Oh, what a year.
2021 started and ended the same way — with COVID-19 dominating the national, and local, conversation.
But while the pandemic weighed heavy on UB community members’ minds, other stories also resonated with the campus population. From One World Café to Starbucks to campus dining closures, food played a big part in the student experience.
The same can be said about sports and the arts, which reopened this year, and brought about intriguing storylines, like the hire of Maurice Linguist as head football coach and the return of live music to the Center for the Arts.
Here’s a sampling of some of The Spectrum’s best journalism from 2021:
Many students lack faith in UB Counseling Services to provide adequate support for a large, increasingly anxious student population. Some students have taken to social media to express their displeasure with UB Counseling Services, dating back years. These students say they are concerned with the 10-appointment limit and scheduling difficulties. They caution UB could face a mental health crisis if it doesn’t invest more money into its counseling department.
“It doesn’t make sense to me that [UB would] have these services, but they don’t really do anything beneficial for the students,” one student said. “The understanding I left the meeting with was that the Counseling Services were for people in crisis. UB really needs to invest in helping the mental health of their students in a way that goes beyond bringing therapy dogs to the library.”
Julie Frey + Anushka Sharma — April 6
Only seven students held up signs asking UB administrators for academic relief as part of a UB Feeling Burnt Out demonstration at Flint Loop in April. But the students — who were protesting UB’s cancelation of spring break — said the lack of participants shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In fact, they said it was to be expected.
“It’s hard to protest burnout when you’re burnt out,” one student told The Spectrum. “Students who are already struggling with class can’t afford to miss it to protest struggling with class.”
Alexandra Moyen + Natalie Doller — April 8
Ten years ago, UB officials envisioned a colossal, international-themed eatery located at the beating heart of North Campus’ academic spine. That vision will become reality with One World Café. But improving students’ dining experiences comes at a cost — $37.8 million to be exact. That’s nearly triple the project’s original projected $14 million development cost.
“I don’t see why a campus dining hall has to be so fancy,” one student told The Spectrum. “I would say the café really is to build a better image for the school but is not at all beneficial to students.”
Elizabeth Napolitano + Jack Porcari — Aug. 26
Nick Metz and Collin Searles have been friends since freshman year, when they lived on the same floor in Wilkeson Quad. So when Metz got a call from Searles last spring asking if he wanted to sign up for a two-week hitchhiking ride across the U.S., Metz felt like he had no choice but to say yes.
“I answered the phone and Collin said, ‘Yo, dude, I’ve got a great idea, wanna go hitchhiking this summer?’ And I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’ And then we just kind of did it,” Metz told The Spectrum. “We chose a date when the semester ended and we just went.”
Julie Frey — Sept. 14
Quian Williams wants the ball in the biggest moments. He always has a notebook in hand. And he enjoys picking the brains of those around him, like quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who he immediately developed a rapport with upon transferring to UB from Eastern Michigan.
“The game is not too big for him,” head coach Maurice Linguist said. “Situations are not too big for him, so he plays with a lot of poise, he plays with a lot of confidence, and he earns the right to be confident throughout the week because of how he prepares.”
Anthony DeCicco — Sept. 21
UB volleyball star Monika Simkova was hospitalized from early August to late December with a life-threatening streptococcal bacterial infection. The Slovakia native has long served as her teammates’ “support system,” but this year, she was on the receiving end of their support and admiration.
“It feels terrible and unfair,” women’s soccer co-captain Gianna Yurchak said. “No one deserves to go through something like this and I’m heartbroken it’s happened to one of our own. She is such a hard-working and dedicated individual not only on the court but in everything she does.”
Hunter Skoczylas — Sept. 22
Thirty-seven international students had their F-1 visa statuses terminated in late September for failing to submit an I-94 form within 30 days of their arrival on campus, thus revoking their legal immigration status.
“We are sorry that this has happened to our students, for we endeavor to support our international students and facilitate their success at UB,” Nojin Kwak, vice provost for international education, said. “It is always very difficult to terminate a student’s immigration status, and we are working with the affected students to provide as much help as they need. They are receiving individualized advisement to address their specific situation and to help them make the best decision about their future studies. We will do whatever we can to assist them.”
Alex Falter + Jack Porcari — Oct. 19
“As painfully cliché as it is, honest and open conversation about depression and mental health would have made a world of difference for my younger self — and would still have an outsized impact on me today,” Sophie McNally wrote in her column about the importance of being honest about your mental health.
“It’s healthy to just put things out there, and to not have to worry about what anyone else thinks when you do it.
“Your sincerity and transparency can change someone else’s feeling about themselves. Even if it’s just that today has been a bad day and you can’t put your finger on why.”
Sophie McNally — Nov. 2
From the basement to the ceiling, the CFA teems with art. Bustling visitors are greeted by a wonderland of uninhibited creativity — from live jazz music to macabre ghost photography to student-produced films on weathermen. Projects are in development, dances are being rehearsed — it’s a decidedly unfinished view of art in progress. This look into UB’s own evolving world of craftsmanship was the result of Art in the Open, a free event which took place in late October.
“You get all of this wonderful plethora of expression and creativity and emotion and thought and it’s just so fantastic to see,” a media study instructor said. “I think Art in the Open is a wonderful venue for that and it’s as good for the public as it is for the artists themselves.”
Kara Anderson + Paul Blanchi — Nov. 12
On Dec. 9, baristas and shift supervisors at the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue voted 19-8 in favor of forming a union — a historic decision that could change the landscape of organized labor in the U.S. The unionization effort was influenced by, among other things, a bee problem at the Starbucks on the intersection of East Robinson Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard.
“She just had to put a Band-Aid on it and hope it would be alright because we were short-staffed, so we couldn’t not have somebody,” one former employee said, in reference to her co-worker getting stung by a bee at work. “If they had us adequately staffed, then [the response] could’ve been like, ‘Oh, you’re having an allergic reaction? Why don’t you go to the doctor?’”
Grant Ashley — Nov. 17
Women’s tennis head coach Kristen Maines is an unlikely choice to lead a team full of international student-athletes. A Western New York native, Maines looks more like a mom who spoils her kids’ friends with treats than a record-setting coach. But that hasn’t stopped Maines from leading the nation’s most ethnically diverse team to unprecedented levels of success.
“From a team dynamic, the sense of family is much stronger, because everyone is leaving what they know to come here,” Maines told The Spectrum. “This isn’t, ‘I can go stay with my family for the weekend, I’m leaving this weekend.’ They’re here all the time together. Just from a team dynamic, it’s such a strong group, which is a huge advantage when you’re playing a team sport.”
Justin Weiss + Hunter Skoczylas — Nov. 17
“My depression keeps me company on the days I feel the most forgotten. She whispers in my ear, reassuring me of my intrusive thoughts: ‘Your friends do hate you. You are a bad writer. Your staff doesn’t respect you. He is cheating on you…’ She goes on and on, picking me apart until she finds the insecurities even I didn’t know I had.
“She’s supportive of my decisions, whispering in my ear that it’s OK to stay in bed for a third day in a row: ‘Your lectures are all recorded anyway, you can watch them later. You’re paying for school on your own, it’s nobody’s business if you skip class again.’
“She’s the life of every party, feeding me drink after drink. A game of roulette where she spins the wheel to see how much of the night I remember.
She’s my chaperone, a constant companion sharing the space between my ears.”
Reilly Mullen — Dec. 13
Reilly Mullen is the editor in chief and can be reached at email@example.com
Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.
Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief at The Spectrum. She is a senior majoring in political science with a journalism certificate. She enjoys Dunkin’ iced lattes and Scrabble. A former web, features, news and managing editor, she is a columnist at heart but has covered everything from UB Football to breaking news.