Proctoring Software Should Be Used in Remote Exams

by Aditi Deokar

Opinion

March 29, 2021

This year, even with some in-person classes, most exams at BUA and BU have been held remotely to accommodate remote students. I believe that the use of proctoring software such as ExamSoft and Proctorio is a useful way to deter cheating during remote exams. 

I will start by sharing how a particular BU professor handled remote exams in one of my classes. Before COVID-19, this professor had used ExamSoft during in-person exams, which he had students take on computers, to speed up grading of multiple-choice exams, increase security by locking down students’ computers, and allow him to better understand the quality of his exam questions with metrics such as point biserial, which, in the context of exams, is used to correlate a student’s answer to a specific question to the student’s exam score as a whole. His exams were open-book and open-note. 

During the pandemic, he kept much of this the same but adjusted to students learning remotely. He held exams during a synchronous time slot on ExamSoft and kept them open-book and open-note. However, he ran into some difficulties. For instance, many students only had e-books, so he could not have ExamSoft lock down students’ computers. This allowed students not only to access their e-books, which was allowed, but also to use the Internet, which was not. To deter students from cheating by using the Internet, he had teaching fellows proctor us via Zoom to make sure we were not navigating to other tabs, and we were required to use a computer that showed our whole workspace. Unfortunately, this method ended up being too limited.

Shortly before our third exam, the professor discovered instances of cheating. Some of the questions on previous exams had been posted on the Internet years ago, so a few students were having another person out of view Google each question and tell them the answers while they were taking the exam. The cheating forced the professor to rewrite in the span of a day most of the questions for the third exam, for which we had to keep our microphones unmuted. This was very distracting to some students, especially in another section where a student’s malfunctioning fire alarm went off every few minutes. Had my professor used a proctoring software such as ExamSoft’s ExamMonitor, such incidents would have been flagged by an AI software for review already in the first exam so that he could quickly identify the cheaters and take appropriate action.1 We would not have had the difficulties of keeping microphones unmuted, and he would not have had to rewrite the exam. Personally, I would find using a proctoring software not any more stress-inducing than live proctoring, and I would have been comfortable knowing that cheaters would be effectively detected.

Although the exam was open-book and proctored live, cheating was still a problem in that class. We might, therefore, wonder what is the best course of action for BUA classes. Many BUA classes currently hold open-book or open-note Blackboard exams, often unproctored to allow flexibility in test-taking time, with the hope that a stringent time limit would be enough of a deterrent to cheating. But this strategy still allows students to use the Internet and communicate with others even if they are not supposed to do so, permitting cheating to occur without a means of detecting it. I certainly believe that BUA students are much more academically honest than the cheaters in that BU class. However, it is important to have a means of detecting cheating during exams because if there isn’t one, students can be tempted to cheat simply because they believe everyone else will. Such a means can be found in ExamMonitor or the similar software Proctorio. ExamMonitor is a part of the easy-to-use ExamSoft application, while Proctorio is a browser extension that can be used with any method of test-taking, including Blackboard, so teachers would not need to remake their exams in another application.1,2 

Some students might feel that proctoring softwares’ audio and video recording and AI analysis software are a violation of privacy. However, if they were taking the exam in-person, their teachers would be watching them and listening to them the entire time, and if they were taking it via Zoom and their teacher chose to record the meeting, the teacher would also have a recording of their actions the entire time, the same as ExamMonitor or Proctorio does. The AI only speeds up the process by identifying clips that it thinks might be suspicious for teachers to then decide themselves whether to investigate.1 ExamMonitor and Proctorio make the best effort to maintain students’ privacy, and while of course there is some chance that recordings could be leaked, we take that same chance by recording Zoom meetings all the time.3,4 Thus, proctoring softwares such as ExamSoft and Proctorio are viable alternatives to in-person proctoring that can help deter cheating while preserving the flexibility of asynchronous remote exams at BUA.


1 ExamSoft Worldwide LLC. 2021, “Strengthen Exam Integrity with Digital Monitoring,” 2021,
https://examsoft.com/solutions/exam-monitor.

2 Proctorio Inc. 2020, “Proctorio Frequently Asked Questions,” 2020,
https://proctorio.com/frequently-asked-questions.

3 ExamSoft Worldwide LLC. 2021, “ExamSoft: Privacy Policy,” 2021,
https://examsoft.com/privacy-policy.

4 Proctorio Inc. 2020, “Proctorio: Security Is No Accident,” 2020,
https://proctorio.com/about/data-security.

Grosse Pointe Blank: A Review

by Theo Sloan

Reviews

March 29, 2021

Some movies last the test of time. Included in this group is the excellent 1997 action comedy Grosse Pointe Blank starring John Cusack and Minnie Driver. In my review of Grosse Pointe Blank, I’ll be trying out a slightly different format: instead of discussing the movie’s good and then bad points, I’ll give a score out of five to several categories and end with a final score for the movie. Without further ado, let’s get into the review.

Part I: The Performances

I think one of the most important parts of a movie is the acting. An otherwise good movie can be ruined by an awkward or unbelievable performance, and an otherwise unimpressive movie can be carried by one or two fantastic, compelling performances. Fortunately, all the actors in Grosse Pointe Blank give it their all. The obvious standout is John Cusack, who gives a hilarious, entertaining, and oddly compelling performance as an emotionally challenged professional hitman. At the beginning of the movie, he’s both amusing and charming, but by the end, he’s jaw-droppingly hilarious. While he’s not nearly as good when he’s trying to be dramatic and serious, he’s still good enough to make his character reasonably believable. Minnie Driver also does a great job. Although she’s not given too much to work with character-wise besides a sassier-than-usual generic love interest, she plays that trope really well and adds to it some interesting spice and flavor. Driver’s chemistry with Cusack is an essential component of this movie. It’s hard to criticize these two performances; all I have to say is that Cusack probably could have done a better job with a few of his more emotional, serious scenes, though that’s not a very large issue in the grand scheme of things. 4.5/5

Part II: The Comedy

Grosse Pointe Blank knocks the comedy out of the park. It has some incredible jokes, especially near the end. In fact, the last ten minutes of the movie contain some of the best comedy I’ve seen in any movie ever. There’s plenty of witty dialogue; the gags and quips are funny, and the fantastic relationship between Cusack and Driver makes the comedy work even better. The main antagonist is also extremely funny at times, and he plays off Cusack really well. The cherry on top is easily the soundtrack (more on that later), which seems to have a sense of humor of its own. The song choices work incredibly well and almost always make an already entertaining scene or moment even funnier. The comedy is easily this movie’s strongest asset, and I would change nothing about it. 5/5

Part III: The Action

When the action in this movie is good, it’s really good. Just as with the comedy, the last ten minutes has easily the strongest action sequence. There are some other entertaining bursts of action throughout the movie; however, much of the action near the beginning is just not nearly as entertaining or fun to watch as the stuff near the end. In particular, there’s a fight scene in a convenience store that, while funny, is a bit sloppily choreographed, and I feel that both the setup and the aftermath of the fight are far more entertaining than the actual sequence. A fight in the school hallway falls in between those two extremes: it’s much better than the convenience store sequence but still doesn’t quite live up to the final ten minutes of the film. I don’t dislike any of the action, but a few sequences here and there fall flat. 3.5/5 

Part IV: The Plot

This movie follows the basic storyline of John Cusack playing a professional hitman, attending a high school reunion, and hijinks ensue from there. It’s an original idea and executed well. The plot has a pretty good flow to it, and the type of humor employed complements the wacky storyline well. However, I do have to mention a couple plot holes here. The main issue I have is that there are several times when people get shot at repeatedly but miraculously never get hit or injured. There’s a particularly egregious example of this about halfway through the movie, but it’s an issue that pops up several times, and it’s always a bit distracting. Aside from those unfortunate mistakes, the plot’s great. 4/5

Part V: The Score and Soundtrack

This movie’s score is completely unremarkable. It’s a perfectly acceptable, very passable action movie score that does nothing for me. But beyond the score itself, the rest of the soundtrack is a completely different story. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a great mix of pop, rock, and punk from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and it complements the movie so well. Some of the absolute standouts are Blister in the Sun by The Violent Femmes, I Can See Clearly Now (The Rain Has Gone) by Johnny Nash, and 99 Luftballons by Nena, though there are many, many other excellent songs on there, all expertly used to complement the movie. The score, a two by itself, is saved by the soundtrack. 5/5

Part VI: Final Thoughts

I really like Grosse Pointe Blank, and I highly recommend giving it a watch, especially if you’re a fan of action comedies, because it’s hard to get much better than this. Although Grosse Pointe Blank does have its flaws, it’s a great movie with some great characters and some amazing jokes. I’m giving this movie a very strong 8.6/10.

Ocean’s Eleven Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

March 29, 2021

Ocean’s Eleven is a 2001 heist movie directed by Steven Soderburgh that inspired two sequels and one spinoff and deserves a revisit. It stars George Clooney as master thief Danny Ocean, Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, Matt Damon as the skilled pickpocket Linus Caldwell, Julia Roberts as Danny Ocean’s ex-wife, Tess, along with Don Cheadle as Basher Tarr, Carl Reiner as Saul Bloom, and Andy Garcia as Terry Benedict. This movie is a remake of the 1960s Ocean’s Eleven and is the start of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.

The movie begins when Danny Ocean is released from prison and meets up with Rusty Ryan to plan a casino heist. They want to rob 150 million dollars from an impenetrable vault that is shared by three casinos, each of which is owned by Terry Benedict, the antagonist of the film. To rob this vault, Danny and Rusty put together a team of eleven men, which includes Basher Tarr, Saul Bloom, and Linus Caldwell. Because the vault is impenetrable, the team needs to pull multiple cons to get into it. They spend weeks planning this heist and several days executing it. Even though the team runs into several bumps and distractions during their heist, they find clever ways to work around them. One of those distractions is Danny’s ex-wife, Tess, Terry’s girlfriend who is working as a museum curator in one of his casinos. Rusty believes that Tess is a liability to the heist because Danny still has feelings for her, and this provides a small conflict between the two main characters in the movie. 

I like how well the cast and characters work together in this movie. The main characters, especially George Clooney and Brad Pitt, have great chemistry with each other. Their characters seem to read each other’s mind, something especially enjoyable in a movie about con artists who are constantly deceiving somebody. And the movie contains some humorous scenes that show off the characters’ colorful personalities and make the film especially entertaining to watch.  Each of the heist members’ introduction scenes perfectly represents their personalities. Everyone in Ocean’s Eleven gang has a specific skill necessary to the heist, and everyone works well together to succeed in their plan. While the act of stealing 150 million dollars is a crime, Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict is so unlikeable that we can’t help rooting for Danny Ocean’s gang to succeed in their heist to rob him. I found Ocean’s Eleven very enjoyable, and I think it’s a great movie for the whole family to watch together.

Immigration Reform: The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

by Matthew Volfson

News

March 29, 2021

The United States Citizenship Act of 2021, sent to Congress by President Biden on January 20, 2021, attempts to make the U.S. immigration system easier for undocumented immigrants and immigrants generally. The legislation would give undocumented immigrants living in the United States a pathway to citizenship. It would also allow immigrants fleeing from natural disaster to be able to apply for and gain temporary green card visas to enter the United States. And the legislation would attempt to emphasize the United States’ commitment to immigration by raising the country’s immigration quotas and levelling the application field for entering the United States so that it is not biased against or in favor of any immigrant group. 

There are approximately 14.5 million undocumented immigrants within the United States. Experts say that it is difficult, if not impossible, to compute an exact number for the net cost of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. because of a lack of data on the undocumented population in America. Biden’s legislation would give all these immigrants the opportunity to “apply for temporary legal status… with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.” The legislation could also allow immigrants from areas such as the Maldives, currently only four feet and eleven inches above sea level, to come to the United States in the future in case flooding becomes catastrophic. It could encourage more individuals from war-torn countries such as Somalia or dictatorships such as Venezuela seeking a better life to come to the United States. 

This legislation has already passed the House of Representatives because the Democrats have the majority there — the vote was largely based on party lines. The legislation’s passage through the Senate is less certain because the Senate filibuster would require a supermajority, or two thirds of the Senate, to shut down the protest against the bill. The Republican Party showed its opposition to the legislation in the House: only nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill. Senate Republicans are likely to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who believes the legislation would “exacerbate problems at the border.”

Many BUA students are the children of immigrants; then, it comes as no surprise that BUA students are interested in immigration. BUA students seem to have a positive reaction to Biden’s legislation. Rohan Biju ‘23, a BUA sophomore and immigrant from India, believes that “everyone [should deserve] an equal chance at trying to come to the U.S. Of course, a person’s chance of coming to the U.S. shouldn’t be based on their country’s population or something else.” He believes that undocumented immigrants “[shouldn’t] get deported back immediately.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would attempt to stem any budgetary losses by the United States and clear any possible backlog of immigration cases because of an increase in undocumented immigrants. The legislation would essentially aim to regulate the immigration flow of undocumented immigrants by giving them an easier opportunity to come into the country. The same would go for regular immigration: the legislation would seek to increase the number of regular immigrants and make sure the applicants for citizenship are on a level playing field.


“Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System.” The White House, January 20, 2021.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/20/fact-sheet-president-biden-sends-immigration-bill-to-congress-as-part-of-his-commitment-to-modernize-our-immigration-system/.

Higgins, Tucker. “House passes two immigration bills that would establish path to citizenship for millions.” CNBC, March 18, 2021.
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/18/house-passes-dream-and-promise-act-setting-up-path-to-citizenship.html.

Monroe, Annalee. “Does illegal immigration cost the U.S. more than $200 billion a year, as Trump claims?” The Arizona Republic, January 27, 2019.
https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2019/01/27/donald-trump-how-much-does-illegal-immigration-cost-united-states/2540512002/.

Singh, Maanvi. “US House passes bill that would give Dreamers a path to citizenship.” The Guardian, March 18, 2021.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/18/us-house-immigration-bill-dreamers-citizenship.

“The Maldives — The Land of Sun, Sea, and Sand.” The Maldives Expert, April 26, 2018.
https://www.themaldivesexpert.com/1594/the-maldives-the-land-of-sun-sea-and-sand/#:~:text=Lying%20between%20latitudes%201%C2%B0S%20and%208%C2%B0N%2C%20and%20longitudes,10%20inches%2C%20making%20it%20the%20world%E2%80%99s%20lowest%20country.

“The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.” Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, February 18, 2021.
https://lindasanchez.house.gov/uscitizenshipact.

“U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Bill Summary.” National Immigration Forum, February 24, 2021.
https://immigrationforum.org/article/u-s-citizenship-act-of-2021-bill-summary/.

“US Immigration: House Passes Immigration Bill Giving Dreamers a Path to Citizenship.” Immigration and Migration UK, March 22, 2021.
https://immigrationandmigration.com/us-immigration-house-passes-immigration-bill-giving-dreamers-a-path-to-citizenship/.

Wolf, Zachary B. “What’s a filibuster? Democrats may finally ax a relic of our racist past.” CNN, March 20, 2021.
https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/20/politics/what-is-a-filibuster/index.html.

Taking the Market Back, Stock by Stock

by Christian Asdourian

News

February 22, 2021

Wall Street was recently taken by storm when a group of Redditors skyrocketed the stock value of the retail store Gamestop.

In January 2021, a group of everyday people from a community forum called “r/wallstreetbets” on the popular website Reddit took it upon themselves to help alleviate the financial stress placed on GameStop. Their actions were a response to the tactics used by professional Wall Street investors who were planning on profiting from the decline of GameStop’s stock value. If you’ve seen the movie The Big Short, you’ve probably heard of the term “short selling” and may or may not have pretended to understand what it means. In essence, short selling is when investors sell stocks from a company with the knowledge that their value is going to decrease. They can then buy back the stocks cheaper and keep the difference as profit. When Redditors such as u/DeepF-Value and u/Stonksflyingup realized that GameStop was being heavily shorted, they began encouraging private retail investors, or individual, “little-guy” investors, to purchase GameStop stock. Before long, the cost per share of stock shot up to a whopping $483 at its peak from a measly $17 earlier in January. 

Melvin Capital, one of the hedge funds that was shorting GameStop, was forced into a short squeeze and had to buy back stock to cover their losses. They eventually left their short position on GameStop, with a loss of over four billion dollars in assets last month. But Wall Street was not going to go down without a fight. Initially, investment apps like Robinhood were the primary means that private investors were using to buy up GameStop stock, until these apps placed trading restrictions on GameStop and over ten other companies because of “significant market volatility.” This caused a massive uproar among the public and users of the app because of allegations of market manipulation. Several politicians voiced criticism of Robinhood’s actions, including Representative (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for an investigation into why Robinhood acted to “block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.” 

Given everything that took place, I asked Jonas Rajagopal ‘21, club leader of the Stock Market Club, to share his thoughts on these events.

How do you feel about this whole situation? 

I thought the situation was exciting. It is always fun to see Wall Street lose (though they made back most of their losses later in the saga). I think the main problem is not what happened on Reddit. It is that big hedge funds have been able to do this without punishments. They can donate to politicians to prevent the rules from changing. For example, companies like the Motley Fool can buy a stock, then invent phantom reasons to say it will rise, and their followers will buy the stock, and they make a ton of money.

Do you think the future of stock exchange is in jeopardy? Why?

I do not think the future of the stock exchange is in jeopardy. There may be some regulatory changes to prevent events like this from happening again, but anyone saying that this is the demise of the stock market is overreacting.

What do you think about the responses from companies like Robinhood and Wall Street itself? 

Initially, I thought the response from Robinhood was unacceptable. As I have learned more about the situation, I believe they had little choice. I also think their PR was a disaster and they could have handled it better. I think the system failed the “little-guy” investors. I also think trading should have been completely stopped by the NASDAQ, not just on Robinhood, and not just to prevent selling the shares. 


As of now, the massive increase in value for GameStop stock has plummeted back to earth. Although the company and stock value is in a better place than when it started, this saga has a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion, especially to those who were hoping that the stock’s price would keep on climbing. Regardless, what happened with GameStop is a historical moment for Wall Street. Even the little guys can influence the stock market if they work together, and GameStop is only the beginning. 


Aliaj, Ortenca, Mackenzie, Michael, and Fletcher, Laurence. “Melvin Capital, GameStop and the road to disaster.” Financial Times, February 13, 2021.
https://www.ft.com/content/3f6b47f9-70c7-4839-8bb4-6a62f1bd39e0.

Burbridge, Mark. “Redditors Vs Wall Street: The GameStop Situation Explained.” The University News, February 8, 2021.
https://unewsonline.com/2021/02/redditors-vs-wall-street-the-gamestop-situation-explained/.

Ingram, David and Bayly, Lucy. “GameStop? Reddit? Explaining what’s happening in the stock market.” NBC News, February 7, 2021.
https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/gamestop-reddit-explainer-what-s-happening-stock-market-n1255922.

Why I Run to BUA Every Morning

by Alyssa Ahn

Commentary

February 22, 2021

There was this day, I remember. Actually, there are a lot of those days. Days when my body tenses as soon as I wake up, and I just know it isn’t going to be a good day. These are the days when I sleep through my alarm. My eyelids pop open, and I desperately dive out of bed. I rush to the bathroom, glance at my contact lens case, check my watch, adjust my mask, sigh, and rush out. And my glasses press heavier onto my skin. Those are days when things don’t go my way. 

I dash through the kitchen with a heavy backpack crushing my shoulders. I smell those delicious crispy Costco croissants before shutting the door. I run to school on those days. I run like a prowling, snarling monster is chasing me — I run like the person who dies in horror movies. I run because I’m running for my life. I know that oversleeping leads to getting to school late, which leads to failing tests, which leads to bad grades. But that’s not why I run. 

Some people walk. When they’re late, they stroll in, acting casual, saving face. I can’t save face on those days — on those days, it feels like pieces of the world are cracking off, falling bit by bit; it feels like my face is fragmented, eroding into dust, and I’m alone. I do walk into class. I act calm, keep my head down, and don’t bring others down with me — I walk into class quietly. As long as I’m still running to school, still trying, things are okay. 

On some of the days when things don’t go my way, I try to get up, and I try to run to school. But sometimes, as I get closer to the parking lot, I pause for a moment and ask, “Why am I doing this? Why am I trying — what’s the point?” And then I remember.

I remember the people who I see on those days. People who always smile when they see me and tentatively nod in my direction — I see you, and I smile back with real warmth. I remember the BUA who saw me as a girl in eighth grade. They smiled and shook my hand and said, “I’m pleased to finally meet you.” They accepted me, and I grinned when I got the box and hugged The Odyssey

When everyone has almost gone to their second class of the day, I bounce up, smile and thank my teacher, wipe my desk, collect my things, and step toward the door. My friend waits for me. She smiles and greets me. When I walk into the next classroom, the whole room is always too bright. There are people slumped in chairs and people slumped on the floor. But when class starts and a familiar, grinning face projected on the board waves at us, we all smile. We have fun, and I laugh. 

I remember the person who always walks with me to get tested and waits for me in between classes and smiles when they see me. I’m grateful for the people who see me. One gesture of kindness is all it takes to start making those days better. When I’m having a bad day, or when I’m thinking about those days when I do things wrong, when things go wrong, I remember the kindnesses — and those true kindnesses and courtesies are why I run to school. So I try to give back every day with a little extra kindness to myself and to others. Because being kind is who I am; because I have to remember who I am to experience truly happy days.

The Laramie Project: Interviews With the Cast and Crew

by Ibukun Owolabi

News

February 22, 2021
Members of Drama Club perform The Laramie Project. Dr. Larash for The Scarlet Letter

On October 6, 1998, there was a horrific attack on the life of a young man by the name of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The suspects, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, kidnapped Matthew and viciously beat him because Matthew identified as gay. Six days after the brutal attack, Matthew Shepard passed away in Poudre Valley Hospital, leaving the world in shock. Henderson and McKinney were both found guilty of first-degree murder and were sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. 

The death of Matthew Shepard sparked protests across the nation and was a catalyst for change. Many people in Laramie felt that no person should have to go through what Shepard went through because of their identity, a belief that was amplified by the countless protests in cities across America. On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to “strengthen the protection against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth… add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”1

This year, Boston University Academy’s winter play, directed by Mr. Gardiner, shown on January 30, was The Laramie Project. The play, written by Moisés Kaufman in 2000, comprises a series of interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming. The dozen or so members of Drama Club played over sixty townspeople, all playing multiple roles. 

This year, many clubs and sports had to adapt all that they were doing before to the “new normal.” Drama Club had the complicated task of producing an entire play in a Zoom room. As a new member of Drama Club, I asked my fellow cast and crew members to reflect on the making of the beautiful play. The following are interviews with members of the BUA cast and crew of The Laramie Project.

Mr. Gardiner, Director

What was it like to produce a play that would be performed online?

Exciting and challenging on many levels. Whenever you produce/direct a play, one of the questions is the style or look of the production. Producing a play online added a lot of new things to consider. How do you honor that this is a play, not a film, that’s presented virtually? Is there a constant look across the board? How do you differentiate locations, characters, passage of time, act breaks? How do you deal with the wide range of devices that people are using to rehearse and record? What platform do you use for presentations?  Yea. The list goes on…

How was the production process this year different from previous years?  

Rehearsals took place later in the day, since it was better to have actors home on a computer without a mask than at school masked and socially distanced. The performances had to be recorded at the beginning of the winter break so that we had time to edit the recordings together into a coherent whole by broadcast date. The actors had to be ready for performance earlier. In a normal year we’d have at least a couple of weeks after winter break to put the pieces of the play together. Those are just a few of the differences in the process this year.

In the process of putting the play together, what were some things you enjoyed and some challenges you encountered?

I was grateful to introduce students to a play and story that few of them had heard of before our production. The story of Matthew Shepard was a story of national significance and one I followed closely and was impacted by — and the play was and is an important landmark in American theatre. I also enjoyed meeting new actors and learning what they can do. [I’ve also enjoyed] seeing other actors I’ve worked with before stretch and grow as artists in ways that sometimes surprised me.

Challenges — hoo boy — just the technical difficulties, all of which had to be dealt with remotely, from “unstable internet connection” to not enough space for the actor to set up their backdrop comfortably. And of course, scheduling any after-school activity at BUA is always challenging. There was literally only one day I had the entire cast together.

Suzie Marcus ‘22, Stage Manager

What got you interested in being involved in the play?

I’ve always loved stage crew and was stage manager at my old school last year, so I knew I wanted to be involved again here. I knew the story beforehand. I had heard of the play and the real event. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I enjoyed seeing people both remote and in person be able to come together to work on the play. I also loved the story and how everyone took it seriously and cared deeply about the subject matter.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Challenges were probably just related to communications and scheduling in general (for everyone), but for me personally, just remembering who played who off the top of my head was super difficult.

Jasper Milstein ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played multiple characters; my recurring role was Reggie Fluty. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I’ve been acting for upwards of ten years, so any opportunity to be in a show I’ll take. 

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

I think it’s an incredibly captivating and touching show. Obviously, it’s a tragic story, but I think that makes it even more important to keep sharing because hate crimes are still far too prevalent to this day. By sharing the story, [we’re] spreading more knowledge and bringing more attention to the issue. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I think being able to dive into some of the more complex scenes and monologues was a lot of fun and provided challenges as an actor.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

The remote aspect definitely provided some challenges in terms of communication and joint scene work but overall was not too bad to work around. 

Elizabeth Brown ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played a variety of roles throughout the show. All of the members of the cast played more than one role because of the nature of the show, which has around sixty-four parts. More specifically, I played Rebecca Hilliker, the Head of the Theater Department at the University of Wyoming; Father Roger Schmit, a Catholic priest; Aaron Kreifels, a college student who found Matthew Shepard; and Shannon, a friend of Aaron McKinney. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I have loved performing since sixth grade, when I was in my first musical. Before I came to BUA, I had seen my siblings perform in a couple different shows, and I liked what I saw, so I decided to participate in this play.

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

Before this show, I had never heard about the hate crime against Matthew Shepard, so the whole show was educational for me and very interesting. I also was fascinated by the close relationships that the members of the theater company were able to build with the people of Laramie.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I loved working with Mr. Gardiner, Kayleigha Zawacki, our video editor, and the rest of the cast on this play. Everyone was great and amazing to work with. It was also kind of cool to learn how to record a whole show from the comfort of my home.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

It was of course very different doing a production on Zoom, and there were some kinks to work out because of that. Also, scheduling is always an issue, regardless of whether it is in person or on Zoom. 

Kasia Perks ’21, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

My roles in the play were Doc O’Connor, Zubaida Ula, Narrator, and Mormon Home Teacher.

What got you interested in performing the play?

I miss theater because it’s not as easy to do now, so I wanted to perform in this play. I’ve been in every production since freshman year, so it seemed like an obvious continuation.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play? What were some of the challenges?

I enjoyed being able to act again and engage with a script, but it was hard to stay as focused as I would usually be in person.


While the recording is no longer available to the public, Drama Club did a spectacular job in carrying out the duty of bringing awareness to what happened to Matthew Shepard. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll leave you with the words of Mr. Kolovos himself: “I was struck not only by how well our cast handled the mature material, but also with how well they translated the experience to the screen. Within a few minutes, I forgot that I was in my living room watching a teenage cast.”


1 The entire speech was delivered at the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is on Youtube under the title President Obama Commemorates Enactment of Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Double Masking Advised: The Increase in Coronavirus Variants

by Anna Augart-Welwood

News

February 22, 2021

It has been almost a year since the coronavirus was officially declared to be a pandemic, and many people are growing tired of social distancing. However, new variants of the virus have been discovered, sparking concern among public health experts. These mutations can possibly affect how contagious the virus is and the severity of the symptoms.

Every year, vaccine makers release a different flu vaccine that targets the mutation that was most common the previous year. It is unclear whether the same will happen with COVID-19. While viruses are constantly evolving, the new strains of coronavirus are more concerning because the mutations improve the virus’ so-called “spike protein,” a protein that penetrates host cells and gives the coronavirus its spiky surface. If this protein continues to evolve, the virus may eventually be able to reinfect people who have previously contracted it or have been vaccinated against it. This is because antibodies have more trouble binding to certain spike proteins, causing the virus to stay in the body longer. Similarly, certain mutations fit better into cell receptors, much like a key and a lock, causing the virus to be more contagious. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom is thought to be up to 70% more contagious than the original strain.

Researchers are unsure whether the recent increase in variants is because the mutations are more contagious, or due to holiday travel and superspreader events. Recent evidence suggests that these new strains are more dangerous. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be 50% deadlier than the original strain; that is, the symptoms it causes are thought to be more severe. Pfizer has stated that their vaccine will be slightly less effective against the B.1.351 variant found in South Africa. Moderna believes that their vaccine will be effective against the B.1.351 variant, but not as much against others, so they are working on a booster vaccine.

While this discovery seems discouraging, there are still ways you can continue to protect yourself. Many people have begun to wear two masks after Dr. Anthony Fauci advised this practice on the Today show. According to the CDC, wearing a cloth mask over a well-fitting surgical mask can reduce up to 95% of exposure from possible COVID-containing respiratory droplets. The CDC also recommends a method that includes tying knots in the ear loops of a surgical mask and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face, which makes the mask better fitting. Regardless of these new masking techniques and vaccines, people need to be more careful than ever. This could include allowing fewer people in certain spaces, including schools, along with increased vigilance and strict social distancing. Joie Liu ‘23 agrees that people need to act with more caution, or even just the same amount as everyone had at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020.

Many people are feeling the pandemic fatigue that weighs us all down, and others have stopped following social distancing guidelines altogether. However, the vaccine is providing a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is important to remember not to lose hope. The best way to fight the virus is to continue social distancing and wearing your mask(s).


Brooks, John T., MD; Donald H. Beezhold, PhD; John D. Noti, PhD; Jayme P. Coyle, PhD; Raymond C. Derk, MS; Francoise M. Blachere, MS; and William G. Lindsley, PhD. “Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 10, 2021.
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7007e1.htm.

Crouch, Michelle. “Most Common Symptoms of the U.K. Coronavirus Variant.” AARP, January 29, 2021.
https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/coronavirus-variant-symptoms.html.

Nirappil, Fenit. “Time to double or upgrade masks as coronavirus variants emerge, experts say.” The Washington Post, January 28, 2021.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/01/27/double-mask-variants-guidance/.

Reardon, Sara and Smith, Dominic. “A Visual Guide to the New Coronavirus Variants.” Scientific American, February 11, 2021.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/video/a-visual-guide-to-the-new-coronavirus-variants/.

“The Coronavirus is Mutating: What We Know About the New Variants.” Healthline.
https://www.healthline.com/health-news/the-coronavirus-is-mutating-what-we-know-about-the-new-variants.

Zimmer, Carl. “7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation.” The New York Times, February 14, 2021.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/health/coronavirus-variants-evolution.html.

Queen’s Gambit Review

by Allie Vasserman

Reviews

February 22, 2021

The Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 Netflix limited series created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott and starring Anya Taylor-Joy as Elizabeth “Beth” Harmon, Isla Johnston as young Beth Harmon, Bill Camp as Mr. Shaibel, and Marielle Heller as Alma Wheatley. The series is an adaptation of the book The Queen’s Gambit (Random House, 1983) by Walter Tevis.

The term “Queen’s Gambit” is a popular chess opening, a clue to what the series is about. The series starts in a girls’ orphanage in the 1950s where young Beth Harmon discovers that she is a talented chess player after being taught by the orphanage’s janitor, Mr. Shaibel. Girls in the orphanage are given tranquilizers, a common practice in the mid-1900s to keep children calm, which Beth takes advantage of because she believes that the tranquilizers enhance her chess playing abilities and her ability to visualize the game. Beth leaves the orphanage when she is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley. After realizing that Beth can earn money from winning chess competitions, Mrs. Wheatley becomes Beth’s manager. As Beth travels and wins at different chess competitions instead of attending school, she becomes addicted to the tranquilizers and eventually to alcohol. She befriends several other chess players after defeating them at various chess competitions. These friends later come to her aid when she needs them the most. By the end of the series, Beth learns that she does not need to rely on the tranquilizers to be a great chess player; instead, she needs to trust herself and her friends.

The series covers the serious theme of addiction by showing Beth’s struggle with substance and alcohol abuse. The series also shows the importance of family, which for Beth is not her biological family, but her adoptive mother and the friends she makes. The series makes many references to chess: for instance, each episode’s name relates to an aspect of chess, and in the first episode, young Beth’s outfit mimics a chess pawn, symbolizing that she is a beginner at the game.

When I first heard about this limited series, I was skeptical about it and wasn’t sure that it would be worth my time. I was completely wrong, and I enjoyed watching it a lot more than I thought I would. You do not need to be a chess player to enjoy this show.  The script is well-written and constructs Beth’s story perfectly over the course of seven episodes. Since the actors don’t speak during the chess matches, they rely on their facial expressions and body language to convey to the audience what the characters are thinking, making the chess matches especially enjoyable for the viewer. I think that the last fifteen minutes of the final episode are incredibly powerful and that the musical score enhanced the ending. I have lost track of how many times I rewatched the final fifteen minutes because I enjoyed it so much. The creators of the show have announced that there will not be a second season; I agree with that decision. The seven episodes provide the perfect storyline with a satisfactory endgame. This is a series that I definitely recommend watching.

Spring Semester Events Should Be Redesigned, Not Cancelled

by Aparna Deokar

Opinion

February 22, 2021

Last March, schools and businesses all over the world shut down, cancelling many events and gatherings. Almost a year later, BUA and much of the world find ourselves in the same dilemma concerning events — school is open, but events are still socially distanced or remote. I believe that preventing the spread of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance and that therefore, having no gatherings is better than being exposed to the coronavirus. But, where we are safely able to hold events, I think that events should be redesigned rather than canceled.

Though COVID-19 safety comes first, BUA events are important too. Especially this year, underclassmen and upperclassmen don’t get many chances to interact except for clubs, and events help to build a sense of community. Mia Shapoval ’22 describes BUA’s Spring Concert as a “reward” for the hard work throughout the year — it is disappointing that there may not be a concert this year, given the way things are going. And she recalls meeting many upperclassmen at Field Day as a freshman and calls it a “bonding experience.” Where possible, I believe that outdoor events such as Field Day should be redesigned with restrictions, such as social distancing and wearing masks. For these events, not too much would need to be changed to adapt to coronavirus restrictions, since the events are already outdoors and relatively distant. It’s especially important to hold these events for seniors, who have already missed out on last year’s spring events. Elizabeth Brown ‘24 comments, “I think for smaller events, it’s probably possible; Fall Fest happened in a really fun way and the Valentine’s Day sales were still able to happen.” I agree with this statement; for in-person students, these small gatherings were still able to serve their purposes of community building.

Remote BUA students would not be able to participate in these in-person events, but ideally, enough remote events would be provided, such as Zoom Olympics, which was an alternative for Field Day last year. Even for in-person students, few events could plausibly be held without Zoom, so the other option, which I strongly support, being a fully remote student myself, is to hold more remote gatherings. Many students grumble about boring gatherings over Zoom, but we’re gaining more experience with Zoom, and events such as Trivia Night have been a huge success. However, even with restrictions, I believe that some events, such as Prom, might have to be canceled. Prom is regarded as a symbolic, memorable event for juniors and seniors, so it is unfortunate that this year’s senior class might have to miss out on Prom entirely. But dances are hard to recreate in a socially distanced way or remotely, since online Zoom activities just aren’t the same and an in-person Prom would put many of BUA’s students at risk. Elizabeth remarks, “I don’t think there would be any way that [the Valentine’s Day Cabaret] could have been redesigned to be a functional event, since it couldn’t happen over Zoom, and it would be really hard to do a dance in person.” Excluding dances, many events could potentially be redesigned using Zoom, and we at BUA should make an effort to redesign them.