Mount Hood

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. 

Contact the author at lifestyleeditor@thewesternhowl.com

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, wou.edu/health.

Contact the author at staffwriter@thewesternhowl.com

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 wou.edu/westernhowl.

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.

Contact the author at westernhowleditor@thewesternhowl.com

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.

Contact the author at scarpenter18@mail.wou.edu

Pandemic Baby — growing up not seeing faces

Being born when voices are known and faces are unrecognized

Hannah Greene | Guest Contributor

I found out I was pregnant in July of 2020, smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. I was laid off from all three of my jobs and for some reason or another didn’t qualify for unemployment — but that didn’t matter, I was only filled with pure joy and excitement. 

Keeping the pregnancy on the down low was easy, especially while having to quarantine  — it was refreshing, being able to focus on my own health and happiness to let my body do its thing. 

Because of the pandemic, a lot was different — rather than going into the doctors for my first appointment it was over the phone, and once “real” appointments started, I had to check in on the bottom floor, get my temperature checked and get a badge to the correct floor that I was going to. This happened again once I checked in for the actual appointment. At first, it was interesting and totally different, but after four or five appointments it seemed normal and habitual.

Besides the new way of appointments, businesses being closed and everyone wearing masks, life didn’t feel that much different.

Fast forward to the birth of my darling little one — on March 15 I went into labor, but stubborn little girl didn’t want to arrive until the 18 — I was administered a COVID-19 test that I had passed, so I was able to have my mask off during the delivery, and luckily rules weren’t as strict as when the pandemic first started, so my partner was able to be there the entire time and even my mom was given permission to visit us after the birth. 

The realness of growing up in a pandemic hit when I was thinking back to the delivery of her; rather than getting to see smiling faces and hear happy voices about a new baby entering the world, my daughter was welcomed by masks and muffled words. Her first sight of her dad was with a mask, as well my midwife’s mask, nurse assistants’ masks and so on — the only one without a mask was me, and it wasn’t until a couple hours later that she got to meet her dad without a mask. 

Thinking about growing up in a world where people’s faces are covered wherever you go is so new and not something I had to do, but makes me question how children will develop with this gap of interaction, no matter the amount they get at home.

One positive to being a new mom with a new baby in a new world is not having to worry about people crowding her stroller to look at her, bother her, breathe on her, etc. Now, people are distant, respectful and allow me to be in control of who my daughter meets, how she meets them and when. Throughout my whole pregnancy, I was told how annoying it gets when you’re constantly being bombarded by people when you have a new baby, and how their manners go out the door. Luckily, this was not the case. I feel comfortable leaving the house knowing when I go on a walk with her, people will cross the street or step to the side to let us pass and never bother to put their heads close to hers to see her. I don’t have to worry about bringing her to restaurants or grocery stores knowing that rules are set in place and no one will not be wearing a mask around her.

Of course, this is only right now, and she doesn’t have daycare or school and isn’t involved in sports; I can only cross my fingers that things go back to “normal” when she starts to enter these stages of life. Until then, I’ll do my best as her mom to make sure she’s getting regular interaction to develop her social skills, seeing how her mom and dad interact with each other and the outside world.

Contact the author at thehoneyhannahgreene@gmail.com

Press Release: BIPOC hidden figures at Western

Highlighting Elizabeth Braatz, the student behind the Satisfactory/No Credit Academic Policy

Makana Waikiki |‌ IFC Chair

April 24, 2021

Monmouth, OR- Black, Indigenous and Students of Color at Western Oregon University are consistently not given credit on the momentous changes to our campus policies that they led. Not only are they not mentioned in the publication of these changes, but their white counterparts are specifically congratulated for their hard work in creating that change. Often, when students of color speak up and claim the work that they did, they are told that it was a group effort and they are “hogging” the credit. Although there are many examples of this that occurred over the course of the last school year, there is one that cannot be ignored anymore. With the university beginning conversations surrounding the approval or extension of these changes, these incredible students need to be seen. The Satisfactory/No Credit grading option that was offered as an option this year was proposed and passed by Elizabeth Braatz through the faculty senate. 

Elizabeth Braatz is a Black, Hispanic, Native American, LGBTQ+ student here at WOU, Elizabeth also has an auditory processing disorder she was diagnosed with at seven years old. Throughout her time at this university, she has always advocated for students from all different backgrounds to ensure that they are given every opportunity to succeed here at WOU. As a Resident Assistant this year and an active student leader, she saw and heard the concerns and fears of her peers surrounding their success in classes during the pandemic. With so many students forced to take on extra jobs, assist their family and take on increased responsibility and pressure, their academics were the last thing on their minds. Elizabeth knew that if the grading policy remained the standard A through F, that the students here at WOU would suffer. She immediately began collecting statistics, drafting the policy and presenting it to the faculty senate. With the help of Faculty Senate President Leigh Graziano and ASWOU Senate President Liz Marquez Gutierrez, she was able to pass the Satisfactory/No Credit grading option policy for the 2020-21 academic year.

As Elizabeth Braatz has worked closely with the Faculty Senate President Leigh Graziano, we were able to get a quote from the Senate President herself. This is what she has to say regarding Elizabeth’s efforts. “Although it wasn’t mentioned in the Faculty Senate presentation on April 13, the proposal to revise our permanent S/NC policy is indebted to the activism of Elizabeth Braatz. It was Elizabeth’s presentation at the Faculty Senate in fall 2020 that prompted the Faculty Senate to vote to adopt this emergency grade mode again for the rest of the academic year. Learning from this moment, the Registrar brought forward a proposal to revise our permanent S/NC policy so that it is more useful for students and can be another vehicle of student success and retention. But, I think we are in this moment because of Elizabeth’s work, and it’s wonderful to see our policies being revised because of student-led activism.”

This policy allows students to opt in and use the Satisfactory/No Credit option for the courses that they are taking. Students have from the start of the term to the end of the seventh week to opt in. The academic policy is not functional for all programs, majors or courses. It is available based upon the various departments, and their decisions on whether or not they want to provide this option within their department. It is important that students seek advising from their academic advisors to find out if their courses allow for this academic policy, as well as if it is in their best interest to use this option. It is simply an opportunity for students to do what is best for them as we continue navigating through a difficult and challenging time in history.

We were able to speak with Elizabeth Braatz regarding her experience and thoughts about the Satisfactory/No Credit option. She said, “For awhile, I really did not mind being a hidden figure in a sense because ultimately, all I wanted to ensure was that students were given the opportunity to succeed during an extremely difficult and challenging time in our history. I was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder when I was seven years old, so I am able to understand the stress and difficulty in trying to adapt to new concepts, teaching styles, methods and curriculum. I have worked so hard to be where I am today, and I no longer wanted to go unheard or unseen. It is important for me to have my work be acknowledged, and to no longer be a hidden figure. It is important for credit to go to where credit is deserved.”

This incredible student leader deserves to have their hard work and commitment to student success recognized and appreciated. Without their courage and resilience the support we as students need to succeed here at WOU would not be possible. They are also just one of the hundreds of amazing and influential BIPOC students that have chosen WOU as their home and are fighting for change and inclusion. Our administration is leading us to believe that they are creating these changes, when it is the BIPOC students who pay to be here that are fighting for students and their success.

For more information contact Elizabeth Braatz at ebraatz17@mail.wou.edu and Leigh Graziano  at grazianol@mail.wou.edu.

Press Release: Governor Kate Brown urges Oregonians to get vaccinated

15 counties qualify for extreme risk amid rapid surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

Charles Boyle |‌ Deputy Communications Director

April 27, 2021

Vaccinations key to staying safe, fully reopening the economy: “There are appointments available right now all across the state.” 

Governor partnering with Oregon Legislature for $20 million emergency relief package to immediately aid businesses in Extreme Risk counties 

County health and safety restrictions to be evaluated weekly, with counties remaining in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks 

(Salem, OR) — Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown today announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s public health framework. With hospitalizations rising above 300 people statewide, threatening to overwhelm doctors and nurses, 15 counties will move to the Extreme Risk level effective Friday, April 30 through Thursday, May 6. In addition, nine counties will be in the High Risk level, four at Moderate Risk, and eight at Lower Risk. A complete list of counties and their risk levels is available here.

“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher. With new COVID-19 variants widespread in so many of our communities, it will take all of us working together to bring this back under control.”

Governor Brown is partnering with lawmakers to approve a $20 million small business emergency relief package to immediately support impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties through the commercial rent relief program.

In an effort to speed up the return to normal business operations, county COVID-19 data will be evaluated weekly for at least the next three weeks. Any updates to county risk levels next week will be announced on Tuesday, May 4 and take effect on Friday, May 7. Counties that improve their COVID-19 metrics will have the opportunity to move to a lower risk level. Counties will remain in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks.

Continued Governor Brown: “The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading. I recognize the burden these restrictions place on Oregon businesses and working families. My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy. But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments available right now all across the state.”

Governor partnering with Legislature for $20 million for immediate aid to businesses in Extreme Risk counties, announces updates to outdoor capacity limits

Governor Brown is also partnering with legislators on a $20 million emergency relief package to provide immediate aid to impacted businesses in Extreme Risk counties through the state’s commercial rent relief program.

Governor Brown continued: “After conversations with legislative leaders, I am confident we can move quickly to bring relief to businesses and their employees in Extreme Risk counties. The vast majority of Oregon businesses have followed our health and safety guidance to protect Oregonians from COVID-19, even though doing so has come with an economic cost. This emergency aid will help businesses in Extreme Risk counties.”

In addition, the Governor announced that outdoor capacity limits for bars, restaurants, and other sectors will be raised from 50 to 100 people in Extreme Risk counties, with health and safety measures, including physical distancing, in place.

Added Governor Brown: “We know that the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower outdoors. I am urging all Oregonians, if you choose to gather with others, keep it outdoors. Indoor transmission is a key driver in the COVID-19 surge that is making renewed health and safety restrictions necessary.”

The Oregon Health Authority will also be working to align Oregon’s outdoor mask guidance with the CDC guidance announced today.

Three-week limit placed on Extreme Risk level, Portland-area hospitals to closely monitor capacity

Under the Risk Level framework, counties move to (or remain in) Extreme Risk when they meet the county metrics for case rates and percent positivity, and Oregon meets statewide hospitalization metrics: COVID-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week.

Counties will stay in Extreme Risk for a maximum of three weeks, and will be able to move to a lower risk level sooner if their COVID-19 case rates are brought down in the intervening weeks, or if Oregon moves below 300 statewide hospitalizations or the seven-day hospitalization average percent increase goes below 15 percent.

The Governor has also worked in partnership with Portland metro-area hospitals to ensure systems are in place to closely monitor and manage hospital capacity. Health systems in the Portland area are using the coordinated system developed at the beginning of the pandemic to manage hospital surge capacity, bed space, essential services and non-urgent procedures as needed over the next three weeks in order to preserve hospital beds and critical care capacity.

Continued Governor Brown: “I want to thank hospital and health care leaders for the work they are doing to manage hospital bed space, so that no Oregonian is turned away from receiving the health care they need. Now, I am asking Oregonians to do their part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities so we can help support our nurses, doctors, and frontline health care workers.”

The Governor has asked hospital leaders to alert the Governor’s Office and OHA immediately if additional measures are needed to preserve hospital capacity.

If, after three weeks, Oregon still exceeds statewide hospitalization metrics and one or more counties still meet the case rates and percent positivity for Extreme Risk, the Oregon Health Authority will evaluate why and make recommendations to the Governor’s Office.

For more information, call Media Contact, Charles Boyle, at 503-931-7773.