DeVos Is In

DeVos testifies at her Senate confirmation hearing. Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP.

By Blake Hunter

If one were to describe the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education it could probably be summed up in one word: chaotic. Featuring an overnight protest on the floor by Senate Democrats, the defection of two Republican senators, President Trump’s choice for the position was eventually confirmed in one of the slimmest margins in history, with Vice President Mike Pence having to step in to cast the tie-breaking vote, a first for a cabinet appointee.

DeVos has been a controversial pick, to say the least. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had been a particularly vocal opponent of DeVos’ nomination. During DeVos’ confirmation hearings, Warren wrote to her in a letter stating “there is no precedent for an Education Department Secretary nominee with your lack of experience in public education.” Teacher unions as well were heavily critical of DeVos and called her a danger to public schools. Dr. Brooke Burks, an associate professor at AUM in Education, cited many of the same concerns as Sen. Warren, that DeVos “doesn’t have the experience, or the background” for the position, and personally felt it was “devaluing to her profession” to have such an unqualified candidate nominated to such a high office.

Another common concern of Devos’ confirmation is the “pay to play” status of her nomination, with the DeVos family being a heavily known republican donor. Stating concern that “we are moving toward what some would call an oligarchic society, where a small number of very wealthy billionaires control, to some degree, our economic and political life,” Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed her on just how much her family had donated over the years, stating he had heard a figure of $200 million. DeVos responded with “that’s possible.” Notably, the DeVos family has sent contributions to 23 current Republican senators, ranging in size from $1,000 to almost $100,000, according to the Center for American Progress. Only one of those senators, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has received $43,200 from the DeVos family, voted against her confirmation. Sen. Murkowski cited “thousands” of calls from Alaskans with concerns about her support for school privatization and the particular effect DeVos’ idea of education would have on rural schools.

DeVos is a proponent of school choice and vouchers, which essentially boils down to using public education funds to let parents choose the type of school their child goes to, whether that be public, private, charter or magnet. Burks, who also has 11 years of teaching experience in public schools, expressed concern that vouchers take money away from public schools, who are already struggling. The National Education Association, a teacher’s union and the largest labor union in the United State, gives various reasons in its case against school vouchers, such as previous instances of voucher use in places like Milwaukee, Cleveland and Florida where the NEA claims a “two-tiered system has been set up that holds students in public and private schools to different standards.” And since around 85 percent of private schools are religious, the NEA argues that these vouchers are a way of “circumventing the Constitutional prohibitions against subsidizing religious practice and instruction.”

Despite being the world’s biggest superpower, the U.S. ranked only 14th in overall education according to a 2014 report done by Pearson Education. If the U.S. hopes to ever catch up to those ahead of it in education it is imperative that it’s leaders in the field are experienced and qualified, and that is just not what DeVos offers.

Alpha Gamma Delta’s Lip Jam

By Megan Endres

Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority will host its third annual Lip Jam on April 21. Lip Jam is a lip sync and dance competition where teams of five to fifteen people will people battle it out for a prize. The winners of the competition will be given $250 to donate to the philanthropy of their choice, and all other proceeds will go to benefit the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation.

“The theme is night at the movies,” explains Caroline Nunn, Vice President of Member Development for Alpha Gamma Delta. “Groups who sign up will be drawing different songs from the decades and will be dancing to those songs at the event.” Judges will decide the first, second and third place winners based on creativity and overall performance.

Lip Jam will take place in the AUM gym this year. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 7:00 p.m. If you are interested in attending this event, you can purchase a ticket at the door. Tickets will be $5 for AUM students and $8 for non-students.

If you are interested in creating a team for this event, you may contact for registration information. The cost to register is $25 per team and registration will close on March 27.

“The 39 Steps” (Cloverdale Playhouse): Review

By Saporsha Riley

“Have you ever heard of the thirty-nine steps?” Anabella said. “What’s that? A pub?” Hannay said.

If like Hannay you think “The 39 Steps is a pub, then, you obviously missed the delightful tale of murder, espionage and comedy that played at Montgomery’s Cloverdale Playhouse in February. As a first-time audience member, I found the playhouse’s charming, comical production of John Barlow’s award-winning adaptation to be a warm introduction to Montgomery community theater.

The play is based on John Buchan 1916’s novel and was introduced to the stage in 2006. Since then, it has been played in many theater stages across the country and deemed as “absurdly enjoyable” by The New York Times. But you don’t have to be a theater buff or a reader of early 1900s literature to have heard of this title. Before hitting the stage, “The 39 Steps” came to life on the screen, as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest thrillers and a stepping stone for his future as an iconic director. As a personal judgement of the audience’s reaction on closing night, director Sarah Walker Thornton enjoyed similar success with her rendition.

If asked to describe an ideal theater, most people would think of a large auditorium-like room complete with a large, elevated stage and dark cushioned fold-down seats with arm rests you hope you don’t have to share with your neighbor. In comparison, The Cloverdale Playhouse’s sparsely cushioned church pews and small stage is quaint and seemingly uninspiring. But allowing this little theater’s appearance to sway your attendance would be a mistake. This production of “The 39 Steps” serve as testimony to that.

The Cloverdale Playhouse and its actors compiled talent and resources to create a play and experience that was truly enjoyable. The playhouse’s cast, composed of four seasoned, volunteer actors, brought energy and enjoyment to this tried-and-true script. The lead, Richard Hannay, was played by Tate Pollock. The major female roles, Annabella, Margaret and Pamela, were played by Sarah Adkins. The remaining roles and clown #1 and clown #2 were played by Shane Murphy and Cushing Phillips II.

The action is set in 1935. War is looming and national security is everything. Richard Hannay, fresh back to London, is lonely, bored and tired of everything. His friends have moved on, and nothing can bring him comfort. In an effort to rescue himself and bring some amusement back into his life, Hannay decides to treat himself to a night out at a music hall. But, instead of an amusing night filled with facts from performer Mr. Memory, he meets an armed woman who changes his life. The woman, later revealed to be Anabella Schmidt, a freelance spy, “involves” him in her quest to keep something called “the 39 steps” from leaving the country; before she can do it, she is murdered. Hannay soon realizes excitement is not be all it’s cracked up to be, finding himself running from London to Scotland and back with a target on his back. He can’t go to the police, because they want him for murder, and the henchmen that killed Annabella want him dead. And, his problems only get worse when he meets a man missing the top joint of his pinky finger. In the end, Hannay is outnumbered and alone in the race to clear his name, but he has no intention of giving up.

Loyal to the 2006 script, Murphy and Phillips were very busy playing many of these assisting roles, in disguise of course. But, with Thornton’s rendition calling for minimal prop usage, the disguises largely consisted on a small prop and/or a new accent. People in the audience did not seem to mind using their imagination, cheerfully laughing at cleverly inserted humor and over exaggerations that replaced props and backgrounds. However, in some scenes, the changes in pace, and seemingly instantaneous changes in vocal quality resulted in the audience missing inter-character relationships and dialogue. It became more noticeable at the end of the play, as the action began to climax. In one scene, Murphy and Phillips had to, simultaneously, act out three characters in one conversation: the innkeeper, his wife and one of the clowns. In the effort to continue the natural pacing of conversation, the dialogue and relationship between the three characters was lost. Had I not read Buchan’s novel and watched Hitchcock’s film, it would have escaped me entirely.

But minimal stage props and character changes took a back seat to the unfaltering energy and charisma provided by the actors. Their consistent energy made the play’s shortcomings less of a burden, and every attempt to daydream was meant with a new, unexpected development: prompts for applause, fog on the moors, a rousing political speech, or an amusing lovers’ spat.

The Cloverdale Playhouse did not let The New York Times down. This charming little play was “absurdly enjoyable,” with equally praiseworthy acting and directing. It might have even made Hitchcock chuckle a bit.

So, my advice is if you ever get as bored as Hannay or just in the mood for a little excitement, a show or even an acting class at Montgomery’s Cloverdale Playhouse should do the trick!

A Look at the Past Year in Student Government Association

Ethan Gregory, President of the AUM Student Government Association

By Ethan Gregory

As we get closer to Student Government Association elections once again, I have found myself pondering this past year. I can truly say it is a privilege to have served as President with such a great group of Senators and other officers. A once hesitant candidate became a grateful person that is delighted to have committed to this organization.

As I suspect it is for every outgoing President in any SGA, it is easy to look back on the year and notice all of the shortcomings. There is a long list of things I wanted to accomplish but failed to do. However, one of the things I have learned through this process and from my new relationship with our SGA Advisor, Joel Hughes, is that one of the most important aspects of reflection is taking pride in the things you did accomplish.

Over the past year, our SGA has achieved an incredible amount of accomplishments. We passed updated governing documents that aim at fostering future growth for the organization. We debuted a pilot Political Speaker Series in which Dr. Deravi spoke to almost 100 students about economics, healthcare, and the future of the state of Alabama. We engaged over 300 students in the political process by bringing a diverse group of people together to watch a Presidential Debate. Our SGA relaunched a Freshman Forum program for the first time since 2012, which has inspired those members to continue to pursue leadership positions throughout their college careers. We spurred the establishment and growth of S.A.G.E., a group promoting environmentally friendly policies. We led students speaking up to change the way we talk about sexual assault and rape culture. We brought over 100 students to Higher Ed Day and led the parade of college students across the state to the front steps of our state legislature. Our Senate led an academic advising survey to gather student perspectives on how our faculty can do more for our students. These are just a few of the things our organization has one over the year, and I could not be happier of our group.

I do not write this to pat myself on the back, but instead, I write this to bring notice to the incredible group that has committed to our student body over the past year. Nothing would have gotten done without this great group of people. I write this for another reason as well, and that is to tell you that you can be a part of this great organization as well. As incredible of a group as this was, we all came into this year as normal, everyday students not different than anyone else. Together, we grew, stuck together, and worked as a unit. We developed friendships and supported each other through every form of struggle that can be imagined from painful losses to the stress of final exams. You can be a part of that cohesion, and the only thing you need to do is desire it. Student government is there for you, not only to support the student body as a whole, but to empower any student that desires to grow as a leader and a student. I encourage you to learn more, run for office, or seek a cabinet appointment following elections. I will close with a quote, one that has been my favorite since I read it my freshman year:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead

S.A.G.E. Club Meeting Today

The S.A.G.E. Club is educating AUM students about environmental sustainability, inspiring them to adopt greener lifestyles and advocating for greener practices within the university. To learn more about the club, students can attend its meeting today.

Thursday, March 9 at 1:30 p.m. in Goodwyn Hall 307

If you have questions, please email the club at

Trump to Repeal the Johnson Amendment

By Rachel Wallace

Since its enactment in 1954, the Johnson Amendment has prevented tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations like churches and charities from participating in political campaigns. Organizations that violate the amendment have run the risk not only of losing their tax-exempt statuses, but also of having to pay taxes on items and services they already bought free of tax.

Although it is widely known as an amendment, this restriction is actually a law. It was created by Lyndon Johnson—the Texan who assumed office when John Kennedy was assassinated—to prevent nonprofit organizations from promoting his running opponent in the next election.

The Johnson law was originally passed without controversy, and has only been challenged in court three times over the past 63 years—in 1983, 1990, and 2000. President Trump brought the law back into focus during his campaign and has reiterated his intention to “get rid of and totally destroy” it in multiple speeches since his election.

Trump says the Johnson law is an infringement on the right to freedom of speech. He believes nonprofit organizations—especially churches and charities—have “much to contribute” to American politics and should be able to “speak freely and without fear of retribution.” On this point, he has the support of local representatives from the Southern Baptist Convention.

“As the amendment stands now, churches and charities don’t have the freedom to speak out,” says a local pastor who was wary of being misrepresented in the media and requested to remain anonymous, “so if the opportunity were afforded, I’m sure many would oblige.”

However, there are some who claim repealing the Johnson law is a move towards ending the separation of church and state. Among them is Senator Bernie Sanders, who took to Twitter to express his opinion after Trump announced he would repeal the Johnson law. “This absurd and unconstitutional law must not be passed,” Sanders wrote, “we must not end the separation of church and state.”

“The separation of church and state” is a phrase first coined by Thomas Jefferson in 1802. In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, Jefferson wrote that America should make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religious institutions, “thus building a wall of separation between church and state”—a concept which became the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“Those who truly understand the separation of church and state desire only for the equal opportunity to speak on what they choose to,” says the local pastor. “Historically, the state was never supposed to tell the church what they could or couldn’t say.”

Jefferson’s words have not always been considered absolute, and the extent to which church and state should be separated has long been subject for impassioned debate. Trump’s repeal of the Johnson law is not likely to change that, say representatives from the Southern Baptist Convention. “Tensions are on the rise in America, and we are tending more and more towards disagreement,” the local pastor says.

In addition to the separation of church and state, Trump’s vow to repeal the Johnson law has also raised concerns about campaign finance. According to NBC, Trump’s $58.8 billion campaign was funded by donations from political action committees, special interest groups and average American citizens. Should the repeal pass, tax-free donations given to churches and charities could be added to that list, making nonprofit organizations bigger money players in politics.

Nevertheless, those involved with churches and charities can expect to see more political action if the Johnson law is repealed.

Student Government Association Elections

By Megan Endres

Every spring your Student Government Association welcomes new faces to its council. This team represents the AUM student body in educational programming on campus as well as general programming for students. SGA is headed by the president who acts as the head of communication between students and administration, attend all AU Board of Trustees meetings, and represent AUM students on various boards and committees.

The president is backed by the executive council, a deputy chief, associate justices, senators for each college and directors of outreach and affairs. Together, this group of peers will be the “mouthpiece” for students on all campus issues.

The SGA constitution states that its purpose is, “to provide a superior environment for the shaping and advancement of future leaders, to provide the training necessary for learning leadership skills, to stimulate and develop good citizenship and democracy among students, and to provide a path of communication to promote student interests.”

As election season nears, it is imperative that we elect a body of peers who are committed to this standard and who will represent the students to the best of their ability. To learn more about candidates for each position, an SGA Candidate Forum will be held on March 28 from 12-1 p.m. in Warhawk Alley.

If you have not previously served on SGA, but you are interested in becoming involved, applications for candidacy opened on March 1 and will close March 10.

You can vote for your 2017-2018 SGA representatives from the AUM homepage on March 29 and March 30.