Breaking news: BOT votes for Elmhurst University

Syeda Sameeha


After 95 years as Elmhurst College, EC will have a new name as Elmhurst University by June 30, 2020.

With the exception of one abstention, the Board of Trustees (BOT) voted overwhelming in favor of the name change at the June 15 BOT meeting, according to trustee chairman Edward Momkus.

”This has been a really robust and long discussion with a lot of people,” Momkus said in a phone interview.

The name change idea has been brought up throughout the institution’s history. It became an item of public discourse when EC president Troy VanAken formally reintroduced the debate in 2016.

The idea has been controversial with the faculty deeply divided in their December 2018 vote. According to The Leader’s November survey, students generally favored the name change while alumni were opposed.

Despite these concerns, Momkus says this move will help EC financially.

“This would help the college in the long run,” he said. “There’s a [trend] of declining high school graduation for really the next ten years, and that’s pretty tough in a scenario for even having ten fewer students, which can really cause financial havoc in a small school.”

Many who opposed the idea raised concerns about losing the history, tradition, and branding of the institution.

To address those concerns and others, Momkus hopes to use this coming academic year as a transition period.

“One of the challenges that we have this year is to make sure no one thinks that this change will somehow actually affect who we are and our values,” said Momkus.

The Leader reelects Syeda Sameeha as Editor-In-Chief


Syeda Sameeha, the current editor-in-chief of The Leader, will serve again in her role for the 2019-2020 school year. The political science major and veteran member of The Leader ran unopposed on May 7.

“I’m thankful to serve all of you guys, and I will work even harder as editor-in-chief to serve you and the campus again,” said Sameeha in her election speech to The Leader staff.

“Journalists don’t give up, which is another reason why I’m running in front of you as editor,” added Sameeha.

In an interview with The Leader, Sameeha said she is excited to implement some of the goals that were not accomplished this school year as well as some new ideas.

“I hope to restart open forums for the campus and provide a more structured training session for staffers,” said Sameeha.

“It’s been a long year for The Leader, but we are still here, and we are still going to be here to do our jobs as members of this paper.”

Student body elects new SGA president

Syeda Sameeha


In an uncontested race, Alex Schultz has been declared the new president of Student Government Association (SGA) for the 2019-2020 school year.

Schultz, who currently serves as SGA parliamentarian, ran unopposed with with running mate Michael Vaia. Vaia is the current SGA senator for Information Technology.

In an email interview with The Leader, Schultz expressed her plans for the organization.

“My goal is to continue the great work that the previous board did,” she said. “Additionally, I want to provide even more connectivity and inclusion across all areas of campus.”

“I want the campus to know I am here for all students,” added the veteran SGA member. “I plan to uphold transparency and an openness so that everyone can feel supported.”

SGA’s newly elected board is mostly filled with current members of the organization, including Nico Favuzzi as treasurer, Husna Ahmed as secretary, Bridget Byrne as parliamentarian, Sonali Rajput for senator for Alumni Affairs Sonali Rajput, Juweria Ali for senator for Community Service, Marisa Sandoval as senator for Clubs and Organizations, and Hannah Bacon for senator for Student Affairs.

Two SGA newcomers, Olivia Styrczula and Hector Quintero, will represent the student body as senators for Academic Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion.

In an email interview with The Leader,  current SGA president and senior Madiha Ahmed shared advice to her successor, Schultz.

“I always felt SGA lacked a deep sense of closeness because of how large the group was, so I'm looking forward to the board having a stronger group dynamic under Alex's guidance,” said Ahmed. “I know stronger team will yield even better results.”

Despite barriers, Kira Sears has made it to the finish line

Najera Miljevic


“I have some dyslexia, so sometimes I mix things up,” says senior Kira Sears, her voice wavering. Her brown eyes open and shut sporadically as she processes her surroundings.

The graduating Elmhurst College English major has faced many challenges getting to her final semester of college. Four years and a couple of majors later, Sears finally feels like she has found herself.

Oddly enough, the subject hardest for her to master ended up being her favorite.

“Writing was just something I liked to do, but it was always a love-hate relationship,” she admits, a smile pulling on her upper lip. But her face is quickly drawn back into a frown when she hiccups slightly. Suddenly, it reminds her of the struggle.

“The worst thing about writing was typing everything out, and then realizing things were always spelled or worded wrong no matter how much I tried to fix them,” she says quietly.

After she began taking classes in the English department and got to know the professors at EC, Sears started to gain confidence in her writing. The classes she took with Dr. Tuck Lively and Dr. Wiginton pushed her to write more and write better.

Her brown leather-bound notebook is full of doodles. She undoes the metal clasps gently, looping her pencil out and waving it across the page. She draws the scenes she has already written. She imagines how her characters look.

“It clears my mind if I can’t decide what to write,” she says sheepishly, covering her book. Her manicured hand lays protectively on the binding.

At a certain point, Sears realized that writing and art were the perfect formula for her expression.

That’s why she picked up a minor in art alongside her writing-intensive English major. She has plans of becoming an art therapist and helping people with learning difficulties to focus and destress.

“The stories in my head wanted to come out, and this change was the best way to make that happen,” she says easily, the hiccups in her voice subsiding. One of the challenges Sears faces is a speech impediment that causes her to hiccup intermittently, disrupting her speech.

“No one at EC has really confronted me about my learning disability,” she confesses, her eyes instantaneously beginning to water. “I don’t really bring it up because people don’t ask.”  

The subject is difficult to discuss. Even though she feels comfortable at EC, Sears still inevitably feels the blood rushing to her face when her hiccups arise in class.

“But then I see the teacher, and I already know they have the idea [that I’m struggling], and then they give me this nod, and I feel like it’s okay to keep going. I just have to remind myself to take a deep breath, and then it smoothes itself out,” she breathes now, her voice stabilizing.

Classmates don’t see Sears’ disability as a barrier, though.

“I’ve had a few different classes with Kira. She’s always willing to help give others suggestions or ideas during writing workshops,” says senior Ansebel Du Toit. The two worked on a group project together for their senior capstone. “As a person, she’s always been really nice. I love her sense of humor,” she gushes.

Senior classmate Brandon De Jesus doesn’t know Sears in the classroom, but he is familiar with her easy going personality. He and Sears share a love of video games and movies.

“She’s a big fan of Kingdom Hearts,” he says. “We are both into different types of Japanese anime and video games.”

Sears is a big fan of Disney, anime and obscure movies. She dubs herself a “movie whiz” and stores a hard drive full of movie lines in her brain. Her recent internship with a company that promotes video game releases and offers reviews to gamers has been both fun and instrumental in developing her writing skills and getting her closer to her goal of being a professional writer.

Sears has discovered that success is always an option, as long as she continues to push herself.

In the fall, she is headed to Antioch University in Los Angeles, California to earn her Master’s in Fine Arts and Writing. Sears credits her professors at EC for setting her up with the skills to be successful in graduate school.

But she often finds herself thinking about where she started and wishing that she had dove into her interests much sooner.

“I wish I could go back and stress less about if all of this is the right choice. With English majors, people say ‘that’s nice,’ and they give you this idea that you need a fall-back option. But I wish I didn’t let that discourage me in the beginning. I’m glad I kept going,” she says determinedly.

There’s no telling how far she will go.

SGA's closed meeting brings Leader protests


At the last meeting of the semester, SGA closed its meeting for voting body members only, despite a protest by The Leader.

Editor-in-chief Syeda Sameeha objected to the meeting.

“I respectfully ask that you postpone this closed door meeting until I have an opportunity to argue this closure violates the First Amendment,” said Sameeha before stepping out of the meeting.

In an interview after the closed meeting, SGA president Madiha Ahmed denied the closed meeting was in response to The Leader’s controversial May 7 editorial.

“We had some finance proposals to go over, and we haven’t been asking people to leave as per the constitution,” she said.

World in Review: May 7

Syeda Sameeha


Photo from CNN

Photo from CNN

China forces Uighur Muslim population into internment camps

The Chinese government is facing criticism for its harsh crackdown on Muslim majority Uighurs, who live in the far western Xinjiang region.

According to Vox, almost one million Uighurs Muslims have been placed in “reeducation centers” that force people to undergo indoctrination programs such as learning communist propaganda and giving thanks to the country’s president Xi Jinping.

The Washington Post also reported claims of waterboarding, torture, and even death as part of the reeducation centers, which many criticize as internment camps.

However, the Chinese government denies that the camps are forced placements and refers to them as voluntary vocational training systems intended to curb religious extremism.

In a televised state broadcast, the government stated the goal of the camps is to “rescue ignorant, backward and poor rural minorities,” and in some cases described the Uighurs as actual or potential terrorists.

But for many Uighurs, this is a gross violation and an excuse to target the long excluded minority who have been model citizens.

"My mom (Gulnar Telet) is a mathematics teacher. She graduated from university. She's fluent in Mandarin. I don't know what kind of skill or education she needs," said 21-year-old Arfat Aeriken to CNN.

Many see the internment camps as methods of cultural genocide to erase the religion and culture of the Uighur people, who are a Turkic minority.

In a report by The Washington Post, Uighur Muslims have been forced to renounce their Islamic religion and the Uighur language. Thousands of children have also been separated from their parents and placed in orphanages.

According to the New York Times, almost 159 intellectuals and academics have detained in the past year, as per lists that Uighur escapees have provided.

A small number of democratic countries including Canada and the United States have publicly accused China of repressing Muslims and committing human rights violations through the internment camps.

Turkey, the only Muslim majority nation, has also condemned the country and has called for “the full protection of the cultural identities of the Uighurs and other Muslims” during the 2019 UN Human Rights Council.

The United Nations with other human rights groups has also demanded the Chinese government to give access to the camps and answer questions about the disappearance of the Uighur people.

Activists have also called on the world and the media to stop ignoring and staying silent on the current “genocide of the Uighur Muslims” according to Al Jazeera.

Photo by Agence France-Presse

Photo by Agence France-Presse

King Vajiralongkorn becomes new Thai king

Thailand has crowned its first monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, after nearly seven decades. According to BBC News, the king inherited the throne after his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who reigned as the country’s longest serving monarch with 70 years, passed away in 2016.

In a three day ceremony with elaborate coronation rites that took place this past weekend, Vajiralongkorn was handed the Great Crown of Victory, a gold crown that weighs 16 pounds and was bathed in holy water and flowers, as reported by CNN.

In a surprise wedding during the coronation ceremony, the king married the deputy head of his personal security, Suthida Tidjai, giving her the title of queen.

The coronation ceremony is something new even for Thai citizens, since the last ceremony was in 1950. In a spectacular procession with a golden palanquin and hundreds of marching soldiers in the streets of Bangkok, the new Thai king made his first public appearance as ruler on May 5, according to the Associated Press.

While Thailand’s monarch does not hold absolute power, it still great influence in the country. The Washington Post reports that it is a criminal act to insult or defame the monarchy. Punishment could last from three to 15 years in jail.

SGA pushes Chartwells to make eco-friendly changes

Afaaf Amatullah


In an effort to make the campus more environmentally conscious, Student Government Association (SGA) senator for Student Affairs Hannah Bacon put forth a proposal for Chartwells to switch from plastic to reusable cutlery.

“I want to diminish our plastic use in the cafeteria not only because it aligns with my future career goals, but because I also want to take personal responsibility for our planet,” said the freshman senator. “We all should.”

There are multiple complications, such as installing and fixing dishwashers, which can delay the project.

However, this does not deter Bacon, who will continue to serve as the senator for Student Affairs next academic term and promises to work alongside Chartwells to make the potential switch happen.

“This college is proud to promote our campus as an arboretum in the community recycling event we partake in once a year, but this is not enough,” she explained. “We need to think about changing daily actions like dining, printing, energy use in order to be a genuine leader in sustainability.”

“It's important to note that making personal life changes are great, but we also need to look at the institutions we reside under to make changes with us,” Bacon added.

In a brief exchange with The Leader, Kelly Schmelter, director of dining services confirmed the potential switch is in the works, but nothing has been decided as of now.

According to Bacon and fellow SGA senator for Community Outreach, Juweria Ali, the Cafe is also planning on switching to buffet options so students can choose their own portions, in an effort to reduce food waste.

Bacon also hopes to replace the plastic bottles and cups in the Cafe with reusable water bottles. She suggests that EC provide new students with durable bottles during orientation and start selling them in the Cafe as well.

“Getting a cafeteria standard water bottle for every student to use is ideal, but is a big project to tackle,” admitted Bacon.

Sudan uprisings defeat al-Bashir regime

Syeda Sameeha


Sudanese women, who led the way in protests against the country’s government, are celebrating in victory after the military toppled President Omar al-Bashir’s 30 year rule of the nation on April 11.

The protests first erupted in December after an increase in bread prices, according to BBC News.

Women have made international headlines as the forefront of the demonstrations. Local photographer Lana Haroun’s picture of 22-year-old Alaa Salah, chanting in robes of white and moon-shaped earrings has gone viral on social media as an symbol of the movement. In a Twitter video showing Salah addressing protestors from on top of a car, cries of “revolution” can be heard.

Sudan has been a region of instability with al-Bashir first coming into power during a 21 year civil war, as reported by StepFeed. According to EuroNews, he was later accused by the International Criminal Court of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in the ongoing Darfur conflict in the eastern part of the country.

While protestors have been joyous after the news of al-Bashir’s oustment, they also demand civilian rule, announcing plans to take over the military’s command of the country, as stated by Al Jazeera.

Massive fire devastates Paris cathedral

Syeda Sameeha


A fire that has engulfed the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has shocked people across the world.

The blaze which unfolded on Monday, April 15, was extinguished 15 hours after it first started and caused significant damage to the 850-year-old church, according to CNN. Pictures unveiled on Tuesday show damages include a complete collapse of the roof and the spire of the building. The main structure and two towers remained standing.

In an interview with Associated Press, Bertrand de Feydeau, vice president of preservation company, Fondation du Patrimoine, said the roof can’t be remade because “we don’t at the moment, have trees on our territory of the size that were cut in the 13th century.”

According to CBS, the cause of the fire is unclear, but an investigation involving 50 people is underway. Officials do not suspect terrorism or arson.

The Paris Fire Service said the fire may be due to the renovation work that was underway in the cathedral before the fire started. Just a week before the incident, workers had removed thousands of priceless artifacts from the church, in preparation for the renovation, as reported by CNN.

In his national address, French president Emmanuel Macron assured citizens that Notre Dame would be rebuilt “more beautiful than ever” and he hoped it would be completed in 5 years.

Donations from around the world are rushing in for the repairs. According to People, $1 billion has been raised in two days for the building’s reconstruction.

SGA recognizes Pre-Law club

Syeda Sameeha


With 13 votes in favor and five votes abstained, Pre-Law Club was recognized as an official organization by Student Government Association (SGA) at the April 18 SGA meeting.

Casey Delury, who presented the proposal for the club, explained that the organization would be another avenue for students interested in law.

“The pre-law adviser, Lisa Woods, and I felt that there wasn't really a club where pre-law students or political science students could go besides Mock Trial. Mock Trial is time-consuming, and it's awesome, but they focus mostly on trials,” said Delury.

According to their Facebook page, Elmhurst College Mock Trial is a student group that meets several times a week and focuses on “trial advocacy, public speaking and competitive debate.”  

Delury also explained that the club would be open to campus, not just pre-law students.

“You can learn laws of society, learn your rights; there's so many things you can do with it, which is nice because it's not super specific to ‘we are just practicing law’,” she said. “If you don't want to be a lawyer and just want to know your rights, you can come here, and if you’re not interested in trial at all, we do discussions and go to law school tours as well.”

SGA senator for Student Affairs Daniela Barca inquired how Pre-Law Club would be different from the resources the Center of Professional Excellence (CPE) provides for pre-law students.

“I feel like it's more of being closer as a group versus individually going out and seeking those opportunities,” replied Delury.

However, Delury’s comparison of Pre-Law Club with Mock Trial remained a point of contention for some SGA members.

In the closed SGA discussion of the proposal, parliamentarian Alex Schultz, who is also a Mock Trial member, expressed concern about the group not collaborating with other resources on campus.

“I'm worried about the lack of knowledge of resources that are right here. The way Mock Trial has been explained, there's no knowledge of what Mock Trial is [and] how you get everything she talked about,” said Schultz, in reference to similar resources Mock Trial provides.

“If we are going to start this club, it's like I want to work with EC Justice, CPE, and Mock Trial so that we can all combine and do that stuff,” she added.

Senator for Diversity and Inclusion Natalie Barnes, who previously served as Mock Trial president, expressed similar concerns.

“I don’t see the difference between pre-law in CPE, Mock Trial, and EC Justice, which also advocates rights if they are all going to do the same thing,” she said.

Aron Callard, SGA senator for Clubs and Organizations, agreed with Schultz about collaboration.

“It's great to create your own, but you need to be able to pull from the resources around you, and if you’re not open to that, that's a very toxic environment,” he said.

While SGA vice president Laura Rusk agreed that Pre-Law Club could improve their relationship with Mock Trial, she felt the senators got lost on the purpose of the group.