November 2020

The Liberator Delivers

Mini-series on Netflix brings history to life in new way

Netflix’s new series, “The Liberator”, may have been short-lived, but its impact  on viewers has proven longer-lasting. The mini-series centers around a soldier’s 500-day experience in World War II. The series depicts the harsh realities that he  and many other soldiers faced at the time. The show came out just in time for Veterans Day 2020, honoring the men who served during such a brutal war. 

    The mini-series is an adaptation of Alex Kershaw’s book “The Liberator,” which depicts the Thunderbirds in their fight against the Axis powers. The Thunderbirds, according to the Smithsonian Magazine, were “the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry Division, one of the most racially integrated units of the era, [who] went into battle wearing on their shoulders the image of the Thunderbird.” The Thunderbirds have also been described as “a disparate collection of Native Americans, Mexican Americans and Southwestern cowboys.” They were led by Felix Sparks, the gritty company commander, who was able to ease the tension in his diverse group. After getting everyone on board to fight for, rather than against,  each other, Sparks and his company take to the field amidst the tough conditions of WWII. 

    The main characters of the mini-series are Felix Sparks (Bradley James), Sergeant Samuel Coldfoot (Martin Sensmeier) and Corporal Abel Gomez (Jose Miguel Vasquez). Sparks serves as the show’s lead, as he was the commander for the platoon as well as one of the only American rooted soldiers in this diverse group. He is a fierce leader who  recognizes the heart and pride his company has  in their serving and protecting the U.S., even though they aren’t given the same opportunities as other citizens. Early on in the show, he is put in charge of J Company, which is revealed as the jail of the base. When he meets his men, they are busy fighting each other and giving their superiors a hard time due to the constant racism and slander they endure. Sparks is presented as the perfect leader, because everyone on J Company buys into his message, and the company quickly becomes the leading squad on the base. 

Sergeant Coldfoot is the Native American leader of the group. He has been denied promotion so many times, but is finally given a chance by Sparks. He quickly shows why he should’ve been promoted by using his anger and sheer passion as the second leader of the crew. 

Abel Gomez is the show’s funny guy, the glue that holds the team together, and is truly one of the most selfless fighters ever portrayed on screen. He is easily the fans’ favorite, because everytime he speaks it is either funny, truly relatable or inspiring. Though the show has many other heroes, these three are the ones that make J Company run.

What makes the show different from the rest of Hollywood war media we have seen before is how it is actually portrayed on the screen. The series  is both live-action and computer animated, giving it the look of a comic book.  Trioscope Studios was able to achieve this through a method called rotoscope animation. Trioscope’s CEO, L.C. Crawley,  and its CCO,Brandon Barr, told Deadline they believe  rotoscope animations is a step in the right direction for films and shows:““Trioscope can effectively produce in ways no other platform can . . . So often, dramatic material can’t get made because it’s too creatively ambitious or costly. This technology allows creators to imagine without limits – from contemporary to historic periods, and from fantasy to reality – and all on an achievable budget.” Not only does such animation save money, but it also allows viewers to enjoy a war show without extreme gore. Such a business move gives more flexibility to the budget and brings in more viewers, thanks to how different the animation looks when compared to others Netflix has to offer. 

    “The Liberator” received some love when it became available. It received a 7.5/10 from IMDB, a 6/10 from Rotten Tomatoes as well as 7.1 from Rotten Tomatoes audience, and was amongst the top 10 on Netflix U.S. on opening week. This show is an easy watch and tells the story of how such a diverse and often belittled  platoon put hate aside to fight a common enemy. It was a gorgeous show to watch, and is an excellent nod to our combat heroes and veterans. 

Authors: Danielle Mercado & Julian Alcaraz | A&E Editor & Staff Writer

Up, Up, and Away

FPU tuition is raised despite pandemic and other university responses

Fresno Pacific University tuition was raised to $16,477 a semester for the 2020-2021, up from $15,983 for the 2019-2020 school year. This is a $494 increase per semester from the last school year. Many universities raise their rate each academic year in order to adjust for costs, but this year of 2020 is different for many reasons. 

    FPU planned to open for the school year, but unfortunately was stopped due to state legislation. During this time students from all across the nation were raising valid concerns in regards to their courses’ cost and what exactly their year would entail. Upon learning that the first semester of the academic year would be entirely online, students began questioning the amount they were paying for it. 

    At some universities—such as Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown, Princeton and Spelman College—the students were provided with a 10% discount off the fall semester tuition after the announcement that their classes would be held online. These universities, much like FPU, rely on tuition, student housing and other fees as a means of running their institutions. 

    Some universities, however, did not offer discounts to all students: National University in San Diego only made this option available to a certain subset. FPU did provide relief for students at the end of the 2020 spring semester with the Emergency Student Assistance Grant, which provided a certain amount of funds to students based on individual need. 

    In a media release issued on November 5, 2020, the university stated that undergraduate tuition will be frozen for the 2021-2022 school year. This freeze also affects people within the degree completion programs on all five regional campuses. Graduate programs will increase as usual. In a recent media release, John Endicott stated: “The institution recognizes the many hardships Valley communities have faced in 2020 and we believe keeping tuition flat for the next year will encourage students to pursue higher education in as affordable a manner as possible.”

    This is great news for the upcoming school year, but unfortunate for graduating students. Students that are graduating had to pay the new rate despite the growing concerns around the pandemic and making ends meet. When asked about FPU’s response to the pandemic and tuition cost, Sheyla Castillo, a senior criminal justice major and psychology minor, shared her thoughts. “I think FPU has responded poorly with a delayed response. FPU didn’t respond when COVID occurred in regards to their tuition so students had no idea what tuition would look like during the fall semester of 2020 even though classes would be online.” This brings up another issue: students don’t feel a strong sense of communication with the university. During a time of endless unknowns it is of the utmost importance that students feel communication is a precedence. 

    Other students like junior Sandra Rodriguez, double major in pre-law and criminal justice, share some of the same sentiments. When asked about the tuition increase Rodriguez stated that it was difficult to place her opinion without all the information. “However, understanding priorities is something that was not done. To say the money I paid was in return used to make my learning experience better is a bit of a stretch. Yet, it is without fail the sports team received new uniforms and the basketball team new hoops.” There seems to be a trend that students aren’t sure what the increase in tuition was for, nor do they see it through their computer screens. 

When asked if there was a sense of priority at FPU, both students interviewed said that they didn’t. It is unfortunate that in a struggling environment, FPU has failed to respond in a timely manner with answers to questions and concerns, leaving students feeling lost and paying more for less.  

Author: Dani Mercado | A & E Editor







Six Feet Closer

The Case For Returning to In-Person Classes

On October 2 and 10, Fresno Pacific University announced that it planned to reopen for the upcoming Spring 2021 semester, and offered a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes for students. This decision sparked a large-scale, but ultimately little-publicized, debate among students and teachers alike about the efficacy and safety of returning to campus at this time. Neither side is without points, and while I cannot speak for everyone else who wishes to return this spring, from the perspective of an out-of-state student, the benefits can be seen as far outweighing the risks.

    It is true that the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, and that returning to school will reintroduce the risk of infection, especially for those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health problems. Those who are in close contact with such people are also justifiably worried and so cannot return in good conscience. Their concerns are valid and should not be addressed as anything else.

    Yet it is many of these very concerns that FPU is addressing. The smorgasboard of safety features, from the plastic dividers in classrooms and dining facilities to the required health check-ins, are more in-depth than many public locations or institutions. Gyms, for example, are opening up again in numerous locations around the country; few outbreaks have been traced to them, and often there is little regulation beyond the need to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wipe down the equipment after use. These facilities are also open to a much wider range of people (in terms of age and background) than Fresno Pacific. If they are able to do such a thing without any rashes of infection or (God forbid) casualties, then surely FPU’s far more advanced measures can be effective as well when dealing with an age group that, in general, has been affected less than others by the virus.

    Places like stores and gyms are reopening as a matter of necessity: the services they provide to the public (and especially to their employees) are too invaluable to be shut down for long. Similarly, those students who attend FPU from outside California (and perhaps outside the United States) are being given precedence by the school in housing and moving back in. This is likely because they have needs that can be addressed by campuses reopening.

    In the first place, moving between school and home in the usual school year-summer cycle often creates a separate mindset for each. When at home, we are used to allowing our mind to wander and to relax about scholarly pursuits. Being restricted to one’s house so far away from the school therefore increases the challenge of keeping one’s mind on their schooling, which is already difficult due to the inherent nature of online classes. They are also restricted in terms of the resources at their disposal: Herbert Library is all but impossible to make use of without access to physical books, and different time zones between states can result in tremendous scheduling conflicts between both home and school. This goes double for those student athletes who traditionally come from abroad—and the situation is even worse for those who have not been able to return to their home country.

    The FPU campus also offers an easily controllable and monitorable environment. Out-of-state students will be further away from those friends and family members back home who are at significant risk, and will be an environment where their health, by rule, must be regularly verified. Quarantine and recovery of infected students are also easier tasks for the administration and students if they are relatively close to the school, especially with stringent social distancing rules and private housing in place. If anything, it may prove safer than some students’ homes: chores and the needs of their family can often cause one to venture out more often, putting themselves and those at home (where more strict and professional safety standards are often not enforced or difficult) at risk. This is not a demand that FPU become entirely locked-in and not allow students to leave campus at all, but the social-distancing policy and health checkups ensure that any risks will be under greater control than at home.

I, at least, feel that the resources and environment of a Fresno Pacific with such safety measures in place are well worth returning to campus for. This is not a prescription for everyone; there are those who doubtless have good reasons for wanting to stay away until the situation is more cleared up. However, returning to Fresno Pacific would provide me with an environment in which I am used to doing the strenuous academic work required as a student, and it has been fortified in such a way that I feel, at the very worst, no less safe than my own home.

Author: Luke Fredette | Chief Copy Editor

The Case Against Returning to In-Person Classes

On November 2, Vice President for Campus Life Dale Scully and President Joseph Jones released an email to all traditional undergraduate students announcing that FPU would be returning to campus for the spring 2021 semester. Registrar Danielle Jeffress also released an email on November 10 that detailed specifics about returning to campus: according to Jeffress’ email, courses will be offered through three different delivery methods next semester: face-to-face, hybrid and remote. 

While I share excitement with many at the prospect of returning to campus, it must be said that both face-to-face and hybrid classes are too ambitious given the current state of the pandemic. As of November 12, Fresno County was averaging 162.9 new cases of COVID-19 per day according to The New York Times. The Washington Post also noted that the United States reached 150,000 infections as of November 12—a record high, and the number has continued to climb. With several European countries entering their second lockdown, many suspect that the US will do the same, as mentioned in a recent article published by Insider.

    It cannot be stressed enough that Fresno Pacific is still susceptible to the pandemic. Even with pandemic protocols in place, there is no guarantee that all members of the FPU community will wear masks or socially distance properly: in fact, on September 18, Student Life released an email admonishing resident students for failing to wear masks on and around campus. Although Student Life promised to assert stricter policies—“documentation of mask policy violations will ensue and students will be subjected to the student conduct process who refuse to comply,” according to the email—it must be recognized that those members of the community who neglect the protocols put the rest of the community at risk. 

Furthermore, as recently as November 10, Human Resources announced that a member of the FPU community had tested positive. Admittedly, Fresno Pacific University News reported that the university has only seen eight cases total since the start of the pandemic; however, these cases developed during some of the emptiest months on campus. The number of COVID-19 cases at FPU could easily swell in the coming months. In a recent issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, staff writer Sara Weissman noted that many higher education institutions which attempted to reopen in August saw a flux of COVID-19 cases on their campuses. The University of North Carolina (UNC) was among the hardest hit after several clusters of COVID-19 were discovered among students. “Ultimately,” Weissman wrote of UNC, “university leadership decided to reclose campus.” 

Perhaps it is most important to note that this is not the first time that Fresno Pacific has planned for a semester of blended courses and failed to uphold that promise: on July 7, 2020, Provost Gayle Copeland released an email to the FPU student body stating that “Blended and online instruction will be available and previously scheduled online courses will continue” for the fall 2020 semester. But only two and a half weeks later, President Jones announced on July 24 that “FPU, along with all other private colleges and universities and public school districts, needs to continue classes online for the fall semester.” With only a month to prepare for this sudden change in course delivery, faculty scrambled to piece together new syllabi for their online courses, and residential students were forced to reconsider their housing situation for the next few months.    

While FPU’s efforts are laudable, our administrative leaders must recognize that current trends may not guarantee a safe return to campus by next semester. I admit that I am tempted by the idea of returning to a semblance of normality and share the opinion that our current situation is less than ideal; however, wishful thinking will do little to preserve the health and safety of our community. Until the pandemic poses less of a threat, I strongly urge the university against a return to campus. 

Author: Kassandra Klein | Copy Editor

Where Did Thanksgiving Go?

Remember to be Thankful in November before Rudolph Barges In

Ah, Thanksgiving! It’s that time again, gentle Syrinx readers, and it seems like the whole country is ready too. You have your fall colors, typically associated with .  . . wait—there’s elves . . . and, did they put up Santa? I think I hear “Jingle Bells” on the radio! Where did Thanksgiving go!?

Many people would agree that the Thanksgiving turkey is one of the most iconic  holiday meals. So why don’t we commemorate it? Maybe I’ve been spending a bit too much time looking for religious symbolism in a text (like many of you readers, I’m sure) but this is the one occasion where the U.S. comes together and says, “Let us not eat these other meats, but instead partake of this particular feathered friend!” Turkey is not a year-round thing; it is in this moment especially that the bird becomes a sacrifice for our sustenance. Even if we don’t partake in the meal, we should be honoring the bird, decorating our stores with turkey cutouts and changing our colors to the reds, blues and browns of the turkey. Let’s get right down to it: if you don’t enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey, then it ain’t being prepared right.

We would be remiss to forget the other American pastime associated with Thanksgiving: football. With games starting in the early afternoon and playing until the evening, fans can both enjoy their Thanksgiving meal and crowd together on their couches to watch from the comfort of their homes.

Look, it’s not all about the food or spectator sports. I think this is actually a common misconception among Americans and the number one reason why we tend to skip right over the month. This holiday is not a celebration of how much we eat ourselves into a stupor while we sit in front of our televisions. We recognize that Thanksgiving is often criticized for its tendency to erase Native American suffering, but we still feel this holiday can be celebrated for the conjoining of cultures: namely, Thanksgiving can be a time to reflect on and lament the losses of Native Americans, while simultaneously using this holiday to spread kindness and acceptance of other cultures. We should be able to sit down together and appreciate the family and friends surrounding us at the table. Prepare a meal with those who have assisted in your growth; treat the people who have been there for you in rough times to good food and an assertion of lasting friendship. Thanksgiving is a holiday that can be celebrated by many cultures as a celebration of thankfulness. There are a lot of opportunities to experience what other cultures have to offer. Be open to others, share what you are thankful for and share compassion. 

After all, Thanksgiving serves as a reminder for all of the things we have to be grateful for. The bounty of food spread out across the table is a celebration of the hard work we’ve put in over the past year to provide an excellent meal for those we care about. It is a time when we should celebrate the bounty provided to us by God; we should celebrate with each other and express our thanks verbally.

  We can also be thankful for the bounty we are blessed with by giving back to those who are in need. As Romans 12:13 reads: Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” 

If we let commercialism and consumerism of our society overshadow the truth and meanings behind its holidays, we may lose sight of how we can better serve each other. So even thoughThanksgiving is well-known for its food or football, it should also be remembered for the service we can render onto others. The Christmas season will be upon us in no time but again, not before Black Friday. It is easy to get lost in the consumerism of the holiday, but we must never forget the celebration of our Savior Jesus Christ.

  Don’t let the spirit of Thanksgiving get lost amongst the red and green blur of early Christmas pressure. Enjoy what you have to give thanks for this year, and enjoy the giving thanks itself.

Here are a few organizations you can contact to support this holiday season:

Author: Janelle Fontaine | Opinions Editor

Author: Shawn McCurry | Staff Writer

Is hybrid helping your students?

Taking a chance for socialization by lowering face-to-face opportunity

A majority of students spend a required 13 years of their lives in a classroom or having similar in-person instruction. Then the pandemic came and closed classroom doors. Students could no longer  physically interact with their teachers or peers .  Across the country, we began to see our educators scrambling to bring whatever they could to the table and continue educating their students to the best of their abilities. Throughout the spring, the result was chaos. The country remained hopeful over the summer that COVID would run its course and school could resume in our “new normal.”. We now know how disappointing things turned out. However, our school districts and educators have pulled through and given our children fantastic educational opportunities via several online platforms. On Zoom, teachers have given live lessons multiple times of the day and five days of the week.

Fresno Pacific has also modified its approach to education in order to adapt to the pandemic. The instructors have worked hard to deliver interactive class experiences  and the essential information we need through Zoom.

There’s a hiccup, though: it began when our student-parents were juggling their distance-learning education with that of their children. The Syrinx published an article earlier in the semester addressing this very subject. Distanced learning has its difficulties and complications, but now we face something new. Many elementary schools in the San Joaquin Valley have started to reopen, using a “hybrid” schedule. This schedule looks different depending on the school district and county. Still, regulations by the state of California help to keep them very similar to each other. To reduce the number of students on campus, the schedule either alternates the days per week, or hours per day, that students should be present. While this seems to be an improvement—providing children with much needed in-person time with their teachers and peers—it could also create new problems.

Student-parents have established a routine that works with both their children’s distance-learning situation and their own. When their child now has to return to school for specific hours a day, or only certain days a week, with special release times to boot, this could create schedule conflicts. Many schools are not offering after-school programs right now. What programs are offered have a limited capacity or first-come-first-serve policy for working families. This means that a student-parent may be in class while their child is released from school. This would require the student-parent to work closely with their advisor and instructors in order to manage courses.  

The other potential problem, that I have encountered myself with my own child, is the trade-off that a hybrid schedule has created. Distance learning provided five days a week of Zoom-hosted, face-to-face time with the teacher. There were two to three live Zoom lessons a day, every day. The entire class was able to talk to each other and interact, even through Zoom. When the hybrid schedule started, my child began to attend school two days a week, 8 am-1:30 pm. On Monday, the entire class Zooms with their teacher for fifteen minutes. The rest of the day consists of unstructured activities, including working on three separate computer programs, and features no actual organized lesson plans. This isn’t because the teacher fails to teach them, but because the teacher needs Mondays to record the other four days in the week. When my child is home, she has one Zoom in the morning for thirty minutes with her class. She is then on her own for the entire day, doing assignments based on either her teacher or computer programs’ pre-recorded lessons. While I think the crucial in-person aspect of hybrid is essential for socialization purposes, I can’t help but wonder where the trade-off in primary education will show. The teachers at our Valley schools are working in unprecedented times. They continue putting in long hours preparing lessons and striving to find new ways to engage our kids with the tools given to them.

Student-parents have one other problem with hybrid schedules, and it’s one that I think any family could face:.  the increased risk of COVID-19 infection.  I am not claiming that sending our children back to school means we are all going to get COVID. Schools are taking severe precautions to prevent infection, but the issue doesn’t necessarily reside with the schools themselves. Going back to a semi-school schedule may include the need for children to begin attending a school or daycare programs. While these facilities can maintain excellent health and safety protocols, when we have several children together from several different places, who then leave to go to their homes, we are still increasing the risk of exposure. Even if we do our best, the very nature of the situation creates danger.

While there is no right or wrong answer to the current crisis, we all know how important it is for our children to be in school. The reality is the pandemic has given us the frustrating need to compromise. FPU also wants all of our student-parents to succeed. Our advisors and faculty are there for students whenever there is a situation. In an ideal world, we would all be able to be on our campuses. The Syrinx hopes to support all students at FPU and student-parents who may be struggling; they should remember that FPU is for them, too.

Author: Janelle Fontaine | Opinions Editor

Clare Crawley Won’t Apologize For Love

Bachelorette Clare Crawley exits the show after finding love and is replaced

This season of “The Bachelorette” was “unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in Bachelor/ette history,” in the words of Chris Harrison. 

Our bachelorette this season was 39 year-old Clare Crawley, previously the runner-up in season 18. Making history in more ways than one, Crawley had one of the most memorable seasons in history. A fan favorite, viewers around the world were excited for the oldest bachelorette to find love; however, by the end, many were in fact anxiously awaiting her exit.

Unlike any other past bachelor/ette, Crawley found love with contestant Dale Moss instantly, stating, “I definitely feel like I just met my husband” moments after meeting him for the first time. Following the process, Crawley proceeded to go on dates with the men and began creating the foundation for an intimate relationship. Eventually, the chemistry between Moss and Crawley became undeniable and every confessional signified that she had found love. 

Throughout her time on the show, Crawley had made it clear that, because of her age, she knew exactly what she wanted in a partner. Despite putting a great effort into getting to know the other men, Crawley confessed her love to Moss in the latest, and fourth, episode. Going on the show with the goal of finding love, Crawley did just that. Although the men were upset with this decision, a few of their reactions indicated their awareness of their lack of connection within their own relationship with Crawley. Despite facing pushback and a few negative comments, Crawley apologized to the men for wasting their time, but made it clear she would never apologize for love. On this note, Moss proposes to Crawley and they exit the show. The end, right? 

Not quite. 

While the couple did indeed receive their happy ending, there are still sixteen very upset, confused and hurt men left behind. In an effort to save a season only on its fourth episode, Harrison brought in a surprise bachelorette, one that the show had been signalling in prior trailers. 

The winner of this unconventional search for love is Tayshia Adams. Adams is a fan favorite, having made several appearances in the “Bachelor” series. Adams was originally a contestant on season 23, Colton Underwood’s season, back in 2019. Adams made it to third place on the season with many wishing her well and hoping love would find her soon. 

Adams didn’t have to wait long in order for the opportunity. She was invited to be a contestant on “Bachelor in Paradise”’s sixth season. Adams seemed to be having a great time, and had even found some companionship with another fan favorite, John Paul Jones from “The Bachelorette” season 16. However, this love wouldn’t last long, as the pair split after filming. 

Fans are eager to see Adams take Crawley’s place after the abrupt “ending” of the current season. Many viewers voiced their dislike for Crawley and thought her attitude of knowing exactly what she wants was distasteful. Adams, on the other hand, has a clean slate and is very well liked to boot. There is a lot of potential in the men left and she seems eager to start her journey anew. 

In the teaser trailer for the upcoming episode, it seems that Adams entirely understands the position these men are in, having been there herself multiple times. Adams voiced to Harrison her concern for the men’s feelings, and acknowledged that some of them may still be emotionally involved with Crawley. It seems that such an understanding will be necessary for Adams, as multiple men approached her on night one to voice concern about their feelings for another, no longer eligible, woman. Plenty of other contestants also shared their desire for someone new:they couldn’t really build any type of relationship with Clare due to her only having sights for Dale. 

Overall, fans are excited that the season is continuing and are very hopeful that Adams’ soon to be fiance is in that room of bachelors… Hopefully, he won’t be found as fast as Crawley’s. 

Author: Dani Mercado| A&E Editor

Author: Shyanne Mortimer| Social Media Co-Editors

Ariana Grande Releases New Album

Some fans love it and others say “thank u, next”

Ariana Grande released a new album on October 30, 2020. This came as a surprise to many people, since there was little build-up towards its release. While Grande did tease a new release, she had made no explicit statement regarding the timing. Now that it has been out for a few days, fans and critics alike are sharing their opinions. 

Grande’s last studio album release was back in February of 2019: “thank u, next.” The album had quickly followed her already-successful “Sweetener”. Since Grande released two successful albums so quickly in succession, she has instead taken the time to work on her most recent release, called “Positions.” 

“Positions” is a different kind of music than her fans are typically used to: She has gone for a much more R&B sound instead of her typical pop. Grande’s content in this album is also a little more risque than usual, with the subject matter of many songs being about her activities with men. Grande also sings about self-promotion and worth, a more regular occurrence for her music.

One of the biggest trends in the new album was her use of self-harmony. Almost all fourteen tracks had the artist harmonizing with herself at some point. There is also a lot of echo and electronic sound to be heard. This sound is appealing to some, as it bleeds from pop to R&B and hip hop, but others criticize it for sounding autotuned. Toward the end of many of the tracks, she combines her talents with whistle tones. 

The theme of this album is the unapologetic embracing of one’s femininity and sexuality. Grande sings about the various ways in which she desires to be loved, and embraces that part of her. She also promotes self-love and mental well-being in other songs. 

Fans have taken to TikTok, sharing both their support and disappointment for the album. A new challenge has even been introduced to the TikTok community, in the form of #positions. People have been taking on this challenge in order to mimic the music video. Users are typically shown sitting on a bed, in plain clothes, before transitioning into a more glamorous look. It is meant as something fun and empowering for all women and men who use the app. Such users seem eager and supportive of Grande’s new album. According to Billboard, fans also voted Grande’s album as favorite new music of the week. 

Other fans, and specifically TikTok users, have expressed distaste for the album. Some fans have voiced their lack of appreciation for the new genre and sound that Grande tried producing. It is a new branch of music that her fans are unaccustomed to. Instead, they desire a bit more of her familiar pop sound. Though there are some examples of her trademark sounds and vocal tendencies, the degree of change has proven to be a bit much for some. 

Grande’s album is currently streaming at number one on Billboard. Though some fans are happy to hear new music from the pop star, others are left disappointed by the lack of pop and say, “Thank u, next.” 

Author: Dani Mercado | A&E Editor

Inside the Intensity

A look at the Intensive English Language Program at FPU

The Intensive English Language Program (IELP) here at Fresno Pacific may be a lesser known feature of the school for many of its students. Nonetheless, it has a pivotal role and considerable impact, as it prepares potentially degree-seeking students for English fluency. Like most successful programs, the IELP depends heavily on the people who comprise it. I had the opportunity to interview one such person: Kelly Schroeder. Schroeder is the program director and has worked with the IELP at Fresno Pacific for many years.

Schroeder’s passion for her students and their progress was evident from the beginning of our interview, and she was able to clarify the function and nature of the program for me:

Not only does it exist for international students, but also domestic students who need to learn English before enrolling in a degree program at Fresno Pacific. 

Its purpose is to get students to a point of academic language proficiency, so that they can enter into their academic degree program” Schroeder said. In order to prove their proficiency students must pass an exam, such as the IELTS or TOEFL. 

Schroeder explained that while the IELP can use a variety of exams such as the IELTS, “the United States tends to rely on the TOEFL – Test Of English as a Foreign Language. It is an American based exam by ETS; the same folks who do SAT, CLEP and other college level exam placement.” The IELP prepares students to pass these tests so that they can be ready for their respective degree programs, Bachelor’s or Master’s. The students who go through the intensive program are not limited to attending FPU: they can matriculate in their university of choice after completing the program. 

Schroeder also noted that, even after completing the intensive program and entering into their degree, students are still offered linguistic support—sometimes in the form of courses— that “goes beyond a composition course.” Students can also retroactively apply some credit from the IELP program as electives to their degree program. 

Although FPU has many international athletes, the IELP program has not had a single athlete in recent years as a result of its switch from NAIA to NCAA collegiate sports divisions. In the NCAA division, athletes are required to already have a declared major, so only students that do not need the IELP are eligible. Schroeder mentioned that at first “It was a real hit for some of the teams, but the teams have managed to recruit athletes with academic English proficiency, and it has worked out.”

Most students will come into the program with at least basic knowledge of English, but Schroeder informed me that some students will very rarely come in Ab Initio, which is Latin for ‘from the beginning’, for which the English equivalent would be ‘starting from scratch’. These students come in with no English language ability, but are able to make progress quickly regardless due to the program’s fast-paced structure and immersive design.

Schroeder said that “Motivation is the single most important factor in learning a second language, and so if you are motivated enough to travel across the world, you are going to do it; it is going to happen.”

The program is also more directly affected by world events than most other FPU populations. National and international politics, as well as the US’ appearance in the international eye can have an effect on which countries international students come from. Foreign wars, disputes and, of course, COVID-19 have impacted the program’s enrollment significantly. 

There is high student turnover as each student is usually in the program no longer than a year, or year and a half. The IELP staff want their students to go through the program quickly as this is a sign of its efficacy, but Schroeder mentioned that forming relationships with their students is an important part of their program. Subsequently, it is difficult to say goodbye to students so often because they constantly cycle through and move on to their next goal. Despite this, Schroeder asserted how rewarding it still is to know the students and be a part of their foray into academic life, even if just for a short time. 

One thing that makes the IELP unique is its diverse nature as a program: every student represents a different culture and walk of life. I got the opportunity to speak with Bénédiction (Benny) Kitenge. She is an international student who has gone through the IELP program and is now a Degree Completion student at FPU, studying Business Administration with a focus on management. Coming from Congo and speaking both French and Swahili, Kitenge shared some of her early thoughts about what it was like to start the program: “It was a really hard time for me to adapt to this country because I didn’t know the language, and then I got to the program and everyone was speaking English, no one spoke French. So how can I learn if I don’t know how to speak English? That was my question.” Kitenge shared how there were times when she didn’t want to do her challenging homework or watch required films in English. Even her roommates had to use Google Translate. Despite such initial difficulty, however, Kitenge noted that she was eventually able to get past the hurdle of having no English vocabulary and ultimately made real progress. “Thank God I had the best teachers,” Kitenge stated. She spoke especially highly of her grammar teacher, Shannon.

When asked what she would like to do when she gets her degree, Kitenge said: “I really want to be a businesswoman. I’ve loved traveling since I was small; that’s why I’m here!” She claimed that she would love to open and own a small business specializing in women’s beauty products, such as hair and makeup. When asked if and how the IELP program helped her get closer to her goals, Kitenge laughed before giving the all too obvious answer that it certainly did: it successfully taught her her English, after all. Kitenge explained that without the IELP program, “I couldn’t go to my undergraduate program; I’d be stuck over there.”

Kitenge is a great example of how students who have gone through the IELP program are able to open more doors with their English fluency. When asked if she had any advice for students who are in the program currently, she said: “It’s a really good program, but you have to focus. It’s not like you can just go to class and then go to bed and sleep. You have to do research sometimes, go to YouTube, and then try to read a lot of books.” She also advised learners to watch movies and type out the subtitles, saying that some words can look similar to other languages, such as French, but their pronunciation and meaning can be quite different. 

Students like Kitenge that go through the IELP program at FPU go on to a host of different careers. Not only are these students able to pursue their educational and career goals, but they become multilingual; a huge advantage in itself in an increasingly interconnected world. The IELP at Fresno pacific proves that a motivated student with enough support can surmount any language barrier, no matter how tall.

Author: Timothy Myracle | Features Editor

What Does TikTok Mean to You?

FPU Students Weigh in on the Popular Video-Sharing App 

TikTok may be the newest platform to evolve out of the social media frenzy over the last two decades. I’ve personally seen it’s success and popularity increase significantly in our small part of the world. Its form of communication feeds the human need for exhibition and connection to others. When COVID hit, TikTok finally became a household name. The app created a bridge among users, giving people an outlet to express themselves and share feelings in a less intrusive manner while maintaining a semblance of genuine connection. People often feel the need to share the most personal aspects of life with others, and posting or watching content on TikTok helps people  meet others who share their experiences. In this way, TikTok has created communities and networks that might have never existed otherwise. TikTok has also provided an outlet for stress. 

Senior English and history major Gabriella Quijano says that “It makes me feel happy scrolling through and seeing all these dumb/really funny videos. Watching TikTok is definitely a way for me to cope with stress and just procrastinate. For the most part, it’s just stress.”

There are almost 100 million Americans (60% women, 40% men) regularly using TikTok. It has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. Almost 50% of users are under 34 years old, and 26% are 18-24 years old. It has swelled in popularity, and it is likely that even those who don’t have the app either know or have heard about it.  Many people know someone who posts content. Many more have likely heard about the dance challenges, and even participated in some of them. TikTok is more than a passing fad. For many people, it has become a lifestyle; for others, a platform for advertising, politics, awareness or acceptance. Some use TikTok to cry for help, learn delicious recipes or simply enjoy a laugh or two.  

John-Russel Laforteza, a senior history major, focuses on posting content that makes people laugh, stating: “I want to make people laugh, especially in these times of uncertainty and fear.” The type of content he posts makes him feel less lonely and he hopes to spread a message of positivity to his viewers.

From my personal experience,scrolling through my For You Page. The algorithm created by this unique application fills me with the feeling that I am less alone. It gives me much needed adult time. My algorithm is filled with other parents and crazy, funny content  and pranks my husband and I do to, and with, our children. My For You Page is filled with people singing, and I love to watch them. 

What am I when I log in to TikTok? TikTok is a way for me to connect with my teenage daughter. I see the content she posts and it is a glimpse into her world that she may not communicate to me. maybe that is what TikTok is really all about. It is freedom: freedom to be who you want and freedom to share yourself with the world. We tend to think that screens provide us with a safety net, but TikTok has stripped this safety net away because the content—though often edited—is still out there for the world to see and must face whatever comments may come.  After all, the point of posting content is so that someone else can view it.

Choosing to simply view content is choosing to find a community to identify with, or choosing to break up the loneliness or monotony of one’s day. Maybe we just get lost down the proverbial rabbit hole that is the For You Page. Whatever our reasons for using TikTok, it has become an important part of our lives. I think we should all take a step back and ask ourselves a question: what does TikTok mean to you and why?  

Authors: Janelle Fontaine & Kassandra Klein | Opinions Editor & Copy Editor

Theme Parks’ Response to COVID-19

A case by case basis for reopening parks

Theme parks are a place of liveliness, entertainment and attractions. This has been missed throughout the months of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, some states have begun reopening their parks to the public. Per state regulations, however, some theme parks are more open than others.  In our home state of California, no parks are open, save the downtown shopping areas. Among the many reasons for this is the concern that our theme parks draw tourists from outside the United States and thus increase the risk of COVID infection. Some individuals claim that the statistics, however, do not support this argument.  

At first glance, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaley confirms that the state is dividing the theme parks into two categories: parks that can accommodate less than 15,000 people will be allowed to reopen with 25% capacity when the counties these theme parks reside in enter the third (moderate risk) tier. The theme parks that can accommodate over 15,000 and above will need to wait until their counties reach tier 4 (minimal risk). The theme park representatives are pushing back against state officials, claiming that the statistics used to create the tier system are biased or based on unfounded science.  

Other representatives, such as Karen Irwin, the president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios Hollywood, have advanced a different claim. While the state is tentatively making a form of compromise by allowing some parks to open to local residents only, she argues that this is not a concession at all: it is  primarily where the income is generated for each park. She went on to state that a review of parks already reopened will show that the current attendance is primarily local, and we will not see a return to the cross-country/international travel for at least a year or more. 

If the state would look at what is working across the country, it should see what is possible in California. Florida has opened their theme parks at a limited capacity. Walt Disney World, for example, is operating at 25% capacity and  is met with visitors on a daily, consistent basis. The park is being cautious, with guests required to wear masks, social distance and use complimentary hand sanitizer. People are happily taking videos and sharing their photos on social media. Slowly but surely, executives are planning to bring more people into the park. Their official Twitter account recently announced that they will indeed be offering Christmas merchandise like themed face masks available for purchase in the near future.  

Universal Studios Florida has also reopened. The park is operating at a smaller capacity, yes, and with limited attractions open, but guests are attending in waves. The park has implemented standard COVID preventative measures to ensure public safety, distributing items such as social distancing circle guides. During the Halloween season, the park had its normal haunted house attractions up until November 1. 

Governor Newsom has already given the California Theme Parks Representatives what guidelines should be followed for them to reopen, and they are all doing everything possible to continue moving forward. Since the process is on a county-by-county, statistical basis, it might be a slower process than they have anticipated. We can all hope, however, to enjoy some of our missing pastimes soon

Authors: Dani Mercado|A & E Editor and Janelle Fontaine| Opinions Editor