ARC provides option to select gender pronouns in learning platforms

Students and employees can now select their pronouns in Canvas, eServices, rosters and Zoom

As+of+October+2020%2C+all+students+and+employees+can+now+indicate+their+gender+pronouns+in+eServices.+Any+changes+made+reflect+in+Canvas+and+on+official+rosters.+%28Photo+illustration+by+Ariel+Caspar%29
As of October 2020, all students and employees can now indicate their gender pronouns in eServices. Any changes made reflect in Canvas and on official rosters. (Photo illustration by Ariel Caspar)

Earlier this semester, it was announced district-wide through various mass communication platforms—including the American River College website—that in recognition of the Los Rios Community College District commitment to social justice and a recognition that names and pronouns are an essential part of our identity, as of October 2020, all students and employees can indicate their pronouns,” with instructions on how students and employees can do so on Canvas, eServices, official rosters and Zoom.

According to Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, including pronouns in these systems is a huge step towards building a respectful environment toward individual gender identity and establishing a more affirming and inclusive space for people of all genders.

He wrote in an email to the Current, the new choices available for selection include: he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/theirs, name only, or none selected, which is the default for all current and new students.

“People’s pronouns relate to their gender identity. For example, someone who identifies as a woman may use the pronouns ‘she/her,’” Crow wrote. “We do not want to assume people’s gender identity based on gender expression (typically shown through clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms, etc.). We encourage all members of the ARC community to respect those individuals who choose to share their pronoun preferences.”

Emilie Mitchell, faculty coordinator for the ARC Pride Center, was highly instrumental in pushing for name policy changes and now gender pronoun policy changes. The process to enact the change was lengthy, she says. Although she and other campus representatives had proposed these changes seven months ago, she did not hear from the district that there would be any action taken until a few months ago.

In late September, she received an email from the district that announced they would be moving forward with officially adding pronoun options in learning and enrollment systems.

“I serve queer and trans students every single day. And particularly for our nonbinary scholars or transgender scholars, as well as our colleagues who are classified professionals and our faculty members, this is really a basic element of respect for one’s identity,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, Canvas, LRCCD’s learning management system, had the opportunity to include pronouns already embedded into its software. This came to her attention through the campus’ IT staff members and the ARC distance education department.

She was told that in order to use what Canvas has to offer, an administrator has to agree to turn on this function. After learning of this function, it was decided a group of representatives, including Mitchell, would propose to the district that this option be available in every learning or enrollment system where it was possible.

Mitchell put together a presentation that she or an Academic Senate representative would present to the district. After this, the district presented the proposal to Tamara Armstrong, LRCCD’s associate vice chancellor of information technology. This proposal was also presented to the LRCCD Distance Education & Virtual Education Center and a plan was formed to move forward, including parsing it down into systems and identifying which pronouns individuals would want as an option on the default lists.

“It was a lot of education on the back side. Why is this important? Why do we need to address this? And there were some logistical issues, like which systems talk to whom, and then of course at the same time, all of our campus’ moved remotely,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, this change reflects on roll sheets as well, where professors can see the affirmed name and pronoun of the individual. Before these changes were made, the individuals legal name would still be shown with their affirmed name in parentheses, and no pronoun was shown at all.

“[This method is] totally inappropriate. So we worked really quickly on getting that eliminated,” Mitchell said. “Our rosters reflect at that moment in time the names of the students as they live their lives.”

Mitchell said the district is trying to keep these pronoun options as updated and relevant as possible to accommodate all students, so as new things come up, those changes will be made in the system. Once students make a name change, their legal name is no longer visible. Although legal names may appear on legal documentation such as transcripts or financial aid awards, none of the individual’s classmates or even the professor would know that it appears that way.

“To my knowledge …we’re pretty much one of the best in terms of name policy and pronouns. This is not common at all,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, although she has been incredibly vocal in advocating for these students because of her position, the students have played a huge role in advocating for themselves.

“I do want to give due credit to students. It is the case that my job is to advocate for policy and because of my positionality as a faculty member and coordinator, there are avenues of influence and discussions that I can have that the average student does not have access to,” Mitchell said. “But it is 100% the students saying ‘this is preventing me from being successful in school. This is preventing me from going to school. This is making me leave my classes.’”

Mitchell said that frequent Pride Center campus climate studies have revealed that names and pronouns are very important to students’ identities and how they present themselves to the world. The study also showed students find it discouraging when individuals do not use all inclusive language.

“While it may be the case that I took the fight to the avenues I have access to, it is absolutely grassroots activism on the part of students, faculty and staff who have lived experience,” Mitchell said. “It has been the tremendous voice of those in the community who are transgender, gender non-conforming, and others saying ‘this is what I need to be a successful Los Rios employee or student.’”

ARC President Thomas Greene has had a strong focus on social justice, and has always aimed for creating a more welcoming and affirming campus, particularly to historically marginalized communities, according to Mitchell.

“It takes some leadership at the top who says this is really important to us,” Mitchell said. “It takes a tremendous amount of education, and continuing to talk to [people] about the experience of students and how these things are really, in the grand scheme of things, minor changes with huge impacts. It cost us nothing to do this.This was a zero cost intervention with huge implications and ramifications.”

Another area that Mitchell and others in leadership are working towards is inclusive building practices, which means adding all gender restrooms and changing facilities to the campus. Mitchell said there have been several reports through the Pride Center from transgender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming and even cisgender students who feel uncomfortable in locker rooms, particularly the shower areas which have not been updated to accommodate privacy.

Mitchell said she was able to start working with Cheryl Sears, director of facilities, on the “women’s” locker room to create single stall showers and changing facilities. She also said there is an ongoing discussion about taking a multi-stall bathroom and labeling it as an all gender restroom, but this has yet to be determined.

Other gendered restroom facilities would still be available, but those who are not uncomfortable using a multi-stall all gender restroom could choose to use that as an alternative. According to Mitchell, the University of California system is far ahead on providing gender inclusive facilities for its students, and the California Community College system should follow suit.

Single stall all-gender restrooms already exist on campus, but Mitchell is pushing for multi-stall all gender facilities across campus, regardless of cost, especially in the newer buildings that are being built as part of the ARC campus redesign.

“I have a common statement that I say that is ‘budgets are not apolitical.’ Budgets are value statements,” Mitchell said. “They tell you as an organization who we value, who we value more, and who we value less.. Where we put our money is directly related to what we care about.”

Mitchell said this would be a huge step to creating a more equitable campus for students to feel welcomed and affirmed just as they are.

“All of us cannot control everything, but all of us can control something,” Mitchell said. “We have one little sphere of influence, and I think it behoves us to spend some time self-reflecting and saying, ‘what is one action I could do today, this week, this semester that would lead to a more equitable outcome?’”

Mitchell said creating equitable outcomes for all may require looking at disproportionate impact data, and assessing if there are groups falling behind. If that is so, Mitchell says as a faculty member there may be something going on within the classroom or virtual classroom that is contributing to that.

Mitchell adds that being equitable is focusing on the smaller things in interactions with students, such as acknowledging their affirmed name and pronouns, using inclusive language and simply smiling, because that is what makes students feel welcomed and included. Kindness and showing you care goes a long way.

“In every place in which we work and exist, we have some limited sphere of power,” Mitchell said.

Students can learn more about recognizing the importance of pronouns at https://arc.losrios.edu/campus-life/news/recognizing-the-importance-of-pronouns.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

16-year-old Sacramento native makes it on “The Voice”

ARC Theatre performer snags a spot on Team Gwen

Larriah+Jackson+has+performed+in+over+300+shows+to+date+and+has+opened+for+well+known+gospel+artist+Yolanda+Adams+and+singer-songwriter+Lyfe+Jennings.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Warner+Brother+Studios%29
Larriah Jackson has performed in over 300 shows to date and has opened for well known gospel artist Yolanda Adams and singer-songwriter Lyfe Jennings. (Photo courtesy of Warner Brother Studios)

As soon as 16-year-old Larriah Jackson opened her mouth to sing during her blind audition for NBC’s “The Voice,” which aired on Oct. 27, she captured the attention of the four superstar judges.

Kelly Clarkson smiled as she heard Jackson’s soft falsetto fill the empty auditorium, but hesitated to push her button. Then as Jackson let out a mature and robust belt from Mariah Carey’s version of the Jackson 5 classic, “I’ll Be There,” Gwen Stefani confidently pushed the famous red button to turn her chair—every performer’s hope as they prepare for the blind auditions.

At just 16 years old, the Sacramento resident and American River College Theatre performer confirmed her spot on Team Gwen on season 19 of “The Voice” after Stefani turned her chair.

“It took me a minute to understand what was happening, but eventually I was like ‘wow I made it.’ I said to myself before I got on stage, ‘all you need is one chair,’” Jackson said.

The mental preparation for the blind audition was lengthy, but Jackson says she knew she wanted to select a song that had meaning to her and her family.

“When I first started thinking about my song choice, I wanted to be very intentional. I wanted to do something that would not only show my range and vocal ability, but I wanted to show a song that means a lot to me,” Jackson said. “It’s a song that truly spoke to my love for music and my love of Michael Jackson.”

Jackson said she originally performed “I’ll Be There” for a second grade graduation ceremony, and performing it again for her blind audition has brought things full circle for her in her musical journey.

The St. Francis High School junior had an unusual start with music and performing. Her first performance was at the Crocker Art Museum when she was just 3 years old. This performance led to more local recognition as others wanted her to perform at their events and venues.

As her talent continued to grow, she went on to audition for “Hairspray” with ARC Theatre, directed by Sam Williams.

According to Jackson, Williams cast her in her first role with ARC, Little Inez, in “Hairspray” when she was just 8 years old.

“To play this role a person needs to exude with confidence and have a big, dynamic mezzo-soprano belting voice,” Williams said. “Larriah blew the audience away in every performance. [She] loved being on the college stage and working with other college-aged students.”

Williams said Jackson has performed in several ARC Mainstage productions under his guidance and direction including “Everyman,” “Shepherd’s Play,” and most recently “North Star.”

Jackson said she appreciates the time and effort Williams took to help her feel more confident in her abilities as a performer throughout the years.

“He is a phenomenal director, such an amazing spirit, and me being so young in all those plays, he took so much time with me, guiding me through the process,” Jackson said recalling her time working with Williams. “He has taught me so much, how to use my voice and tell a story with it.”

Professionally, Jackson has done over 300 performances to date, and performed regularly on weekends before getting onto the show. She has opened for artists such as Yolanda Adams and Lyfe Jennings.

She released her first single, “Talk,” seven months ago and said she had come to a point in her career where she felt ready for the next level.

“Before getting on ‘“The Voice,’” I think I reached a point like, where am I going to go? What am I going to do with this?” Jackson said. “‘The Voice’ came in at a perfect time. It was truly a saving grace. It was like, this is how we’re going to take it to the next level.”

Jackson said it’s been amazing getting to work with Stefani on the show.

“She’s really caring about each and every person on her team,” Jackson said. “She cares about us dearly and I truly appreciate that because it’s not Gwen Stefani the superstar, it’s Gwen Stefani our coach, and I appreciate the intimacy of that.”

This is Stefani’s fifth time coaching throughout the 19 seasons of the show. After Jackson’s blind audition she expressed her excitement about getting Jackson on her team.

“Your singing talent is just unbelievable,” Stefani said. “Your voice is just so rich and warm and dreamy and you have so much range. I know that this is meant to be, and I’m really excited.”

Larriah Jackson performed the song “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5 in the style of Mariah Carey for her blind audition.

The show’s producers told Jackson she was allowed to bring one person to Universal Studios in Hollywood to accompany her during her blind audition, to follow COVID-19 guidelines. Jackson chose to bring her mother who she says has been her “biggest support system.”

Doing a competition like this in the midst of a worldwide pandemic has not come without challenges for everyone involved, but Jackson says she is making the best out of her performances to the virtual audience.

“It was really amazing … when you’re on stage, you just kind of look up and there’s the virtual audience and they just have such big smiles on their faces,” Jackson said. “It was a different process, but it was very easy to work with.”

Besides the four judges and the host of the show, her mother was the only other person present in the studio, and Jackson said there were some funny moments between her and her mother during her performance.

“There was a moment on stage right after Gwen turned and she started jumping and laughing and screaming and I had to turn away,” Jackson said laughing. “It was amazing having her there. So rewarding seeing her eyes light up when that chair turned.”

Jackson is one of the several younger contestants on the show this season, and she says it’s an honor to be in the midst of music-minded and talented people.

“Being this young and this impressionable, it’s just not really heard of for a person who’s 14, 15, 16 years old to really be at this level. It gives me a lot of confidence to know how far I can go in life and how much more I can grow in my artistry,” Jackson said. “If I’m 16 now, what are the possibilities when I’m 20 or 30 years old? I have a lot of growing to do and I’m happy I have this experience to do so.”

Williams said he has high hopes for Jackson to continue to grow as a humble vocalist and performing artist as she keeps pursuing success in the music industry.

“Every time Larriah opens her mouth to sing, it is clearly evident the Lord God has given her the gift to bless people with her voice. She added her touch of excellence in every show in which I directed her,” Williams said. “In theater productions I was not able to use the abundance of her talents enough.”

As Jackson goes forth into the competitions, she says she wants to use this experience to learn more about herself and develop her own unique musical style.

Jackson faced off against teammate Carter Rubin in the Battle Round. Rubin went on to win the entire competition. This was the first win for Coach Gwen Stefani after five seasons on “the Voice.”

“I want to figure out who I am as an artist. I want to create my own music,” Jackson said. “I have a lot to figure out in these next few years, but I have a phenomenal team and support system that can help me do so.”

In the Battle Rounds, Jackson went against fellow teammate, Carter Rubin, performing John Legend and Meghan Trainor’s “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” After Rubin won the battle, Stefani saved Jackson, allowing her to continue on to a four-way knockout round with the other three coaches’ Battle Round saves.

Rubin went on the win the entire competition in the finale being the youngest male winner and the second youngest overall to take the title of “the Voice.” This was the first win for Coach Gwen Stefani.

Jackson’s journey on “the Voice” ended in the four-way Knockout Round. Jackson said she will continue to make music and perform moving forward.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Dec. 21 to reflect new information.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

10 spine-tingling thrillers that are sure to haunt you

If you like being creeped out, this spoiler-free list is for you

If you like being creeped out, this spoiler-free list is for you

%22Jennifer%27s+Body%22+may+have+been+the+most+underrated+horror+film+of+its+time.+11+years+later%2C+the+film+is+still+intriguing+audiences+with+its+original+storyline.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Twentieth+Century+Fox%29
“Jennifer’s Body” may have been the most underrated horror film of its time. 11 years later, the film is still intriguing audiences with its original storyline. (Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)

The spooky season is among us, and while everyone else is getting excited about pumpkin spice, horror genre fans are on the hunt for new and intriguing films to enjoy. While this isn’t a traditional Halloween movie list, there is an element of creepiness to these films that hardcore horror fans will love. There’s nothing better than a film that is so unsettling, it leaves you thinking long after the credits have rolled.

1. Midsommar | 2019 | Available on Amazon Prime Video

“Midsommar,” directed by Ari Aster, known for his 2018 horror film “Hereditary,” is a visionary masterpiece. This film follows the adventures of an emotionally distant couple, Dani and Christian (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) as they travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s Harga commune as they celebrate the fabled midsummer festival. What feels like a sun-drenched, mountainside retreat at first, soon becomes the couple’s worst nightmare when they realize they are at the mercy of a primitive pagan cult. Aster was inspired by a plethora of bizarre Nordic sources when creating the Harga cult, which makes the events of the film all the more unsettling.

2. We Summon the Darkness | 2020 | Available on Netflix

“We Summon the Darkness” has the makings of a cult classic. Directed by Marc Meyers, this horror/comedy follows three best friends who attend a 1980s heavy metal concert and travel to a secluded countryside home to party. What they didn’t expect was crossing paths with members of a murderous sadistic cult out for blood. Starring Alexandra Daddario, Maddie Hasson and Amy Forsyth, “We Summon the Darkness” has the classic feel of horror films of the ‘80s married with a fresh and modern twist.

“It Follows” brought in an interesting dynamic to the horror genre with incorporating sex as something to be feared. This element makes the film both terrifying and symbolic. (Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Films)

3. It Follows | 2015 | Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

With an impressive 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “It Follows” grabs your attention right away and leaves you on the edge of your seat with its unique and terrifying storyline. This story is about Jay (Maika Monroe), a carefree teenager who has relations with a new boyfriend. Shortly after the encounter, she discovers she is the unfortunate recipient of a deadly curse that is passed to victims through sexual intercourse. For the rest of her life, she will be followed by a force that will inevitably kill her. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, “It Follows” is incredibly original and is the perfect spooky thriller to get in the spirit of the season.

4. Creep | 2015 | Available on Netflix

Not everyone is a fan of “found footage” films, but “Creep,” directed by Patrick Kack-Brice, is so strange and original, it could hold any viewers interest if that’s your sort of thing. This odd storyline follows an independent film-maker, Aaron (Kack-Brice) as he answers a stranger’s intriguing online ad, agreeing to film him for a day. At first, the man, Josef (Mark Duplass) wants to create a home video for his unborn child, but his requests grow increasingly disturbing as filming throughout the day continues. Don’t forget to watch the sequel “Creep 2.”

5. The Cabin in the Woods | 2012 | Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

“The Cabin in the Woods” quickly became a horror favorite by many after it was released in 2012 and was very well received by film critics. With a high 92% score on the Tomatometer, this is truly one of the most original horror films of its time. If you have never seen or heard about this film, I would highly suggest watching it without any prior knowledge of the film to get the most out of it. I’ll just say it’s about six college friends who decide to stay the weekend at a cabin in the woods, but other factors come into play. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Conolly and Fran Kranz, it’s a horror/thriller/comedy all in one.

6. Swallow | 2020 | Available on Showtime and Hulu

“Swallow,” directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, is a wonderfully strange and delightful take on the oppressive life of Hunter (Haley Bennett), a bored, young housewife to an arrogant, privileged millionaire. From the outside, everything is perfect – the house, the husband, the marriage, but upon getting pregnant, Hunter soon develops a rare disorder that gives her the uncontrollable urge to eat inanimate, inedible objects.

7. The Witch | 2015 | Available on Showtime, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video

Robert Egger’s debut film, “The Witch” is a deeply unsettling look into the unfortunate events that follow a 1630s Puritan family who leaves their small village to make it on their own in “God’s country.” This slow-burning and visually stunning A24 film proves thought-provoking and haunting. When youngest sibling Samuel disappears, the family is quick to blame the oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) who was with the infant upon his vanishing. Her suspicious siblings accuse Thomasin of witchcraft, turning the dynamics of the family upside down.

8. The Ritual | 2017 | Available on Netflix

This Netflix original, directed by David Bruckner, is for anyone who loves Scandinavian or Norse folklore, or monster flicks in general. “The Ritual” is a dark and creepy masterpiece with the familiar feel of “The Blair Witch Project” as the characters fail to navigate themselves through the never-ending Scandinavian wilderness. In this film, four friends reunite after the tragic death of a friend, hoping to reconnect and clear their heads through a backpacking trip through the Scandinavian mountains. The friends find themselves hopelessly lost, stumbling into a forest of Norse legend, home to a primitive cult and an ancient evil stalking them as prey.

9. Jennifer’s Body | 2009 | Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video

“Jennifer’s Body” was truly a film ahead of its time. This film was not received well by critics, most likely due to the fact that Megan Fox stars as the title character and the film is about a cheerleader that eats boys, but 11 years after its release date, this film has proven to still be original and intriguing, and not as cheesy as it seems. There is a dark element of humor to “Jennifer’s Body” that separates this film from other gory ‘whack ’em’ slash ’em’s’, and is truly a sophisticated gore flick with other interesting elements, and a stunning performance from Fox.

10. Raw | 2016 | Available on Amazon Prime Video and Youtube

This independent French film, directed by Julia Ducournau, is original, disturbing and quite gory. This film is about a vegetarian college student, Justine (Garance Marillier) starting her first year in veterinary school. After trying raw meat for the first time, she develops an uncontrollable craving for raw meat and human flesh. “Raw” is a sensual and symbolic piece that is anchored by strong acting and provocative visuals. This film still triumphs today with a 92% score on the Tomatometer, and pushes the boundaries of traditional horror.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

ARC student dead after suffering gunshot wounds from shooter

Shooter pronounced dead at the scene

On+Oct.+5%2C+a+shooter+entered+the+halal+market+pictured+above+on+El+Camino+Avenue+and+struck+three+victims.+The+first+victim%2C+identified+by+the+college+as+Shujauddin+Omar+Kheil%2C+was+an+American+River+College+student%2C+and+died+in+a+hospital+shortly+after+he+was+transported+there.+%28Photo+by+Ariel+Caspar%29
On Oct. 5, a shooter entered the halal market pictured above on El Camino Avenue and struck three victims. The first victim, identified by the college as Shujauddin Omar Kheil, was an American River College student, and died in a hospital shortly after he was transported there. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

An American River College student, identified as Shujauddin Omar Kheil, died by fatal gunshot wounds on Oct. 3 after a 33-year-old gunman entered a halal market in Arden Arcade and opened fire, striking three people. The other two victims of the shooting are recovering at area hospitals, and the shooter died from self-inflicted gunshots at the scene, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. 

According to Scott Crow, ARC’s public information officer, the college’s records have identified the student as Omar Kheil. The college released a statement in response to Omar Kheil’s death.

“While we cannot completely confirm at this time, from a review of our records it does appear as though Shujauddin Omar Kheil, 27, who has been publicly identified as one of the victim’s in Saturday’s [Oct. 3] shooting in Sacramento, was a current American River College student,” the statement read. “The ARC community is deeply saddened at the news of this tragic death and we send our most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, the shooting occurred on El Camino Avenue at East Market & Restaurant, a halal market that primarily sells Afghan groceries and meals. 

According to Deputy Zaheem Buksh, the acting spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s office, early reports indicated the gunman entered through the front entrance and opened fire, injuring three victims, including Omar Kheil. Deputies arrived and administered medical aid, and the wounded victims were then transported to area hospitals by fire personnel to receive further treatment.

Subsequently, after Omar Kheil was in transport, he was pronounced dead, according to a Sac County Sheriff’s Oct. 5 press release. The second victim, a 19-year-old male is still in critical condition, and the third victim, a 30-year-old male is expected to survive.

According to witness statements in an Oct. 4 Sac County Sheriff’s press release, the gunman  suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

According to Buksh, the Sac County Sheriff’s Department is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting. For the time being, it is unclear why the 33-year-old gunman opened fire, but evidence did not indicate the shooting was a hate crime, or that the suspect and victims were known to each other.

The shooter’s motives are part of an on-going investigation, according to Buksh.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

Facebook drops the ball on livestreamed suicide

Real-life media violence is desensitizing to internet users

Ronnie+McNutt%2C+screenshotted+here%2C+took+his+own+life+with+a+shotgun+in+a+Facebook+livestream+he+filmed+in+front+of+a+desk+in+his+home+on+Aug.+31.+Since+the+livestream%2C+the+video+has+gone+viral+and+social+platforms+have+scrambled+to+have+it+removed.+%28Best+Gore+screenshot%29%0A
Ronnie McNutt, screenshotted here, took his own life with a shotgun in a Facebook livestream he filmed in front of a desk in his home on Aug. 31. Since the livestream, the video has gone viral and social platforms have scrambled to have it removed. (Best Gore screenshot)

Imagine you are on TikTok casually scrolling through and viewing videos on the “For You” page, not expecting anything out of the ordinary, just the daily dose of laughs, courtesy of TikTok’s millions of users who upload content regularly. Now imagine, a new video automatically starts playing. Because of the music and the editing, it looks like any other video – but then the man in the video hangs up the phone, raises up a shotgun and blows his own face off.

Yes, this actually happened to millions of TikTok and Instagram users while using the apps, and no, they could not control the video appearing virtually out of nowhere; and Facebook is entirely to blame.

The man described above was 33-year-old Ronnie McNutt, a U.S. Army veteran living in Mississippi, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving tours in the Iraq War, according to the news platform, Heavy, that covered the aftermath of McNutt’s suicide.

McNutt went on a rant and livestreamed his own suicide by shooting via Facebook Live on Aug. 31. During and after the stream, Facebook did essentially nothing to remove the stream, and during that time, the video went viral and was shared a number of times on Facebook and then to other social media platforms including TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Facebook’s complacency and failure to act promptly is a prime example of why cybermedia is becoming an uncontrollable landscape for desensitization and is essentially a free-for-all on violent and inappropriate content.

Heavy reported that the video of McNutt’s gory suicide was not removed until two hours and 41 minutes after the shooting occurred, meaning any viewers of the stream could see nothing but McNutt’s lifeless body.

Following his death, the livestream was edited down and shared on various other social media platforms. Because of the algorithms, these social media sites have in place, the video was coming up on suggested video pages and would begin playing automatically without any warnings or censoring.

What is unfortunate is Facebook and other social platforms were more than capable of preventing this stream from being viewed and going viral. These sites can ban accounts and IP addresses if necessary. If YouTube can flag you for using a copyrighted song within a matter of seconds, they could definitely flag offensive content and remove it immediately, but Facebook failed to do so.

According to Heavy, the stream was originally reported to Facebook when McNutt was still alive by a friend of McNutt’s, Josh Steen when McNutt accidentally misfired his gun. Others were active in the comments trying to help. Police were called as well, but only stood outside his apartment complex watching the livestream, and essentially took no action, Heavy reported.

Steen said he contacted Facebook for hours asking them to remove the video, according to Heavy. McNutt had died by suicide at 10:30 p.m. and Facebook did not respond to Steen until 11:50 p.m.

Facebook’s ironic response read, “This post will remain on Facebook because we only remove content that goes against our Community Standards. Our standards don’t allow things that encourage suicide or self-injury.”

Above is a screenshot of Facebook’s response to Ronnie McNutt’s concerned friend, Josh Steen, after he spent hours reporting the livestream’s offensive content before and after McNutt’s suicide. Facebook did not remove the video until two hours and 41 minutes after McNutt had taken his own life. (Heavy screenshot)

At this point, thousands of Facebook users had reported the video, requesting it be taken down.

According to Heavy, the video was not taken down until nearly 1:30 a.m., and by that time the video had already been shared multiple times to other social media sites. Facebook blamed COVID-19 for its slow response time and lack of customer service.

This is unacceptable on Facebook’s part and they need to be held legally responsible for the global spread of this video. No one’s filmed death should be sensationalized and distributed for entertainment purposes.

According to Heavy, Facebook did however release a statement saying “we are reviewing how we could have taken down the livestream faster,” but has yet to follow through with their claims.

Another issue Facebook has yet to acknowledge is all of the trolls and bots commenting on previous posts of McNutt’s leaving links and explanations on where to find the video of his suicide, contributing to the circulation. Although these comments have been reported multiple times, these comments do not seem to go against Facebook’s community guidelines or standards.

According to Heavy, Facebook has been criticized for its response to inappropriate and offensive livestreams in the past. In 2019, Facebook was heavily criticized for failing to respond to the mass murders in Christchurch, New Zealand, when a terrorist livestreamed himself murdering 50 Muslims, according to the Guardian, a British daily newspaper that covered the Christchurch attacks.

Facebook finally responded to the crisis after two weeks and only said they would “look into” implementing restrictions on livestreams,” according to the Guardian.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said the company would be “investing in research to build better technology to quickly identify edited versions of violent videos and images and prevent people from re-sharing these versions,” according to Heavy.

The company has yet to announce if any policy changes have been made.

Although Facebook removing the video immediately could have helped in slowing the video’s circulation, another major factor may have been responsible for its virality.

A recent Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” explains how algorithms are designed to suggest content for users based on their previously viewed content. The goal is to keep the user engaged with as much new content as possible.

What algorithm creators are realizing now, is that because algorithms are based in artificial intelligence, they will inevitably continue to evolve over time, and will be very difficult to control. Even the creators themselves don’t know what these algorithms are fully capable of.

This is why McNutt’s filmed suicide was showing up on TikTok’s “For You” trending homepage. An algorithm pushing this video onto a “For You” page makes it very difficult for users to avoid seeing the footage, since these videos are automatically played.

Since the video has been circulating through TikTok, the company is still frantically trying to have it completely removed. TikTok executives have claimed they will ban any accounts that are re-uploading McNutt’s video, according to the Sun, who covered TikTok’s response to the viral video in September.

TikTok has been one of the more active social media platforms in getting a handle on the video that has been circulating through their site since Sept. 6 and released a statement that read in part, “our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praised, glorifies, or promotes suicide,” the Sun reported.

Facebook needs to be held responsible for their failure to prevent the spread of this content since it led to other companies scrambling to clean up their mess.

Facebook’s failure to remove the video is one of the many factors contributing to desensitizing media users to violent content, since many of those that saw the video, viewed it against their virtual will.

All of this points to the even broader issue of a lack of censorship of violent content online. It is becoming easier to view violent content online. There are several websites specifically designed for the viewing of violent content for entertainment purposes, such as Best Gore, a Canadian shock site founded by Mark Marek.

This site advertises itself as a reality news website for adults only but is basically the Porn Hub of violent real-life content. It offers a massive collection of videos involving violence in multiple categories. These videos are shot on phone cameras or stolen from security camera footage, and then uploaded to the site, completely uncensored. You can access this site through a regular web browser.

The Canadian site was launched in 2008 and received harsh criticism when it hosted a real-life video of a murder. Since its launch, Marek pleaded guilty in 2016 by Canadian court authorities for uploading illegal content, according to Global News, a Canadian based news site that has been covering Marek’s arrests and sentencing since 2012. Despite Marek’s sentencing, the atrocious site is still up and running today by anonymous contributors.

McNutt’s video was found on this site, proving that the video’s online trail will never be completely erased. This is unfortunate for the friends and family of McNutt that will always struggle to remember him by a less chilling legacy.

As technology continues to advance, violent content will only become more accessible. What was once shocking and obscene to a regular internet user, will become the norm, because of the constant exposure to media violence. This is an unfortunate consequence of user-generated content.

Social media platforms have fallen asleep on media violence and its effect on innocent app users, and are now scrambling to clean up their mess. We can only hope they wake up and follow through with their standards, as they should’ve done from the get-go.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

District continues to monitor possible COVID-19 exposures

Nursing program temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 exposure threat

In+early+September%2C+the+nursing+program+at+American+River+College+was+voluntarily+and+temporarily+suspended+out+of+concern+for+possible+exposures+to+the+COVID-19+virus.+To+date%2C+the+college+has+received+no+reports+of+exposures.+%28Photo+by+Ariel+Caspar%29
In early September, the nursing program at American River College was voluntarily and temporarily suspended out of concern for possible exposures to the COVID-19 virus. To date, the college has received no reports of exposures. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

Since the start of the fall 2020 semester, the Los Rios Community College District has voluntarily and temporarily suspended two separate programs on two of its campuses out of concern that students and employees might be exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

According to Gabe Ross, LRCCD associate vice chancellor, the district opted in late August to temporarily suspend the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program at Cosumnes River College and the nursing program at American River College in early September. 

“In neither case do we have any evidence of infections as a result of that exposure, but we communicated with all students and employees impacted by the temporary suspension of the program immediately,” Ross said. “We will continue [to] take any and all precautions to keep our students, faculty and staff safe during this difficult time.”

To date, the Sacramento County Health Department has not alerted the district or any of the Los Rios colleges of any recent exposures to the virus, according to Ross.

In an email to the Current, Ross said the colleges and district have no way of attaining an accurate number of how many positive Covid-19 cases there may be among the student and employee population.

“County health departments are responsible for tracking all active cases in their counties and, if/when cases are reported to them by health care providers, their contact-tracing protocols require them to inform those who may have come in contact with the infected individuals,” Ross wrote.

Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, explained in an email to the Current that with the vast majority of classes and services held online, local public health experts would not necessarily inform the college of positive cases among the student/employee population unless there was sufficient evidence that the individual had been on campus and was in contact with others after the exposure.

Crow said that in the event that the college is made aware of a positive case, they work with county public health experts to ensure the appropriate protocols are executed and authorities are notified. If the individual came into contact with others at the college, the college would be required to alert anyone who may have been exposed to the individual.

“If, however, we don’t have any reason to believe that they came into contact with others via college activities, we would not necessarily share that information broadly, as there are concerns related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),” Crow wrote.

According to Crow, HIPAA has specific guidelines on the protection of individual healthcare information. For this reason, the college must work closely with county health to ensure the correct protocols are followed.

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

Social justice courses use history lessons to empower change

SJS 300 dives into the importance of social consciousness

Asha+Wilkerson%2C+department+chair+of+Legal+Studies%2C+and+Sociology+professor+for+the+fall+2020+semester+is+co-teaching+Introduction+to+Social+Justice+Studies+%28SJS+300%29+in+a+synchronous+online+course+at+American+River+College.+The+SJS+300+course+is+a+required+course+for+students+majoring+in+social+justice.+%28Photo+by+Ariel+Caspar%29
Asha Wilkerson, department chair of Legal Studies, and Sociology professor for the fall 2020 semester is co-teaching Introduction to Social Justice Studies (SJS 300) in a synchronous online course at American River College. The SJS 300 course is a required course for students majoring in social justice. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

Over the last couple of years, the Los Rios Community College District has gone through an institutional redesign, with a commitment to the social justice and equity of all students who have experienced a systemic disproportionate impact on multiple levels. This commitment was added to the district’s mission statement and values by the Los Rios Board of Trustees in March 2017.

As a result of this redesign, along with increased student-generated interest in the subject, American River College started offering social justice studies courses, and the option to major in social justice in the fall of 2019. ARC was the first among the Los Rios campuses to offer these courses and two Social Justice Studies Associate Degree for Transfer (AA-T) programs including Race and Ethnicity Studies and Women, Gender and LGBTQ Studies.

Asha Wilkerson, department chair of legal studies, is co-teaching Introduction to Social Justice Studies (SJS 300) this semester. She is responsible for the first eight weeks which has a focus on identifying the foundation of the course, diving into topics such as race, racism, sexism, heterosexism, as well as transgender and non-binary people, and the oppression that is involved with specific groups. The course also has a strong focus on understanding oppression in classism, power relations and wealth gaps.

Wilkerson says social justice could be defined as making sure a person has access to any resources needed to maintain a general state of well-being regardless of who they are or where they came from, and this is crucial to understand when laying the foundation of the SJS 300 course.

“It’s really about [having] an equal access to things that give us life,” Wilkerson said.

According to Wilkerson, the course focuses on comprehending the history of how racial and gender identifying groups have been affected by classism, in order to understand why current systems are the way they are, and that the governmental and legal barriers of the past are oftentimes responsible for the flaws in current systems. 

The course looks into how acquiring a social justice lens requires the examination of oppression in different groups of people in the United States and comprehending the power relations between the oppressors and the oppressed, what the power groups benefit from and more importantly what the oppressed groups lose. 

Wilkerson says it’s important for her students to recognize that solutions to these historical issues are not found in treating these oppressed groups like everyone else and expecting them to be able to catch up to those who experience more privilege, but in understanding these groups are dealing with a historical under-resourcing that is a result of hundreds of years of targeted oppressive governmental policies and treatment.

She says her classroom is an open environment to discuss these topics and share personal stories when appropriate, and examine the factual side of the oppression being experienced.

“It becomes emotional. It’s painful sometimes, but we’re not looking at it from that emotional perspective,” Wilkerson said. “We’re looking at it from a factual perspective, so we can figure out how we are going to empower ourselves to do better in the future.”

According to Wilkerson, social media is one of the driving factors in raising awareness and creating a space and platform to discuss and be educated on the importance of social justice. She says it has also created visibility for under-resourced groups and various social justice movements involving Black and African American rights, police brutality, immigrant rights and many more. 

Social media has been a driving factor in social circles becoming more diverse. Wilkerson says when a social circle is more diverse, the level of concern for people, and the desire to be educated on important subjects is raised.

“You can glimpse into people’s lives via social media. You get to see people coming from all different backgrounds, diverse from education, opportunities,” Wilkerson said. “So we’re just in community with people, and when you’re in community with people, you want to know a little bit more about them.”

Recent events in the media within the last six months, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor as a result of police brutality and negligence are still hot topics of discussion. Wilkerson says real-world circumstances like these are important to discuss in the classroom because they heavily relate to social justice and understanding the historical systemic flaws within the legal system that allowed these events to occur.

According to Pam Chao, department chair of sociology and behavioral sciences, the intensification of the Black Lives Matter social justice movement is awakening a critically conscious moment in society that is both causing divisions among groups and bringing people together at the same time.

“There is an undeniable impact, and there are different impacts for different populations and for different people in populations,” Chao said. “Some people [say] it’s really important for people to see these things, because it moves people to action.”

According to Chao, although social media is allowing the visibility of these events and is opening up multi-faceted conversations and raising concern, it’s still important to check on the well being of students as these historical events are being processed.

“I think it’s important for me as an instructor in a classroom to acknowledge what’s going on and [what is] affecting our students,” Chao said. “There’s always something you can mention and just say ‘I know these things are happening and I want to acknowledge that it’s happening, and that we are going to be doing this class in that context.’”

Wilkerson says she thinks SJS 300 should be a required course for all students because if the college institution’s goal is to educate better citizens with more concern for one another, the institution needs to require courses that properly educate on the historical oppression of certain groups, so individuals can better comprehend these struggles and gain an appropriate social consciousness.

Wilkerson says many of her students take the course simply because they want to be able to correctly and confidently educate and respond to those around them who may speak from a place of ignorance.  

“There is a desire to just learn more and be educated,” Wilkerson said. “I think [taking SJS 300] is a double-dip. You get a college requirement done and you get to answer those questions that maybe you don’t know where to go to find the answers.”

Original article was published on arcurrent.com.

Resume

Ariel Caspar

arielcaspar@gmail.com

916-607-0580

arielcaspar.home.blog

Education:

AMERICAN RIVER COLLEGE – Sacramento, CA

Studying journalism and public relations, 2018 – present

THE CURRENT: Editor in chief (arcurrent.com) – Spring 2020

  • Designed pages for print edition of the Current
  • Edited and copy edited articles for all sections when needed
  • Lead editorial meetings, assigned stories and kept track of all stories to keep website as updated as possible
  • Posted articles to arcurrent.com two to three times a week to keep website updated with new content
  • Frequently checked in with editors and staff writers on their work and offered help and guidance

Covered the most pressing, interesting topics in news, opinion and feature.

THE CURRENT: Managing Editor & Arts & Culture Editor (arcurrent.com) – Fall 2019

  • Designed pages for Arts & Culture, Feature and Opinion sections for four print editions of the Current
  • Participated in editorial meetings and contributed interesting pitches and ideas
  • Posted articles to arcurrent.com weekly to keep website content updated
  • Edited and copy edited articles for all sections whenever needed

Covered interesting people and topics in news, arts & culture, feature and opinion

THE CURRENT: Staff Writer (arcurrent.com) – Spring 2019

  • Pitched various story ideas to the editorial board
  • Contributed stories for online and print publication
  • Provided photos for stories and assisted other staff writers with photography
  • Interviewed various sources for quotes and accurate information

Skills Summary:

  • Proficient in WordPress and Medium blogging
  • Proficient in Mac and PC operating systems
  • Proficient in photography
  • Proficient in Bridge, Photoshop and InDesign
  • Efficient in communicating with editors and staff members
  • Creative, cooperative, helpful and diligent

Awards

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC spring 2019

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC fall 2019

General Excellence – American River Current – JACC spring 2020

Los Rios and Sierra College break the news that fall semester will be fully online

FallOnline
Due to the recent news from the California Governor’s Office that the same social distancing guidelines will most likely be in place this fall, the Los Rios Community College District and other college districts in California have announced their fall semesters will be entirely online. (Photo by Emily Mello)

In wake of the coronavirus-induced campus shutdown in March, the Los Rios Community College District has asked students to prepare to go online for the fall semester.

On May 12, Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brian King sent out an email on behalf of all Los Rios Community College presidents,stating that the district has collectively made the decision “to move to a fully online fall schedule with extremely limited exceptions for courses that cannot be converted.”

According to King, the decision was hard for the whole district to come to terms with, but was strongly supported due to the recent news from the Governor’s Office that the same social distancing guidelines for the state of California will most likely be in place this fall.

King said these guidelines will be in place because it’s highly unlikely that the state will have access to enough testing, contact tracing or any personal protective equipment that will be necessary to open all Los Rios campuses on a broader scale, meaning the safest option will be to proceed with remote online learning.

According to the email, the district’s administration is aware of the concern regarding the classes that are heavily facility-dependent and cannot be converted effectively to online learning.

“College instructional offices will be working with individual departments on identifying these exceptions and assessing the options for those specific classes,” King said in the email.

The district has also developed new training tools to continually support online education including Canvas Quickstart Training for faculty, staff, and students still struggling to navigate Canvas, according to the email.

They are also working towards developing additional opportunities to aid staff and faculty with online planning. According to King, the goal is to increase their capacity to support as many faculty and staff as possible with this transition.

According to the email, the campus will remain 100 percent closed until at least July 4, and will continue to update students as things continue to change.

“Above everything else, our top priority is and must always be the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. We also recognize that students are going to need strong support to be successful online, just as they rely on our support to be successful on-ground,” King said in the email. “Even as we take these necessary measures to protect our community’s collective health, we remain committed to serving students in this new environment.”

According to Gabe Ross, associate vice chancellor of the LRCCD, since the public health dynamic of the next few months is still unknown, the district had been preparing to go online, instead of once again having to make a shift halfway through the semester.

Ross says that every class will have a required element on Canvas.

“We believe that this approach will allow students, faculty, and staff to prepare for the possibility of a fully online schedule while still giving us the flexibility to offer classes on campus if public health experts suggest it is safe,” Ross said.

Admissions and student services were also forced online this semester, and according to Ross, are prepared to do so again come fall.

“Faculty, staff, and administrators at the college and throughout the district have done an outstanding job adjusting to a situation that nobody was prepared for and we continue to make great progress,” Ross said.

Ross also says the LRCCD is currently working toward a system that changes the way they distribute textbooks to students, including possibly mailing them to students.

This decision comes around the same time Sierra College announced it would be going largely online for their fall semester.

In an announcement sent out to the Sierra College student body two weeks ago, Public Information Officer Josh Morgan said that preparing now allows faculty to participate in training and professional development programs to ensure they are providing the highest quality education.

According to the statement, the college will have certain programs and classes that take place in person, though even those will be prepared to go online in case of a fall resurgence of the virus.

Morgan says that this decision keeps the safety of the community and the continuity of instruction at top priority.

“We have not made a decision or announcement regarding in-person delivery of student services and other activities as those will be greatly impacted by the health environment at the time,” Morgan said.

On Tuesday, California State University Chancellor Timothy White announced that the CSU district will also be canceling most of its in-person classes for the fall semester and transition to primarily online. The University of California system has yet to announce its plans for the fall semester.

Mairi Jo Jones, an interior architecture major who is graduating this semester from Sierra College, told the Current what she thinks about this situation of classes going online.

“The range of students varies between 18 years old to the elderly. It’s definitely a smart move to plan mostly online,” Jones said. “And it’s so much easier to have professors who maybe aren’t computer savvy to prepare during the summer for being all online in the fall and to gather good resources for that.”

Jones also emphasized how important it is to plan ahead of time so either professors and students can be ready for any type of decision that the administration might have for next semester

“Even though it seems so far out, it’s important to allow either part-time or full-time professors and students to prepare for being fully online. Nobody knows, but at least they can be prepared for it,” Jones said. “But I think it’s so much easier to do the transition from a face-to-face class to online, than the other way around.”

With churches becoming the center of coronavirus cases, church communities must move online

Churches
New Life Community Church, a church in the Sacramento region, pictured here, is one of the many churches in Sacramento that has chosen to follow stay-at-home orders and has transitioned all of their services and sermons online. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

The California shelter-in-place order has made our lives drastically different. Non-essential businesses and facilities have been ordered to shut down in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 2,000 Californians, according to Worldometer, an international statistics site that is tracking coronavirus cases and deaths. However, some California churches and houses of worship are choosing to take this order as a suggestion and have continued to meet, while others have transitioned online.

Several news outlets, including the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times, have reported that churches who are refusing to stop meeting are now becoming the center of the bulk of coronavirus cases in California, and canceling in-person services would make a huge difference in flattening the curve.

Abundant Life Fellowship Church in Roseville, Calif. was one of the many churches that was continuing to meet just a few short weeks ago. The church was recently sent a suspicious package that the pastor thought to have been a bomb. After making a 911 call, a bomb squad was brought in and the street was closed for nearly four hours. Police confirmed the item in the package was non-explosive, but may have been disguised to look like a bomb, to threaten the church. The church had received several threats in the weeks prior to receiving the package.

I am definitely against people sending death threats of any kind, but I’m not surprised something like this happened, given this church had been recognized in the media for their decision to continue meeting. This made them an easy target to receive threats.

Growing up attending church, I understand how important it is to members of a church to meet and congregate in the same building. But at the same time, I would argue that we are in the middle of a serious pandemic that is taking people’s lives. Churches should respect the stay at home order and learn to adapt to the situation.

Continuing to meet comes with dangerous possibilities. The point of the stay at home order is to encourage social distancing and discourage large gatherings where viruses can easily be spread.

CNN recently reported that a large, influential Russian church near Sacramento is responsible for an outbreak of 70 new cases. Even after the church transitioned online, large groups were continuing to meet in homes, which health officials have linked to clusters of cases throughout the Sacramento community.

For many church members, this is a touchy subject. They want to believe that they are divinely protected and that God is bigger than the virus. Outsiders may be quick to judge, but this is a reality for many people of faith.

While it is not a crime to have faith, church communities must still make intelligent decisions and operate out of a balance of their core beliefs and common sense. You can believe that God will protect you, but you must also have respect for our national and local officials in the midst of a crisis that we do not fully understand. I’m pretty sure respecting your authority figures is in the Bible?

We are also approaching a new era of the online church. With the aid of technology, the church and other faith communities will survive and even continue to thrive, by taking advantage of what technology has to offer. Sermons and worship services can be streamed online, tithing and giving can be done online, Bible studies can now meet through Zoom, etc. Many churches are already on this path and have continued to adapt as the stay at home order has lengthened.

This pandemic is pushing the dinosaur churches stuck in the past to catch up and modernize their tool kits and skill sets. It is possible to have church without a building, and respecting the shelter-in-place order will keep everyone safe and provide a resolution sooner rather than later.