Pierce Pioneer

Kicking it with Q – Episode 3 – Food for Thought: Valentines Day

Quintin Mattson-Hayward and Daniel So go around asking students about their Valentines Day thoughts.

Editor: Quintin Mattson-Hayward

Logo: Jesus Contreras

Chaz Serna: passionate about reform

Meet your new Fort Steilacoom Student Government President

Bigger than life with a radio voice, a gentle smile and a hearty, kind laugh – that’s what students experience when they meet new Student Body president Chaz Serna.

“This door opened up and I took it,” said Serna. “It’s very exciting.”

Serna views himself as a mediator between the activities board, the student government, and what they collectively do together.

“I see my world as finding ways to reach out to and connect with the student body and to interest them in building a community here at Pierce College,” said Serna. “My role is to facilitate those things and bring them about; to be the voice in the presence of the legislators and the Board of Trustees and to oversee the respective projects the senators have going on.”

His vision for Pierce College Fort Steilacoom starts with easing stress and beating down barriers to education.

“We’re trying to enhance the educational and health experience that people can have here because health starts in your mind,” said Serna. “Your body can really react to the things that are going on in your mind — stressors and stress levels – so we’re trying to ease that. We’re trying to reach out to our more at-risk population, people who are on the cusp of having issues of not being able to pursue their education. We’re all about trying to beat those barriers down and build bridges, build pathways, build roads, if need be, out of one place to another for an individual.”

His term for 2019-2020 started this summer with workshops, conferences, and joining Director of Student Life, Cameron Cox, and Student Life Program Coordinator, Allie Morrow, for training.

“Chaz ran his own nonprofit and has experience working with people, teams, and communities,” said Cox. “Those are unique skill sets that he’s bringing. Not every student body president in the past has had those specific life experiences.”

I will continue to listen, to see, to implore, to ask, to try to get students to engage, and to teach them that they can come to us with issues,”

— Chaz Serna, Student Body President

Cox went on to say how he believes Serna to be a very goal oriented man; passionate about his values and genuinely caring about making a difference. He cares about Pierce College and his fellow students.

Serna immediately went to work tackling three issues before fall quarter even began. One of the main issues is the Health Administration Center (HEC) fee which he hopes to eliminate.

“Another one of my larger issues is financial aid – the way it happens, the way it doesn’t happen, the loopholes,” said Serna. 

“Other colleges have up-to-date ways of dealing with and distributing funds.”

Serna is also trying to bring self-compacting, solar powered recycling trash cans to the campus, as a way to encourage recycling.

“The ones we have now, the birds get into them and spread trash everywhere, and nobody wants to clean it up,” said Serna. “These trash cans, they cannot get into. They hold five times the capacity of a normal trash can.”

Serna hopes to knock off these challenges left and right. “If they give me authority to do things, I’m going to use it,” he said. “It’s not about trying to leave my print or name on anything, I’m just trying to leave something that future student body generations are going to be able to appreciate and enjoy. What matters is the lasting legacy.”

Serna enjoys supporting each student government senator and their programs, and leading by servitude.

“I will continue to listen, to see, to implore, to ask, to try to get students to engage, and to teach them that they can come to us with issues,” said Serna. “Whatever it may be, if we ourselves can’t help you we’re going to direct you in some path where you can get help. We want to do as much as we can, to be the servants we were hired to be.”

His humble heart has roots in a very tough childhood and upbringing, during which he learned powerful lessons about people and life that he plans to use while at Pierce.

Serna did prison ministry and taught Sunday School for six years. He also started his own nonprofit organization, called CJS Urban Outreach Ministries that reached out to homeless children, to give back to the things he didn’t have when he was a kid.

“That’s what I sought to do, hence my major of clinical psychology,” said Serna. “I want to work in abnormal psychology with kids.”

In the meantime Serna has big plans for students at Pierce College this year, specifically to create a community.

“We don’t want sects of individuals here, and cliques of individuals here and there,” said Serna. “We want to show people: Have pride in where you go to school. Don’t just come, go to school, and then go about your business. Be part of this community. Serve in ways that you can. Give back.

“We want the student body to know they have a real voice. Student input won’t fall on deaf ears, fall through the cracks, or get caught in bureaucratic red tape. We want to create a vibrant, viable, healthy community that’s inclusive to all.”

Julie A. White and what it means to be involved

Kotone Ochiai / Staff Photographer
President White getting interviewed by Lizzy Rowe

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president Julia A. White goes in depth on her life and what her goals and intents are for the students under her.

Pierce College centers its focus on providing educational opportunities through equity, inclusion and accessibility to all communities. Julie A. White, Ph.D and current Fort Steilacoom Pierce College president keeps those key components at the core of her work.

White was looking for the next step in her career and had her eye on Pierce for some years now. “Pierce is a national leader and trendsetter in the community college sector,” she adds. “When I saw this job opening was available, I was excited, and I got right on it.”

Growing up in a rural community in Indiana, White’s family had never been to college. Her father dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, and her grandfather couldn’t read or write. “Academics came easily to me, but I did feel adrift. It wasn’t something my family had experienced,” White disclosed. “They definitely supported me but didn’t know how to.”

In high school, White was encouraged by her English teacher and music instructors. They brought out her potential and helped her through tough times in life. “I experienced the power of literature and music to help me understand the human experience and connect my own emotions to the broader world. I wanted to bring that to others,” she states.

As a first-generation college student, White says not to let anyone limit you or define what you can accomplish. “There are so many people with stories like mine who have accomplished amazing things. Get to know those people because those are the people that can help bolster you.”

Julie White / Courtesy Photo

Equity is the accessibility of student opportunity and success with the individual needs of students at the heart. White says people with less opportunities or lack of resources create a separation and a less vibrant culture for all. “We have a lot of work to do in this country around historical racism, sexism and the conditions we see today are rooted in those histories. We can’t go back and change that, but we can address the current conditions.”

With the national presidential election underway, many candidates ran on a platform of reducing or eliminating student debt, particularly for community colleges. White states that college should be free to everyone because financially it’s a huge barrier that if removed gives more opportunities to students. 

“There would be funds for daily living expenses for students who work full time and part time.” She proposes this innovation so students can work less and focus more on their academics.

The Washington State Legislator has increased funding so more students can receive grants. There is no effective plan for the grants between federal and state financial aid regulations, but White is continually working with community college presidents on innovative projects. “We are creating a virtual hub of community resources that will help students identify their financial needs and services in the community,” White says.

White’s first steps in her new role is to listen and to learn. Having conversations with students, faculty and examining student success data will help her understand where the barriers lie and how they can improve them. 

When she is not in the office or at a community event, White enjoys yoga, hiking, biking and being outdoors. She is excited to experience the culture and beauty Washington has to offer. White also has a son and a daughter who are musicians and are enrolled in graduate school. “I think there are some helpful genes there, but they have worked really hard. I am very proud of them,” she states.  

White says you can expect to see her on campus attending student events, and she welcomes any new ideas students bring forth. “They should know I am out in the community talking about how great they are and trying to spread the word about Pierce so more students can take advantage of the opportunities that we have.”

Homestay & New Student BBQ

Pierce College Connecting with Students Through Art

WOWHAUS Art Studio / Courtesy Photos
A large replica ctreated to showcase how the Ascent art piece will look once completed.

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s new art installation is meant to connect and inspire students attending the campus.

How do you define art?

Scott Constable of WOWHAUS Art Studio says it is a way of interpreting and understanding the world. “Art is the cousin to science and a mode of inquiry,” says Constable. He is the creator of the ASCENT sculpture located in the stairwell of the Cascade Building, which is a central hub for students. “I believe it’s a good metaphor for education by climbing the stairs,” he says. “And I was inspired by the students.” 

Suspending from the four-story stairwell, the piece appears like a large fan with several smaller shaped fans on top. Every shape and angle capture a student’s growth and success in school. “When you are in school, you are exposed to many different viewpoints, and with those you create your own narrative,” says Constable. The sculpture is meant to be viewed from different angles while each view gives you a different perspective. “It’s always dynamic- just like the students,” he added. 

The process of creating this art piece began around 6 years ago when the committee wanted to incorporate an artistic element to the school. David Roholt, an art professor at Pierce, said it was a collaborative project with the artist and the Washington Art Commission. “Being able to work with various colleagues on campus was rewarding, and the artists were easy to work with,” says Roholt.

WOWHAUS Art Studio / Courtesy Photos
Scott Constablemaking the measurements for the Ascent art piece.

The ASCENT sculpture is made of wood and took four months to craft, both by hand and computer. There were some challenges to making this piece work in the stairwell so that it wasn’t easy to touch. Constable stated he made a model and took measurements. Afterwards he had a structural engineer make it earthquake proof.

WOWHAUS is based out of Oakland, California and consists of Scott Constable, his wife Ene, and his daughter Aili. “When my daughter was about one and a half, I was building a tiny studio in the backyard that was seven feet by nine feet. She would always say I was in the wow house,” says Constable. “It’s also a take on BOWHAUS in Germany who were the inventors of modernism.”

Nature is Constable’s main source of inspiration. He became interested in art at a young age and began by just drawing trees. “Drawing taught me to see in color, form, compositions, line and shade,” says Constable. He loves to experiment with 3D, abstract and moire patterns. Growing food and raising chickens with his family in the California Redwood Forest would constantly spark his imagination and creativity.

The sculpture has many meanings to everyone. Roholt says it’s pivotal to the environment, being that Pierce is an academic institution. The intent is to add color and something unexpected for students. “It will add an artistic element to make the campus even more beautiful,” he says.

Constable says the most rewarding part of the process is when the sculpture is displayed. “When it’s installed, it belongs there, and it belongs to the students through generations.”

There are many students pursuing a career in the arts, and Constable knows firsthand what it is like… “Making a living as a professional artist is notoriously difficult and is often frowned upon as a career path,” he states. “My advice to any young person interested in pursuing a career as an artist is to be an excellent communicator. The sweet spot is in understanding your strengths and limitations, finding the best medium to express your ideas, and understanding how the marketplace relates to your artistic endeavors.”

New changes to the Campus Safety Office

The Campus Safety Office went through remodeling over the summer with the hopes of improving student experiences

I need help.

It’s not unusual for college students to say this on campus. Whether that help be navigating the campus, or needing personal assistance and not knowing where to get it. It’s a normal part of being a college student, and it is important to know where students can receive that support.

Pierce College’s Campus Safety Office, located on the third floor of the Cascade Building, is here to assist both new and returning students with any burning questions. Jeffrey Schneider, the Director of Campus Safety, wants all students to know that they can come to them for anything.

Ciara Williams / Staff Photos

“We’re kind of the one stop shop,” said Schneider. “If you don’t know the answer to something or don’t know where something is or who to talk to, you can come to us. We can either answer your question or put you in contact with someone who can.”

Over the summer, the Campus Safety Office went through remodeling, with the hopes of providing students a better environment. Pierce has added a glass window in the office which now closes off the area from the public. This provides students and staff privacy to air out any and all problems.

Originally, the office was a tall counter where students went with their questions. Schneider states that the old set up did not comply with American Disability Act guidelines, meaning the state would have required the remodeling. However, Schneider felt that making a few extra changes to better the student’s experiences would be a benefit for the future.

“In the past victims who needed a space to talk felt not as comfortable to do so, due to the original set up,” said Schneider. By providing privacy, the staff hopes students will feel more comfortable to come to them for help.

Campus security has also done work over the summer, including teaming with local law enforcement to better prepare in the event of an incident. On Sept. 5, Campus Safety held an all-day training in the Rainier Building with the Lakewood Police Department. Schneider states that this allows officers to better familiarize themselves with the campus

The Campus Safety Office has made itself an available source for a plethora of situations. “We’ve done everything,” said Schneider. “From call ambulances, to providing first aid, and for the case of running start students, connecting students and family members.”

On a typical day, the usual questions students bring to the office involves finding where their classroom is located or how to receive a parking permit. Though at times, students will come to the office with more serious concerns.

There has been no particular safety issues on either campus and that is outstanding. There are very few crimes that go on here, and that’s the way we like it.”

— Jeff Schneider

Schneider mentions how there are times where students are experiencing dating violence or may even be the victim of other serious crimes. Schneider makes it clear that students can bring non-school related concerns to them if needed; the office can refer students or staff to counseling or law enforcement. Ultimately, it starts with Campus Safety.

The office does what it can to alleviate any concerns students might have while on campus. Students uncomfortable with walking to their car at night after class can go to Campus Safety and receive an escort. 

If a student’s car is broken into, or a stranger or classmate is making them uncomfortable - Campus Safety is here to help with these concerns. Students seeking help only need to stay aware and ask when needed; all it takes is that first initial step from students. .

Schneider finds it important that students are aware that they are responsible for their own security as well. Campus Safety is here to serve students and will always be available, but it is up to the students to take that extra step in keeping themselves safe. “If you hear something, you have to react. Make sure that you are visible,” said Schneider, whether it be about a problem, vehicle, or a student in general.

With new students preparing to attend Pierce College this fall, many may be curious as to how Pierce intends to assure them that they are safe here. America as of recent has been going through hard times regarding gun violence and public safety, and Schneider wishes to say this to any students in need of assurance. 

“There has been no particular safety issues on either campus and that is outstanding. There are very few crimes that go on here, and that’s the way we like it. We have built in systems, and more safety mechanisms; so should an unfortunate event here happen, more people will be safe.”

What Campus safety can do for you


Campus Safety is located in CAS311

You can receive a parking pass from the Campus Safety Office

You can receive a security escort to your car, or even to the bus stop

Campus Safety can provide First Aid, CPR, and other medical assistance

Campus Safety can refer you to counseling

Campus Safety can help you locate a class or room

Any thefts or crimes on campus can be reported to them

Campus Safety can assist students going through dating/relationship violence

Campus Safety can notify students of any serious incidents happening on campus

Campus Safety regularly holds training to better improve security during any incident

Incidents on the Fort Steilacoom campus can be reported 

via their office number: (253) 964 - 6751

Campus safety officer aspires to do bigger things after graduation

Alyssa Wilkins / Staff Photo

Edgar Velasco uses his college experiences to
prepare him for what he’ll be doing next

Some people watch crime shows for fun. Other people imagine how to solve crimes in their sleep. These people often begin to wonder if these shows depict real experiences for law enforcement.

Such was the case for twenty-year-old criminal justice major and aspiring corrections officer, Edgar Velasco. After graduating with his associate’s degree this spring and transferring to the University of Washington for his Bachelor’s degree, he will get to find out.

Velasco became intrigued by law entertainment platforms because of the debates and cases of diverse backgrounds. He was drawn in by two contrasting reality shows. One portrayed inmates who are aggressive and intimidating, whereas the other, where guards have a great rapport with inmates.

His fascination with discovering the truths behind these stories inspired him to pursue a career in criminal justice. Additionally, he has a great curiosity in how laws are formed and how they affect his community. This interest will serve him well as a police officer – something he can see himself doing in the future.  

He had originally wanted to go to South Puget Sound because he lived in Lacey. However, the college didn’t have a criminal justice program, and that is what brought him to Pierce.

Alyssa Wilkins / Staff Photo

As part of his curriculum studies, he was able to take a tour of a local corrections facility.  Because of that experience, he started looking at being a corrections officer as a stepping stone to becoming a police officer. 

Velasco works as a safety guard at Pierce, which gives him first-hand experience. The position has helped him overcome his concerns about getting his foot through the door in the criminal justice field. He questioned himself to see if he was mentally prepared for this career. However, with the security job, “It’s definitely given me more confidence about the future,” he said.

As a first-generation college student, he also felt a lot of pressure. One quarter before he was scheduled to graduate, Velasco felt the impulse to drop out because he was mentally drowning. However, he overcame the desire and will be graduating this June. He finds pride in doing this for his family. By the time the quarter ended, he found his personal pride has turned into a driven force for himself.

He put leisurely activities on the backburner in order to solely focus on his college and future career. He has put all his time and energy on school and working his security job which will help him pursue his future career path. “I am here for a purpose,” he said. That purpose placed him on the Dean’s list last quarter.

He hopes to make both his parents and grandparents proud while also doing it for himself. Velasco asked himself, “Do you want to have a successful life? That’s what I want, so I keep pushing through.”

Student Government hosts Q & A

State Representatives discuss textbooks, open education resources

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On May 18 local state reps came to sit on a Q & A panel moderated by Terrell Engmann, Leg. Senator, and Zoe Sundberg, Student President.

Beginning Jan. 2018, students in Washington can view required textbooks and course materials during class registration. Local state legislation recently passed a law requiring community and technical colleges to indicate required materials in the online registration process.

            Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, said she met with the student liaison at Pierce College, Puyallup, who asked her if it was possible to include the cost of textbooks with registration. Seeking a solution in the rising cost of materials that students encounter, Stambaugh then brought the idea to fellow Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, who sponsored the bill and brought it forward for a vote.

“I’m proud to say that the idea from a student at Pierce just became the law this past session” said Stambaugh.

House Bill 1375, passed on Feb. 14, 2017, will help students better budget their education and decrease the likeliness of students dropping out of college due to unexpected costs.

            Currently, students can navigate their way through a syllabus and locate a textbook or ISBN number and purchase materials ahead of time through a third party.

Others are not so lucky. As class materials can vary in cost from zero to more than $200, students who are unfamiliar with the registration process might end up with sticker shock when it comes the campus bookstore. As a result, students may end up dropping classes.

            As the new bill is implemented, students should expect to see links to the school’s bookstore website or other websites to price out the materials prior to registration. If open education resources are available, those will be indicated as well.

Classes that do not have an assigned instructor will not have a textbook noted during registration. However, once an instructor is assigned to the course, the required course materials must be updated promptly. The bill is meant to incentivize professors to utilize less expensive materials.

Engmann reminded the legislators how textbook costs have increased drastically over time, affecting students negatively.

“Students now feel a need to advocate for themselves to find alternatives that can serve as less of a burden,” he said.

Online resources have shown to be cheaper and more accessible but the adoption of these resources into curriculum seems to be a common point of confusion,” he said. 

Engmann, Sundberg, and vice president Jacob Smith, participated in this year’s Legislative Voice Academy where they brought forth a remedy to the solution.

“We came up with idea of employing a position at each institution that specializes in connecting students and faculty with open resources,” Engmann said.

Engmann addressed the panel in its stance on open education resources and awareness of current efforts in Olympia surrounding this issue?”

Stambaugh, a prime sponsor of Open Education Resource Legislation for the past three years said she is a fierce advocate of expanding open education resources. She said she has been communicating with Pierce College and other two- and four-year institutions to learn of their current open education resource options, how they are being implemented and where they can expand.

“The first two years, the model that I used was based off the University of Massachusetts Amherst that funded faculty grants for them to develop open education resource,” she said about the bill she sponsored.

The success was by doing a 10k investment over one year (4 quarters), of students utilizing those open education resource materials; they saved $70k dollars for students. That is a huge return on investment and that is the value that OER investment could have for students.”

As Stambaugh praised open resources, she said there were challenges during the model. “Let’s say one faculty member develops a math curriculum that isn’t necessarily expanded upon. Other faculty members don’t maybe understand the benefit of learning how to create their open education resources for a different class or different subject area.”

However, she said there is a benefit of having a campus liaison with and an institutional knowledge that faculty members can go to when they are trying to develop open resources.

“More legislators are gaining an understanding of the value. We could potentially make it work this year, if not maybe next year, when we have a supplemental budget,” Stambaugh said.

Bobi Foster-Grahler and Psychology professor Jo Anne Geron remember when the Fort Steilacoom campus had different groups and spaces for the LGBTQ community over the years.

Staff would like to see club’s return, Puyallup campus offers assistance

Bobi+Foster-Grahler+and+Psychology+professor+Jo+Anne+Geron+remember+when+the+Fort+Steilacoom+campus+had+different+groups+and+spaces+for+the+LGBTQ+community+over+the+years.

Foster-Grahler said there used to be educational forums on LGBTQ issues for the staff, which later was available for students. Foster-Grahler and former faculty member Sharon Cramner started the Safe Zone Sticker Project, where some of the faculty and staff would wear symbols indicating that they were safe people for LGBTQ students to approach.

But much of the Gay Straight Alliance clubs didn’t last, Foster-Grahler said.

“I think it's because the students are here for maybe two years and they're just kind of getting their feet on the ground. I think also with the LGBTQ community there's a stigma that is attached to that,” she said. “One of the reasons I really wanted to do the Safe Zone Sticker Project was because students had expressed some pretty blatant hatred against (LQBTQ) at Pierce College. People getting their cars keyed, people being yelled at in classrooms about 'you should die' kind of stuff and faculty not being able to stand up against that. So I think there's that fear factor that can come in.”

Social stigma, a lack of continuous club leadership and the challenges of starting and maintaining a club also have an impact, said Rhiannon Webber, student leader of the Gay Straight Alliance at the Puyallup campus.

“One of the main challenges (of starting the Puyallup campus club) has been that there was no legacy information from any of the previous clubs and that we've had to figure things out as we go, without really knowing if certain things have a chance of success,” she said. “Another challenge has been that there have been major changes to the way that the Office of Student Life at Puyallup interacts with clubs, and how clubs are expected to interact with (Student Life), since this last fall (2016), so both the (Gay Straight Alliance) and (Student Life) are still working to figure out what works best.”

Changes could have a positive benefit.

Foster-Grahler said, “Our student government has changed the rules on clubs. It's not so you have to do these 17 things or we'll kick you out. Now it's like there's four things and ‘Let's just try to keep you going.’”

The need for an alliance is very apparent, Webber said.

"There are definitely LGBTQIAP+ people at the Fort Steilacoom campus who would like a Gay Straight Alliance to form, and there are people at Puyallup who take classes at Fort Steilacoom who would like a similar space there that we have here."

April Spaulding, program director at SafePlace in Olympia, said, "I think finding community is really important, so like surrounding yourself with other people who identify as LGBTQ. I think that's super important, especially because coming out can be a really hard time with families. Sometimes people's families reject them. If you're still living at home, sometimes families kick you out of the house. That's why around 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ...finding community is probably the number one thing to do to kind of create that secondary family."

Educating the Pierce College community on LGBTQ issues is equally important to creating safe spaces, Webber said.  The Puyallup campus has made strides in this department.

“We've been able to spread a lot of information about the LGBTQIAP+ community,” Webber said. “This year, we've had a series of panels wherein student volunteers share their experiences as related to various topics, such as "Gender 101,” common myths and misconceptions, and lesser known identities. After each one, there are people who approach us with more questions and we often hear that people are thankful we explained something they were afraid to ask about.”

Foster-Grahler is an advocate for LGBTQ education on the FS campus.

She said, “I would like to see the college more blatantly insisting on a culture of inclusivity and talking about issues because my belief is, no matter if we talk about it or demonstrate it or show it in the classroom or in the hallways, it's still there. We still have LGBTQ staff, we still have LGBTQ students, community members that come in. It's like people being afraid of talking about Black Lives Matter. So if we don't talk about it, it's still in the room with us. So why don't we have an informed discussion and learn from each other? I think that having a presence of the LGBTQ community helps our community be stronger.”

Webber said she is available to help the Fort Steilacoom community start a Gay Straight Alliance or  LGBTQ club. Contact her for assistance through her email,[email protected].

Hey, Can we talk?

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Communication is a wonderful thing. In today’s world, technology takes microseconds to send information to a select few or to the masses.

Emails are sent out to the students on the campus daily. Most of the time they barely get recognition.  There are announcements for Student Life events, Canvas notifications for those whose teachers use it, and emergency alerts as needed.

Among them recently was a notification about a “Code of Conduct” meeting. Details were provided about location and time, but very little else. The very small handful that showed up learned that the Pierce College Student Conduct Code is being revised in places. The meeting was to garner feedback for the changes before being implemented.

There is also a buzz on the campus about the purchase of a food trailer. Was it purchased? What is the purpose? Where did the money come from? Details have been hard to pin down.

Current students have been trying for about a week to get classes set up for the next quarter. Because class codes and details about class times have being reworked, this has been a complicated process for some.

At least the Legislative Panel hosted by the student government was promoted, sort of. That promotion was done for those who walked by the table where they were handing out voting ballots for the outstanding faculty.

Those interested in coming to the Standing Rock play also found problems. Unlike other productions, tickets for this show were available only online – regardless of student or guest

Overall, they are a symptom of a larger problem. The community still needs to know what is going on.

Yes, it is the end of the quarter and for many, graduation is just around the corner. Campus life is busy.

It takes just a few minutes to take the time to send out an email, to post a sign, to get the word out.

The community does want to know what is going on. Details are important; they determine the course of action if someone is going to participate or not.

We all have a responsibility to tell people what is going on in their world. Things that happened, events coming up, changes in policies, all of these deserve their own spotlight.

The Smoke Pit

The+Smoke+Pit

         The smoke pit, the vile eyesore of a health-conscious Washingtonian. Opinion of smokers, who suck down cancer sticks like they’ll live forever, ranks low nationwide. Smokers are considered social pariahs, cast aside because the habit they share is widely considered disgusting and extremely unhealthy. While the health issues are medically proven, the health consequences pale in comparison to the smell of freshly burned carcinogens on a smoker’s clothing.

         Many people are afraid to visit this center of intellectual stimulation. This gathering place, in my experience, is a trip back in time to what I imagined a college experience is supposed to be. Not the parties, the athletic events, club rushes or other activities with like-minded students. I picture the time when college was there to open your mind to beliefs, ideals, and points of view that conflict with the bubble college students were raised in.

         In this place, the Socratic Method is alive and well. There is no Powerpoint, Wamap, or Canvas. There isn’t a group of kids with headphones in; drowning out the world while blindly scrolling through algorithmically programmed social media. This is a place of free idea, opinion and speech where almost no topic is off limits. In this archaic institute of free thinking, spurred by a lecture, there was discussion about the allegory of Plato’s cave and how it relates to the modern day.

         In the short ten minutes between classes discussions ranging from the geopolitical implications of North Korea’s continued aggression, the link between Afghanistan’s opium production and heroin addiction, and the effects of prolonged warfare fill the air between puffs of smoke.

         Talks of what could happen if a nuclear device or an electromagnetic pulse detonated in Seattle. Imagine the chaos if the world’s largest tech companies were abruptly left without power. Or worse yet, watching as your entire internet social life disappears in an instant.

         As these stimulating conversations fill the air; smokers watch as other classmates idly stroll by on their way to class. Most of them glued to a screen where programmers and psychologists are purposely coding the content of your life: reference Plato’s Cave allegory and the shadows on the wall.

         If one were to put away the shackles that bind you and see the smoke pit for what it really is,  one would have a wonderful tale of intellectual stimulation unlike anything ever experienced before. Sadly, your friends will refuse to believe the story you tell. Instead, they’ll be too busy staring at their phones believing only what is being shown to them.

         In my opinion, Pierce College shouldn’t ban smoking completely. In this group there is no divide based on the classification systems human’s created. The perceived divide depicted by the media amongst race, religion, ethnicity, gender preference, or other human classification systems is virtually nonexistent.

          Smokers are already part of an endangered minority in this country. They realize the health consequences of their actions. But they will not forget the people they met, the conversations that were held, and the laughs that were shared. Because they spent time actually being social, not pretending to be.

         Remember in eight minutes a sudden burst of energy from the sun, traveling at the speed of light, could destroy the magnetic field and obliterate all life on earth without any warning (because nothing travels faster than the speed of light). You should lighten up a bit; smokers do. Let them enjoy their assigned safe space, because being social is a rare commodity these days.

‘Sweeney Todd’ takes bloody revenge in upcoming play

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

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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.

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