Two days before Mercer student Elizabeth Daniels was set to depart from South Korea, she received an email urging students to reach out to the administration if they had traveled to a country “listed as a CDC Warning Level 3 Travel Health Notice for COVID-19.” After Daniels came forward, Dean of Students Douglas Pearson asked her to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to Mercer’s campus. “I told them I don’t have a good home to return to,” Daniels said in a message to The Cluster. Daniels said that the administration would not allow her back into her Loft until the 14-day quarantine was over. So, she missed her initial flight back to the United States on March 8, and since then, has been staying with friends in South Korea until she’s allowed back on campus. “The situation in America is getting worse, and at least here I have stable housing and won’t have to go back to my bad home situation if they decide to kick us out of the Lofts,” Daniels said. Daniels is one of four students asked to self-quarantine for a two-week period. In an email to The Cluster, Dean Pearson said that “none of the students who I contacted were not already back in the States when I spoke with them (to the best of my knowledge).” Daniels said she could have better communicated how dire her housing status was. “Perhaps I should have clarified better, I admit that,” Daniels said. “But I feel like it was very obvious. But again, I should have clarified.” In a Student Government Association meeting March 9, Pearson said that students who miss class because of COVID-19 will have their absences excused, and that their professors will work with them to make up missed classwork. However, after reaching out to her professors, Daniels said their responses have been slow or non-existent. “I only heard from one professor so far. And that was just today,” Daniels said on March 12. “I suspect it was because (I) was reaching out to so many student leaders in an effort to hear something. I have not heard from any of my other professors, my advisor or the dean of my school, all of which I was told would be notified of my required absence from school.” Daniels is also in a different time zone than her professors, which could make already-difficult coursework even harder. “Although the students were (and are) excused from classes, each one has been instructed to contact their faculty to make up work during this time,” Dean Pearson said in an email to The Cluster. “If this student has reached out and not heard from their faculty, I recommend they call or email them, or contact the associate dean in their academic area for assistance.” Daniels said that a faculty member offered to house her after her initial correspondence with Mercer’s administration, but she wasn’t told that until after she missed her flight. “My professor - actually not even my professor, she is just accounting faculty - she offered to let me stay with her apparently,” Daniels said. “She told me yesterday. She says she was bcc’d in an email (in) the beginning where she and who knows who else saw that I had nowhere to go… Like, okay, yes, I have someone to stay with in Korea, but it’s not my country or my home. America is. And I feel (like) because of that, no one is trying to help me, just because I’m not literally on the streets.” Daniels said that while her ban from campus is largely administration-led, the Lofts’ management has yet to contact her regarding steps forward. “The Lofts have not reached out to me at all, which worries me. (I’m) under incredible financial strain due to other issues and now having to support myself outside of the campus. I believe I could come back to all of my belongings being outside or… something,” Daniels said. When asked if students barred from campus would have to pay rent for the months they may be absent, the Lofts at Mercer Landing said in an email that “as of now, we are waiting on a directive from our corporate office as to that answer.” Daniels studied abroad in South Korea during the spring semester of 2019. She’s currently staying there under a 90-day tourist visa. “I feel like I should be able to return to my Loft and self-quarantine. Yes, students live there, but it’s not in Mercer’s domain. That alone would take away so much stress. I wouldn’t have to crowd surf in a foreign country,” Daniels said. “I can go back to my apartment I am paying almost $1,000 a month for.”
Use the fields below to perform an advanced search of The Mercer Cluster's archives. This will return articles, images, and multimedia relevant to your query.
42 items found for your search. If no results were found please broaden your search.
At a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on March 9, Dean of Students Douglas Pearson answered students’ and parents’ most frequently asked questions about how Mercer plans to handle a potential COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. “The university has been monitoring this,” Pearson said. “We’ve been talking about this ever since it came on the radar screen. We’re following CDC guidelines, but I wanted you to know that today we’re taking a couple different actions.” What action has Mercer taken so far? “We talked to Nationals … you’re going to be seeing them around campus, especially on touch points, doorknobs and things like that. We’ve asked them to increase their cleaning around the campus. Food services have gone back and looked at how they’re distributing food … They’ve looked at their processes and tightened them up,” Pearson said. What happens if a student gets sick? “If someone becomes symptomatic, they should call the health center,” Pearson said. “Notice I said they should call over there … so they can prepare.” If a student does show up at the student health center with symptoms, Pearson said that they have created an “isolation room” to accommodate walk-ins, but it’s always safer to call in advance. “All these health care facilities are saying, let us know you’re coming in advance,” Pearson said. “It’s all about trying to contain the spread.” What happens if a student contracts coronavirus and cannot go home? “If it’s just temporary, we’ll try to work something out. I don’t want to share the details because it could change, but we’re looking at identifying some spots on campus. Not in the resident halls, at this point, but a way where we can put students for short term or even a longer term if necessary, if they cannot go home,” Person said. “But our goal is to get them home, get them where people can keep an eye on them.” How is the university handling students who traveled to a Level 3 country over spring break? Before classes resumed this week, the university sent out an email to all Macon campus students that urged those who “travelled to countries that are listed as a CDC Warning Level 3 Travel Health Notice for COVID-19” to “consult with Dr. Pearson before returning to campus and beginning classes.” Those countries include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. “We’re asking them to self-isolate,” Pearson said. “We’re making academic accommodations. It does not mean that those students are contagious, it just means we’re asking them to self-isolate and stay at home … just to be on the safe side.” What will happen to students who traveled to a Level 3 country and didn’t report? Pearson told SGA that he would need their help to identify students who didn’t report, and that they could do so anonymously. “They’re not in trouble,” Pearson said. “This is about containment and trying to be precautionary and safe on campus. If you have somebody, let me know. I’ll follow up with them.” Have any other questions? Pearson said he’ll be hosting a public question-and-answer session in the Connell Student Center lobby on March 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. “I’m planning right now to maybe be in front of the cafeteria on Wednesday during the big day at the cafeteria, maybe with someone from the health center to answer questions from students,” Pearson said. “Everybody’s got their own questions. I will make myself available then.” Mercer University President Bill Underwood will be providing further information to the student body in an email later on Tuesday, according to Vice President for Marketing Communications and Chief of Staff Larry Brumley. The Cluster will update this page when that information becomes available.
This summer, Macon joined several nationwide movements. Lights for Liberty Claire Cox, president of Georgia Women And Those Who Stand With Us, said her organization usually has to travel to Atlanta if they want to engage in national or global activism. In July, they participated in Lights for Liberty — a global candlelit vigil protesting America’s immigration policies — without having to so much as look at I-75. “We realized … we need to gather here in Macon,” Cox said. Georgia Women partnered with Mercer University Immigration Law Society, Nuestra Voz Middle Georgia, The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and other groups to host the vigil in downtown Macon. Mercer Law School’s Dean of Students, Jenny Wright, was in attendance. “We are all immigrants, and I know it sounds really cliché, but the fact that certain people in our country think that we should have such harsh, strong barriers to people coming in — whether they’re seeking asylum or regardless of the reason — I just can’t comprehend it,” Wright said. Macon Pride In June, Macon hosted its first LGBTQ+ Pride event in over 20 years. The celebration took place downtown, and included a city proclamation in which June 22 was officially declared Gay Pride Day. Drag performer Tangerine Summers said that was a far cry from the Macon of the 1970s. “When they’d lock us up, they’d call all the police officers where they make you change your clothes, have us strip, you know, it was like humiliation, but … things changed a lot. It’s more accepted now,” Summers said. Marijuana legislation Macon’s legislation has also seen some significant changes since students moved out this past spring. In a 5-4 vote, the Macon-Bibb County commission decreased the fine from $1,000 to $75 for the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. “I just want to make sure that we give good children, children who are guilty of adolescent mischief or youthful indiscretion — I just want to make sure that we give them the full chance that they have to succeed in this world, going forward without being dogged for the rest of their lives by an indiscretion, a (mischievous) act that they will outgrow,” 2020 Mayoral Candidate Larry Schlesinger said. This new legislation could also eliminate the possibility of jail time for marijuana possession, depending on whether an officer decides to abide by state laws or local ordinance. Commissioners in favor of the ruling said that alteration was for the benefit of local law enforcement, so their resources could be better served elsewhere. New businesses On a less political note, the Taco Bell on Tom Hill Boulevard was out of commission for much of the summer, but reopened in late July with a new and sophisticated look. Ma Duke, a popular Warner Robins restaurant, is branching out to Macon on Aug. 19th in the shopping center next to Piggly Wiggly on Pio Nono Avenue. “We are getting ready to take Macon, Georgia, and the Georgia area back to the traditional way of cooking, like our grandma and grandpa taught us how to cook,” co-owner Teresa Cohen told the Telegraph. Cohen said that she is waiting on a health inspection before they can open.
Mercer University Athletics will be partnering with the Macon Beer Company to host a “bear” garden during football games. The garden will be located on Black Field, next to Five Star Stadium. Before football games, attendees over the age of 21 will be able to purchase a selection of Macon Beer Company beers from the garden. In a June Mercer News article, Mercer Associate Athletic Director Daniel Tate said that the beer garden will help create a “full-day experience” for Mercer football’s six home games this fall. "We're fortunate to partner with Macon Beer Company, which is just one example of the fantastic locally-owned businesses that Middle Georgia has to offer," Tate said. Yash Patel, the CEO of Macon Beer Company, graduated from Mercer University in 2016. Patel said he knew the campus “intimately.” “It’s been in the works for about a year, year and a half now… I think it’s going to be a really cool spot, I’m really glad that I can be doing it with my alma mater,” Patel said. “I’m from Macon, I went to Mercer, I attended Mercer law, so I really wanted to do something to develop that program out there and... try to get that campus to where it’s not just dry, but semi-wet or whatever you want to call it.” Macon Beer Company is currently working on a selection of Mercer-themed beers for the garden, similar to “Macon Bears,” the drink they crafted for Oktoberfest. While “Macon Bears” may not be on the drink menu this fall, Patel said that their brewery works backwards; after deciding on a flavor, they work backwards to determine what ingredients and conditions they’ll need to achieve that flavor. “One thing we don’t like to do is add syrups or extracts to our beers, so we try to get all our flavor from the malt, the water, the yeast, the hops,” Patel said. “So we’re using more basic ingredients of beer to get that nice fruity, juicy flavor out instead of just taking more juice and dumping it in there.” The Macon Beer Company Bear Garden will be unveiled during the first home game, when Mercer faces off against Austin Peay State University on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
"Performance Art" Pain is performance art For women who crack open Their ribs, letting their hearts breathe And strumming their entrails. When Mercer junior Sammi Godwin wrote that poem last January, she did so after dwelling on how much art is born from pain and the voyeuristic relationship women have to that pain. Godwin’s literary exploration began in elementary school, when she wrote her first story at the age of 8. “Growing up, my mother taught English, first at a college and then at a high school level, so I was always surrounded by Shakespeare and Jane Austen and books of that nature even before I really understood what the words meant,” Godwin said. “I was just always raised around books.” Godwin continued writing under the tutelage of gifted program teachers in middle school, where she was encouraged to practice constantly. However, her writing stagnated at a STEM magnet high school. “I did almost no writing whatsoever outside of my AP practice, so it was kind of refreshing to come to college and get back in the groove again,” Godwin said. Since coming to Mercer, she has completed an anthology of 40 poems, a 40,000-word novella and is currently working on a full-length novel. “In the case of my novel, it was the plot that came first, and the characters are filling in by inches,” Godwin said. “The things I consider most important are the characters and the conclusion; strong characters can make a weak plot forgivable, and a strong conclusion keeps readers from feeling cheated.” While she has a flair for crossing genres, Godwin’s favorite is urban fantasy. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had much luck in finding inspiration from preexisting works. “Despite (urban fantasy’s) tendency to focus on women, these books also have a tendency to focus on heterosexual romances,” Godwin said. “As a lesbian, (I find it) frustrating and somewhat alienating.” When completing her novella, Godwin’s driving inspiration for writing was to create representation when she wasn’t able to find it elsewhere. “Urban fantasy, especially queer urban fantasy, affords you a chance to create entire new societies and belief systems without sacrificing some of the practicality that comes from the real world,” Godwin said. “When I wrote my novella, it was definitely with the intention of including strong queer themes and a mostly-female cast, and the plot came in inches.” Gordon Johnston, the department head of the creative writing program at Mercer, said that Godwin has a “naturally tight writing style that doesn't waste words.” “Her characters are emotionally complex and they have clear, credible motivations that cause interesting plots to unfold,” Johnston said. “Maybe best of all from a teacher's perspective, she puts critiques of her drafts to good use in her revisions -- and she is completely committed to revising until the story or the scene works.” Godwin’s current novel-length project is being workshopped by the Ferol Sam’s Senior Seminar class and guest instructor, Melanie Sumner. “Writing strikes a careful balance between an art form, which necessitates playing coy to a certain degree, and the ability to relate to one's audience,” Godwin said. “Writing is good for its own sake, but it doesn't mean anything without an audience.” Godwin is a psychology major, but has taken several creative writing courses out of love of the craft. She’s considering pursuing an MFA in creative writing, but mostly writes for fun with the hope of being published someday.
Mercer grad Raymond Partolan won three Grammy awards for the album “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom.” Partolan first got involved with the album in 2018 when producer Kabir Sehgal approached him, wanting to know more about his story as an undocumented person growing up in the United States. He met Sehgal at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown Atlanta and recorded his story in-studio. “This project was important to me because the voices of dreamers, like myself, often go unheard. Immigration to this country is such an abstract concept until one hears the stories of undocumented people,” Partolan said. “Those in our country without lawful status are real human beings and people often forget our humanity.” The album won Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Improvised Jazz Solo and Best Arrangement. It showcased the musical talents of 53 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients across 17 states and from 17 countries of origin. “I can only hope that the acclaim this album has received will continue to push people to understand our stories and understand why Congress must take action to protect undocumented people in our country,” he said. Partolan currently works with Kuck Baxter Immigration, advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees. He said he hasn’t had time to celebrate the Grammy win because he’s been busy assisting on a high-profile immigration case. “Our firm was successful in getting 21 Savage out on bond,” Partolan said. “When we do get the chance to celebrate, we will likely re-watch the acceptance speeches, have a nice dinner out and just take a moment to soak it all in.” Partolan has been advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees for almost a decade — ever since he shared his story publicly for the first time. He said that during his time at Mercer, Lori Johnson had a large impact on his education. “Raymond was an excellent student, and I am so proud of the immigration advocacy work that he is doing,” Johnson said. “By being willing to share his own story -- even when doing so could put himself at risk -- he has changed the mind and views of so many. I am so grateful to have students who inspire me the way he does!” As a former peer advisor and president of the Student Government Association (SGA), Parolan said that Mercer was an “excellent training ground” for the type of advocacy he does. “At Mercer, I found a supportive environment where everyone, from the faculty and staff, to my fellow students, was cheering me on to succeed in everything that I endeavored to do,” he said.
William Mark McCullough, an actor, producer and 1995 graduate of Mercer University, was set to give the speech for Founders’ Day 2019. However, when University President Bill Underwood introduced the speaker at the event Feb. 6, he revealed that filming on McCullough’s most recent project had gone late and he had missed his 2 a.m. flight to Macon. In his stead, Garland Crawford, associate professor of chemistry and a 1997 graduate of Mercer, delivered the speech. “(Colleagues) would ask, ‘oh, when’s your turn coming up (to give a Founders’ Day speech)?’ And I sat there with the confidence of the secretary of agriculture thinking about taking over the presidency, like, yeah, sure, my turn’s next,” Crawford said. “So four days later, here we are.” Student Government Association Senator-at-Large and Heritage Life Committee Chair Clark Myers, who led planning for this year’s Founders’ Day, introduced Crawford by saying it was a pleasure “having him as a professor and failing him as a student.” As a student himself, Crawford enlisted in the military and underwent basic training between his junior and senior years of high school. He attributed his ability to attend Mercer to his military background and ROTC scholarship. Underwood said in his introduction that basic training helped Crawford prepare his speech at the last minute. He said Crawford “was taught to always be prepared for any emergency that might arise.” “He kept a draft of a Founders’ Day speech in his dresser drawer for the day he had an opportunity,” Underwood said. Crawford said he wasn’t able to share every Mercer memory in his speech. “So I sat down and was kind of making notes of fun stories that I wanted to share, but unfortunately, because of the tight timeline, I wasn’t able to obtain amnesty from Dean (of Students Doug) Pearson, so I kind of made my list and was like - oh, uh, probably not,” Crawford said. “Students, if you’re curious, find me after graduation. Track me down at Just Tap’d trivia, I’d be happy to (share) my history here at Mercer.” Despite not ironing out the details of his amnesty, Pearson said that he was pleased with Crawford’s speech. “Both the Student Government Association and myself are eternally grateful to Dr. Crawford for filling in,” Pearson said. “By all accounts, his remarks were as good, if not better, than speakers we have had in the past.”
The Mercer Neuroscience Organization (MNO) will be holding a mental health first aid training program Feb. 23 and 24. It’s an eight-hour lecture-based program split between a Saturday and a Sunday. If students enrolled can pass the culminating exam on Sunday, they will earn a certification in mental health first aid that will last for three years. MNO co-founders Keerthika Ravikumar and Manvi Manyam pushed for the program despite financial setbacks. Currently, the program costs $10 for the first 22 students enrolled and $55 for every student after that, with an overall cap of 40 students. However, when MNO was first talking numbers, the cost of admission was projected to be $75. “We were looking for an instructor who was in Macon, experienced and would be cheap for us,” Ravikumar said. “We found someone who’s had years of training and who was asking for $45 per student.” MNO reached out to the Student Government Association (SGA) and received $1,000 in Bear Grants, which helped bridge the gap between the cost and what most students would be able to afford. The course, taught by Dr. Julia Davis, will cover the symptoms of different mental disorders, prescription drug abuse, opioid overdose and mental health resources specific to Macon. “I hope people will stop seeing disorders like depression, bipolar, substance abuse, etc. as ‘made up’ and recognize that these individuals cannot help how they feel or act sometimes because of structural differences in their brain anatomy,” Manyam said. While this year’s program has already reached its 40-person cap, Ravikumar and Manyam are looking ahead to next year. “Hopefully next year we can ask Bear Grants for more money, or partner with other organizations so we’ll be able to offer it to more students at a cheaper price,” Ravikumar said. “This is a first trial thing… we’re definitely going to be doing it next year.” The location for the event has still yet to be determined by Mercer reservations.
“Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of the most ambitious animated films of the last decade, and it comes from a studio outside of Disney’s monopoly. Watching “Into the Spider-Verse” is like seeing a comic book come to life in an adrenaline shot of frantic, fast-paced action. The execution is so flawless, it calls into question why any superhero movies are live action. While Spiderman reboots are becoming as common as Super Bowls, “Spider-Verse” both sets itself apart from and uses the previous incarnations of Spiderman to propel itself forward. The film either assumes its audience has a working knowledge of Spiderman, or gives sparse background and quick, Sparknote-style asides in order to give more focus to the parts of the Spiderman mythology that haven’t gotten screen time yet-- most notable of those parts being Miles Morales. While almost every comic book version of Spiderman/woman/pig makes an appearance, this film is very much about the origin story of Morales, a Brooklyn teen who’s still adjusting to his newfound spider powers when his would-be mentor, Peter Parker, dies. Luckily for Miles, he runs into the Peter Parker of another universe, Peter B. Parker, who’s depressed, divorced and dimensionally displaced by crime boss Kingpin’s newest scheme. From there, more diasporic spider people arrive - Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Woman, the black-and-white detective Spider-Noir, the cartoonish Spider-Ham and the Japanese schoolgirl with her telepathic robot SP//DER. Naturally. In any other franchise, this team-up of characters from such radically different source material would be visually jarring and thematically incohesive, but the writing and animation are so self-aware and intentional with it that nothing feels off. The plot of the film is so closely tied to Miles’s development as a person and a superhero that most of the other Spider-heroes are there more as pressure -- expectations Miles feels he has to live up to -- rather than starring roles. Their characters’ arcs are either small enough to pull off with limited screen time or largely intertwined with Miles’s. The animation is innovative, and coming from a studio unaffiliated with Disney, it has the potential to advance the medium as a whole. Instead of looking at the art form in terms of how it can be more lifelike, this film both asks and answers the question: What can animation do that live action can’t? Any moderately-successful superhero movie has to spend quite a lot of money trying to make the gimmicky costumes of comic books a reality that can be taken seriously. So much work of the current superhero age is spent trying to sanitize and conform the outlandish and fantastical aspects of its source material, rather than embrace it. “Into the Spider-Verse” embraces it so tightly I was afraid to blink for 116 minutes.
Willet Science Center will re-open this fall, giving a new home to the psychology, computer science, public health and athletic training programs. Last year, it was projected that construction would be completed in time for the 2019 spring semester. James Netherton, executive vice president for administration and finance, said that was “the most optimistic forecast.” “We were pushing to try to get it done, but everything didn’t fall right,” he said. “When you do a major renovation, you don’t know all that you’re going to have to fix until you get into it, and we had a few unpleasant surprises.” Renovations began in January 2018 and were set to involve lab structure and equipment tailored to each department it’s meant to house. Environmental engineering classes will move into Willet in order to make more room for civil engineering classes. “Civil engineering tends to be a bit dirtier practice, and the way to accommodate the needs of civil engineering really was to move somebody out of the engineering building,” Netherton said. “Environmental engineering was an easy one to move; the kinds of labs they need match perfectly with the kind of lab structure that was already there.” While the psychology department’s rat lab was housed in Willet before, the faculty themselves were on the other side of campus. Now, they’ll all be in the same building. “As long as anyone can remember, we’ve been in Wiggs,” Bill Jenkins, head of the psychology department, said. “Toward the end of the semester, when we’re already crazy-busy grading, we’re going to (be) packing up our office, (but) once we get there, we’re going to have a tremendous amount of space for research and classroom space and more laboratory space, so we’re excited, it’s just moving is never easy.” The psychology department has been consulting with the architects responsible for the renovations since they began. “I’m thankful,” he said. “Originally the plan was to have us move mid-year and start this semester in the new building, but there have been some delays because of issues they discovered in the Willet center, but I’m actually - I think that’s a blessing because it would have been really difficult. I know biology did that, moving into the Godsey Science Center, and so I’m glad we have a bit more time.” Wiggs is next on the list for renovations. Although it’s not confirmed what exactly will take the place of the psychology offices and classrooms, Jenkins said it is likely to be used for administration or the honors college. The computer science department will also have a floor to itself in the new Willet. “Computer science will have better space, but it continues to change, and this will provide a bit more flexibility,” Netherton said. Undergraduate public health and the athletic training master's program will share a floor in the renovated building. “We’ve had the public health faculty put over on the ground floor of Newton Annex,” Netherton said. “Putting them in this building allows us to move all the faculty there, all of the classrooms in the same buildings. It works much better (with) the professors just down the hall than across campus.” Russell Vullo, associate vice president for facilities, said that Willet will include an elevator certified by the Americans with Disabilities Act and one unisex bathroom per floor, according to an earlier report by The Cluster. As for the old computer science building, Netherton said that it will be removed, and that plot of land will stand empty until Mercer replaces or expands the Connell Student Center. “All of our construction projects have been done with an eye toward long-term planning - how is it going to meet our future needs, how is the campus going to evolve, and so there were quite a few steps here in anticipating the future,” Netherton said. The Willet Science Center should be fully operational in time for the start of classes this fall.
The U.S. Department of Education is currently under scrutiny from the US courts for attempting to revise and replace several key university policies. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ revisions to Title IX have received backlash for reducing colleges’ responsibilities in investigating off-campus sexual assault cases, limiting what constitutes sexual assault and strengthening the due process of the accused, according to the New York Times. The defendant’s updated due process includes “a presumption of innocence throughout the grievance process, written notice of allegations and an equal opportunity to review all evidence collected and the right to cross-examination,” according to the Department of Education. However, defendants would not be allowed to cross-examine their accusers directly. The definition of sexual harassment has also changed from “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” according to Title IX to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school's education program or activity," according to DeVos’s revisions. “Colleges and universities are not courts, and these sort of proceedings would require us to legalize student disciplinary proceedings,” Terry Hartle, vice president of the American Council on Education said. “We lack the knowledge, the expertise, and credibility to do this.” DeVos was also recently sued for “delaying the implementation of the ‘Borrower Defense’ regulations,” according to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The borrower defense regulations offer federal loan forgiveness for students who attended a fraudulent university that was shut down before they could earn their degree, according to the Student Aid office of the Department of Education. These regulations would also prevent schools from requiring students to waive their right to sue. The borrower defense has been law since the 1990s, but was revised by the Obama administration after Corinthian College was sued for “false and predatory advertising, intentional misrepresentations to students (and) securities fraud” and all of their American students filed for the borrower defense, according to the LA Times. This revised legislation was supposed to come into effect July 1, but DeVos has delayed its implementation in the interest of replacing it. DeVos has cited a lawsuit spearheaded by for-profit institutions as a reason why the legislation itself may be in need of review, according to the New York Times. “The borrower-defense regulations suffer from substantive and procedural flaws that need to be considered before imposing new burdens on regulated parties,” Spokesperson Ms. Hill said in a statement. The Department of Education has favored partial forgiveness over total loan forgiveness under DeVos’ leadership. On average, partial forgiveness awards have covered 30 percent of a student's outstanding loan, with a median loan of roughly $11,500 reduced to about $7,800, according to data collected by the Associated Press. The plaintiffs in the case against DeVos are 19 attorney generals and two former students of New England Institute of the Arts who wanted to sue the school under the revised legislation, according to Fox News. Judge Moss ruled that the department's actions "have deprived" them "of several concrete benefits that they would have otherwise accrued under the Borrower Defense Regulations," according to NPR.
“The Haunting of Hill House” simultaneously follows the Crain family while they are living in Hill House and 20 years later, after their brush with the undead thrust their family into the public sphere. “The Haunting of Hill House” is loosely based off of the Shirley Jackson novel of the same name. While the plot and characters have been significantly altered, Netflix has preserved what made Jackson’s 1959 novel a cultural phenomenon. The occult is used to heighten the ordinary, as the narrative conflates the characters’ supernatural experiences with their own delusions of guilt, fear and persecution. Every ghostly development in Hill House pushes the characters and their relationships further toward a fever pitch, keeping the show’s sole focus on the family and their interpersonal problems. Hill House’s level of detail and realism also makes every ghostly interaction, no matter how slight, infinitely more terrifying. There is sometimes no build to a climactic encounter, and sometimes small revelations are made suspenseful by virtue of a long build. Netflix manages to keep the tension taut throughout all 10 episodes by subconscious visual cues, like keeping doorways and large open spaces empty in the background of a shot, on the off chance something might appear there. The sixth episode is an hour long and changes camera angles only five times. While the technique is an incredible and tedious feat, it maintains tension even during dialogue-heavy scenes. It creates the feeling that any quiet moment could explode into action. One of Hill House’s greatest flaws actually comes from one of its greatest scenes. There is a mid-season plot twist that is jarring, visceral and existentially thought-provoking. It’s beautifully shot, impossible to predict and sure to become the show’s hallmark, but the second half of the season isn’t able to match that twist in terms of suspense or impact, and so feels flat comparatively. While the show goes to some pretty dark places, it handles it’s gentler themes with care and nuance. Above all else, “The Haunting of Hill House” is about dealing with the loss of a loved one, and striking a balance between honoring the dead and letting go of them. While there is the occasional jump scare, and a dozen unaddressed background ghosts that will give you a heart attack once you realize they’re there, “The Haunting of Hill House” artfully uses supernatural horror to highlight the more realistic horrors of grief and loss.
The midterm elections will be held Nov. 6 in Georgia. Here’s a closer look at what each name on that ballot represents. The two leading candidates running for governor are Secretary of State Brian Kemp and House Representative Stacey Abrams. Economics Kemp and Abrams have both stressed the importance of small businesses in their campaigns, and both have received “A” ratings from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Kemp’s solution involves taking a “chainsaw” to regulation, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This means imposing a cap on state spending and the amount of federal regulation the state is allowed. “As a small business owner and a member of NFIB, Brian Kemp understands the challenges facing Georgia’s job creators,” the state director of National Federation of Independent Business said in an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. Abrams plans to support small businesses by fostering “an educated workforce and strong infrastructure in urban, suburban and rural areas alike,” according to her platform. She has also voiced her support for a Georgia Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Georgia does not currently offer a state-level EITC, which would cut taxes for low-wage workers. The credit is available only to people who work, and it increases to a certain level as wages rise. That encourages people to stay employed and work more hours, rather than rely on public assistance, according to georgiaworkcredit.org. Healthcare Both Kemp and Abrams say they are in favor of lowering insurance premiums, serving Georgia’s rural population and extending coverage to pre-existing conditions. Abrams plans to leverage state and federal programs to incentivize more doctors and medical personnel to work in underserved areas. She wants to expand Medicaid to cover nearly 500,000 more Georgians, save rural hospitals and generate 56,000 new jobs across the state, according to her healthcare platform. Kemp said he will increase OB-GYN and primary care doctors in rural Georgia through the Provider Loan Forgiveness Program, encourage Centers of Excellence in his campaign platform. He also laments how easily he says non-citizens can access healthcare. “People are just frustrated that any noncitizen can walk into healthcare facilities and not pay a single dime and get services, and then we have Georgians — working Georgians — that are out there that are not able to get good health care or it’s costing a fortune,” Kemp said in an interview with the Gainesville Times. According to healthcare.gov, only lawfully permanent residents (LPRS) or green card holders are afforded Medicaid and there is a five year waiting period after receiving immigration status. Education Both Kemp and Abrams’ platforms support paying teachers higher salaries and standardizing the quality of education across zip codes. “As governor, I will build on Nathan Deal’s legacy and fully fund public school education. We must invest in our future today and ensure that all students have access to a quality education,” Kemp said in a statement after Athens educators went on a hunger strike over low wages. Abrams self-identifies as the state’s “Public Education Governor” and has proposed a comprehensive “Cradle to Career” program. This proposal starts with child care and preschool programs for working families through the Bold Start Scholarship programs. At the grade school level, Abrams plans to prioritize safety, wraparound support and child mental-health services while protecting the school system from privatization. Then, at the college level, Abrams wants to expand the HOPE scholarship and implement tuition-free technical colleges. She would also build opportunities for youth civic engagement and summer employment with the establishment of the Governor’s Youth Council, according to her platform. Midterm elections will take place on Nov. 6. Early voting ends Nov. 2.
Nevermore Hills Haunted Trails announced that 2018 would be its last year open. Located near the Warner Robins Air Force Base and funded by the Museum of Aviation, the trails have gained wild popularity during their six years in operation. “Haunted attractions are a love or hate thing, you know, one of the reasons I started it was because I love - I love the scare factor,” Founder Jenny Maas said. “I have volunteers… (who) started out as sophomores in high school and they’re in their 20’s now and they’re still coming back and volunteering because they have so much fun.” Despite support from the community, the trails will have their final scare this Halloween. Maas said that the project, while popular, wasn’t profitable enough. “It’s a lot of work for, you know, what we consider to be kind of a minimal return financially. It’s a great, great public event, the public loves it, but in terms of a huge fundraiser; you can only let so many people through in one night, so your potential in terms of raising funds... is sort of limited,” Maas said. There have been rumors that the trails are actually haunted. In 2013, during the trails’ off season, a local group of paranormal investigators stayed in the trails from 4:00 p.m. to midnight to determine if there was any truth to that claim. “They did find some activity, apparently. Nothing off the charts, though,” Maas said. “There’s a lot of stories about the house. They say that a man was shot on the front porch, and there’s a tree out behind the house (where) they say they used to hang union soldiers.” Volunteers at the trails have some horror stories of their own. “We’ve had volunteers, because you have to go out there in the night before you’re going to be running it, and we’ve had volunteers swear that there’s a woman in black that walks out there,” Maas said. The trails will be open this year Oct. 19, 20, 26, 27 and 31 from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. In addition to the trails, there will also be a crawl-through maze in the dark.
The Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Oct. 6 in a 50-48 vote. It was one of the lowest number of votes of any SCOTUS confirmation in American history, second only to Stanley Matthews in 1881, according to the Senate’s records. Sen. Lisa Murkowski would have been the only Republican vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation had she been present for the vote, and Sen. Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to vote yes. Besides these two votes, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a clean split down the aisle, according to the New York Times. Despite her vote not being counted, President Trump has said that Murkowski will “never recover.” “I think she will never recover from this,” Trump said. “I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.” Public opinion on Kavanaugh has been polarized since Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford leveled a sexual assault allegation against him. During his hearing, political discourse reached a fever pitch. Sueng Min Kim, a Congress beat reporter for the Washington Post, said that she had never seen a senator get as angry as Sen. Lindsey Graham did at the start of Kavanaugh’s hearing. According to the Washington Post, Graham alleged that the Democratic party orchestrated Dr. Ford’s confession and told Congress, “If you vote no, you’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics.” Kavanaugh also decried Ford’s testimony as a liberal attack, and when Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked if he had ever blacked out after too many beers, he replied, “Have you?” Kavanaugh’s confirmation changes the makeup of SCOTUS, tipping the scales in conservatives’ favor. Before his confirmation, SCOTUS also had five Republicans and four Democrats, but Kavanaugh is replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who served as a moderate swing vote, according to Fox News. There were protests against his confirmation in the weeks leading up to the vote. Following his confirmation, a large crowd of protesters rushed the front steps of the Supreme Court, chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, Kavanaugh has got to go," according to CNN.
Amazon has come under fire recently for the alleged poor treatment of its workers. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna have proposed a bill to address working conditions -- the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies (Stop BEZOS) Act. The act riffs off of the name of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO. Despite its name, Sanders spokesman Josh Miller-Lewis said that they are not targeting Amazon specifically. “Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person in the history of the world, and Amazon... is a $1 trillion company,” Miller-Lewis said. “They are the perfect example of the inequality and greed that exists in America today.” The Stop BEZOS Act would make large corporations -- 500 employees or more -- pay taxes equivalent to the money their employees receive from federal aid. When a company offers low wages for full-time jobs, their workers often have to rely on government aid to fully support themselves and their families. This means that companies don’t have to pay their workers a livable wage, because the slack is picked up by taxpayers. This act could change that. Since Amazon was established in 1994, Bezos has accrued a net worth of $161.6 billion, according to Forbes, while the median Amazon employee salary is $28,000 a year. Bezos makes that much in 8.93 seconds, according to TIME magazine. UK journalist James Bloodworth went undercover to test the working conditions of several large corporations, Amazon among them. During his time working in an Amazon warehouse, he found that workers were forced to urinate in bottles because of timed bathroom breaks. Injuries on the job were common as well, and workers were penalized for asking for time off, even if the absence was requested well in advance. These reasons are what led Amazon workers in Europe to go on strike this summer, during Prime Day. "It's the sheer oppressiveness of management regime there," Bloodworth told Business Insider. "It's the most oppressive place I had ever worked, easily." His experiences have been chronicled in his book "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain,” which is available for purchase on Amazon, ironically enough. Bezos doesn’t seem too concerned with all of the bad press. After he purchased the Washington Post in 2013, the publication still continued to write critical articles about Bezos’ business practices. The Prime Day strike in Europe didn’t hurt their sales, and neither did the coverage of police violently breaking up the strikes, according to the Chicago Tribune. While bad press hasn’t had a big impact on Amazon’s stock and profits so far, the company has begun paying workers to defend them on Twitter, according to the Washington Times. Sanders’ Stop BEZOS Act would be one of the first legislative measures against the megacorporations of the 21st century, but the economics behind the act itself has been met with controversy. Some speculate that companies would find easy loopholes around Sanders’ act. Instead of paying for their employees welfare, they would stop hiring workers with more expensive welfare -- workers with families that arguably need work the most. Medicaid for workers over the age of 45 is twice the price of younger workers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Stop BEZOS Act, as it is now, is unlikely to pass with a Republican-dominated Senate, but with the midterm elections coming up this November, that could change.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a refreshing new addition to a genre in desperate need of new ideas. The past decade of romantic comedies have, by and large, failed to be romantic or funny, weighed down by overused tropes and formulaic writing, while young adult (YA) literature has evolved far beyond the scope of wish fulfillment. This might be the root of “All the Boys’” success; a YA novel adapted for the screen, with its author fighting to preserve all the groundbreaking choices that made her book a bestseller. According to Teen Vogue, Jenny Han turned down multiple offers from bigger studios because they wanted to whitewash the story’s protagonist, Lara Jean, and held out until she found one that would preserve her identity as an Asian American character. Lana Condor’s (Lara Jean) casting is integral to this film. Not only does her performance carry the movie, but she’s also close in age to the character she’s playing, so all the talk of first kisses and relationships feels authentic -- and has just the right amount of awkward to be charming. “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is more concerned with realism than escapism, but the story still snags on a couple of one-dimensional characters and low-stake climaxes. Lara Jean’s best friend is only present in the story when convenient, and the two of them seem to have very little in common beyond hating a popular girl. Her relationship with her sisters seems flat, despite the plots’ emphasis on their closeness. One of Lara Jean’s past loves, Lucas, turns out to be gay and despite the two of them not being close, she still confides in him about her current relationship drama, and he acts like a cardboard cutout gay best friend. The second act miscommunication-betrayal that is so emblematic of romcoms isn’t big enough to merit a climax. The love interest doesn’t explain himself soon enough and the betrayal isn’t convincing enough for Lara Jean to believe it in the first place. The humor is sweet, the characters are realistic, and there’s enough tension throughout to have the ending payoff, even if the climax plateaus.
Voter suppression is a political strategy used by candidates to prevent the supporters of their opponents from voting. Since The Voting Rights Act of 1965 made the more transparent methods like poll tax and Jim Crow illegal, candidates have gotten more creative about discouraging opposing voters. This summer, the Elections Division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office canceled the registration of almost 600,000 voters across the state, on the grounds that they had not been active voters in the past three years, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia legislators also tried to pass a bill that would cut early voting on Sunday and limit regular poll hours in Atlanta. The bill failed when they neglected to vote on it during their last session. Had it passed, the bill might have limited the impact of many white collar voters, since the majority are only able to vote on Sunday. Shortening the voting hours of Atlanta, a left-leaning city with a high population, would’ve been a loss for the Democratic minority in Georgia. In a globalized, wireless world, there are new threats to our democracy coming from overseas. American voting machines were hacked by the Russians during the 2016 election, but that attack started smaller. Russia intercepting phone calls or performing surveillance on the United States wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, according to former White House Staff Member Ben Rhodes. It was that Russia released those private phone calls and emails to the public. Those leaks, as well as the social media bots that spread fake news may have been attempts to sway the 2016 election, but what really disenfranchised voters during and after was the attack on voting machines. “If you go in to vote, and you are no longer confident that the vote that you put in is the way it's going to get recorded because you don't know if the Russians or someone else have gotten into the voting system, that undercuts your trust in the democratic process,” White House Correspondent David Sanger said. Sanger is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with 30 years of experience at the New York Times. Georgia Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp refused federal help to secure voting machines in 2016. "The chaos of switching to a completely different voting system this close to an election would cause inconvenience, voter confusion and potentially suppressed turn-out," Kemp said. Georgia is one of only four states to use electronic voting machines with no verified paper trail, according to Verified Voters. Kemp is currently being sued for allowing a security breach that made the information of 6 million voters available online, according to a report by CNN. He has also not stepped down from his position as Georgia’s Secretary of State, despite overseeing the department that runs the state’s elections, and was responsible for canceling the registration of over half a million voters. Above all cyber security threats and laws, modern voter suppression at its core relies on voters feeling like their voices don’t matter. College-aged voters are among the lowest numbers for voter turnout. Less than 50 percent of voters ages 18 to 24 voted in 2016, compared to over 70 percent for ages 60 and up, according to the United States Election Project. Millennials now rival baby boomers in population of eligible voters, but millennials are not voting at the percentage that their parent generation is, according to the Pew Research Center. Tip: You can check to see if you’re registered to vote at registertovote.sos.ga.gov. If you’re not, try registering to vote here at usa.gov/register-to-vote. This article has been updated to reflect the print publication. An earlier version included a spelling error and an additional paragraph about college-aged voting.
Mercer has been named a Peace Corps Prep school. Here’s how students can get involved in the program
Mercer University has been chosen as a Peace Corps Prep site, making it the first private institution in Georgia to participate in the program. The Peace Corps is a post-graduate volunteer program funded by the United States government. Volunteers aid foreign countries in their area of expertise and are given full benefits, room and board and a stipend while serving. Mercer applied for the program last December, and after a long application process, has been designated as a PC Prep site. “It’s something that any university can apply for, but it’s a pretty long process. It’s something that our office led the initiative on, and, of course, with other faculty members who have always had an interest in the program and having participated in (the) Peace Corps, so there’s been a lot of support across campus for it,” said Associate Director of International Programs Liz M. Dille. Peace Corps Prep sites serve to hone an undergraduate student’s skill in one of six sectors – education, health, youth in development, agriculture, environment or community economic development. Graduates of the program will have a greater chance of being chosen for the Peace Corps, according to the PC Prep student guide. “Mercer’s commitment to community, to research and development and to purposefully scaffolding high-impact, engaged learning practices aligns perfectly with the Peace Corps ethos, making the Peace Corps Prep program a natural fit into our curriculum,” Provost David Scott Davis said. Whichever sector a student chooses to focus on, the program requirements are the same. There are four areas of study within a sector that must be completed in order to graduate from the program. The training and experience area requires three courses from an approved block and 50 hours of volunteer work. According to the PC Prep student guide, Mercer on Mission counts towards those hours. Intercultural competence requires three introspective courses, one of which can be substituted with a “cultural experience” such as studying or volunteering abroad. Courses in this block include Integrative Studies (INT), Africana Studies, Great Books and Communication. To meet the professional and leadership development standards, students must make a resume for critiquing, attend a workshop or class on interview skills and hold a leadership position within Mercer’s organizations. Those organizations include QuadWorks, Fraternity and Sorority Programs, Minority Mentors, Student Government Association, SHAPE, Residence Life and various academic and athletic groups. The specific coursework for foreign language varies by region. For Latin America, two 200-level Spanish courses are required. For West Africa, two 200-level French courses are preferred, but any Romance language will meet PC Prep’s standards. These classes can be waived if a student learns the language through another medium. Students looking to serve outside of those regions do not have any course requirements but are encouraged to study their target language independently. “It focuses on tailoring already established major coursework toward a focus on intercultural communication, global development and leadership skills, instead of adding additional coursework to our highly-engaged students’ schedules,” Ashley Buchanan, coordinator of Mercer’s Peace Corps Prep program, said. A launch event will be held on Oct. 18 to raise awareness for the program. “We’re hoping to have some alumni of the Peace Corps prep there (and) other representatives of Peace Corps available for students to talk to. It’ll be an event for students to network and get a little bit more informal information about the program,” Dille said. Dille said that they hope to host several events during the day, rounded out by a more formal evening of speeches and horderves.
As the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the second Ant-Man installment, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” fits safely within the MCU formula. There are jokes, sometimes misplaced in climactic moments. There are cool fight scenes that are probably more destructive than productive. There are post-credits scenes that don’t seem worth it halfway through the wait, but then if you leave all that time waiting would’ve been for nothing so you stay even though every moment is excruciating. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a fine movie in its own right, despite the clunky tie-in media needed to follow its plot. It’s funny, suspenseful and raises the stakes as high as they will go, but it’s painfully obvious that the ensemble overshadows the title character. The main antagonist’s screen time is divided between two one-dimensional, cartoonish villains, and she still is able to show more depth and growth than the man at the top of the billing. Although the pacing of her arc is rushed, Ghost is a more memorable and complicated antagonist than expected of an Ant-Man movie. Through her, we see what lengths an innocent person will go to avoid facing their own mortality. The Wasp is also a formidable character, and the film doesn’t need to break up its pacing or stall its dialogue to emphasize that. She is able to keep up and even surpass the male characters in combat (and intellect), and none of it is treated as surprising or rare. The movie revolves around her arc to find her mother, and Ghost’s arc to find a cure, with Scot Lang just along for the ride. This wouldn’t be a huge flaw if the previous MCU releases hadn’t pushed their main characters to face real tragedy and develop beyond the scope of their phase one movies. While the premise of Ant-Man will always be inherently a little silly, humor shouldn’t be a substitute for character.