Mount Hood

 Stipends: Academic Prowess or Institutional Abuse

Written by Entertainment Editor Gretchen Sims

Stipends — if this is your first time hearing this term, consider yourself lucky — are a set paycheck, once per month, that institutions typically dish out to compensate some on-campus jobs. This often includes student-body leadership positions, students that run the school radio, newspaper, websites, literary magazines, or even residential assistants.

However, there is a dark, often unspoken, side to this seemingly innocent method of compensation. Stipends do not acknowledge minimum wage standards. Because these positions are deemed “educational” or “club-like” in function, institutions tell students that they should feel lucky to be paid at all. 

Getting paid to do what you love or getting experience in your ideal field does not mean that there is less actual work going into it. The compensation should reflect this in a university setting, but at Western, it does not.

Stipends include a fixed monthly payment for services — a “Western Howl” section editor’s is $580, but it also includes a fixed hourly rate — a Howl editor’s is 15 hours per week. We can not work any less or our pay will be docked, but we also can not get paid above those 15 hours. So let’s do some math. $580 divided by 60 hours per month is $9.667. That is how much an editor makes per hour. 

Not that bad? The “Western Howl” is understaffed. That being said, editors are still expected to put in the same amount of work as a fully manned paper. An editor might average about 25 hours a week — sometimes more — chasing stories, conducting interviews and sitting in on editors’ meetings, production nights and pitches. Now let’s do that math — 25 hours per week at $580 per month is approximately $5.8 per hour.

Still thinking we should feel lucky to get paid? With an average of 17 credits on each editor’s plate and a job that takes an additional 25 hours of our time, there is little to no wiggle room in our schedules — not to mention the student athletes on our team who do not receive scholarships for their services. Because of this, many editors are forced to take a second job to make ends meet. 

If a college can expect every student to pay tens of thousands of dollars and consistently deal with upticks in tuition, can’t we be expected to be paid a living wage? If us being paid fairly is not in your budget, then how do you think our bank accounts can handle tuition?

So why don’t you just get a different job? I cannot. As a future journalist, it is imperative that I have this experience in my resume. That’s the catch-22. They get you by offering a paid position that you need to get hired out of college, but fail to warn you of the fiscal consequences.

Didn’t you know your pay before coming onto the Howl? No. Western’s Human Resources is very hush-hush about wages. I knew about the stipend hours through word of mouth, but I assumed that since it is creative and intellectual work that it would at least pay minimum wage like other mundane jobs around campus.

In fact, an associate of the “Western Howl” reached out to Justin Sunada, Western’s Handshake operator, asking specifically about wages for the Howl and he had this to say, 

“I believe they (the “Western Howl” wages) are at or a little above minimum wage.” 

This clearly demonstrates that the faculty and administrators are either unaware of the stipend, or improperly informing students. 

There are other club-like jobs offered around campus that operate on a stipend system, or one very similar. Many student workers that assume these positions are frustrated by the lack of pay and minimum/maximum hourly requirements. 

Associated Students of Western Oregon University (ASWOU), Western’s student body government, has a payment method similar to the Howl’s stipend system. However, unlike Howl editors, ASWOU members are paid $13.50 per hour — although their hours vary depending on their position.

Western’s Residential Assistants are only stipended $100 per month despite being “on duty” 24/7 — although they are compensated room and board and have a provided meal plan. 

However, on the other hand, if you are looking for a job on campus, one of the most popular places of employment is Campus Dining. A student initially hired onto the Campus Dining team is offered minimum wage with no experience or skill set necessary. 

This is particularly frustrating because frequently stipended jobs — Student Media, ASWOU and RAs — require intensive training, knowledge and skill. 

All jobs that are stipended, across the board, should be getting adequately compensated for our work. However, Student Media, and the “Western Howl” in particular, should be compensated more for the work we do. Being qualified to work on a newspaper is no easy feat, and the work we put into bettering ourselves and the rest of our team to produce clean, concise and truthful content, would never get paid less than or minimum wage outside of an educational environment.

Western would look bad, in light of other institutions, if the “Western Howl” did not exist. So why can’t enough care be taken to compensate our understaffed team — at least meeting minimum wage requirements for our stipended hours?

Don’t get me wrong, working on the “Western Howl” has been one of the best things about my college experience — the people are fantastic and we are doing what we love. Just educate yourself and ask intentional questions if the job you are applying for is stipended. 

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The Disney Company’s recent controversy

The company that brought you the “happiest place on Earth” is worse than you thought

Camille Lenning | Entertainment Editor


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We’ve all enjoyed a Disney movie or two. How could we not? They own everything from Star Wars to Marvel to Pixar, and cornered the market on fairytale princesses. Disney is everywhere, and that’s the problem.

The company has faced numerous controversies since its founding in 1923 by Walt and his brother Roy O. Disney. Allegations of perpetuating harmful stereotypes, sexism and even plagiarism have plagued the company for decades. Most recently, the actions of the company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, in the case of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act has thrown the company into further scandal. 

The bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on March 28. If it remains unchallenged until July 1, it will ban elementary classrooms from having discussions about LGBTQ+ issues and gender expression. 

Disney World dominates Florida’s economy by bringing in billions per year in tourism, so the corporation’s political power is unmatched in the state. With this in mind, supporters of the Disney Company expected to hear a denouncement of the bill when it passed in the Florida Senate on March 8. Disney was vocal about making strides in producing more diverse entertainment, so surely they would disapprove of this seemingly anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

Yet the company made no public response, and only passed internal memos to shareholders informing them of the situation. That was, at least, until public outcry forced their hand. On March 11, Chapek released a statement apologizing for their silence, saying he and the company now understood the detrimental effects the bill could have, and that they were “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review.”

Disney so far has kept up with that promise. However, their existing contributions to the Florida GOP this quarter, totaling $125,000, remain as a glaring reminder that Chapek and the Disney Company seem to only adhere to progressive values when they’re forced to. 

Similarly, in 2020, the same year they released such works as “Out” — a short film about a boy coming out to his parents — individuals within Disney donated $10,500,030 to the America First Action super PAC, which backed the Donald Trump campaign in the election. While the company made donations to Democratic campaigns as well, the amount was far less substantial. 

The fact that Disney higher ups were funding these Republican campaigns and interest groups at all is telling of where the company really stands. While they are slowly introducing diverse characters in their shows and movies, they support politicians who intend to limit how LGBTQ+ people are represented in real life. 

It’s important to remain informed of the decisions the Disney Company makes. They play a bigger role in our lives than many realize. Their political contributions alone can greatly affect who we see on the ballot, and their power in Florida, a prominent battleground state, cannot be ignored. 

That being said, you are not a bad person if you watch Disney movies. What the multi-billion dollar corporation does with their money isn’t your fault. They have a monopoly on entertainment, and we as consumers should not be faulted for existing in the system they created.

Opinion: Cancer is never the patient’s fault

It’s your fault you got cancer”: the blame game that never ends

Mirella Barrera-Betancourt | Staff Writer

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I’m sixteen years old, enjoying a fat slice of cake when my dad says, “Stop eating so much junk food. This is why you got cancer in the first place.” 

The topic of cancer brings clear images and ideas about the typical cancer patient; what they look like, how they act and how they feel. This includes the stereotypical image often depicted in the media; of a sad and bald child in a hospital gown. 

While this image may not be far from actual reality, it has widely misrepresented the day-to-day experience behind having cancer. As a result, cancer patients are left in the dust, forced to take the blows caused by this exposure of distorted ideas.

For example, when people hear the word “cancer,” one of the first things they might think of are risk factors, and what they can do to prevent them. They might say, “I can never get cancer. I eat healthy and work out.” Consequently, they begin to act as if they know what’s best for you. After all, if they can dictate their own lifestyles, why shouldn’t they have a say in ours?

When you have cancer, you suddenly become this person who deserves to die because you neglected to apply sunscreen, or because you smoke, or didn’t eat enough vegetables. 

In my case, the constant remarks became so ingrained in my mind that I eventually believed them. I blamed myself for being a picky eater and having a fast metabolism, even when such things were outside of my control. When there wasn’t anything left to blame myself for, I blamed my parents. My dad for working in agriculture and exposing me to all types of harmful chemicals; my mom for not being there for me as a child and making sure I ate. Lastly, I blamed God. 

I guess I just wanted so badly to have a definite answer for my diagnosis that I eventually began to believe everyone and everything they said. We, cancer patients and cancer survivors, want a sense of closure, so we try to find blame within anything and anyone we can think of, whether that be our parents, God or ourselves. In my case, it took years to come to terms with the fact that I may never actually receive an answer because there might not even be one: cancer can happen randomly. You can have every risk factor and never get cancer and you can have zero risk factors and still get cancer. Cancer rarely develops in predictable ways.

Before making a snide remark to a cancer patient or cancer survivor, I suggest you go online and inform yourself through some reliable sources. Know the impact your words have. Cancer patients are also human and your thoughtless comments hurt.

Discussing the importance of mental health at Western

Western professor Lars Söderlund on acknowledging students’ mental health

Mirella Barrera Betancourt | Staff Writer

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses common among university students have emerged at an increasingly large rate in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. In a recent survey conducted on college students by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, 50% who participated chose mental health as a potential reason for poor academic performance. 

With some universities experiencing a lack of easy and accessible mental health care, college professors are now more than ever having to act as gatekeepers to students’ mental health. However, faculty are rarely trained for such scenarios. Thus, the question becomes: what can university faculty members and educators possibly do to help tend to students’ mental and emotional health needs? 

At Western, professors approach mental health in different ways. Many, if not most, include a few links to university and campus resource centers in their syllabus, with some falling under disability accommodations. Some professors are also open with their own struggles, teaching students that it is important not to shy away from the topic of mental health.

Western professor and chair of English department Lars Söderlund, Ph.D., takes it one step further and advocates for students to ask for assignment extensions when necessary. He acknowledges that deadlines don’t always reflect instances of real life situations and wants to be sensitive to that. 

“The courage it takes to ask for an extension is, I think, important for professors to reward when it’s possible and when they have enough time,” Söderlund said.

Oftentimes, students have a negative perception that college professors are clueless or ignorant to their students’ mental well-being. Söderlund argues that this is not usually the case. 

“In a lot of cases, students are going through a lot and professors are going to understand that too,” Söderlund said, “so while it’s important not to expect extensions, I think it’s always good to ask.”

Most professors at Western have even tailored their grading to accomodate students struggling with social anxiety disorders, removing participation points as part of the grading criteria. Even those that do require participation are willing to make the time and effort to work with students to come up with something that works for them. “A lot of professors are more lenient than you think,” Söderlund added.

Of course, many professors are often burdened with the task of feeling the need to “fix” students’ problems, and Söderlund is no exception. Upon asking how he would go about helping a student dealing with emotional and mental drawbacks, Söderlund said, “My first reaction would be ‘Okay, this person is in stress, how can I fix it?’” 

Söderlund went on to explain the importance of validation — the act of affirmation that a person or their feelings are valid and understandable. He said that professors seeing themselves as a supportive role for the student and having an “I’m here to help, but you know best” mindset could greatly assist students in distress. 

For those students struggling with managing feelings of depression, anxiety or loneliness, Söderlund recommended reaching out to the many resources the Western campus and the cities of Monmouth and Independence offer. He also mentioned the existence of suicide and mental health helplines, which include the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and the Polk County Mental Health helpline 503-623-9289. They, too, are resources available for students 24/7. 

Söderlund highly advocates for putting in the time to find the right therapist — a process that may take weeks or even months — and acknowledging when a certain type of therapy is not working. And if those feelings start to negatively impact academic performance, Söderlund advises students to take it up with their professors to see if they can come to a consensus regarding participation and class work. A way to do so, according to Söderlund, is by reaching out during office hours or by appointment to ensure a timely and successful meetup. This way, everyone can make the best of their situations.

If students are in need of psychological or mental help, the Student Health and Counseling Center on the Western campus is available for virtual and in person appointments from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday. Students are also encouraged to join support groups and workshops. For more information, go to the SHCC website,

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Helpful ways to combat anxiety

Five exercises to step back from anxiety

Sarah Austin | Lifestyle Editor

Many students and staff alike suffer with anxiety. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American College Health Association reported that over 60% of students experienced anxiety and one in five adults have a diagnosed mental illness. There is no immediate cure for anxiety, but integrating some of these grounding techniques can reduce stress and make it easier to cope. 

The 5 4 3 2 1 technique — This is one of the most common grounding techniques. To do, identify: five things that can be seen, four things that can be felt, three things that can be heard, two things that can be smelled and one thing that can be tasted.

Anchoring phrase — Create a phrase to help calm down while anxious. This can be something like: “My name is (blank),” “I am (blank) years old,” “I live in (blank) state,” “I am going to be okay” and many more. Make sure to share the phrase with people such as a family member, roommate or significant other in case help is needed in a more intense situation. 

Focus on breathing — To help with anxiety of any level, focus on breathing. This can help to calm down or even prevent an anxiety attack. One breathing technique is to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts and exhale out for six. Repeat three times to ensure the heart rate slows.

Journaling — This is a great way to interpret one’s thoughts and possibly find out what is causing the anxiety, as well as give a point of reference to go over with a counselor or therapist if applicable. There are many methods for journaling, including physically writing, typing, making a voice memo or recording a video.

Stimulate the senses — One of the quickest ways to help gain control of the body during an anxiety attack is to shock the overworking system. Find something cold such as a compress, ice pack or a frozen water bottle and place it on a pulse point such as the neck or wrist. Other exercises with the senses include but are not limited to: run hands under cold water, take a shower, drink cold water or splash cold water on the face. Sensory stimulation can assist in breaking dissociative feelings that occur with anxiety and can offer a great deal of relief.

If feeling unsafe or have an emergency, call 911. 

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Letter from the Editor

Fall transitions for Student Media’s 99th year

Cora McClain | Editor-in-Chief

Hey, Western. Here we are again, the start of another year, this one my last. 

Going into my fourth year on “The Western Howl,” third year as Editor-in-Chief, and the 99th year since the conception of Student Media at Western, there are a lot of expectations for us at the Howl, as well as for me. 

Since it’s my senior year and I will not be able to return next year, it’s my job to find and prepare the next Editor-in-Chief for producing the centennial volume of the Howl. 

So, while I am focused on this, I might make a few errors along the way. For instance, this letter.

I’m so sorry for my letter from the Editor not making it into Volume 4, Issue 1. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t room in Issue 1 for this letter, as the issue was overwhelmed with an amazing flood of creativity and passion from the new writing staff. 

You should know the drill by now Western: new year, new staff. 

I’m so very excited to be working with all of the fresh perspectives from senior integrated English studies major Sarah Austin, junior English studies major Mikayla Coleman, and senior political science major Camille Lenning. I am especially looking forward to sophomore English studies major Mirella Barrera-Betancourt pioneering the new position of staff writer and helping to develop what this position entails.

At the same time, I am very lucky to have some key returning figures to help train and guide our staff through some major transitions. Senior interdisciplinary studies major Rylie Horrall returns as our Managing Editor and currently designs our issues in the absence of a designer. Stephanie Moschella, senior social science major, is once again our Digital Media Manager and taking over as photo editor in the absence of one. Allison Vanderzanden, senior English studies major, takes up a new role as Copy Editor this year. 

Overall, this staff looks very strong in creativity and passion, as well as skill and experience. Just looking at Issue 1, I can already tell that this is going to be a great year for the Howl to expand and build after surviving heavy budget cuts, staff reductions and product downsizes.

Speaking of expanding, let’s get back to those transitions I mentioned. 

Firstly, I am overjoyed to welcome our new adviser, William McDonald-Newman, to Student Media. Though he’s learning the ropes, he has already proven to be a big help to me and the staff. 

Secondly, reading through this issue, it is pretty noticeable that we are expanding back to a 12 page issue. However, this could fluctuate back to eight pretty regularly. 

Thirdly, flipping through this issue, it’s obvious that we are printing once again. New weekly issues will be found at newsstands and on tables around campus and Monmouth. Be on the lookout for these issues and don’t be afraid to pick one or two up; after all, they are for you, Western. Find a full list of our on and off campus distribution locations on our Instagram @thewesternhowl and website

Fourthly, we will not have a Sports section again this year, at least not a regular weekly section. Instead, the Howl will feature more special or limited sections; Issue 1 featured a Culture section, and Issue 2, a Homecoming section.

Finally, we are using new emails with our own domain, something we are very excited about. These will be the official Western Howl emails from now on. Please be patient with us while we are figuring out some technical issues with emails bouncing back.

That’s all for the changes we have made so far. If any more come up, Western, you will be the first to know. 

Big things are coming, Western, and I am so excited to share them with you.

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Opinion: Violence is not a one party problem

Placing blame on one movement isn’t going to heal the divide we currently have in our country

Sydney Carpenter | News Editor

The Western Howl’s writing season and my time here as the News Editor are coming to an end. Over these last couple weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my first year of journalism ⏤ most notable, but not to disregard any of the other stories I’ve written, are the articles covering various gatherings and events at the Capitol. A joke in the office is that if you can’t find me, check the Capitol building.

I’ve attended rallies, protests and riots just like a lot of other Western students. Regardless of which side of the aisle organized the events, I can say I personally have been maced, mobbed and assaulted by the left and the right side.

As a student journalist, I’ve been asked to leave because “fake news media isn’t welcome,” “liberal fake news media isn’t welcome,” “we don’t want people taking pictures” or because “you’re suspect.” At times I’ve had my own life threatened or the safety buddy I bring with me has been threatened. 

Regardless of these experiences, I’ve been able to talk to people, and I think the most mind boggling thing for me is when I’m asked about the various articles I’ve written tackling these events. The interviewee I speak with is always shocked when they hear I’ve been verbally and physically assaulted by the side they stand with. 

People who identify as standing on the left are often quick to point out the violence of the right, but there are instances where I was in the midst of a group of antifascists who set off a can of bear mace as other members of the movement paintballed a car with stickers corresponding to right wing ideologies. When I’ve gone to rallies designated as right wing events, I’ve been escorted out by people identifying as “Proud Boys.” At these rallies, they spend a lot of time judging and criticizing the left group, associating them with rioters and looters. However, there is no mention of instances where right wing groups have personally assaulted journalists or made threats on people’s lives. 

I think another important point to make is that sweeping generalizations aren’t being made; at these events, there’s never just one or two sides that are present. You have a giant gumbo pot of beliefs that don’t always agree with each other. I’ve seen radical movements violently attack vehicles and people, while other protesters cry and beg for them to stop hurting people and causing damage. Sometimes there were mock “militias” that acted as security and were under orders of one person; if you fall on their radar, they will have that group swarm you and what they choose to do to you depends on who you are. Often, when I’ve had this happen to me I’ve tried to stand up for myself and verbally disarm them. There’s always one that is willing to listen in an unaggressive manner.

Since Jan. 6, the tension in Salem has been particularly palpable. Every weekend, there are different movements staking claims to particular areas of downtown. The police presence is noticeably dismal — until you have a group of people standing outside of the Capitol building. While you have cases of violence within various areas, the police have in some cases permitted  harassment and assault to be the standard at some of these events. I have literally run into an undercover cop posing as a gardener in a construction site, and after telling him that a group identifying as “Proud Boys” swarmed and assaulted me and my friend during a Second Amendment Rally during May Day, he said thank you and walked away. 

The Salem police have made statements saying they don’t want to make the situation worse by adding a visible presence, so they send undercover agents; but, even after I reported what happened to us, we were left to our own devices. I later reported the harassment to police officers that showed up after the event was over and all they said was that they would make a report.

The point is, there are cases of violence all over and we can’t continue to use divisive language to argue which event was better or worse than the other. We can’t continue to have fierce party loyalties, as it’s only generated this atmosphere that creates enemies. Some veteran journalists who have actually gone to war zones have told me that what’s going on in our country is reminiscent of the experiences they’ve had. The most interesting part is that people are taking sides, but their beliefs don’t always align; it’s strictly party loyalty or party resentment.

The gap we have keeps growing wider and wider as time goes on. As blame is placed and fingers are pointed, we seem to choose to tune out each other’s voices. “If you’re not with us you’re against us” seems to be a running theme. But anger and hatred don’t have to be matched. We can lower the temperature and meet as equals, but I think in order to do that we can’t continuously point out others’ faults. 

There has to be self acknowledgement that the political atmosphere has spiralled out of control and trying to throw water on an oil fire isn’t the solution. Explosive discussions are going to be our downfall if our views of the “other side” don’t change. I think we can all agree, where we are right now is not where any of us want to be.

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