Where Did the Trees Go? Answers to Student’s Questions about the Environmental Changes on Campus.

If you’ve been strolling around Eastern’s campus lately, you might have noticed that trees have been cut down in several places on campus, most notably in front of Sparrowk residence hall. You may also have noticed that the sign declaring Eastern a nature preserve next to the Sparrowk bridge is missing. Many people have expressed frustration and confusion at this development. Eastern is often lauded for its beautiful campus, but is that changing?

Grounds Manager Marcus Von Hertsenberg met with me in an interview to discuss the changes happening around campus. “Rest assured, all the changes that are happening are all positive,” he said, prefacing our interview as he handed me a labeled manilla envelope full of detailed print-outs to supplement the information provided below.

Bradford pears were recently added to the noxious invasive plant list; while they are a colorful flowering species that looks appealing, they’re often deeply damaging to native species and environments. On Feb. 9, 2022, the ban on sale and cultivation took effect. According to Von Hertsenberg, Eastern is “phasing in process with other native plants” and replanting with native species, all “going in line with regulation and code.”

When asked about the replanting process, Von Hertsenberg said, “As of this year already, we have four trees that have already been put in.” One was a donation provided by Susan Weber, an alumna from the class of 1968, which was planted by the water wheel. There have also been two sycamores and a cypress planted. The Grounds Department has also received approval for funding devoted to the replanting efforts; the tree company that the university works with, Shreiner Tree Care, has also donated redbuds, which are a native species. The replanting will take place throughout the spring, now that the cold has broken.

Regarding Eastern’s status as a nature preserve, Von Hertsenberg stated that “We’re still very much a nature preserve.” Unfortunately, the signs were vandalized and stolen, but that hasn’t stopped the conservation efforts that the Grounds Department has been working on. In 2002, the Growing Greener Grant was established and backed by John Monroe to confront the issues on campus related to ponds and invasive species. However, the preserve area was treated as a boundary line, and from 2002 to 2018, “weeds and invasives took over and led to extreme deforestation,” Von Hertsenberg said. Since October 2021, his department has been working on water control on the paths as well as dealing with watershed issues. 

“There’s been a lot of extreme efforts from my staff and my department in, as we call it, reopening Eastern and a lot of good has come from that,” Von Hertsenberg said. They’ve been focusing on sustainable conservation efforts. “Every single thing has been safety-minded and these naturalization efforts have been outstanding. Everything that has gone into the ground in the last two years has been native-based.” For example, many of the wood chips around campus, such as the chips by the painted rock, are recycled from storm damage.

Von Hertsenberg also highlighted an exciting project that the Grounds Department is tossing around: Operation Walton Restoration. The Grounds Department wants to bring the area around Walton pond to its original aesthetic appeal before invasives took over. His team, which includes Peter Bogdon, Tim Vorwald and Sara Petrondi as well as support from Plant Ops members Jeff Gromis and Tony Patricco, have been working tirelessly to make our campus not only beautiful but also sustainable and ethical. Next time you stop and notice how lovely the place we live and learn is, consider sending a thank you note to the Grounds Department for their deep-rooted attention to both beauty and environmental justice.

Video Game Inspired, Artfully Created: A short, non-spoiler review of Netflix’s “Arcane”

This is Arcane’s World now; we all just live in it, and I for one am fine with that. In case you haven’t heard, the Netflix series “Arcane” has exploded in popularity, gaining both general and critical acclaim. On the popular film and TV review site, Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 100% Average Tomatometer score, indicating the scores compiled from critics, and a 96% Average Audience Score, indicating the scores from everyday viewers. Additionally, the series won nine Annie Awards, which celebrate excellence in animation, on March 12; the episodes that won the most awards individually were episode six “When These Walls Come Tumbling Down” and episode nine “The Monster You Created,” who both won three awards each.

Originally, I was skeptical of the show. The show acts as a prequel story for the video game “League of Legends,” and I’ve never had much interest in the video game. However, I started to hear more and more about it; my side of Twitter was loving it, particularly a scene in which one of our main characters, Vi, leans in and tells the enemy she’s reluctantly working with, “You’re hot, cupcake.” I saw people screaming over the character designs, which diverged from the original “League of Legends” art in ways that made the characters more artistic than sexy. But Twitter alone wasn’t enough to convince me, though it piqued my interest.

No, it was our resident “League of Legends” expert and esports captain, Zack Wilson, that finally convinced me. I figured that if he and Twitter agreed on something, it must be exceptional, and boy was that right. 

Originally, the episodes were released in batches of three; since I was tardy to the party, I could binge-watch them all. I watched two episodes on the plane ride back to Arizona for spring break, and I mourned my lack of foresight in not downloading the entire show. I was hooked. I’ve never seen a TV show with such aesthetic appeal; the art is amazing, the music and soundtrack is addictive, the characters are gorgeous and well-crafted and absolutely bonkers, and the plot will keep your brain screaming long after you’ve finished (Exhibit A: me). 

I watched seven 40-45 minute episodes in one airplane ride from Arizona to Pennsylvania. And then I came home and started it all over again so I could show my roommate.

Watch Arcane. Do it. You won’t regret it.

If you’re concerned about jumping in with no knowledge of “League of Legends,” don’t worry. According to aforementioned Zack Wilson, “You don’t need any background to enjoy the show, or so I gather from those who have no background and subsequently enjoyed it. The show does a good job of not being for players only, but delivering an experience players and non-players both enjoy… for example, I get excited about Singed, since I know he’s a character from the game and know his deal, but to non-players, he’s just a creepy minor character.” 

For those already hooked, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that we’re definitely getting a season two, and that you can watch the teaser on Twitter from the official Arcane account; the bad news is that we probably won’t see it until 2023 at the earliest. The first season took six years of hard work to make, so cross your fingers that season two won’t take that long. Art of that caliber takes time, unfortunately, but I for one am pretty convinced that the wait will be worth it. 

And in the interim, I can always rewatch it just one more time. 

Sources: Dot Esports, Rotten Tomatoes, Collider

The Clubbies: A look at the award show that celebrated Eastern’s student-run clubs.

This year was the first annual Clubbies Awards, which celebrated the achievements of various clubs on campus. The event was catered by Sodexo and featured several live artists as well as the presentation of the awards.

“The Clubbies was a brainchild of mine,” SGA President Xeyah Martin said in an interview. He felt that the clubs at Eastern weren’t appreciated enough, given that they are “the heart and soul” of the school. He pointed out that students pour hours and hours of free labor into these clubs, and he “wanted to give a thank you to clubs for all that they do.”

When he first got the idea, Martin reached out to the staff that make sure clubs run smoothly on campus: Krista Barnett, Sabrina Severe, and Stefan Martyniak. All of these staff members worked together with Xeyah to organize the event.

In order to determine which clubs received awards, a survey was sent out. According to Martin, “there was a total of 57 responses, which is not representative of the greater community or clubs.” Martin admitted to being disappointed with the number of responses; “I was expecting 150-250,” Martin said. However, he found that the clubs that were very active and engaged did turn out well.

The hardest part of putting everything together was the categories, according to Martin. He, along with other SGA members, separated them into two groups: the ones he thought of and the student engagement ones, which were based on metrics like the age of clubs and their reported weekly participation. “I wanted to come up with categories that were diverse yet meaningful,” Martin said. He also tried to determine what categories naturally formed due to what each club tended to fall into.

Overall, Martin thought that most of the clubs seemed to enjoy the event. They liked the food and the performances, and the response on social media was very strong. Besides the representatives from clubs receiving awards, the event was also attended by staff and administration of the university; President Matthews did the welcome address.

When asked if the Clubbies would contine, Martin responded, “Preferably, but I won’t be here.” He added, “You can lead the way, but you can’t force people to walk down that path.”

Mural Club: Check out Eastern’s newest club!

There’s a brand new club on campus! The Art and Mural Club, started by Alecia Espinosa, had its first meeting on Thursday March 10 and has been meeting each Thursday at 7pm in Hainer Basement since then.

Espinosa has been passionate about art all her life, even attending a high school dedicated to the arts. When she came to Eastern, she heard about the art club that previously existed on campus, but when she found out that it no longer met, she started her own.

“I just want people with art abilities to come together and have fun and create some type of mural at some point,” Espinosa said. The first week that the club met, the members worked on paintings of a sunset, and the second week, each member was free to create their own painting. On Thursday the 24th, Espinosa hopes to begin planning the club’s mural, which would hopefully be installed in one of the residence halls.

One of the main things Espinosa wants to do with her mural is promote inclusivity. “A good mural would be inclusive to every type of major, class, and student life in general,” she said in the interview. While Espinosa has experimented with many different forms of artwork such as mosaics, glasswork, graphic design, and photography, painting and designing murals is her favorite type. 

Espinosa shared that while art is a big part of her life, she’s currently pursuing a major in psychology. She’s from Philadelphia, and she’s a freshman here at Eastern. She’d love to attend other clubs, but she hasn’t done so yet, and she works in the registrar’s office. Espinosa calls herself a “very social, extroverted person,” which is perfect for someone who wants to bring people together in a new club.

Espinosa’s vision for the club is “somewhere where people can come to paint and relax, a space that people can talk about what they like to do.” According to Espinosa, “Art helps you express yourself. Not everyone can express themselves through writing, so it can help you express what you’re feeling or what you like.”

In the future, Espinosa could see the club extending beyond murals and painting to other types of art, such as printmaking, but she still has some boxes to check to make the club official and to get funding from SGA. If you love art or you’re interested in exploring a new way to unwind, check out the Art and Mural Club this week!

A Diverse Community: Eastern’s International Festival celebrates the global community we live in.

The International Festival has been a recurring tradition during my time at Eastern, and one that many students have enjoyed. This year, the festival took place on Saturday, March 12, from 3pm to 6pm. Originally, it was supposed to be held in the Walton area of campus, but it was moved to Gough Great Room because of the snow and the power outage.

While moving the event so close to the intended start time made it a bit harder for the Student Activities Board (SAB) to set up, SAB members and students alike agreed that it improved the International Festival. Jennie Brouse, a member of SAB, remarked that because more people live in Gough, “they would walk past and see it and come in.”

Anna Davis, a student who attended the event, said, “I was still planning on going no matter what; I personally live closer [to Gough] but I know that Walton is closer to some people. I think more people would have come if it were a sunny day outside in Walton, but Gough lends itself well to that kind of event. Personally, I think Gough is a really great place to hold things. I remember that I used it a couple times when I was running something and it really lends itself to being a performance or social space, which is really necessary for something like an SAB event.”

The power outage in Walton may have improved the attendance of the event; SAB had provided catering of “soul food and comfort food,” as Colton Domblesky described it: “Jerk chicken, few types of rice, beef pies, a couple desserts and different drinks.” He added, “We had catered food that was warm and ready to eat” and he considered that one of the deciding factors in the “bigger turnout,” along with the relaxed measures concerning masks and COVID restrictions.

While many people came for the food, Domblesky shared that they “stayed for the performances.” There was a selection of performances, both student and professional. Brouse “liked the belly dancer” and said that it “was not an experience I thought I was going to have” but added that it was “really really cool.” The Nubian dancers were also a hit with both Domblesky and Davis; Domblesky referred to them as “my personal favorite” performance and Davis said that she “really liked the style of dancing that they did and they all seemed to be really devoted to it.”

When asked what they would change next year, Brouse and Domblesky had a handful of thoughts. Brouse said that she’d prefer to host the event in Gough Great Room again because she found it to work really well for that kind of event. Domblesky said he would “definitely advertise more. That’s always a downfall on this campus because of restrictions on where and how to post. I’d also think of ways to better reach out to the student body and provide incentive for people to attend.” 

A Decision Made: The Supreme Court sides with FBI in a case involving the surveillance of three Muslim men.

The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the FBI in a case involving FBI surveillance of three Muslim men. However, this does not mean that the case is over and that the three men lost their lawsuit. Instead, it means that the Supreme Court found that FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) does not displace states-secrets privilege, which is what the three men were arguing; therefore, the case will be sent back to lower courts to continue proceedings.

The plaintiffs are: “Eritrean-born U.S. citizen Yassir Fazaga, an imam at the Orange County Islamic Foundation in Mission Viejo; native-born U.S. citizen Ali Uddin Malik, who attended the Islamic Center of Irvine; and Yasser Abdel Rahim, a U.S. permanent resident from Egypt who also attended the Islamic Center of Irvine,” U.S. News shared. 

The plaintiffs are pursuing this lawsuit because they were surveilled for a 14-month period of time from 2006-2007 by an undercover FBI informant named Craig Monteilh. Monteilh professed a desire to convert to Islam and conducted surveillance by recording video and audio inside homes, businesses, mosques, and at events, according to court filings reported by CBS News. The investigation ended when Monteilh began making statements about wanting to take violent action; community members then reported him to the local police and filed a restraining order.

The plaintiffs sued the FBI in federal court, “alleging they were targeted for surveillance because of their religion,” CBS News stated. However, the federal government moved to dismiss the suit because they said that the claims couldn’t be litigated without risking the disclosure of state secrets.

The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses the decision made by the 9th Court of Appeals. The 9th Court had concluded that “the procedures established under FISA regarding the legality of challenged electronic surveillance displace the state-secrets privilege and the district court should have reviewed the materials first to see whether the surveillance was unlawful,” CBS News stated. 

The claims of the plaintiffs have not yet been dismissed and can continue forward in a lower court. The 9th Court of Appeals also allowed the unlawful search claims to continue forward as well, which was not at issue before the Supreme Court.

Sources: CBS News, U.S. News

Has Shooting for Gold Gone Too Far?: A critical reflection of the development of toxicity in sports culture.

I’ve never understood sports culture. In my family, sports have never been a big deal, perhaps because neither I nor my next oldest sister were much inclined towards them. I never had the aptitude for them; in elementary school, I was always picked last for kickball, in which I’d inevitably get rammed in the face with a hatch-marked red rubber ball. I always was one of the last kids to finish the mile, worrying more about my asthmatic friend wheezing in the dusty track than how many minutes I’d finished in. And even if I had been any good, I’m the oldest of eight. When I was younger, my parents didn’t have the time or energy to spend ferrying me to innumerable practices and games.

Looking from the outside in, I find sports culture puzzling. What’s it all for? I understand that colleges give scholarships for sports, and money is incredibly motivating. Pursuing scholarships makes sense to me. Additionally, sports can be a way out for people in poverty, as a way to afford education and get opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be an option. However, I’m a little concerned about a system that pushes people to trade their bodies for better opportunities. But it seems like, then, that college would be the end, with sports being the means to that end, and that’s not the culture I’ve witnessed. 

Once students get to college with their scholarship, I’ve seen many students value sports over academics: sleeping through class because they’re exhausted after early morning workouts, unable to complete work because of concussions, hobbling around on crutches because they’ve been injured. Don’t get me wrong—I’m certainly not saying that professors shouldn’t be understanding and accommodating with students, especially students who have encountered health concerns. But I am asking, why subject yourself to that in the first place? 

It seems that, as Christians, we ought to take good care of our bodies. That implies some level of reasonable exercise to keep ourselves fit, which does nice things like strengthen our hearts, improve our moods, and help us walk up stairs without feeling like we’re dying. But much of sports culture that I’ve witnessed seems to involve broken bodies, which seems like the other extreme. Concussions, broken bones and torn tendons appear to be an equal abuse of our bodies as foregoing exercise altogether. 

Beyond the body, it also seems like sports culture can be toxic for one’s mental health. While I’ve never been in a competitive sporting environment, I have been in an incredibly competitive academic environment—a grades-posted-on-the-wall, SAT-prep-in-middle-school, APs-in-eighth-grade, get-into-an-Ivy-or-jump-in-front-of-a-bus type of school. Is this comparable to the sports culture many people encounter? I’m not sure; I’d probably have to experience both to know, and I haven’t. 

But if it is comparable, then I’m concerned. Competition on that level can breed an arrogance rooted in fear, a knowledge that being on top is temporary and that there is no perfection that can’t be shattered in a moment. That kind of competition can lead to sacrifices of things that should never have been sacrificed, pushing people to make desperate trades and devil’s bargains.

And for what? Sports seem so temporary to me. Culturally, we lionize football players, people who wreck their bodies and brains for, what, ten years of success? And then what? We forget about the people who broke their bones for public consumption. It seems like there’s an enormous amount of pressure to just get a little further: to get on the A team, to make varsity, to get onto a good college team, to win an award or a championship or a place on a professional team. The goalposts keep shifting, and you’re always chasing the next dream.

In the end, the cost of sports culture seems to outweigh the rewards. While sports in themselves seem like they have the potential to be great sources of community and health, I think we’ve taken it too far.

Dealing with the News Cycle: How to find healthy and productive ways to engage with the news.

If you’ve been following the news cycle recently, it can be deeply overwhelming and stressful. It’s easy to feel as though we have to be constantly plugged in to keep track of everything going on, both nationally and internationally, and social media can easily add to that idea, calling out people for not posting about the latest crisis. However, it’s important to remember that anxiety is not activism. Doomscrolling will not solve anything. So how can we deal with stressful news and crises in a productive and healthy way?

First of all, take a minute. Set the phone down and breathe. Sometimes, if you’re really struggling with an issue, it can help to get some space. I was overwhelmed by an issue close to my heart, and while spending time online was helping me understand the impact of the issue, it also was emotionally wrecking me. I needed to take a walk, and that helped a lot. Perhaps listening to music while you walk could be helpful.

Second, it often helps to find someone to talk to. However, you want to make sure that the person you’re talking to will not be someone who makes you more stressed, because sometimes conversations about the news cycle can just make both parties more worked up. Find someone who generally has a calming presence and who has made you feel better in other similar situations. 

Third, find out what you can do. Helplessness can be one of the biggest struggles we face when large-scale crises are happening. It’s easy to feel like we have no power when people are hurting on the other side of the world, but there’s usually something we can control, even if it seems small. Maybe you can donate a couple dollars to a humanitarian aid organization in the affected area, or maybe you can attend a protest in your area. If you do a little research, there’s almost always something you can do. Sometimes, just having conversations with people matters, especially if it’s a deeply divisive issue or an issue that isn’t getting much coverage. 

Lastly, be cognizant about your habits and in touch with your emotions. If you notice that, even after trying the tips above, you’re still struggling whenever you open a certain app or when you get notifications from a news source, it’s okay to take a break. Many smartphones have options to disable apps at certain times of day or to limit the amount of time you’re spending on each app. Using these built-in tools, you can make sure you’re not doomscrolling right before bed or that you only have half an hour to spend on a social media platform. There are even fun apps that reward you for not spending time on your phone.

It’s important to stay informed about what’s going on in the world, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of our mental health. If you notice that the news cycle is getting to you, take steps to help where you can and let go where you can’t.

Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week: What is aromanticism, and how can we support aros?

In February, many people celebrated Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week! It took place from Feb. 20-26, providing an opportunity to raise awareness for this romantic orientation. 

Aromanticism “describes people whose experience of romance is disconnected from normative societal expectations, often due to experiencing little to no romantic attraction, or sometimes feeling repulsed by romance or being uninterested in romantic relationships,” according to arospecweek.org. The term aromantic is often shortened to aro, just as the parallel sexual orientation, asexual, is shortened to ace.

Asexuality, aromanticism, and agender are all grouped together under the A of LGBTQIA+. This often leads to confusion, as asexuality and aromanticism are often seen as existing in tandem. While this may be the case for some people, who might identify as acearo if they don’t experience sexual and romantic attraction, there are plenty of people who experience sexual attraction without romantic attraction or vice versa. 

Aromanticism is also a spectrum; there are many microlabels within the aro label, including labels that indicate that you experience romantic attraction only infrequently or only after you’ve developed a deep relationship with someone. Many aros have indicated that they have difficulty forming “crushes,” and some aros will choose not to pursue traditional romantic relationships. 

Socially, aros often face marginalization. Much of pop culture centers on romantic relationships: just try to make a playlist of pop songs not about love and you’ll see what I mean. Aros are often told that they just haven’t found the right person yet or that they’re mistaken about their own experiences. They can also be infantilized and treated as childish, and it can be deeply painful if friends choose to prioritize romantic relationships over their friendships. Economically, singleness can often make life difficult, especially as roommates move out to cohabitate or marry.

If you’re interested about finding out more about aromaticism, you can visit the arospecweek website and click on their link for more resources! The activist and model Yasmin Benoit from the United Kingdom often speaks out about the intersection of being Black, ace, and aro. She did a great interview with Pink News, which you can find online, and she’s active on social media as well. If you’re looking for fiction with aro main characters, Loveless by Alice Oseman is one of the most popular recommendations. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger is one of my personal favorites, and one of the point of view characters in Tarnished by the Stars is acearo. There’s not a lot of aromantic representation out there, so support aro creators!

Refuge is also a great on-campus community for queer people and allies at Eastern. If you have questions, they’re more than willing to provide a safe space for you to search for answers.

This week, take some time to check out one of these resources. The aro flag has five stripes of dark green, light green, white, grey and black; keep an eye out for it. If you know someone who identifies as aro, ask how you can support them! 

Sources: Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week – A Celebration of Aromantic Spectrum Experiences and Identities | February 20th – 26th, 2022 (arospecweek.org), Being single and living alone is incredibly expensive – Vox

EU Spring Musical : “Still Here”: Previewing Eastern University’s 2022 Spring musical.

This semester, Eastern’s spring musical is going to look a little differently due to COVID restrictions. I interviewed the director, Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe, to get some insight into what students should be expecting.

Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe is a theatre professor and the owner of a professional theatre company called Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective. She said that ““I love working with college students, so when the opportunity came my way, I was really excited.” Originally, she’d planned to use an already-written script, but because COVID and other unplanned events, she ended up writing the book herself. “It was interesting writing the book for this. I took this on whole-heartedly, but it was a quick turnaround,” Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe said. 

The musical is titled “Still Here,” which comes from one of the songs that two of the characters sing together. It’s compiled from songs taken from different Broadway shows that have a similar theme: how people renew as we’re coming out of this COVID state. The musical questions, “How have we changed, having been in this bubble of COVID, and how do people still retain their humaness, especially when it comes to love and loss?” Most of the songs are Steven Sondheim songs or those written by people who were inspired by him, and the scenes were written around the songs. According to Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe, several shows in the past few years have done this, by taking favorite songs and tying them together.

“I’m excited to really do my part to help Professor A. and the students build up the musical theatre program here,” Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe said. “We learn about being human through theatre.” She discussed how theatre has been a staple of human interaction across time, whether it was called storytelling or something else. She also called theatre “a great learning tool” and emphasized how it can teach us how to live our lives and avoid making the mistakes of the characters. For that reason, she really enjoys helping colleges build up theatre programs.

When asked how COVID has affected the process of creating theatre, Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe exclaimed, “Singing with a mask on is not fun! You’re sucking in a lot of cotton.” She also explained how she wrote the script with COVID in mind, so she limited the number of characters on the stage at one time and tried to keep people spread out “so everyone isn’t just breathing on each other.” The script is also written in the world of COVID; the characters talk about being in a pandemic in the world of the play.

The show will also be filmed in the style of Hamilton, with shots both from the audience and on the stage. There may be a possible opportunity for students to view the show in person on campus, but that hasn’t been determined for sure yet. The show opens March 25 and will run until the 27th. Eastern is also participating in Theatre Week, which is a week-long celebration of theatre with professional and university theatre programs across the city. Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe is hoping that this will raise awareness for Eastern’s theatre program.

However, through all of the discouraging arrangements made necessary by COVID, Dr. Ardencie Hall-Karambe was ultimately optimistic about the situation. “Theatre has been around since the beginning of man, and it has survived many a plague, so it should survive this one,” she said. Despite the difficult situation caused by the pandemic, theatre can still survive through it. To help support your university’s theatre department, be sure to check out the spring musical, “Still Here,” when it opens!