Mount Hood

The 2024 Presidential Election

Written by: Nicholas Sarysz

The 2024 United States Presidential Election is just under 17 months away, which means many of the presidential nominees are declaring themselves for election, with a few big names still expected to be announced. Here is a brief overview of the democratic incumbent President Joe Biden, who is not the guaranteed Democratic nominee, and the top three Republican nominees who are fighting to be his contenders on the ballot in Nov. 2024.

President Joe Biden officially announced his reelection bid in a video that was released on April 25, 2023. By referring to the next election as a “battle for the soul of America,” Biden framed it as a choice between freedom and liberties or a smaller degree of each. 

By highlighting people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, as well as images of the attack on the US Capitol and pro-abortion rights protests, he aimed to distinguish the ideas of his administration from those of his political competitors. Biden underlined the significance of the rise of MAGA extremists, who he said threatened fundamental liberties.

When he made the official announcement from his South Florida club, Mar-a-Lago, in November, former president Donald Trump was the first candidate to announce his campaign from either party. Although he has not been very active on the campaign trail, he has recently upped his travel, making stops in important early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. 

Trump, who is widely seen as the front-runner for the GOP nomination, strengthened his position by giving a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where he topped the straw poll among attendees, in March. He continues to be a strong contender within the Republican Party, but his campaign will encounter tough legal obstacles.

The former South Carolina governor and Trump administration ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, launched her campaign for the Republican nomination in the middle of February. Haley, 51, has suggested a required mental fitness test for lawmakers above the age of 75 in an effort to establish herself as a new face in the Republican Party’s leadership — covertly making references to both former President Trump, who is 76, and President Biden, who is 80. Haley is a native of Bamberg, South Carolina and has served two successful terms as governor. Her ancestors were Indian immigrants. She made a name for herself as the senior American diplomat at the UN from Jan. 2017 to Dec. 2018 while the Trump administration was in power.

On May 24, Ron DeSantis officially began his presidential campaign. DeSantis’ announcement was delayed by technical issues just before he officially launched his campaign on Twitter Spaces, joined by the platform’s CEO Elon Musk. His staff viewed this as proof of his popularity and joked that he “literally busted up the internet.” DeSantis offered a comprehensive platform at the beginning of his campaign that included improving the nation’s crime rates, fostering energy independence and resolving immigration issues. He assured primary voters that he would take office on Jan. 20, 2025, emphasizing his dedication to providing outcomes devoid of justification. DeSantis confronts a significant obstacle in his bid for the presidency in the shape of former President Trump, who has already directed attacks at him.

Note: This piece is not meant to promote any presidential nominee over another and is strictly informational.

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Oregon author Kim Johnson visits Western

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

On May 31, Kim Johnson — the author of the best-selling, young adult novel, “This Is My America” — visited students and the community to speak on the success of her acclaimed debut novel.

Johnson is the recipient of the Pacific Northwest Book Award and Malka Penn Human Rights Award for Children’s Literature. In addition to writing, Johnson serves as Vice Provost at the University of Oregon, constantly advocating for new methods to teach and educate new generations of students in order for them to thrive. 

Johnson said, “It really is an honor (to be here), especially to be here talking to you not as an administrator, but also talking to you as a creator; as a writer, someone who speaks truth to power or hopes to speak truth to power in the words that I write.”

“This Is My America” follows the story of Tracy Beaumont, a budding Black student journalist and social activist, fighting to clear her father’s name — who is sentenced to death row — as well as prove her brother’s innocence after he becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a white classmate.

The event opened with a keynote speaker presentation from Johnson, where she delved, in detail, into the journey she undertook as a blossoming writer; from the realization of her affinity for storytelling, to persevering and maintaining resilience even in the face of adversity and the chain of rejections from literary agents and publishers. In a display of vulnerability, Johnson shared that she spent two years submitting her work to agents, to the point where she eventually hit a total of 150 rejections.

“I tell you (this) long story because there are so many times that we see ‘no’s. There are so many roadblocks, there are so many barriers … I feel like my purpose in my work is to identify systemic barriers and move them out of the way,” said Johnson. “You gotta get past the mountain to get to your ‘yes.’”

The students and the community were invited to engage in conversation with the author after the keynote speaker presentation through a Q&A session, book signing and a writing workshop; the latter of which was solely offered to students. 

There was a question posed by an audience member, which prompted Johnson to disclose that her inspiration — not only to write, but the inspiration for the protagonist in the novel — was the lives of the students and leaders she taught and mentored. However, Johnson shares that she sees the protagonist as a small mirrored reflection of herself, pushing against the status quo.

In 2021, it was announced that “This Is My America” was selected to be developed as a film adaptation series on HBO Max, after Johnson sold the rights to the novel to a film production company in Los Angeles, California. The writing and filming are in the early planning and development stages.

Johnson’s new novel “Invisible Son” is set to release this month. The novel is now available for pre-order. 

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Western to lift vaccine mandate

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

Western will no longer require students and faculty to receive the primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccination — a change in policy effective on June 30. 

Beth Scroggins, director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, announced the plans of the change in university protocol via an email sent to current students last month, quoting a message from President Jesse Peters, Ph.D. In the message, Dr. Peters equally encourages current students to continue following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and remain up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters. 

Director Scroggins said that the decision to eliminate the vaccine requirement was a result of extensive “group effort” with the community, with consideration taken into the county numbers, other university protocols, the statewide and university vaccination rate, as well as CDC and OHA guidelines. 

“There is a lot that goes into each decision around COVID, including lifting the vaccination requirements,” Scroggins said. “We felt we’re at a good place where it’s safe to lift the requirement.”

The lifting of the vaccine mandate consequently means the discontinuation of mandated isolation for students in on-campus housing who test positive, as well as self-reporting through the student portal. However, the university still highly advises students, staff and faculty to be considerate of the people around them, and to continue isolating in residence halls if symptoms appear or contact with an infected person is suspected. This applies to any illness. 

“If you’re sick, have symptoms, stay home, regardless of what you’re sick with,” Scroggins said.

Butler Hall, which is the residence hall designated for students who test positive, will remain open to students who wish to isolate themselves from the community. Testing services and rapid self-testing kits will also remain available for students at the Student Health and Counseling Center. 

The change in protocol regarding the vaccine arrived two months before the end of the spring term and conclusion of the 2022-23 academic year. However, it is not exactly surprising for the community. 

The Federal Public Health Emergency for COVID-19 expired on May 11, which Scroggins says was also taken into consideration in the decision to lift the vaccine requirement. With the public health declaration soon expiring, colleges and universities across the country were quick to do away with their vaccine mandates. This includes Oregon State University, which will no longer require the vaccine beginning June 16. 

This slew of changes in university policies and protocols instigated controversy on many university campuses, as well as sparked safety concerns for students and faculty. 

Scroggins addressed this concern, stating, “I’m sure not everybody likes every decision. I just really want to emphasize how thoughtful (Western) is on the decisions they make. I want people to feel comfortable that a good decision was made with the information that we had.”

For any questions and concerns regarding Western’s COVID-19 protocol, students should contact the Student Health and Counseling Center.

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Gov. Tina Kotek signs ban on Styrofoam food containers into law

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

Beginning in 2025, restaurants and food vendors in Oregon will be required to ditch the use of styrofoam takeout containers under a new law passed by the Oregon Legislature. 

On Monday, May 8, Gov. Tina Kotek signed a ban on plastic polystyrene foam containers into law — making Oregon the ninth state in the United States to ban the usage, sale and distribution of the plastic foam containers.

The fight towards the ban on polystyrene foam containers was a long time coming, according to  lawmakers. On Wednesday, Apr. 26, Senate Bill 543 cleared the House with a 40-18 vote. On Monday, Apr. 3, the bill was passed by the Oregon Senate with a 20-9 vote. 

The recently signed Senate Bill 543 would phase out the common polystyrene foam used for takeout containers, which advocates claim is quick to break down into small particles and pollute the ecosystem. The new law would equally prohibit businesses from using and selling foam packing peanuts, as well as single-use foam coolers. 

The new law joins Oregon with the likes of Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia and Washington in outlawing the use of polystyrene. Meanwhile, the cities of Ashland, Eugene, Florence, Lincoln City, Medford, Milwaukie, Newport, Portland and Silverton have already passed ordinances prohibiting the sale of polystyrene foam for prepared meals.

The history of bans outlining environmental concerns have been abundant throughout the state. 

A similar bill suggesting a ban on styrofoam takeout containers was rejected by the Oregon Senate in 2019, with a 15-14 vote out of the 16 votes required. In 2020, stores and restaurants became strictly barred from providing single-use plastic bags, replacing them with paper bags and the option for a more ecological form of a plastic bag for a small charge. In 2019, an additional law was imposed that forbade restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by the customer. 

Over the years, both environmental activists and advocates of the ban have brought up a multitude of issues surrounding the use of single-use styrofoam takeout containers. For one, styrofoam containers are not accepted in curbside recycling. 

Furthermore, styrofoam containers contain poly-fluorinated substances — known as “forever chemicals” — which are used by restaurants and food vendors for grease and waterproofing. These chemicals accumulate in abundance in the environment and have been linked to reproductive issues, cancer, high cholesterol and immune system suppression

“Polystyrene is a threat to the health of our communities and our land,” said Senator Janeen Sollman, a chief sponsor of Senate Bill 543. “This is a step towards a more sustainable and mindful approach to consumption and a commitment to preserving the health, beauty, and diversity of Oregon for generations to come.” 

Senate Bill 545 was signed by Gov. Tina Kotek alongside Senate Bill 543, which directs the Oregon Health Authority to create rules and regulations for vendors regarding personal reusable food containers for takeout and leftover meals. This second law makes it legal for the public to utilize their own reusable takeout containers.

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Peacock Festivities

Written by:  Mikayla Coleman

The first annual Monmouth Peacock Festival will be held May 20, at Monmouth Main Street Park from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The city will be coming together to celebrate the wild peacocks present in Monmouth’s residential neighborhoods. Admission to the festival is free. 

The purpose of the festival is stated on their website, “The Peacock festival is an opportunity to celebrate Monmouth Oregon’s uniqueness and to bring enjoyment to the attendees through art, craft, entertainment and education.” 

The festival will have live entertainment and demonstrations, arts & crafts vendors, community groups and children’s activities — as well as a Finders Keepers art rock hunt.

The festival will also include The Running of the Peacocks — a 5k and 1k fun run for all ages and abilities. The run will begin and end at the Main Street Park Amphitheater, circling through Western’s campus. Registration is required and costs $10 per person, children under 12 are free of charge as long as they are accompanied by a paying parent or guardian. Each participant will be given a commemorative pair of peacock-themed socks, while supplies last. 

There will also be a Peacock Calling Contest at 2:00 p.m. on the amphitheater stage. Peacock calls will be judged on tone, cadence, pitch, volume and overall accuracy. Participants are encouraged to pre-register online and there is no cost to enter. The winner will be awarded a prize. 

The Peacock Festival seeks to appreciate the area’s natural resources and celebrate community engagement. 

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Be Our Guest

Written by: Jude Bokovoy

The Etiquette Dinner is back, reigning annual tradition at Western, now returning after its brief hiatus in 2020-2021. The Center for Professional Pathways has brought it back with a new fashion twist. This event is provided for all Western students and sponsored professionals. Bring enrolled friends, family and even a date to this wonderful night. 

On May 22, attendees will enter the Werner University Centers’ Pacific Room to be greeted with a mocktail and the opportunity to find a seat at an elaborately decorated table. Attendees will then watch a fashion show hosted by Stitch Closet, to give ideas and inspiration for professional attire. On each place setting there will be a card to provide an opportunity to win a gift by matching each model to the provided professional settings before the etiquette dinner begins. 

Once the show concludes, Sabra Jewell, the Communications Coordinator for the City of Monmouth, will lead the audience through a three-course dinner. The french inspired meal will include a salad, an entree and dessert all with vegan and gluten-free options. Each member will learn proper dining etiquette for each course, conversation cues and anything else that would come up during a work dinner. 

This event is for those who want to learn more about how to conduct themselves at a formal dinner with their future boss and colleagues. Everyone will be dressed in formal attire, ready to learn and have a great evening with the Western community. There will be professionals to sit with as well as ones friends, fellow classmates and enrolled guests. Every student is welcome to attend free of charge. 

For more information, follow @woucpp or @stitchcloset.wou on Instagram for the menu, updates and polls. The event is filling up fast, make sure to register. Use the QR code provided in the newspaper, the student email or on a poster around campus. 

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Bird flu outbreak enters its second year

Written by: Mirella Barrera-Betancourt

It has been a year since the outbreak of the avian influenza, which rocked egg inventories and raised wholesale egg prices. In January 2023, Oregonians saw the prices of eggs spike higher in percentage than any other food item, such as chicken or turkey.

The avian flu, also known as the bird flu, had a devastating effect on flocks of hens across the country, forcing farms to kill more than 43 million hens by the end of December 2022 to limit the spread of the disease and costing the government roughly $660 million. The outbreak hit in two separate waves, from February to June and from September to December.

The avian flu is a highly contagious virus, spread easily through wild bird droppings and nasal discharges, making it incredibly difficult for farmers to contain the spread of the disease. 

Though this specific virus does not significantly pose a threat to human health, as a reminder, poultry should be cooked to 165℉ to ensure any present viruses are eliminated.

The outbreak, combined with soaring inflation, fuel and labor costs are grounds for havoc from consumers. Amid a national supply shortage, grocery stores in and around Oregon are continuing to face struggles with meeting the market demand for eggs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, the consumer price of eggs rose 8.5% to an average price of $4.82 per dozen this past January.

The limited supply of eggs is prevalent for many individuals, including college students. 

At Western, Valsetz Dining Hall — students’ main source for easy, on-campus dining — had to resort to charging diners for the difference in supply and demand. At their registers, a sign has been put on display informing diners of the raised prices for meals containing eggs.

Currently, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately for consumers, there is no guarantee that egg prices will go back to being one of the cheaper, more nutritious food options.

However, new flocks of hens have begun repopulating farms, which may indicate a significant advancement toward replenishing the United State’s egg supply.

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