Category Archives: FEATURES

Give me education or give me debt!

By Ken Johnson

Community college helps to bridge the chasm between the American dream and the American reality.

The United States, more than most other countries, prescribes a narrative over the lives of its citizens: grade school, university, career, retirement, and then an uncomfortable death at an unfamiliar hospital, doped up on morphine.

In most of the country, high-school graduates are expected to go to college, and about 70 percent of them do, according to Pew Research Center — that’s up 20 percent from 1970.

Many jobs that didn’t previously require a university degree, such as salesperson or pilot, now require some sort of degree. And that’s a little weird because a bachelor’s degree in history has nothing to do with flying a plane.

Even if someone manages to find a job that doesn’t require some sort of degree, people with degrees look down their noses at people without degrees, especially in cities like Bellingham.

A college degree might as well be the star on the belly of a sneetch.

So a university degree is a status symbol, as well as a prerequisite for landing a job. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing: a liberal arts education can provide context to an otherwise confusing life and help people become more informed citizens. It seems like that, if everyone was educated, there would be fewer problems in the world — fewer Donald Trumps.

Except that college is dangerously expensive.

In 2017, according to Pew Research Center, there was over $1.3 trillion in American student debt, and the average recipient of a bachelor’s degree was over $25,000 in collegiate debt. Roughly half of the people who have bachelor’s degrees do not think that the benefit of the degree outweighs the financial cost. That’s a 50 percent college-regret rate.

And some organizations, such the Huffington Post, have found a connection between student loans and suicide.

Is a liberal arts degree really worth all that?

No. It’s not.

Especially when the reason why anyone would get a liberal arts education is considered. I mean, think about the phrase “liberal arts.” In Latin “liberal” is generally synonymous with “freedom” or “the pursuit of a freeman” — think about the word “liberty.”

I’m not a linguist, but the point I’m trying to make is that a liberal arts education is all about being free. It’s about being able to think for yourself and engage with the world on your own terms.

But there is absolutely nothing liberating about being crushed and churned around in a Sisyphean cycle of debt.

So on one hand, a liberal arts education is a nice thing to have, but on the other hand, getting one ruins lives.

That brings me to community college: the happy medium between an irreparable credit score and being able to name the impacts of climate change.

Community college has two main benefits: it’s cheaper, and everybody is accepted.

There is a special kind of dumb hypocrisy in wanting everyone to go to college, but then turning away a lot of potential students, because, however high an acceptance rate is, some people are still being denied.

Community college is pragmatic where most American universities are elitist. The realization that community colleges have made is that most Americans are not 18 years old and wealthy.

Some people need to work while they’re in school. Some people grow old, not Neil Patrick Harris, but some people.

Community college has flaws and in no way fixes everything. It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound… it helps, a little.

It keeps the good part of going to university — the education — and mitigates the bad parts — the debt and self-loathing.

Community college should expand, and it should become free.

I’m no financial analyst, but maybe we should spend money on educating people before we spend money on shiny Star Wars-style military jets.

Hell, with 1.3 trillion in debt, a crafty government could really get cracking on some state-sponsored terrorism. And if it’s lucky, even topple a democratically elected socialist.

Or educate its citizens.

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Whatcom digs archaeology

By Apple Parry

Whatcom Community College held its fourth annual Archaeology Fair in the Syre Auditorium on Oct 30, where Whatcom’s anthropology faculty and the Association for Washington Archaeology welcomed students and staff from Whatcom and Western Washington University to show a variety of educational displays.

The fair had tables from Whatcom students, Western students, cultural resource management firms, private firms, the Lummi nation, a few independent researchers, and a table of archaeology-focused books.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve got such good representation here,” said Dr. Jennifer Zovar, a Whatcom professor and organizer of the event.

Zovar’s archaeology class was in charge of the “Garbology” display table. She explained, “Archaeology is really the study of ancient garbage, and so, by looking at modern garbage, what can we tell about our own campus? The project they did for this fair was looking at litter patterns on campus and what we might be able to learn about changing habits.”

Dr. Zovar

Dr. Jennifer Zovar


Zovar and her class found that, “a lot of [the garbage] is cigarette butts.”

Zovar said one of the biggest takeaways from the event was that “a lot of Whatcom students come and are able to meet students and faculty from Western.”

Students that are “getting interested in archeology here at Whatcom have ended up transferring and going on to archeology careers, in part because of outreach events like this.” Zovar said, adding, “The connections you make at an event like this, it’s much different than the connections you make in the classroom.”

A slideshow was debuted this year, featuring pictures all related to archaeology and anthropology, which played throughout the event. Zovar said, “It just helps to see those sorts of hands-on pictures, you get to see the faces of the people doing archeology in addition to
everything that we’ve got going on.”

One of those faces is teacher and faunal analyst Alyson Rollins, who has been involved in the fair since the start. Her topic, faunal analysis, is the differentiation between animal bones and human bones. One of her goals for this fair was to give the larger community insight into what kind of jobs and opportunities are available in the real world.

Rollins said her favorite part about the fair is getting the opportunity to “touch base with colleagues that we don’t get to see very often,” and “getting to interact with my students outside of the classroom.”

Riley Campbell, a student, said “It’s cool to see how things change over time, and the different methods people use to make different things.” His project focused on the timeline of bottles and cans, how they have aged, and how manufacturers have changed the shape and materials they use to make them.

Riley Rieber, a Western student, started her first archaeology fair in charge of the hands-on station. This station lets participants experience firsthand how to use the same tools and techniques used by the people of the past.

Rieber said her station is interesting because “if you were trying to survive out in the woods with nothing but the things around you, you can learn from the past and apply it to today.” The activities included shaving bark off a tree branch, using rocks to shape other rocks, and learning which types of rocks are most useful in certain situations.

Zovar said “Western always brings this hands-on display, it’s usually the most popular because it’s so cool to try and use the tools that the peoples used so long ago and see how they really work.”

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Men’s soccer wins North Conference Title

By Kaila Cove

The Whatcom men’s soccer team has won the North Conference title, a competition between regional community college soccer teams.

The team has defended this championship title for the second year in a row.

Bakary Dibba, a forward on the Whatcom men’s soccer team, is satisfied with the way his team played, “We played extremely well, and that’s why we got the win at the end.”

Whatcom soccerLucas Leiberman, number six, keeps control of the ball at Orca Feild during a match

Dibba believes the team could win the conference next year because, “the team will be really strong and the chemistry is already there as well.” He hopes to play for Whatcom again next season.

Dibba gives credit to the team’s head coach, Jason Jorgensen, for the success in the game, “The coach contributes in everything as he’s the one who makes us wake up at 5 a.m. to practice all that is to get us better and prepared for our opponents.”

During the conference, Whatcom had won 11 games, tied one, and lost three. The team this season has scored 52 goals.

Jorgensen said, “It occurred with the boys having focus, determination, and knowing what was on the line. They played some of the best soccer in all the NWAC and that day displayed why they are one of the best teams in the country.” Jorgensen says that Whatcom men’s soccer is ranked 12th out of all the community colleges in the nation.

Jorgensen hopes that the team is able to reclaim the North Conference title again next year. He says it will “depend on what the players do in the off season and the new group of players coming in for 2019.”

During this game, Whatcom had the help of a guest, 9-year-old Tyson Barksdale. “He gave the pregame and halftime speech that helped propel the team to the win. Barksdale was given this experience as part of Whatcom’s participation in the 2018 Rotary Auction where he was gifted “Coach a Day” for Whatcom men’s soccer team. He kept it simple and said, ‘go out there have fun and do what you do best.’ At half time he said ‘you guys are doing great… keep it up,’” said Jorgenson.

Whatcom beat Shoreline in the title, winning game with a score of 8-0.


Midfielder Bekele Dowtry dribbles the ball down the field while facing an opponent

A midfielder for Shoreline, Babucarr Cham, said, “My team played really bad.” He said that most of the team’s key players were injured.

“Unfortunately Shoreline had not won a game all season up to that point and were playing their last 2018 game,” Jorgensen said.

“My opponents are really good, and they had a complete squad,” Cham said. He felt the title winning game was very intense.

Jorgensen said, “We just try to install our knowledge and give back the lessons we learned in our years. The rest is up to the team come game day.”

“They push themselves daily to be the best, and this in itself helped each player in the program contribute not only to the conference winning game but the entire season,” Jorgensen said. He explained that each player on the Whatcom men’s soccer team has helped contribute to the success of this season by bringing a unique dynamic that makes this team whole.

In the end on Nov. 11, Whatcom ending up losing in the NWCA championship game with a score of 0-2.

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Mathew Whitaker: tall tales of toilets and time travel

By Ken Johnson

Matthew Whitaker is the acting U.S. attorney general. He is a criminal, equal parts boner-pill hawker and H. H. Holmes.

His antics are entertaining and stupid, but fundamentally Midwest horrible, like Chick-fil-A pumping legions of children to obesity.

He is the personification of the land of all-American shopping centers and lethargy that makes up the middle of this country, coalesced from the belly-fear of the corn fields teeming with lower-middle class debt…

Whitaker is the chief lawyer of the United States because the last one, Jeff Sessions, was fired by President Donald Trump following the midterm elections.

Trump firing someone isn’t surprising — his administration has a 58 percent turnover rate — but Trump is under investigation by the justice department, so firing the attorney general and replacing him with a steroid-soaked sock puppet is obstruction of justice. I’ll explain that later, but for now, just know that in future U.S. History III classes, this will be seen as one of Trump’s most notorious screw-ups.

Either that, or it will be know as the moment God Emperor Trump drained the swamp with quicklime.

Anyway, let’s look at Whitaker.

Whitaker’s past is drenched in fraud and idiocy, most of which surrounds one company: World Patent Marketing.

Theoretically, World Patent Marketing, like most patent companies, was supposed to help entrepreneurs by applying for patents and marketing their products.

That almost never happened. Instead, according to the Washington Post, their clients were encouraged to buy the complete market-and-patent package, and then World Patent Marketing would ghost their victims, keeping the money.

People were physically and legally threatened when they complained. Scott Cooper, the CEO, would threaten people with the martial art Krav Maga, which is probably the dorkiest way to try to intimidate someone.

“Many people ended up in debt or lost their life savings,” the Washington Post said in a recent article.

Now Whitaker is the attorney general, and the people he took advantage of have to live with that.

The Federal Trade Commission sued World Patent Marketing in 2017 for over $25 million and banned them from ever practicing in the industry again. Whitaker was on the board of World Patent Marketing and served as an adviser. He got involved in some extremely embarrassing projects before the company was shut down.

One project involved Bigfoot DNA, which they said could prove the existence of Bigfoot. Another involved a time-machine, which they said would be operational in about a decade.

The best one was a patent for an “extra-masculine” toilet for men with 12-inch penises.

Here is a small taste of that patent application:

“The average male genitalia is between 5 inches and 6 inches. However, this invention is designed for those of us who measure longer than that. I estimate that a 12-inch distance is adequate enough for most well-endowed men, though I would not be surprised if there are cases who need a greater distance.”

I hope the United States Patent and Trademark Office got the message — World Patent Marketing’s board is full of guys with massive shlongs.

In addition to the patent and marketing scam Whitaker ran, he was part of a laughably shady charity, ironically called the Foundation for Accountability and Civil Trust (FACT).

“FACT is a group of citizens who are committed to exposing unethical behavior, changing the culture of politics, and restoring faith in our public officials,” says FACT’s website.

FACT has launched high-profile lawsuits against prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. Now it looks like FACT has violated its tax-exempt status, which matters even beyond the ever-expanding boundaries of Whitaker’s scandals because prominent Republicans, such as the Koch Brothers, have been donating, and possibly funneling money through, FACT.

The Washington Post reported that Whitaker received $252,000 as a salary for being the president of FACT in 2015, “more than half the charity’s receipts for that year.”

There is not nearly enough space in this column to go over all of Whitaker’s transgressions. There are a ridiculous amount. He has done and said plenty of other unethical things, but here’s the takeaway: He is mean and dumb and corrupt.

And now Whitaker is in charge of the Russia investigation.

The firing of Sessions matters because he recused himself from the Russia investigation, which was the right thing to do as he had a Kremlin-sized conflict of interest.

Trump was angry that Sessions recued himself — Trump was counting on Sessions to severely constrict the whole investigation, so Trump fired Sessions and replaced him with Whitaker.

That, by the way, might as well be the definition of obstruction of justice.

On top of all that, Whitaker’s appointment is probably illegal because the Senate hasn’t approved him, making everything he does voidable.

Trump passed over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is the obvious and legal choice for attorney general, and skipped all the way down to the biggest critic of the Mueller investigation in the Justice Department: Whitaker.

So why Whitaker? Why appoint someone whose past is arguably dirtier than Trump’s and employ him in an overtly illegal way?

Whitaker has been arguing against the Russia investigation since its genesis. That’s why.

In an interview on CNN, which happened right after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Trump’s blatant criminality, Whitaker gave a detailed explanation about how Trump could castrate the Russia investigation:

“I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced,” Whitaker said.  “And that attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grinds to almost a halt.”

That is, again, exactly what is happening, and Trump might get away with it because Whitaker’s obstruction will happen largely out of view.

Firing Sessions has the same effect as firing Mueller — it’s obstruction of justice, slightly veiled.

Whitaker is a new low-water mark in the American descent back to madness.

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Remembering Fran Hudson

By Catherine Wallace

Fran Hudson, who helped students navigate their network accounts, who calmed faculty when their computers crashed, and who warned the campus community as a whole NOT to click on that email, died Oct. 16, five days after suffering a stroke at her desk at Whatcom Community College. She was 66.

More than 150 people gathered Nov. 10 in Heiner Theater to celebrate Fran, who ran the computer helpdesk at Whatcom for 16 years. Friends and family told stories of their mother, neighbor, wife, and sister-in-law who loved deeply, helped selflessly, and enjoyed a good party.

Memorial screen shot

Noma Hudson, Fran’s sister-in-law; Dayton, a family friend; Kate and Emily, Fran’s daughters; and Mike, Fran’s husband, who spoke at the memorial.

Coworkers remembered Fran’s kindness when they called in crisis and thought they were the only ones who couldn’t figure out their computers. A common theme when people spoke of her was Fran’s helpfulness and patience—extreme patience.

Fran began her career as a part-time employee at the Whatcom help desk in 2002. In her job, she prioritized every service request that came in to the IT department via phone, email, and in-person at her office downstairs in the lab in Heiner Center. She coordinated the help staff to respond to calls from all over campus—often from people “who were downright mad”—and frequently worked 10 to 12 hours a day.

Whatcom President Kathi Hiyane-Brown recalled Fran’s unflappable nature and kind voice at the other end of the phone.

“Fran was always there, and always, always, calm and collected,” Hiyane-Brown said. “She was polite and courteous. Even when we would panic and get frustrated, she would say in her reassuring way, ‘You know, things happen.’”

Every faculty member who was hired at Whatcom met with Fran to be set up in the Whatcom system. “She knew everyone’s name,” Hiyane-Brown said, “and everyone’s password.”

Hiyane-Brown also said it was her honor to present Fran with the Classified Staff Award for Excellence in 2015, commenting that the award came from nominations from staff, coworkers, and students who recognized Fran’s devotion to the Whatcom community.

“She was humble and she was generous. She was sympathetic and she brought grace to whatever she did,” Hiyane-Brown said. “I wish we had many more Frans.”

Fran 1

Fran Hudson.

Fran was also part of the Self Learning Commons design committee and was looking forward to occupying the office at the new student technology center and help desk, Hiyane-Brown said, adding, “We will miss hearing you at the other end of the phone saying, ‘Just reboot.’”

Colleagues and coworkers gathered in the Heiner Theater on a sunny Saturday morning to learn more about who Fran Hudson was when she was not at Whatcom addressing their technology needs.

Family photos cycling through on the big screen in the nearly full auditorium showed a loving mother, a joyous sister, a demure high school graduate, a beautiful bride, and a happy traveler. In many of the photos, Fran was seen laughing and smiling, or hugging and holding loved ones, including pets.

She loved to travel, and for her 40th wedding anniversary in May, she and husband Mike went to Costa Rica with their two daughters, Kate and Emily, and their partners. A photo of Fran with a parrot on her shoulder was a favorite of the family’s.

Fran’s sister-in-law Noma Hudson remembered as a preteen admiring the girlfriend of her older brother for her “glamorous job at the drive-in snack bar” and her “less glamorous job working at a hospital.” Fran was always in the helping professions, and Noma Hudson said she considers, “‘do you want fries with that?’ working in a helping profession.”

She recalled with an open heart Fran’s kindness when, in her early 30s, Noma suffered a trauma. Fran and her family were living in Michigan at the time and Noma, who lives in Longview, said she knew where she wanted to be for Christmas.

“I knew that with Fran, I could begin to heal and that she would welcome me, give me the peace I needed and also that support,” she said.

But with an equal measure of humor, she recounted many more stories of Fran as generous and fun-loving.

When Fran was hired at the help desk at Whatcom, Noma said it was the perfect job for her because, not only did she “have a great attention to detail and a steady personality, but she could ask, ‘Is it plugged in? Is it turned on? Have you rebooted it?’ in such a way that the person on the other end wouldn’t feel like an idiot … unless she needed them to.”

“Fran loved my big brother Mike,” she said. They were friends for years before they began to date and then marry in 1978. Then the girls came and their family was complete, she said. When the girls were young, they moved to the Midwest and lived there for eight years, in Michigan and then Wisconsin for a year, before returning to the Pacific Northwest and settling in Bellingham, she said.

“Fran was very outgoing, but also fairly closed,” Noma said. “I don’t know if she was an ‘extroverted introvert’ or ‘introverted extrovert.’”

Fran loved to entertain, especially with extended family, her daughters, and their friends.

“Fran made her house a home; it was filled with the things she loved—family treasures, plants, and the decorations that she so loved to buy,” she said. Fran was known for her “epic Santa collection,” and in later years, “she started adding snowmen.”

Fran’s laugh was infectious, Noma said. She loved the Food Network and HGTV. She even became enamored with the idea of a tiny house, to which Noma smiled and said, “her Santa collection alone would not fit in a tiny house.”

When Noma got the call that Fran was in the hospital, she made the painful trip to be with the family the next day. However, she said she noted with a smile that “every room in the house was already decorated for Halloween. Every room.”

Noma also recalled how much Fran loved a campfire, and even when it was “raining sideways,” Fran would stay out and enjoy it anyway. She shared Fran’s delight when Noma taught her how to “dip her marshmallows in Grand Marnier before roasting. … And then we spent an entire evening dipping marshmallows in most any other alcohol we could find because we ran out of Grand Marnier.”

Fran's family

She said she loved “Fran’s sense of fun” and firmly believed she would want everyone to celebrate life and party today.

“And guys,” she said, addressing the family, “she is going to haunt us for some of these pictures up there.”

Noma Hudson’s tribute elicited many welcomed bursts of laughter, but also moments of reflection.

“I don’t have a biological sister, but for the past 40-plus years, I felt like I did.”

Ward Naf, Fran’s supervisor and director of Information Technology at Whatcom, was with Fran when she collapsed at her desk on Oct. 11. He remained with her and kept her comfortable until paramedics arrived. He then stayed at the hospital until her family arrived, because he said he felt “he owed it to his great friend” to be there for her. “It was my honor and duty.”

Naf said Fran was the IT department’s connection to the campus. She often came in early to open the student computer lab and stayed late to make sure faculty had what they needed.

“She was the great, grand multitasker, therapist, and problem-solver,” he said. “She triaged support for the 12 of us in the IT office along with six to eight employees who worked for her at the student help desk.”

Whenever she found a problem, she would just solve it, which he said is making updating her job description difficult.

Personally, Naf said, Fran was someone who could calm him and “talk him off the proverbial ledge.”

“Our families were intertwined for over a decade,” Naf said, wiping away tears. “Her husband and my wife worked together and her daughter Emily would babysit our kids.”

The day she had her stroke, Naf was by her side. He said he has no doubt that Fran would have done the same “for many of us here today in this room.”

“We are all hurting, feeling pain and anguish,” he said. “She was a special person who will be missed by all of us.”

Fran and Mike’s neighbor of 20 years, Brian Lydiard, who also coordinated the service, recalled that Fran was easy to be around and remembered how much she enjoyed being at home sitting on the back deck with its propane fire pit.

“A bottle of white wine, or some limoncello, a few snacks, and a friend or two made for a good time for Fran,” he said. On that same deck, he added, she would have dinner with Mike and they would just enjoy each other’s company nearly every summer night.

Fran’s oldest daughter Kate fondly recalled coming to visit from Seattle, her mother’s house perfectly decorated, warm, and with pizza cooking in the oven, as was their Friday tradition.

“She meets me with a hug and a kiss and I know I’m home,” she said. “She would then ask, ‘How was your drive? Wanna drink?’”

Their connection was close, which, Kate said, is why she never moved too far away.

“Mom was where I felt the safest. Her voice would calm me down and her hugs protected me,” Kate said, promising to continue to keep the family close and connected.

“I know Mom would want us to be strong and continue on with our family traditions like holiday decorating,” and every day “we will bring mom’s spirit with us with everything we do.”

Daughter Emily, who is five years younger than Kate, said, “true to form, I have not prepared anything.” However, through tears, she said she couldn’t add much more to what others had said, except that “Mom had the biggest heart for everyone she ever met.”

Emily’s best friend Dayton called Fran “Mom No. 2” and wept for the woman who always welcomed her as part of the family, even when she and Emily “snuck out of the house and she threatened to send me back to Wisconsin.”

Fran’s husband Mike, who clarified that Fran was born “Fran, not Frances or Francine,” added levity to the tributes by remarking that their “grandchildren” were of the furry, four-legged variety, because “some people weren’t doing their jobs.”

He said he and Fran watched “an inordinate amount” of home and garden shows together, because, after a long day of solving people’s problems, she just wanted to relax with some of her favorite characters “like the Pioneer Woman and the Property Brothers, who did not seem to have any problems.”

He said Fran did not tolerate problems.

“She either found a way around to a solution, or ‘rebooted’—which is how she solved a lot of problems,” he said. “I don’t know how I lasted so long, she had several opportunities to ‘reboot’ that. Fortunately for me, she didn’t.”

Fran and husband

Fran and her husband, Mike.

Fran Hudson was born Fran Kaiser in Longview, Washington, on March 31, 1952. She graduated from Mark Morris High School and attended Lower Columbia Community College where she got a certificate in the school’s hospital ward clerk program. After graduation, she worked as a ward clerk in the emergency department at St. John’s hospital in Longview.

In 1971, she met Mike through a mutual friend, and after seven years of friendship and courtship, they married in 1978. Kate was born in 1979 and Emily in 1985.

When the family lived in Michigan in the early 1990s, Fran worked as a marketing representative for a local company and also helped design an information referral service for the United Way of Southwest Michigan.

The family then lived in Wisconsin for a year before returning to Bellingham, where Fran called home for the past 22 years.

Fran is survived by her husband of 40 years, Mike; daughter Kate and her partner Brian Hale; daughter Emily and her partner Dan Derr; and her younger sister, Sheri Barr.

Remembrances may be sent to the Whatcom Hospice Foundation or Whatcom Community College Foundation.

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