After a long eighteen months stuck at home, the student body of Saint Mary’s is overjoyed to be back on campus, eager to make new memories and participate in old traditions. Perhaps no one is more excited than the Saint Mary’s Latinx Club, which is in the early stages of planning its annual cultural night in the spring. Stephanie Ramirez ‘22, the co-chair of the Latin Cultural Night’s executive team, wants to approach this year’s event a little bit differently.
“I definitely feel like I need to make up for lost time.”
This is the sentiment shared by Stephanie Ramirez when asked about how she plans to approach this year’s Latin Cultural Night. “There are lots of freshmen and sophomores who don’t know anything about LCN because they felt disconnected from all the time we spent online. I want them to know what an in-person LCN feels like.”
LCN is part of the annual Cultural Night Series, a 3-4 hour event meant as a showcase for the various cultures of minority communities. Other cultural nights include celebrations for Expressions of Blackness (EOB), BASH (LGBTQIA+), PICN (Pacific Islander), ACN (Asian), and MENA (Middle Eastern/North Africa). Planning kicks off in the fall with a weekend Diversity Retreat, followed by weekly meetings among executive teams who are in charge of planning and executing the event.
Students who participate in the Cultural Nights are allowed to demonstrate any kind of artistic expression unique to their culture, and each expression is referred to as a set, none of which run longer than ten minutes. After coming up with their ideas with the help of biweekly workshops, students are expected to rehearse their set leading up to the big night. Past sets have included dancing, singing, poetry reading, comedy shows, videos, and fashion shows. There was even one year where they had a guacamole competition.
“That was fun” Stephanie recalls with a laugh. “Everyone made guacamole and had to taste them, but each of the plates were different because every culture made guacamole a little bit differently.”
In addition to being a fun way to display your culture, the sets often have a personal meaning to them as well.
“The sets are a way to communicate a part of yourself without having to have a conversation,” Stephanie says. “The audience knows another part of you just from watching your set.”
As the co-chair of the executive team, Stephanie’s responsibilities include working with the various departments at Saint Mary’s, including the department of College of Communications, to organize, finance, and promote the event.
“One of the other challenges that we have to deal with is the overall lack of awareness among the student body,” Stephanie details. “I want to take a different approach this year. Most of the organization’s executive teams were all seniors, so now that they’ve graduated, we have to bring in new people and pair them up with people who are more experienced. It’s kind of like we’re starting from scratch.”
Stephanie’s involvement with LCN started her freshman year, as she wanted to learn more about other Latin American cultures in addition to feeling closer to the school’s Latinx community.
“I’m Mexican, which I think is kind of the go-to culture that immediately comes to mind when people think of Latin America,” Stephanie says. “ I even think that way sometimes. But Latin America is so much more than just Mexico. There are Salvadorans, and Hondurans, and Guatemalans—there’s a huge melting pot of cultures that people tend to overlook, and LCN helps draw attention to the very unique cultural traditions of every one of them.”
Latin Cultural Night, which this year is set for March 27th, is fast approaching its twentieth year of celebration, a landmark Stephanie hopes to celebrate by going out with a bang for her senior year.
“I think it’s important to get all of the classes involved, not just the underclassmen. For my senior Latinx friends who haven’t been as involved with the community, I want to reach out so that they can learn. This is a space to bring those Latinx students back home, so they can feel good because it’s part of their identity.”
Even so, Stephanie wants to combat the common perception that LCN is only intended for Latinx students. “We want non-Latinx students to attend! We don’t have enough of them. We’d love it if the community could turn out to support the event. At the end of the day, we’re all one community. This space is welcome to everybody.”
In a time for groundbreaking vaccines, the WHO recommends the widespread use of the malaria vaccine for children who are at high risk
By Kamryn Sobel
On October 6th, the World Health Organization recommended a new defense against the deadly malaria disease. In regions with high transmission rates amongst children, the recommendation is set for the population. Specifically, this is based on a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, in which malaria has reached more than 800,000 innocent children since 2019. With a new tool to help combat this vicious disease, thousands of children will be kept from a lethal fate.
A background on malaria: malaria is caused by a parasite that infects Anopheles mosquitoes, which then feed on humans. Typically, these mosquitoes are females that are infected by a person with malaria parasites. When searching for its next meal, the parasites mix with the saliva of the mosquito and are transmitted to the next person. Although it cannot be spread like a cold or flu due to the parasites being found in human red blood cells, malaria can be transferred through organ transplant, blood transfusion, or objects contaminated with blood.
Unfortunately, with malaria being a leading cause of death amongst children in the sub-Saharan Africa area, at least 260,000 children 5 and under die annually. In the United States, to compare, around 2,000 cases per year are reported of the malaria disease, while internationally, 229 million cases were estimated in 2019 by the World Health Organization. Malaria is rare in warm climates, as many of these reported cases are from those traveling to and from countries where transmission rates are high.
Finding a way to create the malaria vaccine was a lengthy process. Due to this disease transmitting parasites, it becomes a much more complex task in the making of an effective vaccine. Parasites can change and adapt to their environment, for they are organisms. For multiple decades, particularly since the successful human trial in 1996, there have been many trials starting from adults and making their way to younger children due to safety precautions. Now, many are rejoicing after the WHO came out with the endorsement after years of experiments and tragedy.
According to the immunization and malaria global advisory bodies from the WHO, it is recommended “that in the context of comprehensive malaria control, the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine be used for the prevention of P. falciparum malaria in children living in regions with moderate to high transmission as defined by WHO. RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine should be provided in a schedule of 4 doses in children from 5 months of age for the reduction of malaria disease and burden.”
Alongside the malaria vaccine, other tools such as the insecticide-treated nets have resulted in over 90% of children benefiting from at least one malaria intervention. Some of the other key findings of many from the vaccine pilots include more 2.3 million doses have been administered to 3 African countries, 30% reduction rates have been reported in severe malaria cases, and that the vaccine is cost-effective in regions with high transmission rates.
With the hunt for this vaccine being considered one of the most important research projects in public health, specifically in Africa, “this is a historic moment. The long-awaited malaria vaccine for children is a breakthrough for science, child health and malaria control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Independent investigators claim to have solved the Zodiac Killer Case
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
Throughout the late 1960s, a masked man terrorized parts of the Bay Area, sending coded notes, supposedly filled with clues about his identity, to major newspapers across the bay area and ultimately committing five known murders. Though his known crimes ended in 1969, they have never been solved, and the mystery of the Zodiac Killer remains one of the most famous unsolved crimes in American history. A group of Bay Area forensic investigators have named a new suspect, claiming to have solved this decades-long cold case.
The Case Breakers, the organization behind the new developments in this case, has named Gary Poste as a likely Zodiac Killer suspect. The group describes itself as a “small army of volunteers—with law and order and public safety in their DNA” and aims to solve neglected cases for overwhelmed agencies. The group was founded by Los Angeles-based documentarians Thomas J. and Dawna Colbert in 2011 and has since grown to be a 40 member task force led by retired FBI officers.
According to a former Army Counterintelligence officer and Case Breaker, Jen Bucholtz, Gary Poste was a member of the United States Air Force and was stationed in Vandenberg California. Once he left the military, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he started a house painting business. Bucholtz says that Poste can be placed in the right areas and places during the time the murders were committed, including the 1966 murder of Cheri Jo Bates in Riverside, California.
Bucholtz says that the Case Breakers decided to go to the media to get the FBI to confirm or deny the plausibility of Poste being a suspect using testing like DNA testing. Bucholtz claims there is DNA evidence from Cherri Jo Bates’s killer and that the Vallejo police department has DNA from Gary Poste. She says that the Case Breakers theory could be easily tested if the two departments exchange information.
A recent tongue-in-cheek article by KQED reports that “5 other times we learned the Zodiac killers ‘true’ identity” and notes that this is not the first time someone has come forward claiming to have solved the Zodiac Killer case. In fact, the Wikipedia page for the Zodiac Killer lists 21 different suspects. Rae Alexandra from KQED argues that out of these 21 suspects, five of them are much more convincing Zodiac killers than Poste, who died in 2018.
Authorities, however, have cast doubt on the claims made by the Case Breakers. In a statement, the San Francisco FBI office says its “investigation into the Zodiac Killer remains open and unsolved” and declines to release any information related to the independent group’s theory.
“Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and out of respect for the victims and their families, we will not be providing further comment at this time,” the statement said.
With Gary Poste dead, and authorities refusing to comment further, it is unclear what the future holds for this famous Bay Area case.
By Jacqueline Mastrelli
The seniors of Saint Mary’s believe that remote work is here to stay. Holly Nguyen, President of the Marketing Club said, “I definitely think it will become part of our culture.” Data from management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, backs her up. After performing a global analysis, they have concluded that “hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the
wake of the pandemic.”
Although many students embrace the freedom and efficiency of remote work, most have a sober understanding of the unique challenges that come with it. Daniela Catubig, President of the Gael Women in Business Club, is looking forward to a hybrid-remote model with Salesforce after graduation. But she admits that “[remote work] is hard because I get distracted when I’m at home. I’m alone with my phone without anyone to hold me accountable.”
Daniela proves that there are solutions to everything; during her summer internship with Salesforce, she would create a Zoom room with friends where they would be able to get their work done and hold each other accountable. The MO was, “Don’t talk, let’s just work and stay focused.” Despite this, she is ultimately pro remote work and looks forward to the way it will give her the opportunity to spend more time with her family in the future.
Holly Nguyen also worked a remote internship over the summer but found the negatives outweigh the positives. She found remote work unnecessarily difficult because “response times to my questions were slow and it was hard to be shown how to do something.” Looking back at the internship, she concludes that her virtual training didn’t properly prepare her for the position. “It was super quick. Then they were just like alright, now do what we just showed you.” Moving forward, she is “98% sure” she is going to be working in-person post-graduation, something she is looking forward to.
By Natalie Alden
The Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS) at Saint Mary’s help students deal with various different mental health issues such as eating disorders, trauma, homesickness, relationship issues, different aspects of identity, and most commonly anxiety and depression. Given that this is the first year students are back on campus after a year online, students may feel more anxious with the multitude of changes as a result of the pandemic. Cynthia Cutshall, the associate director of clinical services and operations/outreach coordinator of CAPS, has seen just that. The CAPS office has recorded double the number of students coming in for mental health issues so far this academic year than before Covid-19.
More students have reported to reach out to the CAPS office with issues of anxiety than any other year prior, according to Cutshall. She says that students are happy to be back on campus but the growing anxiety of students has been apparent from the start. Cutshall states, “We have had twice as many students come into our office these first few weeks of school than before the pandemic. It’s exacerbated.”
Cutshall explains that having an influx of students during the first few weeks of the school year can be typical, however, this has been unusually busy for counselors at CAPS with the large number of students seeking help for their mental health. This statistic does not surprise Makenzie O’Neil, a psychology professor at Saint Mary’s. This growing number of students seeking mental health help could be due to a couple of different things. O’Neil states, “People are more likely to talk to and seek help. The pandemic has had a negative impact on people's mental health, however, it cannot boil down to one specific reason.”
More students may be more willing in 2021 than years prior to seek help for their mental health because of the growing acceptance of therapy and mental health in the past year. Cutshall shares, “Students are more open to coming to our office to talk to us about their mental health because the stigma around therapy has gotten better.” Cutshall also notes that although each year the number of students utilizing CAPS has increased, this year the number of students seeking help for their mental health has doubled from 2019. “People are afraid of their well-being especially at a time like this”, O’Neil states.
The CAPS office has also noticed that most of the students they are seeing come in for anxiety and depression. “Definitely the most common mental health issue students have come in for so far this semester has been anxiety and depression,” Cutshall shares. This spike in students seeking out CAPS could also be due to a year of attending classes remotely. O’Neil echoes that point by mentioning that the “Challenges of shifting to online learning can be isolating and cause stress.”
Although the CAPS office reports that they have seen a major influx of students in comparison to previous years before Covid-19, Cutshall reinforces that students are more optimistic than pessimistic. Cutshall states, “Students report to be doing much better being back in person. Attendance at outreach events is much higher.” According to Cutshall, the CAPS office is feeling good about students' outlook on the year ahead, now being back in person, but is encouraging students to pace themselves when integrating back to in-person learning to help students not feel overwhelmed. Professor O’Neil also states that “Humans are social species, removing that has had its impact.”
In terms of looking ahead for the CAPS office, Cutshall is hoping for the best after Covid-19 layoffs in her department. “I would like to see CAPS fully staffed again, have a psychiatrist on staff to prescribe medication, and to have more outreach programs,” shares Cutshall. Being fully staffed again seems to be necessary considering the much larger number of students are using CAPS in a post pandemic year than ever before.
The Saint Mary’s dining hall, the only source of food on campus, continues to have limited healthy options and has caused multiple food poisoning illnesses just this week
By: Eden Llodrá
Contributing from Sports
What is the meaning of food, if not to enhance our well-being, increase our energy and be enjoyed? For too long now, there have been health complaints among students regarding the food served at the Saint Mary’s Dining Hall. Meeting with some students to talk about their experience gave perspective to the magnitude of effects that physical health can also have on one’s mental health. A one on one interview with the Sodexo general manager, Lorne Ellison, also gave insight on the changes being made from the inside.
On Tuesday, September 28th, three students from Saint Mary’s disclosed that they had gotten sick from eating an omelette at the dining hall. As rare as it may seem to get food poisoning, one of them added, “this was the second time we’ve gotten sick.” A mishap illness once in a while is understandable, however, three people admitting it to be far from a new experience gives reason for concern.
In an interview with Dr. Rubin, a health professor at Saint Mary’s College, provided the scientific explanation behind food borne illnesses and why the eggs might have caused the students to get sick. She said “Eggs can carry bacteria in a form known as E. coli, which can be found in most factory farms.” This is due to the fact that animal waste can leak and contaminate the water used to irrigate the crops, which are then fed to the farm animals.
Even though most of the food is local from the Central Valley, Lorne Ellison said, “typical proteins and produce are sourced less than 500 miles from the location.” It is the quality of the farm that determines the safety and grade of the food served. Local farms do not mean that the produce and meat is organic or free range.
Alongside the importance of sourcing organic produce and poultry, it is essential that the preparation of the food is done correctly. It seems to be a common pattern for students to steer towards food that is predictable and deemed “safe.” For most, the salad bar and the simple servings section has been a go to spot, yet many students are still left either unsatisfied or in discomfort.
A junior, Elizabeth Bermudez ‘23, said “the last time I got chicken from the dinning hall in the simple servings section it was practically raw and pink inside.” This reflects a fault in food safety guidelines and puts students at risk of getting sick from food borne illnesses. Raw meat should never be served, as it jeopardizes the health of the consumers and exposes them to illnesses such as E.coli and Salmonella.
In an interview with Ellison, on “a mission to understand the needs of the community and better the program,” he intends on including more readily available food sources around campus. His idea of adding two cafes on campus called ‘The Stomping Elephant’ to provide more food options for students is just that, an idea. The school board has yet to approve any changes, insinuating that improvements are not in the dining hall’s near future.
The plan of providing more ‘readily available foods’ raises apprehension, as food made quickly is not necessarily done with more care and correlates to fast food. In the dining hall, there is already easy access to a multitude of pizzas, burgers, fries, and ice cream. These foods are all highly processed and, as Dr. Rubin explained, “can cause students to experience mental fog and crashes in energy levels.” She also said, “it can be hard for students to maintain concentration when so much is happening biochemically.”
This level of connection between what people eat and the mind completely changes the way that the school should evaluate food. In order for students to perform at their best, it is vital for them to eat foods that are not just ‘readily available’ but, in fact, have all the micronutrients and vitamins that they need in order to maintain a balanced gut and healthy mind. Dr. Rubin pointed out that “90 percent of serotonin receptors are found in the gut.”
This means that gut health is not only directly connected to people's neurotransmitters, but also shows that our mental health is a mirror of our diet. People's moods are directly correlated to what they eat and how it makes their body feel. The solution seems to be to have access to more whole foods and complex carbs, not just the common “salt, sugar, and fat,” that Dr. Rubin says processed foods consist of. With more focus and value put on nutrition, there may be more positive outcomes in matters of the mental health of students on campus.
The health of students is vital, as it influences and has effects in every aspect of people’s daily lives. Without change from the head of the dining hall, without a focused priority in quality over quantity, and without striving for a healthy, balanced diet for on campus residents, students will not know what it is like to feel and perform at their highest potential. And at the end of the day, what are humans without the proper fuel and energy that bodies require?
By Brent Dondalski
Contributing News Reporter
January Term is a unique experience at Saint Mary’s that many students really look forward to. Typically, students register for one class that meets 4 days a week for all of January. A main attraction for students is the Jan Term study abroad program, which gives students an opportunity to travel for one month and explore the world in places like South Korea, Bonaire, and Rome, to name a few.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused the suspension of Jan Term study abroad in 2021. However, students were flummoxed to discover that—after they paid for Jan Term—the cancelation of study abroad would continue into 2022.
At about 9PM on Sunday September 19th 2021, Saint Mary’s students received an email from the school announcing the suspension of all non-local Jan Term travel courses for 2022 due to the uncertainty of the pandemic. Per the recommendation of the SMC Travel Risk Assessment Committee (TRAC) and the January Term Committee, the school decided that “forecasting the safety of each location in January would not be possible” and “committing the financial resources of our students to programs that have a likelihood of cancelation is not morally justified.”
Aaron Sachowitz, the director of the January Term program and chair of TRAC, spoke of the lack of reliability due to COVID-19 safety precautions when traveling to different countries. “I would hate to have an entire class to get quarantined trying to come back and then they're stuck for two weeks, then they miss the beginning of the spring semester,” he told me, elaborating that “if they were more consistent across countries, it would be much easier to plan.”
This announcement came as a shock to students across campus, many of whom were optimistic about study abroad in 2022. “My heart just fell” said Kyle Torneros ‘22 of receiving the email. Torneros, a data analytics major planning to travel to South Korea was not alone in his feelings of discontent.
Other students, such as business major Tyler Smith ‘22, emphasized how outright devastated they were. Seniors especially were heartbroken over seeing their last possibility for study abroad fade away, with Torneros explaining that “as first-years, you're not allowed to travel. As sophomores you don’t get priority registration. We didn't get to travel junior year. And then as seniors, it's taken away again. So that's where I feel like it's kind of unfair, especially for our class.”
Not all students were upset. “For the last 18 months every time I'm excited for something new to change that it doesn't actually end up happening,” explained sophomore biology major Keely Dumars ‘24. Though she is grateful she’ll have the opportunity to study abroad in the future.
Despite some skepticism of travel possibilities due to the pandemic’s persistence, many felt reassured by what they heard from professors, information sessions, and the Jan Term office prior to suspension. The announcement of Jan Term scholarship recipients as well as frequent info sessions on Jan Term served as a confirmation for some students. Hadley Peterson ‘22, an allied health sciences major, shared “the second I was awarded the scholarship is when I really was like ‘this is happening,’ I would be literally going to Greece.” However, according to Sachowitz, suspension was always on the table, explaining that he “tried to communicate this with the faculty from as early as April, that it was really going to be dependent on ongoing review of the risks associated with travel.” He discussed how the source of the school’s early optimism was their expectations of vaccination rates to rise and transmission rates to fall, both of which ultimately fell short of what they wanted to see.
Moreover, health concerns were only one of the reasons Jan Term study abroad was suspended. Sachowitz did not want to risk canceling later, which could result in financial loss for students since non-refundable fees such as airline tickets or tour providers would have already been paid. To TRAC, this was a worse alternative than canceling in September. “I really wish that we weren't in a pandemic, and that was not the kind of choice we were having to make,” Sachowitz explained. Though disappointed, some students generally understood that this decision was not easy. Psychology major Victoria Jacobo ‘22 as well as Torneros both expressed acceptance that the school had to “pull the plug” at a certain point before more financial or public health risks became imminent.
Still, the timing was less than ideal for students, with the announcement coming only 2 days after the $2000 deposit ($500 for those who got the scholarship) was due and with registration approaching in the next two days. Peterson detailed “I put down $500 of my own money, and it took them a week to email us about the deposit being returned. From there, it's going to take two weeks for it to actually get back into my account, which, as a college student, is a lot of money.” Additionally, students like Jacobo felt that the announcement did not give students adequate time to research what on-campus courses were available. According to Sachowitz, the announcement came after the travel deposit had been due because they wanted to spend as much time as possible weighing whether or not travel was possible while also making this decision before registration.
Despite the suspension of Jan Term study abroad, 2022 Spring study abroad is still supposed to take place. Sachowitz explained how “a lot of the risks related to Jan Term travel are less of a risk in a study abroad program,” citing how the Spring programs are supported abroad by institutional partners rather than a one or two faculty members. He also detailed how potential quarantine periods and other COVID-19 related complications would be less of a burden in Spring because the timeframe isn’t nearly as condensed as Jan Term is. He mentioned that “the health piece stays somewhat the same” but that “some of those other risks of injury or loss from students, or the interruption of the travel or the program are much reduced in a semester abroad versus Jan Term.”
The cancelation of Jan Term 2022 study abroad comes as a disappointment in general to the Saint Mary’s community, with both faculty and students wishing that a different decision could have been made. The announcement coming after the deposit was due was the biggest contention students had with the decision, with the seniors being devastated that their last chance for Jan Term study abroad had disappeared. Though the optimism for this study abroad program was not realized, a study abroad program for those who missed this opportunity is in the works for after graduation. Sachowitz detailed his aspirations for this make-up program, saying “nothing has been approved yet...I'm hopeful that we'll be able to, maybe in the beginning of spring, have something planned for summer and fall, that'll be a little bit more resilient.
For a group of Saint Mary's students on October 6, 2021, the redwoods brought ruin as they returned back to Saint Marys issued Vans to find the windows smashed and personal belongings gone
By Anonymous Contributor
The Redwood Groves located at the base of the Oakland Hills, just past the exit from Moraga, bring hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy the tree's beauty and stature. However, what visitors don't expect is to return back to their cars to notice the windows smashed and all belongings of value missing.
In the afternoon on October 6th, a semi-large group of students ventured out for an activity in Saint Mary’s issued vans, leaving them parked in an open lot, locked, and seemingly safe. In a matter of what was recorded to be an hour, unknown individuals managed to smash the windows and rifle through their belongings, stealing phones, laptops, wallets, keys, and even passports. During this ravaging, there was only one witness.
Alone in the van, a young Saint Mary's student recalled seeing the two individuals start in on the first van and then look up to notice her watching. Startled, she grabbed her phone and ran away, a necessary tactic to avoid a more dire situation. Upon return to the vans with the group, individuals reported confusion on what had happened, and what to do next. Maintaining composure, they made it to a nearby fire station, where they received help to clean the glass out and reach the police.
Upon communicating with the police, the resourceful group members began using saved phones to track the stolen ones to help with an eventual discovery of their belongings. Distraught, the students returned to campus hopeful that the police were doing all they could to find the missing stuff.
As of the morning of October 7th, the individual's belongings had been found in a dumpster in Oakland by an anonymous person. Electronics and other devices were still missing, but multiple IDs and keys were recovered with backpacks and other valuables. As of now, there is an active investigation and all those involved are alert and working.
Thank you to all who contributed to this article
HIPPA privacy laws complicate the implementation of COVID-19 prevention policy at Saint Mary’s
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
With the return of students to campus, life may appear to be returning back to normal, but with three COVID-19 cases on campus within the last fourteen days and 25 cumulative cases this semester, the pandemic is not over yet. To protect students, Saint Mary’s has instituted a number of policy measures and precautions. Yet, with two major measures—the vaccine mandate and contact tracing—enforcement is lax and the responsibility belongs to the students.
While scrolling through the COVID-19 News and Resources page on Saint Mary’s website, students can find the form to self report a positive COVID-19 test result. This form asks students a range of questions, including a question asking them to list their recent contacts with whom they were within six feet of for fifteen minutes or more. Because of this current system, students are only notified that they have been exposed to COVID-19 if they have been listed.
According to Gina Zetts, the project manager for Saint Mary’s COVID-19 coordination council, the issue of contact tracing can be further complicated in a classroom setting, where a lack of assigned seats can make exposure to coronavirus unclear. Nonetheless, a “shared classroom space won't necessarily mean a close contact”
Zetts says that the responsibility of notifying the contact tracing team of possible exposures belongs to the person who tested positive. If the student is unwilling or unable to give information to the contact tracing team, the team will then work with the faculty member in a class. Despite this, students could have a classmate test positive for COVID and not be notified. Zetts says that this is because of privacy laws that are meant to protect the identity of the person who tested positive.
HIPPA privacy laws have led to other complications in Coronavirus prevention policy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, nearby schools like San Francisco State, Stanford, and UC Berkeley have had trouble verifying the authenticity of vaccination cards. Few local schools are matching the cards against the state of California's immunization records. The records are only available to health center employees due to HIPPA privacy laws, which minimizes the workforce for this task.
At Saint Mary’s, the health center has been working in conjunction with Contra Costa County to verify the authenticity of vaccination cards. According to Zetts, vaccination cards from within Contra Costa County have been easy to verify, but cards from outside the county have been more difficult to check against immunization records.
Senior Liesl Pieters from Belgium was surprised by how basic the process for COVID-19 vaccination cards are in the United States, and thinks it is a bit too simple.
“A vaccination card is not seen as an official document in Belgium,” Pieters said. “We all have to get a Covid-19 vaccination certificate from the European Union that is used for bars, restaurants, and travel. The document has a QR code that cannot be faked and must go through a whole verification process.”
Despite the possibility for unvaccinated students and faculty to submit fake vaccination cards, Zetts does not believe that this is a serious issue on campus, and instead thinks that this all comes down to trusting one another.
“Although we're continuing to do our best as cards come in,” Zett said, “at some point, we need to trust our community, trust our students that they're being honest with us, and trust that they're holding themselves to as high standards as we are”.
SMC Junior Skyler Clouse disagrees, believing that Saint Mary’s is putting too much trust into its students and should have more rules for who is allowed to come on campus while the pandemic is still going on.
“Although we should be able to trust our student body and faculty members when it comes to vaccination against Covid-19, there are always people who abuse our trust and can bring the virus onto campus,” Clouse said.
Pieters feels confused about the possible lack of verification of vaccine cards since she returned to campus with the assumption that everyone would be vaccinated.
“They were so strict about saying you cannot come on campus if you were not vaccinated, but in the end it does not seem like they are really verifying anything,” Pieters said.
Clouse’s objections on the schools policy of “trusting students” extends to the exemptions students and faculty could file to avoid getting vaccinated. She believes that while religious liberties should be respected, they should not be held in a higher regard than peoples safety and health.
“If you’re not getting vaccinated, respect the rest of your community and don’t come to campus until the pandemic dies down,” Clouse said.
Ryan Sullivan has been hired as Orinda’s new chief of police and is ready for the opportunity to serve Orinda and help make the community a safer place for all
By Ryan Ford
Contributing Sports Writer
After serving the community for almost two years, the Orinda City Council announced that David Cook was retiring from his position as the chief of police on August 18th, 2021.A month later, his replacement, Ryan Sullivan was sworn in as Orinda’s Chief of Police. After a thorough review of qualified candidates, Sullivan stood out as being the best for the job and expressed his excitement, “I’m very excited to be here,” he said.
The Orinda City Council claimed that they followed the normal protocols when searching for candidates to fill this important position. David Biggs, the City Manager of Orinda, described the hiring process as being routine. “Orinda has a contract with the county sheriff's department for policing services, who provided the city with three pre-qualified candidates for the position, all of whom had ranks of lieutenant or higher.” Biggs then conducted a process to have those candidates interviewed by Orinda’s executive management team and city council members to determine who would be the best fit from a community perspective. Out of that bin, Biggs extended the offer to Lieutenant Ryan Sullivan.
Before accepting this position, Sullivan had been working in Martinez at the Contra Costa County Emergency Operations Center as the Lieutenant responsible for internal affairs. When this opportunity arose, Sullivan was very excited, due in part to his family’s deep-rooted ties to the Lamorinda area. His family came to Lafayette in 1847, and growing up there always made the possibility of working in the area attractive to Sullivan.
When asked about what made Sullivan stand out during the hiring process, Biggs cited he was lucky enough to have three great candidates to choose from. But Sullivan’s experience with internal affairs in addition to his familiarity with the area made him the right choice for the job. “He brings the right tone to the job as far as being someone who would like to work with and engage in the community, which is very important here in Orinda.”
Fire prevention and emergency preparedness are some of the first day-to-day operations that Police Chief Sullivan will be working with the city council on, since Orinda has many areas referred to as “very high fire severity zones.” Continuing to reach out to the community will also be keyed on, as Orinda is working to bring back their neighborhood watch program. But, given the microscope that police departments throughout the country have been under ever since the murder of George Floyd, the chief of police may have more responsibilities than are listed in the job description.
Collin Fisher is a student at Saint Mary’s, and is the student co-chair for the Black Lives Matter Subcommittee on campus. When asked what he would like to see from the new chief of police, Fisher said that he believes there is a lot that can still be done by the Lamorinda police departments to help with racial injustice. “I would want to see more work towards lessening implicit bias and discrimination towards BIPOC individuals that live in the Lamorinda area.” Fisher added that having diversity training that educates on concepts like implicit bias and cultural norms is also important, because being able to understand these factors when dealing with people of different ethnic backgrounds will allow for better communication between the police and social justice groups.
Police Chief Sullivan understands the importance of policing given the political climate that this country is in. One of the responsibilities that Sullivan believes police chiefs owe to their communities is being compassionate and ethical. “Ethical policing is every chief’s responsibility. Doing so at all times will provide the level of service that the community deserves. Everybody deserves this when dealing with the police.” Sullivan went on to say that he has high expectations for himself and his police department, and wants to have a police force that is highly vested in the community. “Although they [Orinda Police] might not live in the Orinda, I want them to police as if their kids were walking to school, or their significant other was going to work in this community. I expect us all to be present, visible, proactive, compassionate, and ethical.”
Ryan Sullivan’s impressive resume and family ties show a strong commitment for this next stage in his career. Having the honor to work in Lamorinda, given his family’s history in the area, made this opportunity a dream come true, “It’s incredible. If my grandfather was alive he would be extremely excited. He had an attachment from growing up in Lafayette as a child, so being able to work in the Lamorinda area and hold the position of Chief of Police would’ve made him pretty proud.”
Madison Sciba '24,