<![CDATA[The Johns Hopkins News-Letter]]> Sun, 11 Apr 2021 08:08:13 -0400 Sun, 11 Apr 2021 08:08:13 -0400 SNworks CEO 2021 The Johns Hopkins News-Letter <![CDATA[Protesters advocate for legislation to alleviate burden of medical debt lawsuits]]> End Medical Debt Maryland held a rally at the Hopkins Hospital Billings building on April 3 to protest against the practice of suing patients over medical debt. End Medical Debt Maryland is a coalition of 58 organizations that are advocating for the Medical Debt Protection Act to be passed at the Maryland General Assembly this spring.

Numerous East Baltimore residents shared their stories of financial and emotional distress incurred from the hardships of medical debt. The protesters also distributed "Know Your Rights" flyers around the neighborhood.

Brig Dumais, coalition chair of End Medical Debt Maryland, emphasized that residents of East Baltimore are most likely to be sued for medical debt, notably Black people, single mothers and low-income essential workers.

According to Dumais, at least 17% of Marylanders currently have medical debt in collections, with the median debt totaled around $944.

"Ending medical debt is not only a patients' rights issue. It's a worker's rights issue. It's a social justice issue and a gender justice issue," they said. "We all know that for wealthy institutions, $944 is just a drop in the bucket. For a working family, $944 makes a difference between making rent or having food on the table or not."

Dumais also highlighted that Hopkins was the top university known for suing and garnishing its own workers' wagesbefore it stopped authorizing legal action for patients unable to pay debt in April 2020.

"And to make it worse, hospital executives have the audacity to give themselves raises while they're preying on their patients," they said.

Baltimore resident Ashley Esposito shared her story during the protest. After struggling to conceive a child, she and her husband had a son after using in vitro fertilization at the Hopkins Hospital.

She praised the hospital workers for treating her family well but then explained that her joy was short-lived after a hospital billing error resulted in medical debt of over $2,000.

"I was a new mom at home, resting, trying to bond with my baby and having to deal with debt collectors," she said. "Patients go to hospitals because they're broken, and doctors get into medical practice because they want to help broken people. But if the patients are treated properly and doctors' hands are tied by the finance department, the process is broken."

Additionally, Esposito stated that she and her family were blindsided by the billing error because they were only informed of the error over a year after the procedure.

Amy Hennen, a lawyer with Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, explained some of the information printed on the "Know Your Rights" flyers to the audience. She stressed never to pay for a medical bill immediately because patients will no longer be able to negotiate with the hospital. She also stated that those in debt can apply for Medicaid or appeal for financial assistance from the hospital.

"An emergency room also cannot deny you service for an outstanding bill," she said. "It's critical that you know your rights because if you pay the bill, you won't be getting your money back."

Salisbury City Councilor Michele Gregory also shared her story at the rally. Though she was not physically present at the event, a representative from her office narrated Gregory's family struggles with debt and played a recording for the audience.

"We have to keep pushing and fighting for equity in a system that leaves too many behind. Our friends and family are at risk as long as the system we have in place remains," she said. "When we win this fight, we'll know that we have the power to move the scales of justice back into power because money doesn't equal power. People do."

Kim Hoppe, vice president of communications for Hopkins Medicine, expressed the hospital's support for the Medical Debt Protection Act in an email to The News-Letter.She affirmed the Hopkins Hospital's commitment to providing affordable care to all patients, stating that the hospital and Bayview Medical Center have provided $1.4 billion in benefits for those in need.

"Hopkins has dedicated and compassionate staff members who work with patients of low income to find resources to help pay for care," she wrote. "We continue to provide the safest, highest quality of care possible for our communities while ensuring that our patients are free from medical debt."

Additionally, she highlighted that the staff sends resources to patients who need assistance in accessing their private health insurance and applying for financial aid.

Donald Gresham attended the rally on behalf of the Coalition Against Policing by Hopkins (CAPH). He explained that CAPH joined the coalition six months ago and has since collaborated with them on events in response to injustices against people of color.

He emphasized the importance of these rallies to allow voices of the powerless to be heard.

"A rally of this nature needs to be done so that folks can hear what other folks are doing," he said. "I believe that it is going to take time, but we shouldn't ever give up. Making sure that people know that we are displeased by the unfairness and injustices is important."

The Medical Debt Protection Act

At the rally, Dumais gave the audience an update on the progress of the Medical Debt Protection Act. Currently, the bill will ban wage garnishments for patients who have free and reduced-cost care. The bill also amended a passage so patients do not have to pay more than 5% of their income on medical debt.

However, an amendment was added that allows hospitals to secure 50% of patients' property after they pass away. Hospitals will also still be able to sue their patients regardless of the amount since the cap on lawsuits was removed from the bill.

"National Nurses United (NNU) and the [American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations] did a joint study on this and found a patient who was sued for $68," Dumais said. "You're really going to tell me that these institutions are going to ruin someone's home life over $68? I'm disappointed in our legislators who let that happen."

Valerie Hsu and Lindsey Muniak, communication leads of End Maryland Debt Maryland, spoke to The News-Letter to further explain the coalition's mission and ongoing work regarding the legislation.

Hsu highlighted that the coalition's overarching goal is to fight for Americans' rights to universal health care, but it is now focusing on helping Marylanders first. The organization's next step is to pass the $1,000 lawsuit threshold that was amended out of the bill.

"It's not the entirety of our vision, but it would really help so many Maryland families who are suffering," she said. "This legislation exists in tandem with so many other really important campaigns. We are fighting for these crucial pieces to relieve the burdens on Marylanders today."

Muniak emphasized that the legislation has never prevented hospitals from collecting medical debt, which is a fact that she says has been misrepresented by legislators. Furthermore, she explained that hospitals do not recuperate the entire sum of the debt because they have to pay court fees and other expenses in the process.

"Our coalition was confused by the hospital's resistance to instituting this lawsuit threshold and shifting its collection practices to be more patient-focused, which in the long run would also be better for the hospitals," she said.

According to a study conducted by a health economist at Boston University, the $1,000 threshold on lawsuits would cost each Maryland hospital $7,046 annually. Hsu stressed that these numbers are negligible for hospitals but make a difference for families.

Initially, the legislation also mandated hospitals to record that they have provided patients with oral notice of financial assistance options. However, Muniak reported that this has been amended out, which puts the onus back on the patients to seek out these resources.

Maryland hospitals are considered not-for-profit and are required by law to provide community benefits. These hospitals are given large sums of money purposed for charity care. However, Hsu cited a study conducted by NNU that found that Maryland hospitals had a remaining balance of $120 million in charity funds from 2014 to 2018.

"And that's about the same amount that we saw in lawsuits during the same period of time," she said. "So they profited from being required by law to provide charity care, did not provide that amount of charity care and instead saw that same amount through lawsuits."

With regards to the Hopkins Hospital's stance, Hsu stated that the suspension on lawsuits is temporary and will only remain in effect for as long as the state of emergency lasts.

"We've been told that they have an informal policy by which they no longer sue patients for debts under $300, but that's not on the books. That's just something that has been indicated to us," she said. "Everything indicates that Johns Hopkins hospitals will resume filing lawsuits as the state of emergency ends. We really do want to continue keeping up the pressure on the entire Hopkins Hospital system."

Muniak asserted that it is important for Marylanders to know that their struggles with medical debt are not a sign of personal failure but rather are a result of the systems in place since lawsuit rates have been high among hospitals in the last decade.

House Bill 565 and Senate Bill 514, both of which pertain to the Medical Debt Protection Act, have both been unanimously passed by both chambers and will be sent to the governor.

Muniak expressed her optimism for these amendments and future legislation in support of Medicare for All to be passed.

"The fact that this bill did have bipartisan support in the way it did, which is extremely rare for legislation at the state level, speaks to something shifting in public thinking about how patients should be protected from predatory practices like these," she said.

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COURTESY OF END MEDICAL DEBT MARYLAND

The Maryland Debt Protection Act of 2021 has passed both chambers and was sent to the governor.

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<![CDATA[SGA reflects on how to improve its operations]]> The Student Government Association (SGA) reflected on the past year and passed two funding bills at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, April 6.

When discussing this year's internal reforms, Executive Secretary Breanna Soldatelli expressed her belief that SGA successfully shifted its work to meet COVID-19 guidelines. However, she argued that there were some issues with senator attendance, which should be enforced more strictly.

"Some people end up doing way more than is their fair share of work. [We need to] make sure that there is a system of accountability in place for each SGA member in addition to SGA as a whole," she said.

Sophomore Class Senator Karen He suggested that SGA create a form for members to submit their absences.

Junior Class President Nathan Mudrak argued that the rules on what constitutes an excused absence need to be standardized.

"Generally speaking, we need to be modeling the things that we ask of groups both in terms of COVID guidelines and in terms of how we spend our finances," he said.

Freshman Class Senator Jenny Chen proposed that SGA members get to know one another better through SGA-exclusive events.

"We really only talk to each other when we have a bill or GBM, but besides that, we never do anything to get to know one another," she said.

Freshman Class Senator Raj Bhatt agreed with Chen, comparing his SGA experience to being in his high school's student government.

"One thing that I do miss from my high school is that there was a much more personal connection between student government and teachers - in this case, faculty and professors," he said. "I know that's not always feasible, but it would be nice to start meeting with professors because ultimately a lot of the things we do affect them."

During the meeting, Junior Class Senator Megan Chien also introduced the Sex Week funding bill. This bill will fund SGA's Sex Week event in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) and the Center for Health Education and Well-Being (CHEW). The event will be held during the last week of April as a way to promote sexual assault awareness and body positivity.

Chien described some of the planned events, including bingo with sex toys as prizes and a two-night bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM) workshop.

"The first night is going to be about general BDSM, and the second will go more in-depth about how to safely practice it in your personal life," she said.

She noted that one problem encountered during SGA's last Sex Week event was that some attendees were harassing others intentionally. Chien assured that solutions have been created to maintain a more respectful environment for attendees.

"They were consciously disregarding the conduct of respect in the Zoom. So the first option is to report to [the Office of Institutional Equity]. We'll also be monitoring the chat and kicking people out and making sure... they can't rejoin and come back to interrupt our event," she said.

Chien explained that the names of attendees will be kept track of during the Zoom events, but the CampusGroups RSVP list will be anonymous.

"We want to encourage people to talk, so we want to keep those names on the Zoom. The [anonymity] on CampusGroups is more to encourage people to join the event so you don't get harassed or lightly teased by friends," she said.

Soldatelli agreed that keeping track of names on Zoom is important to further discourage disrespectful behavior.

The bill was passed.

Executive President Sam Mollin also passed a smoothie funding bill. The bill would allow SGA to purchase 50 smoothies to give away as incentives to people who come to SGA's tabling events. A friendly amendment was added to reallocate the money to cold drinks if the smoothies do not meet prepackaged food requirements.

Mollin described his hopes for the impact of this bill.

"Regardless of whether it's smoothies or whether it's cold drinks, I am confident that serving this to students at a tabling event will be a great way to make people's lives a little bit better and get some more interest for our event," he said.

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FILE PHOTO

SGA passed funding for this semester's Sex Week, which will be held at the end of April.

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<![CDATA[Learning to take care of myself ]]>

Let's talk about priorities today. This topic came to mind because, unfortunately, I was plagued by a particularly terrible case of food poisoning yesterday. Not to be too graphic, but I spent half the day on the floor of my bathroom, unable to keep even water down. Pale, dehydrated and flustered, I hobbled across campus to take a PCR test to rule out the possibility of COVID-19. By the end of the day, I could barely stomach half a banana and a whole piece of toast.

What should I have been thinking about? The answer seems fairly obvious: recovering. When I woke up on my bedroom floor and realized I had been unconscious for well over half an hour, my first thought should have been to get some rest. But no, the first thing that crossed my mind was: Oh shit, I'm missing a midterm right now.

And then the to-do list rushed in. I ran through everything I had planned for the day: midterm, reporting for an assignment, Marque article, News-Letter article, laundry. My mind immediately began shaming my body for being so bloody weak. How could I have let this happen? The busiest week of my senior spring, and my stomach has the audacity to collapse.

I Postmated some Gatorade, and problem-solving-autopilot kicked in. Before I made it back to bed, I had emailed my professor. Before I tried to eat, I had checked in with the magazine team. Before I deigned to sleep, I had made a game plan to redistribute my workload throughout the week so I wouldn't fall behind.

For some reason, that was my top priority. Not my health, but my work. I wasn't focused on taking care of myself or resting at all. I was lying in bed, desperately trying to type coherent sentences with the only finger that had any energy in it. So, what got me here? The answer is simple: The overachiever who worked tirelessly for years to pass high school exams, get in to Hopkins, get good grades and set herself up for the future whispered in my ear, "you can't stop now."

I'm not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I constantly feel the pressure of my past. As if, if I fail one little task or fall behind in the slightest, every little thing that I have done in my life to get here will have been for nothing. Like the girl who buried her head in ACT prep exams would be disappointed in me. This is simply not a healthy outlook, and after reflecting on these last 24 hours, it is one that I will actively fight to change. As 21st century college students, we put immense amounts of pressure on ourselves to be incredibly high-performing around the clock. It's just not realistic.

The irony in all of this is that I'm really fantastic at taking care of anyone else. If a friend or family member sneezes and I find out about it, there will be chicken soup there within the hour. Need your essays edited? I'm your girl. Math homework checked? I've got you. But taking care of myself... write the next Mission: Impossible movie about that challenge.

Yesterday, I really learned how much of a priority I am to some people. In both positive and negative ways, but overwhelmingly positive. I was too nauseated to watch TV, so friends spent hours on the phone just distracting me. People offered to send me energy drinks and soup or rice, and my roommate most certainly mothered me. My parents might have sent me every bland food conceivable on Amazon Fresh.

But what touched me the most was people just checking in on me. I hadn't even told them what was going on, they just asked if I was okay. Without being prompted. And repeatedly. They really wanted to know if there was anything they could do to help. This morning, a friend of mine saw that I was awake a little early, and walked over just to give me a hug. I was beyond shocked. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world to know that people actually care.

So, I guess being sick taught me a lot about priorities. Both the ridiculous backwardness of my own and the extremely heartwarming nature of others. I found warmth and comfort in old friends and new, and learning that I matter to others has definitely motivated me to bump myself up on my own list. Hopefully, the next time I eat expired cream cheese or pizza that I am definitely allergic to (because, let's be real, we know it'll happen again), I'll take a day off to recover and worry about my work later. Consider this a friendly reminder that your mental and physical health should always be your number one priority.

Saniya Ramchandani is a senior from Singapore studying Physics. Her column is a reflective narrative that chronicles her experiences navigating various aspects of college life.

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<![CDATA[I'm obsessed with a food YouTuber, and that's okay]]>

Expanding my cooking skills has been one of my highlights of the pandemic. But, like many aspects of my life this semester, my cooking habits have become haphazard, and I haven't dedicated as much time to making new dishes as I would've liked. I've certainly made some really good stuff, like spaghetti and meatballs, curry and spicy peanut noodles. But those are all things that were already in my repertoire, so they don't count for creativity or expanding my horizons.

On top of having to find time, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to exploring new food. After all, you don't know what you don't know, and while there are countless dishes in the world to choose from, a pandemic isn't exactly the best time to travel or go to restaurants so you can try them and then say, "Ooh, I wanna make that." Add in a college student's often limited pantry and budget, and it can feel impossible to come up with something other than the same few dishes that are already in the rotation.

Enter Beryl.

Beryl Shereshewsky is a food YouTuber who I found last week, when her "How the World Drinks Coffee" video appeared on my recommended watch list on YouTube. I clicked on it, and immediately after watching I texted the link to my boyfriend, saying it reminded me of him because it was full of caffeine and a lot of excitement about something random. I also told him I had unilaterally decided we would be making the last recipe in the video, Vietnamese egg coffee, sometime soon. He was happy to go along with it.

We've both started watching her videos on the daily - before bed, when procrastinating homework, when we're feeling hungry, whenever - and have taken to affectionately calling her "Brrl." There's a lot to like about Beryl, even aside from all the cool dishes she makes.

She started her channel after the company she worked at went under last fall. Her goal is to virtually travel around the world during the pandemic by trying dishes from every country on the planet, whether they're hangover cures, favorite comfort foods or anything else. I really admire how she's genuinely making the best of a difficult situation. She's got a beautifully decorated New York City apartment, and I'm super jealous of all her funky earrings and shirts.

She's endlessly enthusiastic and open-minded when it comes to trying dishes. And I love how she often gets people to submit videos explaining a dish from their country, instead of introducing dishes herself. It allows them to directly have a voice about something as culturally significant and identity-based as food.

And then there's the main reason I've been binge-watching her videos: the food itself, which looks drool-worthy and mind-blowing or sometimes makes me say, "Huh, interesting..." because I'm a bit more of a skeptic than Beryl is (though I'll often come around after hearing her talk about it).

My boyfriend and I have already put together quite a list of stuff from her videos that we want to make, including but not limited to: Greek zucchini pie, Dutch war fries, Indonesian chicken soup, Ghanaian spicy fried plantains and Filipino chocolate rice pudding with dried fish on top (the recipe linked here doesn't include the fish, and to be honest we may give the fish a pass if we make it).

We probably won't get around to making all those dishes (especially because our list is quickly growing), but even if we don't, it's at least nice to have some new ideas after being kind of stuck in a rut.

And we did make the egg coffee this past weekend. My boyfriend made the coffee while I did the real work: beating the condensed milk and egg yolks together by hand for seemingly forever (actually only 10 or 15 minutes) until the mixture was airy enough for a few drops of it to float on top of water. I may have given myself tendonitis in my wrist.

"I don't know if this is going to work," I said, beating ferociously.

"What if we get food poisoning from the raw egg?" he said in return.

It did work. We didn't get food poisoning. Any potential tendonitis was definitely worth it.

The egg mixture, which I had gotten to be airy enough but not perfectly whipped like Beryl's, got all foamy and frothy on top when it hit the heat of the coffee. The strength of the coffee mellowed out the sweetness of the condensed milk and the egginess of, well, the egg.

The result was a creamy, dreamy, comforting drink that was sure as hell fancier than our normal coffee, which is taken either black or with some milk and Splenda and gulped down at 10 p.m. when we need a boost to finish our homework. This, paired with some chorizo and egg breakfast sandwiches, made for a relaxing and indulgent start to our Saturday, which was a nice change for both of us after feeling so worn down from school recently.

And we got to make something new, even something as simple and quick as coffee.

Normally my columns will have some big-picture realization around the end of them - and there are certainly some realizations to be had here: You can make time for the things you love even when you're busy and stressed, and it won't be as hard to do as you think it will be.

Sometimes something as specific as a YouTube channel dedicated to global food offerings can push you in the right direction. So seek out resources that can inspire you or make things easier for you. And, as cliché as it is, trying new things is good.

But it also doesn't have to be that deep. This article is largely just my love letter to Beryl and to food and to having some fun. So, Beryl, if you somehow end up reading this, thank you.

Sophia Lola is a junior from Brooklyn, N.Y., majoring in Writing Seminars. She is a Magazine Editor for The News-Letter. Her column explores personal growth, whether it comes an inch or a mile at a time.

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COURTESY OF SOPHIA LOLA

Lola recently tried making Vietnamese egg coffee.

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<![CDATA[Wanderlust: reflecting on my travels]]>

Lately my dreams have been very vivid, filled with sites of past travels and visions of ones to explore once the world is safe again. My sleep has allowed me to escape from the current world, transporting me to a life where the virus has ceased to exist and we are no longer confined to our houses. However, this is sadly not the reality.

Unable to travel to new places for almost two years already, I've terribly missed the thrill of landing in a new country, seemingly entering a parallel dimension with different cultures, traditions and aesthetics. I've even missed driving to the airport at 4 in the morning, when the world is still quiet. I've missed relaxing in a peaceful state of limbo while waiting for a flight, filled with anticipation for the adventure ahead.

My most treasured memories have always consisted of my summers spent abroad with my extended family. With my family separated all over the world - in the U.S., Philippines and China - the weeks of bonding and shared experiences abroad were always filled with laughter, inside jokes and lots of fun. Now, as we grow older and start to establish our own roots and build careers globally, I still continue to fondly look back on these trips as a reminder of our youth.

Once school was over, I always felt eager and in a rush to leave home and satisfy my feelings of wanderlust. Whenever my family and I traveled someplace new, we would book a tour or a cruise for our family to follow a schedule that allowed us to hit all the tourist spots and learn about the history of each place.

While exploring different countries, what I loved most of all, aside from being with family and having mini-photoshoots wherever we went, were the spontaneous moments. I can recall a myriad of memories - stocking up on onigiri rice balls whenever we entered a Japanese grocery store, making new friends from around the world on cruises, finding hidden bars with my mom in Hong Kong, hearing mass in the catacombs of the Vatican, eating fresh kiwis in New Zealand, going to night food markets in Taiwan or thrift shopping with friends in Florence and Venice.

As someone whose life revolves around making lists and schedules, it was during these moments that I felt truly free. For once I didn't have to plan out my days. For once, I could just go along with the flow and focus on making the most out of these mini-adventures.

One of the most important lessons I've come to realize from traveling is the importance of showing respect for a new culture and making the effort to immerse yourself in it to make the most of these experiences. A life of traveling has truly opened my mind to the great diversity and versatility in the world. Every time I met someone new, I would realize that despite our external cultural and environmental differences, we still shared the same human struggles and were on the same path of self-discovery as anybody else.

Whenever I landed somewhere new, I couldn't help but compare the differences of each country's aesthetic and environment. My life has taken me from the blinding lights of Osaka's nightlife to the serene waters of Canada's Harbourfront, from the hustle and bustle of Australia's Sydney Opera House to peace and quiet of New Zealand's rolling fields, from New York's modern cityscape to Italy's Renaissance architecture, from the freezing winters of Alaska to the heat of the Philippines.

Every experience simultaneously felt brand new but also familiar at the same time. It was the same excitement, the same rush of taking the beauty of each country all in, the same appreciation for my ability to have all these wonderful experiences.

However, after spending an additional year at home, I realized that I actually haven't been to many places in my own country. Growing up my whole life in Makati, the capital of the Philippines, all I really know of my own country consists of the city life and beaches. I have yet to travel to the Italy-like streets of Vigan, witness the hot-air balloon festival in Pampanga or go anywhere outside of the region of Luzon, really, except maybe to beach resorts.

It's strange to think that after 19 years of living here, I have been to more states in the U.S. than regions in my home country. This extra year should have been my chance to accomplish this, but COVID-19 has rendered this aspiration impossible in the meantime.

Of course, there are still many places and experiences on my bucket list that I have yet to check off - visit the Holy Land, see the northern lights and have my own Mamma Mia! moment in Greece. In fact, one of the thoughts that pain me occasionally is that there will always be hidden sites that I will never get to see or restaurants I will never get to visit for myself in this lifetime. But as I continue to dream of the world beyond me, I am reminded to take the time to appreciate my home as I now add the Philippines to that bucket list as well.

Michelle Limpe is a sophomore from the Philippines studying Chemistry and Public Health. She is a News & Features Editor forThe News-Letter.In her articles, she likes to reflect on finding the silver linings in life to give meaning to her struggles.

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COURTESY OF MICHELLE LIMPE

Limpe discusses what traveling has meant to her.

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<![CDATA[My year on Zoom]]>

Tuesday, March 10, 2020. 7:34 p.m. I sat slouched in my A-level cubicle, poring over Lineweaver-Burk plots and peptide-bond hydrolysis mechanisms, when I got the email.

"COVID-19 Update: Classes canceled, resume online no later than March 23."

I was initially in disbelief. Then I opened the body of the email.

"Effective tomorrow, Wednesday March 11, we are canceling in-person classes..."

It took me at least three read-throughs of the email to thoroughly digest what was happening.

"...for all students as we transition to remote instruction, through at least April 12."

But I was optimistic that as long as we all socially distanced (was this term even a thing back then?) and thoroughly washed our hands until April, I'd find myself back in Mudd, horsing around with my friends before Biochem. Or spending late nights in Brody. Or going to lab meetings and interesting events around campus. But then the second email came.

Ever since that second email, the pandemic collapsed all these experiences of going to class, studying with friends and going to meetings and events - probably the things I miss most about pre-pandemic Hopkins - into the space of a 13-inch screen in my bedroom. In some sense, I've come to miss all these in-person experiences not because they no longer exist but rather because their original quality was lost in their conversion into Zoom meetings.

It's only recently struck me how much of my life is spent on Zoom now. Last Thursday, I had a slew of meetings in dizzying succession; between classes, office hours, a meeting with my lab supervisor and meeting up with some friends online, I hardly had time to catch my breath. I was likely experiencing some form of "Zoom fatigue" - something I'd probably felt before. The only difference was that this time, I was consciously acknowledging it.

Zoom fatigue is something that I'm sure everyone has heard about at this point; it's even made its rounds in academia. According to a paper by Jeremy Bailenson in the journal Technology, Mind and Behavior, Zoom fatigue has been on the rise due to four main causes: excessive eye contact, constantly seeing yourself on Zoom, lack of physical movement and the increased cognitive load demanded by video chatting. There's apparently even a Zoom Exhaustion and Fatigue (ZEF) Scale in the works to further explore this phenomenon.

Bailenson discusses how constantly feeling like we're being looked at over Zoom can be unnerving. Faces may also appear too large or intimately close on-screen, which our brains interpret as an emotionally charged encounter. This leads to the release of a cocktail of stress hormones. The paper also cited evidence that having your face constantly reflected back at you can make you more critical of yourself.

In my mind, there are other stressors that have less to do with Zoom as a platform and more to do with the fact that meetings take place at home. Sometimes one of my roommates might enter my frame, which can be somewhat embarrassing.

That said, I feel like Zoom also has its virtues. All you need is a laptop or a phone, and you can Zoom in from anywhere. And you can make your environment as comfortable as you want (within tactful limits, of course) to make sitting in meetings less taxing.

More than that, there are still occasions for building a sense of community despite the virtual constraint. I've genuinely enjoyed working on group presentations over Zoom. While exploring John Milton's engagement with the mathematical innovations of his day or exploring the cultures of different medical professions with my peers, there were often opportunities to get to know the members of my group on a personal level. Our conversations involved talking about how I remembered them from Intro to Lit freshman year, sharing our post-grad plans, bonding with one student over having the same poster for a band we both liked.

I've occasionally sat on Zoom with friends to have company while studying; it's often comforting to have someone else there even if you're just working on your own thing - just like being at Brody.

And when a friend recently invited me to a Zoom space dedicated to reflecting on the mass shooting in Atlanta almost a month ago, it helped me contemplate the various factors that led to tragedy and aspects of my identity as an Asian American.

And honestly, I feel like Zoom is an effective tool (or at least is the best given the circumstances) for learning. I've taken some of my favorite classes at Hopkins over Zoom, and my professors have been adept at making the material engaging and interesting by taking advantage of Zoom's features.

I feel like these are things that certainly helped me with avoiding Zoom fatigue, aside from some solutions outlined in the Bailenson paper, such as taking Zoom out of fullscreen mode, using the "hide self-view" button and giving yourself more personal space on your desk. That said, I think it's important to keep in mind the sample size of one.

The night the first cancellation email came, I could never have imagined how much my life over the course of the following year would be spent on a Skype competitor that I'd never heard of before. But I'm grateful that for all the flaws of Zoom as a platform, it's opened up vital occasions for learning, reflecting or just hanging out.

I'm grateful that I've still been able to have transformative learning experiences as a student - and that's the point, right? I recently walked across campus, passing by Brody, Gilman and Remsen, places where I forged some of my deepest friendships and where I came to love learning. It's nice that Zoom is a place where that can still happen.

Jae Choi is a senior from Carrollton, Texas studying Neuroscience and English. He is an aspiring MD candidate. In his column, he enjoys making sense of extended stays at home during the pandemic and finding significance in everyday activities.

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<![CDATA[Students argue spring break days don't cure burnout]]> In response to the pandemic, the University altered its spring break schedule to minimize traveling off campus. Instead of granting students an entire week off, the University scheduled five days without classes interspersed throughout the semester. So far, students have had two of their five spring break days and, although they have found ways to enjoy their days off, the move has raised concerns about mental health.

Junior Dmytro Nebesh, the president of the mental health and well-being organization Peabuddies, believes that the University did not do enough to ensure that students could rest on break days.

"We're not really given time off. We're just given time off from Zoom," he said. "Especially at Peabody, there are rehearsals [and] lessons still scheduled. I have a separate job, and I thought on break day I would get a day off, and then I found out I [didn't]."

Nebesh tried to plan fun activities for Peabuddies members over the days off but claimed that members were too overwhelmed with schoolwork to attend the events.

Freshman Rida Chowdhury explained that though she enjoyed her first spring break day, she still found it difficult to take a break from school.

"Because it was a three-day weekend, on that Monday I went with a few friends to the Appalachian Trail," she said. "But it's not like if you had a week off, you could relax for the first few days and catch up for the next few days. When you spend your one day off relaxing, you end up doing a lot more work the next day."

Freshman Daivik Chawla also criticized the new structure, arguing that his classwork made it seem as if there was no break at all.

"It's not enough to just give us one-day breaks in the middle of the semester, especially because we have assignments and homework due exactly the day after the spring break [day]," he said. "We end up spending that day working instead of actually resting."

However, Chawla said it was nice to have a change from his normal routine benefits in the new structure, noting that the new structure would prevent students from traveling.

The city of Miami, a popular spring break destination, declared a state of emergency through April 11 because of its surge in large and unruly spring break crowds.

In an email to The News-Letter, Vice Provost for Student Health and Well-Being Kevin Shollenberger detailed the University's decision-making process.

"We sought input through a wide range of groups and platforms, including several committees, deans and Town Halls," he wrote. "Student groups weighed in on a number of options regarding the semester schedule. While consecutive break days were most preferred, the ultimate decision factored in both the risks and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations associated with non-essential travel."

Chowdhury argued that even though the University made the decision to reduce student travel, the semester's online format made it easy for students to still leave campus.

"Honestly, people are going to different places every week. Classes are still virtual so it's easy to travel anyway," she said. "I don't know if what they were trying to prevent has really been prevented."

Freshman Arijit Nukala felt that though the University tried to take mental health into consideration when making their decision, the result was ineffective. He believes multiple three-day weekends would have been better than having days off midweek.

Nukala, who is taking this semester from home in Michigan, also reported that he did not get an opportunity to take a break from school during the spring break days, adding that being off-campus made it hard to find things to do.

"Off-campus spring break days are definitely a little more gloomy than on-campus spring break days, just for the fact that you're at home and you may not necessarily have friends to do stuff with," he said.

Chawla suggested that even with the current structure, the University could have been more conscientious of students' academic workload when restructuring spring break days.

"Even if they followed the same structure, it would have been helpful if they were a little more communicative with the faculty about expectations for how assignments should be scheduled around these spring break days," he said.

According to Shollenberger, the University is planning on returning to a traditional spring break once travel becomes safer.

"We are optimistic about the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines and look forward to a time when we can return to a more traditional schedule," he wrote.

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Manuy students expressed that one day off at a time is not enough to relax while also staying on top of coursework.

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<![CDATA[TikTok therapy: Hopkins professor addresses mental health on social media]]> TikTok isn't just for dance videos anymore. Hopkins Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Melissa Shepard is using the platform to fight mental health stigma one catchy meme at a time. Since creating her account in early 2020, her account has accrued nearly one million followers.

Before February, Shepard's main relationship to TikTok came through videos her sisters would send her. It quickly became apparent to her that the platform offered creators a balance between being creative and informative.

"TikTok, they tolerate me being weird a little more than Instagram," Shepard joked in an interview with The News-Letter.

Her first video depicts her slashing out harmful mental health misconceptions with the help of a trusty stethoscope. From there, the account gained traction quickly.

Shepard recounting having to learn to be comfortable with herself in real time as the account progressed. She reported at some points feeling like her role had to be informative and professional, almost to the point of sterility. On the other extreme, she has also felt pressure to learn every new dance trend to appeal to wider audiences. Eventually, she has settled on something in the middle.

"Now I've kind of realized that people are okay with doctors being real people. It seems like that makes people comfortable, if anything," Shepard said.

In its compilation of TikTok therapists, Cosmopolitan noted that Shepard was a go-to for anyone with specific questions. That's because Shepard is known for thoroughly answering her followers' questions in comments or separate TikToks. She described these videos as some of the most rewarding parts of her online presence, as she can see her ability to help in real time.

Currently, Shepard is licensed for telehealth services in North Carolina and Maryland. These days, it is common for her patients to recognize her on TikTok. Sometimes, new clients seek her out based off of her work on the platform. Overall, she feels good about this pattern. According to Shepard, mental health professionals have a lot of negative stereotypes to battle due to the history of the profession. If she can make the field seem more approachable, it may encourage people to get help from her or other providers.

"It feels like you already have a connection with them," Shepard said.

Even with the fun-loving nature of TikTok, managing an online platform is not always easy, especially as a medical professional. As much as Shepard wants to get people the information they need to manage their mental health, it's difficult to fully understand or explain someone's particular situation in a 60-second video. Sometimes, people will tag her in videos that are spreading misinformation, and she must do her best to confront it with the resources she has available.

Overall, Shepard sees the main goal of her videos as encouraging individuals to seek help from a licensed professional rather than trying to get all their support through the short soundbites of social media.

Shepard has had to learn to manage her own mental health while having such a large presence. She takes a compassionate approach toward most of the trolls she encounters, she says, because they may be people who have had poor experiences with mental health professionals and are expressing their frustration by criticizing her work. In addition, Shepard belongs to a larger network of mental health content creators; when people share their experiences with viewers, she can remember that her experiences are common to many medical professionals on the platform. Also, mental health professionals arguably give the best advice for dealing with mental health online. Overall, the appreciation she gets from most of her followers keeps her encouraged.

"I try to remind myself that more of the feedback is positive than negative, and if that's the case, it's probably worth it to keep going," Shepard said.

When asked about what advice she would give anyone who wants to share something they are passionate about online, Shepard gave the tried and true: Be yourself.

"If you have something important to say, just say it in a way that's comfortable to you, and people tend to respond to that," she said.

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Shepard was featured in a compilation of TikTok therapists published by Cosmopolitan.

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<![CDATA[University announces mostly in-person fall semester]]> Hopkins announced plans on Friday to largely return to normal this fall. Most classes will be held in person, and COVID-19 vaccines will be required for students. On-campus housing will be open at near-full capacity, and residency requirements will be reinstated for freshmen and sophomores. Administrators will determine face covering requirements based on public health conditions closer to the fall.

Junior Sylvana Schaffer supports the University's decision.

"This is basically the best announcement Hopkins has made since the beginning of the pandemic," she said. "After three semesters of largely virtual education, I think that bringing students back to campus and returning to largely in-person learning is vital."

Sophomore Andrea Guillen called on the University to provide more information about student organization activities.

"There is no information about clubs, which I would really appreciate," she said. "One of my clubs, the Witness Theatre Company, is struggling right now to find space with capacity limits. I wish we had more information right now so we can better plan."

In an interview with The News-Letter, Karen Lancaster, the assistant vice president of external relations for the Office of Communications, shared that the University plans to release guidelines to hold in-person activities for student organizations near the start of the fall semester.

In-person classes and University housing

The University plans to hold most classes in person, while large classes with more than 50 students will either meet online or be broken up into smaller sections.

Incoming freshman Hannah Puhov, who deferred enrollment last year due to the University's fully online operations, also believes that Hopkins made the right decision.

"Hopefully they stick to what they're saying about splitting bigger classes into smaller groups instead of doing it online, especially for freshmen who'll be taking classes like Calc I, Physics I and Chem I," she said.

Undergraduate courses for the fall semester have been released as well. Most classes are offered in-person, and hybrid options were not available for all courses.

Lancaster noted that classroom capacity limits put in place will also be lifted to facilitate in-person classes.

"The fall schedule that was just released in SIS for Homewood students has returned to scheduling rooms as their pre-pandemic density," she wrote. "As we get closer to fall, our health and safety team will evaluate the need for any modification for classrooms."

While freshman Rajaa Alhamd is also excited for a normal semester, she is concerned about the lack of virtual classes for students who are reluctant to return in person.

"They shouldn't be having strict requirements for dorming or going in person," she said. "Attendance being required is weird since I don't know if a lot of people will feel comfortable yet."

Hopkins opened housing facilities to 1,350 students who requested one in the spring. Sophomores were allowed to live in off-campus housing, an option that will no longer be available. During the fully online fall semester, only students with demonstrated need were able to stay in a dorm.

The University noted in its announcement that students at high risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 can seek accommodations from the Office of Student Disability Services.

Vaccinations

All students returning to campus will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, barring any religious or health exemptions. Several peer institutions have adopted this policy as well. The University is also considering requiring the same for staff and faculty.

Schaffer believes the vaccination requirement is necessary to reopen the campus.

"They are handling changing public health circumstances in the best way possible, requiring vaccinations for the vast majority of students while also working to facilitate access," she said. "I would like to see them require vaccines for faculty and staff as well, since they tend to be more vulnerable than the student body."

Hopkins, however, has yet to secure the capacity to guarantee vaccinations for students. International students living abroad who do not have access to vaccines will likely be unable to be on campus at least initially even if they return.

The University will also require students abroad who received vaccines not approved by the U.S., such as the one by AstraZeneca, to be vaccinated again with either the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or Janssen vaccines.

Freshman Irene Lee, an international student from South Korea, believes that this requirement will be difficult for international students.

"In order to be vaccinated with the US-approved vaccine, we need at least three weeks to be fully vaccinated. This means that we need to be in the States about a month prior to when school opens, which will require lots of money and time," she said. "However, I am not saying that this should not be the case, given that some of the vaccines are causing lots of side effects and some are not as effective as the US-approved ones."

She noted that in South Korea, no U.S.-approved vaccines are being currently offered. This is causing her to question the logic behind getting vaccinated in South Korea knowing she will need another vaccine in August.

In a separate email, the University announced that it will provide transportation to the M&T Bank Stadium, a mass vaccination site, for students currently living in Baltimore. Maryland expanded vaccine eligibility earlier this week, and everyone above the age of 16 can be vaccinated at a mass vaccination site.

While many aspects of a pre-pandemic semester will return in the fall, Hopkins noted that safety protocols - including regular testing and frequent air filtration - will continue. Isolation and quarantine housing will also continue to be available.

Guillen believes that such communication was appropriate.

"If we keep the testing three times a week, that's going to get a little frustrating," she said. "But it's good that they are warning us that things will remain in place for the next semester and not pretending that everything is going completely normal."

Romy Koo contributed reporting to this article.

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Students will be required to be vaccinated to be on campus in the fall.

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<![CDATA[The Red Room in Your Room series spotlights Baltimore artists]]> The High Zero Foundation, a Baltimore-based organization dedicated to promoting improvised and experimental music, held an online concert on March 25. The foundation hosted the event over the livestreaming service Twitch as part of its ongoing The Red Room in Your Room series. Despite the collapsing of geographic constraints afforded by online events, the series has continued to foreground the work of Baltimore-based artists, and the March 25 concert was no exception.

The concert began with some pre-show music featuring selections from Wide Open Spaces, an album of digitally manipulated country and western music by People Like Us, Wobbly and Baltimore's very own Matmos (of which Hopkins English Professor Drew Daniel is part). There was also a video accompaniment by M.C. Schmidt (the other member of Matmos) that featured chopped-up scenes from classic western movies.

Sounds of animal noises and warped voices over disfigured honky-tonk music complemented sequences from Don Siegel's The Beguiled and Monte Hellman's The Shooting. At one point the video featured multiple superimposed moving images on low saturation. The atmospheric pads in the background lent the video a somewhat futuristic air.

A user by the name of bodytunnel humorously remarked on the video's Westworld turn in the chat box:

"What is this footage?" bodytunnel said. "Is this Cyberpunk 2077?"

User HighZeroFoundation (who I'm assuming was someone from the High Zero Foundation) gave an amusing reply.

"Steampunk 1877," HighZeroFoundation said.

The pre-show music ended, and Tom Boram, a Baltimore-based musician and host for the night, gave some introductory remarks.

"Welcome to The Red Room in Your Room," he said. "I'm kinda letting it all hang out tonight. Had my second COVID shot yesterday and feeling kinda dead inside."

He then introduced the three performers for the night: Claire Rousay, Clint McCallum and Safra Tadesse.

Rousay was up first. The only non-Baltimore-hailing artist on the program, Rousay has performed all across the world and received praise from media outlets such as NPR and Pitchfork. Her performance took place in her San Antonio apartment.

For her half-hour performance, Rousay improvised music using a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboard, a microphone and an assortment of objects laid out in front of her - a pen, some paper, some cymbals and even what looked like Chinese Baoding balls. Rousay also incorporated recordings of birds chirping, dogs barking and traffic noise into her performance. Sounds of animals in the Texas outdoors were accompanied by deep, rolling basslines on the keyboard and scratching noises from her writing on a piece of paper. She would also periodically mutter into the microphone, tap on the cymbal, shake the Baoding balls and turn the dials on her keyboard to change the qualities of the synthesizer's sound.

What struck me most about her music was its very warm, hand-worn quality. There was something very intimate about it - in the way she was able to incorporate all these everyday sounds into a coherent musical composition. At the end she stood up, took her headphones off, took out a drink from her fridge and turned on her lamp.

Someone by the name of CodyAriel said, "Kitchen solo!"

McCallum is a musician from Baltimore. He stood with his keyboard in front of a video of his bearded mouth. He began with some simple, pulsing synth chords while singing monosyllabic words in rhythm. Though his performance seemed somewhat more minimalistic than Rousay's, it was just as arresting. He electronically filtered his voice in interesting ways while adjusting its raspiness and quality, with the synth sounds and the background visual gradually becoming more frenetic and expansive as the performance went on. At one point the background visual turned into a video of fish swimming through outer space, and McCallum entered into an exasperated monologue.

"I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. Another lonely night. Another lonely night. Stare at the TV screen. I stare at the TV screen, and I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. I need a rendezvous. I need a rendezvous," he said.

There were some technical issues with the stream glitching during his performance, so Boram restarted the stream, but the glitches persisted.

People in the chat were very encouraging (bodytunnel: "Clint you're too powerful"). Boram promised that he would replay McCallum's performance at the next The Red Room in Your Room event to do it full justice.

Boram then gave some remarks before the final performance.

"I must tell you this is a pretty epic set. I saved it for last because it is one hour long," he said.

Tadesse is a Baltimore-based singer-songwriter, dancer and artist. She began her performance with a written tribute to the lands of the Paskestikweya people in Baltimore City.

"I would like to acknowledge that we are on ancestral territory of Turtle Island. This performance was recorded on sacred homelands that belong to the Pasestikweya (Pist-ka-tanh-wah) people in Baltimore City. We pay respects to the original caretakers of the land," she wrote.

She then launched into her set, which featured experimental post-metal performances alongside some ambient pieces.

The hypnotic visual aesthetic and colorful lighting of her performance space nicely complemented her charged guitar riffs and singing on songs like "BEAST" and "Sitting in the Middle." Some of her slower songs were mesmerizingly beautiful. She also began to incorporate dance and various props into the second half of her set, when the music was softer and didn't require the use of her guitar. On her song "Tunnel Vision," high-pitched, metallic synthesizer melodies and chords accompanied the sounds of bar chimes and what sounded like some sort of pipe organ.

Tadesse's way of maximizing her engagement with the environment around her, as well as with the physicality of music and dance, made her performance compelling and memorable.

In February of last year, when The Red Room wasn't in my room but at Normal's Books & Records in Waverly, I visited one of its group improvisation sessions and was impressed by the friendliness of the community and the enthusiasm with which everyone embraced new and unfamiliar music. That was definitely still the case with the online format of The Red Room in Your Room, and I'm looking forward to continuing to attend this series in the future.

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COURTESY OF JAE CHOI

Clint McCallum's background during his performance at The Red Room in Your Room concert.

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<![CDATA[NFL owners fumble schedule changes, add extra game to season]]>

Over the course of a normal five-month season, NFL players are expected to travel the country, leave their friends and family and play 16 grueling games in all sorts of inclement weather with only one week to rest. With immense amounts of pressure, most contracts being not fully guaranteed and the risks of a potential season-ending injury every day, the life of an NFL player is tough enough.

On March 28, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter quietly dropped a bombshell. The NFL is going to extend its regular season to 17 games, taking one off the four-game preseason and tacking onto the end of the former 16 game regular season. Two days later, the NFL owners voted to make it official.

In the past, as the season comes to a close, teams are practically dragging themselves across the finish lines vying for a playoff spot. With the increase in regular season games, you'd think that the NFL would make a compromise to help out the players with an additional bye week. Nope. They're going to have to change their weekly routines, training regiments and overall lifestyle to try to make it; it's reasonable that most players are upset.

The New Orleans Saints' star running back Alvin Kamara summed it up in a few simple words, tweeting, "Shit dumb... as hell."

Similarly, Green Bay Packers strong safety Adrian Amos tweeted, "We really let this happen," ending with a facepalm emoji.

Commissioner Roger Goodell tried to spin the narrative, claiming that the schedule was not "expanded" but "enhanced" to give fans a higher quality experience. He added that though the preseason was reduced, the total number of games still remains the same, meaning there shouldn't be a difference. Last time I checked, you don't put your backup players and practice squad in a regular season game unless you have no other choice. There's a reason why you have starters and why they're so valued.

The 17th game is going to be determined by the standing of the team in the previous season. For the 2021 season, the league is going to match each division with another division from the opposite conference, rotating the matches each season. Therefore, the winner of one division will play the winner of the other division and so on. So it isn't like the other games in the season. Teams are going into that 17th game knowing exactly what kind of matchup it's going to be.

Pay is another problem. With the addition of a new game, players should be getting paid more, but how would it work? Would they be paid the normal amount for a 16-game season and then given an "extra game check" for the final game? Would that check count against the current salary cap? How will teams accommodate and delegate money with all the different contracts?

The NFL is projected to have a little more money this upcoming season due to a 1% increase in the player's share of league revenue and the "media kicker," brought by the NFL's recent $110 billion TV deal with various TV networks. This brings me to my next point.

The NFL is a business. As the most popular and highest revenue-generating major professional league, making money is the top priority. But where's the tipping point? The shelf life of an average NFL player, just 2.5 years, is short enough. To many, the risk of an injury is not worth an extra paycheck. At what point do you prioritize your players' health and wellness over the immeasurable surplus of money you could make off of countless promotions and deals?

Either way, what's done is done. Regardless of whether or not you approve or disapprove of the decision, take the advice of Bruce Arians, head coach of the Super Bowl LV-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"You might as well embrace it," he said. "You don't have a choice. Embrace it and make sure you're ready for it."

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SAM BENSON SMITH/CC BY 2.0

Commissioner Roger Goodell tried to spin the changes as an "enhancement" to the schedule.

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<![CDATA[Names to watch as the NHL trade deadline approaches]]>

Monday, April 12: the NHL trade deadline. The day where contending teams acquire "rentals" from non-playoff teams on expiring contracts and a few players with terms left on their contracts are traded. Draft picks and prospects are traded, contending teams prepare for the stretch run and through a few head-scratching trades, general managers occasionally unknowingly submit an implicit letter of resignation. Let's take a look at the market and craft a preview of how likely players are to be moved, where they might end up and what future assets might be exchanged.

Locks to be moved

Taylor Hall (left wing, Buffalo Sabres):

The 2018 Most Valuable Player is on an expiring contract on the NHL's biggest dumpster fire and is the lock of all locks to be traded. Given that the Buffalo Sabres can only eat 50% of his $8 million salary, the list of suitors will largely be determined by the short list of teams that can actually afford to add $4 million and remain under the salary cap.

Expect the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to be hot in pursuit with the Toronto Maple Leafs seeing if they can somehow move money to make it work. Yet above all, the New York Islanders are perhaps the frontrunners with the hole and cap room opened up by star forward Anders Lee's injury. Hall is unlikely to cost a first-round pick in return with his contract up at the end of the year, but a second-rounder and a mid-level prospect or additional middle-round pick are well within reach.

Kyle Palmieri (right wing, New Jersey Devils):

A bonafide top-six forward with a great shot on an expiring contract for a team that will miss the playoffs, Palmieri is in a similar boat to Hall. Expect the same group of teams to be interested, with the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders having been linked to Hall extensively in the past.

David Savard (right defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets):

If the surging Nashville Predators stand pat and hold onto Mattias Ekholm, Savard becomes the top defenseman available as teams like the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes look to add a right-shot defenseman. Winnipeg, in particular, would seem to jump out as the top landing spot for Savard given that they have a stacked forward group and may very well be one competent defenseman away from being a top-tier Stanley Cup contender. With the Columbus Blue Jackets likely to miss the playoffs and set with young defensemen on the team, expect the long-time Blue Jacket to get traded.

Bobby Ryan (right wing, Detroit Red Wings):

A very affordable forward who has rebuilt his value on a one-year deal on the non-contending Red Wings, Ryan fits the bill of a low-risk, low-cost add for a contending team. Expect a contending team with even the slightest salary cap room and any questions about their forward depth to send a low draft pick to Detroit for Ryan.

Jonathan Bernier (goaltender, Detroit Red Wings) or Ryan Miller (goaltender, Anaheim Ducks):

While neither is a big name, both are established, experienced netminders who can be stabilizing insurance policies as backup goaltenders for a playoff-bound team. With backup goalie Pavel Francouz injured for the foreseeable future, Colorado is widely considered to be a lock to add a capable backup goaltender, and Bernier and Miller would fit the bill. Given the youth and inexperience of their current goaltending duo, Washington has also been linked to veteran goalies. However, with no money to spend under the salary cap and the young duo's impressive performance, expect them to stand pat at the goaltender position this trade deadline.

Likely to be discussed

The Nashville Predators roster:

The Predators were widely believed to be the team that would blow open this year's trade deadline until they started winning games and looking like they might sneak into the playoffs in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. With the exception of franchise defenseman Roman Josi, it seemed that the team might be heading for a rebuild where everyone else isn't untouchable. However, after putting together a nice streak of wins, the Predators are now in contention for a playoff spot, making them a bit of a mystery team approaching the trade deadline.

Teams would likely be interested in pending unrestricted free agent forwards Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund, with the Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly coveting Granlund as the potential impact forward they desperately want to acquire. Star left wing Filip Forsberg seems to be quite unlikely to be traded and would cost a haul of assets to acquire, but that certainly won't stop teams from inquiring as to his availability.

However, outside of Forsberg, the potential top prize of the deadline would be their defenseman Ekholm. He is widely viewed as a top-notch number-two defenseman for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations on an extremely team-friendly contract, paying him $3.75 million per year for this year and next. The price is understandably steep: a first-round pick, top prospect and a third consequential asset to even get the conversation started.

Teams like the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins would undeniably love to add Ekholm. However, considering expansion draft concerns and the Predators' recent surge, it seems unlikely Ekholm will be moved before the trade deadline and more likely that his name will appear in rumors this offseason.

Rickard Rakell (left wing, Anaheim Ducks):

The cost-controlled two-way forward is under contract for this year and the next on a young Ducks team that is unlikely to contend for a championship in that time period. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins understandably appear to be interested.

The problem is Anaheim's asking price seems to be problematically high, rumored to be an NHL-ready prospect and a first-round pick. While Rakell would be a great add for any contending team, and it's unlikely that his value would get any higher, it seems likely that the Ducks' asking price will be a little too high for any team to make a deal.

Nick Foligno (left wing and center, Columbus Blue Jackets):

The Blue Jackets' long-time captain may very well not be traded, but he is a pending unrestricted free agent, and his services would certainly be in high demand if he is indeed available. Not unlike Hall and Palmieri, he completely fits the bill as the type of player the Bruins or Islanders would acquire. This situation is a little more complicated given Foligno's well-earned place in the Blue Jackets' history as a franchise, so it will be interesting to see if he is indeed traded.

Alex Goligoski, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Demers (defensemen, Arizona Coyotes):

The trio of Arizona Coyotes defensemen are all on expiring contracts in a market with few defensemen available, yet many teams are seeking defensive upgrades. Sure, Arizona is in the running for a playoff spot and would hurt its odds by trading any of the three, but Arizona was fined significant draft picks for last year's prospect-testing scandal and is desperately seeking to restock its draft pick cupboard. Trading Goligoski, Hjalmarsson and Demers could help further this goal by bringing back several mid-round picks.

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LISA GANSKY/CC BY 2.0

Kyle Palmieri is one of the top names expected to be moved before Monday's deadline.

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<![CDATA[Benito Gonzalez Trio celebrates McCoy Tyner's music]]> The Benito Gonzalez Trio gave a live-streamed jazz performance at Keystone Korner Baltimore on April 3 to celebrate McCoy Tyner. The trio included pianist Benito Gonzalez, bassist Essiet Okon Essiet and drummer Billy Hart.

McCoy Tyner was a famous jazz pianist and won five Grammy Awards during his career. He is best known for his involvement with the John Coltrane Quartet as well as the music he composed after he left the group. The Benito Gonzalez Trio performed some of Tyner's well-known jazz pieces with effortless teamwork.

The trio started right after entering the stage with the piece "Fly with the Wind." According to Gonzalez, it was the opening track of Tyner's 1976 album of the same name. The piece began with a suspenseful entrance, with the piano playing a flurry of notes in the lower registers of the piano scale. Hart continued to play the drum in the background, providing a light shimmering effect during the piece.

Gonzalez and Essiet tossed the beginning melody back and forth, which was enjoyable to hear because it created harmony within the performance. Gonzalez's movement on the piano emphasized his soulful playing of the piece and also added spirit to the stage. Embedded in the piece were lively tremolos and scales that ascended and descended smoothly, giving subtle variations in the music.

Essiet's agile hand movement over the bass strings created a clean-cut sound that matched up precisely with Gonzalez's left-hand playing. Meanwhile, Hart continued with a steady rhythm on the drums that helped the pacing of the story being told through the jazz music. Hart's drum solo in the middle was a compelling explosion of drums and the occasional tap on the cymbals.

"[It is a] huge honor to be back here at this legendary venue where so many great records were made," Gonzalez said after the first piece. "Today, we are celebrating the music of a piano hero."

Watching the members exchange musical cues with smiles and eye contact added to the liveliness of the concert. It reminded me of what in-person concerts used to be like - the music is perceptibly more harmonious and coordinated for the listener when there are visible cues.

The trio continued their performance with a piece titled "Sama Layuca." The beginning emitted a nervous, unpredictable feeling with slightly dissonant chords and scales played by Gonzalez. The opening included a melody that was begun by all members of the trio and then passed onto Essiet for the rest of the music. Essiet's role with the melody underscored his technical skills as a bassist. His quick pizzicato that was quick yet heavy enough to play each note appeared effortless.As the song neared the end, Gonzalez ended with a dramatic trill on the piano and played the initial melody of "Sama Layuca" at a faster tempo.

The third composition, titled "Inner Glimpse," had a more playful mood that was also properly conveyed by the trio's musical cooperation. The pieces had a similar beginning with Gonzalez's piano motifs followed by the bass and drum's individual parts.Hart's drum solo again dominated a part of the piece with his charismatic drum skills. The piece ended with an ascending scale with a tremolo in a higher pitch for the finale.

Before beginning "Peresina," the fourth piece, Gonzalez explained that it was his favorite piece to play. His performance spoke to why this piece was his favorite, as he demonstrated a diverse array of impressive jazz techniques.

Despite being someone who does not regularly listen to jazz music, I quickly realized that the rhythmic silences in the piece were a unique characteristic component of the genre. Rhythm is not as explicit in jazz as it is in classical or pop, but it seems to serve as a backbone in the pieces. I also noticed how certain melodies, or motifs, in jazz were constantly passed around the members of the trio. Jazz is akin to a special representation of musical creativity as it encourages variations on a single motif, which is often found in sonata form in classical music.

"[Tyner] left a huge legacy and we want to try to keep it alive as much as we can," Gonzalez said before playing the last piece.

The last piece was titled "Passion Dance." Like the name suggests, there is pure passion embodied by the music. The trio emphasized the rhythmic nature of the piece by articulating all their notes. "Passion Dance" sounded like a mixture of emotions with each artist playing as if they were individual pieces while ironically sounding symphonious.The piece ended with a tremolo of the right hand while the left hand ascended and descended repeatedly on the piano. Each artist played out in the end, increasing the rising tension for the audience.

The host made an exciting announcement at closing: Keystone Korner Baltimore's live opening will take place on April 8. Once more people are vaccinated, I would definitely recommend visiting Keystone Korner Baltimore for live jazz performances and some good tunes.

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COURTESY OF SARAH JUNG

The Benito Gonzalez Trio played "Sama Layuca" at Keystone Korner Baltimore.

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<![CDATA[Baseball sweeps McDaniel College in doubleheader]]> The Hopkins baseball team dominated in their doubleheader against conference rival the McDaniel College Green Terror this past weekend. In total, Hopkins scored 14 runs and had four homers. McDaniel, on the other hand, scored a total of four runs.

Two of the Green Terror runs came from an error, and another was in the eighth inning of a blow out against only half of the starting field for Hopkins. The Blue Jays won the first game 5-3 and the second 9-1 to improve to a 3-3 record on the year.

The first game started off competitive. Both teams ended up with the same scenario in the first inning: bases loaded, but a strikeout ending any chance of scoring.

The first score of the game came from junior catcher James Ingram, who was able to capitalize on a wild pitch after getting on base with a double as the leadoff hitter in the second inning.

McDaniel returned the favor in the top of the fourth. Two back-to-back errors lead to the bases being loaded, which then led to two McDaniel runs on two consecutive at-bats.

In the fifth inning, junior first baseman Jared DeFaria got a single RBI with graduate student Dillon Bowman scoring. In the bottom of the sixth, junior third baseman Jack Walters smashed a home run with Ingram on second base, adding two more Hopkins runs.

Junior outfielder Isaiah Winikur hit a homer off the scoreboard, nearly leaving a dent in it. Winikur shared his thoughts on the play

"It felt crazy honestly. Since we started practicing on the field, I was wondering if I ever was going to hit one off the scoreboard, so for it to happen on my first day playing at our home field was amazing," he said. "I heard the sound of the ball hit something when I was approaching second, so I had an idea, but I didn't see it with my eyes. [Senior pitcher] Jack Archer told me in the dugout where it hit, and I felt like the man."

McDaniel managed to score again on a single RBI in the top of the eighth. Then in the top of the ninth, the leadoff hitter for McDaniel was walked. Hopkins pulled their pitcher right after.

The next pitcher, junior Ben Keever, let up one hit but was able to generate two outs during this span. However, with two runners on base, Keever found himself in some trouble, which led head coach Bob Babb to make a pitching change.

Freshman Wyatt Copeland took the mound to finish the job. Striking out the batter looking, Copeland needed just one pitch to give Hopkins the win in game one of the doubleheader.

In the first inning of the second game, Winikur put the Jays on the board with another solo shot toward the scoreboard. Senior infielder Mark Lopez's homer brought home junior catcher AJ King and sophomore catcher Sam Frank, giving Hopkins the 4-0 lead through the second inning. The scoring kept going in the third inning.

DeFaria started off this inning with an RBI double bringing in senior infielder Matthew Ritchie. Next, King singled, bringing Winikur home off third. Graduate student infielder Dai Dai Otaka added an RBI of his own with a single. Lopez hit a fly out to left field, but he got an RBI with Frank scoring.

In the fourth inning, King knocked in a single that allowed Winikur to score, extending the lead to 9-0. By the fifth inning, Hopkins began switching out their starting lineup, giving the starters a rest. By the time McDaniel scored their first and only run at the top of the eighth, Hopkins essentially had a different team on the field.

Winikur credited the performance to the team as a whole and especially the pitchers.

"All of our players stepped it up in the field, but our pitchers deserve a great amount of credit as they were carving through the McDaniel lineup. It makes it much easier for the fielders to have pitchers who are taking care of business and keep runners off base," he said.

The Blue Jays will look to carry the momentum when they play the Washington College Shoremen at Babb Field this weekend.

Matthew Ritchie is a Sports Editor for The News-Letter. He did not contribute reporting, writing or editing to this article.

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COURTESY OF HOPKINSSPORTS.COM

The Jays took care of business against McDaniel College, winning both games of the doubleheader.

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<![CDATA[Godzilla vs. Kong is a winning CGI spectacle - just don't think about it too much]]> If you like massive CGI fights, a touch of sci-fi and almost non-stop action, then you've come to the right place. And you might not be alone, either. In the first five days of the theatrical release of the hugely-anticipated blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong, its box office hit a record-setting $48.5 million, making it the biggest opening for a film since the start of the pandemic.

Part of the hype comes from its place in the MonsterVerse franchise, as the fourth installment and the sequel to both Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Kong: Skull Island. This is all not to mention the fact that a showdown of epic proportions between two iconic titans - and CGI wonders of equally epic proportions - is something of a draw, to say the least.

The bare-bones story behind the mythical monster mash is relatively simplistic. Kong and his caretakers, along with an orphaned girl who possesses the sole ability to communicate with him, embark on a journey to find his true home. As they traverse across the globe, Godzilla is on their trail - and hungry for blood. All the while, however, nothing is quite as it seems.

The film's beginning does a skillful job of weaving in exposition while keeping the story moving. We first find Kong relaxing in what appears to be his home, Skull Island - until he throws a tree into the sky. It shatters the illusion, revealing that he's surrounded by a biodome manned by scientist and "Kong Whisperer" Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall). Her adopted daughter is a young orphan, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who communicates via sign language. The problem with their present arrangement is that Kong can't stay enclosed forever, yet he must be protected from Godzilla.

With no time to lose, a second storyline is subsequently added to the mix. Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry), who can only be described as a spunky, jittery podcaster, is in the midst of investigating the technology giant Apex Cybernetics. While he's there, Godzilla launches an attack on the industrial compound, leading him to theorize about the corporation's sinister doings on his latest podcast.

As it turns out, following another segue, his podcasting is obsessively consumed by a high school student named Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown). Plotting a scheme of her own, she ropes in her disgruntled friend Josh (Julian Dennison), and the two set off.

In one last transition, we're introduced to Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), a geologist turned disillusioned professor. After being approached by Apex Cybernetics to lead a mission into Hollow Earth, his area of research, Nathan agrees and kicks off Kong's journey to Antarctica.

If you're starting to - quite reasonably - get a little dizzy with all the seemingly-unrelated characters, well, there are more supporting characters to come. But hang in there, because things start getting easier to follow. Nathan, Ilene and Jia eventually form a team to transport Kong. Meanwhile, Bernie, Madison and Josh come together to get to the bottom of Apex Cybernetics' plan.

These two plotlines intercut with one another make for an engaging watch, skillfully adding an extra layer of intrigue and forcing you to wonder exactly how they'll end up piecing together. But the multitude of characters, while enabling for these fast-paced storylines, soon becomes a detriment to the film.

To start, the sheer amount of them results in each character lacking any sort of depth, making it near impossible to be emotionally invested in the movie's characters. Pitifully little time is spent developing their backstories; the best we get is a few sentences about Jia's past and Nathan staring at a photo of his brother. Distinct personalities and perspectives are also close to absent, and there are undeniably points in time when the characters feel like agents carrying out what is required of them in the plot.

More problems arise with the plot points themselves. The film gets pretty out there with what's possible, walking a thin line between absurdity and the believable sort of fantasy that science fiction does best. Where it really gets bad, though, is the number of conveniently-occurring happenings that the plot hinges on. The ending isn't any better, as it's almost amusingly predictable, complete with a deus ex machina.

Though it assuredly has its strengths, a stellar cast and excellent pacing among them, flaws evidently run rampant in Godzilla vs. Kong. At the end of the day, what you think of it depends on what you have in mind. For those looking for a thought-provoking, well-written film that will stick with you, it'll be a long two hours. But for the rest looking for a visually stunning sci-fi romp to make for an easy escape from reality, it most certainly won't disappoint.

And to that end, it's precisely the promise of these staggering special effects on the big screen, perhaps coupled with surround sound explosions, that's making audiences flock back to theaters. Just this alone makes it a victory for the film industry, providing a much-needed sign that it has made it through the brunt of the pandemic semi-intact. Now, with Godzilla vs. Kong's opening weekend in the books, it looks like good times are ahead - for both tentpole releases and for Hollywood.

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TOM SIMPSON/CC BY-NC 2.0

Pictured is an image from the 1962 film King Kong vs. Godzilla.

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<![CDATA[A Place to Talk returns to in-person sessions]]> A Place to Talk (APTT), a peer listening group, held its first in-person session since the beginning of the pandemic on April 4. The club will host in-person listening hours every Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. in addition to typical virtual hours on Mondays through Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

APTT Public Relations Co-Chair Rebecca Reed explained the club's motivation for seeking a return to in-person activity.

"We feel that a lot of the time, even though resources are available, they're not accessible to everyone because of a lack of knowledge," she said. "Our goal is to provide as many modes of access as possible right now."

The peer listeners hosted their session in one of the tents on Keyser Quad. In the tent, chairs are socially distanced and masks are mandated for all visitors and listeners. The location of the in-person hours is subject to change, and updates will be provided on APTT's Facebook and Instagram.

Before the pandemic, APTT did not collect the names of students who visited its rooms. Now, if students want to attend in-person hours, they must email upon arrival. Their emails are only stored for contact tracing purposes.

During the pandemic, APTT has been operating as APTT-Z, the Zoom version of its typical peer listening rooms. To access the Zoom room, visitors must visit the APTT Blackboard page and fill out a form to receive the Zoom room information, which ensures confidentiality.

APTT Co-Director Kylie Sharron commended the peer listeners for their persistence in continuing the club's operation during the pandemic.

"It was definitely hard to get the online rooms off the ground, but our listeners are very resilient people," she said. "In any environment, they are more than able to thrive and support their peers really well, which has been evident throughout the past few months."

According to Reed, the virtual listening sessions were still successful.

"Some might even be more comfortable visiting us online since they are in the comfort of their own rooms," she said. "It was most different in the sense that we had to change our body language. When you're talking in person and trying to convey that you're invested, it doesn't always translate over Zoom, so we had to train for that."

Reed, who sat for the first in-person shift last Sunday, noted that it is also difficult to convey body language while wearing a mask. Instead, she relied on using her eyes and eyebrows to signal that she was listening.

Freshman Carter Brady sat for his first in-person shift since joining APTT. Brady said that he preferred the in-person format to the virtual format.

"It's always better to build a connection in person. Having a physical presence is so much easier for us and the people who come in, and it takes way less energy than having to stay on a computer screen," he said.

APTT planned to restore its in-person sessions since the school announced that it would operate in a hybrid capacity for the 2021 spring semester. After conversations with school administrators, the group's application for in-person activity was approved.

Sharron credits the gradual reopening of APTT to the group at large.

"The executive board and members of the group who really wanted to sit a shift in-person and have missed out on the opportunity to do so were really the catalyst for this," she said. "It's really nice to get a sense of normalcy back, even if shifts are outside."

Brady noted that during his first in-person shift, he had more listeners than in all his virtual shifts combined. He is optimistic about this step toward a more complete reopening for APTT.

"This expansion has been working really well so far, so hopefully we can slowly move back to expanded hours," he said. "APTT is a really meaningful thing that is helpful to a lot of people."

Correction: The original version of this article stated that students had to email APTT ahead of time to attend its in-person hours.

The News-Letter regrets this error.

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COURTESY OF CARTER BRADY

A Place to Talk members Carter Brady and Rebecca Reed sit for their first in-person shift of the year.

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<![CDATA[Women's and men's tennis teams remain undefeated at McDaniel]]> The Hopkins women's and men's tennis teams emerged victorious this past weekend, each winning nine out of nine matches against McDaniel College.

The women kicked off their triumphant Saturday with three doubles wins, beginning with an 8-0 win for senior Anjali Kashyap and graduate student Sophia Strickland. Kashyap shared her delight at winning another match with her doubles partner of four years.

"I think we came out aggressive and actively took each point from McDaniel," she said.

Shortly after, sophomores Anjali Devireddy and Emily Javedan mirrored the upperclassmen in their own 8-0 win. Freshman Ali Bader and senior Dhanya Asokumar closed out the doubles matches by the same score.

The women also swept all six singles matches, with Javedan leading the way with an impressive 6-0, 6-0 win over McDaniel's Liz Fyfe. Bader and Strickland followed suit, each shutting out their opponents. Junior Jessica Liang brought the lead to seven with her 8-0 win over Deja Hitch, followed by 8-0 wins for junior Sophie Saland and freshman Hallie Gallo.

The women have now won 133 consecutive matches in the Centennial Conference regular season.

Kashyap expressed her thoughts about returning to matches so triumphantly after a year off.

"Last year, COVID took our season and left us in a state of shock and sadness. When my coach texted us we were having a season again, I think everyone felt immense gratitude and privilege for the opportunity to do what we love," she said. "Since then, we have come back to the courts more passionate than ever, enjoying every moment while also having a championship mentality."

The men also have ambitions of becoming national champions, winning 118 of the last 119 regular season Conference matches. Their 9-0 shutout at McDaniel featured three forfeits: at third doubles and at fifth and sixth singles. Seniors Vishnu Joshi and Jack Hogan brought the lead to four early on, winning 8-0 against McDaniel's Del Carden and Quinn Burker. Fellow seniors Robby Simon and Eric Yoo then finished out the doubles with another 8-0 win.

Simon reflected on the successive wins and expressed his gratitude for his teammates.

"It felt great to win both of my matches on Saturday, especially since I was playing alongside my fellow seniors," he said. "Given how last season ended, every opportunity to compete alongside my teammates is a privilege."

In singles, Joshi shut out Carden once again, followed by Yoo, who had the same result over Burker. Simon pushed the lead to eight with his 6-1, 6-0 win over Jimmy Wawrzynski, and Jack Hogan finished off the day with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Noah Friedman.

Simon reflected on the team's ambition and ability.

"Every year, there is a feeling that we are building towards something bigger than ourselves. This year is no different," he said. "Our team has a great amount of young talent and senior leadership, and our goal remains unchanged from years past: to win a national championship. For myself, I would like to contribute to the team's success however I can."

Joshi expressed his desire to win a national championship with his teammates.

"Given the strength of our incoming freshman class, we know that winning a national championship is on the table for us this year," Joshi said. "Therefore, our aim is to play as a national championship team would, and that means coming out ready to win every point in every match on any given Saturday."

He also has his sights set on an individual national title, adding that he wants to prove that he is among the best players in the country.

Joshi credits his teammates for supporting him along the way. He aims to give back to the team not only by helping them win silverware but also through leading by example.

"Hopkins has always had talented players, but there is something distinctly different about this year than in years past," he said. "Everyone is buying in, going the extra mile and leaving everything out on the table physically and mentally. As a captain, I can't ask for more... I want to continue becoming a better leader and captain."

Determined to continue the quest for national championships, both the women and men will travel to Washington College for their next matches on Saturday, April 10.

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COURTESY OF HOPKINSSPORTS.COM

Senior Robby Simon makes it clear that both teams have championship aspirations this season.

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<![CDATA[Track and field comes out hot at the Towson Invitational]]> The men's and women's track and field teams made their season debut at the Towson Invitational on April 2 and 3.

On day one of the meet, the women's squad posted impressive times in the 1,500-meter race. Junior Ella Baran topped her personal record in the event, running 4:33.58 to take first place. Seniors Ariel Keklak and Therese Olshanski followed close behind, finishing in second and sixth, respectively.

Freshman Victoria Kadiri and sophomore Marissa Hsu competed in the 100-meter dash. Kadiri crossed the line with a time of 12.71, and Hsu finished in 12.99 seconds.

Day two saw more impressive outcomes from the women's squad.

In the 5,000-meter run, junior Alex Ross won the event with a time of 17:11.35, which currently stands as the second-fastest time among all women's Division-III runners this season. Junior Aishanee Wijeratna came in fifth, running in 18:43.18.

Keklak ran for 2:14.64 in the 800-meter race, taking fourth place. She described her thoughts on how the year-long hiatus impacted the team's training.

"The break due to COVID-19 has definitely served as a challenge, but I think our team is fortunate that the training for track and cross country doesn't really change in the offseason," Keklak said. "The most challenging aspect has definitely been staying motivated without knowing when we will get to race, but having teammates in Baltimore to run with has helped in being consistent and training."

Senior Annie Gutierrez shattered the school record in the 100-meter hurdles by finishing in 14.83 seconds. Off the track, Gutierrez also placed seventh in the high jump, clearing 1.5 meters.

Kadiri also broke the freshman record in the long jump with a leap of 5.55 meters, taking third in the event. Senior Veronica Montane threw for 42.56 meters in the javelin, which earned her second place overall.

The men's team also came out with strong performances on the first day of competition.

Junior Elias Boussouf and sophomore Kevin Sommer took third and fourth in the 400-meter hurdles, running exactly a 10th of a second apart at 57.77 and 57.87 seconds.

In the 1,500-meter race, freshman Gavin McElhennon placed second with a time of 4:03.04. Graduate student Joshua Derrick made his debut as a Blue Jay in this event as well, taking fifth with a time of 4:07.41. Junior Tyler Amos also earned a spot in the top 10 with his 4:08.35.

On the second day, the men's team continued to place toward the top in their events.

The pair of graduate student Alex Glavin and senior Jared Pangallozzi took first and second in the 5,000-meter race, coming in at 14:27.69 and 14:34.53, respectively.

Glavin felt grateful to be back after over a year without any formal meets.

"Honestly, I missed every part of racing, even the nerves and pressure. The team has been putting in so many hours of hard work, so I'm glad that we finally got to see it pay off," he said.

Graduate student Mickey Van Gieson finished in fifth place in the 400-meter dash, clocking 50.16 seconds. In the 4x400-meter relay, Van Gieson, Sommer, Boussouf and Alex Ozbolt combined to run 3:26.52 for third place.

The men's team also competed well on the field.

In the high jump, sophomore Owen Bianchi cleared 1.85 meters to take third. Bianchi went on to get fifth in the long jump with a jump of 6.36 meters. Junior Sean Becker threw for 28.18 meters in the discus for a fourth-place finish.

These performances allowed for the men's team to grab second place at the meet out of a field of nine schools. The women's team scored 66 points, which placed them third out of 11 schools.

Keklak reflected upon the meet and shared her outlook for the season.

"I think the meet went as well as could be expected for not racing in over a year," she said. "I'm hopeful as we get some more meets in, everyone will keep feeling good and excited and set us up for an opportunity to win another Centennial Conference title and qualify as many people as possible to nationals."

Both the men's and women's teams will travel to Fairfax, Va. to compete at the Mason Spring Invitational on April 11.

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COURTESY OF HOPKINSSPORTS.COM

The women's team placed third in the meet overall, while the men's team finished in second.

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<![CDATA[Now is the perfect time to introduce yourself to the world of Formula One racing]]>

The first Formula One (F1) race in the 2021 season took place in Bahrain on March 28. Even though the grandstands were empty, the new F1 cars' engines revving reverberated through the racecourse and could be heard for miles. The numerous 2021 F1 regulation changes did little to change the race's result: The seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished first, followed by Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.

F1 can be difficult to appreciate without understanding the team dynamics, politics and feuds between drivers - some even within the same team. A week before the race, Netflix aired the third season of Drive to Survive, a docuseries that aims to "immerse the audience inside the cockpits, the paddock, and the lives of the key players in Formula 1." The show's fly-on-the-wall style not only provides an authentic perspective of the sport but also reveals the tenacity of the drivers.

The episode called "The Comeback Kid" focuses on AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly, who in the span of a week during the 2019 season was dropped from Red Bull, his first-choice team, and then lost his best friend and Formula Two (F2) racer Anthoine Hubert in a brutal crash.

"After I got moved from Red Bull, Antoine sent me a message: 'Prove everybody wrong and show them your skills and talent,'" Gasly said in the episode. "I know, in life, you have many obstacles. After the Red Bull demotion, I had to face a big challenge. I had to rebuild myself. But it's only my third season in F1, so I'm better than last year."

In the following season, Gasly consistently performed well in the races and went on to win the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.

However, it would be a mistake to consider F1 an individual sport: While the drivers do play a crucial role in the team's success, they bank on their team's strategies and mechanical prowess to reach the podium.

The 2021 F1 season witnessed several regulatory and driver changes that were expected to increase competition.

The cost cap was reduced this season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the teams' finances. Each team is now required to spend a maximum of $145 million aside from the additional spending leeway for each race. The cap will be reduced to $140 million and $135 million in the following two seasons.

This season also had seven out of the 10 teams change their driver lineup. Sebastian Vettel, a four-time champion, left Ferrari to join Aston Martin and subsequently booted one of the incumbent drivers, Sergio Pérez (the other driver, Lance Stroll, is the son of the team owner Lawrence Stroll). Pérez eventually joined Red Bull, replacing Alex Albon.

Haas, the only American team on the grid and one known for a low personnel churn, replaced both its seasoned drivers with two rookies, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher, won the 2020 F2 Championship last year. Mazepin, a Russian driver who also competed in F2, has had a rocky preseason after posting a controversial video on Instagram.

The day before the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, the drivers competed in the qualifying round where each of them attempted to get the fastest lap around the circuit to begin at the best starting position for the race. Red Bull's Verstappen took pole position, followed by Mercedes' Hamilton and Bottas. The new Red Bull driver Pérez finished an unimpressive 11th place.

On race day, Pérez faced problems with his car during the formation lap when drivers go around the track to get to their appropriate starting position and warm up their tires for increased traction. As a result, he had to start at the back of the grid.

The first race of 2021 started with new driver Mazepin spinning and crashing on the third turn of the first lap. Twitter nicknamed the event Mazespin.

The race picked up interest towards the end when there was an intense battle for first place between Verstappen and Hamilton. Verstappen had caught up and was trailing Hamilton by under a second in the last few laps; however, Hamilton was able to hold him off and claim another win.

In the post-race interview, Hamilton remarked on the difficulty of holding the position from Verstappen.

"It was so tough for the first race. I was not expecting to be in that position," he said.

Pérez climbed back up to the top of the race and finished an impressive fifth. He was subsequently awarded Driver of the Day by race viewers.

With 22 races left, it is difficult to predict where the drivers and constructors would end up in the championship. Even though Red Bull's strong first race finish shows that they have become a more serious contender for the Constructors' Championship, they need to maintain that consistency throughout the season - a characteristic the Mercedes team triumphs at.

The exciting battle will be for third place in the Constructors' Championship. Last season, McLaren narrowly clinched the title from Racing Point (now renamed Aston Martin) in the final race. It looks like there's a four-way battle between McLaren, Ferrari, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin for third place.

Despite the empty stadiums, F1 fans from around the world are tuning into the races, fully geared up.

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RICK DIKEMAN/CC BY-SA 3.0

Formula One is among the most popular sports in the world but remains under-reported by American media.

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