Reporters' Roundtable: How COVID is impacting college students

Indian Country Today

Reporters' Roundtable includes Indian Country Today's National Correspondent Joaqlin Estus and Taylor Notah from Turning Points Magazine tells us how ASU's students are faring during the pandemic.

Logging in the Tongass National Forest has been off limits since 2001. When then President Bill Clinton issued a roadless rule, which banned timber harvesting and road construction. National Correspondent Joaqlin Estus tells us about Trump lifting that ban and much more from his administration.

And as students return to Arizona State University, it's looking a little different this semester. We'll find out how they are coping during this pandemic from Senior Editor of Turning Points Magazine, Taylor Notah.

Some quotes from Joaqlin Estus:

"The president will be quarantined for two weeks. I think that bumps him up against the schedule for the next debate. Which I think was in 13 days. And it's probably going to stop his trips out to public rallies. But Biden has been running his campaign not from in public settings. I'm sure the president can do that too."

"I'm so glad you asked, because this is where I'm from. This is where the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people live. These are the islands that trail down by Canada in Southeast Alaska. The Tongass is, you know, when I leave Alaska, I talk to people and they say they want to come to Alaska. And I think in their mind's eye, what they're seeing is Southeast Alaska. That's where the cruise ships go through. They're on the ocean there, it's nice protected waters. There are these huge mountains coming right up out of the ocean and dense lumpy lush forests. And that's the Tongass National Forest. So you mentioned that Bill Clinton put in place a roadless rule in 2001. And a couple of years ago, the state of Alaska filed a petition asking that the Tongass be exempted from that roadless rule."

"So what happened last week is the U.S. Forest Service issued its final environmental impact statement on that. It said the preferred alternative out of six options is to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the roadless rule. That would put 9.3 million acres of land out in the marketplace available for logging. So if you think about 9 million acres, that's the size of Maryland. That's almost the size of West Virginia. It's about half the size of the state of Maine. Environmentalist's have been critical of the proposal to open it up to logging. One of the things they bring up is that there are a lot of old growth forests in the Tongass. And that means there are trees that are as old as 550 years or more. And they're huge. You get a mix of these big ancient trees with younger trees, and it provides a huge diversity of habitat."

"So you have a lot of animals that live there. The other thing about the Tongass is, it's the largest contiguous rainforest temperate rainforest in the world. It's what they call a carbon sink. And that means that the trees are drawing carbon out of the atmosphere. Carbon is one of the gases that contributes to the greenhouse effect. And so there's concerns about impacts to animals, to salmon, to Native cultures, and to the greenhouse effect. The other thing is it's not economical to harvest timber in the Tongass is the argument. Unless you have enormous federal subsidies. So people have been saying I'm a much better use of the Tongass is to leave it as it is for hiking, fishing, hunting, outdoor recreation and for the scenic value. So they came out with that preferred alternative decision on Friday, next comes, what's called a record of decision. That's so far what they've done is lay the groundwork to say yes, open it up, but they haven't actually issued the final decision saying that that's, that that's happened."

Taylor Notah:

"We are following CDC guidelines where masks are required in all ASU buildings. If you go around campus, there's numerous hand sanitizer dispensers located everywhere. So definitely there is that sense of safety enhanced and forced on campus. And I'm curious to hear how students react to this news."

"It was pretty unique. I would say that with our fifth issue each semester at the beginning we start off with a blank slate of a storyboard. our team is comprised entirely of doctoral students, graduate students, and undergrads. We all just collectively sit together and hash out stories that students would like to see. At the beginning of the spring semester we had set stories in place. Then mid semester, spring break happened. And all of our stories just kind of took a loop. Definitely threw our stories on to a different trajectory."

"But a lot of the stories that came from that were stories of how students were coping with the pandemic. How the pandemic impacted their studies. Many students moved back home, many chose to say wherever they were located. And out of these stories it was really interesting to see the different stories of how students across the campus were handling it."

"There were definitely a lot of positive stories that came out of it. Many of our students shared the hardships that they were going through such as family loss unfortunately. Not being able to go back home, definitely hit a lot of students, but within students sharing their stories, there was always that little nugget of empowerment within their stories. They're always saying as much as they miss home, they choose to stay in place because they care for their community, they care for their family. And we also heard stories from students who jumped in with all the relief efforts. It definitely changed our semester. But I think out of that within our fifth issue, you see a lot of these powerful stories that come forward."

"Within each issue we have our resident cartoonist as we call her, her name is Danielle Lucero. She is a doctoral student pursuing her education at ASU. She definitely plays a lot with the cartoons in each issue."

"And I think within the fifth issue of the pandemic. We were just kind of thinking visually, how can we show what a student is going through. For example in her cartoon, she writes about how she was actually out of state when she heard the news and she immediately had to fly back to Arizona to adhere to the state lock down mandates. And in the cartoon, she beautifully illustrates what was going on in her mind as she was on the plane ride home."

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. She is also the anchor of the weekday newscast. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. 

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