Club Feature: Meet Blaze step team!

Eastern’s step team Blaze, like many of the dance clubs,  has had an extra long hiatus than most other clubs on campus due to the recent pandemic.

The Blaze Step Team is a student organization which encourages participation, raises student morale, and enthusiasm, all through the art of step-dancing. 

The process of joining Blaze Step Team involves an audition process, and requires a genuine interest in commitment to the team. 

Blaze Step Team has been a club for almost 7 years at Eastern, refreshing each year with more members and more shining faces on the team. The club is run by three leaders, Senior Psychology major and Club President Tia Walters, Senior Psychology major and Captain Marissa Mack, and Senior Psychology major and club Vice President Kysha Nyambura

Blaze works to showcase the art of step both on and off campus, they also engage in team bondings, host mental health check-ins for members and even participate in competitions. 

“Our sole purpose is to contribute to the growing diversity element of the campus. Blaze intends to promote school spirit through steps in order to enrich the lives of upcoming Eastern University students.” said Blaze Leadership. “We strive to support, encourage, motivate, and inspire one another. The team contributes to the EU community by offering diversity, mentorship, and an exciting form of dance, bringing innovative experiences onto campus.” 

Blaze has five goals they hope to achieve through this current school year: creating a family for their members on campus; gaining more general recognition and acknowledgment from Eastern; being able to perform on and off campus; hosting successful fundraising for the club; and hosting a big step show in the spring that students will be able to attend and enjoy.

If you’re unsure if Blaze is the club for you, “Blaze is open to any and everybody! We will host additional auditions in the Spring. It doesn’t matter who you are or if you have dance or step experience. We welcome you to join our family – a growing brotherhood and sisterhood” said Blaze leadership.

The team meets twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

Artist Spotlight: Christine Carey: Highlighting one of Eastern’s finest vocalists.

Christine Carey, a senior contemporary music major at Eastern has been spending the past few months gearing up for her upcoming senior recital.

Carey has been performing for as long as she can remember, and although she grew up playing multiple instruments, Carey’s go-to musical outlet is her voice.

While Carey’s main form of musical expression is through her voice, she also finds it difficult; “when emotions are a thing, sometimes singing isn’t really possible” said Carey. When emotions become overwhelming, Carey will then turn to her guitar or piano, or even writing her own music. 

Beyond singing, Carey has been playing guitar and piano since she was very young, and recently picked up playing violin as well. 

Carey likes to delve into music that matches her vocal tone. She specializes in singing blues, jazz, and folk music, which also affects the way she writes music as well. Although she tends to be influenced by the music that she listens to, she tends to sing where her voice feels the strongest. 

Carey has been working towards setting up her senior recital since July, when she had her jury to select her song arrangements for the recital. The recital will feature jazz, contemporary folk music, musical theater songs, and a few of Carey’s original songs as well. 

A jury for music majors can be seen as a middle point in a senior thesis; “ It requires a weekly rehearsal with a team of collaborators, a lot of research into songs, understanding text, where they are coming from, and knowing what the story is so I can better tell it,” said Carey.

There are a lot of things that Carey had to take into consideration while planning her senior recital. Everything had to fit within a certain time frame, she had to find a proper accompanist for each piece, and she had to make sure that all of her songs fit with the theme of her contemporary music major.  

Carey is also an active member of the music ensembles; Turning point, University choir and Eastern Winds.

Beyond music, Carey takes on an active role in several clubs on campus. Alongside her music endeavors, Carey is a third year Student Chaplain in Gough Hall. She is also the music coordinator for the swing club, Ethels.

All around, Carey has always been an artistic soul, in her free time she enjoys dancing and sketching when she has the time to do so.

“I like to read but I don’t get much time for it, practice takes a lot, if you really want to get good you have to give a lot of time to practice” said Carey. 

Practice is important for any musician to master their craft. However “you can’t practice too much vocal, not safe, even just listening/visualizing pieces, other instruments can spend hours practicing pieces” advises Carey.

Carey’s advice for anyone looking to pursue music as a career is “to keep trying, even if it feels wrong or like you’re not getting anywhere. Practice takes time, you can’t just rush through stuff, take it slow and muddle your way through it. It is not an easy art, it is a hard discipline, you just gotta keep pushing.”

Carey’s senior recital will take place on Oct. 15 at St. David’s Episcopal Church at 7 p.m.

U.S. Reviews Prison Housing Policies: U.S. Justice Department reviews policies regarding people who are transgender and experiencing incarceration

The U.S Department of Justice has recently begun a new initiative that will reevaluate issues that occur when incarcerating transgender people who are experiencing incarceration. 

A policy for housing transgender people who are experiencing incarceration was initially put into place under the Obama administration. The policy, known as the Transgender Offender Manual, recommended that  legal counsel take gender identity into account when recommending housing in deliberations. 

The policy was then changed under the Trump administration when the policy was altered to using biological sex for housing determinations. With this new policy, many transgender people experiencing incarceration were placed in housing that did not align with their gender identity. 

Due to issues that arose under the altered policy, the Department of Justice is now looking to alter the policy back in favor of taking gender identity into consideration, rather than biological sex. 

While no decision has been made as of yet, the discussions are still being had amongst a special committee appointed by the Department of Justice. 

Transgender rights have always been a controversial factor in determining housing for trangender people experiencing incarceration. 

According to the Department of Justice, of the 156,000 federal people experiencing incarceration residing in the United States, about 1,200 are transgender. 

The decision to re-evaluate the policy came after the recent sentencing of Emily Claire Hari, a transgender woman who bombed the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.

Shortly after her 53-year sentence, Hari and her lawyer submitted a request to the courts asking that they take her gender identity into consideration while contemplating her housing placements. 

Hari has said that gender dysphoria and the actions of right-wing misinformation was her influence in the actions that she took leading into the bombing. Hari was found guilty of civil rights and hate crime charges. 

In the years since the policy change under the Trump administration, queer activists have been pushing back against the change. The policy has been labeled as a “double punishment” for trangender people experiencing incarceration to go through gender dysphoria as well as the intended punishment of prison time. 

The concept of housing for transgender individuals has been a hot topic of discussion among queer and criminal justice communities for a long while. “Jails and prisons have no control over the type of [people experiencing incarceration]—mentally ill, gang member, hard-core or first-timer—who comes in,” Gary Cornelius stated.

Due to the wide variety of people that come into the prison system, it is vital to have a system in place to accommodate every type of person experiencing incarceration. 

Sources: The Hill, USnews.com, NY Daily News, Penal Reform.com, Lexipol

The Art of… Reading: Exploring the importance of reading as a college student.

Reading is a hobby that most people pick up starting back in early elementary school. Some people love reading, some people resent every textbook they need to read to keep up with their classes. Some people are a little bit of both: enjoying reading on their own terms, but not when it is for school. I am one of those who love to read in my own free time, outside of school textbooks and assigned readings. 

When I first started college, reading for pleasure was put on the back burner, and I didn’t make any time for myself to just sit down and read. Without my favorite hobby, I began to feel lost, and I did not know how to make time for my mental health. When I finally began reading for pleasure again, my mental health showed significant improvement. 

Reading is not only a chance to expand your personal knowledge and learn more about the world around us, but it can also be used as an escape from the world and into a fantasy land. 

With a broad range of genres and topics to choose from, there is sure to be a book out there for anyone. Beyond our textbooks is a wide world of books to be explored and cherished. 

Reading is known to have a plethora of health benefits as well. Research has shown that reading can improve brain connectivity, increase vocabulary, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and heart rate, fight symptoms of depression and can even contribute to a longer life (Healthline).

Reading for pleasure also dates back thousands of years, as long before social media, people connected with each other through books and reading. 

With all of the craziness that comes with the life of a college student, reading may be the last thing many students would want to make time for, and that is okay. If you are craving a good book and don’t have the funds to feed a healthy reading flow, there are plenty of resources to help make books accessible. The Warner Library has a wonderful collection of books ranging from a wide variety of topics, and many websites such as ThriftBooks offer great deals on books that the library may not have. The library also features an interlibrary loan system, so you won’t have much trouble finding a book that you enjoy.

Movie Spotlight: “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”: A look at Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest film, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

After over a year of anticipation, Marvel finally released their second movie since the strike of the pandemic in the form of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the 25th installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first to feature an Asian lead. The movie stars Simu Liu as “Shaun,” or “Shang-Chi,” as he and his sister (played by Meng’er Zhang) are forced to face their past with their father and prevent their father from causing destruction using the ten rings.

From the casting, to the soundtrack and the script, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” has a little bit of something for everyone. 

The movie, while paving part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, also works as a standalone origin movie. It is safe to say that beyond the end-credit scenes, any non-Marvel fan could enjoy “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and not have to worry about being lost in the lore.

As a Marvel fan, I tend to hold Marvel movies to a higher standard amongst each other, and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” did not disappoint.

The choreography of the fight scenes is among the best that I have seen in any movie, Marvel and beyond. The elegance of the martial arts moves in fight scenes adds a new dynamic to the MCU. The movie also gave off strong “Avatar the Last Airbender” vibes, with the idea of using martial arts to control the elements around themselves. The movement of energy surrounding the characters when fighting was smooth and followed the flow of the actors’ movements extremely well. I could watch the fight scenes in this movie for hours, and I am generally not a huge fan of action scenes. 

The villain, who happens to be Shang-Chi’s father (played by Tony Leung), is not obnoxious in his antagonistic ways. Yes, he poses as a challenge to Shang-Chi, but he plays the villain and father roles remarkably well that makes for a great father-son duel.

The wardrobe department also deserves an ovation for their work in making not only Shang-Chi’s suit, but the rest of the clothing and styles throughout the movie. The visuals in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” were beautiful to look at, and the wardrobe department played a huge role in creating some beautiful scenes. 

Overall, the cinematography in this movie was great, the visuals in this movie were absolutely stunning, and the CGI was incorporated nicely with the rest of the film. The movement of the rings was a pleasure to watch and blended flawlessly.

 The mythical creatures of the forest surrounding Ta-Lo were surprisingly realistic and beautiful to admire. They blended in very well with their background, and for a moment while watching, I almost believed that they could be real. Among these creatures from the forest surrounding Ta-Lo was Morris, a faceless, six-legged creature who stole the hearts of many in the theater, including my own. 

The movie also did a good job of addressing a major elephant in the room that was leftover from “Iron Man 3” in a tongue-in-cheek manner. It featured a unique redemption arc for some characters, and provided closure on an otherwise unresolved plot error.

I had reservations about certain casting decisions going into this movie, but I could not imagine this movie with any other actors in their roles. The movie also featured exciting cameos from other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters that brought the movie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nicely.

I could not run out of good things to say about this movie, as the entire time I spent watching it, I was thinking about when the next time I could go would be. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend seeing “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

Apple Music vs. Spotify: It’s time to settle the debate.

Apple Music and Spotify are two of the most popular ways for people to get their music.

As an avid Spotify user, I have never actually used Apple Music beyond downloading it for this article. Upon first glance, the way each app plays music looks very similar, but Apple Music does hold an advantage with having the lyrics show up on the screen while they’re being played.

In looking at the differences on the app stores for iOS and android, one thing that really stood out to me was the fact that the Apple app store had reviews turned off for Apple music, but Spotify has a 4.8/5 rating. The reviews may be turned off due to apple music being pre-downloaded on all Apple devices, but it still seems strange. The google play store has an overall rating of 3.7/5 for Apple Music and 4.4/5 for Spotify. These numbers seem close, but it is also important to note that Spotify has over 22 million reviews on the Google play store and 17 million reviews on the Apple app store, whereas Apple Music only has 400,000 reviews on Google play store only.

Reviews aside, both apps have the same subscription price for their services, however Spotify has a free version with ads whereas Apple Music requires a subscription fee to use the unlimited library, and charges per individual song without a subscription. Spotify also has more subscriptions with partnerships with other services such as Hulu for cheaper rates.

Spotify also has Podcasts included in the app with access included in the subscription costs, while Apple has a separate app and service for podcasts.

Overall both apps serve the same purpose, and use of each app is subject to the individual user, but if you’re looking for a higher rated app with more in-app features, then Spotify may be the right choice for you.

The Benefits of Zoom University: One student reflects on the positive outcomes of hybrid learning.

In the past year, students all over the world began  experiencing an increase in online learning thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Having graduated high school in the midst of online courses after all of my other years of schooling in person only, this new normal consisting of online learning was definitely, well, a learning curve.

For me, online learning was the best thing that could have happened for the end of my senior year, but college turned out to be a whole different experience.

I personally really enjoyed the hybrid format, with some classes in person and some classes online, as I enjoy aspects of both ways of learning. Either of these options may not be for everyone, some people do not do well in online classes, while others excel, and vice versa. A lot of people close to me cannot stand online learning,
and are therefore taking a semester off of school due to an overwhelming amount of online classes. A few of my other friends took advantage of this completely virtual format at their respective schools, and were able to enjoy their semesters from the comfort of their actual homes, not bothering to live on campus and saving
thousands of dollars in room and board fees.

As a freshman, I have been unable to experience Eastern with only in person classes, but I really do not mind. Again, I quite enjoyed the hybrid format that my schedule was in, and having a relatively even balance of in person and virtual classes.

I feel that asking for all online classes or even a wide variety of hybrid classes would be asking a lot from our professors in the coming years once we’ve reached that lovely post-pandemic world mark, but I do think I would definitely like to see more online classes from Eastern even after Covid-19.

Each learning platform has its individual pros and cons, but for me, online courses outweigh the cons, and many of the cons can be easily fixed.

For many, choosing Eastern was part of a decision and desire to go to a school that had smaller class sizes and more opportunities to build relationships with professors. Online courses definitely limit that interaction, especially as in a zoom meeting with dozens of students it can be difficult to build any type of relationship or friendship with both professors and fellow classmates. This issue can however, be resolved with even a simple email to a professor, asking for a one on one meeting during office hours or even requesting to stay “after class” for anything. Even in online classes, I have found my professors to be more than accommodating and willing to help in the same ways they would help in an in-person classroom setting.

Online classes also help with any type of sickness, not just covid. In high school, I tended to get sick a lot, and as a result, would miss a lot of my classes due to my
absences from being sick. In college, I have yet to miss a day of class without prior notice to my professor. If I am not feeling well, I can easily email my professor to zoom in to class that day, so I don’t have to miss anything or fall behind on my work. Even when I was in quarantine with Covid I did not have to miss any of my classes.

Don’t get me wrong, no online class could really match the same experience of being in a classroom and attending classes in person, but it can be a great option
for a lot of students.

Either way, college is hard, and I am grateful that the pandemic has allowed us to experience different types of class formats. Online classes may not work for some,
but it can certainly help others, and vice versa, it is really about your individual learning style and preferences.

Furry Friends Around Campus: What it’s like to have an Emotional Support Animal at Eastern during a stressful season caused by the pandemic.

Emotional Support Animals are pets that can provide companionship that eases anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. They are different from service animals, as they do not receive any formal training in order to become certified, but they do have to meet certain criteria. They have to be prescribed to a patient experiencing disabling mental health issues by a licensed mental health professional.

In order to get an ESA on Eastern’s campus, you have to get a recommendation from a therapist or mental health professional outside of Eastern’s community, then go through CCAS to get your animal certified as an ESA. They are classified as a housing accommodation so the ESA is allowed to live in dorms as long as they do not cause a disturbance.

Senior Chemistry major Karissa MacCentelli has had her ESA cat, Sasha, since her second semester. She got Sasha over the winter break of her freshman year from a cat cafe. MacCentelli loves having her ESA on campus with her, and feels that Sasha has a significant positive impact on her mental health.

Karissa describes ESA’s as “the annoying thing that gets you up in the morning.” and describes taking care of Sasha as her need to get up in the morning. She acknowledges that Sasha is another being that she is responsible for, so even when she doesn’t want to take care of herself, she needs to take care of Sasha.

“I care about her a lot, and I have the responsibility of having something else to take care of.” MacCentelli said when describing her relationship with Sasha and how she has impacted her life.

Freshman Early Childhood Education major Rebecca Belford has had her ESA shitzu, Tony, since her sixteenth birthday, and has had him registered as her ESA for almost a year now.

“My dog is my other half” said Belford, who has Tony to treat depression and anxiety. “He helps me through so much.”

Belford described how Tony is able to detect her emotions and help her calm down when necessary. “It is a lot for me to be emotionally there
for people” said Belford, “he helps me stay calm.

“I don’t think there is a bad part of having him here … sometimes he wakes up early” Belford said when asked if there were any downsides to having her ESA on campus.

One recent issue that has arisen on Eastern’s campus regarding ESAs is quarantine housing. Recent announcements and events have determined that students with ESAs are not allowed to have their ESA with them if they end up having to quarantine either due to exposure or a positive COVID-19 test.

This announcement has received a lot of negative backlash from students with ESAs on Eastern’s campus, after they had to fill out a form figuring out what their ESA would have to do in the case of quarantine.

MacCentelli had to deal with ESA accommodations in quarantine firsthand when she tested positive for COVID during one of Eastern’s monthly testing periods. She was not able to have her ESA with her after finding out her results, and could not have her with her in her anxious state afterwards.

While MacCentelli was able to go home with her ESA to quarantine in Maryland, she acknowledged that not all students were able to have the same luxury of going home to quarantine and be with their ESA.

Senior Faith Lauffer had a similar experience in the fall semester with her ESA, Sebby, but eventually learned she would not need to quarantine after finding out that she was not actually exposed.

Lauffer was very adverse to the new quarantine rule, as it was not made until this current spring semester. She wonders maybe if she would have been able to quarantine with her ESA in the fall, the new rule might not have been implemented.

“My ESA is a medical treatment for a medically diagnosed disorder, denying me my ESA is denying my medical treatment” said Lauffer, who chose her ESA over medication for mental health, and feels very strongly about Easterns new ESA policy.

Sources: AKC.org, Eastern.edu

The Uses and Abuses of Technology: Technology has its downfalls, but ultimately it improves our daily lives.

Every morning, the first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone. It is part of my daily routine and I feel incomplete if
I don’t. We all have these technological habits that make us feel incomplete if we don’t follow them. But is this necessarily a bad thing?

Both technology and social media have a significant impact on our day to day lives. They influence our actions, even when we don’t realize it. Before I got my phone I wasn’t checking anything daily, I watched the news with my mom but it was
not a habit I needed to follow to continue on with my day.

Technology has the ability to connect us with others even when we’re not physically together, and especially with the pandemic, it has been more difficult to connect with people without technology. I know for me, I did not see my friends for most of 2020, but I was still able to connect with them through technology and maintain my friendships with not much of an impact.

Technology also allows us to communicate with people that we may not have the opportunity to otherwise. Without technology I may not have the chance to meet people who live across the country, and especially not across the world, but thanks to technology I have a group of friends I can talk to that live far beyond my Pennsylvania bubble.

This is not to say that technology does not have its downsides, as it can be very addictive to use social media every day, but when it is used properly, the pros tend to outweigh the cons. Technology is not a good resource to abuse, but it can be a great resource to connect ourselves with others.

Gun Reform Talks After Tragedies: President Biden has recently shown his support for major gun reform.

Amid the recent outburst in mass shootings, President Biden has brought up the idea of the improvement of gun control in America. On
Tuesday, Mar. 23, the president addressed the recent grocery store shooting in Boulder, Colorado that took place the day before. In his short speech, President Biden proposed a reform on gun control that would ban assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

This proposed reform comes after two mass shootings within the same week, the first being an attack in Georgia and the second being the grocery store shooting in Colorado.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” said President Biden in his speech.

Less than a week after this address, President Biden announced that gun control was no longer his next priority, pivoting the public conversation to discuss infrastructure in a press briefing that took place on Thursday, Mar. 25.

This change in plans has received significant backlash from supporters of gun control who were already upset by President Biden’s lack of gun reform in January as part of his campaign promises.

President Biden’s involvement in gun reform dates back to the 1990’s when he assisted in the passing of the Brady Bill, which required background checks on most gun purchases as well as a temporary ban on sales of some military-style semi-automatic guns.

Throughout Biden’s political career, he worked on gun reform projects with varying degrees of success. While campaigning for president, one of Biden’s campaign promises was to send a bill to Congress that would repeal liability protections for gun manufacturers and close loopholes in background checks. This, however, did not come to fruition within Biden’s first few months of presidency, which is why this second change in plans has upset many of his supporters.

“I was very frustrated that he pivoted to infrastructure this week,” said Igor Volsky who founded Guns Down America. Guns Down America is one of many organizations who have been calling for Biden to prioritize gun reform in the United States.

In the past month, the House has passed two bills strengthening background checks during firearm purchases, one of which extended the amount of time the FBI has to complete background checks, potentially closing a loophole that previously allowed people to buy guns without background checks due to time concerns.

Even with the two newest bills, gun control activists are saying that it is not enough. The push for a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines continues to put pressure on President Biden.

Sources: NPR, NYT, whitehouse.gov, Guns Down America.