Dr. Todd. A. Olson installed as MMU’s 11th president
It may have been drizzling outside, but even rain couldn’t dampen the spirits inside the packed Hennessey Recreation Center on April 29.
Dr. Todd A. Olson was officially installed as Mount Mercy University’s 11th president, an honor he called “a joy.” In his remarks at the inauguration, he called for a focus on new fine arts facilities, a commitment to MMU’s Catholic identity and spoke about an advisory group that has already formed to move the university forward.
Olson spoke briefly about MMU’s foundation in Catholic teaching, before segueing into plans for the future.
“God is at work on our campus, laboring with us in teaching and learning, in striving and serving, in navigating change and responding to a world we need,” he said, then spoke about the new presidential advisory council formed this spring to help move the university forward, crediting the faculty with their role in making Mount Mercy vital to students and the community.
“It is imperative for us to grow the enrollment and strengthen the financial health of Mount Mercy,” he said, calling it foundational to pursuing the future of the university. “It is also critical that we provide an education that offers both expertise and depth, both practical knowledge and an ethical grounding,” he added.
Events began officially on Thursday, April 28, when Olson moderated a faculty panel that discussed the evolving nature of higher education as well as the significance of some popular programs and the impact the Catholic mission of mercy has on classes and the way they are taught. The panel consisted of Carol Heim, associate professor of nursing, Douglas McPhee, assistant professor and clinical director of the MFT program, and Joseph Nguyen, professor of chemistry.
The official installation began at 2 p.m. April 29 with music, a processional of international students with their country’s flags, the posting of the colors by Hawkeye Area Council Boy Scout Troop 100 and some introductory remarks. English professor Joy Ochs acted as installation marshal. Cedar Rapids Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell was among those who spoke.
“Your students, faculty and staff bring life into our community,” O’Donnell said, stating that more than half of Mustang alums go on to live and work in the area after graduation, and credited Mount Mercy’s partnership with the city as one of the reasons behind Cedar Rapids’ ongoing support of entrepreneurs and workforce development.
Olson was given two medallions during the ceremony, the first by Sister Patricia Flynn, vice president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. The medallion was in honor of foundress Catherine McAuley and a sign of their entrustment of their mission to Olson. Charles Rohde, chair of the MMU board of trustees, gave Olson the official presidential medallion directly following Flynn’s.
During his speech, Olson acknowledged and thanked several individuals and gave a brief background on the University and its founders, the Sisters of Mercy, reaffirming his commitment to Catholic teaching and mission. He described his warm welcome to Cedar Rapids and called it a “civic-minded, resilient and optimistic place” while O’Donnell smiled and nodded in the background.
Olson also said experience outside the classroom is important on the Hill.
“We have aspirations beyond the academic world as well,” he said, mentioning life outside the classroom as a key to success for many students, naming current athletic and music programs, internships and “experiential education.” He said these are reasons why there will be a renewed focus on expanding and improving music, athletic, residential and science spaces.
“In all of this, we will put our Catholic and mercy mission front and center,” he said, while incorporating a clear focus on equity, diversity and inclusion.
He concluded by saying, “on this spring day, we move Mount Mercy forward together, aware of the imperatives before us.”
Treatment of International Students Identified in SGA Survey as Key Issue
By Tiara Munoz/SGA President/March 3, 2022
My name is Tiara Munoz, and I am your 2022 Student Government Association (SGA) president. One of the projects that we have completed this term is Whine Week, which is an opportunity for Mount Mercy students to let us know what they would like changed on campus. This helps SGA decide which projects should gain our attention and what issues are present on campus that we may not know about. Whine Week dictates how we plan out our initiatives for the year.
This year, we had roughly 40 responses with an array of topics ranging from cafeteria food to facilities to technology. One topic that stood out as especially important includes the treatment of our international student population. International students make up 6% of our overall campus population and come from a diverse set of backgrounds that enrich the student life on campus. Students from international countries come to the United States with an expectation for a quality education, and some even come primarily to participate in our athletic programs.
As some of you may know, relocating to a new country involves intense processes and requirements that students must follow to complete their education in the United States. Mount Mercy and the international students must work together to complete these requirements for the process to be finalized. There are many departments that must come together to complete these tasks including Mount Mercy admissions, financial aid, student services, registrar’s office, business office, and the international systems that dictate if their paperwork will be approved.
Mount Mercy has dedicated time and resources to bringing international students to campus and within athletic programs. What has been discovered is that there is a lack of dedicated time and resources for international students once they have arrived. Some students explain that they have felt unsupported by the university and have had to rely on other students or coaches to receive adequate accommodations. Even then, students who do not have these resources find themselves isolated until they are able to reach someone for assistance.
We understand that Mount Mercy has personnel to address these concerns but has shown a lack of support for these professionals to better equip international students. If you are in need of services at this time, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a meeting to address these issues and figure out how to move forward. SGA and the department of diversity, equity, and inclusivity see you, hear you, and want to help you as much as we can.
Biden Nominates Black Woman for Court
By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/March 3, 2022
With only nine justices serving on the Supreme Court, it isn’t every day that one announces their retirement. But on Jan. 27, that’s just what happened. Justice Stephen Breyer will step down from the highest court in the United States at the end of the court’s current term.
Breyer is currently the oldest member of the Supreme Court at age 83. He has held that particular distinction since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away in 2020. In 1994, Breyer was nominated to the Court by President Bill Clinton and replaced the seat vacated by retiring justice Harry Blackmun.
Some Americans may be surprised to know that not only is Breyer retiring himself, but the Justice who held his position before him retired as well. Supreme Court Justices are well known for their unique life-long terms, but Allison McNeese, Mount Mercy history professor, says that a Justice retiring isn’t as rare as someone might assume. “It’s not uncommon for Supreme Court Justices to retire rather than die in office. I’ve read that just over 44% of Justices in U.S. history have died while serving on the Court, but just over 47% have retired from their positions,” said McNeese.
Breyer’s Supreme Court career spans over two decades, and he has certainly made his mark on the Court. He is one of the Court’s liberal justices, of which, at the moment, there are only three. Though he did not write the majority opinion, Breyer may be most recognizable to the general American public as one of the five justices who voted yes to legalize same sax marriage at the federal level in June of 2015.
More recently, Breyer penned the majority opinion in the 2021 case Mahanoy Area School District v. B. L. The case garnered mainstream media attention as it dealt with a high school cheerleader who was suspended from school for cursing in a Snapchat video she recorded outside of school. The Court ruled 8-1 that the school district violated the cheerleader’s freedom of speech. In the opinion, Breyer wrote, “It might be tempting to dismiss B. L.’s words as unworthy of the robust First Amendment protections discussed herein. But sometimes it is necessary to protect the superfluous in order to preserve the necessary.”
Breyer will retire on Oct. 3, which will mark the start of the Supreme Court’s next term. Now, all eyes will be on President Joe Biden, who will be charged with appointing Breyer’s replacement. Though Breyer will have no direct control over his replacement, McNeese says, “judges want to be replaced by someone who is likely to perpetuate their own influence in rulings, and that the nominations of a similarly-minded president will assure that.”
Governor Kim Reynolds Gets Her Way
By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Feb. 17, 2022
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, governments are continually reexamining their guidelines and suggestions to keep people safe. One idea that has been proposed several times in the past few months is the idea of a vaccine mandate.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed a federal vaccine mandate back in Nov. 2021. The OSHA mandate said that any business with more than 100 employees must require those employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations. Employees who refused vaccination would have been required to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. OSHA’s proposed mandate created a stir both nationally and here in Iowa.
In early January, Iowa’s labor commissioner announced that Iowa would not be adopting the federal vaccine mandate that was issued by OSHA. According to the Des Moines Register, Rod Roberts, labor commissioner, said “Iowa doesn’t have a standard requiring the COVID-19 vaccine or testing. But after closely reviewing the federal OSHA Vaccine Mandate, Iowa has determined it will not adopt the federal standard.”
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds voiced her support for Roberts’ statement in a press release issued on Jan. 7. Reynolds’ press release said, “We are going to continue to protect the freedoms and liberties of Iowans. The Biden Administration continues to ignore the constitutional rights afforded to all Americans, which our country was built on. Instead, they’d rather dictate health care decisions and eliminate personal choice, causing our businesses and employees to suffer and exacerbating our workforce shortage.”
Since OSHA announced the mandate back in November many state governments objected to it. So much objection arose that the United States Supreme Court heard a case regarding the vaccine mandate in January. The Supreme Court ultimately decided to block the mandate. The Biden administration has since backed off its previous insistence in enforcing the mandate. The Supreme Court is, however, allowing a mandate for workers within the healthcare field.
Pandemic’s New Phase: New Variant a Low Profile on Campus
By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Feb. 17, 2022
The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are dropping across Iowa, according to recent CDC data. On Mount Mercy’s campus, instances of the omicron variant have remained low.
“Thankfully due to the indoor mask requirement, the diligence of our community, and a high percentage of employees and students receiving the vaccination on campus, we have not seen the omicron spike like the larger Cedar Rapids community has,” said Nate Klein, vice president for student success and member of MMU’s Pandemic Task Force group.
In an email, Kim Bro, Dean of Martin-Herald College of Nursing and Health and also a Task Force member, also attributes the low rate of omicron instances to high vaccination rates. “The College of Nursing has not seen a surge of omicron.It helps when 99% of all nursing students and faculty are vaccinated,” she said, “I believe and hope the pandemic will become an endemic later this spring.”
Melodie Jolly, assistant professor of Nursing and Task Force Member, said that according to Linn County Public Health, the recent positivity rate has dropped below 25% and hospitalizations are now decreasing. “Looking at these trends, it seems like we are past the peak wave,” she said, but warns that omicron is highly transmissible and that the best way to continue to protect oneself is to “wear a well-fitted and highly effective mask.
“Because of the ease of transmission of omicron, cloth masks are not recommended because it does catch a high enough number of aerosolized droplets. It is best to wear a surgical mask or, preferably, a KN95/N 95 mask.”
The Pandemic Task Force reviews local and campus data bi-weekly in order to assess policy changes and discuss ideas. Right now, no new additional measures are being implemented. Klein exhorts those on campus to keep taking precautionary measures. “We need to continue to be diligent in wearing mask indoors and we continue to encourage those that have not been vaccinated to get the vaccine, as it has proven to lower the risk of exposure for yourself and our community.
“We look forward to the pandemic to become an endemic and hope that time is sooner rather than later, until then, we appreciate the community coming together in the name of public health and campus wellbeing,” he said.
Current campus stats on COVID-19 can be found on the COVID-19 dashboard of Mount Mercy’s homepage.
Safe Zone Training Held for MMU Students
By Joselyn Hildebrand/Staff Writer/Feb. 17, 2022
While turnout at a recent session was modest, MMU officials say they are pleased that Safe Zone training—intended to teach ways of being sensitive to the needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals—is now offered to students as well as faculty and staff.
Mount Mercy facilitated a student Safe Zone training Feb. 8 in the Flaherty Community Room to teach how to support LGBTQ+ individuals as non-judgmental, affirming allies. Safe Zones are locations where students in the LGBTQ+ community and allies can feel safe and supported—on campus, Safe Zones are indicated with a rainbow-colored circular sticker.
At the training, students reviewed what it means to be an ally. They learned LGBTQ-related terms, such as transsexual, the acronym for LGBTQ, homophobia, transphobia, coming out, gender identity and genderqueer.
“I think Safe Zone Training is a great first step to educating all of our students, regardless of how they identify,” said Charles Martin-Stanley, director of diversity, equity and inclusivity.
In the past, Safe Zone training was for faculty and staff. However, it was opened to students in recent years, starting with RAs and Mustang Welcome Leaders.
“I wish that I could figure out a way to get all students to do this without putting more pressure on professors or putting pressure on people who make their own decision to come or not,” said Tiara Muñoz, SGA president, junior criminal justice and psychology major. “I could see this being in a J-Term class or portal class, like having them go to the training for one day. I do believe it should be mandatory.”
April Dirks, professor of social work, facilitated training. Sr. Linda Bechen, VP for mission and ministry, also spoke. “Campus ministry is extremely supportive of Safe Zone training and especially Sr. Linda,” Dirks said. “I had some difficulty getting Safe Zone training to begin probably 10 years ago, and when Sr. Linda came and took on the role in campus ministry as the Sister of Mercy (there), she changed everything. She was a really big advocate.”
“We need to be respectful, and we need to treat everybody with a sense of dignity and respect,” Bechen said.
A discussion about Mount Mercy’s path from tolerance, to acceptance, to celebration of the LGBTQ community was held. Some students felt the campus was between tolerance and acceptance, while others said it was between acceptance and celebration. Muñoz shared how the Safe Zone sticker on her water bottle has sparked conversations about her allyship. Students can find Safe Zone stickers on many office doors on campus.
“It’s been true that I’ve had faculty members say that seeing Safe Zone and equality stickers on the social work office door makes them feel comfortable here,” Dirks said. The stickers are intended to help LGBTQ+ students and allies feel welcome. According to Mount Mercy’s website, Safe Zone stickers are “a visible sign of support (that) should be displayed in the employee’s workspace as a way of communicating to the LGBTQ community that Safe Zone training has been completed.” The website also says that having a visible sign is not an indication that the owner identifies as LGBTQ+ nor does it mean that those without a sticker are unsupportive.
“I hope that everyone knows that SGA is a safe place to go to, and that if there are any concerns or questions to never hesitate to contact us and the amazing people in our student services,” Muñoz said.
Dirks noted that future Safe Zone training for students will be advertised and announced sooner in hopes of a larger turnout.
Is Your Mask OK(N95)
By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Feb. 17, 2022
The science guiding the response to the pandemic is constantly changing. New guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people upgrade their masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, Feb. 4, theCDC released a report it developed in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health. The report includes one fact that is now common knowledge –consistent masking helps to reduce a person’s risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The new information pertains to the type of masks people should utilize to have the greatest impact on the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC is now saying that the masks that offer the wearer the most protection from COVID-19 are respirators with an N95 or KN95 designation. While in the early days of the pandemic these masks were reserved solely for healthcare professionals, the science has changed, and the CDC now recommends them for daily use by the general public. The CDC report also says that if a N95 or KN95 is not available, people should opt for surgical masks rather than cloth ones, as surgical masks are proven to do more to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Mount Mercy has taken the CDC’s lead and is now recommending that students, faculty and staff opt for masks more effective than cloth ones.
“Wearing the right mask is one of the best ways to protect yourself against contracting a contagious variant such as omicron,” says Melodie Jolly, assistant professor of nursing and member of the pandemic response committee. Jolly added, “it is vital that we wear the appropriate mask –one that has a high degree of filtration and catches as many of those virus-containing droplets as possible. A simple cloth mask is not capable of catching a lot of those droplets becauseof how small the droplet is in comparison to the large holes in the cloth fibers.”
Some Mustangs upgraded their masks well before the CDC made the official recommendation. One of these students is Emma Lantz, senior psychology and criminal justice major and a student representative on the pandemic response committee. Lantz has been wearing KN95 masks regularly for weeks.
When asked why she switched over to KN95 masks for daily use, Lantz had a quick answer: “It ensures the safety of myself and those I interact with in campus more securely than if I was wearing a cloth mask or a medical mask.”
MLK breakfast brings alumni, students and community together
By Vanessa Gaul/staff writer/Jan. 24, 2022
A Cedar Rapids councilmember and five student reflections left students, staff, and community members feeling motivated to make a difference on Monday, Jan. 17 at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast, held in Betty Cherry Heritage Hall. The breakfast marked the start of a week’s worth of Martin Luther King Jr. centered events.
The event began with a welcome statement from Mount Mercy President Todd Olson, an opening prayer from Vice President for Mission and Ministry Sister Linda Bechen and opening remarks from Director of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusivity Charles Martin-Stanley. Nate Klein, vice president for student success, introduced the keynote speaker, Dale Todd.
Dale Todd, a Cedar Rapids councilmember who graduated from Mount Mercy University in 1983, has lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. And John F. Kennedy and the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War. One of the powerful moments in his speech was when he talked about the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
“On that night, in more than 100 cities across America, riots broke out, fires started,” said Todd, “in fact, we were on 67th Street and the entire 63rd Street had burned down.” He went on to discuss the shoot-to-kill order that the mayor had implemented to prevent people from being out past the citywide curfew and more recent events since then.
“And then fast forward to George Floyd,” said Todd. “We have made progress in law enforcement, progress in civil rights, but there was still room to go, and we all knew it. And then George Floyd was murdered.”
Todd gave the audience a call to action not only for the fight for civil rights, but to help others in everyday life. Giving examples of how one person can make a difference in the lives of others, Todd told the audience how one individual influenced Cedar Rapids to provide free bus transportation to elementary, middle and high school students. Todd also gave the personal example of giving out basketballs in neighborhoods to keep kids engaged in sports instead of getting into trouble.
“Do you engage in the fight, or do you sit on the sidelines?” he asked the audience, encouraging everyone to make the world a better place. He closed his speech by circling back to Martin Luther King Jr. and mentioning that now is the time to make a difference.
Following Todd’s speech, five students reflected their perspectives on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Martin-Stanley read a poem by senior Orlando Clark, called “Light Dream,” which encouraged students to unleash their dreams and aspirations and share them with the world.
Next, freshman Houston Hamlett sang “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo, which encouraged people to appreciate and embrace their race no matter what. Hamlett received an enormously positive reaction from the crowd.
After Houston’s performance, senior RoyShawn Webb spoke about the stereotypes associated with being a black student athlete. “We never talked about what success could look like for us outside of these things. We never talked about being doctors, lawyers, teachers, or even pursuing higher education,” said Webb, emphasizing the importance of finishing college and achieving a degree.
Finally, senior Emma Lantz and junior Tiara Munoz discussed an endowment fund designated for diversity, equity and inclusion purposes. The fund will be used for future events like the ones that will occur this week, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.
To close the event, Martin-Stanley emphasized that it takes all of us to create the world that Martin Luther King Jr. was envisioning in his dream.
Guiding MMU’s Future
By Vanessa Gaul/staff writer/Nov. 11, 2021
With innovative teaching strategies due to the pandemic last year, a new president of the college, and the old strategic plan ending, now is the perfect time for important members of Mount Mercy’s community to devise a fresh plan for the coming years.
Numerous people are involved in the process of making this plan which aims to improve the university and detail overarching goals for the near future.
“In general, the purpose of a plan is to provide a goal that we strive to achieve,” said Tom Castle, associate provost. “So, planning helps you envision sort of where you would like to be in three to five years.”
The president leads the process of creating the new strategic plan, while the vice presidents and members of the university’s leadership team contribute ideas and unique perspectives. In the past and moving forward, students are involved in the creation and solidification on the plan.
“What we tried to do was get a broad cross section of faculty, staff, administrators,” said Castle. “We wanted people who have been here for a long time as well as people who are relatively new to provide a fresh perspective.”
So far, MMU executives have done a lot of brainstorming on concepts the university should place more attention on. They have been prioritizing academics and making large goals, but they are still working on solidifying the big picture before they make more specific plans that could be evaluated by a broader audience.
“When we get into the specific ideas, that’s where it’s important for us to listen to what are the students’ ideas, what are the faculty ideas, what are the alumni ideas,” said Castle.
Additionally, the past few years have led to more familiarity with technology, and as the previous plan was coming to completion, it was simply time to draft a new plan. Those involved in creating the plan can learn from recent innovations and unique classroom structures, i.e., virtual classrooms, to devise unique goals and objectives going forward.
The team hopes to make significant progress on the strategic plan by the end of fall semester, but nothing is set in stone as of now. This plan can be a piece to share with the community and explain how Mount Mercy wants to proceed in the future. Once the plan is completed, students will be able to access it on MountMercy’s website and possibly in print.
Remembering Heroic Stories of 9/11
By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Nov. 11, 2021
A flight attendant. A Vietnam veteran. An equities trader. A passenger on a routine flight. Ordinary citizens who didn’t know each other but were linked by the same tragedy. On a beautiful, blue September day in 2001, these individuals proved that heroes don’t need to know martial arts or have magic powers to combat evil: heroes simply show up and do what needs to be done.
On Oct. 27, “Heroism and Sacrifice on 9/11” was the topic in the third installment of the Fall Faculty Series “9/11: 20 YearsLater,” featuring associate professor of education Norma Linda Mattingly.
Speaking to a small crowd in the Flaherty Community Room, Mattingly began her lecture by recalling where she was when she heard about the attacks on the twin towers, then segued into the story of Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney. Ong and Sweeney were flight attendants on Flight 11, the first plane to hit the tower. Ong was the first to telephone her colleagues on the ground and alert them to the hijacking, giving information that proved crucial to the situation that was unfolding. Authorities were able to quickly identify the hijackers because Sweeney relayed the seat numbers of the men. Ong and Sweeney were named national heroes for their professionalism and courage.
At times choking up, Mattingly recounted the “red bandana man” Welles Remey Crowther, an equities trader in the second tower who helped guide people to safety and carried those who couldn’t walk; Rick Rescorla, a Vietnam veteran with Port Authority who saved an estimated 2,000 people and calmed them during evacuation by singing; Todd Beamer, a Flight 93 passenger and father of three whose last words were “let’s roll,” before storming the cockpit with other passengers and taking control of the plane; and many, many more. From the rubble on the ground to the planes in the sky, people showed courage in the face of death and displayed selflessness.
Mattingly said the attacks made her wonder what kind of world she’d brought her son into, who was only a few months old at the time. She displayed a picture of her son as an infant next to the front page of the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The headline read “We Saw Evil.”
“No,” said Mattingly, “we saw heroes.”
Mattingly concluded her presentation by asking the audience to recall to one another where they were when news of the attack reached them.
SGA OKs New Diamond Painting Club
By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Nov. 11, 2021
The Mount Mercy Student Government Association (SGA) held an eventful general assembly meeting on Nov. 1 in Basile’s Flaherty Hall community room. Flaherty Hall is a brand-new location for SGA meetings to occur; they had to transition out of their typical space in Donnelly 300 due to a class scheduling conflict.
Among the first items on the agenda for the general assembly meeting was the presentation of a new registered student organization (RSO) idea. Student Sheridan Akers spoke on behalf of the newly proposed RSO. The new RSO will be a diamond painting club, and Akers said, “during our meetings we would work on our diamond paintings.” She also added that one of the goals of the club is to help students destress and unwind. The RSO’s current advisor is McKenzie Lansing, student engagement coordinator.
Emma Lantz, SGA president, did a roll call vote for the diamond painting club RSO proposal. The other RSO representatives in attendance unanimously approved the proposal, granting the diamond painting club SGA funding and the other rights and privileges that come with being an official RSO.
Nate Klein, vice president for student success and SGA advisor, also presented information at the meeting. Klein spoke about the Mustang Leadership speaker series. Klein said, “it is important to engage students in leadership activities.” Klein also informed the assembly that spring semester will feature a combination of both speaker series events and workshop style sessions.
If students attend enough events in the series, they can earn blue level recognition for completion of the program. Graduating seniors who earn blue level recognition will be given blue cords to wear at commencement. Completion of the blue level requires attendance to four of the eight offered speaker events and participation in workshops in the spring.
Assembly members also observed a presentation about the campus event management system (EMS). Elizabeth Bibby, events manager, and Donna Dennis, student success administrative assistant, facilitated the presentation. The EMS allows Mount Mercy community members to reserve meeting spaces on campus. “If you can think about what you want to do, we can probably do it,” said Dennis, when speaking about the abilities of the events team on campus.
UNI Prof Over Masks
By Christine Bwanakweri/staff writer/Nov. 11, 2021
Steven O’Kane, a biology professor at the University of Northern Iowa, was pulled from his classroom and ordered to teach his subject online for the rest of the semester after instituting a mask mandate in his class.
According to local news station WOI-DT, the professor told students that if they came to class without a mask, they wouldn’t get lab points that day, which violated the Iowa Board of Regents’ guidelines “prohibiting all public universities from requiring masks or vaccinations on campus.”
O’Kane had established a mask requirement in his class and threatened to drop pupils’ lab marks if they did not comply. “My pupils, not unexpectedly, now all wear masks since they know there will be consequences to their grades,” he said.
According to a disciplinary letter obtained by the Gazette, O’Kane, who has been at UNI for 26 years, will continue teaching his online courses this semester. “Going forward, you will be required to comply with all university and (Board of Regents) regulations, including all policies or directives governing masks or facial coverings,” wrote UNI’s Dean John Fritch, “failure to adhere to such regulations may result in additional disciplinary action, including termination.”
According to WOI-DT, O’Kane said of the decision, “it wasn’t a fight between myself and the UNI administration. My faculty chair, the president, the provost, and the dean are all wonderful people. They are simply beautiful, charming individuals who have their hands bound.”
In a statement to Newsweek, the University of Northern Iowa said it is “truly dedicated to the health and safety of our campus community” and that students and employees are “encouraged” to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors; they cannot, however, compel anybody to do so, even in classes. (Thereare some exceptions, such as in a hospital procedure, location, or service, where masks are essential.)
Other instructors at his college, he told the Gazette, have enforced mask demands in their lectures as well, but he’s the only one who’s prepared to put hisname out there publicly. Given his near-retirement status, O’Kane believes he can take those risks. He stated, “I’m only one, two, three years away from retiring.
“And even if I were to get fired, it would not be the end of the world.”
Despite O’Kane’s statement, UNI officials stated they had not received further reports or complaints about improper mask requirements in classes or on campus. However, the professor met with officials the day following the Gazette’s report to discuss the situation, and he stated that he was aware of the board’s and UNI’s regulations.
O’Kane said that if he had the chance to teach in person again, he would continue to need masks.
MMU Alum Wins City Council Seat
By Greg Suthers/staff writer/Nov. 11, 2021
Dale Todd, Mount Mercy University alum, won Linn County’s District 3 City Council election with 63% of the 4,809 votes during the election on Nov. 2.
The Linn County District 3 City Council election was one of the two contested races for city council, the only other one being the Cedar Rapids mayoral race whichwent into a runoff. Todd was this position’s incumbent, meaning he had previously held this position in the recent term and was running for reelection. He was able to keep his seat by winning the election with 3,008 votes to 1,760 against the new runner Tamara Marcus.
Dale Todd’s position is a four-year term that pays $19,420 a year and starts on Jan. 1, 2022. According to the campaign disclosure reports from the Linn County website, Todd had the most fundraising of the district council candidates with $38,817.31 which helped him win his reelection.
Todd graduated from MMU with an undergraduate in criminal justice and political science after formerly attending Coe College in 1974.
The other contested race was the Cedar Rapids mayoral race had four candidates and went into a runoff as it requires majority votes while the highest candidate, Tiffany O’Donnell had 42% of votes. The other candidate in the runoff voting is Amara Andrews, who surpassed
Brad Hart by only 24 votes. Currently there is no set date that the runoff election will take place. Since the second and third place were so close, they can call for a recount until Nov. 10. If there is a recount, the Linn County Auditor Joel Miller cannot print ballots for the runoff until the recount is completed, which will delay the runoff election.Brad Hart, the incumbent of this race, was the third-place finisher with only 24 votes behind Amara. Hart did not call for a recount. The longer the wait for the runoff election, the lower voter turnout is expected.For this election it was at 28%, about half of the turnout received during the presidential election. The runoff election will take place on Nov. 30.
7% Decline to 1,580 Reflects Iowa Trend
By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Oct. 28, 2021
Mount Mercy’s recent census results have indicated a drop in enrollment numbers, a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provost and vice president for academic affairs Tim Laurent said the overall headcount is down 7% from last year, for a total of 1,580 students. This number encompasses traditional, new traditional (freshmen) and nontraditional students, who are primarily graduate and adult students. While the freshman count is up 3%, the nontraditional student population dropped by 14% since last year
.This dip in numbers is not distinctive to Mount Mercy. Across the state, several colleges, private and public, have seen a decline in numbers because of the pandemic.
Laurent said there were a couple reasons why the percentages for nontraditional students were down. Recruiters were hampered by COVID-19 restrictions, which meant they could not physically enter businesses with likely candidates. Employment opportunities have also rebounded since lockdown, which means adult learners are taking advantage of the job market and not pursuing higher education.
This drop should not be noticeable nor have an immediate impact on students, said Laurent. “We will have the same high-quality education in the classrooms.”
Moving forward, the university plans to implement new strategic practices attracting potential students. Todd Coleman, vice president for enrollment and marketing, said some of those strategies are already in practice. The university is awarding new students $1,000 for physically visiting the campus, and acceptance letters are including academic award information, which Coleman said is very important. “It’s a very competitive market,” Coleman said of college recruiting efforts, “if all your competitors are telling (students) what’s in (their) academic award in (their) acceptance letter, and you’re not doing that, it just puts you behind.”
The university plans to partner with Kirkwood Community College, which has many transfer students, and hold luncheons on campus that focus on certain majors. Potential students will be invited to participate and speak with students and professors who share their major. Coleman also hopes to give Mount Mercy a “bigger presence” in Cedar Rapids.
“We’re looking for some advertising opportunities that will give us the chance to showcase Mount Mercy and the values of the institution, and hopefully highlights some of the reasons why a student should come and check us out versus someplace else,” he said.
The ultimate attraction is the campus experience.
“There’s a lot of places to get an education, but the question is what kind of experience do you want?” said Coleman, “we think that if we get (students) on campus, that just gives us an excellent opportunity to highlight what sets us apart.”
President Todd Olson expressed pride in Mount Mercy’s quality education and hoped “as many students as possible” will get to experience the campus’s culture.
“We are continuing to develop strategies to keep our enrollment strong. This will be a significant focus of our strategic planning work,” Olson said in an email.
Pandemic Brings Shift to Online Career Fairs
By Joselyn Hildebrand/staff writer/Oct. 28, 2021
Students engaged in one of their first virtual career fairs on Tuesday, Oct. 5. The ICR (Iowa City/Cedar Rapids) Virtual Career Fair was offered to students and alumni from Coe, Cornell, Kirkwood, Iowa, and Mount Mercy. The event, open to all majors and academic levels, was held on an online platform called Handshake. Students were required to register in advance to secure their spot in employer group sessions and one-on-one sessions.
This is a change from in-person career fairs. “We had multiple in-person fairs scheduled. We were going to do a career fair week and a lot of the employers that we were working with to come on site just expressed a lot of reluctance to be here in-person,” Kalindi Garvin, director of career services, said. The biggest factor int he decision for virtual fairs is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Over 55 employers attended this virtual career fair.
“To come into an environment like ours and suddenly start interacting with large groups of college students, it’s an entirely different world. We’ve been on campus and in-person since last August, but when we think about it from an employer’s perspective, for those who are still working at home like TransAmerica, like Collins Aerospace, that’s just a high risk for them,” Garvin said.
The switch to virtual career fairs can take a weight off students’ shoulders, and not just because of the pandemic.
“Especially for our more introverted students, a virtual fair feels so much less stressful. Students can have their notes in front of them. They are used to Zoom technology. It takes that stress level to a much more manageable level. Also, just for our different populations. Our online students can also attend (and) that’s something that’s never really been open to them before. We definitely try to cater to both our non-traditional adult population as well as our graduate students. For some, it’s simply challenging to get down to the University Center,” Garvin said.
For many students, a virtual career fair may sound like a suitable place to start if they have never experienced what it is like to perform in an interview or simply engage with an employer in their future field.
“From a student’s perspective talking for 10 minutes doesn’t seem as daunting as an open-ended, timely interview, so it’s sort of like a low stakes opportunity to make those connections with employers,” Garvin said.
Worldwide Supply Chain Issues hit MMU
By Gwen Johnson/opinion editor/Oct. 28, 2021
Mount Mercy is feeling the effects of supply shortages this semester, but is working to reduce the impact on students, officials say. Areas most clearly affected includes dining, the bookstore and facilities.
“The supply chain is in the worst position it has been in at least my 20-some years of experience and most economic experts think that it is the worst in modern times, comparable with 1970’s gas shortages,” said John Anthes, dining services manager.
“We are seeing a 30% unfilled order status right now from many distributors. These are large distributors like Pepsi, Kellogg’s and Coke. They lack the labor to make all of their usual products and the manpower to distribute it. In the past we have had a rate of say, 2-3%. Most students see these things every day at the gas station, Target, or even in the cafeteria here where bulk cereals and some flavors of soda are out from week to week,” continued Anthes.
The shortage of workers reflects a huge shrinkage in the workforce. Part of the shrinkage is due to COVID-19 related illness and death, part is due to workers in various sectors retiring, and part is that young people aren’t entering the workforce as expected.
Anthes said there are many jobs in the supply chain available locally for Mount Mercy students. He also recommends getting started on your Christmas shopping early, because shortages affect nearly everything.
An example that Phil Williams, campus store manager, can come up with to demonstrate the supply chain issues is when the store ran out of plastic shopping bags in May. “That used to be a two week turn around, and now I was looking at 10 weeks.”
New orders of merchandise like clothing and keychains now have a 12-to 16-week turnaround that used to be eight. This extension of delivery times applies to everything from Mount Mercy mugs to course materials. Williams is grateful to professors who were able to provide their required reading ahead of time, because while rental books are hard to come by, new books are even harder.
“It’s actually worse now than it was last year,” said Williams. This is because demand is back up, but manufacturers and suppliers are still working at reduced capacity.
Delivery times are likewise extended for facilities, meaning that work orders and repairs can take longer than usual.
“Most of our contractors can only see about 12 weeks out at the most on their vendors production schedules, for delivery of apart or equipment,” said Dennis Gehring, facilities director.
Gehring expects this to be the new normal for a while, saying, “At this point, I don’t see much improving in the next 6 months to a year.”
Overall, MMU officials are trying to reduce the impact of supply chain delays on students, whether that be by ordering things for the bookstore significantly ahead of time or by making last minute changes to the dining center menu to work with the food available.
“Things take time, so please continue to be patient,” said Williams.
Rapid Growth of Music Means Concerts are off Campus
By Bri Ostwinkle/web editor/Oct. 28, 2021
Mount Mercy’s Music Department held its first concert of the year Oct. 10 at the Cedar Rapids Prairie High School Concert Hall featuring the concert band and the concert choir.
This is not the first off-campus concert that has occurred off campus. In spring, the music department had to relocate its end-of-the-year concert to the Prairie Concert Hall since McAuley Auditorium can no long fit the growing programs.
The music department had 198 students for the 2020-2021 school year, which was up from the 2019-2020 year by 57. This year’s music department has 190 students, which is down from last year, but COVID-19 played a role in that. When the program first began with full-time directors in 2016, it consisted of 83 students.
“We are hopeful that in the future a new facility will be built on campus to maximize future growth and expand opportunities for our students,” said Steve Stickney, Mount Mercy band director.
Currently the university band and choir use the McAuley Auditorium as a place to practice, and for instrument and music storage.
Events Beforehand Foreshadowed 9/11
Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Oct. 28, 2021
MMU’s Fall Faculty series kicked off on Sept. 29 with Jim Jacobs, associate professor of computer science, giving an overview of events leading up to 9/11.
“9/11: Twenty Years Later” is this year’s topic for the series. Jacobs’s lecture, “Precursor Events: At War Before 9/11,” gave a timeline of events demonstrating the U.S.’s relationship with the Middle East prior to the attack on the twin towers.
Jacobs, speaking to a crowd of about 25 people in the Flaherty Community room, said it was “not a surprise” to him when he heard about Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center.
Starting with the OPEC oil embargo and the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s, Jacobs progressed through the Middle East and U.S.’s history using maps, videos and photos. The timeline grew personal to Jacobs once it reached the 1990s.
“When we see history, we usually see it from a textbook,” said Jacobs, pulling out a gas mask. Jacobs served in the Marine Corps as a communication technician. From Dec. 1990 to April 1991, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Near the lectern, memorabilia from Jacobs’s time in Kuwait was displayed on two tables.
Jacobs spoke about the Highway of Death, an American air attack on retreating Iraqi vehicles that left thousands dead, but that received very little coverage on American news. He said it changed the Middle East’s perception of the U.S. What followed was several decades’ worth of unrest and social upheaval.
“Why didn’t we see it? When it’s not on our doorstep, we don’t care,” he said.
Jacobs’s solution to the problem is more education in history, cultural and global awareness, relationship building between cultures, and several other things as well. He ended the lecture by honoring Afghanistan veterans and reminding the audience of the unseen burdens they bear.
Conspiracies are in our ‘Cultural DNA’
By Annie Barkalow/managing editor/Oct. 28, 2021
Conspiracy theories and misinformation were some of the casualties arising from the attacks on 9/11, and they’ve only intensified within the last 20 years. According to associate professor of communication Joe Sheller, America’s fixation on conspiracy theories dates back even further: to the birth of the nation.
Sheller’s Oct. 6 lecture, “Conspiracy, Myth, and Misinformation” was the second installment of MMU’s Fall Faculty Series “9/11: 20 Years Later.”
“Humans conspire all the time,” said Sheller, speaking to a small crowd in the Flaherty Community Room. He gave the Revolutionary War as an example of humans “conspiring together” to emancipate themselves from a tyrannous ruler, the result being the birth of a new nation. “Because we engage in (conspiracies) and experience them, we expect them,” he said.
Going through the timeline, Sheller briefly touched on famous conspiracy theories, demonstrating that misinformation and conspiracy theories are not new to America. “Any human conflict is fertile ground for conspiracy theories,” he said, “there’s always been a suspicion that someone knows more than someone else, that they know more than they should.”
The advent of the internet, Sheller explained, has changed the way we think about information. Knowledge is expedited with the click of a mouse, whereas it once circulated slowly. People and organizations can make websites and say whatever they want.
“We tend to think that the media manipulate us,” said Sheller. “However, we have become the media. We have to takeownership of that.”
Since 9/11 occurred when the internet was gaining momentum, the environment was ripe for conspiracy theories, including the idea that 9/11 was an “inside job” and a “government conspiracy.” So what feeds the misinformation frenzy? Sheller says it’s a mix of good ol’ fashioned mistrust of authority and confirmation bias. “There’s a tendency to not believe what we see and create alternate information…we understand data in the context of what we already believe.”
There’s a mercenary side, too–what gets clicks, makes money.
Sheller ended the lecture by reminding the audience to take care of who and what you believe and what you share. “We react too quickly, too emotionally,” he said.
SGA Approves the Return of the Stang Gang
By Jada Veasey/editor in chief/Oct. 28, 2021
Mount Mercy’s Student Government Association continues to be a driving forces behind student involvement. At the Student Government Association’s second general assembly meeting of the year on Monday, Oct. 4, there were more registered student organizations (RSOs) present than at the first meeting in August.
The main item was the presentation of a new RSO. Freshman Gabrielle Witte proposed the Stang Gang. Witte said that the purpose of the Stang Gang would be to encourage students to “go to sporting events and have fun,” and then elaborated, saying she was inspired to bring the club to campus due to her involvement in the student section of sporting events when she was in high school.
Nate Klein, SGA advisor, vice president for student success, said a similar club existed when he attended Mount Mercy as a student. The Stang Gang RSO was unanimously approved. Another new RSO proposal was slated, but the students responsible for presenting were unable to attend the meeting. The proposed RSO is an education club called TEACH, and student representatives will present at a future SGA general assembly meeting.
After the proposed RSOs were discussed, Amanda Ehlers, from the department of student engagement, announced the return of a beloved campus tradition: Halloween on the Hill. It will take place on Friday, Oct. 29 in the University Center from 5-7 p.m., and movies will follow. RSOs have been encouraged to participate, and prizes will be awarded to the RSO with the best decorated table as well as to the best costume. Community members are welcome to attend the Halloween on the Hill event and children can trick or treat from table to table.
Ehlers also provided a training regarding RSO usage of the Mount Mercy app. Mount Mercy RSOs are able to use the post feature on the app to post as the club, which Ehlers said is “a way to ger a few more eyes on your post.”
SGA president Emma Lantz wrapped up the general assembly meeting by giving a few updates. Lantz said that new SGA execs will be announced in November, and the new board will be installed in January. Cabinet positions will be opened up once the new board is installed. As the current board nears the end of their term, Lantz said that SGA is still hoping to tackle new projects.
The next SGA general assembly is Nov. 1.
Professors Profess for Archbishop
By Vanessa Milliman/Staff Writer/Sept. 30
On Sept. 21, faculty from the philosophy and religious studies department took an oath of fidelity to the Catholic Church and made a profession of faith. Faculty who teach Catholic theology also received the mandatum from Archbishop Michael Jackels. The event was attended by students, staff, faculty, local priests and some members of the community.
Speaking before the ceremony, Jackels said that students should “encourage and demand” the faculty to provide guidance on “how to think critically” especially in the context of theology and philosophy. He stressed the importance of the faculty’s role in the larger mission of the Church.
Dr. Adam Myers, assistant professor of philosophy, made the profession of faith and took the oath of fidelity. Dr. Travis Lacy, assistant professor of religious studies, made the profession of faith, took the oath of fidelity, and was granted the mandatum. Dr. Bryan Cross, associate professor of Philosophy, made his profession of faith and took the oath of fidelity in 2014. Now, Cross asked to receive the mandatum because he is teaching the new Catholic Biomedical Ethics course, which is a theology course.
The mandatum is given to “those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever,” according toCanon Law 812. Affirming the important role of a teacher in the Church, the mandatum is granted by a Church authority. In this case, it was given by Archbishop Jackels. It affirms their role as a teacher. The mandatum reads in part: “I am committed to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium.”
Canon Law 833 requires the profession of faith and the oath of fidelity from “teachers in any universities whatsoever who teach disciplines pertaining to faith or morals.” The oath of fidelity and profession of faith are a way for theology and philosophy teachers to announce their faith in Christ andHis Church.
Similar to a marriage vow, the professors promise to stay true to the Catholic Church’s teaching. Myers and Lacy promised to “hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety,” and to “faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.” Cross commented that all of the faculty in thephilosophy and religious studies department have now taken oath of fidelity and made a profession of faith.
Writers, Artists Celebrate Arrival of PAHA
By Vanessa Gaul/Staff Writer/Sept. 30
As the breezy day ruffled the book pages, writers and artists were seen outside the University Center signing the newest publication of the PAHA Review, Sept. 21.
Creative literature and striking images of artwork can be found in this year’s PAHA Review. With the longest publication in the history of PAHA, there are aspects of the book that will appeal to all readers, writers, and artists.
The 2021 PAHA Review launched in Rhode Plaza where refreshments were served and music was played during the event to create a relaxing environment where staff and students could converse. Several contributors to the book attended the event to sign their work and discuss it with others. Mary Vermillion, Ben Thiel, Nate Klein, and even President Olson were spotted mingling at the event. Many of the contributors use the PAHA Review as an outlet to share their voice and bring public exposure to their original pieces.
“I wanted people to know that it wasn’t just them going through hard times,” said Niki Carl, a senior nursing major, when asked why she submitted her work to the review.
Annie Barkalow, a junior majoring in media communications with a minor in creative writing, was one of the editors of the PAHA review and was on the writing selection committee. She enjoys reading submissions and seeing the talent that MMU students have. As an editor, Barkalow believes one of the most challenging aspects of editing the pieces is catching each small detail before it goes to print. She also commented on the fact that this issue of the review has a lot of prose and more creative poetry.
“It’s a great way to learn about someone,” said Barkalow.
Similar to Barkalow, Vermillion highly values PAHA. “It is a place to give student writers and artists a voice,” said Vermillion.
By picking up a copy of the PAHA Review, students can see the work of their peers, while also reading moving stories about countless topics. Additional copies of the PAHA Review can be found on newspaper racks around campus.
Two Win Gender-Neutral Contest
By Jada Veasey/Editor in Chief/Sept. 30
Homecoming is a time for alumni to reflect on their time on the Hill, and for current students to make new memories while they’re still here. After missing Homecoming in the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the week long celebration has returned to campus.
One of the traditional aspects of Mount Mercy’s annual homecoming festivities is the homecoming court. The rules and regulations surrounding the court have changed a few times over the years, and this school year another change occurred. For the first time, the court has embraced a gender-neutral outlook. The top 10 Mustangs who were nominated were chosen for the court regardless of their gender. And similarly, there will be no queen and king –instead, two members of the court were elected with the title of homecoming royalty.
This year’s court consisted of 10 students: Jared Durant, Jacob Heit, Gwen Johnson, Lexie Johnson, Emma Lantz, Alan Milliman, Mackenzie Murphy, Max Roers, Emily Thilges, and Lotte van Malsen. All the members of the court were juniors or seniors, and all were nominated by their peers in a form pushed out by Student Engagement. The court was announced on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at the late-night breakfast pep rally.
Court member and senior human resources and corporate social responsibility double major Jared Durant felt positive about the court’s transition to a more gender-neutral format. Durant said, “I like it,” and then added, “I think it makes it fairer. There are six girls and four guys. It takes gender out of it and makes it more fair for everyone who was nominated.”
The homecoming royalty title winners were announced on Saturday, Sept. 25, between the women’s and men’s homecoming soccer games. This year’s homecoming royalty is Lotte van Halsen and Gwen Johnson.
Ideas for Nursing
By Annie Barkalow/Managing Editor/Sept. 30
Mount Mercy nursing students successfully passed two resolutions at the Iowa Association of Nursing Students (IANS) conference Sept. 20 in Des Moines.
Members of MMU’s Association of Nursing Students Jada Veasey, Aubrey Driscoll, Rachel Lochner and Jadon Corkery attended, accompanied by assistant professor of nursing and MMUANS faculty advisor Audrey Sheller. Veasey and Driscoll serve on the State Board of Directors for IANS, as does Marshall Muehlbauer, a recent MMU alum.
Of the five resolutions that were submitted, two were written by Mount Mercy students.
“Increasing Support for Needle Stick Prevention and Education” was written by Veasey and Corkery, and “Increasing Education for Nursing Burnout and Prevention,” was written by Driscoll and Lochner.
“It’s a global pandemic,” said Driscoll, on why she was interested in writing about nursing burnout. Driscoll serves as MMUANS president.
The IANS conference allows Iowa nursing students to discuss issues currently facing their profession. It also helps them develop career readiness and make connections with other employers across the state. Driscoll says the benefits of participation include getting literature published and taking on leadership roles, establishing professional connections, staying current with nursing culture and traveling, which are “great resume builders.”
“I just think it really helps you grow as a person, in leadership skills and social skills,” said Driscoll.
Nursing students can submit resolutions to the board, which are issues facing the nursing world that they’d like to discuss. Authors have two minutes to speak. “We just give a little background of the resolution, kind of why it’s important to us and why we think it needs to be passed,” said Driscoll.This follows 10 minutes of debate. Delegates can ask the authors questions during this time.
If the resolution is passed, it may get published in different mediums following its posting on the IANS website, such as theAmerican Nurses Association. Driscoll said being published is a good opportunity to get the attention of medical professionals and academics who can research these problems and find conclusions. Driscoll adds that posting additional materials along with your resolution, such as a video or a pamphlet, can help make your resolution stand out.
Though there’s no mandate for MMU nursing students to attend, it’s highly encouraged. Driscoll sends out an email in the summer to nursing students, and those interested in writing a resolution may do so. Resolutions passed at the state level may eventually go to the national level, which will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah this year.
New in ACE: Former Coach Joins Staff
By Addison McGuire/Staff Writer/Sept. 30
Former MMU men’s head volleyball coach Mary Kay Van Oort has taken the position of academic support services coordinator at the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE).
One of the biggest things for Van Oort was the community that MMU creates for its students. She said, “I’m really proud of MMU, any chance to stay at MMU and to be involved in my passion for teaching was very important to me.”
Van Oort discussed how the pandemic has affected students. “It was very important to me to help students academically through this time to help students get on track after the effects of the pandemic,” Van Oort reflected.
“It really is nonstop excitement! So much comes through ACE on a daily basis. It’s such a positive experience to see how many people come through and benefit from this wonderful facility MMU has,” adding that “the atmosphere in ACE is just amazing. ACE is such a positive work environment!”
Vigil on Campus Held After Students Dies During Pandemic
By Jada Veasey/Editor in Chief/Sept. 30
A Mustang family is in mourning. Prairie High School and Kirkwood Community College graduate Ashley Hudson had lifelong aspirations to become a kindergarten teacher. She was planning to attend Mount Mercy to make that childhood dream come true, but her life tragically ended before she could step on campus as a student. Hudson passed away due to complications of COVID-19 on Sept. 20.
The campus community was notified of the news with an email from university president Dr. Todd Olson. The email ends with a quote from university foundress Catherine McAuley: “A community in which this universal charity reigns, is capable of surmounting all difficulties.”
Mount Mercy held a vigil service in the Chapel of Mercy on the evening of Hudson’s passing. The vigil allowed space for Hudson’s family, friends, and community members to remember her life. Emma Lantz, Nate Klein, Michael Beard and Sister Linda Bechen all spoke at the vigil.
“We felt it was important to provide space for Ashley’s family and friends along with our own students and employees to come together in community to remember the positive impact she had on so many,” said Nate Klein, vice president for student success.
Klein also added “we wanted Ashley’s family and our community to know that we are here for each other through the pain and sorrow of this tragic loss.”
“Mount Mercy was blessed with the opportunity to honor the life of Ashley and offer a community space to grieve and heal in a time of continued uncertainty,” said Emma Lantz, president of the Mount Mercy Student Government Association and a high school classmate of Hudson’s. Lantz spoke at the vigil, reading a passage from the book of Ecclesiastes.
English Professor Presents New Poetry Book on Campus
By Vanessa Gaul/Staff Writer/Sept. 30
Students were guided to think using emotion, location, and their personal backgrounds to inspire their poetry in an afternoon workshop on Sept. 22. That evening, the author of the book “Hysterical Water” and this year’s Featured Fall Writer, read, explained, and answered questions about her poetry.
To kick off the afternoon event, the book’s author, assistant professor of English Hannah Saltmarsh, had participants form small groups and brainstorm a list of 25 milestones one can experience in their life. She then had students write for seven minutes about a coming of age or life event, aiming for around ten lines, with no other strict guidelines. People could share their work or ideas in their group if they chose to, but there was no pressure to do so.
The evening session contained half an hour of poetry readings, followed by time for questions and the opportunity to buy and have Saltmarsh autograph her book. The third of eight poems that Saltmarsh read in the evening session was titled “Disruptions to the Sonnet by the Senior Class of 2000,” a poem of realization and growing up, as she described her brother’s suicide attempts blended with descriptions of her classmate.
“I had started writing when I was like 14 so it just became kind of a cathartic thing for me,” said Saltmarsh, “there were some dysfunctional things happening in my family and some things I wanted to work through, so it was always like a safe space for me.”
This author encouraged young writers to use their experiences to fuel their writing, as many find writing therapeutic. Writing can also inspire healing, regarding the healing of others or oneself. Saltmarsh’s next prompt asked students to create a poem about a cure for something.
Healing can also be tied to place, and much of this author’s work was centered around places she resided in the past. Wednesday night, Saltmarsh read her poem “Every Time it Rains, A Requiem,” which referenced hurricane Katrina. Saltmarsh previously lived in New Orleans.
“I find that when I leave a place, I long for it more, so it starts to enter my subconscious more than the place I am currently in,” said Saltmarsh, “but yeah, I am very drawn to place.”
For the last prompt in the afternoon session, Saltmarsh encouraged readers to get angry and write a manifesto or list of demands that they want from society. This idea comes from how many of her poems display emotion through imagery and explicit details.
“Hysterical Water” was the first book of poems that Saltmarsh published after years of learning, writing, collecting, and editing her poetry.“Sometimes I’ll have a poem that has been like with me for like 10 years or something, and I’m always playing with it,” said Saltmarsh, “sometimes some things will only need a couple of revisions or light editing for whatever reason.”
In the future, Saltmarsh plans to continue teaching and writing poetry, and hopes to publish another book at some point.
Legacy of 9/11
By Addison McGuire/Staff Writer/September 17, 2021
The attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001, changed America forever, and with the 20th anniversary, this year’s Fall Faculty Series reflects on the legacy of that world-shifting event.
“We will be focusing on reflection on how 9/11 has affected American society since the event, as well as the perspective Muslim Americans have had as well following the attacks,” says Dr. Joe Hendryx, assistant professor of English and Fall Faculty Series coordinator.
The Fall Faculty Series, held annually since 2014, involves public presentations on a topic chosen by the faculty. This year’s sessions will all take place at 6 p.m. onWednesdays in the Flaherty Community Room, Basile Hall. Due to the pandemic, masks will be required of all attendees. The first session, on Sept. 29, features a computer science professor and military veteran talking about some of the events that led up to 9/11.
“We want to provide examples of how society has changed as a whole; we want students to be able to critically assess one’s reality in the world stage,” Hendryx explained.
Hendryx emphasized that one of the most exciting things about this edition is seeing how the Cedar Rapids community is involving itself with this series.“
All of the things that people have lived through since the attacks is very different. The perspective of the young people that haven’t seen a life before the attacks and how their view on the event will be exciting to hear,” he says.
Here are this year’s sessions:
◼Sept. 29: “Precursor Events: At War before9/11,” James Jacobs, associate professor of computer science
◼Oct. 6: “Conspiracy, Myth, and Misinformation,” Joe Sheller, associate professor of communication and MMU Times advisor.
◼Oct. 27: “Heroism and Sacrifice after the Attack,” Norma Linda Mattingly, associate professor of education.
◼Nov. 9: “Fear and Trauma after 9/11,” Dennis Dew, associate professor of Psychology.
◼Dec. 1: “Reflections of a Muslim-American Immigrant,” Ayman Amer, associate professor of economics.
Mustang Welcome Week
By Jada Veasey/Editor in Chief/September 17, 2021
The transition from high school or community college to a four-year university can be tricky and can also cause some anxiety. Luckily for campus’ newest Mustangs, the department of student engagement had a remedy for new school jitters –Mustang Welcome Week.
Mustang Welcome Week is an annual tradition at Mount Mercy, and it serves as new students’ first true introduction to campus. It begins with freshman and transfer move-in, and then packs the first few days before school begins with fun events and activities to help new students get to know both campus and the greater Cedar Rapids community that surrounds it.
New residential students moved into their dorms on Aug. 20 and 21. The calendar of events was jam-packed –they had the opportunity to watch a movie out on the patio, enjoy a new student picnic, ice skate off campus, play bingo and compete for prizes, attend the annual involvement fair and more. Students also got to experience a host of campus traditions, including signing the tunnel wall, taking a class photo and attending convocation, which featured a speech by nursing faculty member Melodie Jolly.
Freshmen and transfer students were led through Mustang Welcome Week activities by their new peers, upperclassmen returning students who serve as Mustang Welcome Leaders, or as they tend to refer to themselves, “MWLs.” These leaders passed on their knowledge of Mount Mercy traditions to new students and helped make sure that Mustang Welcome Week went off without a hitch.
Mustang Welcome Leader and senior nursing major Jadon Corkery has been in the role for multiple years, and for her, this year’s events did not disappoint. Corkery said, “I think it went pretty well, all things considered,” and then added, “it was fun! I hope people had fun.”
McKenzie Lansing, student engagement coordinator, was pleased with how Welcome Week went. Lansing said, “overall, I think Welcome Week went really well.” After last year’s festivities were dampened with a host of COVID-19 related restrictions, Lansing said, “it was refreshing to see students outside, connecting and making friendships.”
The students that Welcome Week targeted seemed to enjoy the events as well. Freshman criminal justice major Journie Amunique said, “I thought the activities were a fun way to start off the school year and a great way to make friends.”
Learning Willie Ray’s Way
By Bri Ostwinkle/Web Editor/September 17, 2021
Willie Ray Fairley, number 16 on Fortune’s World 50 Greatest Leaders, spoke to Mount Mercy students as the first of many speakers to take part in the new Mount Mercy Leadership Program.
On Thursday, Aug. 26, Mount Mercy students gathered in the Chapel of Mercy to listen to a local community member and world recognized leader and kick off the university’s new leadership program. Nate Klein, vice president of student success, and Emma Lantz, SGA president, led the speech through a series of questions.
The event was kicked off by Dr. Todd Olson, president of Mount Mercy University.“I am really enthused about this particular beginning; I have been a part of helping develop leadership programs for a long time, and I am excited to see one launch in a new way at Mount Mercy.”
Olson was followed by Klein, who spoke on leadership and how the program was started. “The conversation started with faculty, students and alumni, when our students walk across the stage, what do we want them to have? Leadership was one of those things.”
Willie Ray Fairley is a local community member and owner of Willie Ray’s Q Shack, who after the derecho, made his barbecue and gave back to the community by providing everyone with hot food. Not only did he serve the local community, but he also drove his truck across the country to Texas tohelp that community after a disaster as well.
When asked what first inspired Fairley to create his business, he answered, “I watch a lot of motivational speakers and they always say, do what you know the most of, and barbecue is what I know. I started barbecuing when I was 8, watching my dad.”
After being asked many questions about his Q Shack and how he envisioned his future, the one point he made multiple times was confidence. He felt that confidence was the biggest factor in his life when it came to starting his business and the biggest piece of advice he would give to anyone who wants to begin a business of their own.
Lantz asked Fairley what his advice was for people who just wanted to make a change in the community, and he had a straightforward answer. “If you’re okay, and someone is not okay, do something to help them be okay.”
Fairley, whether intentionally or not, quickly became a leader in both the community and across the nation as he helped people in need, because he felt it was what he needed to do to serve.
After the speech concluded, Fairley and his team shared their love for barbecue and serving as those who attended the event were given a plate of Willie Ray’s Q Shack pulled pork to enjoy.
MMU’s New Clubs on Campus
By Jada Veasey/Editor in Chief/September 17, 2021
Last school year’s COVID restrictions really impacted how Mount Mercy’s Student Government Association (SGA) operated on campus. For example, most of their meetings and events were conducted virtually.
This year, things are different –at least for now. Meetings and events are in person again, which means that SGA is reintroducing one if its more popular events –Club Friday. Club Friday will occur every other Friday, alternating with SGA’s Leave it on the Floor Friday, which was introduced last school year.
SGA hosted its first in-person general assembly meeting in a year on Aug. 30. Though the meeting was held in August, it will count as the meeting for September. General assembly is a group meeting that consists of representatives from all registered student organizations (RSOs), though many were missing from the first meeting this year. General assembly meets to discuss issues that affect clubs on campus, to vote on newly proposed RSO ideas, and to learn how to properly run a club in accordance with campus policy.
General assembly meetings also routinely feature a presentation by someone from the campus community. For the first meeting, Cara Reilly, director of volunteerism and service, presented, informing club members of the resources available to help them complete their annual service project.
Two new clubs were proposed at the meeting. Allison Taylor, sophomore, presented about the Bandana Project. “The Bandana Project is a campaign for mental health awareness and suicide prevention,” said Taylor.
The group plans to host a mental health walk/run, and to distribute green bandanas to club members so they can display them on bags or backpacks. The presence of the bandana indicates that the person carrying the bag is a safe person to speak to regarding mental health concerns and will have resource cards to distribute to those interested. The club’s advisor is psychology professor Dr. Matthew Bejar.The second club proposed was Movie Club. Freshman Amari Wellner presented the idea for the club, saying that it will be “a place to go where students can relax,” and added that they plan to “watch and appreciate movies.” The club’s advisor is Kalindi Garvin, director of career services.Both clubs received unanimous approval from the other RSO representatives in attendance, which means the clubs are now considered official RSOs and will be eligible to receive SGA funding.The next SGA general assembly meeting will occur on Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m.
2021 Nursing White Coat Ceremony
By Raven Stuefen/Staff Writer/September 17, 2021
Sophomore students entering the clinical phase of their education were reminded Sept. 10 to remember that nursing is a challenging major—but it’s important to balance it with other things.“
Remember your ands,” said Jada Veasey, nursing senior and speaker at the White Coat Ceremony in the Chapel of Mercy. Held annually since 2014, the ceremony marks the start of clinical experiences for students.
The “and” you should remember, Veasey said, is that, despite the consuming nature of a nursing education, students aren’t just at college to become nurses. They need balance and other interests.
Veasey visibly follows her own advice—the senior resident assistant is president of the Law and Politics Club and editor-in-chief of the Mount Mercy Times, in addition to being active in the Mount Mercy University Association of Nursing Students.
The white coat places on nursing students at the ceremony is a symbol of the nursing profession, noted Cathy Penn, associate professor of nursing. The coat is a newer symbol, replacing a nurse’s cap which historically served as the profession’s symbol.
“Being a nurse is very rewarding,” Penn told the Times. “There is a great need for nurses now and there are so many areas a nurse may specialize in. Our sophomore nursing students are encouraged to find their special niche where their skills will become gifts to their community.”
Veasey was one of several speakers. Dr. Kim Bro, dean of the Martin-Herold College of Nursing and Health, spoke. Students were welcomed by Dr. Todd Olsen, president of MMU.
In her presentation, Veasey provided advice to students. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” she emphasized, as that is a survival tactic in a challenging major.
Veasey also noted the ongoing pandemic creates an unusual environment for aspiring nurses—unusual, but not unique. She quoted author John Green who wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic in his best-selling collection of nonfiction essays, “The Anthropocene Reviewed.”
In that book, Green writes about various aspects of the human era in time, and rates each one on a five-point scale. Veasey noted Green points out in his book that the current pandemic is not “unprecedented” because pandemics have happened before.
But just as pandemics have occurred, so has the human capacity for caring for each other during challenging times, Veasey noted. “He didn’t give the plague a very high rating,” she quipped. But she reminded nursing students that they are part of the answer to such catastrophes.
The Coating Ceremony followed speeches, as each of the 78 Initiates were called up, one at a time, white coats draped over their left forearms, and coated by Bro or Penn.
After that, Sister Linda Bechen recited a prayer to bless the hands of the new student nurses, and Bro led the students in aninitiation oath.
The Nursing program began in 1904 as the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. In 1954, an affiliation with Mt. Mercy Jr. College began and the program began awarding college-level credit for the nursing education program. The program now awards bachelor of science in nursing degrees and is housed in Donnelly Center, erected in 1976.
In attendance at the ceremony were faculty, 78 white coat Initiates and their invited guests. Due to COVID-19, each initiate was allowed two attendees and masks were worn by all in attendance.
MMU Professor to Share Poetry About Women’s Issues
By Vanessa Gaul/Staff Writer/September 17, 2021
A Mount Mercy English professor is the first in-person featured fall writer since the COVID-19 pandemic, and she will be focusing on mental health and women’s issues in two workshops in Betty Cherry Heritage Hall on Sept. 22.
Poems about postpartum depression and hurricane Katrina will be read and discussed by Hannah Saltmarsh at her evening session at 7 p.m. In the afternoon, there will be an interactive session that will have attendees work through several writing activities at 2 p.m.
“I chose her because her poetry focuses on women’s issues, and women’s issues are a critical concern of the Sisters of Mercy,” said Mary Vermillion, the director of the visiting writer program and professor of English. “And a lot of her poems also focus on health, healing, and mental health, and I thought that in the wake of COVID, or in the midst of COVID, that might be of interest to a lot of people.”
Saltmarsh’s book, “Hysterical Water,” has unique poetry structures and a striking cover depicting the severed head of Medusa.Many of her poems are chunked into sections to provide contrasting ideas, such as in the titular poem “Hysterical Water,” where Saltmarsh goes back and forth between describing medicinal cures for women’s aliments and depicting her mother’s pain from a botched c-section.
“Hysterical Water,” published in March of 2021 by the University ofGeorgia Press, depicts Medusa on the cover to emphasize the fear of women, going along with the meaning behind the title.“
The actual origin of the word has to do with a problem specific to women, it was like a medical term, it said it began in the uterus,” said Saltmarsh. “So, it’s like a gendered term to describe any number of things, basically like being overly emotional, so even medically women have been termed to have these problems originating from their uterus that makes them hysterical.”
Saltmarsh mentioned that places she resided in her life, maternal figures, and struggles within her tight knit family shaped much of her poetry. Growing up she lived in D.C. near Maryland, but has lived in many places since, such as Portland, Oregon, England, and recently moved to the Midwest. The newly published author continues to write every day and aspires for her book to make an impact.
“I hope it creates some kind of connection for readers, maybe it frees people from certain silences and shames,” said Saltmarsh. “I hope that other writers will feel either a sense of connection, or feel free to find their own healing or truth in their writing.”
Ed Professor Pens Op/Ed in Gazette: Bill Would Hurt Schools
By Emily Winchester/Staff Writer/Feb. 26, 2021
A bill being pushed in a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” states Jennie Schmidt, assistant professor of education, in recent guest columns she wrote for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the West Branch Times.
She wrote that, under the bill, tax money meant specifically for public schools would be used to send children to private and charter schools. The guest op/ed was published in The Gazette Jan. 31.
“If students in one district opt for one of these options, their home district is an immediate loser,” Schmidt said in the article. She says that this bill is being played off as giving families a “choice” to their children, but in reality, it is jeopardizing the future of the public school system.
Schmidt is also concerned about the separation of church and state. She says that the budget money that is being used to send students to the schools are sometimes religious.
Another point Schmidt made is that these types of schools generally do not perform better than the public schools. Sometimes, they actually perform worse compared to public schools. A third issue with this bill is that these charter and private schools can deny the applications of physically and behaviorally challenged children or even kids have grown up in poorer conditions. So, is this “choice” even worth it in the end?
Schmidt said that she had positive feedback from people on her article in the Gazette, which is encouraging. She noted that when she wrote a similar article for the West Branch Times, she even appealed to her legislator regarding the bill, which she did not do in the Cedar Rapids Gazette article.
As far as she knows though, she has not heard back from her legislator. In the meantime, the article states that “public schools, unions, and the Iowa Mental Health Planning Council, and the United Way” are fighting this bill.
Mount Mercy Nursing Students, Teachers Receive COVID-19 Vaccine
By Morgan Ingwersen/Staff Writer/Feb. 26, 2021
Although it’s not clear when the general campus community can get vaccinated, their work in healthcare put nursing faculty and students in the earliest tier. Thus, many nursing students and staff are on track to finish receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lydia Christoffersen, lecturer of nursing, was not nervous about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I trust the science and the CDC, and all the hard-working people who were able to produce the vaccine so quickly,” Christoffersen said. “I know that there could be side effects that range from mild to severe, but in my mind that is far less a threat than contracted COVID and spreading it.”
The process of getting the vaccine is simple: you show up to your appointment, verify your name, date of birth, and allergies, and the vaccine wis injected into your arm. Afterwards, you wait 15 minutes to ensure you have no reaction and you are provided with an information sheet about the vaccine and get an appointment card with a time and date established for the second dose.
“I got my vaccines at the nursing home that I work at,” said sophomore nursing student Megan Kitzmiller. “With the first dose, I didn’t have any symptoms, other than a sore arm for a couple days. The second dose I also had a sore arm but that only lasted a day. I was also pretty tired that evening, but otherwise I felt fine.”
Sami Bohr, a sophomore nursing student mentioned that she had several side effects after receiving both doses of the vaccine.
“The first dose of the vaccine was not terrible, I was just nauseous, lightheaded, and had a low-grade fever,” said Bohr. “The second dose I had more symptoms that included headaches, body aches, body chills, loss of appetite and fatigue.”
Bohr said her symptoms only lasted a couple of days. She received her vaccinations from the nursing home that she works at in Cedar Rapids.
“I think all MMU students should consider getting vaccinated,” said senior nursing student Marshall Muehlbauer. He is also president of the MMU and state student nursing associations. “Not only is the science sound and valid, but it’s groundbreaking. It is special to be a part of this important discovery in technology.
“At the bottom line, getting vaccinated is not about yourself, it is about others. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we should all do our part for our neighbors, family, and strangers so we can all live happy and healthy lives.”
Christoffersen mentioned that the vaccine is a must for all people. It is important to do our part as citizens to protect not only ourselves but one another.
“If our country wants to get back to any semblance of normalcy, people must be willing to take the proper steps to eradicate this virus,” she said.
House Attempts to Impeach Trump a Second Time
By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Feb. 26, 2021
Until now, no president in the history of the United States of America has ever been impeached twice. And now, Donald Trump becomes the only president who was tried twice and also acquitted twice by the Senate.
Only two presidents prior to Trump have faced impeachment: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. None of the three impeached presidents were ultimately convicted and thus removed from office, however. President Nixon faced the strong possibility of impeachment, but resigned before the House acted.
MMU professors give some context to the impeachment of Trump.
Congress has drawn up its second set of articles against Trump. However, they have chosen to bring only one charge against him: inciting insurrection due to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, wherein a large group of armed citizens entered the Capitol building unhindered and attempted to take Deb Brydon, associate professor of criminal justice, also an attorney, shed some light on how impeachment differs from a criminal trial if Trump were charged as a private citizen instead.
“If Mr. Trump was facing criminal charges, the jury would need to unanimously find guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” Brydon said. “Impeachments require a two-thirds vote of senators.
“Another unique difference in this case is the fact that the senators, acting as jurors and judge, were also witnesses and victims to the attack on the U.S. Capitol. In a criminal trial, this conflict of interest would not be allowed; the ‘jurors’ and ‘‘judge’ would need to be uninvolved and impartial.”
Brydon went on to explain that despite his acquittal, Trump could still face criminal charges. Double jeopardy (being tried for the same crime twice) would not apply because impeachments are political proceedings.
Richard Barrett, political science professor, recommended that anyone looking for more information outside of news media should consider using https://crsreports.congress.gov, a nonpartisan site that provides reports aimed at making legislative happenings easier to understand.
Supporters of the impeachment accuse the former president of inciting domestic terrorists to insurrection when multiple investigations found no evidence to support his claims of mass election fraud.
Although Trump’s defense is denying his involvement in the ordeal that left multiple people dead and many others injured, the defense they put forth is that Trump is no longer in office, so Congress should not be allowed to impeach him.
The Constitution states in Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
It does not specifically state that the person must still be in office when the trial begins. Although Trump left the White House prior to Jan. 20, the Articles of Impeachment were adopted on Jan. 13, before he vacated office.
Note: On Feb. 13, 2021 the Senate voted 57 to 43 to convict, falling short of the needed majority, thereby acquitting Trump for the second time.
Vaccine Roll Out Is Exciting but Not an Instant Fix
By Jada Veasey/Opinion Editor/Jan. 23, 2021
As 2021 begins, it seems like there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel for the United States. The vaccine, what many consider to be a silver bullet for ending the pandemic, has arrived.
The FDA approved two vaccines for emergency use in December: the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. The first doses of these vaccines began to be administered to healthcare workers in mid-December.
According to the New York Times, the United States has administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to 11.1 million Americans as of Jan. 14, and as of Jan. 12, 541,000 Americans have been fully vaccinated. While those numbers sound much more reassuring than the early December numbers of absolutely no one in the U.S. having been vaccinated, they certainly fall short of what Americans were promised. The Trump administration intended to administer at least 20 million first doses by Jan. 1.
The New York Times also reports that as of Jan. 14 Iowa alone has administered 112,093 doses of vaccines. Iowa is currently in stage 1a of its vaccination plan. Phase 1a includes vaccinating healthcare professionals, including those on the frontlines in the inpatient setting, outpatient healthcare professionals, as well as those who work in schools.
The Iowa Department of Public Health announced on Jan. 11 the official recommendations for who is to be included in phase 1b of the vaccination plan. Phase 1b is expected to include Iowans over the age of 75, disabled individuals who depend on caretaking staff, those in congregate living settings (but excluding college dorms), correctional staff, incarcerated individuals, PK-12 school staff members, and first responders.
Phase 1b is expected to begin on Feb. 1. This second phase of the vaccination plan will allow many more Iowans to access the vaccine.
Vaccine rollout across the nation has moved slower than expected. The CDC ran into unexpected challenges when some of the doses that were meant to ship did not, leaving many states with less doses of vaccine than they had anticipated.
Even though the vaccine is here and things are beginning to look up, the slow speed of vaccination needs to be acknowledged. The COVID-19 vaccine is not a magical end to the pandemic because not enough people have received two doses to prevent community spread.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s leading COVID-19 experts, estimated in an interview with the New York Times that at least 80 to 85 percent of people need to be vaccinated to significantly reduce infection rates. It will be important for Americans to continue social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing proper hygiene habits as the vaccine continues to be distributed.
Father Tony to Return to Ghana
In gallery above, the Rev. Tony Adawu assists with sandbagging at Ellis Park during a flood in September, 2016. (Times file images by Connor Mahan)
By Courtney Hoffman/Managing Editor/Dec. 8, 2020
On Nov. 13, the Mount Mercy community learned that the Rev. Anthony Adawu, known affectionately on campus as “Father Tony,” was asked by his Archbishop to return to Ghana.
Having served as the university’s residential chaplain since 2015, Adawu will be leaving by the end of December to continue his priestly ministry.
After reflecting on the time that he’s spent at the institution, Adawu noted that he will miss the Mount Mercy community that he’s been a part of for the last five years.
“MMU is a wonderful institution,” Adawu said. “I felt very much at home being here. I love the people. The students have been my greatest joy.”
“There is, however, a faint sadness in my heart as I depart,” he confessed. “There are very good friends that I leave behind, and many more things to accomplish for the Lord here at MMU. But may God’s will be done.”
Adawu is not fully sure what comes next—his plans, he says, are as his Archbishop in Ghana requires.
“It is possible that I will be in a similar ministry, namely, a combination of pastoral ministry and teaching in a university setting. That would be great,” he said.
Though Adawu is sad to leave the university, he says it’s always exciting to go home. He’s excited to connect with his family again in person after many years in the United States, and he looks forward to seeing old friends and colleagues as well.
More than that, however, Adawu is excited to get back to work, improving the lives of young people in Ghana.
“The Lord has blessed me with many gifts that I can bring to Ghana to help make a difference in many ways, especially in the lives of young people,” Adawu said. “But more than anything else, it is the joy of being united with young people back in Ghana and working to make their lives better, as they make mine better.”
That’s the sort of work that Adawu really enjoys, after all—improving lives and helping people along as they take their first steps into a new, better chapter. One of his fondest memories of his time at Mount Mercy comes from assisting with freshman move-in day on his first year at mount Mercy.
“It was so much fun helping them offload their things from their cars and carry them to their rooms,” he said. “I was as new as they were, and it felt as though I belonged to that cohort. They still hold a special place in my heart.”
And though he’s excited to move on to the next chapter in his own life, finding new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others, he is also taken with love for the Mount Mercy community.
“I love MMU very deeply. I can’t say that enough. I have rejoiced over it several times. I have also wept over it. It was when I wept over it, that I knew I loved the community, and that it is a home for me at it is for many who come to study or work here, or both.”
Though Adawu’s time at the university comes to a close, he wants the community to know how thankful he is to have been a part of this institution for the past five years.
“I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the MMU family—to students, alumni, staff, faculty, administration and the board,” he said. “I am thankful to God for the opportunity to serve this community. I pray the Lord to keep you safe and guide you in making MMU a loving place for all people and with fidelity to God.”
“Please pray for me also, that I may continue to serve God’s children wherever they may be,” he asked in parting. “Thank you for your love. I love all of you too.”
MMU Faculty Look Forward to COVID-19 Vaccines
By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Dec. 8,2020
COVID-19 has been making its way around the planet since New Year’s Eve 2019 when the World Health Organization received its first report of a viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China.
Since then, our planet’s human population has experienced a pandemic the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Flu Pandemic of 1920. As a result, many pharmaceutical companies have been working overtime to move vaccines quickly through the required phases of study and onto the market.
Operation Warp Speed, a collaboration between several departments under the Department of Health and Human Services and pharmaceutical companies, aims to have 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines available. This is part of an overall strategy of countermeasures being developed to combat the coronavirus.
Although this novel coronavirus was originally thought to be contained within the community where it was first noticed, starting around mid-March 2020, the number of daily cases worldwide started inching upward according to information obtained on the WHO website. By mid-May around 100,000 new cases were being reported daily and as of Sept. 6, that number of daily new cases has reached 300,000.
As of Dec. 2, there is a vaccine from Pfizer in the UK that has just been approved for emergency use. Several vaccines are expected to be approved in the U.S. soon.
Melodie Jolly, lecturer in nursing, also stated that the MMU pandemic task force has not yet made any decisions regarding whether the vaccine will be mandatory for students and faculty to return to campus. She personally supports a push for vaccination, stating however: “If we force a mandate, we may have to look at alternative means of continuing education for those who do not want to be vaccinated. Those discussions will be long, but necessary.”
Cook feels that although media outlets may speculate, “the reality of this centers on the debate if our federal and/or state governments have the Congressional authority to mandate vaccination.”
Phase III is the final phase of a drug or vaccine’s clinical trials before the FDA can consider it for the mass market. There are six steps, or phases, to the process. The first is pre-clinical in which new vaccines are tested on cells which are then given to animals to see if they have an immune response. The final two are for limited use and wide-spread use, respectively.
In Phase I, a very limited number of people are given the vaccine to test for dosage, immunity and adverse effects. In Phase II, the vaccine is given to hundreds of people across many demographics (i.e., children and the elderly) to see how each might be affected. Phase III, which is where several vaccines are currently, is the stage where thousands of people are given the vaccine. Scientists then wait to see how many become infected versus those who received a placebo.
It is these trials that will determine if a vaccine protects against COVID-19; and these are the trials that are on a large enough scale to determine the efficacy of the vaccine, and to determine side effects. According to the New York Times coronavirus tracker, the FDA stated in June that it wants to see evidence that at least 50 percent of those who receive the vaccine are immune to the virus. Currently side effects have been mild and appear to be no worse than those expected with an annual flu shot.
As both Jolly and Cook state in closing that there are risks in all vaccines, but the question becomes, which is worse, the risk of the vaccine or the risk of the disease? Everyone will have a different opinion.
Paha Review Submission Deadline Approaches
By Courtney Hoffman/Managing Editor/Dec. 8, 2020
The submission deadline is coming up for students interested in submitting their work to the 2021 edition of the Paha Review.
The Paha Review—an undergraduate literary magazine that showcases creative writing and artwork by Mount Mercy students—will be accepting submissions until the first day of J-term on Jan. 4.
Though the majority of submissions come from English and art majors, all students are encouraged to submit their work, according to Mary Vermillion, professor of English.
“Most submissions are by English and art students, but we really want to diversify the submissions,” she said. “Paha is important because it’s important to give students a creative outlet—a place to show off their voice and their artistic talents. I think it also gives students something nice to put on their portfolios and resumes.”
The Paha Review provides more benefits to students working behind the scenes as well—student volunteers make up the selection committee, editing team, and layout team. According to Vermillion, students are encouraged to not only submit, but volunteer to help with editing, selection or layouts—just email email@example.com for both.
“They can email that address—that’s where you can submit work, and that’s also where you can volunteer,” she said. “I would definitely recommend students contact that email address. If they would also like to contact me or Jose Clemente, an art professor who helps with layouts, or another one of the student editors, that would also be awesome.”
All Paha submissions have the name of the creator removed before they are moved through a selection committee, who will then choose which anonymous submissions go into the magazine. Writing editors and copy editors, and the art editor, work with this group to have pieces selected in January before editing can take place.
Editors make any necessary grammar and style changes and send them back to the creators for approval. Then the layout editor and art editor create the final print product that gets distributed across campus.
This year’s art editor, Brianna Ostwinkle, says she feels that working for Paha is a very important experience for her as she gains experience in her field and looks for ways to benefit the Mount Mercy community.
“Basically, I look at the submissions and look at the layout and what the best way to set up the writings and artworks,” she said. “When all of the submissions are in, I go into InDesign and place the pieces in an order that makes the most sense.”
“As a graphic design major, I felt it was important for me to have experience getting involved in different ways to use my talents in a way that would benefit the community,” Ostwinkle continued. “My decision was ultimately driven by my appreciation for art and literature and wanting to create something that the community can enjoy.”
Students are welcomed to submit any of their creative works to the Paha Review to go through the selection process. This year, however, the Paha team is adding something new.
“I think the editors want part of the magazine to be focused on a specific theme this year,” Vermillion shared.
Though the theme hasn’t yet been announced, Vermillion clarified that all submissions are still welcomed to Paha.
“The magazine will still be open to any kind of submissions, but part of it will probably be theme-focused. It’s not typical for us, so that would be new and make it fun and fresh,” she said. “And I was also thinking it might help out students who want to submit, but don’t know where to start.”
For questions about Paha, students can reach out to Vermillion, who advises the literary process, Clemente or Ostwinkle, who handle art and layouts, or firstname.lastname@example.org. A link to previous issues of Paha.
Who was Missing from the Polls this Year, and Why?
By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Dec. 8, 2020
Although a record number of voters cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden, the Democrat, the millions of eligible adults who did not vote were the focus of a recent faculty speech.
On Nov. 17, Dr. Ayman Amer, associate professor of economics, rounded off the 2020 Fall Faculty Series with his analysis of voter turnout. Amer, a native of Egypt, said he never voted in elections before becoming a citizen of the United States due to corrupt politics such as persecution of opposition and repression in his native land. Now, however, he takes voting very seriously.
The series this year was “The 19th Amendment: 100 Years Kater.”
Amer noted that although more people voted in the 2020 presidential election than in 2008; 161 million vs 131 million, that number represents only around 66 percent of eligible voters. This begs the question: Who isn’t voting, and why?
Amer said that there are several factors that play a role in determining a person will vote or not. Things like age, distance to the polls or availability of time, intensity of party affiliation, and financial distress and level of income are just a few of the many indicators that experts have identified.
Older folks are more likely than younger folks to vote as evidenced by an infographic from the ElectProject.org website showing that those over 60 have the highest turnout rates. Voters from lower income brackets are less likely to vote than those in higher income brackets, and this could be attributed to several reasons. Employees who make less money, often must work longer hours. Although there are laws stipulating that employers must allow their employees time to vote, not everybody takes advantage of that opportunity.
The distance to reach a polling place also plays a significant role in whether someone will vote. If a person must take a bus, taxi, or walk they are less likely to take the time needed to travel to the polling place and stand in line to vote. This ties into another point Professor Amer made in stating that those who own their own homes trend towards being more likely to vote than those who rent.
If an individual doesn’t feel particularly tied to a political party, they may also be less likely to vote. Those who feel very connected to their political party and who want to show their support for the candidates are more likely to make voting a priority during election time.
However, more than all of these reasons, there is one overarching practice which Amer discussed that may explain a significant portion of the lack of voter turnout: voter suppression.
The term “voter suppression” may bring to mind a time in which people of color were physically terrorized or threatened and refused the right to vote. In reality, however, voter suppression occurs in myriad small ways that work together in order to discourage people from voting.
In several states for instance, if you don’t vote in a certain number of elections for the last x number of years, your name is automatically struck from the roster and you are no longer registered to vote. Voting ID laws have increased, and therefore are disproportionately affecting a large number of people because they can’t afford to pay for an ID, or don’t have access to resources with which to obtain one for free. And whereas at one point in time, getting your ID or driver’s license would automatically register you to vote, that is no longer the case. It is a separate process now.
During the pandemic in Linn County alone 27 polling locations were shut down. Not every county offered all of the options for voting as Linn County did. The USPS has been removing mailboxes across the country, mailboxes they say are underutilized by the neighborhoods in which they sit. EThat further decreases the number of places a person has access to in order to mail in a ballot conveniently.
For many people, it can seem like there is no point to voting. The U.S. has had a two-party monopoly on our political system since Millard Filmore (1850-1830), a member of the Whig Party, left office. A third-party candidate has little chance at the presidency under the current system of voting. Ross Perot was the last third-party candidate to win 5% of the vote.
There is a plethora of reasons why people choose not to vote, many of which could be overcome with some hard work on the part of our society. Work that for the most part, isn’t going to happen any time soon, making many believe that voting is ineffectual and not worth the effort.
Post-Election Shenanigans Ensue
By Annie Barkalow/Staff Writer/Dec. 8, 2020
On Nov. 30, the certified presidential election results for two battleground states—Wisconsin and Arizona—were in favor of Joe Biden, clarifying that the Democrat has indeed won the presidential election Donald Trump refuses to concede. Several local sources gave insight what the ongoing controversy means.
The move by Wisconsin and Arizona came after a partial recount in Wisconsin added to Biden’s 20,600-vote margin over Trump, and whose results were signed by Gov. Tony Evers on a certificate of completion.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration has vowed to undo the results by filing a lawsuit to disqualify the ballots. This lawsuit is one of several that has been filed already to protest alleged “voter fraud,” a controversy grounded in the record number of mail-in ballots submitted in this year’s election. The question remains, is there any merit to President Trump’s claims of political chicanery on the part of Democrats? How does this shape politics moving forward?
“Election fraud is rare, but it is within the rights of the candidates to request recounts,” Emma Lantz, SGA president, wrote in an email, pointing out that swing states such as Nevada check every ballot to make sure there are no duplicates, which took longer than usual due to the number of mail-in ballots received.
“This recount process for the presidential race is indicating there was no fraud in the elections…it’s unlikely at this point that fraud at the magnitude that is expected from some Republicans will be found,” Lantz stated. A politically active MMU student, Lantz was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the Student Government Association.
That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a history of voter fraud in the United States, however. Allison McNeese, professor of history, notes that there have been election schemes since the birth of the U.S., ranging from buying votes with rounds of beer, to disguising faces in the polls, to using different handwriting on ballots.
More recently, she notes, the voting process has undergone a serious evolution by developing systems to eliminate voter fraud—using driver’s licenses, voter I.D. cards or state-issued government I.D.s for those who don’t drive, for example.
“There have always been people who have tried to take advantage of the system,” says McNeese. However, the past 140 years of U.S. history have provided an opportunity to hone the system by controlling who votes and how many times.
“We can eliminate almost all significant voter fraud,” she adds. So far, the judges in the six states where lawsuits have been filed have stated there is little evidence to merit an investigation—just rumors and hearsay.
Professor McNeese and this writer were first-time voters in unique political climates; she in 1972 with the Nixon/McGovern race, and your correspondent in 2000 with Bush and Gore.
Nixon’s presidency ended in his resignation amid the Watergate scandal, and Al Gore’s Florida recount demand spawned many late-night jokes about “hanging chads.”
Both had something in common, though: They knew when to call it quits. Gore graciously conceded once the recount numbers were tallied, and Nixon listened to his advisors and resigned, rather than fight and face possible impeachment. This hasn’t been the case with President Trump, who has continued to fan the flames of conspiracy rather than raise the white flag.
So, what does this mean moving forward?
Dr. Bruce Nesmith, professor of political science at Coe College, predicts President Trump’s reluctance to concede will discourage Republicans from cooperating with Biden, accentuating the existing polarization and undermining Biden’s authority.
“If a large chunk of the population thinks he cheated to get in there, it will make people less likely to listen to him if we have another emergency,” he says.
Though the Electoral College is set to meet Dec.14, Nesmith has doubts that it will lay to rest the months-long logjam of misinformation, especially since President Trump is talking about running for re-election in the next race.
“To the extent he remains relevant in American politics, I think this is something that will continue no matter how much evidence is against it,” he says. “I think this is something he will carry to his grave.”
MMU Still Feels Impact of August Derecho
By Viktorja K Heires/News Editor/Dec. 8, 2020
Mount Mercy’s students and faculty may still feel the effects of the derecho, a violent thunderstorm that hit the campus with hurricane-force winds in Auguat, but the university is not letting it keep MMU down.
Nate Klein, vice president for student success, says meeting the challenes of our times is part of who we are, even during a “covecho” as he calls the twin catastrophes of the derecho during a pandemic.
“Our founding Sisters of Mercy engrained this into our mission and actions,” Klein says.
Though cleanup and repair efforts are ongoing, students and faculty alike have been doing what needs to be done to continue fostering success here at MMU.
Todd Coleman, assistance vice president of enrollment and marketing stated that enrollment has been less affected by the derecho than by other factors, such as COVID-19.
“Though applications are down at most institutions, admits are up at many, including ours,” Coleman says.
He says he believes that numbers may lag compared to what we see historically but should start to bounce back mid to late spring. Steps are being taken to make virtual visits a possibility for larger visit days in the future, but the campus has been able to host a limited number of prospective students on an individual basis.
Dennis Gehring, facilities manager, said, “There are numerous ongoing roofs, grounds, and building projects.” While there is no estimate on when the repairs will be completed, Gehring stated that things will continue pretty much as they have been for the remainder of the year.
Elizabeth Chaney, student activities coordinator, says that one reason MMU students and faculty are coping so well with the challenges is the number of student organizations available. While some have seen an expected decrease in membership, most of them have moved to a virtual platform, adapting as needs change.
“Being involved in an RSO (registered stugent organization) is an excellent way to create a support network during normal times and is especially important during crises like the August derecho and during a pandemic,” Chaney stated.
Music Department Get New Makeover in Light of COVID-19
By Annie Barkalow/Staff Writer/September 18, 2020
Many wonder how much their lives will change during COVID-19. The music program at Mount Mercy University is no different. Singers and musicians have been racing against the clock to make their new normal work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is mainly spread through close person-to-person contact when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes, releasing respiratory droplets on those nearest to them.
Besides washing your hands, the CDC recommends staying six feet apart from others and wearing face masks in public. For music students, these safety precautions put severe limitations on the ability to perform their craft.
Fortunately, Mount Mercy has music directors who are committed not only to the safety of their students, but to their artistic and academic experience. Steve Stickney, band directors and member of the College Band Directors Association, organized his semester using guidelines from a major aerosol disbursement study the group financed.
“Band directors need to be organized,” says Stickney. “We have a lot of moving parts.”
The large ensemble splits into four groups for practice, with 20 members per group. Practices last a half hour, with another 30-minute pause between groups to allow any aerosol spray to disperse.
Incoming practice groups are seated at the opposite side of the auditorium from the previous group. Besides sitting six feet apart, musicians wear a mask with a slit for mouthpieces and bell covers are placed at the end of each instrument.
Spit valves were another matter.
“I bought 150 doggie pads for them to empty their [spit valves] on,” Stickney said with a chuckle.
On nice days, he plans for the wind players to practice outside. Students who are quarantined can still participate in practice virtually, thanks to the OWL cameras MMU has implemented this year.
Besides dealing with COVID-19 restrictions this year, the music department has had to grapple with the aftermath of the derecho storm that hit Aug. 10.
Debris from the upper residence halls punctured the auditorium roof of McAuley Hall and a cement block broke the fans to the air conditioners, compromising the ventilation system. While roof repair was going on, dehumidifiers were brought in to mitigate the lack of air flow until the air unit was fixed.
Also navigating the complex situation COVID-19 has created is Dr. Gerald Kreitzer, director of music activities who directs university choir and jazz singers.
Kreitzer has structured his semester around the guidelines provided from the same study Stickney used. “It was funded by 13 or 14 major music organizations both in the U.S. and globally,” says Kreitzer, who noted that the study focused not only on instrumental aerosol dispersal, but on the vocal and theatrical components as well.
“We really need to know the impact aerosol dispersal has,” he added. The 70-member university choir, now split into groups of 30, practice in Stello Hall, where they stand six feet apart and wear masks.
Anna Kopel, sophomore psychology major, reflected on the effects the COVID restrictions have had on her as a member of the choir.
“It’s definitely something to get used to, singing through a mask,” Kopel said. “It gets hot. It makes your whole body hot, your face hot. Drink lots of water,” she says, laughing.
Many are unsure if the reduced practice hours will affect their overall performance level. Kopel herself can only speculate.
“We used to practice for (an hour) Tuesdays and Thursdays, and now we’re only doing a half hour on those days,” she said.
Many music faculty members are offering virtual instrumental and vocal lessons to supplement the lack of in-person instruction, though the time lag from the internet connections can be frustrating.
“It’s better than nothing,” Kreitzer said.
Choir and band members rehearsing on their own use three small practice rooms, which are outfitted with air purifiers purchased by Stickney, and sanitizing implements. Students must sign up to reserve a time slot of 30 minutes maximum and are expected to sanitize the room before leaving. Those next in line must wait a half hour before entering.
Even though the October and December performances for both band and choir are suspended, Stickney and Kreitzer hope to record a virtual performance for alumni, music parents, and the MMU community.
“We want to make sure that the music students have some kind of musical experience and keep them involved. It’s a hopeful thing at this point,” Kreitzer said.
Derecho Damage Takes a Hit at MMU
By Courtney Hoffman/Managing Editor/September 18, 2020
Mount Mercy campus was no exception to this with damage done to all MMU buildings and properties, according to Dennis Gehring, director of facilities.
“All Mount Mercy buildings and properties sustained damage in some form or another,” he said. “Not one building was unaffected.”
Anne Gillespie, vice president for business and finance, recalls it took an hour and a half for her to travel three miles to campus after the storm.
“It was really surreal,” she said. “And I think part of it is that you just don’t understand the scope of how much damage there is and how far that it went. I was actually off campus when the storm hit and trying to get back to campus was just—it was shocking.”
“It was hard to even fathom how a storm could cause that kind of damage,” she added.
Though many faculty members were working from home, there were several faculty members on campus at the time, including essential workers in facilities, who were working to meet maintenance and dining needs, and some business and accounting workers, according to Gillespie.
Jeremiah Fields, assistant director of residence life, stated that 45 students were living on campus at the time the derecho hit.
“When I came back to campus, I was very grateful that everyone was okay. Many were down in the tunnels, and I think that was a tremendous value of having them,” Gillespie said.
“We wanted to make sure that they were OK, and at that point, I don’t think we understood that power would be lost for two and a half weeks,” she added. “So, it was immediately making sure we had lights, we had food, everyone knew where the students were located, and that staff were OK.”
“We were grateful that no one was hurt, yet we are heartbroken that our home on the Hill suffered so much damage,” said Nate Klein, vice president for student success.
After that came damage assessment, with the majority of the damage being caused to campus roofs in the McAuley dorms and the Penthouse, Betty Cherry Heritage Hall, Warde Hale and the Busse Chapel, the lower campus apartments and Hazel houses, the Grad Center, the roof above admissions and student services, and more, according to Gehring.
After that came damage assessment, with the majority of the damage being caused to campus roofs in the McAuley dorms and the Penthouse, Betty Cherry Heritage Hall, Warde Hale and the Busse Chapel, the lower campus apartments and Hazel houses, the Grad Center, the roof above admissions and student services, and more, according to Gehring.
“McAuley and the McAuley Penthouse roofs were total losses with varying amounts of water damage on floors four and five, along with the penthouse itself,” Gehring said. McAuley roofing repairs are currently underway, while the roofing in Betty Cherry Heritage Hall and above Admissions and Student Services have been temporarily repaired while waiting for replacement.
Gillespie shared that several roofs on campus will require specialized roofers to permanently repair. Permanent repairs are also pending for the lower campus apartments and Hazel houses.
“The replacing of these roofs will be determined by the timeframe for acquiring the roofing materials, installation crews, crane services and disposal services to arrive to campus, and the coordination of these components to be on the same schedule,” Gehring said.
Gehring also stated that several hundreds of gallons of water had to be removed from McAuley theater, both buildings of the Rinderknecht Athletic Center were damaged, and there was damage to the fences at the Plaster Athletic Complex.
In addition to this, the resulting nine-day power outage on campus resulted in a massive loss of food before generators could be brought in.
“We had a couple of generators, and we used those for dining, and that was to provide food storage for the folks that were on site that needed to have dining services,” Gillespie said.
“It was overwhelming, so it was just one day at a time and coming up with the priorities of what we could do,” she added.
“With the availability of contractors being a major hurdle, the immediate damage issues are being addressed on an ‘ASAP’ approach, whereas minor issues will be at later dates,” Gehring said. “Major damage repairs are currently being completed, whereas lesser issues may not be completed until next year.”
Gillespie agrees that it will likely take another year to finish repairs, and another beyond that for “beautification.” But beyond that, she is thankful for the MMU community and facilities for working so hard to get campus back up and running in time for the start of the fall semester.
“As we continue to fix things, we find additional things that need to be repaired. Our facilities team have done the lion’s share of the work. Really, it was quite amazing how everyone came together,” she said.
“I’m honored to be with people who work so hard for our mission and for our community.”
New Interim President for Mount Mercy University
By Veronica Jons/Editor-in-Chief/September 18, 2020
After 69 days in office at Mount Mercy University, Dr. Bob Beatty resigned as the 10th president for the institution. On Sept. 9, the Board of Trustees held a press conference via Zoom Video Communications to announce the appointed interim president as Tim Laurent, who previously served as the provost.
It is unclear specifically when and why Beatty resigned, as details have yet to be released to the questioning public. He began his presidential duties on July 1 while having to deal with planning for an unparalleled fall semester due to COVID-19, and later a derecho that set Mount Mercy’s start-date back because of the devastating damage.
Beatty is a Cedar Rapids native who was looking forward to being back at his hometown, thinking it was his last stop. He was quoted in March of 2020 saying, “I am very optimistic about the future of this institution.”
Students wearily anticipate what the future of the institution holds after many feel the school keeps taking hit after hit.
However, Board Chair Charlie Rohde stated at the conference call, “Our commitment to you is as strong as ever.”
The administration’s number one concern and priority is the success of students in order to get them the best education they can.
“I want our students to be the most productive, happy, and contributing people to society,” Rohde said.
Tim Laurent, who has since been named as the interim president, says his goals for his year-long term is to look at ways to set up for success after this school year. He also hopes to listen and have good conversations with students, faculty, and staff to make strong connections.
“I have two focus area we want to focus on, that is to have a successful 2021 school year,” he said. “The second one is to look at 2021-2022 of what we need to do now to be successful then and beyond. What do we need to do during this time, despite the craziness to have that success?”
Dr. Kim Bro, chair and interim dean of the Martin-Herold College of Nursing took part in the search committee last year.
“I would not change anything,” she said. “From my point of view, Dr. Beatty’s search was conducted and completed thoroughly. Everyone on the search committee had a voice on who was chosen.”
To mirror her opinion, Rohde has been involved in four presidential searches during his time at Mount Mercy. He felt this search was the most inclusive they’ve ever had.
“If we did enough is based on a matter of opinion,” said Rohde, “Faculty seemed to think they needed more time.”
The board will discuss possibly extending candidate visits and interviews over multiple-days-per-candidate instead of scheduling a single 12-hour day for each person. However, they did highly appreciate students’ feedback—the trustees spent countless evenings going over all of it.
Beatty could not be reached for comments.
The Board of Trustees and the presidential board will formulate a plan to start the new search in the next few weeks.
Transition to Online Learning Teaches Creates Need to Adapt
By Ekaterina Rangelova/Staff Writer/May 14, 2020
As the beginning of the emergency situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic started, students have been continuing their education online. For many that is an absolutely new experience to which they need to adjust.
A big concern for students and professors is how the finals would take place. Methods vary across professors and classes, and students need to keep up with what is thrown on their table. Jaclynn Sullivan, assistant professor of psychology, shares some of her thoughts on how online finals are taking place in her courses.
“I only have one course that requires an online final exam. I expect that students sit down at a specific time to take it, to minimize sharing answers between students. I give them a shortened period of time to complete the exam, about 60 percent of what they’d get in class. So, for example, instead of having 60 minutes they would have 40,” she said.
“I do this so they have to focus on the exam and won’t have time to look things up for every question. I know they will be able to look things up, but information literacy is an important skill too, so I’m okay with it,” Sullivan added.
Sullivan sees this as a learning experience for herself and others. She believes that while adjusting to these new ways of doing things carries its inconveniences, it is also very valuable in the long run.
“I’ve found that it pushes most of our organization to stretch and bend in ways we’re uncomfortable with, but may actually be preferable in the long run. Maybe we will learn some skills or techniques (like signing documents online versus having 100 papers lying around) that stick with us when we return to in-person instruction,” Sullivan said.
But another big question remains: How will online exams affect grades? Will having an opportunity to use external resources during exams push grades up, or are there other variables playing a part in how grades fluctuate? Professors and students alike seem to be unsure.
“I have seen the grades dramatically improve for one of my classes who took an online exam but the other has stayed pretty stable,” Sullivan said.
“Do I think this gives people a way to cheat, yes. I don’t necessarily worry too much about the grade inflation though, since all of us are in a new environment and trying our best to get by. If someone gets 5 percent higher on their final because they could look things up, I think that goes a long way toward repairing some of the mental toll we’ve been burdened with,” she added.
Anike Elias, a sophomore elementary education major, believes that it depends on the professors and how they grade.
“Some of my classes, my grades went up. But some of my classes, I felt like some of my grades are probably going to drop because I didn’t do this assignment, and now I’ve got to do a make up assignment,” said Elias.
Gloria Osei Tutu, a sophomore journalism major, has her own concerns and
uncertainties about online learning.
“I feel like when we had the face-to-face, we could better follow our schedules, but now that we are online it is entirely up to us to keep up,” she said. “And different professors have different ways to do things. Sometimes you wonder ‘Am I going to make it?’ It is frustrating.”
Students Express Concerns About Adjustments to Labs, Clinicals
By Nicole Carl/Club & Organizations Editor/May 14, 2020
Many students from Mount Mercy have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, not just from classes going online but also labs, clinicals, student teaching, field experience, and so on.
Jared Tegeler, sophomore exercise science major, currently taking human anatomy. The campus’ anatomy lab has four cadavers. However, due to the pandemic, students are not able to work up close and personal with these cadavers.
Tegeler stated, “The biggest change is that we don’t get to do any dissections, which is the biggest thing you would be doing in an anatomy lab.”
Though Anna Waterman, associate professor of biology, is doing what she can for her students, Tegeler explained that the online program they are using makes it hard to tell what part is what because the label is confusing.
Tegeler also needed to get 40 hours of field experience, related to his major, but all field experience is canceled and will need to be made up in the fall.
Jaden Joslyn, sophomore nursing major, had her clinical at St. Luke’s Hospital and was practicing during the beginning of this outbreak.
“I was lucky enough to have most of my hospital hours completed before we were removed,” said Joslyn.
Sophomore nursing students had a skills class in J-term and Joslyn expressed how students that did not get to do their hospital clinical hours won’t be able to practice the skills they learned, and especially if they don’t work as practice care techs they might lose those skills.
The nursing program is adding missed clinical hours to the nursing majors’ junior year. Joslyn said Kim Bro, assistant professor of nursing, has been keeping the sophomore nursing students up to date.
MMU Moves to Virtual Graduation Amidst COVID-19 Concerns
By Caroline Groesbeck/Managing Editor/May 14, 2020
On April 13, Mount Mercy announced the decision to move to a virtual commencement, which will include honors convocation and the nursing pinning ceremony with an in-person gathering incorporated into Alumni Reunion Weekend and 2020 Homecoming, due to the developing COVID-19 concerns.
“The final semester of someone’s college career is a rite of passage, including the commencement ceremony, so while it was a difficult decision to communicate, it was a necessary decision to not meet in person as we had hoped,” said Nate Klein, vice president for student success.
The decision to move to a virtual commencement matched those of many other schools. While some students are upset that an in-person commencement won’t take place, many come to understand the decision.
“At the end of the day though, students have appreciated the fact that we listened, we are still honoring them this May, and how we have made a plan to get back together when we can to celebrate,” said Klein. “I hope every single 2020 graduate makes a plan to join us this fall to bring some closure to this chapter of your life and celebrate all of your accomplishments with the Mount Mercy community that wants to be there with you.”
Senior Jessica Purgett felt similarly.
“I think a virtual commencement is a good idea. Though it isn’t the same as a regular graduation, I’m glad we are still being recognized,” said Purgett. “With everything going on, I’m glad MMU is taking the time to make sure we all feel celebrated.”
While deciding what to do about commencement, Klein stated that they considered many options. Klein even hosted a Zoom meeting with graduating seniors, including graduate and doctoral students, to hear their thoughts and brainstorm ideas.
“We discussed many ideas, including smaller academic department celebrations before school starts in the fall, inviting the Class of 2020 to walk with the Class of 2021, and even fully vetted the idea of having a drive-in commencement at Hawkeye Downs Racetrack. We just couldn’t justify bringing hundreds of people together—even if socially distant in vehicles—to celebrate, so we went with the other options,” said Klein.
Purgett stated, “This is a situation that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, and I know the MMU staff is doing their best to make it as painless as possible for students.”
Virtual commencement will be held on May 17, including honors convocation and the nursing pinning. The in-person event will take place sometime during Alumni Reunion Weekend and Homecoming weekend, held Sept. 25 through 27.
“I appreciate everyone’s ideas about how we can celebrate, your grace in understanding difficult decisions had to and will continue to have to be made, and the Mount Mercy community’s support in celebrating this class for all of the great things they have accomplished,” said Klein.
Global Pandemic Continues to Affect How the World Operates
By Caroline Groesbeck/Managing Editor
From being a disease halfway across the world to over 35 confirmed cases in Linn County, the novel coronavirus (which causes the condition known as COVID-19) has spread at an increasingly rapid rate with more officials shutting down businesses or enforcing shelter-in-place orders.
According to the John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering that is hosting one of the more interactive COVID-19 trackers, the United States currently has confirmed over 120,000 cases of COVID-19. This includes over 1,000 people recovered and over 2,000 deaths. COVID-19 has become a serious crisis as it has become a global pandemic.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that affects the airways. Most people recover without requiring special treatment. The Center for Disease Control states that vulnerable populations include people aged 65 and older, those who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, people with chronic lung disease or asthma, with serious heart conditions, who are immunocompromised, with severe obesity, and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease. Pregnant women should also be monitored because they are generally more vulnerable to disease, but COVID-19 does not seem to show an increased risk.
“Coronavirus is a family of viruses that originally infected animals, but with mutations (which are quite common for viruses in general) the virus was able to transfer to humans,” said Melodie Jolly, a lecturer in nursing. “COVID-19 is a ‘cousin’ of MERS and SARS which were previous pandemics that we have come across.”
The pandemic started in Wuhan, China and quickly spread to Europe, then to both of the Americas. The John Hopkins tracker shows over 660,000 confirmed cases worldwide. With outbreaks occurring everywhere, resources are stretched thin, including personal protective equipment(PPE). This ranges from N-95 masks, the most effective at preventing disease, to ventilators. For states like New York and Washington, there simply aren’t enough beds for the sick.
Many states, including Iowa, have started at least social distancing policies. While most people will still get the virus, the goal is to decrease the rate at which people get sick. If this doesn’t happen, hospitals and health care providers will be overwhelmed. By decreasing the number of cases at one time, the health care system can keep from going over capacity and can better care for the sick. This effort has been dubbed “flattening the curve.” Charts, simulators, and other information can be found at washingtonpost.com/ graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/.
Most industries have been affected by the pandemic, including education institutions. In Iowa, there are over 290 confirmed cases of COVID-19. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, all primary and secondary schools have been shut down for at least four weeks. Many higher education institutions have moved to completely online instruction, while some have moved most students off-campus.
Mount Mercy decided on March 16 to move to virtual instruction, following a plethora of other Iowa colleges including the University of Iowa, Iowa State, University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, Grinnell College, and many more. As of March 24, Mount Mercy has begun to limit occupancy of the resident halls to those with essential needs only.
Nate Klein, vice president of student success, stated in an email on March 24, “This includes students with housing/food insecurity, unsafe living conditions due to mental/physical/health situations, inability to arrange travel by April 5, or lack of reliable internet to complete coursework.”
When cases in the United States began to appear frequently, MMU formed the Pandemic Response Team. It consists of Klein and Jolly, along with President Laurie Hamen; Michelle Snitselaar, director of health services; Tim Laurent, Provost; Tom Castle, associate provost; and Anne Gillespie, vice president for business and finance. The team meets daily and sends out information to students daily via email.
“We have four goals,” said Klein. “Firstly, make sure everyone is safe, employees and students. Second, take the guidance from the CDC and other medical health professionals, including Linn County Public Health. Third, we would like to complete the semester uninterrupted, knowing that that might change. And finally, to communicate with campus community on a regular basis.”
While education was one sector affected, it is by far the only one.
“The global market is visibly affected,” said Associate Professor of Economics Ayman Amer. “Due to people and goods’ inability to ship or travel, many industries will slow down or shut down at least for weeks. Some economists expect unemployment as high as 30 percent, while in the great depression of 1929 it was only 24 percent.”
He also stated that the U.S. market will be affected on the medical front for weeks and possibly months as they try to find new testing, vaccines, and treatments. The shortages of medical supplies and other key items like hand sanitizer will continue. Amer also noted that it isn’t just individuals that might be hoarding and that it’s likely countries are doing the same.
Congress recently passed a $2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed on March 27. The package includes sending checks to individuals and families, an expansion of unemployment benefits, money for high-traffic hospitals and health-care providers, financial assistance for small businesses and $500 billion in loans to in-need companies.
“It’s a huge package. In terms of money, it’s the biggest package Congress has ever passed to deal with anything,” said Richard Barrett, assistant professor of political science. “And even as a percentage of GDP [Gross Domestic Product], I think I was reading it’s close to 25 percent of everything produced in the United States in a year.”
The goal of the package is to lessen the impact on the economy and try to keep from plunging into a deep recession or depression. It is supposed to help small businesses keep afloat and allow people to maintain a steady income should they no longer be able to work.
The federal tax date has also been moved to July 15 instead of the normal April 15 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service are providing special tax filing and payment relief to certain individuals and families.
To prevent the transmission of COVID-19, people should wash hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes, and clean regularly used surfaces. Stay home if you’re feeling sick and refrain from visiting older people or those with pre-existing conditions.
“Don’t panic—just be prepared and plan for the long term,” said Jolly. “The next two weeks are going to be rough as this virus continues to spread and the fewer people you come in contact with, the better your chances are of not catching it.”
MMU students still in Iowa experiencing stress can contact email@example.com to set up a virtual appointment. Due to state regulations, Mount Mercy can’t offer their own services to out-of-state students, but will try to connect students with local resources.
What seniors can do to help with job interviews during COVID-19
By Alex Lueth
These are unprecedented times, with the COVID-19 virus causing a large dip in the market that can lead to trouble for those trying to find a job.
With the changes that COVID-19 has brought about, it is best that students, specifically seniors, understand the ways that businesses are going to look at potential candidates that they would like to hire. There are many businesses that have transitioned away from face-to-face interviews. Kalindi Garvin, director of career services at Mount Mercy, did have something to say about the hiring process during this time.
“My advice for graduating seniors is to be patient with themselves and with the hiring process, knowing that this situation is new to all of us and we are all figuring out how to navigate it together,” Garvin said.
Even though Mount Mercy is moving to online classes, there are still some services that Mount Mercy offers to help students who are looking for jobs in this trying time. Career Services is offering students the ability to use programs such as Big interviews, a program that allows students “to get familiar with the nuances of video interviews and practice answering common interview questions.” Garvin says.
Garvin did offer some advice for students who are expecting to undergo virtual interviews. First, it’s important to remember that interviewees can have their notes with them while they are giving their interview. One should stand up and smile through the interview process, and recall that it is important to express interest in the position as the potential employees are unable to pick up on non-verbal cues.
Garvin also gave advice on how to stand out during the hiring process. First, students who are applying should understand that the hiring process is going to be longer. Students should also bolster their presence on sites such as LinkedIn and Handshake.
Career Services does offer the ability to create a Handshake profile with a student’s own Mount Mercy email. To do that they need to go to mountmercy.joinhandshake.com and register with their Mount Mercy email.
Second, students should look at creating their own resume and tailoring it to the job instead of relying on a template.
“That means customizing the language you use in your professional summary, job descriptions, accomplishment bullets, school projects, and campus/community involvement to align with the relevant keywords for that particular industry or role as much as possible,” Garvin said.
“Take advantage of virtual tools such as Big Interview and Handshake to prepare for interviews, look for opportunities, and connect with students all over the world,” Garvin said.
“And lastly, connect with the Career Services office—me—for support, ideas, tools, and assistance through this hiring season and beyond. Remember that we offer MMU alumni access to Career Services throughout their professional careers so they can rest assured they have support both now and in the future.”
SAVS Movie Sparks Sexual Assault Talk
By Veronica Jons/ Editor-in-Chief/
On Oct. 24, SAVS club had a movie showing of The Hunting Ground, an educational film discussing the ever-growing problem all over the United States: sexual assault.
Based on the film and discussion, the Times spoke with students and officials to get their insights about the sexual assault issue at Mount Mercy.
The film gave many national facts and statistics. The most common place for an attack to take place is at a college campus. One in five women will be assaulted in their four years of attending a college or university. However, the number of women that report an assault on a college campus is less than 30 percent of cases.
The film used over 20 of the most popular colleges and universities all over the country with staggering statistics. In a four-year period, 135 cases of sexual assault were reported at Harvard College, but only 10 assaulters were expelled.
In attendance was a panel including a sexual assault nurse examiner, a victim advocate, and Nate Klein, vice president of student success. Throughout the film, victims were interviewed by telling their rape experiences and how the school handled it. Most of the victims that reported their experiences to the school were influenced to either stay quiet or their cases were never investigated.
A big contributing factor was the school’s reputation. The more sexual assaults are reported on campus, the bigger decline in enrollment. No parent wants to hear brutal statistics, so schools do anything possible to decrease the number of reports.
Klein weighed in on the film. “The film made me feel very disheartened; I found it all quite disturbing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s OK to violate people, I don’t think students should feel like they can’t trust their universities that are their second homes.”
At Mount Mercy, there are eight faculty and staff members on the Title IX team, some of whom are professors that students may see daily in the classroom. Klein is the Title IX coordinator for Mount Mercy University and says he takes his job very seriously.
“This is the type of thing to keep me up at night,” Klein said. “My first job on campus is to make people feel safe and wanted. I encourage everyone to talk to me if they have ever been impacted by a Title IX incident. We are here to support and make them feel whole.”
One way Klein is trying to help with sexual assault on campus is through a grant that he had applied for. It was a $500,000 grant with the department of justice to bring a full-time employee to campus to teach others awareness and preventative training of sexual assault and stalking on campus. The training would also include online video modules.
The grant was in partnership with Coe and Cornell College, Mercy Medical Center, Riverview Center, and with the Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon police departments. Sadly, the grant was denied, but Klein said he does plan to reapply next year in hopes it could improve the safety and trust at school.
“We take sexual assault very seriously at this school,” Klein said.
He explained how the system works for investigating cases. There is a confidential system where the team looks back into a student’s file to see if anyone on campus had written a report in the past against him or her. On top of that, anything small like weird behavior or an overheard threatening conversation might be in the file too, sometimes based on a report made by a faculty member. Members of the team must follow very specific laws, actions to abide by, and attend training every year.
A stipulation to reporting is that there is a formal and informal process. To add to that, if an incident does not happen on campus, the Clery Report (an annual campus safety report) will not show it in the statistics.
Compared to other colleges in the surrounding area, Mount Mercy has low statistics even with its enrollment rate of undergraduates being around 1,501 students.
In the 2017 Clery Report, that there were four reports of rape in 2015, one in 2016, and three in 2017. Conflictingly, the 2018 Clery Report had only one incident of rape reported in 2017 with two in 2018. Public safety reports that a mistake had been made, and revised an error made in the 2017 Clery Report to move some cases to the 2018 year.
When looking at a very close college, the numbers are far from close.
Coe College, with an average enrollment population for undergraduates of 1,422, had 13 rape incidents in 2016, 16 in 2017, and nine in 2018. As of publication, there has been two reports of sexual assault on campus for the 2019 year at Mount Mercy.
Side bar: Students Discuss Harassment Experiences
Though Mount Mercy’s Clery report number are low, there could be several reasons why student may not report incidents that they experience.
The Mount Mercy Times does not normally use anonymous sources, but one male and three female students agreed to briefly describe some of their experiences at MMU, if the paper agreed to not publish their names. Here are their stories:
Student 1: “The very first thing an upper classman said to me was, ‘look out for this person and that person. Also, this team is as bad as a frat house if they could be one.’”
Students 2: “I always hear people joke in the hallways that this school cares more about academic dishonesty than they do sexual assault in terms of discipline.”
Student 3: “A guy touched me sexually at a party [on campus] once and wouldn’t leave me alone. He was so much stronger than me. I was sober, yet it took other girls to steal me away from him. What’s the point in reporting if nothing extreme happened to me? No way would they do anything serious besides get the guy mad at me.”
Student 4: “One time I called public safety that I needed help and to come up to my room so I could confide in them; they never asked me what it was about but that they would be there in 20-30 minutes. I told them I changed my mind and they didn’t even question my intentions. I wish I would have just waited for them to come to me to report my assault.”
To report an incident, Public Safety is available 24 hours a day by calling the school with extension 1234 or using the MMU app. Or contact the Title IX team: Klein, Title IX coordinator; Dr. Eden Wales Freedman, Title IX deputy coordinator; Tom Doermann, Title IX deputy coordinator; and Connie Albaugh; Danielle Rudd; Beth Davenport; and Chance McWorthy, Albaugh, Rudd, Davenport and McWorthy are trained investigators.
Faculty and staff are required by law to report an incident if a student confides in them as well.