The Weekly: Week 8 Recap

Jordan Mangi and Alex Chun

On campus, both Elder and Sargent residential halls were under a modified quarantine following a rise of COVID-19 cases. And Illinois Indigenous rights activists, tribal governments and environmentalist groups have joined a national call for the Biden administration to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, after the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a project to double its capacity last October. Listen to The Weekly: Week 8 Recap.

JORDAN MANGI: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Jordan Mangi. 

ALEX CHUN: And I’m Alex Chun. This is The Weekly: a podcast that breaks down our top headlines each week.

JORDAN MANGI: Here’s what’s been happening in the headlines. In campus news, President Morton Schapiro announced in an email this Thursday he will be concluding his tenure on August 31, 2022. University spokesman Jon Yates told The Daily in February that Schapiro’s contract was already scheduled to end in 2022. The announcement comes after months of students repeatedly calling on Schapiro to resign as part of the Northwestern Community Not Cops protests.

ALEX CHUN: Meanwhile in Evanston, the Century 12 movie theatre has closed permanently, after shutting its doors last March when the pandemic began. In other city news, Evanston Township High School has announced it will reopen for hybrid learning in early April. The decision comes after D202 announced a return to in-person instruction two weeks prior. Under the current plan, students will attend one session of in-person class every other week.

JORDAN MANGI: Those are some of our top headlines. Now, we’re bringing you behind-the-scenes with Daily staffers to dive deeper into some of this week’s news. First up: on campus, select floors in both Elder and Sargent residential halls were put under a modified quarantine after cases rose.

ALEX CHUN: And in city news, Indigenous climate activists in Illinois continue to protest the expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs from the Bakken region of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Stay with us to hear directly from the reporters and editors who covered some of The Daily’s top stories.

JORDAN MANGI: Earlier this week, select floors in both Elder residential hall and Sargent residential hall were both put under modified quarantine. For Sargent, the quarantine lifted last Saturday; Elder’s was lifted on Wednesday. 

ALEX CHUN: Here to tell us more about this is Assistant Campus Editor Anushuya Thapa. Anushuya, what exactly does a modified quarantine look like? 

ANUSHUYA THAPA: Right, so the modified quarantine, and I should stress this, it was only for particular floors of the particular dorm, so for Sargent that was the second floor, and for Elder that was the first floor. What that looks like is that the students of that particular floor received an email telling them that they’re not allowed to go out of their rooms except for essential activity. And they defined essential activity, as using the restroom, or going down to the dining hall to pick up their meals — they couldn’t dine in, they could only pick up their meals — and also to go and get tested to continue doing their Color and NAVICA testing. Those were really the only things that they were permitted to do. However, there wasn’t any real enforcement mechanism, it was just sort of a notice telling them to not do these activities without real consequences if they didn’t adhere to those guidelines.

ALEX CHUN: So this is the first time a protocol like this has been put in place at Northwestern so far. What was the reasoning behind the decision?

ANUSHUYA THAPA: Okay, so the reasoning for the quarantine, as Luke Figora said, was that the cases in the dorms had reached a certain threshold and they wanted to make sure that the dorm activity — so you know, students using the restrooms, students hanging out in the lounge — wasn’t contributing to an increase in cases. And Luke Figora really wanted to stress that — that’s our university’s Chief Risk and Compliance Officer, Luke Figora— really wanted to stress that it wasn’t necessarily because there was community transmission or because the residence halls were resulting in increased cases, but because he thinks that students had formed friend groups, and people within the same friend group live in the same floor, and their certain friend group that tests positive and suddenly, you know, they needed to take that action as a result of seeing this positivity rate. As for why the quarantine was lifted, that’s not sure.

ALEX CHUN: How did students living on these floors react?

ANUSHUYA THAPA: I talked to one student, and she says that it wasn’t really surprising to her, which I found interesting. She said that, you know, there are groups of students on her floor that were being really irresponsible. And for her, the main concern was that despite being in the floor that was quarantined in Sargent, she had no idea how many of her peers were actually sick. So they weren’t really told what the case positivity rate was, or what exactly prompted this quarantine to happen. And so, as a result of that, a few students told us that, you know, it was kind of surprising to suddenly go into quarantine without really any kind of context. And they were really concerned about this sort of lack of communication because after receiving that initial email, they didn’t really have any kind of follow-up during the quarantine period. They didn’t know what was happening. They said that it was really provoking their anxieties with regard to COVID because it was kind of being on high alert, but they didn’t really know where things were going.

ALEX CHUN: Did you speak with anyone else? 

ANUSHUYA THAPA: I also managed to talk to faculty-in-residence at Elder Hall, and Professor Lenaghan was really concerned with transparency, in general. She was talking about how the University’s COVID tracker doesn’t really tell us what percent of these cases are off-campus, what percent of these cases are on-campus, and in a broader context, I think she was concerned about not having enough information to really know how to feel about the current cases on campus as the faculty and residents. But she also stressed that, you know, it makes sense the University has certain privacy concerns. They’re worried for the privacy of their students. So I think that was also an issue that both the students and the faculty and residents were talking about and just overall communication and transparency.

ALEX CHUN: Anushuya, thanks so much for chatting with us.

ALEX CHUN: Off-campus, Illinois Indigenous rights activists, tribal governments and environmentalist groups have joined a national call for the Biden administration to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline, after the Illinois Commerce Commission approved a project to double its capacity last October.

JORDAN MANGI: Here to tell us more about this is City reporter Will Clark. Will, can you talk a bit about the Dakota Access Pipeline and what an expansion of it would mean?

WILL CLARK: So the Dakota Access Pipeline, it’s basically a pipeline that runs between the Bakken region of North Dakota and ends in Patoka, Illinois. So the Bakken region is a region where a lot of oil and natural gases are being hydraulically fractured, they’re extracted through fracking, basically. And then they’re shipped to a variety of regions, but the Dakota Access Pipeline is one of the largest pipelines leaving that region. And when it arrives in Patoka, Illinois, it’s then sent to a variety of locations to be refined. So some of those refineries are in Illinois, some of them are in the Gulf Coast. An expansion basically means — so last year, in October of 2020, the Illinois Commerce Commission approved an expansion project for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which basically means that some pumping stations and equipment would be added along the pipeline, which would allow it to increase its capacity from the current capacity, which is 570,000 barrels of oil per day. And that would be potentially increased to 1.1 million barrels. It wouldn’t include additions to the physical pipeline itself, it would just kind of allow for more oil to be transported through the pipeline. 

JORDAN MANGI: Who were some of the people or groups protesting the pipeline and its expansion? 

WILL CLARK: I think the biggest group has been the Standing Rock Nation. The pipeline was proposed in 2014 and then built between 2016 and ‘17. And it doesn’t pass through the Standing Rock Nation, but it passes directly above. So it passes under Lake Oahe, which is basically a reservoir of the Missouri River. The Missouri River provides water for the Standing Rock Nation, as well as a few other nations that are downstream of the river. So I believe, the Yankton Sioux Nation, the Oglala Sioux Nation and the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation. So all of those tribal governments have been pretty vocal in opposition to the pipeline really, ever since it was built, because if it were to leak, it would threaten their water supply, as well as their fisheries, their economy, and then also sacred and cultural sites that are near the river or near Lake Oahe. In Illinois, specifically, some of the groups that have opposed the pipeline have been environmentalist groups as well as Indigenous rights groups. So I spoke with Richard Stuckey, who is a representative of an organization called SOIL, which stands for Save Our Illinois Land, and then he was also a board member of the Sierra Club. They were concerned about the Indigenous rights aspect of it, but they were also concerned about the climate change aspect of it. Because by, you know, producing fossil fuels and moving fossil fuels, the pipeline allows for more greenhouse gas emissions to continue to be emitted. I think that they’re also worried about the potential ecological impacts of an oil spill or leakage of the pipeline. 

JORDAN MANGI: In Illinois specifically, what are some of the concerns surrounding the pipeline and its potential expansion?

WILL CLARK: I know that a lot of farmers and people involved in the agricultural industry are concerned because a potential leak would threaten crops, as well as like the livelihoods of those people. And then I know that the building process for the pipeline itself which happened in like 2016 and ‘17 was also subject to concern just because it was like digging up land. So I think that in Illinois, specifically, the threats to agriculture are definitely a big concern. But then I also think just the climate change concern is pretty universal. And then for Indigenous rights, Chicago has one of the largest urban Indigenous populations of any city in the United States. So it’s definitely been a center of like, activism on that front. I know that some of the people I spoke to in Chicago, had organized certain protests against banks and corporations that have been involved in financing or have been invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline. And they’ve been kind of pressuring them to divest or stop investing in some of these fossil fuel projects or projects that threaten Indigenous rights.

JORDAN MANGI: One sort of counter-argument to these protests is the idea that pipeline expansion creates jobs. Can you talk about that a bit?

WILL CLARK: So, from what I understand, there’s been pretty strong union support for the pipeline expansion, specifically in Illinois. So in the case that was before the Illinois Commerce Commission, one of the groups that was very strongly supporting expansion was the Laborers International Union of North America. And they represent construction workers in the United States and Canada. And so I spoke with Randy Harris, who is a representative of that union. And he basically kind of highlighted that for them, they support green infrastructure, and they do support climate change mitigation in some certain instances. But they also think that any sort of transition to green energy needs to include workers, and it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t deprive working people of livelihoods. And I think that for them, they feel like since we’re still using oil for cars, still using oil for pharmaceuticals, plastics, like so many things. And we’re    not going to stop immediately, they feel it doesn’t make sense to cut off all oil extraction all at once. 

JORDAN MANGI: That’s so interesting. The last thing I want to touch on is that President Biden revoked the Keystone pipeline permit recently, but hasn’t revoked this one. In terms of the potential future of the pipeline, what did some of the people you spoke with say they hoped for in terms of immediate actions?

WILL CLARK: Okay, so one of the big things with the Biden administration is the letter that those five tribal governments wrote to him. It was on January 19, that they sent that letter, and they basically asked him — because right now, in 2020, a federal judge revoked the pipeline’s permit to pass under Lake Oahe until the Army Corps of Engineers fulfills like a full environmental impact review. So technically, the pipeline doesn’t actually have a legal right to cross Lake Oahe right now. But oil is flowing through the pipeline right now. And so they basically wrote a letter and asked Biden to pause the flow of oil until that environmental impact statement is released, which I think is supposed to happen towards the end of 2021. But I think their end goal is that they would like the pipeline just completely shut down. I spoke with Tara Houska, who is an Indigenous rights activist in Minnesota. And she told me that she has been on calls with the Biden administration and that they are, I think, they’re hopeful. Like the past administration really wasn’t open to like negotiating at all with Indigenous rights groups or environmental groups. But the Biden administration definitely has been open to negotiation in some ways, but they still haven’t made any sort of like concrete promises about revoking pipeline permits or shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline, or like Line 3 in Minnesota, which is also something people are kind of concerned about. 

JORDAN MANGI: Will, thanks so much for chatting with us today.

JORDAN MANGI: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Jordan Mangi.

ALEX CHUN: And I’m Alex Chun. Thanks for listening to another episode of The Weekly. This episode was reported on by Anushuya Thapa, Will Clark, Jordan Mangi and myself. This episode was produced by both Jordan Mangi and myself. The audio editor of The Daily is myself. The digital managing editors are Molly Lubbers and Olivia Yarvis. The editor in chief is Sneha Dey. 

Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Twitter: @jordanrose718, @apchun01 

Stories Referenced: 

Indigenous and environmental groups oppose DAPL expansion

ETHS to implement hybrid instruction in early April

Alumni, residents bid farewell to Evanston’s Century 12 movie theater

President Morton Schapiro to conclude tenure in 2022

— Modified quarantines implemented in Sargent, Elder after uptick in COVID-19 cases