Less than a month into the 2021-2022 school year, there have been 30 assaults reported
By Riley Mulcahy
With the recent events of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there must be a zero-tolerance policy against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Student safety is the number one priority of any university. However, Santa Clara University, whose school year started September 30th, reported numerous sexual assaults early on in the term. The situation begs the question, how did the University get here? According to KRON-4 News, most of the cases have occurred at off-campus parties and involved the use of date rape drugs. Although Santa Clara University argues that it does follow the correct procedures, it can be tricky to handle off-campus situations.
According to Santa Clara University, the school has received three reports of sexual assaults that occurred off-campus. Although, officially, there have only been three cases reported, it is not surprising that survivors do not come forward; at times, there can be shame and guilt associated with sexual assault and the idea of going to a school to report a sexual assault. A couple of years ago, a case at Stanford ended with convicted rapist Brock Turner getting three months in jail because the judge thought that he “came from a good family.”
The Mercury News reports that according to “RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), which operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline, said that 20% of female students ages 18 to 24 report sexual violence allegations to law enforcement compared to 32% of women in the same age group who aren’t students, citing U.S. Department of Justice statistics.” Furthermore, the data reveals that the main reasons why women did not report their assaults differed: “Twenty-six percent of female students said they didn’t report because “it was a personal matter” and 20% said it was due to “fear of reprisal.”
The data is startling. For years, college students have had to deal with the reality of going to a party and possibly being raped and then afraid to report to authorities or the college because of fear of retaliation. Colleges and universities have made an effort to have resources available on campus, but there is still a reluctance from students to reach out and try to use the support that the campus provides for them. The cost of reporting sometimes means revealing the most traumatic incident of your life to a stranger who does with the information what they feel is right, and there is a loss of privacy.
Although colleges and universities must do their best to eliminate sexual assault, one must question their role in these situations. If a survivor wants to press charges, why does the university need to be involved, not just the authorities? This question does not mean that students should not go to universities to reach out for help if they feel comfortable confiding in someone. Counselors on campus will help the survivor process the assault and provide resources if they want to report. However, it is still important to question the effectiveness of the college processes in how to report a sexual assault. There are massive discrepancies between assaults and the amount that the university is aware of. Bureaucracy has no place on a college campus when someone is violated, and sadly there are often roadblocks to survivors reporting, which means situations such as Santa Clara University occur.
In order for students to succeed academically, the campus must support them emotionally, especially when trauma is involved. Students who survive sexual assaults should not have to go through barriers and roadblocks to reach out for help in one of their lowest moments. If colleges streamlined the process, established total confidentiality, and worked with law enforcement to create accountability, students would know that sexual assault will not be accepted. We must protect survivors and punish the criminals, not the other way around.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual or domestic violence, SMC’s CARE Center is here to support you
Public health is not a matter of personal choice.
By Roya Amirsheybani
Since the announcement of the wider mandate of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, Covid-19 deniers and vaccine resisters have kept busy finding more and more loopholes to justify their lack of care for public health concerns. A popular highlight within the multitude of excuses given by anti-vaxxers includes religious exemption claims, which is a request made by a religious individual subject to a vaccine requirement to avoid such a requirement. As one might expect, this antagonism has led to significant clashes between employers and leaders that wish to protect the public and those that feel unfit to comply.
On Saint Mary’s campus, the provided option of claiming exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine due to religious beliefs is a controversial subject. According to the college’s website, 97% of students and faculty are vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning that a small percentage of those on campus have claimed an exemption, which begs the question “Is this justified?” From the perspective of a non-religious, pro-vaccine advocate for protecting the safety of others, using religion to justify not getting vaccinated against Covid-19 should not be an option in either setting.
A quick Google search reveals that no significant religion actively opposes being vaccinated against Covid-19. According to NPR journalist Laurel Wamsley, many religious groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Catholic Church, have issued statements that contradict the very existence of the option of claiming religious exemption. Pope Francis, the pope of the Catholic church, has also voiced his opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine, referring to it as an “act of love.” Seeing that Saint Mary’s is a religious college affiliated with the Catholic Church, it should not be a question whether or not those living and learning on-campus may be exempt from the Covid-19 vaccine due to religious reasons. However, for some reason, the College (and a large percentage of universities in the United States) are accepting religious exemptions as a form of permission to let educators and students on campus. While it may seem like a minuscule detail, the availability of this as an option leads me to question how far institutions will go to garner as much tuition as possible.
These revelations lead me to question the honest truth behind this faith-backed excuse. In my opinion, it seems highly likely that many vaccine resisters that seek an exemption from the vaccine are making an excuse to justify their lack of concern for the general public and distrust of the American government. According to the Associated Press, Chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci has expressed concerns that people who resist vaccination against Covid-19 due to religious reasons are not making legitimate claims. I share this concern, and question why any employer or institution would ever consider approving a religious exemption. While the United States of America has been known as “the land of the free,” the quest for personal freedom should not apply in a health crisis as dire as the Covid-19 pandemic.
As all Gaels are (hopefully) aware, Saint Mary’s is guided by the five Lasallian Core Principles, which include: concern for the poor and social justice, faith in the presence of God, quality education, respect for all persons, and inclusive community. Let us all have respect for one another by getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to promote the safety and health of our fellow Gaels.
I want to put this on the table. I believe that we are in a time where women and LGBTQIA+ people deserve to be heard and in power. However, I do not believe that cis-men should be discriminated against and not be allowed to sit at the table.
An event that honestly piqued my interest as a Women’s and Gender Studies major was the “Exploring Masculinity” event hosted by the Intercultural Center. I was shocked that there was such an opportunity for cis-men to join one another and talk about masculinity. Often times when masculinity is brought up in the classroom or even popular youth media, it is shot down and demonized. To provide sympathy or pity towards men is social suicide and seen as heterosexual feminists being brainwashed and subservient to their male partners. I can see why.
I was in a long-term relationship at one point where I had to compromise my feminist self and almost suppress it in order to be happy with a traditional lifestyle with a white-picketed fence, children, and the only spin was that I wanted to work. I guess that is what I get when I think I am invincible to toxic masculinity, as all I talk about is the social constructs of gender and its history. So why on God’s green earth am I entertaining the thought of giving men space when for the majority of my life all interactions with men have been sexist and objectifying?
Well, it’s because I feel like men do not have the chance to even reflect on their masculinity without either A) enjoying the privileges of it B) not getting the opportunity or C) getting shot down every time they try to bring up their experiences as a man. Don’t get me wrong, I do think mansplaining is a problem, but I think what is even more of a problem in our modern times is not actively providing men the chance to redefine what masculinity is in a healthy way.
I think we have tried this by presentations and learning feminist theory. But, we really haven’t sat down and actually asked them: “What do you think masculinity is? And what do you think it should be?” You can ask just about any man, and they will say some of these expectations that they have participated in were not their idea alone. Another is they feel robbed of the ability to make intimate connections with their peers out of the fear of being seen as less manly and even potentially gay. Now, despite the male privilege that most of us cite on a daily basis when referring to men and the power that they have over society, we cannot ignore how incredibly sick and inhumane it is that men, on a daily basis, cannot acknowledge the basic emotional and mental needs of a human without either A) being shamed for it B) being labeled as something they may not identify as or C) being told woe is me, cry me a river. Because of this, I feel that it is incredibly important that we make more space for cis-men to explore masculinity and gender.
This is entirely necessary so that men can have the opportunity to redefine what masculinity means to them and see that identifying as something other than a man is okay. In the end, we are not only helping men feel like people, but we are giving the people who are in power the tools that they need to dismantle the system that confines them the most and oppresses the rest of us. By actively providing cis-men the outlet to explore what their identity means to them, we can then invite them to the table where we can change the system and liberate us all. Even if the likelihood of this happening feels impossible by providing this opportunity at a small liberal arts school, I can say with certainty that this is the way that we need to go in order to enact change and create a society that we are equal and happy no matter our gender and sexual orientation.
A recently published Insider article reveals the racist and fatphobic truth behind a popular women’s clothing brand.
By Roya Amirsheybani
Like many California girls, I discovered Brandy Melville as a young teenager. Eventually, the brand’s ever-changing aesthetic was the sole determining factor of my personal style, and owning and wearing the boxy cropped tees and knit sweatpants became an obsession. While Brandy Melville’s clothing does not look remotely remarkable to the average person, to me, not even the most expensive brands could compare. That is, until recently.
On September 8, 2021, Insider journalist Kate Taylor published her article “Brandy Melville’s CEO Doesn’t Want Black People to Wear the Brand’s Clothing, According to an Ex-Store Owner”. As if the title was not alarming enough, Taylor goes on to reveal that Steven Marsan, the CEO of Brandy Melville, aimed to market the brand exclusively towards thin, white teenage girls, and says that overweight and black customers “ruin the brand’s reputation”. Fraco Sorgi, a former store owner, is suing the brand’s North American operations claiming that his termination was due to his lack of discrimination based on appearance and race when hiring employees. While this was occurring, friends and coworkers of Marsan exchanged offensive memes that featured the N-word or anti-semitic humor.
This information left me extremely disturbed. As a supporter of Black Lives Matter and an advocate for body positivity, I am extremely embarrassed and ashamed that I was once an avid fan of Brandy Melville. Needless to say, I highly recommend that anyone that currently supports this brand should stop doing so immediately.
“But the clothes fit me so well!” If you can fit into Brandy Melville, I can almost guarantee that you can fit into the clothes made by more inclusive and sustainable brands. Nobody *needs* to shop at Brandy Melville (or any clothing brand for that matter), especially not those who benefit from thin privilege and have the ability to fit into most clothing brands’ standard sizing. For example, clothing brand Universal Standard carries sizes 00 to 40, and 7forallmankind offers a variety of petite sizes for those that claim that Brandy Melville clothes are the only ones small enough to fit them.
“But no other brand fits my aesthetic!” While the store might seem to have a look all its own, it is, in fact, heavily influenced by current fashion trends. This means that if Brandy Melville sells a particular item, it was likely copied from a vintage or trendy clothing item. A short browse on the brand’s website is enough to notice that the majority of the clothing items available are catering to the early 2000s aesthetic that is popular on TikTok currently, and similar items can be found in thrift stores or purchased from online resellers on apps like Depop. In addition, purchasing Brandy Melville dupes second hand is a lot more sustainable than purchasing from the brand, which manufactures a lot of their goods in sweatshops with poor working conditions.
“But the quality is so good for the price!” While I used to share this opinion, I have found that it is not true with several of my Brandy Melville clothing items. Many dyed garments fade very easily, and shirts with delicate hems are prone to tearing. For example, when I visited the store last during summer 2021, I noticed that several of the tank tops had holes where the strap and bust hemlines met, and many of the sweaters were already starting to pill. In exchange for a slightly higher price, more sustainable and high-quality items can definitely be found elsewhere.
Next time you consider buying from Brandy Melville, consider this: Do you really want to support a brand that is overtly racist and fatphobic for the sole purpose of maintaining your personal aesthetic? Is a heart-printed lace tank top really worth it?
The surprising decision came more than a year after the college announced its impending closure.
By Riley Mulcahy
In March 2020, COVID-19 became more and more of a reality, and the adjustment of this new reality set in for everyone. Still, for Notre Dame De Namur students, there was another level of uncertainty. The school, located in Belmont, California, released a report in October 2019 announcing its dire financial situation and drastic measures for the school to stay open. Listening sessions, conflicting communications, and a student-led protest ensued until it was finally revealed after California’s shelter in place order that undergraduate students (except for those graduating in the Spring of 2021) would have to transfer. In light of last week’s news that the school’s campus will be sold to Stanford University, a sense of shock has come over alumni and a weird sense of closure as well.
Notre Dame De Namur’s history in the Bay Area is rich and diverse. Founded in San Jose in 1851 and relocated to Belmont in 1922, the school was the first California college to give women baccalaureate degrees. The school was recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and the majority of its students were supported heavily through financial aid. Stanford’s campus purchase feels misplaced, as the students served on the two schools’ campuses are drastically different from a socio-economic standpoint.
As an alum of NDNU and a grateful transfer to Saint Mary’s, I am personally at a loss for words. It is hard to understand how a school whose mission was to serve students who might not otherwise have the chance to go to college could sell its campus to a research magnet university. In a press release, Stanford notes that the purchase of the campus could “unlock opportunities to provide space for programs that are emerging from the Long-Range Vision and extend the reach of the university’s Continuing Studies course offerings to more Bay Area residents.” As someone who participated and helped plan protests when NDNU was not giving us any information on its possible closure, the phrase “Long-Range Vision” seems ironic. Maybe instead of buying the campus for its personal gain, Stanford could have given NDNU the tools to reopen itself to undergraduate students who need a small, supportive college in the center of the Bay Area.
The details of the impending purchase and how NDNU will benefit from the sale have not been made immediately available. In a statement about the upcoming sale, NDNU’s newly minted President, Dr. Lizbeth Martin, remarked that the sale provides NDNU “the flexibility to grow again in new and exciting ways.” Stanford announced that it does not see the purchase as an opportunity to move any research or offices from their campuses in Palo Alto or Redwood City. The use of the Belmont campus will be in addition to the work that it is already doing.
Several students from NDNU, including myself, transferred to Saint Mary’s last year after a stressful transition to online learning in the midst of knowing that the college we had been at for two or three years would no longer exist. Although I am happy with my Saint Mary’s experience thus far, there is still a part of me that cannot believe I attended a school that no longer gives degrees to undergraduate students. Stanford’s campus purchase marks a finality of an era of uncertainty for many of us, but the transition into a Stanford campus will take years. Stanford will have to go through the process of making improvements to the campus, and NDNU will still have a graduate school for the time being.
Even though the sale is surprising to me, I am hopeful that Stanford will honor NDNU’s history somehow, and it won’t just turn into another Stanford campus. NDNU is adjacent to Notre Dame Belmont and a Province for nuns, but only NDNU’s campus is included in the sale.
How is an Administration supposed to respond to a Humanitarian Crisis?
By: Riley Mulcahy
The images coming out of Texas in the past weeks are beyond disturbing. Due to a lack of communication between Mexico and the US, and the many disasters Haiti has dealt with in the last month, thousands of asylum refugees have been displaced and held in US detention centers. The scene is eerily similar to the handling of immigrants seeking asylum at the Southern Border during the previous administration. However, there has not been a mapped out solution to the problem that will protect, house, and feed the refugees. Instead, blame is being pointed in all directions.
To say that life in Haiti has been difficult in the past few months is most certainly an understatement. According to The Washington Post, a devastating earthquake killing more than 2,000 people and leaving many without safe drinking water, an assassinated president wreaking political chaos, and an accusation of the prime minister’s involvement in the crime leaves little to no question of the severity of the problem. But in a country that finds it hard to house the millions of homeless on American streets, how can America plan to provide refuge to thousands of people in dire need?
The question above is impossible to answer, and the lack of one definite answer makes it easy for politicians to place blame on one another. This issue is nuanced because of the thousands of lives it affects, and any discussion must recognize the gravity of the situation and the need to shelter thousands of displaced individuals. When there is a conversation about immigration in general, there is either a willful or blind criminalization of the people in question, regardless of the struggles of a refugee or an immigrant, and conservative politicians are the most aggressive in their mistreatment of immigrants. Despite the infusion of Christian doctrine they preach, and along with their desire to make sure the United States is a “Christian nation,” they refuse to follow the principles that Jesus teaches in the Bible.
It is completely possible to approach the situation of an influx of refugees with dignity and respect. Instead, images of Border Control agents whipping refugees on horses are the norm. Biden and Harris are not immune to public scrutiny. There is a valid criticism that the response in Texas by Border Control agents has been awful. After all of the Trump administration’s backlash, the use of detention centers showcases a lack of self-awareness on Biden’s part. Yes, Democrats won in 2020 narrowly. However, it is essential to note that obstructionists like Senators Siemmna and Manchin make it painfully apparent that Biden and his team can afford to make massive humanitarian mistakes such as these.
To feel outraged in this crisis is understandable; it is one of the only correct responses in this situation. Regardless of your political affiliation, one must acknowledge that crucial errors have been made, and Biden’s legacy of Trump’s mistakes is not something to be proud of. The most humanitarian response is to accept all of the refugees and support them financially. Although that is what I believe should happen, it is not possible to take on every refugee—the process of picking who stays and who goes is brutal. However, refugees living under bridges on freeways is never an acceptable solution to any problem. To remedy this awful situation, Biden must be able to prove that he is more than competent in his job. In other words, Biden was elected based on Trump’s inability to do basic functions of the job of being the president, and Biden has brought a sense of normalcy into the White House. However, to help the thousands of refugees, Biden must step up and prove that he is a more than capable leader to come up with a humane and ethical solution with the whole world watching him.
Musician Nicki Minaj’s bizarre vaccine-hesitant tweet spawned a flurry of controversy, and none of the subsequent discourse seemed to lead anywhere substantive.
By Brent Dondalski
On September 13th, 2021 musician Nicki Minaj tweeted: “my cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied” (Twitter). It was a bizarre tweet and one with vaguely political implications. It didn't take long before the tweet was picked up by popular political commentators such as Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens, and was subsequently praised for its vaccine hesitant advice. The reactions around this tweet, Nicki Minaj’s vaccine stance, and the eagerness for political influencers to comment on the controversy reveals the absurdity of contemporary political discourse.
This controversy is a perfect example of how national stories are filtered through celebrities and sensationalism. There are countless peer-reviewed studies verifying the efficacy of vaccines, the lack of adverse reactions, and the documented side effects (New England Journal of Medicine, National Library of Medicine, etc). These are studies subject to rigorous academic research conducted by experts in the field of epidemiology, biology, and so on. Yet, the Nicki Minaj tweet is what dominates cable news, Twitter feeds, and the opinions of media commentators. Social media and the current news ecosystem have facilitated this type of sensationalization where individual narratives and popular public figures become the centerpieces of stories. If the media is responsible for informing citizens then tweets shouldn’t be stories: data should be. In this scenario it would almost certainly be more important to reiterate the scientific data backing up the efficacy of the vaccine rather than reporting Nicki Minaj’s Twitter feed, which anyone can just look at themselves.
However, it comes as no surprise that far-right commentators such as Tucker Carlson would jump at this opportunity. With countless misleading claims about COVID-19, Tucker Carlson has been a significant proponent of misinformation, once telling viewers “your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart: call the police immediately” (Fox News). He reported on Nicki Minaj’s tweet, saying “public health officials didn’t like this because they make their living bullying people.” Candace Owens, another far-right commentator, echoed these sentiments saying “real queens do not act because of peer pressure.”
The irony of this is that these are people who have previously claimed to be against celebrities in politics, and have even criticized musicians like Nicki Minaj for their sexual provocativity and rebellion against social conservatism. Candace Owens even once said “I take issue with [Cardi B] being used to encourage young women to strip themselves of dignity,” a criticism that would undoubtedly apply to Nicki Minaj who paved the way for female musicians like Cardi B.
The reason these people are not being consistent in their beliefs is because they are playing a team sport; their business is partisanship. The moment that an extremely relevant celebrity like Nicki Minaj echoes their anti-vaccine sentiments, they jump at the opportunity to associate themselves with that person due to their clout. This level of partisanship, while unsurprising, is totally shameful and erodes any type of legitimate discussion that could have arisen from this situation, because the motives and honesty of people like Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens is immediately in question.
In addition to conservatives chiming into the swollen testicle discourse, the White House extended an invitation to Nicki Minaj to discuss questions she has about the COVID-19 vaccine (AP News). At best, this invitation may help enlighten a vaccine-hesitant individual about how the vaccine is safe and necessary to end the pandemic. However, it’s hard not to imagine that this isn’t another publicity act to capitalize on a celebrity’s relevance by entering the current trending topic. The White House does not extend these invitations to any anti-vax individual, so why should Nicki Minaj get one? What is there to gain from inviting Nicki Minaj to the White House for this discussion? How does this help the working-class people of America? The White House’s attention should be on the issues affecting the American public as a whole rather than the concerns of a singular celebrity. Nicki Minaj being a public figure shouldn’t necessitate a visit to the White House.
At the end of the day, Nicki Minaj’s story about her cousin and the vaccine should be inconsequential. After all, we don’t need anecdotal evidence when there is plenty of research on COVID-19 vaccines. However, because of a media ecosystem that prioritizes sensationalism, we have a political climate that is informed by absurd and arguably meaningless stories like this. This is politics at its most partisan; commentators and politicians jumping at the opportunity to condemn or praise a celebrity for even their most vague stance on an issue. It almost feels like each political party is making an effort to “recruit” Nicki Minaj, and other celebrities, to their side. This type of celebritization of politics is unproductive and only takes away attention from actual issues and what working-class people in America are dealing with.
The conspiracy-filled campaign of Larry Elder was defeated last Tuesday, giving Gov. Newsom a clear path to a 2022 victory.
By Riley Mulcahy
Any illusion of a GOP California was swiftly denied last Tuesday, as Governor Gavin Newsom defeated the Republican challenger, radio host Larry Elder. Elder based his campaign on “personal freedoms,” arguing that mask and vaccine mandates while Newsom ran on his record dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and referred to the recall as the “Republican Recall Effort”. As of the time of the writing of this article, Newsom beat Elder by roughly 30 percent of the vote, a victory for science and common decency.
If COVID-19 never existed, the recall simply would not have happened. Although conservatives point to wildfire safety and the homelessness in California, the primary catalyst of the recall is something out of a movie, a governor eating at a fancy restaurant (The French Laundry) during a time where he called for people to stay home. Although his timing was not the best, this is not a reason to recall a governor. Furthermore, Newsom followed the science involving vaccines, masks, and stay-at-home orders to protect the most vulnerable, which right now are the unvaccinated, and a large majority of those people supported the recall.
Although we now see that the recall efforts were a slim majority in the very liberal California, there was a real possibility of Newsom being recalled because there is a general apathy towards voting unless there is a buy-in from the voter (such as voting for the next President of the United States). The California GOP was grasping for straws to find a candidate who would be viable to replace Newsom. However, they found a Trump wannabe who questioned the validity of the election before the first ballot was cast.
According to Sonoma State professor David Mcaun, an expert in the ballot system, the cost of the recall for the state of California is around $450 million dollars, possibly $500 million dollars. Spending money frivolously is ironic for a party that prides itself on being “fiscally conserative” and supporting tax cuts. There is no accountability in the recall process, which means candidates like Larry Elder or Caitlyn Jenner are seriously considered (out of the 40 Republican candidates, Elder was by far the preferred Republican Party candidate). Elder is a fringe conservative who once equated reparations of slaves to the need for reparations of slave owners on Candance Owens’s radio show and said he would get rid of the minimum wage if elected.
The real hope is that Democratic voters turned out to support Newsom. The recall’s failure shows that most Californians are receptive to caring for one another and the environment. This joke of a recall attempt is not about Newsom or Elder. It shows the values that Californians have. Since Trump’s presidency, there is a particular fear that your neighbor might be a member of the alt-right or watch radio shows like Elder’s filled with misinformation. This fear makes people weary when a recall threatens a somewhat popular governor like Newsom.
For liberals, the victory last week shows that there is a chance that the highly competitive 2022 Senate race could be a big win for Democrats across the country. However, this should not be the overall message of the recall. Yes, Newsom’s victory shows that the majority of California believes in the values of the Democratic party; however, this was such a unique circumstance. The notion that the recall election went through should be problematic and they mustn’t get hooked on this feeling that the Senate will be easy to flip. The Republican Party has enjoyed its fifteen minutes of disruption in the Senate. Going forward, if the Democratic party does not get more progressive and put their money behind the same people, it will be a long fight in 2022.
Newsom might have a more challenging fight to stay in office in 2022 if he is primaried. However, suppose he ends up being the Democratic candidate. In that case, the recall shows that although Newsom has some flaws that conservatives love to point out, he protected Californians from a global pandemic, even creating a budget surplus in the process.
Two SMC students from Hawaii share their perspectives on how a spike in tourism and the persistence of COVID-19 have impacted their home.
By Brent Dondalski
Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on almost entirely among the unvaccinated, according to the CDC, with 100,000+ new cases each day in the U.S. Few places have suffered as much as Hawaii, with ICU beds reaching past capacity just this month, according to the Star Advisor. With the country beginning to reopen, especially for the vaccinated, more and more people are taking advantage of this newfound freedom after a long year of social distancing and business closures.
With Hawaii being such a sought-after vacation spot, local Hawaiians are now faced with a growing tourism wave paired with the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, people native to the islands have to deal with the consequences of tourism and irresponsible actions that lead to the spread of COVID-19. Hawaii’s location makes it far too vulnerable to COVID-19 and other issues that local Hawaiians will ultimately feel the weight of.
These are things potential visitors and those considering Hawaii as a vacation destination should consider and reflect on. This past week I spoke with two Saint Mary’s students who are both from Hawaii. Taylor Swoish, a senior from Kailua on the island of Oahu, and Chandler Cowell, a senior from Maui on the slopes of Haleakala each shared their thoughts on Hawaii and the pandemic.
Dondalski: From your perspective, what is going on in Hawaii right now in regards to the pandemic?
Taylor Swoish: From my perspective, we just had a really high spike and COVID-19 due to the number of tourists that have come in. My mom works in the COVID-19 unit, she helps test people… I think we've had like, 1000 cases in one day, which sounds like a little bit, but just for Hawaii, it's a lot. There's a lot of people coming in and we all know [the COVID-19 spike] is because of travel because we're so isolated. That's the only way they are getting there.
Chandler Cowell: Right now, and for the past, almost two years since the global pandemic hit, it's been kind of a crazy experience, to say the least. I was fortunate that I got to go home when COVID-19 first hit and be there for two months. Basically, everything shut down. And when I mean everything, I mean every single thing: shops, restaurants, places to walk, nobody was even going to the beach.
That was crazy because the beach and ocean are such a big part of Hawaii and a part of what makes us us. And even now, although things are opening up more, there's actually still this crazy energy. It's hard to actually put into words. I know that we have an exponentially higher amount of tourists here than we have ever before.
Dondalski: A lot of local people are saying don’t come, yet there’s a lot of tourists are going anyways. Why is there this disconnect between local Hawaiians and tourists?
Swoish: I think it's because of these stereotypes that Hawaii has on the US mainland. There's a lot of preconceived notions of what Hawaii is. So I feel like in a lot of people's minds they forget that people live there all the time. And it's just a lot of what I see with kids at our school: a lot of people just have what they've seen on vacation and what they've seen on TV. So there's a disconnect of people thinking it's just an island paradise, and then forgetting that it is people's homes.
Cowell: What I've talked to many family and friends and seen on Facebook and other social media is that Hawaii is actually a very small collection of islands, and Maui is even smaller. We don't have as many people as, say, Oahu. Having more people there means less time for locals to be out and do their thing. On top of that, having the pandemic where there's a risk of exposure to COVID-19.
We understand that tourism is an essential part of the Hawaiian economy because it's been shaped that way. But at the same time, it's hard to really want to have people there when they aren't necessarily—and it's not everyone, I'm not going to generalize—but there are people who go there and don't wear their masks or they don't follow the COVID-19 safety protocols, or they create a ruckus. And on top of that, there's already a really hard understanding between locals and tourists, and the essence of when people come there, they treat Hawaii like Disneyland. They don't really understand that people have livelihoods and families and a connection to the land. Hawaii is a very collected collectivistic culture and it happens to be that sometimes when tourists come, they're just so consumed by being on vacation that they forget to realize that people live there and have lives there.
Dondalski: How have tourists coming to Hawaii personally affected you?
Swoish: I've got to see the difference between when the pandemic first happened and when no one was there, and this summer when it was just kind of insane. It's annoying because people just come and then they leave and then we have to deal with the problem. So it sucked because my friends were being safe, but because of all these people now, there are more restrictions. So when people come, we have to deal with everything else when they go. That has just been really frustrating.
Cowell: It's hard. I have to say, although it was shut down, and I know our economy took a hit, it was incredible to see the island and its natural beauty without as many people and without as many cars on the road. I was scared for COVID-19, but I was simply grateful that I got to experience the island as it should be treasured. The island had a chance to breathe.
And now, being back at St. Mary's, it's harder to go home. It's already expensive to go home as before COVID-19, but, even now the ticket numbers are extremely high. I understand that people want to go and get to take a break from this crazy history that's been happening, but they should also realize that when they take up all those flights, they are taking away from other people who want to go home and just be with their families. I'm not going there to stay at the Grand Wailea and go to the pool and all these fancy restaurants, I'm going to go hang out with my cat, to go to my favorite hikes and stuff.
Dondalski: If you could say anything to people planning on visiting Hawaii what would it be?
Swoish: Just be respectful. And think about how your actions do affect others. I keep saying about the trip that's going in for Jan Term. I keep saying it's just really big colonizer energy because it really shows people's privilege of being able to go and not really care [about their impact]. You wouldn't want someone to go into your house, or your space and spread COVID-19. Maybe don't do it to a super isolated island with only a couple hospitals.
Cowell: Think of why you want to go and think of what's the real reason you want to go there. And if you do end up going, I mean, I have no control over that. But before you go, do your research and understand what it's like to actually be in Hawaii. It's not just a place you can go visit and forget all your worries. People live there. Families live there. There's a whole culture there. There's a history there. And I'm not saying you have to know every single detail about Hawaii—if you do that'd be great—but understand what you're going into and understand that there's a way of life there that is so different from people here on the mainland. Take that step back and don't think only of yourself. Think of all the people who are there too.
Vacationing in Hawaii right now puts the state in a very vulnerable position. COVID-19 is still spreading, and ultimately local Hawaiians will have to deal with growing hospitalizations and rising cases. Traveling to and from Hawaii is already expensive, but this spike in tourism is making it even more difficult for many Hawaiian students to travel back home. People considering a visit to Hawaii should really consider whether this is the best time for a vacation there and what they can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The presence of internet personalities on the 2021 Met Gala guest list raises eyebrows and creates controversy surrounding the event’s prestigious history.
By Roya Amirsheybani
Similar to almost everyone’s social media feed this past week, Met Gala content overtook my Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube feed. This year’s theme was “America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which paid homage to iconic American culture symbols and designers. While the obligatory “best and worst dressed” lists remained consistent with the event’s yearly coverage, the growing presence of social media influencers at the Met Gala has become a heavily debated topic that asks “Who really deserves an invitation?”
Like many others that eagerly tune in each year to see the unique looks my favorite celebrities choose to promenade around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was caught off guard by the presence of influencers such as Addison Rae and Dixie D’amelio. I have always considered the Met Gala as an event carrying heavy prestige, so I found myself questioning why and how these girls became so famous for doing so little, and how their work could be grounds for receiving a ticket to one of the most exclusive events in the United States. As photos of the guests slowly made their way to the Met Gala’s official Instagram account, I could not help but notice the disparities between the social media personalities and other guests.
Among the sea of talented musicians, actors, and athletes, internet influencers seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Compared to Billie Eilish’s Oscar De La Renta ball gown, Addison Rae’s red ensemble looked cheap and tacky, almost a dead giveaway of her questionable rise to stardom. But what is this all for?
I believe that the presence of internet celebrities at the Met Gala is a result of Anna Wintour attempting to rebrand the event to reach a younger audience. With Gen Z’s interest and access to social event coverage at an all-time high, it is obvious that the inclusion of influencers comes from the aim to gather more attention from Gen Z viewers, and it worked, in a way.
In addition to self-proclaimed fashion critics evaluating whether or not every attendee’s look fit this year’s theme, I noticed an influx of social media users commenting on the questionable roster, which seemed to increase the engagement on the official Met Gala Instagram account. However, with the heightened engagement came an absence of the elegance and tradition famously present at the event in years past, and viewers noticed. Where do we draw the line between the quality of the event’s aesthetic and the number of viewers?
While I am not in favor of TikTok influencers attending the Met Gala, I wholeheartedly believe that hardworking and talented YouTube influencers deserve an invitation. Not only have these individuals “paid their dues” on the internet, but many speak for Gen Z in a way that is more impactful than the message TikTok stars are sending. Instead of “look how far I’ve come from being conventionally attractive and moving my arms around to pop songs,” the message of many YouTubers that attended can be interpreted as “look how far I’ve come from working hard on creating quality YouTube content,” which is by far a more inspiring and credible message to send to Met Gala viewers. For example, beauty guru Nikkie de Jager, known on YouTube as NikkieTutorials, has worked hard since 2008 to build a platform of acceptance and inspiration that goes beyond beauty products. To say that her ticket to the Met Gala was undeserved is simply untrue.
Even though my chances of ever attending the Met Gala are slim, as a viewer, I feel I have an obligation to voice my opinion on who I want and do not want to see. This is my feed, after all, and I don't know if I care to see the likes of Addison Rae and Dixie D’amelio at next year’s Met Gala. Anna Wintour, please don’t fire me for this.
Melanie Moyer '22,