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Drake and Kanye will never be friends

Photo credit: "Jay-Z and Kanye West" by dpwolf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The last few weeks have crushed my dreams of a Drake-Kanye West collab.

West’s “Donda” hit streaming services on Aug. 29 through Def Jam Records, following a series of in-person listening sessions promoting the album’s release. On the other hand, Drake’s “Certified Lover Boy” was released Sept. 3 by Republic Records, a mere five days after “Donda.”

Instead of seeing these two come together on a track, we have watched them juggle these album releases with subtle and not-so-subtle digs at each other, all while anxiously awaiting to see who would top the Billboard charts and break Spotify streaming records.

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With all that has transpired, I can’t help but wonder — how did we get here?

It is no secret that Drake and West have always been competitive with each other. In a 2015 clique.tv interview, West said that he saw Drake as “an amazing sparring partner.” On his Saint Pablo Tour in 2016, the rapper also insinuated that Drake and DJ Khaled bribed radio stations to get more plays. Drake later denied the accusations in 2017 and after featuring West on his “More Life” album that year, the pair seemed to finally reconcile.

However, what broke their relationship was “The Story of Adidon,” a diss track where West’s artist Pusha T, leaked the information about Drake’s son.

Today, these two still have bad blood.

Last month, Drake appeared on Trippie Redd’s track “Betrayal” where he seemingly implied that West was a “washed-up rapper.” West, undoubtedly upset at this jab, responded on Instagram saying “I live for this. I’ve been f—– with by nerd ass jock n—– like you my whole life. You will never recover. I promise you.” He then leaked Drake’s address before deleting both posts.

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In response, Drake fired back on his song “7am on Bridle Path” with this verse: “You know the fourth level of jealousy is called media…Isn’t that an ironic revelation?…Give that address to your driver, make it your destination…Stead of just a post out of desperation.”

Not tired yet, Drake leaked West’s unreleased song “Life of the Party” featuring Andre 3000, another diss track that was cut from “Donda.” Andre 3000 commented on the situation saying, “it’s unfortunate that it was released in this way and two artists that I love are going back and forth.” The act, however, left many fans contemplating what Drake’s motives were.

In all likelihood, they will never be friends again. And that’s ok. At least fans of both will continue to have an abundance of interesting content.

Featured image: “Jay-Z and Kanye West” by dpwolf is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Rat celebrates its grand reopening after a year of strict COVID-19 regulations

Two eager students mistake their stuffed animals for food at The Rats grand-opening "Stuff a Plush" celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Photo credit: Rahul Kumar

Although the Rathskeller has been serving students since the University of Miami opened its doors for the fall semester, the iconic campus landmark known for quality food, beverage and atmosphere formally kicked off the new academic year with a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

During the all-day event, employees at “The Rat” offered tired students a break from class with an activity dubbed “Stuff a Plush.” Attendees stuffed fluffed animals, such as turtles, sloths and more, taking some students back to their adolescent adventures to Build-A-Bear.

“There’s always great people to hang out with, and the sloth animals they gave were adorable, and I’m having a great time here, as usual,” said Bao Duong, a senior majoring in neuroscience.

Two eager students mistake their stuffed animals for food at The Rats grand-opening "Stuff a Plush" celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 8.
Two eager students mistake their stuffed animals for food at The Rats grand-opening "Stuff a Plush" celebration on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Photo credit: Rahul Kumar

Student Manager Daniel Hoppen, who is studying finance at the graduate school, said students were given $5 vouchers to commemorate the start to a new semester. Duong said she was especially grateful for the efforts of her fellow UM students to keep The Rat up and running.

“The Rat isn’t just an easy social environment, but I also love supporting my peers who make all the food and help set up everything here,” Duong said.

Ishaan Shah, a senior majoring in neuroscience who ate alongside Duong and their peers, said that for him, The Rat goes beyond a place to just get food.

“I’m meeting so many new friends and seeing so many people that I haven’t connected with in the past two years and I’m just loving the whole environment around here,” Shah said.

For many students like Shah, The Rat has been sorely missed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which made socializing on-campus difficult for multiple semesters. Students at the celebration Wednesday said they missed the cheap food and fun environment most of all.

“Prices are better than anywhere on campus and the food is better than anywhere else on campus,” Amrutha Chethikattil, a senior biochemistry major, said. “They also have a second floor dining area that no one knows about, so it’s really chill and quiet up there and I like to do work.”

Bao Duong, Ishaan Shah and Amrutha Chethikattil enjoy their food and stuffed plushies at The Rat on Wednesday, Sept. 8. After a year of strict COVID-19 regulations, students anticipate a slow return to normality at the campus institution.
Bao Duong, Ishaan Shah and Amrutha Chethikattil enjoy their food and stuffed plushies at The Rat on Wednesday, Sept. 8. After a year of strict COVID-19 regulations, students anticipate a slow return to normality at the campus institution. Photo credit: Rahul Kumar

Despite The Rat still not serving alcohol, students like Andrea Rivera, a senior studying ecosystem science and policy, said that it is still a major upgrade from previous semesters.

“Even though The Rat hasn’t fully opened yet, I’m really excited to see everything opening back up and The Rat having business and everything being back to normal, in a sense,” Rivera said.

The Rat also allows student organizations to host events, a feature many students said they missed before the grand opening.

“I’m really happy that it’s opening up again because for me, it’s a great place for club events, especially since it just feels like you’re hanging out instead of something formal,” said Ethan Kumar, a sophomore biology major who is the Communications Chair for the Asian American Students Association.

Kumar said he plans to host numerous fundraisers, galas and more at The Rat for the Asian American Students Association in the coming months.

“It felt unsafe before the vaccine and with more restrictions, but now with The Rat opening up the possibilities are endless for us,” Kumar said.

Column: Football has a lot to prove after embarrassing loss to Alabama

Sophomore striker Keontra Smith, left, attempts to tackle Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. during Miami's game against the Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 4. Photo credit: Josh Halper
Keontra Smith
Sophomore striker Keontra Smith, left, attempts to tackle Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr. during Miami's game against the Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 4. Photo credit: Josh Halper

If you are a Miami Hurricanes fan, you probably stopped watching Saturday’s game after the first half. If you were one of the few brave fans who continued watching, odds are your eyes weren’t glued to the TV and rightfully so, as the Canes lost 44-13 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game Saturday. With a difference in score greater than 30, fans are within reason to ask: what went wrong for the Hurricanes in their season opener?

Despite head coach Manny Diaz’s insistence that the team “came here to compete,” the Hurricanes didn’t put up a great fight. Alabama scored in their opening drive while the Canes remained scoreless until freshman kicker Andres Borregales’ 37-yard field goal at the end of the first half. The kick gave Miami three points to Alabama’s 27.

Alabama had a total of 354 passing yards – nearly doubling Miami’s 179 – and 147 rushing yards to Miami’s 87. For the Canes, the running game was used almost exclusively early in the game, and 37 of Miami’s total rushing yards came from running back Cam’Ron Harris alone.

Beyond their inefficiency at prolonging drives, the Hurricanes had a third down conversion rate of 43%. The Crimson Tide converted their third downs into first downs at a clip of over 60%.

While Canes quarterback D’Eriq King’s pass completion rate was greater than Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s when it was all said and done, King did throw two interceptions. In a game where the narrative consistently saw Alabama maximize every possession they had, any extra time the Crimson Tide spent with the ball was bound to be a scoring threat.

Put simply, Alabama just overwhelmed Miami in every facet of the game.

“I thought the difference in the game was third down offense,” Diaz said. “Offensively, we had a hard time getting in a rhythm because of that.”

In his postgame interview, Diaz commented that there were plenty of positives the team would be able to take from their loss and benefit from in their home opener versus Appalachian State, while also keeping in mind that there are necessary corrections that need to be made throughout the season.

The Hurricanes must do a better job converting on third downs. If UM’s current third down conversion rate continues to hover around the rate it has over the past few seasons, fans can expect a similar final score against other competitive teams Miami faces throughout this season.

Miami also has to do a better job of protecting King and avoid putting him in a position where he can damage his ACL and meniscus, or fumble the ball the way he did when Alabama linebacker Christopher Allen sacked him.

On the defensive end of the gridiron, Miami can’t allow another team to score a 94-yard touchdown. Not only was that touchdown demoralizing, but it was also preventable.

Irresponsible and careless play, like when Bubba Bolden was ejected from the game for targeting, can’t happen again. While the redshirt junior was able to stay on the sidelines and help coach and cheer on his teammates, he would have made a far greater impact on the field.

Despite these statistics and areas of improvement, though, nothing went terribly wrong for the Hurricanes.

After all, the Crimson Tide are the reigning national champions, went undefeated last season and are consistently ranked among the top five best teams in the country. They also beat the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes by just under 30 points in January’s College Football Playoff National Championship. Despite Miami fans’ best hopes and wishes, it was unlikely for the No. 14 Hurricanes to compete against arguably the most elite college football program over the last decade.

Going into this Saturday’s game against Appalachian State, Miami has a much better chance of finding the win column. Not only is Appalachian State unranked, but the Canes are playing at home in Hard Rock Stadium with the University of Miami allowing students back in full force for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

While the game against Alabama didn’t go as fans would have hoped, the loss does not define the season.

All four games the Hurricanes play during September are at home and against teams that are currently unranked. The only teams that the Canes face this season that are currently ranked are No. 19 Virginia Tech and No. 24 UNC.

All in all, an easier schedule awaits, and the Hurricanes need to look forward and take advantage of the fact that their arguably worst day and most difficult task of the season is behind them.

What to expect at your first Pride

Photo credit: "File:Dancers during Miami Beach Pride 2012.jpg" by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Whether it’s after years of learning to embrace your identity, months of encouragement from close friends or finally moving to a city where you can properly celebrate, this is the moment you have waited forever for: your first Pride!

From those free corporate-produced bandanas and shades that feel morally wrong to the alarming amount of assless chaps and jockstraps that you might see, there’s a lot to learn. But don’t worry, we are here to save the day and tell you what to expect.

This year, Miami Beach is hosting its annual Pride between Sept. 10-19th in the Art Deco District of South Beach. Many of the larger events including this year’s parade take place during the second weekend of the event. Complete with A-List performances from musicians such as Mexican songstress Paulina Rubio and American rock band Walk the Moon, the week-long festival is not to be missed.

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While it is perfectly normal to feel nervous, there is no reason to be.

You should expect to see colorful outfits, flags representing various communities, crowded areas and lines, loud music, people with signs and chanting slogans, free handouts and pride paraphernalia with lots of smiling and cheerfulness.

Different events will happen all week long, so make sure to check out as many as you can and try going to some that aren’t just festivals and parties. There are lots of free events as well, so Pride doesn’t have to break the bank. However, make sure you have some cash on you for food, water and anything else you might want to purchase.

Be weary on the side of caution with drugs and alcohol. Know your limits with experimentation and never drink or use alone! Make sure to stay hydrated and have food in your stomach.

With a motto of “One Love. Unity. Inclusivity. Equality,” everyone is welcome at Miami Beach Pride. If you are not a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community, it is important to understand that Pride is not just a big party, but a celebration of the community and how far it has come.

With that being said, know your history!

The first Pride was a riot (Stonewall 1969) and although Pride today is more of a party, it is important to understand the roots of our community and why we are celebrating in the first place.

Pride wouldn’t exist without queer/trans people of color — they paved the way for the community to have the rights we do today. Be respectful and kind and celebrate queer and transgender people of color however possible!

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When it comes to dressing for your first Pride, don’t feel that you have to dress provocatively just to fit in. But, it is certainly welcomed and accepted. This includes crop tops, booty shorts, leather, harnesses, jockstraps, thongs, lingerie, etc. Pride is about being who you are, whether that means wearing what you’re comfortable in or experimenting with a new look. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen if you’re going to be in the sun!

It is important to remember that consent is always necessary, whether it’s taking photos with someone, giving someone a hug or getting a little frisky on the dance floor. Just because someone is showing lots of skin doesn’t mean they are “asking for it” or consenting to sexual acts or groping.

A more “adult” aspect of Pride that you might want to attend are the various circuit parties. Circuit parties are typically all-night parties that play dance music (disco, house, tribal, techno, pop remixes, etc.) catering to the LGBTQ+ community.

While anyone is welcome at these parties, the crowd tends to be younger to middle-aged cisgender men. They are typically expensive to attend, with individual parties costing around $75-100 and weekend-long festivals, such as Miami’s Winter Party, costing around $300-400.

Venues range from smaller clubs to large convention centers and sections of a beach depending on the party and the events are usually decorated according to a certain theme or aesthetic with colorful lighting. There will be lots of shirtless men and dancing — and things can get pretty hot on the dance floor.

If you go to one of these, it is important to know that you will most likely see sex in the crowd or in the corners.

Alcohol and other party drugs are common and it is important to be aware that a lot of drug use can take place. You don’t want to be blindsided by this when you show up at the event.

If by any means you or anyone you know does choose to take part in recreational drug activity, do so safely and make sure you hydrate. However, there are loads of sober people that attend and have lots of fun. Only do whatever you are comfortable with!

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At Pride, all body types are welcomed and accepted. These parties are about dancing, sexual liberation and celebrating the shared love for the LGBTQ+ community.

There truly is a spot for everyone to celebrate their identity within Pride and the community as a whole. Don’t let nerves hold you back from embracing such a fantastic festival — be present for an event meant to uplift you.

Featured image: “File:Dancers during Miami Beach Pride 2012.jpg” by Phillip Pessaris licensed under CC BY 2.0

Miami volleyball sweeps fourth match of season, improves to 5-0 with win over USF

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Angela Grieve and junior middle blocker Janice Leao prepare for a serve during Miami's match against USF at the Knight Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2021. Photo credit: Katrina Nguyen
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Angela Grieve and junior middle blocker Janice Leao prepare for a serve during Miami's match against USF at the Knight Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2021.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Angela Grieve and junior middle blocker Janice Leao prepare for a serve during Miami's match against USF at the Knight Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2021. Photo credit: Katrina Nguyen

The undefeated Miami volleyball team prevailed against the University of South Florida Sunday afternoon (1-4) in three sets at the Knight Sports Complex to put the finishing touches on Miami’s second series of the season.

After winning 3-1 on Friday, the Hurricanes won a competitive, back-and-forth match versus the USF Bulls, winning all three sets 25-15, 25-23 and 25-23. With the win, Miami improved to a 5-0 record to start the season, the program’s best start since the Hurricanes went 6-0 in 2017.

“There’s a sense of resiliency to this group,” head coach Jose ‘Keno’ Gandara said. “This group is not a fragile group. We can coach them hard, and they can be in tough spots, but they solve problems and make good stuff happen.”

Miami won the first set comfortably, 25-15. The Hurricanes had 16 kills and five attack errors in 35 total attempts for a hitting percentage of .314 in the first set, while USF had seven kills and five attack errors in 28 total attempts for a hitting percentage of .071. Redshirt sophomore Angela Grieve continued to impress in this series and registered the set-winning kill, one of her team-high 16 match kills.

Juniors Janice Leao and Savannah Vach block the ball during Miami’s game against USF in the Knight Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2021.
Juniors Janice Leao and Savannah Vach block the ball during Miami’s game against USF in the Knight Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2021. Photo credit: Katrina Nguyen

The final two sets, however, proved to be a lot more competitive than the first.

Despite Miami escaping with a win, the second set began with a 7-0 run for the Bulls, but Miami found itself back in the game after a 15-8 run. From that point on, the two teams were nearly evenly-matched until Miami broke through with a game-winning kill from freshman Peyman Yardimci.

While USF posted a greater number of kills and higher attack percentage than Miami in the second set, the Bulls’ eight attack errors proved to be the difference as Miami only registered six.

Following the trend of the second set, the match finale was also fought till the end.

USF went on a torrid 11-5 run to start the third set, but the Bulls could not hold Miami from coming back. Late in the set, USF had a comfortable 21-15 lead, but a 6-0 run by the Hurricanes evened the score and Miami proceeded to score the next four out of six points in the game.

“So far, we’ve passed all the tests,” Gandara said. “We lost a set on Friday and hadn’t done that yet, and we responded. [Sunday], we’re down big twice and we made the comebacks. So far, so good.”

The Hurricanes are now set to compete in the Texas State Invitational against Texas State on Friday, Sept. 10 and Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The Hurricanes celebrate after the winning point in their match against USF on Sept. 5, 2021. The Canes swept the Bulls 3-0, maintaining their undefeated record.
The Hurricanes celebrate after the winning point in their match against USF on Sept. 5, 2021. The Canes swept the Bulls 3-0, maintaining their undefeated record. Photo credit: Katrina Nguyen

Kanye West’s ‘Donda’: a mix of celebrity features and controversy

Photo credit: "Kanye West - Øyafestivalen 2011" by NRK P3 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Any musician as celebrated as Kanye West is bound to go through phases, both artistically and stylistically. After leaving the “Yeezus” era, West faced personal and artistic struggles in determining what sound works for his current self.

West’s latest album, “Donda,” seems more interested in trying to find clarity through his past than looking outwards. The project, released Aug. 29 through Def Jam Records, infuses West’s knack for both gospel and trap music, alongside various high-profile featured musicians.

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While West has never been a stranger to controversy, he seems to be driven more by his need for attention.

Starting out with his usual phony album release dates, as well as appearances from rapper DaBaby and controversial stage persona Marilyn Manson at his live concert event in Chicago, West seemed to embrace the controversy.

DaBaby — under fire for homophobic rants made at Rolling Loud music festival in Miami — references the public’s reaction to his homophobia on Donda, without taking any accountability. Fellow “Jail Pt. 2” feature Manson has racked up numerous sexual and physical assault charges, damaging his public image.

Musically, any recent issues listeners have had with West will make itself known repeatedly throughout the album.

Do you dislike how sloppy West’s mixing and decision making can be? Kanye’s final verse on the track “Keep My Spirit Alive” features a verse where Detroit rapper Royce da 5”9’s vocals are as distorted as a glitching Zoom call. The Pop Smoke track is a nice tribute in theory, but West seems to have done very little to properly edit the vocals other than to follow the album’s theme of no cursing.

If you’re wary of West’s over-the-top attempts to be religious on his previous LP “Jesus is King,” nothing has changed. He’s still using youth pastor-level cliches and whenever another collaborating artist explains their faith clearly it looks bad for West.

Wish he’d stop stroking his ego? Not gonna happen.

The extended runtime of multiple tracks exists for nothing but letting the beat run and skits like Youtuber “VideoGameDunkey”’s appearance serve little purpose. Plus, the young rappers seem contractually obligated to praise West in their features.

Naming the project after his mother, you would expect her to make more of an appearance in West’s lyrics. Other than on “Jesus Lord,” she’s referenced in the same way that West — and his features — vaguely refer to God.

West’s mother, Donda West passed away in 2007 and West has publicly mourned her death using music and fame. It emerges as a missed opportunity to tribute and reflect more on her passing as it nears 15 years since her death.

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One territory where West’s emotions shine through involves his marriage with Kim Kardashian.

“Lord I Need You” and “Come To Life” both use extravagant instrumentation that only West can create, explaining the final days of the relationship. West expands his lyrical ability to try and tie these songs together using his braggadocious selfishness.

“How you gon’ try to say sometimes it’s not about me? Man, I don’t know what I would do without me,” West said in “Lord I Need You.” He ties it back with a nice story about his daughter: “Brought a gift to Northie, all she want was Nikes. This is not about me, God is still alive, so I’m free.”

Had West put effort into shortening some tracks, there could have been a beautiful, incredibly crafted album in “Donda.” Part of what made Ye and other albums from that era strong was how the short runtimes drove his focus and ability to stay on topic. This can be seen in the second half of “Donda;” no longer overpowered by guests, the latter part is much more organized.

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Instrumentally, this album is fantastic. The beats are some of his most creative and well designed to fit both Kanye as well as his guests in years, songs like “Moon” and “Junya” show what a Kanye album can do at it’s best, blending completely different styles in one huge delicious stew. Personally I believe it’s his best since Yeezus and the quality holds up against the quantity.

With over 30 features, you get as close as possible to hit or miss. There are some great ones, including Playboi Carti, Fivio Foreign, Thugger, Travis Scott and The Weeknd. Lil Yachty had one of his best verses in a while.

If Kanye had been more willing to only keep guests that enhance “Donda” and focus on the concepts, he could have had his best album since “Yeezus.” “Donda” is proof that his best habits and instincts are starting to lose the war against his worst.

Don’t just take our word for it, check out “Donda” here.

Featured image: “Kanye West – Øyafestivalen 2011” by NRK P3 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Column: Although losing to Alabama was demoralizing, Miami must move on

D'Eriq King throws a pass during Miami's game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 4. Photo credit: Josh Halper
D'Eriq King throws a pass during Miami's game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 4.
D'Eriq King throws a pass during Miami's game against Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sept. 4. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Aside from expectations, Saturday afternoon felt demoralizing for plenty of the Hurricane faithful.

Miami entered the first week of a new season with a fresh but tall task of upsetting reigning national champion Alabama.

As they marched into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, the No. 14 Hurricanes appeared determined, though their expected results didn’t follow and instead proved to be anything but fruitful.

“College football is famous for overreactions after Week 1,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “That’s not what this team is all about. You don’t just get your story written one game into the season. We’re just not there yet. The guys in the locker room, if anything, what happened to them today will bring them even closer together.”

While 10 has become a magic number in regards to wins, Saturday’s outcome served as a gentle reminder for this team. Defeating Nick Saban’s top-ranked team, winners of three of the last six College Football Playoff trophies, didn’t have to serve as a starting point on a journey to Miami’s long-term goal.

Yes, Diaz and the Hurricanes’ new coaching staff additions could have mightily used a win over an SEC powerhouse to prove they could hang with the best talent. Such a victory would have proved to be more than momentous after falling to a pair of top 25-ranked SEC teams in back-to-back season openers.

And just two days later, Miami has been forced to adopt a shared mentality: move on.

Saturday’s commonly expected calamity sure stung a team with hopes of snapping a two-game skid which began with a defensive meltdown against ACC-foe North Carolina in mid-December.

This also is certainly not the time in recent history Miami wanted to relive. If Hurricanes fans backtrack to the Week 0 loss to then-ranked No. 8 Florida in 2019, not much was lost, other than a potential top 25 ranking and a thrilling victory over Sunshine State rival Florida.

And two years later, the Hurricanes have far greater expectations to fulfill. Gone are the games where third year head coach Manny Diaz can offer a reverberated case for new growth and experimentation. Either the team fires on all cylinders out of the gate or raises immediate questions on the congruency of each side of the game.

Third-year head coach Manny Diaz has worked tirelessly to produce an ACC Coastal Division winner for the first time since 2017. Following the at-times tiresome months leading up to the rocky start witnessed on Saturday, one would fail argue that nobody in or around the team would not lack a sense of frustration and overall impatience without a home-opening win this Saturday. While Miami has hoped to use a more efficient rushing attack as well as rely more heavily on the defensive backfield, a slow start simply cannot happen in any of 10 wins moving ahead.

“I mean, we just started slow trying to get going,” quarterback D’Eriq King said. “The first quarter was three and out, three and out, three and out. We’ve got to find a way to start faster.”

Conference play still stands three weeks away. Two additional non-conference opponents, Appalachian State and Michigan State, begin the genuine path towards a renewed ACC Championship appearance and a long-awaited appearance in a New Year’s Six Bowl. Many doubted the actuality of Miami slipping into the conversation for the oft-questioned College Football Playoff royalty, and now the opportunity to become more focused on fine-tuning the offense and new faces on the defensive line becoming more honed in on preventing another runaway train at Hard Rock Stadium.

“We weren’t in the locker room talking about losing, but any team has to face adversity, whether it be a situation or a whole game,” defensive end Zach McCloud said. “We were making sure everybody, the young guys included, were able to handle any adversity that came our way.”

Facing some of the most scrutinizing pressure to win across the college football landscape is never easy at Miami. No team wants to leave everything on the turf and still lose control over the season-opening outcome, especially against a team that Miami hasn’t defeated since the 1990 Sugar Bowl.

But if there’s one moment in any recent Hurricanes season to forget about the past, that could not be more evident now.

Pandemic perspectives: Back to the stadium

The Frost Band of the Hour performs before the Canes' game versus the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

As year three of the pandemic approaches, despite widespread vaccination efforts and falling infection rates in many regions of the country, the effects of COVID-19 on daily life continue to evolve, impacting different people in different ways.

But the biggest difference from a year ago to today is the lack of hope for a return to pre-pandemic normality. Like the stages of grief, people across the world have raged against COVID-19 protocols, felt the pain of lost loved ones and the anger of lost freedoms and watched as each silver lining fell to news of disaster. In order to provide a picture of the pandemic today, The Miami Hurricane interviewed nearly 100 students, faculty and staff at the University of Miami about their life as it stands living in a world turned upside down.

Pandemic perspectives: Back to the stadium

Members from the Frost Band of the Hour preparing for the trip to Atlanta for UM football’s season opener against Alabama said they were forced to adapt to constantly-changing plans for a game that brought in over 70,000 largely-maskless attendees.

“COVID-19 has forced us to be flexible,” said professor Douglas McCullough, assistant director of athletic bands for the Frost School of Music.

“Our plans are changing every day because of protocols from the university and from the organizers in Atlanta.”

The Frost Band of the Hour performs before the Canes' game versus the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019.
The Frost Band of the Hour performs before the Canes' game versus the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Recently, the band returned to wearing masks during practice due to a new policy from the university that masks must be worn outdoors while in groups of four or more people. McCullough said he worries that the change could be a sign of things to come.

“With COVID it always feels like there’s something in the shadows,” McCullough said. “I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, where we all get sick and sent home.”

While COVID-19 has been challenging, McCullough said he has seen some positive changes brought on by the pandemic and how it has changed some students’ perspectives.

“This group in particular seems to enjoy working hard,” McCullough said. “That makes it more fun for me, and I know it makes it more fun for the students too.”

While the Frost Band of the Hour gets back into their routine in advance of the long fall football season, the Canes football players they support struggle with the constantly-evolving COVID-19 protocols on campus and the field.

“It was exciting to kind of get back to normal; the campus was more lively; but rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent,” said UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.

UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard: “Rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent.’
UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard: “Rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent.’ Photo credit: University of Miami Athletics

Until the virus is better controlled, Howard said he would not mind seeing the symptom checkers return to campus but is comfortable with the COVID-19 policies enacted by the university athletic department.

“The athletic department has been taking precaution by requiring masks in meetings and closed areas,” he said.

Other athletes said they are hoping for a quicker return to normality. Xavier Restrepo, a UM football wide receiver studying sports administration, said practice this year is the same as always, although maybe a little more intense.

Freshman wide receiver Xavier Restrepo walks to the sideline during practice at the Greentree Practice Fields on Aug. 31, 2021.
Freshman wide receiver Xavier Restrepo walks to the sideline during fall practice at the Greentree Practice Fields on Aug. 31, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Restrepo, who led the Hurricanes with 55 receiving yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 44-13 loss to Alabama, said he has had a great first week back on campus. Despite a good start to the year, however, Restrepo said the pandemic has changed him and his teammates, who are constantly in close proximity to each other.

“It has affected a lot of us tremendously especially with all the contact tracing protocols and having to sit out of games and practice at times,” Restrepo said. “I am hoping that we have a healthy COVID-free year and that everything will be smooth.”

Rebeccah Blau, Anna Coon, Amanda Crane, Jessica Costantino, Harrison Hayes, Molly MacKenzie, Maria Toledo, Anna Steingruber, Gabriella Torna, Mykel Tubbs, Juliette Valle, Kelsey Walker, Sedona Rose Webb, Ines Mendez, Tatiana Robinson, Alex Terr and Daniel Toll contributed to the reporting in this series.

What to expect at this year’s Met Gala

Photo credit: "Met Gala 2015" by eventphotosnyc is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After last year’s cancellation and postponement in May, fashion’s “biggest night out” is back. Marking the end of New York Fashion Week, this year’s Met Gala will take place on Sept. 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, albeit in a smaller setting than usual.

In adherence with safety protocols, the Met Gala will require all attendees to wear face masks and provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

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Typically held on the first Monday in May, the Met Gala is an annual fundraising benefit for the Costume Institute at the Met. However, it is more commonly known as the night where attendees — ranging from superstars to public figures and more — show off their best red-carpet looks.

The theme for 2021, titled “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” will explore the history and evolution of American fashion. An exhibition of the same name will open at the Anna Wintour Costume Center on Sept. 18, a day that also marks the Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary.

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Andrew Bolton, the Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Costume Institute, landed on the theme after examining the effects of the pandemic and social justice movements on American fashion.

“I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a Renaissance,” Bolton said.

Met Director Max Hollein added that the exhibit will feature both pioneers and diverse contemporary designers, a way “to illustrate the shifting tides of American fashion.”

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While American fashion is characterized as practical and functional, Bolton explained that American fashion has shifted more towards sentiment in the last year.

“Because of the pandemic, the connections to our homes have become more emotional, as have those to our clothes,” Hollein said.

Embodying this idea, the Anna Wintour Costume Center will be transformed into a house, where each room will embody a certain emotional quality (joy, nostalgia, etc.) and be occupied by an ancestor and related family.

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This first exhibit will be followed by a second in May 2022 titled “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.” According to event organizers, this second part “will explore the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces.”

Capturing the full scope of American achievement, the Met Gala will be co-hosted by pop star Billie Eilish, actor Timothée Chalamet, inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and award-winning athlete Naomi Osaka. According to Vogue, the four were selected because they have “developed a distinct visual language for their public personae, one that is informed by the legacy of iconic fashion made in the USA.”

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Aside from the celebrity co-hosts, the full list of attendees has not been confirmed despite much speculation on social media. A viral seating chart for the event, now proven to be fake, featured social media personalities like Addison Rae and Emma Chamberlain seated at the same table as Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, sparking online criticism about influencers being invited to the high-profile event.

Whether or not internet stars will be among those walking the red carpet remains to be seen.

Featured image: “Met Gala 2015” by eventphotosnyc is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hurricane Productions and Category 5 team up to host Miami vs. Alabama watch party

Students gather in the Shalala Student Center Ballrooms to watch the UM Alabama game sponsored by Hurricane Productions and Category 5 on Sept. 4. Unexpected rain forced a last-minute change of venue from the Lakeside Village volleyball courts. Photo credit: Emma Dominguez
Students gather in the Shalala Student Center Ballrooms to watch the UM Alabama game sponsored by Hurricane Productions and Category 5 on Sept. 4. Unexpected rain forced a last-minute change of venue from the Lakeside Village volleyball courts.
Students gather in the Shalala Student Center Ballrooms to watch the UM Alabama game sponsored by Hurricane Productions and Category 5 on Sept. 4. Unexpected rain forced a last-minute change of venue from the Lakeside Village volleyball courts. Photo credit: Emma Dominguez

Hurricane Productions and Category 5 hosted a watch party for students to celebrate the Canes football season opener against the University of Alabama on Saturday, Sept. 4, and despite shifting plans due to inclement weather and a blowout at the hands of the best college football team in the country, attendees and organizers consider the event a success.

The watch party was a collaboration between Hurricane Productions and Category 5, two of the University of Miami’s largest on-campus spirit organizations. Sophomore Lindsey Faucher, a member of Hurricane Productions, says she enjoys partnering with Category 5 to host student events.

“I like working with them because they’re a very spirited org and so it’s nice to have the energy of HP and Cat 5 together,” Faucher said.

With forecasts correctly calling for heavy rain, the watch party, which was supposed to be held on the Lakeside Volleyball courts, was moved to the Shalala Student Center ballrooms the morning of the event.

Senior Camille Awono, who is a member of the Olympics committee for Category 5, says that the organization always prepares for Miami’s unpredictable weather.

After opening to students at 3 p.m., attendees were greeted by volunteers from both organizations and given free pins, stickers and stick-on phone wallets. Additionally, Whip ‘n Dip provided special, UM-themed ice cream to attendees.

Awono says that while it feels great to see people enjoy the event in the moment, she is usually most happy to see satisfied attendees after its conclusion.

“It’s after the fact. Seeing people wearing the t-shirts, seeing people with the fanny packs we give out, it means a lot,” Awono said. “We put a lot of effort into it so seeing people appreciating that is nice.”

Sophomore Lindsey Faucher, a member of Hurricane Productions, agreed with Awono, saying she gets joy from seeing students enjoy the events they put on.

“I feel like we spend a lot of time putting in the effort to create these events and brainstorming ideas of what the students want and thinking about what food we have and what activities to have, and so going from getting all the quotes and vendors and seeing it in action and seeing people enjoy the event is always really cool to see,” Faucher said.

Anna Ceccarelli, a freshman attendee, says she felt comfortable attending despite fears of COVID-19 due to the safety precautions taken by both the event organizers and the university.

“I definitely wanted to watch the game in a safe environment that wasn’t crazy, so I thought that a school event was a decent place to do that,” said Ceccarelli. During the game, masks were required at all times, and students could only eat and drink on the outdoor balcony of the Shalala center.

For her first event as a freshman, Ceccarelli says the watch party was a great way to destress over the long weekend.

“It’s nice to have a place on campus to go that we don’t have to pay for and worry about anything,” Ceccarelli said.

Ryan Koskeinen, a junior, says he was drawn to the watch party by both the opportunity to hang out with other students in person, and the opportunity to go home with some free merchandise.

“I like getting the free stuff they give out, some of it is cool, and obviously, being able to watch the game as well, hanging out with all the people, especially since the pandemic,” Koskeinen said.

Both Category 5 and Hurricane Productions have many events planned as the football season gets underway. Category 5 will be hosting FanZones at several home games at Hard Rock Stadium, including next week’s game against Appalachian State, along with events for other sports throughout the semester.

Pandemic perspectives: Employed by the U

The Donna E. Shalala Student Center at the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, where student employees and staff are navigating a return to in-person work on a campus with over 5,000 residents. Photo credit: Jared Lennon
The Donna E. Shalala Student Center at the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, where student employees and staff are navigating a return to in-person work on a campus with over 5,000 residents.
The Donna E. Shalala Student Center at the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, where student employees and staff are navigating a return to in-person work on a campus with over 5,000 residents. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

As year three of the coronavirus pandemic approaches, despite widespread vaccination efforts and falling infection rates in many regions of the country, the effects of COVID-19 on daily life continue to evolve, impacting different people in different ways.

The biggest difference from a year ago to today, however, is the lack of hope for a return to pre-pandemic normality. Similar to the stages of grief, people across the world have raged against COVID-19 protocols, felt the pain of lost loved ones and the anger of lost freedoms and watched as each silver lining fell to news of disaster. In order to provide a picture of the pandemic today, The Miami Hurricane interviewed nearly 100 students, faculty and staff at the University of Miami about their lives in a world turned upside down.

For the first issue of pandemic perspectives, university staff gave a glimpse what it is like for members of the workforce on campus and the difficulties brought on by pandemic protocol.

Mask up or get out

For students and staff employed by the University of Miami, getting others to mask up can be a challenge. As of Sept. 6, the university requires masking indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students, including in the school gym. Megan Shoffner, a sophomore communications major and an assistant manager at the Herbert Wellness Center, said that not all students abide by university policy.

“The gym is very chaotic,” Shoffner said. “We ask people to wear masks and they don’t, so that makes my job a lot harder. I have to scream at them, but they don’t listen.”

Wellness center student manager Megan Shoffner: ‘We ask people to wear masks and they don’t, so that makes my job a lot harder.’
Wellness center student manager Megan Shoffner: ‘We ask people to wear masks and they don’t, so that makes my job a lot harder.’ Photo credit: Megan Shoffner

Despite the difficulty of enforcing gym safety protocol, senior architecture major and spin instructor Andrey Nash said he is excited to teach his class inside the Herbert Wellness Center again.

“I am so happy that I don’t have to teach outside anymore,” Nash said of his Monday and Wednesday morning spin classes. “AC is everything to me.”

Sandra Perez-Alvarez, a secretary for UM’s theatre arts department, said that the opening weeks of classes left her concerned about the number of students not wearing masks as required.

“The students are still not respecting the mask mandates, which is overall disappointing,” Perez-Alvarez said.

Despite her concerns, Perez-Alvarez said she feels the student body has made progress from past semesters, including a spring semester that saw an outbreak of 381 student cases in the first week of February. The case count among students from Aug. 30 to Sept. 5 was 50, still fairly high for a school with a combined undergraduate and graduate student body of nearly 18,000 but far from the university’s previous high watermark.

Theatre arts department secretary Sandra Perez-Alvarez: ‘We all need to come together and work to make each other safe.’
Theatre arts department secretary Sandra Perez-Alvarez: ‘We all need to come together and work to make each other safe.’ Photo credit: Sandra Perez-Alvarez

“The [COVID-19] situation is definitely better, at least with how we are congregating and how the students are getting back together,” Perez-Alvarez said. “We all need to come together and work to make each other safe.”

UM student organizations and mandatory vaccinations

Employees at UM’s Jewish student organization, Hillel, said they are excited to be back in person, but nervous that in-person events may lead to infections. Rachel Sasiene, director of Israel Programs at Hillel, said that despite her concerns, community is a vital component of the Jewish faith and she is happy to be able to see members in person.

“It is very important for us to sit around a table and eat and enjoy each other’s company,” Sasiene said. “It’s hard to build a community when people cannot gather.”

Hillel administrator Rachel Sasiene: ‘It’s hard to build a community when people cannot gather.’
Hillel administrator Rachel Sasiene: ‘It’s hard to build a community when people cannot gather.’ Photo credit: Rachel Sasiene

Sasiene, a Houston native who has been working at Hillel for the past three years, is cautiously excited about the return of in-person programs. The first program held by Hillel was FreshFest, which featured activities for first-year students on Aug. 17.

“FreshFest made me the most nervous, as it was our first and largest program this semester,” Sasiene said. “Also, it was mostly indoors, so it was very worrisome about the spread of [COVID-19].”

Fear of an outbreak at in-person events led to Hillel enacting a vaccine mandate for all members. Unvaccinated students who still want to participate must provide a letter from a doctor saying they cannot get vaccinated due to medical concerns.

“As a semi-independent organization, we felt it was really important for the safety of our community and the personal safety to know who we are around,” Sasiene said, adding that her goal is “to build a community, safely.”

With the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur starting on Sept. 6, Hillel plans to have in-person services.

“We still plan to hold our holiday programming as is unless the university tells us otherwise,” Sasiene said.

While Hillel has instituted a vaccine mandate for its members, UM has relied on incentives and giveaways to promote student inoculation. On Aug. 25, the UM Faculty Senate passed a resolution calling for vaccination requirements on campus for all UM constituencies, including students.

UM President Julio Frenk said in an email on Aug. 27 that the reported student vaccination rate is over 75%, but allowed that to prevent outbreaks of the more contagious delta variant, the university would require masks outdoors when in groups of four people or more until at least Sept. 17.

As per Frenk’s email, the university has also begun testing students who have not submitted proof of vaccination bi-weekly. The percentage of vaccinated students at UM has remained largely stagnant in the nearly two weeks since Frenk’s announcement.

Essential workers: cautiously optimistic

While some members of the campus community returned to classes and jobs last week for the first time since the pandemic, some employees never left their posts.

“We were always here. We never went home,” Josefa Morales, a member of the cleaning staff who has worked at the university for 17 years, said.

After two semesters of seeing a more subdued campus with fewer students, Morales said she is glad students are back on campus.

“I missed seeing them here,” Morales said. “It’s not like before [COVID-19], when one couldn’t walk through because of the number of students hugging and greeting each other in the hallways, but we’re getting there.”

Sergio Madrigal, operations manager of the campus store, said he and his staff are happy to welcome students back to campus, especially incoming freshmen.

“We are meeting so many kids that are just happy to be like, ‘Hey, I’m here [in] Miami,’” Madrigal said.

Madrigal said most students who have visited the bookstore have been good about following protocol. The book store has also provided any shoppers without masks with disposable face coverings free of charge.

Like Morales and Madrigal, Earika Cenord, an office manager for the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science who has worked at UM since 2012, said seeing students again was the highlight of her first weeks back on campus. Despite her excitement, however, Cenord said the experience has still been “a bit scary.”

RSMAS office manager Earika Cenord: ‘Being on campus you want to believe that things are kind of back to normal, but they’re not back to normal.’
RSMAS office manager Earika Cenord: ‘Being on campus you want to believe that things are kind of back to normal, but they’re not back to normal.’ Photo credit: Earika Cenord

“Being on campus, you want to believe that things are kind of back to normal, but they’re not back to normal,” Cenord said.

Rebeccah Blau, Anna Coon, Amanda Crane, Jessica Costantino, Harrison Hayes, Molly MacKenzie, Maria Toledo, Anna Steingruber, Gabriella Torna, Mykel Tubbs, Juliette Valle, Kelsey Walker, Sedona Rose Webb, Ines Mendez, Tatiana Robinson, Alex Terr and Daniel Toll contributed to the reporting in this series.

Volleyball remains undefeated with win over USF

Freshman setter Alanys Viera signals to a teammate during the Canes’ game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon
Freshman setter Alanys Viera signals to a teammate during the Canes’ game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021.
Freshman setter Alanys Viera signals to a teammate during the Canes’ game versus UMBC in the Knight Sports Complex on Aug. 29, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Canes Volleyball (4-0) continued its winning streak Friday evening after defeating the University of South Florida Bulls in Tampa (1-3) by a match score of 3-1.

Although the Bulls put an end to Miami’s 11-set win streak, the Canes worked together and played an extremely strong game.

“It may seem a little odd but I really like tonight’s win. We were so far from perfect, but we weren’t fragile,” head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. This is a grownup group, in spite of nine newcomers. They make it fun to compete and I’m really honored I get to do this with them.”

The Hurricanes prevailed in the first two sets, winning by scores of 25-19 and 25-18.

With a tied score of 16-16 in the opening set, Miami dominated the court by scoring five consecutive points before closing out the set 25-19.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Angela Grieve stood out in the first set as she registered an impressive six kills to push Miami towards an early set win.

The score remained much closer in the second set. However, Miami quickly became dominant and pulled away with a 19-14 lead.

Late in the set, graduate student and outside hitter Janet Kalaniuvalu registered a couple of kills to pad Miami’s lead and junior outside hitter Kennedy Prince got the final kill, ending the set 25-18.

As the Hurricanes looked to earn their fourth straight sweep to open the 2021 season, the Bulls had other plans in mind. While the Canes kept the match close throughout, the Bulls ultimately came out on top, winning by a score of 25-23.

After losing their first set of the season, the Hurricanes came back with a vengeance in the fourth and final set of the match.

Miami rose to the occasion in the fourth set and hit the ground running with an early 7-2 lead.

Freshman outside hitter Nylah Anderson was on fire throughout the set, registering six kills in her debut game for the Hurricanes.

Reverting back to their dominant selves, Miami pulled away with a 25-15 victory to earn their fourth straight win of the season.

In the match, junior middle blocker Janice Leao matched her career-high in blocks with eight, while senior libero Priscilla Hernandez’s match-high 17 digs were critical in Miami claiming and holding leads throughout the evening.

Junior setter Savannah Vach had her first double-double of the season, scoring a season-high 38 assists to go along with 12 digs.

Despite only hitting .149 as a team, Miami’s defense was able to hold USF’s offense to a .044 hitting percentage and keep them off the scoreboard early and often.

As a result, for the first time since 2017, the Canes have opened their season on a four-match victory streak.

The Hurricanes hope to keep that stretch alive as they face USF in the final game of the USF/UM tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Knight Sports Complex.