St. Mary’s College of Maryland Fall 2020 Phased Move-In

Clare Kelly 

On August 11, President Tuajuanda Jordan declared a phased return to campus. Rather than all students returning to campus on August 15 as planned, students were assigned new move-in dates based on their housing location, with move-in dates spanning from August 15 to September 7. In her message to the community, President Jordan assured students, staff, faculty and parents that the College has “ been closely monitoring local, state, and national COVID-19 conditions.” The College took into consideration the wellbeing of freshman and transfer students; therefore, they moved in as planned to better adapt to college life. The phased move-in allowed the St. Mary’s community to gather information on how prospective locations should function with this unprecedented time. 

Concerns surrounding the steady rise in COVID tests throughout Maryland, and qualms about the ability of local facilities to handle the influx of students returning to campus convinced the college to change their initial fall 2020 move-in plans. St. Mary’s College of Maryland administration decided a phased move-in would mitigate the strenuous impact on the campus, students and the surrounding community. President of the Class of 2023, Nicholas Howard (‘23), shared  “I’ve embraced the reasoning behind having the phrased move-in. Though I understand that COVID has posed many challenges, the last-minute email created many problems. ” 

The College took extra considerations to ensure marginalized students still had access to the tools they needed to start classes on August 17. Derek Young, the Executive Director of Student Life and the Interim Dean of Students shared the exceptions to the new move-in policy and directed those students to complete a form. The College indicated that students with internet issues, incompatible college environments, already purchased plane tickets or  labs required to complete a class during the three-week move-in time were eligible to complete the form. 

After September 7, move-in will officially be considered complete and all of the students who wished to return to campus will be back.  Kyle Musselman (‘21) mentioned: “I thought [the phased re-opening of campus] was a good idea overall, but the fact that senior housing was last [to move in] was upsetting (but I’m biased). Also, I think it should have been communicated earlier, the fact that I signed up to move in and then had to wait another three weeks was frustrating and upsetting. 

President Jordan ended her email with an uplifting message: “As our St. Mary’s Way reminds us, our College is a place ‘where people contribute to a spirit of caring,’ a place that causes us to hold ourselves accountable and respectful of each other.” As the last phase of students settle into campus, it is important to be mindful of one another and to respect the College’s protocol by wearing a mask and adhering to the six feet social distance guidelines.

An Inquiry Into Contemporary Digital Communication Style

By Kristina Norgard

As a twenty-something-year-old living in the age of the internet and digital communication, I have noticed different ways people text and communicate on social media platforms. It seems that different groups of people, separated by age, location or interest, seem to digitally communicate in ever-evolving and different ways. One of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon, is something I frequently observe and even participate in: lower case letters. Why is it that some people text in all lowercase letters? 

Now, obviously, if you pay attention to this trivial occurrence, not everyone does this. But it is important to note that, at least on the Apple iPhone iOS system, you have to manually go into the keyboard settings to turn off Auto-Capitalization, so typing in all lowercase letters is a conscious choice. I know this because I have done it. So it seems as though lowercase writing must be a conscious choice, not just for me, but for everyone else who does it as well. 

I do not type in all lowercase letters to everyone. When writing professional emails, talking with older family members and friends (who might get confused or think it is lazy or rude of me not to be proper), writing for school, The Point News and to people who I am not well-acquainted or comfortable with yet, I use correct capitalization rules because it feels appropriate and necessary to be more traditional. With that being said, using lowercase letters is something I choose to do when texting close friends, writing Instagram captions, tweeting, and commenting on TikToks: all when I am in a much more casual setting. 

I found this shift from personal to professional and back and forth, again and again, to be funny once I noticed it. I wondered if it is a virtual and visual manifestation of the ways in which our personalities change when speaking or acting around certain people who we have certain relationships with. 

I know the ways that people text differs for everyone, and sometimes I will use capitalized letters when texting my friends. Some people are dedicated to lowercase letters always, others reject modernity and embrace traditional capitalization. Some completely reject emoji culture, others use the minimal typed smiley face 🙂 or use emojis strictly ironically, while still others just straight-up enjoy their emojis. But that topic in itself is a complete and whole other can of worms to dive into for another time.  

Whatever way people choose to express themselves through the stylistic way in which they type online, I find it interesting and potentially full of personal meaning. Of course, it could just be a trivial part of our society that currently does not need recognition at all. Regardless, personally, I found the texting phenomena to be a genuinely interesting look into the daily evolution of the digital world and the conduct and codes that people create around language. 

Can We Really Trust Biden’s Climate Plan?

By Robert Artiga-Valencia

In July 2020, former Vice President and current Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his campaign’s ambitious climate change solution plan to the public. This plan includes a sweeping range of new policies designed to rid carbon from the energy sector by 2035 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to PolitiFact. This is a step forward from the plan he proposed in 2019 at the beginning of the campaign trail – the plan now provides $300 million more for the effort, according to the New York Times, and accelerates the time table for net-zero emissions.

Various liberal interest groups and political actors have applauded Biden’s new plan, as it seems to be a shift toward more serious attitudes about the ongoing climate crisis. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activism group, tweeted restrained support for Biden’s plan – celebrating the climate movement’s policy gains, but acknowledging that more work needs to be done in order to reverse the current course. 

President Trump and other conservatives have blasted the plan as “far-left,” claiming that its $2 trillion price tag is far too much for the economy to bear. Trump even went so far as to imply that Biden’s plan was “worse” than the green economic policies offered by the Bernie Sanders campaign.

But the political show of celebration and condemnation from the center-left and center-right seem to omit crucial details of Biden’s campaign. While Biden has claimed he will not accept donations from the fossil fuel industry, which is the driving institution behind the climate crisis, he has not explicitly targeted or even named fossil fuels as the subject of his proposals. 

In fact, the Biden campaign accepts help from the likes of political figures such as Ernest Moniz and Brian Deese – veteran advisers of the Obama administration’s energy policies, according to The Intercept.  Moniz chairs Southern Company, a natural gas utility found to contribute to 21% of the US’s carbon emissions with a handful of other companies that sued the Obama administration over profit-cutting environmental policies. Brian Deese, a former Obama aide, works for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset-management firm. BlackRock is also the single largest investor in the fossil fuel industry, according to Blackrocksbigproblem.com.

With people such as these on the Biden campaign, how sure can we be that, if elected, he will actually follow through on his “radical” plans for the climate? I think that we cannot be sure. We can only be sure that Biden, or anyone, will do something about the climate if we, the youth and the future of this country, push them to. In the coming years, a Biden administration will have to choose between corporate profits and the future of America’s youth. With corporate actors already taking adviser roles on the campaign, I fear that their choice may already be made – plan or no plan.

Commitment March Takes Place in D.C. 57 Years After Civil Rights March on Washington

By Hannah Yale

On Friday, August 28, thousands of protesters gathered peacefully at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to demand racial justice and lasting reforms within American institutions with a track record of racial discrimination and profiling. Fifty-seven years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream of racial equality and Black prosperity at the 1963 March on Washington, Americans must still march against police brutality and the violent attacks on people of color that occur in the U.S. every day. 

Friday’s event formally titled the Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks, referred to the police-killing of George Floyd on May 25. The protest mentioned and honored other recent victims of police-instigated murders, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Jacob Blake,  Wisconsin police shot Blake, a 29-year old Black man, seven times in the back  on August 23. He suffered paralysis from his injuries.  The police officer who fired on Blake, Rusten Sheskey, has not been charged nor removed from the force. 

Several family members of those being honored at the Commitment March participated as guest speakers along with Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King, III. Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network, spoke about the importance of following protests with direct legislative action. “Demonstration without legislation will not lead to change,” he said. Rev. Sharpton specifically touched on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R.7120) which has already been passed by the House of Representatives but has yet to be voted on in the Senate. If signed into law, H.R.7120 would implement a wide range of reforms in the American policing system, including requiring police officers to receive training on implicit bias and racial profiling, creating the National Police Misconduct Registry to compile data on police complaints and misconduct across the nation, and limiting qualified immunity as a defense to liability in instances of excessive force. Rev. Sharpton also stressed the cruciality of voting in the upcoming election, declaring passionately “If we gotta march every day, if we gotta vote every day, we will get your knee off our neck. Enough is enough.”

Martin Luther King III, who also spoke about the urgency of voting and the continuing struggle of voter suppression, gave the microphone over to his daughter to briefly address the crowd. Twelve-year-old Yolanda Renee King, who made her own emergence into activism with the March for Our Lives in 2018, spoke about the power of the young generation. “We are going to be the generation that dismantles systemic racism once and for all, now and forever. We are going to be the generation that calls a halt to police brutality and gun violence, once and for all, now and forever. We are going to be the generation that reserves climate change and saves our planet, once and for all, now and forever. And we are going to be the generation that ends poverty here in America, the wealthiest nation on earth, once and for all, now and forever,” she said. “We are the great gems of our grandparents, great-grandparents and all our ancestors. We stand and march for love, and we will fulfill my grandfather’s dream.”

Natural Disasters Ravage the US From West to East Coast

By Charlotte Mac Kay

The U.S. suffered a summer of massive storm damage, with natural disasters roaming across the country from West to East coast. From wind storms and wildfires to hurricanes, the damage caused by natural disasters over the summer was substantial.

On the East Coast, two hurricanes touched down in the same month. Hurricane Isias struck the U.S. after passing through the Bahamas on August 1, where it followed the coast up through the Northeast. According to the National Hurricane Center, it touched down in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, moving with sustained winds up to 85 miles per hour. The hurricane put thousands of homes out of power and resulted in flooding damage throughout the East Coast, killing at least six from correlated wind and water damage according to the AP News and World Report.

It was closely followed by the stronger Category 4  Hurricane Laura, which landed on the border of Louisiana and Texas in late August, with 150 mph winds churning up waves up to 15 feet high, according to AP News and World report. AIR Worldwide, a disaster modeling firm, estimated that the property damage caused by the storm may exceed $8 billion.

Laura wiped out power infrastructure, utility access and water systems for over 260,000 homes, resulting in approximately 11 thousand people requesting shelter from the state after damage to property and water supplies. The storm killed upwards of 20 people and was compared to the devastating 2005 Hurricane Rita by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He called it  “the strongest storm to ever hit Louisiana,” saying that the state has a “long road” forward to recovery as they set about rebuilding damaged homes and returning utilities and power to their full capacity.

As Laura wrecked the Southeast, wildfires roared through Northern California. The fires were sparked mid-August from a series of lightning strikes that set dry forest ablaze, according to the Californian Fire Commission. Two of the blazes, the Santa Clara Unit (SCU) and Lake-Napa Unit (LNU) Lightning Complexes, are the second and third largest fires in California history. The SCU Complex continues to burn across 391,578 acres of land and the LNU Lightning Complex covers 375,209 acres. As of early September, around 80% of both fires are contained. The Californian Fire Company continues to battle with the fires in “extreme conditions,” according to a press conference held by Californian Governor Newsom. The wildfires displaced tens of thousands of residents, destroyed 2,500 buildings, and took a confirmed seven lives, according to a report from Reuters.

Though the frequency and extent of natural disasters this year is so far record-breaking, forecasts predict that more is to come. For the second time in history, AccuWeather predicts that named storms will exceed the number of letters in the alphabet. The National Hurricane Center says they are “still monitoring four systems,” two of which have significant “chances of development.”
As states across the country work to rebuild and recover from their relative natural disasters, the displacement of thousands is complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Governors of Louisiana and California both expressed concern about the potential increased spread of the novel coronavirus. “We know that every time people are moving around, coming into contact with one another, the transmission of the virus increases. So we’re really concerned about that,” Governor Edwards said in an interview in which he expressed concerns of a future Covid-19 spike, despite the state’s lowering Covid-19 case numbers. 

An Experience Cut Short: Universities and Colleges That Have Sent Home Their Students So Far

By Corine Hwang

At the beginning of March, several universities and colleges sent home their students due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At St. Mary’s, the college originally planned two weeks of online instruction after spring break. However, due to the rising number of cases in Maryland, the college decided to continue online learning for the remainder of the spring semester.

This past summer break has allowed schools all around the country to figure out how fall semesters will operate. Many have planned for students to come back on campus and have required those who want to come back to submit negative COVID results. However, a handful of institutions have already reported a high number of confirmed cases on their respective campuses and therefore have decided to send their students home, some not even two weeks into their semester.

One of the first was the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. According to the Washington Post, the university reported that of 954 people tested, 130 tested positive. Just this past week, 470 new cases were reported. The New York Times further stated that when 5,800 students lived on campus, about 350 of the students were in quarantine. They sent their students home just one week after starting their semester. 

Other public North Carolina institutions have also shut down their residence halls. North Carolina State University and East Carolina University are among those schools. The News & Observer stated that North Carolina State reported 546 cases since March. Less than a week after all undergraduates moved in, the school sent their students home. According to their official website, East Carolina had over 465 students tested positive in the week of August 31. The News & Observer also reported that at the beginning of August, over 20 parties were reported and shut down, one having over 400 people.

CNN reported last week that Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland sent their students home  after testing 627 people, and of those, 55 were positive. The school is issuing refunds and allowing certain students with special circumstances to stay on campus.

Before these reopenings, many schools implemented new guidelines on social distancing and restrictions on parties and other large gatherings. However, schools have reported that there have been functions that do not adhere to coronavirus safety protocols instated by the school and state, as well as having concerns over off-campus gatherings. These have been reported to be major causes in large spikes of positive cases. 

Many other schools have been reporting alarming amounts of new cases. University of Notre Dame, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Central Florida, University of Georgia, and Auburn University are just a few that have all reported high rates of positive tests.

Although UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, East Carolina University, and Towson University are the schools that have temporarily shut down their campuses and moved to all remote learning so far, more cases seem to be rising in other schools and in other states. This makes it a definite possibility that more shutdowns are to come.