Pierce Pioneer

Pierce opening for the winter

After a year plus of campuses being closed, there is hope to welcome all students back to in-person teaching. 

An email was sent out to Pierce College staff with updates on current plans for returning to campus and fully reopening no later than winter quarter of 2022. “The full reopening will incorporate lessons learned throughout the pandemic about safety and the needs of students and employees,” Pierce College Chancellor and Presidents stated.

The plan includes a gradual return to campus while the classes remain online during spring term, starting with employees wanting to return to the campus. This would be the start of a larger phased return.

The decision to reopen, made by the governing body of the school, will be in alignment with the guidance of the governor’s office and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District. The state’s higher education reopening plan, and the COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation and recovery plan, will also help to ensure all safety protocols are met and have a revert-to-remote operation if needed.

Any further updates on plans to return to campus will be given as the evolving situation with the pandemic is monitored. Information on when it is safe for students and services to return to campus will be given to the school’s staff.

The Chancellor and Presidents stated that they are looking forward to and hope for face-to-face interactions soon.

Washington moving to Phase 3

On May 18, 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington state is moving to Phase 3 and reopening June 30. If at least 70% of Washingtonians over the age of 16 begin to get vaccinated before then, the reopening date could be sooner; currently we are at 56%.

 

The list of permitted activities is on the Roadmap to Recovery. It includes 50 people at an outdoor home event, 50% capacity for indoor sports and fitness facilities and 400 people at outdoor entertainment establishments. 

 

The reopening was recently paused for two weeks, but hopefully it doesn’t need to be pushed back any further. Washington will go back to a lower phase if the statewide ICU capacity exceeds 90%. If all goes well, then Washingtonians should be able to enjoy the sun this summer.

 

To be up to date on Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcements, visit his website here.

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom welcomes new Vice President

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom welcomes its new Vice President of Learning and Student Success, Dr. Ilder Andres Betancourt Lopez, following an email announcement from PCFS’s President Julie White on June 3. Lopez is expected to join our Pierce community come August 2, 2021.

“[Lopez] brings a wealth of expertise to our work to create an anti-racist institution, in order to fulfill our mission at Pierce College: to provide quality educational opportunities to a diverse community of learners to thrive in an evolving world,” White stated.

White further shares in an email announcement a biography provided by Lopez himself, which gives more insight into our new vice president. From his biography, it states that Lopez grew up in an impoverished area in Los Angeles, being born from undocumented, Latino immigrants.

“When Ilder entered Stanford University, he felt blessed but he also wondered how to best maximize the privilege,” White stated. “A career in the community colleges became the obvious answer. It was and still is the nexus of opportunity for many of his family members and peers.

“Throughout his career, Ilder applies an equity and social justice lens to all his leadership decisions. Ilder believes it is not our students that need to change but the institution that can change to better address the issues faced by our students. He has devoted his career working at the community college to fulfill this philosophy.”

Lopez is currently the Dean of Science at Bellevue College, where he has developed and overseen their division’s efforts to provide learning opportunities during the COVID pandemic. Some of Lopez’s work also includes providing culturally responsive teaching and services training to all employees through a partnership with Bellevue College and the national Puente Project.

Pierce College looks forward to welcoming its new vice president with open arms. In due time, students and staff alike will be able to get to know Lopez more personally as he becomes a part of the Pierce community.

Mass Shootings – A Seemingly Endless American Tragedy

With mass shootings on the rise again, we take a look at what may be the causes for such violence in America.

Fifty-nine dead and 500 injured: Las Vegas. Forty-nine dead and 58 injured: Orlando nightclub. Fourteen dead and 22 injured: San Bernardino, Calif. Thirty-two dead and 17 injured: Blacksburg, VA. Thirteen dead and 24 injured: Columbine, Colo.

 
 

These mass shootings happened between 1999 and 2017 and were executed by people of various ages and races. Mass shootings are not new to American society but are still a surprise when they occur.

 

Wanting someone to blame is a natural response for these repeat occurrences, but pointing a finger is not as easy as it seems. Perhaps what happens before a mass shooting is worth taking a look at, in hope of finding a solution before such violence occurs. 

 

Dr. Jeffrey Simons, an expert on terrorism and political violence, believes mass shooters are lone wolves and more dangerous than terrorist groups. “One thing to remember about lone wolves and what makes them so dangerous is they’re not part of a group, so there is no constraint on their level of violence,” Simons said in an interview with NBCLX.

 

According to the gun violence archive website, mass shootings are defined as there being four minimum victims either killed or injured, not including the shooter if the shooter were to be killed during the incident. There have been 610 mass shootings in 2020, even with nationwide quarantines in effect. Since 2014 mass shootings have been on the rise in the U.S., and Washington State lists as having had 29.

 

The most obvious statement one can make is that the list of mass shootings is long and getting longer. The desire to end such a threat, which can happen at any moment and any place, is great, but the question is how to defeat a threat that is invisible until it decides to show itself?

 

The reality is that anyone is capable of committing such an act of violence and the rest must try to look for signs of it. As difficult as it seems, violence does not stop, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

On the mentality of mass shooters, Simons said that 30% to 40% have some type of mental illness. “Many times, that mental illness will affect their perception of reality, but they also can be very dangerous in what they do.”

 

The perception of mental illness being directly correlated with mass shootings is a normal one. Yet some think that the cause of gun violence is more complex than just mental illness.

 

According to a study done by  Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the factors for mass violent acts are due to childhood abuse, neglect, household antisocial behavior, binge drinking and stressful life events. This is not to say that mental illness plays no role in the matter, but the study does seem to bring out preventable issues.

 

The article went on to say that many researchers have had an understanding that most people with mental illness are non-violent and that a lot of the violent acts are committed by people who have no mental illness. The study wanted to point out that substance abuse along with mental illness is responsible for the increased risk attributable to mental disorders.

 

Looking at reports of violent acts is difficult, to say the least, and there is a more difficult view of the cause of violent acts. There is a consensus among researchers about mental illness and violence, but the difference in opinion lies in what is at the center of the recurring incidents.

 

The study found that having a mental and substance disorder simultaneously will put an individual at the highest risk of expressing violence. The conclusions from the study signaled that severe mental illness with substance abuse had a stronger relationship to violence. In contrast, severe mental illness and violence had a modest relationship.

 

Solutions have been brought up in the effort to deter and stop mass violence such as arming teachers, banning assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, universal background checks, active shooter drills, banning violent video games, having people report potential threats, funding CDC research for gun violence and more. Still, the issue of mental health problems to any degree arises and the risk of any type of violence is real and is left unchecked while deciding powers debate the issue.

 

All of the proposed solutions would have either a low or high level of success but the debate over the cause of mass violence is ongoing and finding a solution seems far from over. At the moment people must be on the lookout for the threat before it happens and find a more personal solution for it.   

 

https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/past-tolls

Jeffrey Simon’s interview with NBCLX

https://www.lx.com/community/author-says-lone-wolves-like-colorado-shooter-are-more-dangerous-than-terrorist-groups/33457/

Mental Illness and Violence Article

https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy-h.pierce.ctc.edu/docview/921486642?accountid=2280

A Crisis at the Border

U.S. borders see an increase in migrants following President Joe Biden’s pause on non-citizen deportation

Since President Joe Biden was inaugurated in January 2021, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has seen a 15 year high in migrant border crossings. According to the CBP, 172,331 migrants went into custody in March. This was up from 101,028 detainees in February. 

In January, the Biden Administration announced that for the first 100 days, it would pause the deportation of non-citizens and discontinue the previous administration’s usage of the “remain in Mexico” policy. Formerly known as the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, it requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico for an American court hearing.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske said that the U.S. faces a significant challenge at the southwest border, while confronting a serious global pandemic in a memorandum release in January. 

“In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security,” Pekoske said.

Since January 2019, 60,000 migrants have been sent back across the border under the MPP policy. Now they are eligible to be housed or remain in the U.S. while waiting for a court hearing.

With the rise in illegal crossings, many have critiqued the administration’s border policies. According to Rep. French Hill (R), who visited the border this month, the Biden administration rescinded former president Trump’s policies and took a lighter stance at the border. 

“Despite what the Biden administration says, the administration’s policies, words, and actions have created the current public health, humanitarian, and security crisis at the border, and its refusal to take the crisis seriously is having a negative impact on our country,” Hill said.

Last March, $86 million was allocated to house 1,200 migrant family members in hotel rooms. This was completed with government contracts between hotels near the Mexico border in both Arizona and Texas. 

A growing influx in illegal crossings and asylum seekers created a strain on border facility capacities. With the strain of COVID-19 protocols, the administration has to deal with the daunting task of where to hold so many people.

A major difficulty for the Biden administration has been finding housing space for an influx in unaccompanied minors. In March, CBP encountered 18,890 unaccompanied minors, which was a 100% increase from February. Once minors are detained, Border patrol is required to transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services, who then designates housing space or works to reunite children with family members. 

Although, due to COVID-19 restrictions, HHS was working under reduced capacity, and there was limited space to house the increase in migrant children. This required HHS to open up previous housing facilities or build more primarily in Texas to support more children and still attempt to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Children are not to be held in border patrol custody for more than 72 hours, but the high number of children and lack of bed space in HHS facilities left children in CBP possession for 122 hours on average. Border Patrol facilities then became crowded with minors as the transfer process became backlogged. A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas was reported to be over 700% capacity with 1,800 people in an area designed for 250 migrants. 

Additionally, the number of unaccompanied children in CBP facilities peaked at 6,000 children in March. During the last administration, the height of unaccompanied minors was 2,600. This has more than doubled and now matters remain increasingly difficult with more health restrictions and less housing space.

An influx in migrant border crossing has been attributed to both relaxed policies of deportation and the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most children are fleeing economic hardship and violence from Central American countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Yet, along the way migrants face more violence and harm. It is estimated that 1/3 of women are sexually assaulted along the journey to the U.S. border.

Moving to April, CBP still saw a slight increase in migrant crossings with 178,622 border encounters. Yet, the amount of unaccompanied minors decreased compared to April while the number of single adults rose. 

A poll published in May by Associated Press-NORC at the University of Chicago found that 43% of adults approve of how President Joe Biden is handling the crisis at the border. On the other hand, 54% do not approve of his administration’s actions since January.

The Biden administration still faces a daunting task of resolving a near 20 year high of border crossings with no end in sight.

Washington State University Becomes the First College to Mandate Vaccines

WSU was the first college in Washington State to mandate vaccines, many other public colleges are following their footsteps.

 

With COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more accessible throughout Washington, several universities such as The University of Washington and Western Washington University are requiring their students to return to campus fully vaccinated. Washington State University was the first public university in the state to require proof of vaccination.

Proof of vaccination will be due Aug. 6, before the fall semester begins, students not living on campus will need to submit their proof of vaccination by Nov. 1, according to President Kirk Schulz. Those who don’t meet this deadline will be unable to register for classes.

However, exemptions may be in place for those not wishing to get their vaccine. “Our desire is that all students, faculty, staff and volunteers are vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. I think you always need to have exemptions in place. We are expanding that exemption category to include personal exemptions because, again, we’re not interested in getting into a debate with individuals. We really want to make sure people are making a conscious choice and are taking action one way or the other,” explains WSU’s spokesman Phil Weiler. 

While exemptions will be allowed, WSU aims to make sure a majority of their students are vaccinated so on-campus classes may be brought back sooner. “If we can get everybody vaccinated, we can have the kind of academic experience that everybody expects and everybody wants,” said Weiler.

 It’s not just the president and spokesman pushing for this requirement either. According to Daryll DeWald, chancellor of WSU’s health sciences, many deans from the pharmaceutical and nursing colleges are advocating for this requirement, while WSU Senate Chair David Trumbull said older and at-risk staff members would be concerned without this mandate.

 “WSU has an obligation to serve the public good and do all it can to ensure the health and safety of citizens in the state of Washington,” said DeWald.

DeWald’s words encourage not just WSU students but all university students and staff to make the choice to get vaccinated so that the community can pave the way back to their campuses in a safe and healthy way.

Fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear masks or social distance

The CDC announced on May 13 that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing both indoors and outdoors. Unvaccinated people are still encouraged by the CDC to wear masks in public places, as well as practice social distancing.

“You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, incl. local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC stated in a tweet.

As stated on the CDC’s official site, to qualify as being fully vaccinated you must have either received a second dose in a two-dose series such as Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your second or single-dose vaccination.

Public places the CDC still would encourage people to wear masks include hospitals, prisons, doctor’s offices, public transportation and planes. A few more liberties have been granted to fully vaccinated individuals however, alongside being able to ditch the mask and the social distancing. 

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people no longer need to be tested while traveling within the United States. Fully vaccinated individuals who may have been exposed to someone carrying COVID-19 also no longer need to self quarantine afterwards or get tested.

“However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms,” the CDC stated. 

A few unknowns are still being looked at by the CDC as they make their announcement Thursday afternoon. What the CDC is still investigating regarding the vaccines includes how well they fight against other COVID-19 variants, and the vaccines effectiveness for those with weakened immune systems. How long vaccines keep people safe from COVID-19 is also still being studied by the CDC.

Lauren Kirschman of the News Tribune has since stated that the Washington state Department of Health reports 1,090 new COVID-19 cases in Washington since Wednesday. Pierce County reports 162 new cases alongside four deaths. 

More information regarding new COVID-19 cases per Washington county, testing sites and more can be found on this infographic page provided by the Washington DOH.

Tacoma Public Library and Seattle Public Library announce a reciprocal borrowing agreement

On March 29, 2021, Tacoma Public Library and Seattle Public Library announced they would have a reciprocal borrowing agreement. People who have a library card with TPL and a government issued ID can now get one with SPL. 

 

According to SPL’s library card FAQ, previous availability went only to people who lived, worked, went to school or owned property in Bothell or King County. Other libraries made reciprocal borrowing agreements with SPL in the past, and now TPL is added to that list. 

 

Applications for an SPL card are available at any SPL branch or online at their website. Once approved, readers can check out and put up to 25 e-books and e-audiobooks on hold, as well as 50 physical items on hold. Physical items on hold must be picked up at a SPL branch. This process is the same for SPL patrons getting a TPL card as well. According to both libraries, they are not charging overdue fees—only fees for lost or damaged material. 

 

Most TPL are still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, there is hope for people who miss the calm environment of the library. “Fern Hill Library and Swasey Library are now open for visits by appointment or walk-in,” TPL stated. TPL Now updates regularly on the availability of services being offered at TPL. 

 

This is a wonderful partnership, and people should take advantage of this wider access to library catalog as more libraries continue to open up.

COVID-19 Self-Test Kits available at local libraries

On April 14, 2021, Tacoma Public Library and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department partnered up to offer free self-administered COVID-19 test kits, with library cards not being required. The kits can be picked up at any TPL location during their service hours, or by speaking with a librarian at one of their branches; it is unclear if the Eastside Community Center is included.

Afterwards, the kit can be registered online using the included instructions. Once that is complete and the test has been administered, the kit can be dropped off at a UPS store or UPS drop box. Postage has been included since it is required that the kit be mailed to UPS the same day it is taken. TPL advises those interested to not bring kits back to the library after picking one up.

This is a great way to give people more flexibility and privacy while also being safe. For more information regarding TPL’s pickup services and schedules, visit TPL’s Events calendar.

Vice President of Learning and Student Success Debra Gilchrist parts ways with Pierce College after 30 years

Pierce College president Julie White announced March 3 over email that on June 30 will say good-bye to Debra Gilchrist, who is retiring after 30 years of service to the school. 

As the vice president of learning and student success for the last 9 years, Gilchrist has continued to gain the respect of her colleagues through her dedication to excellence.

“Throughout her time, she led the re-visioning of the library into an award-winning program, guided us through successful accreditations with the NWCCU, and collaborated on a district-wide model of academic leadership,” White stated. “Deb has been a strong, quiet, persistent voice for continual improvement.”

White commented on the difficulty to replace Gilchrist’s role as vice president for learning and student success, but the search for a successor will begin and the announcement will be given in the near future.

“Please join me in wishing Deb the very best,” White stated. “We will be sure to celebrate and wish her well before June 30.”

Joe Biden Instills 12 New Executive Orders

Newly elected President Joe Biden signed a record amount of executive actions just within his first week of office. Twelve of which directly reversed former president Trump administration policies in a progressive push towards immigration, climate and COVID-19 relief initiatives. 

With over 30 executive actions in his first week of office, President Biden continues to separate himself from the previous administration. Here are all the reversed policies in week one:

Health

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden rejoined the World Health Organization after the previous administration cut all funding to the organization in May 2020. In this decision, the President appointed Dr. Anthony Fauci to represent the United States on WHO’s delegation committee. 

Former president Donald Trump rescinded from WHO last spring after claiming that the organization helped cover up the mishandling of COVID-19 by China. The Chinese government faced criticism throughout 2020 by not accurately reporting the full danger of COVID-19. After long negotiation, WHO sent a team to investigate the origins of the virus in late January of 2021, over a year after the first known case was detected in 2019.

Five days later, COVID-19 travel restrictions were reinstated for non-citizens travelling from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, most of Europe, and South Africa. The Biden administration pointed to new discoveries of a second strand of COVID-19 that was detected in England and South Africa. 

Immigration

Of President Biden’s 19 executive actions on day one of his presidency, three of those reversed previous immigration policies. The first was to halt the construction of Trump’s border wall that broke ground in 2017. Over 450 miles of border wall have been installed since 2017, where 47 miles of that were in previously non-existing locations. Biden’s executive order gave him the power to divert $10 billion dollars of allocated funds to other resources that haven’t been determined at this time. 

Additionally, President Biden reversed the controversial travel ban on Muslim majority countries. The travel ban faced several court obstructions until 2018 when the Supreme Court upheld the executive order on Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and restricted North Korea and Venezuela. President Trump defended his ban in regards to improving the vetting process of refugees and safety concerns for U.S. citizens.

In an effort to revise and evaluate the United State’s immigration, President Biden reversed the Trump administration’s expanded immigration enforcement. Trump’s reversed executive order prioritized the deportation of illegal aliens who have committed a crime and sanctuary cities that housed illegal immigrants. Cities who didn’t cooperate with federal law enforcement would be at risk of losing federal grants, but this policy has been deemed unconstitutional. 

Equity

LGBTQ rights were included in President Biden’s plethora of executive actions by reversing Trump’s ban of transgender individuals from serving in the military. This previously would not allow the military to turn away or discharge people for their gender identity. Trump pointed to financial costs and distractions to military operations in a tweet in 2017. 

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump stated.

As a counter to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, former president Trump founded the 1776 Commission that was to promote “patriotic education.” The commission is composed of 18 members appointed by Trump in December of 2020. Present Biden rescinded this commission through executive order, claiming that the report attempts to “erase America’s history of racial injustice.” 

Environment

Included in his Jan. 20 executive actions, President Biden rejoined the Paris Climate accord after former president Trump left the agreement in 2017. Trump left after calling the agreement harmful to the U.S. economy and claimed it to be a flawed plan. The agreement attempts to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and binds over 190 countries into cutting their carbon emissions each year. 

Although, the agreement allows China to increase their carbon emissions until 2030, where they have then vowed to decrease emissions after reaching their energy peak. China produces the most amount of carbon emissions in the world at 10.43 gigatonnes which equals 29% of all emissions. The U.S. is second, behind China and makes up 14% percent of all world emissions. 

Furthermore, in an effort to continue his climate activism, President Biden stopped the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that connected oil reserves from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. This decision came at a cost as 1,000 jobs were immediately lost and an extra 10,000 employees won’t be hired after the pipeline contract was canceled. The Biden administration has made it a priority to step away from oil usage and expand the country’s reliance on clean energy.

Census

In President Biden’s early actions to address U.S. immigration, he revoked the previous administration’s action to not count illegal immigrants in the 2020 Census. In his executive order, Biden addressed the 14th Amendment and its call to count whole numbers of persons in each state. The Census is the deciding tactic for assigning each state’s amount of electoral votes that deviate the 435 members in the house based on each state’s count. 

Economy

On the campaign trail, Biden presented his plan on raising the federal minimum wage to $15 and took the first steps to achieving this through an executive order. In his action Biden provided federal employees with emergency paid leave, and restored collective bargaining rights and protections. This would give federal employees more mandatory work compensation that was rescinded by the previous administration.

Since this executive order, Biden continues to advocate for a federal minimum wage of $15, but the policy was not included in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the house of representatives. The Biden administration’s hope for an increase for low wage earners would have to come from a separate congressional bill. 

Regulation

With an increase in regulations on the agenda for the new administration, President Biden aimed to change how the White House reviews regulations. These changes attempt to emphasize the benefits of regulation and turn away review of weighing the cost of regulation. This executive action paves the way for an increase in federal regulations as the Biden administration continues to go around Congress in their first week in office.

Fully vaccinated people not required to quarantine

The CDC announced that individuals who are fully vaccinated no longer need to quarantine after being in contact with people diagnosed with COVID-19

 

On February 10, the CDC announced that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to quarantine if they are in contact with someone that has COVID-19. However, this doesn’t mean that vaccinated people can ignore other CDC guidelines, as stated by CNN reporter Christopher Rios.

“[T]he CDC makes clear that vaccine trials have largely focused on preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19.” Rios stated. “That doesn’t mean people can’t catch the virus and spread it asymptomatically.”

The CDC states that there are three criteria needed to be met in order to not quarantine:

  • Are fully vaccinated (i.e., ≥2 weeks following receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series, or ≥2 weeks following receipt of one dose of a single-dose vaccine)
  • Are within 3 months following receipt of the last dose in the series
  • Have remained asymptomatic since the current COVID-19 exposure

“Persons who do not meet all 3 of the above criteria should continue to follow current quarantine guidance after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.” The CDC stated.

Almost all vaccines in Phase 3 use a two shot method; only one currently requires a single shot. For the vaccines that require two shots, there is a two week to three month window for the second shot to be administered. Currently it’s unknown if every vaccine fits the CDC’s requirements for “skipping quarantine.”

This is an ongoing story; as such, updates will continue to be released here as the CDC provides more future information.

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