explains “Taking practice tests — particularly ones that involve attempting to recall something from memory — can drastically increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to remember that information again later.”

If exam stress is really getting to you it might be best to talk to someone about your anxiety. Talking with friends or family about your stress can help alleviate it and will allow you to let go of the tension you have been holding in. However, if venting to family or friends does not sound particularly cathartic, the Wellness Center on campus is always open for appointments. Counseling is available for stress, anxiety, depression, homesickness and much more. Right now individual counseling sessions will be on Zoom, and to set up an appointment just call the Center at (240) 895-4289. Counseling is free to all students, so it would be a smart move to utilize this service while you have it.

Exam season does not have to be an overly stressful time. Hopefully, by using these tips and services you can reduce any anxieties you may be having. It is always important to keep things in perspective and to not let the stress from exams overwhelm you because in a few months that big exam will feel more like a distant memory rather than the most stressful and important thing in the world. 

Sources:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/how-deal-exam-stress#survey-answer
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101014144235.htm
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/final-exams-study-tips