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  • New FAFSA launch initiative results in uncertain circumstances for students

    Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) has launched a new 2024-25 initiative to encourage lower-income and under-represented students and families to apply to college. According to the official FAFSA website, the 2024-25 FAFSA will include “even more aid for single parents, including expanded eligibility for the maximum Pell Grant funds and a larger increase in Income Protection Allowance.” This new initiative that is now in the works, however, is causing delays that have been affecting Willamette’s financial aid team and students. According to AP News, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), a formula measuring a family’s financial strength that takes a family’s assets, income, benefits and social security into consideration, will now be replaced with a different formula known as the Student Aid Index (SAI), which “will help determine the amount that each student can receive in financial aid.” SAI is considered to be a more productive method of determining student aid because it allows families to include and exclude different things as assets and it also takes into consideration the number of children families already have in college. “These changes make the SAI a more accurate reflection of which students actually have the greatest need for financial aid,” concluded AP News. The new system was created with the purpose of further helping students. However, it has become problematic for some families. The excitement of the launch was short-lived as it was announced on the FAFSA website that there would be routine pauses to the FAFSA portal for frequent technical updates and site maintenance. This created delays for families and students, such as the inability to log into the FAFSA portal with a FAFSA ID. This also made access to financial aid significantly more difficult for students who do not have a Social Security Number yet require verification of identity. Sue Corner, the dean of undergraduate admission and a Willamette alum, mentioned that FAFSA had a solid goal, but released the new launch before it was ready. The premature release caused a multitude of problems, such as not opening FAFSA forms until Jan. 1 when they typically open on Oct. 1. Even though the program was launched, it was called a “soft launch.” “A lot of people who tried to go in and fill it out didn’t know it didn’t work. It had glitches and is continuing to have glitches, so there are a lot of students who are still battling to get their FAFSA information,” said Corner. The delays in FAFSA have made it difficult for colleges to put together financial aid packages, but without FAFSA’s communication of their problems and their slowness in processing student information, colleges are unable to do anything. Many of FAFSA’s issues are affecting existing students personally. Lizzie Pfister (‘27) recalled, “There were problems with getting my mom connected to it and once it was filled out, there were issues with making a correction. My first FAFSA was denied by Willamette until the correction was made in late April. Then it was accepted after the form was resubmitted.” The effect on enrollment numbers for the upcoming year is uncertain with these FAFSA changes. Corner explained, “Long term, our goal would be about 2,000 undergraduate students total, so that means we’re bringing in maybe 550-525 each year. We could be a little bit smaller, but it’s just too early to tell. I don’t think it will be significantly smaller.” News of the FAFSA updates also stirred a panic in the sports department of many colleges as schools scrambled for recruitment, but Willamette has continued to find success as a Division III school. Head softball coach Paige Hall stated, “We didn’t have any issues with FAFSA and our recruiting this year since every school was in the same boat. It may have delayed the process for some student-athletes but ultimately it ended up working out for us.” James Meul, the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach of Willamette’s baseball team, noted that the team did not encounter any issues when it came to recruiting but were concerned they could have. Unlike the school, the team was only dealing with seven or eight new incoming students and families, and Meul felt, “It’s been something where the individual families that we have recruited have worked it out.” Willamette has been productive in communicating with prospective families and students about FAFSA’s issues. As many schools shy away from explaining the process of student aid for 2024-25 due to a lack of knowledge, Willamette continues to notify and help families that are struggling with issues relating to FAFSA, according to Corner. In terms of this success, Corner credits Patti Hogan, Willamette’s director of financial aid, who carries a high level of expertise when handling financial aid situations. While other schools were unable to communicate clearly with prospective students and families due to FAFSA’s delays, Willamette was able to release scholarships and awards before many other schools. “[Hogan] knows what she is doing and that has really built competence with our prospective students,” said Corner. Corner concluded, “[Willamette is] doing everything we can. The people that we can’t help yet are those truly stuck. The thing we can do is extend the deadline for specific families who we can’t help until FAFSA gives them what they need.” Students and families have received guidance from Willamette as both the school and prospective students are in the same boat in receiving information and updates from FAFSA itself.

  • Opinion: What are Bearcats listening to right now?

    From reggae to indie rock, pop to jazz, music is embedded into the student life at Willamette, playing in ears as students head to classes. Whether they’re blasting their music from Spotify, Apple Music or Pandora, students find themselves listening to everything from “Praise Jah In The Moonlight” by Jg Marley to Benson Boone’s “Beautiful Things” as they work on homework, prepare for their finals, work out and eat. But how do Bearcats find new songs? How many hours per day are they streaming music and what else are they listening to? To a lot of Bearcats, music is comforting. Whether it's soothing and provokes some inner calmness or brings a rush into their blood and hypes them up, music is a resource that is utilized as a way to inspire or awaken students’ minds as they finish or start their assignments. However, not everyone can listen to music while completing homework. Vanessa Wallace (‘27), who’s currently listening to Hozier’s new album “Unheard,” spends between two and three hours a day listening to music. She doesn’t listen to music when she studies as it prevents her from focusing on homework. Unlike Wallace, however, Juliana Ha (‘25), whose favorite artist is MisterWives, enjoys listening to classical music while she studies. Daily habits also mean that Bearcats have a chance to broaden their music affinity to something that challenges their go-to playlists. It gets repetitive listening to the same artist and their songs over and over, regardless of how exceptional their songs are. On TikTok, a social media platform where a lot of students are active, students find themselves singing to current hits such as Beyoncé’s “Texas Hold ‘Em” or Michael Marcagi’s “Scared To Start” while watching strangers dance or gossip through their screens. However, it’s not just TikTok, YouTube shorts and Instagram reels that are a source of their new favorite songs, it's also the radio and soundtracks of movies and TV shows that provide music that pleases students. Bearcats know what they like, so when they hear a song that amuses them, they quickly add it to their playlists. While rhythm and a good beat can determine the greatness of a song, being able to feel the tone of the song is what pulls students in and prompts them to add it to their playlist. Students spend hours listening to music, but there is a limit. Ciandra Choun (‘27) can’t listen to music while she studies because she “gets overstimulated and distracted” by the lyrics and the rhythm of one of her favorite artists, Laufey. There’s a point where listening to music gets to be too much, especially when studying. Some students listen to music for more than three hours a day. They spend their time blasting music in their dorm rooms or through headphones, all while trying to get from place to place and preparing for their classes. Whether they’re in Hatfield Library studying or in Goudy eating, Bearcats are usually seen with bulky headphones sitting on their heads or AirPods in their ears. Whether students are capable of listening to music while studying or not, they are vigilant about when their favorite artists come out with a new album or when they discover a song that's circulating either through TikTok or through their friends' playlists. Music is a valuable tool that Bearcats utilize as they finish their papers or walk to their classes. The screams of Benson Boones’ “Beautiful Things” or Jg. Marley’s “Praise Jah In The Moonlight,” popular background music on TikTok, come to an abrupt end as students find their class and settle down.

  • Seniors honor school spirit by wearing Blitz’s feet at graduation

    During this year’s commencement ceremony, some may notice unusual footwear among the graduates. That’s because every year, students who worked as the Blitz mascot during their time at Willamette reveal their involvement in the role by wearing Blitz’s feet at graduation. Assistant Director of Student Engagement and Leadership (SEAL) Jodi Santillie oversees the Blitz program as well as many other events and initiatives that are part of the SEAL office. She said the tradition emerged as a way to announce who has been part of the Blitz team in a fun way, as students must sign an agreement to keep their role on the Blitz team a secret until graduation. The Blitz team currently has eight student workers who perform at sporting events, Bearcat Days, Opening Days, commencement ceremonies and other university events. The team also employs several Blitz handlers, who assist the person wearing the Blitz costume, as well as a coordinator. Just as every new generation of student mascots have brought their own flair to the role, the mascot itself has evolved over time. Willamette’s first mascot was Barney, which then went through multiple changes in its more than 40 years as mascot, including new costume designs and renamings. Santillie said that the changes “[were] important in terms of school spirit and having this thing to rally behind.” The mascot’s original design most resembled the binturong, a dark-colored animal native to Asia. By contrast, Blitz the Bearcat looks more like a red panda. The tradition of wearing Blitz’s feet at graduation was inspired by the same tradition at the University of Oregon, which has a duck as its mascot. At this year’s graduation ceremony, which will be held on May 19, seniors who have worn the Blitz costume at university events during their time at Willamette will reveal their involvement and celebrate with loved ones, continuing the tradition and honoring school spirit one last time.

  • Students occupy university buildings, demand divestment from U.S. Defense Industry

    On Friday, May 3, student protesters began a peaceful occupation of the third floor of the Putnam University Center (UC) to call on Willamette University to disclose and divest investments linked to the U.S. arms industry, joining the waves of student occupations across the country protesting Israel’s actions in the war with Hamas. As of Saturday, May 4 at 10:10 a.m., the protesters have since moved their occupation to the Hatfield Library, an area with increased campus visibility. The organizers of the event, the Willamette Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), reached out to administrators to display their demands. Zander Huston (‘25), one of the organizers of the occupation and a member of the occupation group’s external communications team, sent an email to members of the administration at 10:51 a.m. on May 1 to display their demands. The list included the demand to “tell us if our money is funding genocide,” asking for a list of all corporations supported by Willamette endowment funds. The other demand was that the university “divest[s] from genocide” by canceling any investments involved in the U.S. arms industry. The email also stated that if the demands were not met by 5 p.m. on May 2, an occupation would begin. In a follow-up email sent on May 2, Huston reiterated the demands and included a list of 170 students who signed the petition. Huston also reached out to Dan Valles, senior vice president and chief operations officer, in the late afternoon of April 30 with specific questions and requests for resources to see whether university investments are tied to weapons manufacturers. According to a May 3 press release distributed by the SDS, “a representative met with an administrator who reminded us of the student code of conduct. We were assured that they would not be quick to call the police.” Additionally, the administration “affirmed ‘students’ right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.’” Further, they mentioned that Valles replied to an SDS representative “and offered to ‘meet next week’ to talk.” Other administrative emails that were sent to the entire Willamette community on May 2 and 3 from outgoing Dean of Students for Community Care & Inclusion Olivia Muñoz and University President Steve Thorsett also indirectly and directly stated that Valles should be the point of contact for questions related to the university endowment. Thorsett’s email to the Willamette community also provided an explanation of how Willamette manages endowment funds, explaining that the funds, which largely come from alumni donations and legacy gifts, are managed by an outside agency, Global Endowment Management (GEM). Alongside this, Willamette has an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Consideration Policy created to ensure returns on investments while ensuring that the investments “align with Willamette’s values.” In communication with The Collegian, Lauren Mulligan, the director of University Communications, reiterated that Valles is coordinating a meeting with the student organizers and that he “is the person to whom any questions about the endowment should be directed.” However, according to an out-of-office email from Valles, he is out of office until Tuesday, May 7. Some organizers expressed frustration with this, especially as the university named Valles as the sole individual to discuss endowment funds. “I doubt that there's only one person in the whole university who knows what our endowment is invested in,” Huston said. “That seems highly unlikely.” At 5:35 p.m. on May 4, Valles provided a statement to The Collegian in regards to his absence and explained why he proposed an in-person meeting. “I’m happy to meet with students who have questions and want to learn more about the endowment and how it supports the work of faculty, financial assistance to students and the unique Willamette student experience. Unfortunately, a long-planned family trip has me away from campus and on Eastern Time,” Valles explained. He also mentioned that there wouldn’t be many documents beyond the financial statements organizers have already found to show where investments go. “[Huston] had already located the financial statements, which are publicly available, and display how tuition and fee dollars are used. This is visible in the Statement of Activities,” Valles said. “The financial statements do not provide details of specific investments, and there are no other documents that do. Hence, my statement to Zander and my offer to meet in person to review how we manage the endowment.” Senior Zeke Druker (‘24), another organizer of the occupation, clarified the nature of the request for divestment, noting that Willamette has undergone similar divestments in the past. Most recently, the university committed to divest from fossil fuels, and according to the 2021 Climate Action Plan, the university is 97.98% divested. “We think [of] eliminating that sector from Willamette investments in the same way that the fossil fuel sector was eliminated,” Druker said. “Previously, it’s been a reasonable demand.” Since no additional information was released regarding which companies were being funded through Willamette investments by May 2 at 5 p.m., per the list of demands, the SDS began a campus occupation. The Occupation At noon on May 3, roughly 50 protesters met in Jackson Plaza to walk to the University Center building. According to an SDS organizer who requested to be quoted anonymously, the UC building was initially chosen as a “home base” as the building had “administrative offices and is a hub for students on campus.” Additionally, the source mentioned that the building provided additional safety as it has 24-hour access and the facilities needed for an overnight stay. Once the group arrived at the UC, they designated an area for food and other essential items like period products, first aid kits and paper communications. Additionally, once settled, two group meetings were held to discuss the goals of the protest, coordinate communication and watch schedules and receive group input on further logistical processes. The main takeaways expressed were that the occupation is nonviolent and there would be no blockade in place, meaning that administrators and employees on the third floor would not be blocked from entering their workspaces. However, the group clarified that in the presence of a university administrator, they would chant and restate their demands. Furthermore, organizers expressed that as this occupation is not a blockade, protesters are encouraged to study and do homework while occupying and to leave when needed, especially for their final exams. Around 20 protesters spent the night in the UC on May 3, but as a definite deadline looms with the end of finals, the group expressed a desire to increase visibility and leverage. “As the timeframe becomes shorter, we will be louder and stronger in order to reach demands in a safe and ethical way,” an SDS organizer explained. This led to the May 4 occupation of the Hatfield Library, dubbed the Hind library by protesters in memoriam of the death of a 6-year-old Palestinian child in Gaza. Protests at other campuses such as Columbia University have also renamed campus spaces after the child. In a press release announcing this move, protesters stated that “we do not intend to loudly disrupt studying in the library. Our presence will be sufficient to demonstrate the strength of our movement. We invite other students to come and study in solidarity.” Additionally, according to a post on the SDS’ Instagram account, they were offering a board game hour open to all students “in solidarity with our Palestinian siblings,” and were planning a rally at Jackson Plaza. The move to occupy the library does present an increased risk for protesters, especially after the library closes as students do not have 24-hour access to the library. However, organizers anticipate a low risk of having outside law enforcement called. The occupation group is still internally considering the next steps when communicating with administrators next week, as many protesters will be leaving after finals, which end on May 8. However, with their peaceful occupation at the library, along with additional student engagement efforts, they hope the administration feels enough pressure to work with the organizers to meet their demands. As the anonymous organizer explained: “It’s in both parties’ best interest to come to a decision that fulfills our demands, as soon as possible.”

  • April surge places softball on track for first tournament appearance since ‘14

    The Bearcat softball team has made a late-season push to put themselves in position to make it to the Northwest Conference tournament for the first time since 2014. After hovering around seventh place through the halfway mark of conference play, they managed to win nine consecutive games to seize that fourth and final spot going into the last series of the regular season. Their streak included three commanding five-inning mercy rule games. Four of these games were offensive masterclasses, with the Bearcats putting up more than 10 runs in each and even 16 runs against Pacific. While the recent victories have not come against the best of the best in the conference, this many wins in a row could cause a huge build in momentum from the offense, defense and pitching staff. Kenna Davis (‘25), pitcher for the Bearcats, spoke on the team's newly found success, giving credit to the offense's recent consistency throughout the lineup. “Our offensive unit really started to become a unit instead of just individual hitters being very consistent.” This late offensive spark has added to a defense that has been solid all year. “Our defense has been stellar all year. It has kept us in so many games.” The squad has put up an impressive conference fielding percentage at .958. After a tough series against Pacific Lutheran, the ‘Cats have been firing on all cylinders at the right time of the year. Beating the juggernaut that is Linfield softball (36-0) this weekend would essentially clinch them a spot in the playoffs. However, if that does not happen, the ‘Cats can still earn a tournament berth. There is a chance that Willamette, George Fox and Whitworth will be tied for fourth place at the end of this weekend. If the Pios can hold George Fox to one win, and Pacific takes a game from Whitworth, then the Bearcats will automatically take a playoff spot even if they are swept by Linfield. It seems Bearcat fans will have simultaneous softball games on the TV this weekend in a rare instance of support for Lewis & Clark and Pacific.

  • Lacrosse has never defeated the Bruins. Can they make it happen in May?

    Lacrosse entered the Willamette sports scene five years ago. For the past four seasons, they have had two consistencies in their performance: they place second in the Northwest Conference and they can’t seem to defeat George Fox. In the two sides’ most recent meeting, the ‘Cats led the Bruins 10-8 in the fourth quarter but still failed to get the result. Moving now into the Northwest Conference tournament, a clash between the league leaders seems likely. Lacrosse may once again take second place behind George Fox, or make history. Jay Shiflett (‘27), a defensive player on the lacrosse team, shared that the rivalry between the two schools has been friendly this season. However, going into conference games Willamette and George Fox always create a big conversation. Will the Bearcats finally defeat the Bruins? The rivalry began in 2018 when George Fox beat Willamette in their first-ever conference game 20-1, starting their rivalry with an average of 11 point differential each game. However, the Bearcats achieved their best differential to date (three goals) at their recent April meeting. Now, Willamette lacrosse is sitting at the No. 2 spot in the conference after suffering only three losses throughout their season: two against George Fox and one against Hope College. The ‘Cats were undefeated and had a +98 goal differential for the five games before running into the Bruins. After their first loss, Lacrosse had a lot to consider regarding their position in the conference. Goalkeeper Olivia Austin (‘27) found that the game against George Fox showed the team the aspects of their competition they needed to improve. “Ultimately, the game brought motivation and the team closer together,” agreed Austin and Shiflett. After a trip to California which resulted in two victories over Cal Lutheran and Occidental, the team found more confidence and a belief in their ability to measure up to Newberg’s immovable object. Prior to the championship match, however, the ‘Cats still had to face down the Whitworth Bucs, a dominant force in their own right. The 2024 season has seen Whitworth’s highest ever finish in the NWC, most wins and longest winning streak. On Sunday, April 28, the Bucs gave Willamette a run for their money, finishing the match 11-12 after trailing by four goals in the second quarter. Furthermore, while the undefeated (36-0) George Fox’s semifinal victory over 6-6 Whitman seems like a foregone conclusion, an upset could allow the ‘Cats to bypass the conference’s most terrifying program. Shiflett has confidence in Willamette’s ability to move forward and end the season with a Northwest Conference championship win, citing that the team has all the talent, coaches and people needed in order to pull off a win against George Fox. Both Shifflet and Austin stated that the team's only tactical goal moving into the conference tournament was to shift focus from individual goals to team goals. Going into the conference on May 4, all eyes are on Willamette and George Fox. Is this the year George Fox loses its win streak?

  • Joyner nears saves record, secures Ute transfer as ‘Basecats’ head to conference tournament

    In the realm of collegiate baseball, records aren't merely numbers; they are the echoes of dedication, passion and relentless pursuit of excellence. Meet Brady Joyner (‘24), a name synonymous with the artistry of closing pitchers. As the ‘Cats head to their final series before the conference tournament, Joyner stands tied for the career saves record at Willamette. In the fall, he will depart for the DI University of Utah. A save is awarded to a closing pitcher who enters the game with a lead of three or less and secures the team’s victory. Joyner is currently tied with Mike Corey’s (‘98) 1998 career saves record, with 23 in his time at Willamette. In 2023, Joyner also matched Chris Hopton's and Corey's individual season saves records from 1993 and 1994, respectively, with 10 saves of his own. Joyner still has a few weeks to earn another save and beat the career record. With the conference tournament looming on the horizon, Joyner and the Bearcats are bracing for this weekend’s showdown against the Whitman Blues, who currently hold first in the conference. At second in the conference, Willamette will need to win every game in the upcoming series in order to host the conference tournament. “[The record] would mean the world to me,” Joyner said. As a closer, he has been steadily improving his pitch for four years. “[My motivation is] being the best player I can be,” he said. The save record would be a testament to how far he has come as a pitcher. Despite his success at Willamette, Joyner wasn't always sure he wanted to pursue collegiate baseball. When applying for schools, he wasn’t looking for any baseball programs until Willamette reached out with an offer. Now he's pitching a whopping 93.8 miles per hour. Joyner began his baseball career at five years old. Throughout his career, Joyner has played as a pitcher and a hitter. Once he got to Willamette, his focus shifted solely to pitching. This increased focus brought weight training three times a week and summers dedicated to refining his pitch. But for Joyner, the significance of the mound transcends just physical training; it's a sanctuary. “The mound is my favorite place to be,” he said. “How can you not be a romantic about baseball?” Joyner approaches each pitch with a winner’s mindset — he is determined to not let anyone beat him. The field becomes a battlefield between Joyner and the batter. “The rest of the world disappears when I’m on the mound,” he said. Approaching each play with the confidence that he is better than the batter is crucial in securing a victory. In the fall, Joyner is transferring to the University of Utah, a DI Big-12 university, where he can continue playing baseball while pursuing a Master of Science in International Affairs & Global Enterprise. A DI school offers a myriad of resources and tougher competition, which Joyner plans to take full advantage of in order to improve his game. Fueled by his passion, Joyner stated he plans to “play until someone says I can’t play anymore.” The move also brings Joyner closer to his family. As the Willamette Bearcats gear up for this pivotal weekend, all eyes are on Joyner and his bid to secure the saves record. His journey from modest T-ball beginnings to becoming a cornerstone of Willamette's baseball legacy is a testament to the power of perseverance and dedication. Reflecting on his journey, he admitted, “I couldn’t have done it without my friends and family.” The Bearcats take on Whitman in a doubleheader this weekend. Saturday’s Senior Night games scheduled for noon and 3:00 p.m. Sunday's game also begins at noon. Update: Saturday's games have been delayed due to weather. The games will be played at 12 and 3 p.m. Sunday. The senior celebration proceeded as planned.

  • Opinion: Inclusivity and community make Dance Co. stand out on campus

    For two days every semester, Willamette’s Dance Company puts on a roughly two-hour show for the school to enjoy. Hundreds of Willamette students, faculty and members of the Salem community file into Smith Auditorium to see their classmates, roommates and friends perform in over twenty different dances. These dances range from contemporary and hip hop to Bhangra and tap. The Dance Co. performance is one of the biggest Willamette events and this year won Best Club Event of the Year at Honors and Awards in Bearcat Excellence. The program itself has had its own journey throughout the years that has shaped it into becoming one of Willamette’s most popular clubs and most popular performances. “I love Dance Co. so much. It’s literally my life, my soul, my everything,” said Dance Co’s Co-president Emma Honberger (‘24). “I love Dance Co. in all caps with sparkle emojis around it.” Honberger joined Dance Co. her sophomore year of college and immediately got as involved as possible. She finished her last performance this past April as the co-president, a choreographer and a dancer. “Everyone’s supportive, everyone’s loving. I think that’s my favorite part of it,” Harleen Brar (‘26) said. Brar is another choreographer and dancer in Dance Co. “I absolutely loved it,” Brooke Busby (‘27) agreed, having finished her first Dance Co. show this April. The amount of popularity and love Dance Co. has cultivated can almost be directly attributed to the inclusive and supportive environment. Brar, who had no formal dance training previous to Dance Co., focuses on choreographing and dancing in cultural dances, namely Bollywood and Bhangra style dances. “Last semester, I choreographed Bollywood, and that was the first time Willamette has done Bollywood,” Brar explained. “It was nice to be able to show people what modern Bollywood is.” F0r Brar, Dance Co. is more than just a space for her to dance, it is a space for her to express her culture. She explained, “[The dancers] are actually passionate about it because it's their own culture.” “We want to do more cultural stuff. …. I want to bring something new,” Maggie Ramos (‘26) said. Ramos was involved in seven dances as either a dancer or a choreographer, one of which was an Afro-fusion dance. “I try my best to make a welcoming and supportive community.” Both Busby and Honberger also honed in on Dance Co’s culture of community and support. “It's so amazing that they have, like, all different levels. … [The choreographers] make dances for everyone. So even if you have no dance experience at all, they make sure there's a dance for you,” Busby said. “I just feel like we're such a dance family,” Honberger said. Even though there are a multitude of reasons to love Dance Company, it seems that the reason this club is so popular, the reason it has over 150 members and the reason its performance is one of the biggest events of the year can be pinpointed to the incredible environment. “My favorite experiences are honestly just dancing with my friends because a lot of the friends that I have made at Willamette have been through Dance Company,” Honberger shared. “You learn a lot through it but it's not like it's not a competitive environment. It's just super fun and you get to meet a lot of friends.” Ramos agreed. As for the upcoming semesters, Dance Co. is excited to incorporate more dances and members, continuing fantastic experiences throughout the rehearsals and shows. Dance Co. wants to emphasize that people of any dance experience are encouraged to join and participate in a dance, and, as always, everyone is welcome to scream and cheer as loud as they possibly can at the performances. Thus, the positive and uplifting energy Dance Co. brings to Willamette will continue for many years to come.

  • The wacky wonders of Willamette University

    A common observation among Willamette’s student body is that the Salem campus is a weird place. Reasons for its oddness range from the intricate overlap of Smullin and Walton to the mysterious and elusive Goudy celebration loaf. Lillian Hubbell (‘26) calls this phenomenon “Willamette weirdness.” The oldest school west of the Mississippi has a lot of history — traditions are upheld, stories are told and objects from the past are exchanged in a legacy that adds up to a whole lot of weirdness. Here are some quirks Willamette students find particularly strange. Many students are familiar with the concept known as the “Willamette weather machine.” Alexa Decrinis (‘26) explained, “The weather always tends to get nice when the school is having big events or when it’s Bearcat Day, things like that. You see all these prospective students taking off their jackets when they realize Willamette actually has springtime. The Quad is always stacked full of students out having picnics and throwing the frisbee. It’s a good look for prospective students.” Indeed, the campus  comes alive when it’s warmer outside. The Mill Stream looks inviting and a lounge in the Adirondack chairs sounds delightful. When looking at Willamette’s promotional material, the beauty of the spring semester is emphasized by images of people enjoying the sunshine and walking downtown in shorts and tank tops. It’s as if the weather machine got to work for the photographer as well. Integral to Willamette’s uniqueness is its theater department, according to some students. “Our theater program is kind of renowned by itself,” Hubbell stated. “It’s not only successful in the scope of having talented students, but people from all over Salem come to watch our students perform. That’s not necessarily weird, but I think it’s interesting to note.” With musicals premiering from theater students dedicated to creating new art, the university boasts a department similar to the talent and acclaim of more esteemed premiere theaters. Ticket prices are affordable, so the Salem community can attend quality artistic performances at a reasonable price. As a fairly old school, Willamette is also home to many relics of past students' shenanigans. Nick Cottrill (‘26) said, “There’s all of the old Greek life relics scattered around campus — [a] weird room in Cascadia House, that one underground section in Baxter, simply the fact that people don’t live in the sorority and fraternity houses. Just scattered pieces of WU Greek life history.” Another on-campus spot that students are curious about is the campus Zen garden. “We have a space designated for a Zen garden, but the upkeep of it hasn’t happened so it goes mostly unused,” Rori Wenger (‘26) said. The space is located in between the art building and Olin, and it goes unnoticed by a majority of students. With some renovation and well-deserved love, the Zen garden could be a good space for students to relax and connect with nature, but for now, it remains a uniquely odd spot on campus. An additional element of particular intrigue for undergraduate students is the functioning of the graduate programs, namely the business school. “The business program during undergrad is completely separate from the MBA school," Gregory Douglas (‘26) noted. “Like, business classes aren’t always held at the business school. [It's] just the way there are almost two separate programs when one is setting you up for the other.” As far as Willamette goes, undergraduate students make up a majority of the student population, yet the structuring and culture of the graduate programs can still seem vague and unclear to students not involved with those studies. Willamette’s charm can be found partially in its eclecticness. What makes this place a home for many students are its wacky qualities — its unexplained mysteries and marvels, from strange tunnels to empty gardens to distant graduate programs.

  • ASWU in positive financial situation ahead of 2024–25 school year

    Due to a rise in students enrolled at Willamette and unused funds from past years, the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) is now in a positive financial position to fund student-led initiatives and affiliated organizations in future years. Milo Greenberg (‘24) is the treasurer of ASWU for the 2023-2024 school year. He said that the current financial situation of ASWU this school year is positive largely due to the significant increase in the number of students enrolled in recent years, as ASWU’s funding comes from student activity fees. The student activity fee applies to all full-time students and is currently set at $134 per semester. As approved by a 2022 resolution, it increases by $4 each academic year and can vary based on the number of enrolled students. Nonetheless, most liberal arts universities in Oregon have higher student fees, such as the University of Portland’s at $150 per semester or Reed’s and Linfield’s at $155. Another reason for the positive financial situation of ASWU is a surplus of unused funds. “Because of COVID, ASWU has not spent as much money as it might otherwise have, and there has been a lot of money accumulating,” Greenberg said. In years where there is a significant surplus of funds, a percentage of those funds are saved and invested in an endowment fund so they can grow in value, but ASWU has yet to decide how much money will be invested at the end of this school year. Greenberg added that an important factor to consider for that decision is the number of students enrolled in the upcoming class of 2028, which is currently unknown. A visible effect of ASWU’s positive financial situation this year has come in the form of campus improvement projects and other initiatives. For instance, with the increased popularity of organizations dedicated to dance and performative art, ASWU recently funded the costs of installing a large mirror in the former Greek life building 880 Mill for these clubs to perform. ASWU also recently funded the installation of an accessible automatic door button in Smullin Hall. In addition, several new clubs and organizations like the Financial Literacy Club and the Delta Alpha Pi honor society have been affiliated this year and are now eligible to receive ASWU funding. Although this year’s financial situation is a good sign for the student body and ASWU-affiliated clubs, Greenberg said that ASWU hopes to avoid the precedent of being overly generous to student organizations in years when there is a surplus of funds, as this may have the potential to create an unrealistic standard that will be hard to meet in future years. Treasurer Greenberg’s term ends this semester, and Sophia “Stevie” Bergstrom (‘26), who currently serves the role of press secretary, will serve as next year’s treasurer. In an email, she said that she appreciates Greenberg’s hard work this year and will continue to “collaborate on ways to make things as accessible and easily understandable as we can.” “I'm also excited to continue the work we've been trying to do this year in getting awareness around what ASWU is and what we can do for the students,” Bergstrom concluded in the email.

  • Opinion: The Willamette community must focus more on gun violence prevention

    As gun violence rises in the Salem community and across the country, Willamette students are left without a space to raise awareness, form community or take action to end gun deaths in the community. Gun violence is not a uniquely American problem, but the country ranks among the highest in gun-related incidents. According to NPR, the U.S. rate of gun deaths per capita is more than eight times higher than the rate in Canada and nearly 100 times higher than in the United Kingdom. Gun violence is also not an issue of the past, as the number of active shooter incidents in 2021 rose 52.5% relative to 2020 according to Pew Research Center, which also reported a record-high number of suicides involving firearms. The problem of gun violence has affected most cities in the United States, and Salem is not an exception. On March 7, 2024, a shooting at Bush’s Pasture Park ended the life of a 16-year-old high school student and wounded two other minors less than a mile away from the Willamette campus. Shortly thereafter, all Willamette students received emergency alerts to avoid the area. On April 6, another shooting took place at a different Salem park and ended with one person dead and another injured. There has been a 100% increase in shootings in Salem since 2018, and the city now has a higher violent crime rate than Eugene, Gresham, Bend, Hillsboro and Beaverton, according to the Statesman Journal. However pressing and visible the issue is in the Salem community, very few spaces at Willamette are ever dedicated to talking about gun violence, largely due to privilege and lack of exposure.  Willamette students are disproportionately white and middle- or upper-class and therefore do not face the burdens that those most susceptible to crime face every day, such as homelessness, food scarcity or discrimination. These factors, along with socioeconomic status and substance abuse, have been linked to higher rates of gun deaths and injuries. Likewise, the Willamette community enjoys many university resources — like free counseling and medical checkups, a highly trained campus safety team, and accessible services — which most members of vulnerable populations do not have access to. This privilege and lack of exposure render many individuals unaware of the issue of gun violence and make any student-led efforts to advocate against gun violence virtually nonexistent. Just because most Willamette students are not personally affected by the issue does not mean they should not talk about it, raise awareness and take action to address it. Many academic programs and student organizations at Willamette focus on important issues like criminal justice reform, the rights of individuals in custody, the rights of undocumented immigrants and systemic racism, among others. But Willamette has yet to provide a space for students and faculty to talk freely about gun violence, share perspectives and experiences, engage with the broader community and enact political change to address the issue. The university has the agency and resources to conduct research on gun violence and incorporate it into academic programs, which is an effort that other institutions are starting to undertake. For instance, after the shooting that killed 17 and injured another 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, the University of Virginia created a research initiative for gun violence prevention and a call to action for “a change in mindset and policy from reaction to prevention.” Such initiatives are nonexistent at Willamette even after the rise in shootings in Salem and several mass-casualty incidents in other Oregon towns and schools. Likewise, the student body has the power to raise awareness, foster community with those personally affected and advocate for reform. Student-led initiatives and movements like Team ENOUGH, March for Our Lives and Students Demand Action attract thousands of student activists around the country but lack any significant presence at Willamette. Although most shootings take place on the street or in other public spaces, universities are by no means shielded from gun violence. On Feb. 13, 2023, a gunman entered the Michigan State University campus and killed three students and wounded five. On Aug. 28, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opened fire on campus and killed a professor. On Oct. 3, five people, four of whom were undergraduate students, were shot at a homecoming event at Morgan State University in Maryland. On Dec. 6, three people were killed and one injured in a shooting on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. On Feb. 16, 2024, two students were shot dead in a residence hall at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Willamette students, faculty and staff must not observe silently as other communities face these preventable tragedies. They can happen anytime, anywhere, and action starts with awareness.

  • 2024-25 tuition, housing and dining costs to increase at similar rate as 2023-24

    The price of a Bearcat education has increased slightly again. Willamette University has raised the price of tuition, dining plans, housing and the student activity fee for the 2024-25 academic year. The new prices are laid out on the Willamette website with a comparison to the costs for the 2023-24 academic year. Tuition has the highest increase at $1,440 per semester. The cost of a standard double dorm will increase by $200 and the price of a 14-meal dining plan will increase by $185. Additionally, the student activity fee, which funds student organizations through the Associated Students of Willamette University, will see a $4 increase. These increases are very similar to the ones introduced for the 2023-24 academic year. As reported by The Collegian in Fall 2023, tuition for the 2023-24 year was raised by $1,500 a semester, or $3,000 a year. This increase was noted as “particularly high, with administration citing inflation and rebounding from COVID-19 as the reasoning behind the cost increases.”

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