Three Die in French Terror Attack

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

At a church in Nice, France, three lives were tragically lost by a reportedly Islamic terrorist on Oct. 29. In light of this tragedy, France is taking some controversial countermeasures to ensure their people are protected. 

The attack took place at the Notre-Dame basilica at 8:30 a.m. by a man wielding a knife. The victims were an older woman who was reportedly beheaded, a member of staff, and another woman who successfully fled the building but succumbed to her injuries later, The Guardian reports. A witness raised the alarm, and the police arrived at approximately 9:00 a.m. 

Jean-Francois Ricard, an anti-terrorist prosecutor, reports that the suspect was successfully apprehended. This suspect, Brahim Aioussaoi, is a Tusnian national who arrived in the country less than a month prior to the attack. Police are reviewing CCTV footage to better track his actions before the attack. 

David-Oliver Reverdy, a member of the union Alliance Police Nationale, expressed that law enforcement agents were operating under a “heightened terrorist threat,” but they lacked the manpower to watch everywhere at once. Reverdy applauded police actions, particularly that they arrived “quickly at the scene and were able to neutralize the individual before he could cause any further injuries or deaths.” In fact, The Guardian found there were two additional, unused knives inside the church. 

The Nice Mayor, Christian Estrosi, explained to ABC News that Aioussaoi “repeated endlessly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greatest).” The French Council of the Muslim Faith denounced the attackers. They went so far as to ask believers over Twitter to forgo their Mawlid celebrations, which recognize Muhammad’s birth,  as a “sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”

The Washington Post reported two other attacks that occurred on the same day, one elsewhere within France and another in Saudi Arabia. In Montfavet, France, a man used a handgun to threaten police officers and was shot. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a guard watching the French consulate was attacked. He was placed in the hospital, where his life was not in danger, while the attacker was arrested. 

Estrosi drew a parallel also to the murder of Samuel Paty, a history teacher at a secondary school who showed his class cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad. Images of Muhammad are incredibly offensive to Muslims, and in response to this, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov killed him. Reportedly, two of Paty’s students received $355 to identify him as the killer. BBC reports that these students, as well as three of Anzorov’s friends and a man named Brahim C were charged by police in response to their actions. 

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, declared that the attacks were against “the values which are ours: freedom, for the possibility on our soil to believe freely and not to give in to any spirit of terror.” 3,000 troops were initially charged with protecting churches and schools across the county, but The Washington Post found Macron increased this number to 7,000 in light of the attacks. 

The French terrorist threat level has risen to the level in 2015-2016. According to Hugh Schofield, this is likely due to Paty’s incident in particular. The idea that the victim was “selected for murder” in a premeditated assault was frightening, and Macron’s “robust defence of secularism” at the memorial served only to further incense those already inclined to violence. 

Besides the controversial nature of the cartoons, Macron’s reaction has also seen mixed results, with Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, calling for a boycott of the nation’s goods. When speaking to BBC, Macron expressed his desire to enact harsher laws in opposition to “Islamic separatism.” He denounced the creation of a “counter-society,” which he would prevent through stricter oversight in schools and mosques. He believes that some community events are simply a “pretext to teach principles that do not conform to the laws of the republic.”

France has principles of separation of church and state, and some believe this violates that goal. In light of his promises, including the restriction of home-schooling, human rights activist Yasser Louati expressed over Twitter that “The repression of Muslims has been a threat, now it is a promise.” Macron’s assertion to The Guardian makes it clear that he is not changing his mind any time soon: “Enough is enough … we have to remove this Islamo-fascism from our country.”

Tasmanian Devil Returns to Australian Mainland After 3,000 Years

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

The Tasmanian devil, popularized in Looney Tunes, is a well known Australian marsupial. However, what may be less known is that this mammal spent the last 3,000 years isolated from the mainland, and has just been reintroduced. 

In March of 2020, Aussie Ark released 15 Tasmanian devils into a large preserve in mainland Australia. On Sept. 10, after it became clear the devils were adapting to their new habitat, Aussie Ark introduced 11 more to the population. More recently, on Oct. 5 and Oct.11 Tasmanian devils and six other mammal species joined them, with the hope to increase this number by 40 devils in the next two years.  These additional species are the Eastern quoll, Brush-tail rock wallabies, Rufous bettong, long-nosed potoroo, parma wallabies, and southern brown bandicoots. 

The 988-acre enclosure will permit these species to forage and roam in a similar manner as in the wild. The species will also be protected from “non-native predators” and “disease, feral pests, noxious weeds and fire,” Aussie Ark Curator, Hayley Shute, explains. 

While some may call this level of protection overkill, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List ranked Tasmanian devils as “endangered.” As an additional precaution, National Geographic reports, Aussie Ark equipped the devils with radio collars and remote cameras to more easily track them. They also planted “kangaroo carcasses for food” to start the population off strong. 

Tasmanian devils initially disappeared from the mainland after 40,000 years due to a variety of factors. These include the arrival of the dingo, a wild dog, the European introduction of foxes, Aboriginal populations, and a change in the climate. Dingoes and foxes hunted small mammals, the latter even when they did not need to feed. This impact can easily be seen today. Shute noted that it is “rare to see a small mammal or marsupial around.” 

Devils have declined sharply in number since 1996 due to devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), which has a mortality rate of almost 100%. Their total population has decreased from 300,000 to 25,000 in total. While “one of only three transmissible cancers,” the disease spreads easily, as, to display aggression, the devils “[bite] each other’s faces,” ABC News reports. In response to this, devil genomes are changing, shining an optimistic light that the species may yet survive. 

Aussie Ark has been working to preserve animal populations in Australia. Since 2011, they saw an increase in membership from 44 to over 200. With Tasmanian devils, in particular, they have been struggling against DFTD for 10 years. In this time, they bred an “insurance population” of devils with 95% of the favorable genetics in the species. This is to preserve the species in case they die out in the wild. Another project was to drive the dingos from Barrington Tops, Australia, to allow the devils to survive in their new habitat.  

Tim Faulkner, Aussie Ark president, hopes the Tasmanian devils will “stabilize the continent’s ecosystems against invaders,” reports National Geographic. David Hamilton, a devil expert, has concerns about potential unintended consequences to the reintroduction of the small mammals. He referenced the deaths of short-tailed shearwater colonies when devils were introduced to Maria Island. 

The small mammal species are vital to the survival of the ecosystem. In particular, Faulkner says, “a bandicoot turns over an elephant’s [weight] of soil each year,” with Shute adding that “without them, the entire landscape changes!” Other species disperse seeds and assist the decomposition of organic matter. Tasmanian devils are “the world’s largest carnivorous marsupials,” as said by CNN, and can control populations of foxes as well as feral cats. 

In light of this recent success, and with optimism for future releases, Faulkner expressed that “in 100 years, we are going to be looking back at this day as the day that set in motion the ecological restoration of an entire country.”

Diversity Room Hosts Haunted Trail for Halloween

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

COVID-19 has caused cancellations throughout 2020, and Halloween has been no exception. In light of so few public events, Shanelle Fleet (‘22) and Chyna Landon (‘22), two students, took it upon themselves to create their own socially distanced Halloween event. They settled on a haunted trail event that would allow students to enjoy Halloween-themed festivities while also adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Leading up to the event, Fleet and Landon made posts on the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) diversity page and hung flyers to advertise their Haunted Trail to the SMCM community. In addition to advertising to potential attendees, the two needed to recruit actors. Landon explained that recruitment was done through “word of mouth,” leading to a total of 15 volunteers. 

The diversity room typically hosts discussions on gender, race, and sexuality, with this event being their first big program. The inspiration for this particular event seemed to come from Landon, who expressed a great interest in all sorts of haunted houses and trails. A different haunted house was planned last year, and that cancellation only served to fuel her motivation. The diversity room paid for all masks and props, allowing the public to attend free of charge. 

The event begins at 8 p.m. on Halloween and concludes at midnight. Fleet explained the planned layout was a trail leading through the Queen Anne woods, which Landon noted would be “scarier than normal.” Actors would be hiding at various points in the pathway wearing scary masks and costumes, hidden yet close enough to send chills down the spine. 

Landon herself would be responsible for overseeing the event. Before it started, she would check all the actors’ masks and costumes and ensure they were in their proper places. To contribute to the atmosphere, Landon also described the use of a speaker to broadcast ambient thematically-appropriate sounds, as well as hanging more traditional decorations. 

To those concerned about safety, Landon and Fleet had only reassuring things to say. All actors will wear masks that fit both COVID-19  guidelines as well as the spooky theme. They will be spread far enough apart from each other as well as guests to avoid inadvertent infection. Guests will also be spaced out, with small groups permitted to travel together and only a set number allowed in the trail at once. 

While the standard Halloween events, such as Hallowgreens, typical haunted houses or pumpkin patches may not be available or running like they typically would, Fleet and Landon have planned an event in the hopes of still eliciting that same feeling of Halloween joy. In more humble words, they say that they want to “just  provide something fun to do.”

Klepper Presents “Laughing to the Polls” Lecture to Over 1,200

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

The Mark Twain Lecture Series is a fixture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), even though it has only been around for 14 years. On Oct. 13, Jordan Klepper called in over Zoom to discuss Twain, modern politics and the nature of humor. 

Dr. Ben Click, a professor of English at SMCM, founded and organized the Mark Twain Lecture Series. From the beginning, he says, his goal has been “to educate people about the power and seriousness of humor.” To this end, he selects speakers that can “[bring] something new to St. Mary’s.” In particular, Klepper was selected due to his abilities “as a thinker and as an improvisational artist,” and due to his presence “on the front lines of the political landscape.” 

The event began at 7:40 p.m. with an introduction by SMCM president Tuajuanda Jordan. She described Twain as a “novelist, philosopher, humorist, [and] intellectual,” praising his work and acknowledging that “no matter where you stand politically […] we all can use a little levity.” She then introduced Click, who gave his own introduction of the event. 

Click added, with some amusement, that “Mark Twain probably would have caught covid, and maybe died from it.” He then cited a relevant historical example. Twain dearly wanted to see The Acropolis, but as disease was afoot, he was told to quarantine on a boat for a period of time before he could enter Greece. This, of course, did nothing to dissuade him, and with a few other men, he snuck into the country to get a peek anyway. With Twain’s character thus demonstrated, Click turned the mic over to Klepper.  

A common complaint is that comedy is becoming too political. However, Klepper explains that humor is not a “monolith,” it is “reading the room.” Like it or not, there is a demand for this sort of entertainment. More than that, Klepper explains that “the role of comedy isn’t to fight injustice, but in the times we’re living in, I don’t know what else you’d do with it.” He expressed his purpose as providing important information to a broader audience that journalists would not be able to reach. 

Klepper discussed a variety of issues, but one prominent question he asked was “is Trump good for comedy?” to which he replied “no, not at all.” Klepper found himself “exhausted by the news cycle,” as so often, it was the same content on repeat. He called Trump the “elephant in the room” that could not be avoided. Programs like The Daily Show are structured around satire, which Klepper described as “show[ing] you the bullshit through action.” Through satire, he tries to “out-crazy the news cycle.” This he reported to be a challenge when facing crazy headlines, which he readily attributed to Trump, noting that if Biden won the election, he could “take half the year off.”

His use of satire included visiting Trump rallies to speak to the participants. Klepper was asked if he believed this sort of content furthered the polarization of our nation, and he replied with clear thought and concern. He stated he didn’t want to “amplify something,” and always tried to “punch up” in his criticism — that is, satirize what is more powerful than himself. He went to events to learn about the voter base supporting Trump, as their opinions and political desires impact Trump’s actions. 

After the event, Click was proud to announce an audience of “1,200 registered”, meaning “probably two to three times” that number actually watched. He was disappointed to “lose the energy of the live crowd,” noting that “the students and the community really bring a lot to the gym!” That said, he also said that a benefit to streaming over Zoom was that “anyone from the globe could watch.” After all, Click made a point of emphasizing that this series is not just for SMCM students — it is for “the community, too.”

Dr. Dorainne Green’s Recent Psychology Lecture: First of Four

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

In the interest of educating the St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) student body, the psychology department has announced a series of psychology lectures themed around intervention science. Dr. Gili Freedman, Assistant Professor of Psychology, was able to elaborate on the decision-making process as well as the goal of this series. 

The full title of the theme is “Intervention Science: Harnessing Psychology to Address Oppressive Systems.” The lectures are meant to discuss, as Freedman put it, “long-standing structural inequities in this country” that have been brought into the spotlight by both “racism and COVID-19.” Freedman hopes this series will help students understand such topics with a psychological perspective and consider how to address them. 

Each speaker was selected by the Psychology Lecture Series Committee. In particular, Freedman said, they searched for individuals “doing important, rigorous research” on “oppressive systems.” In order to best provide different perspectives, the speakers were chosen from different psychological subfields, such as social psychology and clinical psychology. These subfields will serve as more specific lenses through which the public can explore the same issue. Each of the speakers chose their own topic within the general theme. 

Freedman reported that the lecture themes vary greatly from year to year, but the point is always how “psychological science can be leveraged to foster social change” or to help the community “understand real world problems.” These have historically done very well in terms of attendance, and Freedman is optimistic “that the Zoom platform will allow more community members than usual to attend” because of the increased flexibility of a digital medium. 

The first lecture was given by Dr. Dorainne Green of Indiana University at Bloomington on Sept. 30. Green presented to a crowd of 61. In her talk, she discussed the different negative emotional and physiological responses to discrimination. The latter includes heightened blood pressure and lessened sleep quantity and quality.

Green expressed that “emotion regulation strategies can either attenuate or exacerbate these adverse negative outcomes”— in other words, that how individuals respond to discrimination can impact the severity of their symptoms. To this end, Green conducted a series of experiments to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages associated with different response tactics. For example, some people respond to stigma with “self-immersion,” where subjects relive an experience, and some with “self-distancing,” where an experience is viewed as though it happened to someone else. 

To measure the difference, Green conducted a variety of tests. To measure the difference between the two tactics, she assigned her subjects to either self-immerse or self-distance when discussing their negative experiences. She also administered a Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM), before and after the discussion, so subjects could measure their happiness. To measure physiological changes, she monitored blood pressure. Finally, she also asked subjects to self-report their drive for activism before and after the discussion. 

Based on the data, Green concluded that self-immersion led to greater negative feelings and physiological outcomes but a higher drive to enact social change, while self-distancing led to the opposite. Green also expressed that many people didn’t want to try self-distancing. She remarked that “experiences are tied to social identity,” which may have led to reluctance in the subjects to separate themselves from these interactions. 

Green’s lecture was only the first in a series of four. Each talk is expected to run for 45 minutes with an additional 15 minutes for questions from the audience. The schedule and Zoom links for these lectures are on InsideSMCM, with the next one taking place on Oct. 23.

Engaging New Platform

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

The student body was recently notified of SMCM’s adoption of a new program, Campus Labs Engage. Andre Richet, the Coordinator of Student Engagement, discussed the reasoning behind this decision as well as his hopes for the future of student involvement. 

Richet was familiar with Campus Labs from his time at The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. When he first got involved at SMCM, he quickly realized the need for “an engagement software platform that takes the legwork off students.” SMCM agreed and approved the purchase. This included a formal bidding process with three distinct options, but in the end, Engage had the best features for the cost. As Richet jokingly remarked, “different colored backgrounds aren’t worth 40k.”

Richet pushed for Engage based on the flaws he perceived of InsideSMCM. He described how it is “easy to not notice certain things,” like scholarships or grants in an email filled with text for events not all students will care about. Engage is tailored to the individual student, so updates of relevance will be easier to spot. 

In particular, Engage is meant to help with activities specifically for student organizations, as outlined in their promotional video. Prospective club members can RSVP and save events to their calendar, as well as learn the names of who to contact for more information. On the management side, club leaders will be able to share documents and record who attended specific events, even noting a distinction between “excused” and ‘absent” club members. 

InsideSMCM will still exist, but to a different extent. Students will still rely on that program for messaging outside of student activities, such as general announcements. They will not have to worry about daily emails and will be able to check it more on their own time.  Richet hopes that students will enjoy the new program and find it easier to use than the old system. There’s a tutorial video on the Engage webpage, but if students have any issues they can always reach out to him at mailto:ajrichet@smcm.edu or 240-895-4209.

Interim VP of Student Affairs Discusses Plans at SMCM

After Leonard Brown, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs, left St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), his position was split into two. Taking the place of Dean Brown are Derek Young, Interim Dean of Students, and Shana Meyer, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs. 

Derek Young

As Meyer explains it, she and Young are responsible for “a lot of administrative work.” She in particular is tasked with overseeing the Wellness Center, Public Safety, Residential Life and counseling. All of this, said Meyer, is to “focus on student needs and conduct,” which she described as “most important.” However, the future responsibilities of these positions have not yet been determined. Meyer went on to say that we will just have to see how it all “shakes out.” 

Meyer and Young have high hopes for this year. They are rolling out Campus Labs Engage for students, a program that can be accessed in one’s browser as well as in the app store by the name “CORQ.” Club leaders have been tasked with inputting information about their extracurriculars so when it is finally opened up to the campus community, students can use it to browse and schedule different club activities. While the school is placed under COVID-19 guidelines, communication becomes far more difficult, and this app, Young believes, will help with planning and outreach. 

Shana Meyer

Meyer also intends to increase collaboration with other departments. In particular, she is excited to work with the newly appointed Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Kelsey Bush, and the Director of Public Safety, Tressa Setlak. This cooperation can benefit the school in multiple ways, but one of the biggest issues Meyer wants to handle is COVID-19 policy. She is impressed with how well students are following regulations, and acknowledges that these regulations will not be around forever. She referred to SMCM’s previous work with a Student Advisory Committee, which helped to create the current policies. Meyer intends to put this to use again “as a sounding board” to try out new ideas in the future. 

Meyer regrets that she has not “gotten the full picture of campus,” as many student activities are restricted to Zoom. Last weekend, she said, she began to see “more students walking around,” so she is optimistic about more in-person involvement. She views it as a result of fear– students want to be here, but they are also scared. Meyer plans to increase the number of available programs for students in hopes of eliciting further activity, with a particular emphasis on the Student Government Association. 

Finally, Meyer wanted to leave the student body a note of reassurance. She found there were feelings of mistrust between students and administration, which disheartened her. She stressed that admins have “[students’] best interests at heart,” and that she wanted to build a positive relationship between the two groups. Even her emails, she says, are sent with the intention of “increasing transparency” for the campus community. 
To this end, Meyer (mailto:slmeyer@smcm.edu and 240-895-4208) and Young (mailto:dmyoung@smcm.edu and 240-895-4207) have opened themselves up to speak to students about any and all concerns they may have. Both are moving about campus regularly, so the best way to get in touch may be to call or email. Or, as Young suggests, if you see him, “just stop [him] and say hi.”

Real Noose or Just Rumor?

Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

On Sept. 4, the student body received an email from Shanna Meyer, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, referencing a potential noose sighting in the woods on south campus near Prince George (PG) Resident Hall. This caused an uproar– one that turned to confusion on Sept. 9, as another email materialized, this one revealing the noose had never been. This left many St. Mary’s College of Maryland students wondering what happened.

The investigation began at 12:15 a.m. on Sept. 2, when Campus Security received a report from Coach Christopher Harney after  a student had informed him of a noose in the woods behind PG. At 12:30 a.m. that same morning, Coach Harney and Sgt. Wendell Wade investigated the woods themselves, but due to the darkness and mud, they considered the route impassable and decided to return the next morning. 

At 7:15 a.m. on Sept. 2, Sgt. Nataisha Young and Officer Mary Bowles worked together to investigate the woods. At 9:00 a.m. they were joined by Captain and Assistant Director Christopher Coons, who accompanied them based on his greater knowledge of the area. In these trips, the security personnel trekked the entire area from PG to Route 5 to the library, backtracking their steps to ensure every inch of ground was covered. 

Young, Bowles and Coons documented and photographed their findings, which indicated a far more innocuous explanation than was initially perceived. The three found what was known to be a gathering site for students–complete with a collection of tables, chairs, and tarps. The officers also found several ropes, some on the ground and some tied to trees, which had historically been used to hang tarps and section off the area. One of these ropes was “positively identified” by the initial reporter as what they had believed to be a noose the night of the incident. Based on the evidence and a follow-up interview with the initial reporter, Campus Security produced a formal report on the event. 

Meyer described her goal throughout this process as ensuring the“safety and health of the community.” In pursuit of her “goal of transparency,” when Campus Security alerted her to the tip of a potential noose, she made this knowledge public. Her email reads that Campus Security found ropes “that were perceived to be nooses”– neither confirmation nor denial of the potentially malicious nature of these ropes, as she herself did not know. This email also included links to different school-sponsored programs about race. 

When Student Affairs received the full report from Campus Security, they sent an email to update students on the results of the investigation, informing them that what was found in the woods was not a noose. However, Meyer did not consider this to mean the administration’s efforts were pointless. The newly appointed Interim Chief Diversity Officer, Kelsey Bush, explained that “perception is reality,” elaborating that perceptions, even false, can impact people as severely as something real. To illustrate this, he recalled a case as a student where people at a party had built a bonfire near a large cross–a benign act that he noted could come across as much worse.  

Bush and Meyer agreed that these perceptions can create “situations that we don’t want, especially right now, in the climate we’re in,” as Bush phrased it. He said he did not want “to tear the house down” in his position, he simply wanted to provide help where he could. Meyer added that “we all need grace”–so neither she nor Bush are asking for anything extraordinary, just care and concern for the members of our community. 

When speaking to Tressa Setlak, Director of Campus Security, and asking about the history of SMCM in relation to instances like this, her reply was optimistic. It has not been “ very often” that they received reports of racial intolerance. She referenced a past case in which hateful messages were being distributed in the area, but on campus it did not become a substantial issue. It was “very short-lived,” but throughout the duration, the office resolved to be “extra diligent” to keep the community clean.

District Court Overturns “The Paramount Decrees” over 70 Years Later

By Nicholas Ashenfelter

In the Supreme Court case United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., the Department of Justice (DOJ) took on eight corporations in the entertainment industry for “[conspiring] to control the motion picture industry,” as stated on the DOJ website. On Aug 7, 2020, the resulting decrees were repealed, causing change for the entertainment industry. 

The DOJ filed their accusations of conspiracy in 1938, and in 1948 the Supreme Court found these claims to have merit. They released “The Paramount Decrees” in an effort to remove monopolistic practices. Each decree was settled individually for each corporation, meaning that the regulations that applied to one may not apply to the others, and any new businesses would not have such restrictions.The varying practices that were outlawed included “block booking […], circuit dealing […], resale price maintenance […], and granting overboard clearances.” 

In addition, five of the defendants owned movie theaters as well as movie distribution companies, and these companies were forced to split themselves or sell off some of their assets. To engage in these practices again, they would need court approval. Over the 70 years since this legislation was filed, the film industry has grown with the increased capability to show movies. This is due to increases in the number of movie theaters, number of screens per theater, and the advent of streaming services. “As a consequence of all these changes, the DOJ decided to reevaluate the legislation they had fought to enact.

On Nov 22, 2019, the DOJ filed to remove “The Paramount Decrees.” The DOJ’s Antitrust Division stated that their efforts “undid the effects of that conspiracy on the marketplace” in reference to the monopolistic behavior their original brief addressed. However, they now believe these policies “may actually harm American consumers,” in the words of Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who said this legislation could interfere with the “innovative business models” corporations could otherwise implement. This claim was found to have merit by a federal judge in New York, who officially overruled “The Paramount Decrees” on Aug 7, 2020. 

Analisa Torres, the District Court Judge responsible for the verdict, explained her reasoning. She said it was “unlikely that the remaining Defendants would collude to […] limit their film distribution to a select group of theaters, and found that “termination [was] in the public interest. In addition, she noted that streaming services like Netflix weren’t limited by these decrees- nor were any major players in the film industry that emerged after 1948. Different companies in the same industry faced different limitations, and it was this imbalance that Torres sought to remedy through her ruling. 

The Independent Cinema Alliance (ICA) disagreed with Torres’ assessment. On Jan 17 of 2020, shortly after the Department of Justice proposed the removal of “The Paramount Decrees,” the ICA argued in a formal brief that they should remain, describing the DOJ’s work as having “a breezy and inadequate factual inquiry and literally no meaningful investigation.” In particular, they expressed concern over more major players entering the film industry, such as Amazon, that could take advantage of smaller producers.  

G. Kendrick Macdowell, legal counsel of the ICA, explained how without the Decrees, independent studios would be forced to prove monopolistic behavior on their own- a difficult endeavor. He described this as the DOJ “shifting the burden” away from themselves. Only time will tell how much of this concern is warranted, but Macdowell cautions that such a change may “tempt big players into the kinds of predations that are difficult to detect and prohibitively expensive to litigate.”

Title IX Office at SMCM Discusses Recent Changes

By: Nicholas Ashenfelter

It is no secret that there have been recent changes to the Title IX regulations, but there is some uncertainty over what exactly these changes entail. On August 28, Michael Dunn, the Director of Title IX Compliance and Training, and Helen Ann Lawless, the Title IX Investigator/Prevention Specialist hosted a Title IX Community Meeting via Zoom. Here they were able to shed some light on the details of the new policies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) and across the country. These regulations were released on May 6 of this year and implemented on Aug. 14. 

President Donald Trump’s administration put the 2020 guidelines into effect by changing the federal regulations surrounding Title IX. The previous administration had simply suggested guidelines through the use of a “Dear Colleague” letter. The key difference here is permanence. If a future leader wishes to challenge these regulations, they will have to go through the same process as the Trump administration. This includes a “notice and comment” period, in which every single criticism must be considered. In this case, there were over 124,000 criticisms. 

These new regulations primarily slimmed down what was covered by the Title IX rules, including “narrowing the definition of sexual harassment,” as reported by Lawless. The Department of Education (ED) defines sexual harassment as “any instance of quid pro quo harassment by a school’s employee; any unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal educational access; and any instance of sexual assault […], dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking.” 

Under the previous guidelines, SMCM would pursue action for students who were victims of sexual violence off school grounds; however, the new regulations do not require enforcement of this– only “at houses owned or under the control of school-sanctioned fraternities and sororities,” as explained by the ED. Mandatory reporters are similarly fewer in number. Dunn reported that the text now reads that “officials with authority” must report events, a far cry from the previous guidelines that included everyone from the SMCM President to Orientation Leaders. Dunn said the ED’s motivation for these changes was an effort to “correct the pendulum that Obama swung” based on their concerns that too little emphasis was placed on the rights of the accused.  

Before anyone begins jotting these new rules down, it is worth noting that Lawless and Dunn are doing their best to preserve the old guidelines, while respecting the new regulations. The wording is that schools “may” act as outlined; despite the force of law behind these regulations, there is a degree of freedom in their application. Dunn and Lawless expressed concern that changes to legislation could come with every new administration, which could lead to confusion on the nature of Title IX policies. To remedy this, they intend to keep as much as possible about Title IX the same from year to year, no matter who enters the Oval Office. Another consistency worth noting is that “the definition of consent is unchanged” by the new regulations– a point emphasized by both Dunn and Lawless. 

One major procedural change for SMCM is what happens after a report is filed. Under the old regulations, for a formal investigation, Lawless and one other staff member would conduct an investigation to determine if there was evidence of a policy violation. Under the new regulations, both accuser and accused are allowed “an advisor, and the right to submit, challenge, and cross-examine evidence at a live hearing”–a substantial change from the old guidelines. In anticipation of potential emotional strain, the new regulations also “[shield] survivors from having to come face-to-face with the accused during a hearing and from answering questions posed personally by the accused.”

In addition to the ED’s requirements, SMCM and the state of Maryland have both provided assistance for students. Schools are permitted “to conduct Title IX investigations and hearings remotely,” as stated by the ED, so SMCM is prepared to run hearings, including cross-examinations, over Zoom. This way, accusers and the accused do not have to be in the same room. Maryland has stepped up to ease the financial burden by providing funds to help obtain legal counsel. This will ensure all students can be fairly represented, regardless of income. Most importantly, survivors can always elect to avoid the formal investigation process. 


Dunn expressed regret that the time frame before implementation of these regulations “didn’t allow for more student or community response,” and said that he wants feedback, which students and faculty may provide through email. So far, Dunn and Lawless have had two community meetings in May and two in August, and hope to have more as the year continues. In addition, one can contact individual members of staff as well as read the Title IX information at mailto:titleix@smcm.edu or read the new Title IX information on the website at https://www.smcm.edu/title-ix/. As SMCM gets used to the Title IX changes, Dunn has only one piece of advice– “stay tuned and buckle up!”