Pierce Pioneer

Peaceful protest is not always powerful


In this heated age of political turmoil and widespread protest, the argument of peaceful versus violent activism has reemerged. Many believe that violence during times of struggle is counterproductive and dividing, citing successful peace protesters like MLK and Gandhi, but when delving deeper into the history of civil change a more complex look at the purpose and importance of violent fight for change emerges.

Violence, whether destruction of property or physical attack, has always been an important tool in the creation and acceleration of change. While in many instances, societies develop and grow with simple peaceful protesting and advocacy for change, that is not always the case. When a governing power is not truly looking out for the benefit of its people and instead only the individuals in government or an oppressive dominating group, simple shows of dissatisfaction are not enough. This is evident in every major revolution and many civil rights battles throughout history.

            One powerful modern example was the months long protest of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. This protest began April of 2016 and lasted till February 2017 when hundreds of protesters were removed from their camp. The pipeline is still going through exactly as planned, with no positive compromise given to the Sioux Native Tribe who began the protests, and whose source of clean water is being highly threatened. Peaceful protest did not work here.

            A historically celebrated example of violent protest was the Boston Tea party. A group of colonizers tired of the hefty taxation laid on them by Britain took to the ports, raiding ships of tea imports, and dumping them into the water. This destruction of property was a powerful show of dissent that we still revere today.

            In another historical instance of violence reshaping a country for the better, the French Revolution takes spotlight. After years of poor leadership resulting in mass death of the general public, and failed attempts at revising the governing body, the French people rose up in revolt. The violent revolution ended in the deaths of thousands, and a country turned on its head. While the violence perpetrated here was vicious, it leads to the freedom of its people and a constitution built to protect them.

            Dismissing violent protest as simply uncivilized and pointless aggression ignores that it often comes from the most oppressed and hopeless groups who have no other voice in society. Recognizing its legitimacy as a form of action, and an attempt toward bettering our world is the best way to reduce the need for it to occur.

Spike in use of dangerous synthetic drug Spice


A potentially dangerous drug called Spice has become common among users of marijuana as a cheap and interesting alternative.

The drug creates high risk for those who consume it, as it is coated in untested, ever-changing brain stimulating chemicals.

Depending on the crowd, synthetic cannabinoids have street names such as Spice, K2 or fake pot and is usually used by people under the legal dispensary age or those who want a less expensive alternative to marijuana.

Spice is a mix of herbs and man-made chemicals. The combination produces mind-altering effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. This entails a number of hazards, as the shifting chemical makeup makes Spices use a gamble at every use.

The drug is so widely varied throughout its many incarnations that it’s impossible to pin down any particular symptoms of use or overdose. Even so, the number of cases surrounding synthetic cannabinoids and visits to the emergency room hit more than 25,000 in the US in 2011, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

The majority of its distribution is as a street drug, but it is sold disguised as a product other than a recreational smoke in stores, often as incense. Because of its harmful nature, the FDA has found it difficult to monitor and outlaw the drug, making it a prevalent threat.

Although synthetic cannabinoids is pushed as a natural offshoot of marijuana, its added chemical nature can lead to an increased risk. Addiction and withdrawals develop in many users. As the effects do not last long, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain an addiction. This leads to a higher percentage of overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens.

According to spiceaddictionsupprt.org, addiction to the substance develops quickly.

“The first withdrawal symptoms usually occur within the first few hours of ending drug use and typically persist for days or weeks,” the website said. “The most common spice withdrawal symptoms include nightmares, paranoia, extreme nausea and diarrhea, cold sweats, insomnia that can last for days, tremors, anxiety and restlessness.”

The website provides information on how to get help, including detox methods and facilities, counseling and group therapy, and ways to assist in self-recovery.

Combatting synthetic cannabinoids is in an ongoing legal battle, resulting in heightening the risk of new, experimental strains with no end in sight.

Lake Waughop Sewage Leak Saga

Plans for tearing out and replacing a faulty sewage line that has been leaking from Pierce College into Lake Waughop are underway. This issue that has caused massive algae blooms, and toxic water for near a decade is finally coming to a solution.

In October 2016 it was discovered that a harmful sewage leak into Fort Steilacoom Park’s Lake Waughop had originated from the Pierce College campus. The sewage leak fed into a rampant algae problem on the lake, killing off wildlife and making the water too toxic to swim or fish. Initially the problem had been reported in 2007, but no connection between the leak and Pierce had been proven until last year. The amount of damage the waiting period has caused is debatable, but any addition to the algae’s growth poses an increased risk to all people and creatures in use of the lake.

Now that the problem has been made clear, the next step to move forward with a cleanup and prevention project has been put in motion. Choi Halladay, President of Administrative Services here at Pierce College, "The connection between the storm water pipe that flows to the lake and the sewage overflow from Pierce has been stopped." He continued to explain that although the issue is temporarily fixed, there would also be a massive over-haul of the entire Pierce College sewer system. This will greatly reduce the possibility of any future contamination.

The large-scale over-haul of the current piping will be reworked and replaced in the up coming months. There will also be a cleanup of Lake Wauhop, but this will not be able to take place until the water level reduces, which is entirely dependent on the weather. Through an emergency fund from the state of Washington and Pierce College reserves this project will total over one million dollars to fix.

There are ways the student and faculty body can reduce our impact on the cloggable sewers in the meantime; refraining from disposing of feminine hygiene products, sanitary wipes, and other inorganic substances into the toilets will reduce the blockage build-up that occurs at the sewage pumps.

Along with these Pierce projects, within the last few months Fort Steilacoom Park has gone through large renovations, making the park more accessible to all people and adding additional amenities. Among these are a new asphalt path around the lake, and a covered viewing platform. Margret Sanchez, a frequent visitor to the lake throughout its many changes said, “The new path has made more and more people show up. I used to be able to walk for an hour and see nobody, now I’m spotting people all the time.”

The increased foot traffic poses new threats; however, if the sewage leak and algae growth persist, and the clean up process is not finished in a timely manner, risk to dogs and children who frequent the lake rises. They do not understand the dangers that are present, and thus may unwittingly play in the toxic water.

The improvements to the Pierce College sewage system and cleanup of the lake may be the first step toward making this beautiful environmental land mark a wonderful public resource for swimming and fishing once again.

Local Activism Sparking Social Change

Social Justice is becoming a hot topic


Streets have been flooded with protestors throughout the country, and those in Tacoma have not been left out. Massive protests have drawn thousands to march; one of the more notable was Woman's march, that spanned through Olympia, Tacoma, and Seattle, as well as being a global protest crossing every time zone. More recently, the March for Science that took place Earth day, just one month ago bringing hundreds of protestors out once again.

Local and national activism have skyrocketed since the 2016 presidential election, with politics and protests flowing right into mainstream news and becoming a hot topic for people in every social group.

Sparks began nationally after the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th, 2014. The subsequent protests gained international notoriety, and started a domino effect of activism including other protests and the formation of organizations concerned with a wide variety of social issues.

The most highly publicized issues include things such as immigration, refugees, police brutality, woman’s rights, indigenous treaties, climate change, and LGBT+. The progress made for these issues in the last couple years has spiked as the general public is growing more aware of the many social injustices in the United States and around the world. Pierce County is no exception to this conflagrating activism. Many grass roots groups work throughout the county in efforts against environmental destruction, deportation of immigrants, and discrimination.

Some of the largest marches that have taken place in locally just within the last year include the Woman’s March, the Tax March, and the March for Science. Each had between a few hundred to over ten thousand participants taking a stand, and steps, for a better world.

Pierce College has hosted an event by the People’s Assembly of Tacoma called 'The Takeback' over the last few weeks. This local activist group was formed to promote the advancement of oppressed communities and to spread a message of equality amongst all groups. During the event they use open discussion to encourage people with all perspectives and walks of life to speak up about problematic experiences in their communities, as well as speeches and activities to express their purpose.

Sarah Morken, a prevalent local activist, explains how she began; "I didn't dive headlong into activism. I dabbled for a while when an issue came up that really grabbed me personally." She and her group Redline Tacoma have worked on projects and protests to fight the building of a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline in Tacoma that has the potential to be extremely dangerous for the local community. She also works with groups like Green Party Tahoma, Youth Activism Pierce County, and Tacoma Direct Action. She is a icon for the many ways in which anyone can become involved in political movements.

Rallies and events have sprung up all across the county, ranging from small groups of people discussing issues, to numbers in the thousands turning out for marches. There are ways anyone can express their views and become a part of an influential movement for change in their community.

‘Sweeney Todd’ takes bloody revenge in upcoming play

This infamous story follows psychotic barber’s killing spree in 19th-century London


Kara Wolff/Courtesy Photo

Kara Wolff/Courtesy Photo

From its initial publication in 1846, “Sweeney Todd” has gone through many stages, including an upcoming appearance on the Pierce College stage.

“Sweeney Todd” is a dark legend, filled with emotion, suspense, and frightfully powerful musical numbers. 

Set in 1846 London, Todd returns from a 15-year prison sentence with a vendetta for the judge who wrongly prosecuted him and tore him away from his wife and baby.

The hunt begins with Todd setting himself up in his old barber shop and getting to work plotting his bloody revenge.

The story of the murderous barber has controversial origins, including theories the play draws inspiration from a real serial killer in the early 1800s. None of the theories have been proven, but author Peter Haining’s search for proof of the original Todd’s existence resulted in multiple books on the subject.

The tale of Todd started in a penny dreadful, illustrated stories in cheap booklets for the Victorian public, and was written in 12 parts by Edward Lloyd.

“The psychopathic barber’s story proved instantly popular: it was turned into a play before the ending had even been revealed in print,” said Victorian historian LM Jackson. 

The play had become well-known throughout England by the 1860s, lasting more than 100 years until hitting mainstream masses of American Broadway in 1979.

Charles Wolff plays the bloody barber Todd and Jazmine Herrington plays Mrs. Lovett, the broke baker. 

Richard Buckley, who has worked in theaters on Orcas Island, Western Washington University and other schools, directs the musical. He has 24 years of directorial experience, with productions such as “The Sound of Music” and “Godspell.” When he was offered the chance to direct “Sweeney Todd” he said he “jumped at the chance,” because “the story is well-crafted and amazing.”

The Pierce College rendition of “Sweeney Todd” is Friday and Saturday, and March 3-4 at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater on the third floor of the Cascade Building. Tickets are free for Pierce students and $5 general admission.

Waughop Restoration



Fort Steilacoom Park has been a long-standing home for the great outdoors, right behind Pierce College. Hosting events from bike marathons to festivals, as well as providing over 7 miles of walking and jogging trails, an off-leash dog park, and a children’s play park, this 340-acre park, "…has been a great escape between classes" says _____, a student a Pierce.

            This year the park is getting refreshing additions and touch-ups to better serve the many people and pups who walk its trails every day. Due to be finished mid-February, the City of Lakewood is repaving the path circling Lake Waughop and building a viewing platform for the lake, while our own volunteers from the Envirnmental Sudies courses and their professors are tackling the invasive flora that drives away the native plants.

            The wide expanse of land has also been a haven to the smaller animals still living within the city. Throughout the park live rabbits, squirrels, ducks, snakes, owls, and the occasional deer passing through. The park is a crucial environmental landmark of the Puget Sound area.

Fort Steilacoom Park has faced several challenges throughout its different stages. The barns that were once in constant use by man and animal became derelict and unused, some already torn down and the others boarded up and left to decay. Many invasive species have started to infest the land; anyone who has visited the parks trails has seen the blackberry bushes consuming the acreage, and the signs warning of toxic algae in the water of Lake Waughop. The algae has made the lake unswimmable and its fish inedible. The path around the water has been in disrepair for an extensive period of time with water flooding over the path in the annual rainy season.

Fort Steilacoom Park has taken on large improvement projects before. Some of these include the removal of the dangerous barns, the creation of multiple Old Western State memorials, the playground, the original paving, the baseball fields, and the picnic tables. All of these previous enhancements have been exceedingly well-built and maintained, and now the city is taking them a step further.

The renovations are already underway, having begun in December 2016. The new pavement for the lake path will improve the accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs, while the viewing platform will allow for a beautiful overlook on the water. This work is running the City of Lakewood The renovations have been long-awaited and will improve the overall usefulness of the entire park, making it enjoyable to more people and dogs alike.

J.R.R. Tolkien Birthday

A happy birthday to the Lord of Literature


In his eighty-one years, J.R.R. Tolkien completely re-shaped the fantasy genre. He created a layered, multi-cultural world filled with great amounts of detail that it surpasses any previously written fantasy literature, both in sheer volume of life and developed culture. His most famous work, the Lord of the Rings, has reigned king for the last sixty-two years, inspiring generations to expand their imaginations and discover their own worlds more thoroughly.

Tolkien himself lead an adventure all his own, starting Jan. 3, 1892, when he was born in South Africa, to English parents. When Tolkien was 3, he visited family in England with his mother and brother. During this trip, Tolkien’s father died in South Africa. This left them to live hopping around England throughout his childhood. His inspiration for much of Middle Earth sprung up from these travels, directly naming the Hobbiton resident Farmer Maggot’s land, “Bag End” after his aunt’s farm in Birmingham, England.

When Tolkien was 12, his mother died as well, leaving him an orphan. A priest at a Catholic school raised him after this. Tolkien took high liking to this man, as if he were the father he never had. These were the years that he truly delved into linguistics, not only studying Latin and Anglo-Saxon, but beginning to invent his own languages. He uses this skill multiple times in writing the worlds of Middle Earth, along with his extensive study of folk-lore and cartography. During his love-affair with reading, he also found time for one with a girl. He fell in love with another orphaned student, Edith Bratt. His guardian grew disdainful of her however, and much to Tolkien’s obedient dismay, he was banned from speaking with her until he turned twenty-one.

After college, as soon as he breached the age-ban mark, Tolkien reached out to Edith in a letter. Within a few months she broke off her engagement to another man and married Tolkien, her long lost high school sweetheart. Soon after, though, he was rushed into the military. In a letter to his surrogate father he, “expressed admiration for his wife's willingness to marry a man with no job, little money, and no prospects except the likelihood of being killed in the Great War.” His largest inspiration for the story arc of The Hobbit comes from his draft into the British army in World War One.

During his time as a junior officer in the trenches of France, he wrote many short stories about his experiences, as well as his reveries in imagination. He sent a few of these to his wife in letters and kept a few for himself. In particular, his inspiration for Sam Wise was derived from his time in the military. During World War One, officers had helping hands called “batmen” who run errands, cook their meals, and transport them where they need to go. Sam Wise is this to Frodo, as well as the moral support of a true friend in trying times some batmen also likely were.

Tolkien became ill mid-war, and was sent home for a period, to the delight of his wife. They conceived their first child, and soon after he was permanently discharged from the army. He moved onto working for the Oxford English Dictionary and his manuscript for The Hobbit gained way. Published in 1935, it was an almost instant sensation. For years, Tolkien received praise for The Hobbit and pleas for a sequel. Twenty-years later, with the encouragement of his son, he published The Lord of the Rings, setting the changing tide of fantasy writing to whole new shores.

From humble and harsh beginnings, Tolkien planted strong roots, and nurtured them with the fertilizer of creativity and the sunshine of wit. Now, decades after his death, the seeds he sowed still flourish and thrive. His stories are the dear friends to many.

Professor Spotlight: Tom Link

Psychology professor revolutionizing the way that students learn


Tom Link has been a professor teaching psychology courses here at Pierce College since 1999. Link started at Pennsylvania State University where he earned his BA, and stretches cross-country to University of Washington, for his PHD in social psychology.

Although those basic facts may make him seem like your average, old fart professor with the same snooze-fest classes of read-and-recite learning, he breaks down those stereotypes within minutes of chatting.

From his Birkenstocks to the rampant Seahawks gear, and welcoming, open discussion classroom atmosphere, his courses keep the mysteries of the brain interesting.

Link takes obscure mental disorders and scientific jargon from intimidating to relatable; after one course with him reflections of the lesson pop-up everywhere.

One of the biggest steps Link’s taken in improving his courses is writing and compiling his own text books.

Pierce College has a program called Open Educational Resources (OER), headed by Quill West.

The OER is a group of faculty adopting the idea of free, professor-written text books. It’s not easy to create, but there are many advantages over the normal textbook. They eliminate the need for the purchase of text books by students, reducing the cost of classes, while making the reading material extremely customizable to any particular course.

When more recent information on a subject crops up, there’s no need to purchase a whole new set of books or toss out the obsolete ones; the text book just gets a quick update and is ready to better educate its next students.

Who knew immortality could be both cheap and environmentally friendly?

So far, Link has compiled one full book for his Introduction to Psychology class, and has a work in progress for his Social Psych course, putting it in beta for the first time this quarter. Both of these are still in development, and will be as the science of psychology also does.

In the words of David Lippman, another member of faculty who writes OER books, “they’re in a continual revision process.”

That’s the brilliance of OER, it is the ideal way to teach the best material to the largest body of people.

Besides his excellent work as a professor, Tom Link cares deeply about modern social issues. He has attended rallies and events for organizations involved in supporting Black Lives Matter, NoDAPL, anti-trans exclusion, gun-safety, raising the minimum wage, and attended both the local and district caucuses this election.

Recently Link has taken up work to facilitate The People Assembly (TPA) visiting Pierce College. This organization’s focus is on empowerment against discrimination in the multitude of forms it takes in our communities.

Link has taken up work to facilitate The People Assembly (TPA) visiting Pierce College. This organization’s focus is on empowerment against discrimination in the multitude of forms it takes in our communities.

They attempt to achieve this by, “…acknowledging and confronting the history of this country, interrupting white supremacy, and unlearning the messages we receive that disconnect us from ourselves and each other.” (TPA Facebook page).

Link represents these values in his daily life; you’d be hard pressed to find him on campus without a Black Lives Matter shirt on or a sheet of paper pinned to his sleeve with the same words.

Link isn’t alone in his deep concern for our nations’ future; it’s an important aspect of his family life. Both his wife and son are also heavily involved in these same rallies and events.

His wife, Jo Anne Geron, is a professor at Pierce as well, teaching courses in psychology. She is working toward being a resource for immigrant students by learning Spanish.

They are both in active support of the Leadership Without Borders initiative at University of Washington. This organization is designed to help undocumented students still achieve their educational goals.

Another aspect of Link’s passions for social growth is his advocacy for Banned Books Week, during which he and a few other Pierce staff members put together a gathering based upon understanding the background behind some of our nations most banned books, and the reasons for which they were pulled from shelves.

Through dedication to the institution of learning, open-minded discussion, and the betterment of our society, Tom Link has educated and improved the lives of many students and is a part of the continuing growth of social awareness.

‘Hidden Figures’ explores fascinating lives of black women scientists

A recent movie that is bringing light to the real stars of the space race


Hidden Figures is a romanticized look into the true story of the brilliant minds who sent the United States into space, as well as some of Civil Rights movement’s greatest steps forward.

The movie showcases the careers of three immensely talented African American women working for NASA during the space race of the 1960s. Katherine Johnson was a brilliant mathematician who calculated the safe landing trajectory of the Friendship 7, the first space craft to safely house an American astronaut into and back down from Earth’s orbit. Dorothy Vaughan was the head of the female, “colored calculators,” and lead the programming team with the induction of the computer into NASA. Mary Jackson assisted in the design of multiple shuttles, as well as being one of the first African American’s to study in a segregated, all-white Virginian High School for expanding her engineering degrees.

They each had extensive skill that made them crucial parts of their teams. Through engineering, computer science, and mathematical genius these women proved their worthiness past the shrouds of institutionalized racism inherent in high-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields of the time, blazing a trail for non-white women into powerful, professional positions.

During its 127-minute run time, the movie tackles the discrimination experienced by women and people of color brilliantly, examining various levels of prejudice without dehumanizing the people implementing the racist acts. From the dispersed “colored” and “whites” signs that fit eerily in the scenes.

Throughout the film the film-makers tip their Hollywood hats to the effects of Martin Luther King Jr., the Woolworth lunch counter sit-in, and the Freedom Rides. The filmmakers did not use blatant racist attacks like beatings or thrown around slurs that we often see recreated from history, however they highlighted the more roundabout, and subtle ways in which discrimination takes place. This allowed the film a deeper expression of the skewed cultural norms for prejudice of the time.

The biggest downfall of the movie was the short run-time. Though the plot was not distractingly rushed, it barely touches base before moving from one development to the next. For a home-run film like this, the creators could have taken a more leisurely stroll in the lives of these amazing women, and the other important people involved in the first American flights into space.

Vibrantly witty, exceptionally well-acted, and gorgeously filmed, this movie will educate on prior Civil Rights battles while allowing one to recognize the intricacies of the fight for equality.

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