The Torch Vol. 101:24 — February 2024 Issue

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torchonline.com VOL. 101:24 The award-winning independent student newspaper of St. John’s University FEBRUARY 2024 INSIDE THE ISSUE Has Instagram Become Obsolete? Small Artist Spotlight: Ruby Leftstep Torch Design / Megan Chapman STORY ON PAGE 3 Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan SJU President Unveils Plans for New Basketball and Campus Rec Facilities STORY ON PAGE 13 STORY ON PAGE 9 A Look Into St. Vincent Health Sciences Center Ahead of Fall 2024 Opening STORY ON PAGE 4 Torch Photo / Dea Hoxha

CCPS’s “The Journalist Series” Gives Students a Look into Catholic Journalism

St. John’s welcomed three journalists to speak about their experience in the field.

St. John’s University’s Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS) welcomed three journalists — Michelle Powers, Christine Persichette and Alicia Venter — at “The Journalist Forum” to speak about their experience in Catholic reporting and religious journalism. The event highlighted America’s religious news media and ran from 1:50 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 25 in St. Augustine Hall.

St. John’s Professor and Director of Journalism Michael Rizzo kicked off the event by introducing the speakers. Persichette was first in line to showcase her presentation, including a rundown of her work and multiple video clips of her on air.

However, due to technical difficulties with presenting the videos on the multiple televisions across the room, the clips were shown to the crowd through a laptop screen.

“And this is what we call a technical difficulty,” Persichette said. “This has happened many times, especially when you start at a smaller news station.”

Persichette spoke about her experience on air, focusing on how Currents News covers different types of stories from a faith-based perspective.

“We cover all the same news if you are watching Channel 5 or Channel 7,” she said.

But she had to cover the war from a Catholic perspective. To do so, Persichette explained how she spoke to a nun who was living in Ukraine during the war.

“She’s living in a warzone and she would tell us how she’s hearing explosions outside of her house,” she said. “That’s a lot of what we do. We want to put people’s faith into action.”

Following Persichette, Powers took the mic and introduced herself, giving the audience an overview of DeSales Media Group. They deliver news through multiple print, television and digital platforms, including The

Tablet, Currents News, Nuestra Voz and CTN.

“When you’re doing Catholic news, you’re putting news and information out to a non-Catholic population,” she said. In her opinion, local media is the most rewarding type of media, and one of her main rules in local media is, “You can’t just talk about people, you need to talk to them.”

“Local news is the nerve center of news in New York City,” Powers said.

Lastly, Venter began her presentation, reintroducing herself to her alma mater after working in the field of journalism for nearly two years, Venter graduated from the University in Spring 2022 and is a former editor-in-chief of The Torch.

She began her job at The Tablet in July 2023. When discussing her passions, Venter shared how she is interested in covering topics regarding accessibility and mobility issues. “My mother has some issues walking so I’ve always wanted to cover that,” she said.

But Venter had to form a faith-based and local pitch when deciding to cover the topic. At her first job, Venter primarily focused on local Queens news. After moving to The Tablet, she transitioned to local Catholic reporting.

“You can take something that is in the news wanting to be discussed and put a Catholic angle on it,” she said. “And it is still important beyond that.”

She covered two stories focusing on accessibility issues while retaining the paper’s Catholic perspective. One story was about ADA-accessible churches in the Brooklyn diocese and the other was about a St. Francis College student with cerebral palsy. The latter is one of Venter’s personal favorites.

“It’s one of my favorite stories I’ve ever written,” she said.

While all three had different journeys that led them to DeSales Media Group, their presentations focused on one common point: a wide range of news people consume daily, regardless of the initial absence of a Catholic angle can be reported from a faith-based perspective.

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DeA hOxhA | JAn. 31, 2024 Torch Photo / Dea Hoxha

St. John’s University President Unveils Plans for New Basketball and Campus Recreation Facilities

The renovations are slated for a Spring 2027 and Fall 2028 completion.

In a March 4 e-mail sent to all St. John’s University students, President Rev. Brian J. Shanley revealed ambitious plans to introduce a state-of-the-art Campus Recreation Center and Basketball Practice Facility for the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams. The communication hinted at the “renovation and conversion” of Taffner Field House, which features basketball practice facilities and intramural sports.

Positioned “adjacent to Gate 4,” the Basketball Facility promises to provide top-tier operational athletic and training facilities to “help attract top talent to St. John’s, develop student-athletes on and off the court, and enhance the student-athlete experience.” The project will be completed in the Spring 2027 semester.

This announcement follows recent criticism from Men’s Basketball head coach Rick Pitino. Criticizing the University’s facilities after a Feb. 18 loss to Seton Hall, he candidly told

Century

press, “Do we have s—y facilities? Yes, we do.”

Shanley emphasized the University’s primary goal of “prioritizing uninterrupted use of the existing recreation space for our students and employees.” The construction of the Basketball Practice Facility will precede Taffner’s renovations, “ensure that students have access to current recreational facilities until the project is complete.”

In a November 2023 sit-down interview with The Torch, Shanley spoke of his goal to get students and athletes “better spaces” to create a “super recreational space.” He told The Torch that the current recreation spaces are “too small and old.”

“We need something bigger, better and nicer,” he continued.

During his tenure as president of Providence College, his last action was building a student center “with all the bells and whistles” to “attract students.” He told The Torch that these facilities not only engage current students but

serve as a prime factor in recruiting prospective students.

As part of Shanley’s Strategic Plan Initiative—a strategy introduced in 2021 aimed at develop[ing] proposed goals and action items based on areas including the student experience and mission, equity and inclusion—the University found students want improved on-campus facilities, recreation spaces and wellness services. The new Campus Recreation Center is slated for a Fall 2028 opening.

The University will continue its partnership with Gensler—the campus planning company behind the D’Angelo Center and the upcoming St. Vincent’s Health Science Center— to “create and implement a shared vision that resonates with the University’s values and longterm aspirations.”

The University will release a more detailed Internal Communication later this week regarding the updates, according to the e-mail— more coverage to follow.

Hall to be Immediately Renamed to Janetscheck Hall

The change marks the first for the building since its opening in 1999.

In a statement emailed to all St. John’s University students on Jan. 17, University President Rev. Brian Shanley announced that Century Hall will be immediately renamed Janetschek Hall. The change was enacted through a gift from Board of Trustees chair William (Bill) J. Janetschek in honor of his brother Robert Janetschek. The residence hall’s exterior has promptly been changed.

According to the statement, Robert Janetschek “earned his master of science degree in 1985 from the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions (now the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences), is a seasoned professional in the clinical laboratory field with more than 40 years of expertise.” He currently serves as the Director of Business Development at Verichem Laboratories Inc. Century Hall was among the Queens cam-

pus’s three inaugural residence halls opened in 1999, along with Millennium Hall (now John Cardinal O’Connor Hall) and Hillcrest Hall (now Helen and Hugh L. Carey Hall). It currently houses sophomores and offers single, double and triple rooms in suite-style housing.

In the statement, Shanley applauds Bill Janetschek’s “unwavering commitment to St. John’s and our students by his work as a trustee and

through his generous philanthropic support for endowed and expendable scholarships and the Men’s Basketball program.”

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Olivia Seaman | Jan. 17, 2024 Olivia Seaman | march 4, 2024 Torch Photo / Olivia Seaman

A Look Into St. Vincent Health Sciences Center Ahead of Fall 2024 Opening

As the building reaches its final months of construction, students and faculty told The Torch how they feel about the new addition to Queens campus.

St. John’s University’s newest building on Queens campus is approaching the opening of a brand new building; The St. Vincent Center for Health Sciences. As construction is wrapping up, The Torch toured the center ahead of its Fall 2024 opening.

The building is replacing St. Vincent’s Hall. The new center is set to cost $78 million, according to a March 2021 press release, with funding from The New York State of Higher Education Capital Matching Grant (HECap). The University was funded $5 million to aid the construction of the building.

Leading the tour was Project Director of Space Management from the Department of Design and Construction Tobias Bisharat. Bisharat highlighted the multiple areas of the building, including classrooms holding up to 150 students, virtual reality rooms, anatomy labs, and chemistry labs.

The center is on schedule to open for operation on its initial opening date in Fall 2024. In a November 2023 sit-down interview with The Torch, University President Rev. Brian Shanley shared that they are aiming to prepare the building in Summer 2024 for it to be ready for operation the following semester.

“We’re hoping to get a certificate of occupancy in June [2024],” Shanley said. “I think it’s going to change people’s experience on campus.”

On the tour, too, were physicians assistant (PA) and nursing students. With the building being tailored to fit their degrees and education, they spoke to The Torch about their thoughts about the upcoming opening of the center.

“There will be a lot more interprofessional communication,” said first-year PA student Alex Sanchez, who emphasized that he was not previously exposed to many other health science students. “We don’t really see them too often. We might be able to interact a lot more.”

When reflecting on the new technology introduced within the center, Sanchez, along with fellow first-year PA students Nia Rivera and Jece Abuan, were most excited for the virtual reality feature.

“I didn’t even know they were going to do that,” Rivera said. “To be immersed fully into the anatomy of the body is really cool.” Abuan touched on the importance the building will serve to commuter students. “It’s really nice to have a lot more space. We drive 30 minutes to an hour to campus,” he said. “The student places, I trust, are going to be really productive for us.”

Emma DerGarabedian, sophomore nursing student, has only one concern regarding the building, being “if it is going to be done on time.” Along with sophomore nursing students Katelyn Valco, Niki Karavangelas and Carolyn Moglia, DeGarabedian is part of the first cohort of nursing students at St. John’s University. Being the first cohort, however, does not worry them.

“We have a big say on a lot of things,” Moglia said. “We get to go first in everything. Because there’s so few of us, [professors] ask us a lot and we have a hand in stuff.”

“As scary as it was in the beginning before we started, it was so comforting knowing they want us to succeed so bad, so we’re getting a lot of special attention that I think in other schools we probably wouldn’t get,” DeGarabedian said. “It’s just nice having someone checking up on you and having the staff push you to stay in the program no matter how hard it gets.”

Chair of the Department of Nursing Francine Laterza, PA Program Director Danielle Kruger and Chair of the Department of Health Sandra Beysolow were also on the tour accompanying their students.

“Like anything else, there will be challenges because it’s brand new. Our students look at it as an opportunity to work together, and to not work in silence,” Kruger said. “To socialize with each other, to learn with each other and to be exposed to each other’s profession.”

Nursing being a new major at St. John’s, with the first cohort beginning their studies in Fall 2022, Laterza told The Torch how small the class was. “It began with a very, very small group and has grown so quickly,” she said. “I think that the opportunity [the center] presents to the students is overwhelming to them and to us.”

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Torch Photo / Dea Hoxha Torch Photo / Dea Hoxha

Understanding and Prioritizing the Art of Doing Nothing

Embracing the importance of relaxation and downtime.

In the hustle and bustle of college life, where deadlines are always looming and schedules are packed to the brim, the concept of doing nothing often feels like a luxury many students cannot afford. As the semester’s pressure mounts and stress levels increase, it is time for students to reconsider the value of being idle. Contrary to popular belief, doing nothing can be a much more difficult task than people realize.

Embracing idleness is surprisingly challenging. Ranging from cell phones to social media, technology makes doing nothing a hard task to complete, as many people reach for something mindless to focus on.

And while some individuals may consider scrolling through media platforms to be doing nothing, it is the opposite; in fact, while shifting back and forth from one app to another, the brain is still focusing on fast-paced, constant stimulation. Unplugging is not easy because there are sources of unlimited stimuli, entertainment and distraction within arm’s reach at all times of the day.

Complementary to wanting to be distracted is the fear of missing out (FOMO), which drives many individuals to remain engaged with digital devices, hindering the ability to truly give the mind and body needed and deserved rest.

Societal norms often equate busyness with productivity and worth while doing nothing is commonly looked down upon as a sign of laziness or irresponsibility. As a result, there is a pressure to constantly be active and achieve more. This glorification of being constantly busy leads individuals to feel guilty or inadequate when taking time for leisure. The Torch asked students at St. John’s about their experience with idleness, focusing on if they are even able to enjoy their down time.

“Taking a break makes the gap and pressure between myself and those around me grow much larger,” Russo shared. “It feels like a break will make it harder to catch up to those who seem to be miles in front of me.”

“You’re always constantly bombarded with the accomplishments of others online, and comparing yourself to them makes you feel as if you’re not doing enough,” McAulay said. “I constantly feel pressure that I have to be better and that means being more productive throughout the day.”

“I almost always feel guilty for taking a break from my schoolwork,” junior Danielle Russo said. “I always feel like there is something to be done, whether it be an assignment or even applying to internships.” In a world where the cost of living has skyrocketed and professional fields have increased in competitiveness, Russo said that “slowing down at this point in my life feels like it’s not an option.”

Senior Shalisa McAulay expressed similar sentiments to Russo. “I feel guilty when having downtime, even though I know it’s necessary,” McAulay said. “As a college student, I never fully rest without having the anxiety of an assignment that I didn’t complete or an upcoming quiz that I should be studying for.”

Both Russo and McAulay expressed that with various social media platforms, there is a constant feeling of being left behind when seeing those around them seemingly flourish.

Cheap

Convenient

One of the trickiest adjustments of college for many students is learning how to keep a clean and organized room. Many students are experiencing living on their own for the first time—and cleaning on their own can be a scary task. Here are some simple hacks to make the most of your space and, most importantly, how to keep it clean.

Under Bed Storage

One of the most underutilized spaces in a dorm is underneath the bed. Although many dorms tend to put dresser drawers under the bed, they can be stacked instead to leave room for other organizational needs.

Amazon has numerous options ranging from foldable bins to drawers with dividers. A great place to store sheets, towels and shoes under the bed storage is the perfect way to organize and hide away your extra toiletries.

So, how can college students embrace the art of doing nothing in a world that prioritizes chaos and never seems to stop moving?

It starts with giving ourselves permission to slow down and prioritize rest. Instead of filling every free moment scrolling through social media or cramming for exams, try to carve out time in the day for activities that allow your mind to rest and recharge.

Research has shown that allowing our minds to wander and engage in activities that require little to no cognitive effort can have profound benefits.

“While most of us find it hard to tolerate, in many instances, boredom can be a prelude to something. It can trigger our imagination and creativity. In a sense, boredom can be seen as a liminal space, a critical resource that pushes us to seek the unfamiliar,” according to Professor Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development & Organizational Change.

Taking breaks from hectic schedules can improve focus and concentration, boost creativity and reduce feelings of stress and burnout.

“I workout to replenish my energy and to do little thinking,” Russo said. “Even though it’s an hour of my day, I’m almost forced to stop thinking about all of my tasks.”

In addition to being a dancer for the last decade and partaking in stretching, yoga and pilates, which “helps release energy and are activities that calm [her] down,” McAulay emphasized the importance of taking a mental health break. “It’s so important to realize that things take time, and there’s not any rush for anything,” McAulay said. “Pick up a new hobby or craft that you enjoy and take time to hone those skills.”

By valuing rest and leisure as much as work and achievement are valued by society, students can create a healthier and more balanced approach to life. Of course, embracing idleness does not mean abandoning responsibilities or neglecting goals. It is about recognizing that rest is not a luxury but a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being. By giving yourself permission and allotted time to slow down, students can ultimately become more productive and creative individuals.

Bathroom White Board

The most important conversation to have with your roommates upon moving in is figuring out a cleaning schedule—specifically for the bathroom. To alleviate any stress and conflict, a white board hung on the bathroom door with individual cleaning times is an easy reminder every time you go in the bathroom.

Calendar dry erase boards are useful to divy up the month so each roommate can put their name down for the week that works best for them.

Clear Organizing Containers

Versatile and clean cut, clear organizers are an efficient way to store anything from desk supplies to makeup. Instead of simply tossing all of your supplies into a bottomless drawer pit, organize them by their function and use for ease.

Amazon has a multitude of options with varying sizes and depths for school supplies, utensils or jewelry. For makeup, get an organizer with

drawers to help stow away your products on top of dressers or desks.

Cheap & Effective Cleaners

By utilizing multi-purpose cleaners and homemade solutions, cleaning supplies don’t have to break the bank. Clorox Clean-Up, with or without bleach, can be used in bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. For under five dollars you can get a spray that serves as a shower, toilet and sink cleaner.

A more natural and simple solution is creating your own cleaner with two ingredients: vinegar and water. In this recipe, you can add essential oils, lemon zest or rosemary sprigs to create a more pleasant scent. Perfect in a spray bottle, a vinegar solution can clean stains, stovetops, windows, trash cans and more.

With these hacks, cleaning and organizing your space has never been easier!

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College Cleaning Hacks Tips and tricks to keeping your college dorm organized and mess-free.
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2024
oliviA rAinson | Feb. 12, 2024 Torch Photo / Abigail Grieco

Strategize for Success: A Guide to Effective Organization

With flexibility and unique organizational skills, students can make transition into a new semester smoother and less stressful.

The transition from the comfort of a month-long break to the rigors of academic life can be both exhilarating and overwhelming as college students begin a new semester of courses. To navigate this challenging period in a more effective way, a well-organized to-do list can make all the difference. Whether you’re a freshman or a graduate student, this guide will offer valuable tips to streamline a routine and set the stage for a successful semester.

Embrace the Essentials

The best place to start is with the basics. Prioritizing essential tasks for the semester will pave the way for a smoother transition. Oftentimes, these tasks are not difficult, but come all at once and can seem incredibly overwhelming.

One of the most seemingly anxiety-inducing first tasks that students must undergo is purchasing necessary textbooks. The St. John’s bookstore has each student’s course list, making the required books easy to find; they can be rented and bought in both digital and hardcopy forms. However, if students are looking for a cheaper option, Amazon sometimes offers a more affordable price, or PDF versions can be found online for free through sites such as Library Genesis+ and Project Gutenberg.

Another essential that is absolutely necessary for a new term is finalizing your class schedule. While it may seem like your classes for the upcoming semester are established in the prior one, this is not always the case. It is not uncommon for students to attend a first class meeting and decide that the course does not have the curriculum that was advertised or they feel that the class will add unnecessary pressure to an already stressful semester. Whatever the reasoning may be, students should prioritize their academic abilities over the pressure of grades.

Establish a Color-Coded System

A highly effective way to maintain organization throughout the semester is by creating a color-coded spreadsheet. This tool becomes a roadmap, helping students keep track of assignments, due dates and class schedules in a visual manner.

Whether using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, students can start by creating a spreadsheet with columns for each day of the week and rows corresponding to classes. Be sure to include specific details like class names, professors and room numbers so as to become acquainted with this information.

Next, assign a unique color to each course to create a visual distinction. This color-coding system will allow for quick identification and help prevent confusion when looking at the schedule. Within these colored cells, list all assignments, exams and project due dates under the respective course column. This step provides a comprehensive overview of your academic obligations for the semester.

The last step is to update the spreadsheet regularly. By consistently updating the completion, extension or even new deadlines that arise, students can ensure that they stay on top of their workload and minimize the risk of last-minute surprises.

Stay Flexible

While a to-do list provides structure, it is incredibly important to remain flexible. Inevitably, there will be unexpected challenges that arise, and it is crucial to not let them hinder your ability to tackle an obstacle.

Being open to adjusting your schedule when necessary is just as important as maintaining a proactive approach to academic responsibilities. One key benefit of flexibility is the ability to optimize learning experiences. As courses progress during the semester, students may encounter new topics or teaching styles that require adjustments in study strategies.

Remaining adaptable fosters a proactive mindset; however, life’s unpredictability extends beyond academics. Personal and professional commitments may fluctuate, necessitating a flexible schedule to accommodate other responsibilities. Students who prioritize flexibility may find it easier to strike a harmonious balance between academic pursuits and other aspects of life.

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Torch Photo / Abigail Grieco

Club Spotlight: “For Students of Color, Haraya is Home”

This St. John’s University organization prides itself on community and camaraderie.

Pride, dignity and freedom. These are the three pillars of the St. John’s University Pan-African students coalition, Haraya. A Swahili word that encompasses those three elements, Haraya’s mission is to bring the culture and influence of the African diaspora to SJU.

Founded in 1968 by six African-American students attending the University, Haraya is an organization established with the purpose of creating a safe space for students from African diasporic origins.

According to President Marlie Bien-Aimé, “Something that really draws me to Haraya is how every meeting or program we throw feels like you’re not just part of a campus community, but a family. For students of color, Haraya is home.”

“Every time I leave an event, I feel fulfilled not only because my E-Board had a good event but because I can genuinely see the connection that is being built amongst the members,” Bien-Aimé said.

To join Haraya, interested members must go through an election process for paid members. They have recently created an extenuated application process where students apply and are interviewed by the advisors, Graduate Assistants and the E-Board.

The E-Board consists of main executive positions, with an addition of a “Top Six,” which Bien-Amié described as including a “vice president of services and a vice president of activities” due to their activity-heavy program.

Some events that the club has participated in include museum field trips, discussion based meetings and participating in Black Solidarity Day. A favorite of Bien-Amié, Black Solidarity Day is observed by the society and is “a day of all of us coming together.”

“From the morning to the nighttime, we do breakfast, lunch and dinner together. It’s a day filled with speakers and even administrators attend; it’s great for us all to come together with everyone in our community,” Bien-Amié said.

One of their most popular events requires a lot of dedicated work from the executive board. For the past 33 years, Haraya has been hosting its Black and White Ball in celebration of members of St. John’s who are successful in their academic field. Recognizing both faculty members and students, the ball is a night to celebrate the work students and the society do on campus.

Typically hosted in the latter weeks of February, it also serves to commemorate the ending of Black History Month. This year’s theme is “Afrofuturism,” which Bien-Amié described as a concept “built on what life would look like if people of color, specifically black people, did not face any of the limitations we do in society.”

She continued to explain the main focus is not just on the African diaspora, but “on the idea of technology and all of the resources that are found on the continent.”

On Feb. 15, the organization hosted a hair braiding event from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the D’Angelo Center. Featuring the services of Magic Fingers Institute, students could get their hair styled for only $5, just in time for the Black and White Ball this weekend.

Junior Mya Jacobs, who participated in the meeting, stated, “I’m not in the society but I’ve been going to Haraya events since last year and it feels like a big community. I decided to go to the Haraya Ball because my brother is a part of it, so I was able to make friends within the society.”

When asked if she was planning on joining the club, Jacobs replied enthusiastically about participating in the future of the society.

“It means to be part of something bigger than myself. I found the club to be like a new family,” said Jordon Reefore, the Freshman Representative for Haraya. “I was extremely shy and meeting everybody here brought me out of my shell. I want to do things not just for myself but my community as well.”

A community full of bright and devoted students, Haraya is a society dedicated to cultivating a space to discuss and celebrate the culture of the African diaspora.

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Olivia
RainsOn | Feb. 16, 2024
Torch Photo / Olivia Rainson Torch Photo / Olivia Rainson

From Landfill to Showcase: Advocating for Vintage Sneakers

What Nike doesn’t want you to know about their recycled “Grind.”

I was preparing to leave my house in another man’s 36-year-old gym shoes — but it didn’t feel that way. As I looked down at the faded Chicago-inspired color-blocking, which had developed a beautiful patina over time, I felt as if I could fly. That feeling became addicting.

"Growing up in an era where people cared more about the value of a sneaker than the story, I strived to be different."

Occasionally, did I succumb to ridiculous price markups because of “hype?” Sure. Every collector has. But I also made damn sure that I knew my history.

It was May of 2020. I had just finished watching “The Last Dance.” At this point, while many pairs of sneakers had found their way into my collection, I had never owned something truly unique. Until then, anyone could have replicated my collection with a few monthly paychecks.

I wasn’t looking for some ultra-exclusive pair. I was looking for something I could add my own touch to, all while still honoring the culture. After months of research, I finally found the perfect pair of original 1985 Air Jordan 1’s. Boy, were they beat. The sole had completely hardened and yellowed. The heels had been worn down, exposing holes towards the rear of the shoe. The once black vinyl-covered collars laid bare, exposing a dingy beige fabric. Tasked with my first-ever restoration process, I discovered a new passion.

Kyler Fox | Feb. 14, 2024

me, through the process of scrubbing the uppers, conditioning the perfectly-aged leather and stitching on a brand-new sole, these vintage sneakers began to feel like “mine.”

This sparked the addiction, and it only continued. Jordan was always my preference, but over time I fell in love with another culture-filled phenomenon, the Nike SB. After many celebrities began busting out vintage pairs of SBs during the late 2010s, prices skyrocketed. To this day, some pairs still out-value new cars.

Growing up a “Star Wars” fanatic, I couldn’t pass on the “Jedi” colorway from a 2004 SB release. Typically appraising for

three decades, “Grind” was used to construct new sneaker releases, athletic fields and even tech accessories. Disguised as striving for a healthier environment, their motive differs from mine.

On the surface, Nike is appeasing environmentalists, acting as the “good guy” for athleticwear companies. Their take on “restoration” resonates more with “replacement” or “destruction.” With each project I take on, my goal is to preserve and appreciate details from these vintage relics. Nike is making the savvy business decision to repurpose their old product and monetize the results. They are a retail company, and will prioritize dollar signs over anything. That I understand, but do not attempt to glorify the process to your consumer with hopes that they will spend another $200 on an ugly recycled sneaker, when they can add a piece of history to their collection for the same price.

around $2400 in my size, I found a pair for just $200. Much like the Jordans, they needed some serious work, but I didn’t mind. It didn’t appear to me as “work.” I genuinely enjoyed throwing on some ‘80s classic rock and locking myself in my room to restore my old sneakers.

Not only do the vintage products contain more character, but they are often made of higher quality. The craftsmanship in vintage pairs far surpasses today’s. Most modern products arrive smelling of glue and fake leather, emphasizing the low-quality materials.

"Personally, I prefer 36-year-old foot odor to the aroma of a factory and cheap glue."

For some, they must be the original owner of a pair for it to feel like “theirs.” For

On a less endearing level, Nike conducts a similar process. Since 1992, the company claims to have recycled over 140 million pounds of worn-out sneakers into Nike “Grind,” which they repurpose into materials for partnering brands. Over

While that will sound outlandish to some, and downright disgusting to others, it doesn’t bother me. I know that after one cleaning, the odor will leave and that distinct smell of genuine leather will remain. That smell of quality. That smell

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Photo Courtesy / Unsplash Michael Jin Torch Photo / Kyler Fox

coNTrIBUTIoNS

STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS

EDITorIAL PoLIcY

Editorials are the opinions of the Editorial Board of the TorcH. Columns and other content are the opinions of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the TorcH Opinions expressed in editorials, columns, letters or cartoons are not necessarily those of the student body, faculty or administration of St. John’s University. All contents are the sole responsibility of the editors and the editorial board and do not necessarily represent the views of the administration, faculty or students of St. John’s University unless specifically stated.

All letters submitted for publication must include the author’s name, email and affliliation to St. John’s. Limit letters to 350 words. Submissions may be edited for clarity. Please submit letters to torchopinion@gmail.com

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Has Instagram Become Obsolete?

James Williams | march 4, 2024

Instagram’s user numbers have reached two billion as of Jan. 2024, but it seems like the social media site has been waning cultural influence and has been losing user engagement. Why is this? The site hasn’t made many substantial changes since its launch in 2010 but there are still a number of factors that are now working against it.

One of the biggest factors is the rise of TikTok and its appeal to a younger audience, seemingly poaching younger Instagram users to the newer app. It was reported that about 25% of Tik Tok’s users are 10-19 years old, which is shockingly different to Instagram’s 5.1% of users being 17 and younger. Instagram just clearly doesn’t have an audience with the younger generation, one of the biggest markets on social media.

But, Instagram’s parent company Meta has attempted to compete with TikTok due to the introduction of “Reels.” Reels, short-form ‘TikTok like’ videos, has become Instagram’s biggest source of engagement but it still hasn’t been enough to even come close to TikTok’s numbers. Most of the reasons for this are fairly obvious, the same type of content on Reels is on TikTok which is a significantly more user friendly platform. For content creators, TikTok is far easier to post on and the app is constantly gaining major updates that keep it fresh. Even TikTok’s never ending controversy in the mainstream news is helping it, as any publicity is good publicity.

Just like Reels and TikTok, Meta introduced their own competitor to Twitter with “Threads.” Threads was dead on arrival, it was a half baked copy of Twitter that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg thought was going to be bigger than it was.

With the introduction of these concepts, it’s clear that Instagram

has been left in the dust with focus shifting to those two. It’s become an app that users post on every few months then forget about until the next time they post. And if you were to scroll on Instagram; in-between your friends posts would be incessant advertising for anything from Threads to jackets for dogs or even DJ equipment.

I conducted an experiment and scrolled on Instagram for about three minutes. Out of the 15 posts I saw, four of them were random advertisements for Target, Allstate, CeraVe and a golf course in Ocean City, MD. This is a problem.

If Instagram wishes to return to the fun site it used to be, many obvious changes need to happen which begins with the advertising. Users should not be bombarded with pointless campaigns for the most random products possible the second they open the app. Meta should also just forget about competing with other more popular sites because it is just an uphill battle. If people want short-form content they will go to TikTok and for news they’ll go to Twitter, that’s not going to change.

Instead, they need to focus on making posting more fun and give users incentives to post more often.

“Finstas,” more casual “fake-instas” that encourage frequent posting, have slowly become more popular. It’s exactly what the platform needs. Meta should focus on promoting the personalized and intimate postings seen on finsta accounts.

But it may be too late to shift the tide, and it seems like Instagram will continue to slide in relevance unless major change is made to the platform.

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What

Too Crowded for Two Parties: 2024 Election Shows the Fragility of the Two-Party System

This election shows more than ever the lack of stability in the party system.

If you ask anyone around the United States, they will agree that media outlets and candidates turn genuine crises into entertainment for “fans” to digest. Voters of all ages marvel at their screens, watching candidates such as Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis speak to the crowd, their mouths frothing and hanging onto every word they and other candidates say. Superstar Taylor Swift posed with Joe Biden cookies for his 2020 presidential run and the picture still circulates in hopes of garnering some favor from her fans for the current president. It all feels tacky and out of touch.

"But who is to blame for this political trend? All fingers point to the party system.”

Let’s face the facts: the Republican party is in danger of splitting in two, and not many seem mad about it. The Seattle Times reports that 63 percent of Americans favor a third major party being added to the mix. Younger voters are simply too left for the old-school Democrats — many people had thought before 2016 that they would be the first to split. However, the GOP currently battles internal extremism to the point that tensions are causing an implosion throughout lawmakers and voters. The article stated that nothing is being done in Congress to resolve fighting between Republicans on topics such as immigration and education. An example of an extreme Republican is Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who according to Vanity Fair, made comments say-

ing that he would shoot migrants coming into the country illegally if he could.

While this may be the norm for GOP representatives, this is not the norm for a majority of voters. Most who identify with the Republican label are not rambling about shooting

immigrants or discussing the dynamics of critical race theory, or maybe they are, who knows? Realistically, your run-ofthe-mill “Republican” most likely is much more moderate than their House representatives.

Because of this, there have been threats from what the Seattle Times calls “MAGA” conservatives to leave the Republican Party behind and take up that third space Americans are leaving open for a third major party. With the time that it’s taken (and still taking) to fix the tensions in the GOP, Democrats are hoping to use this as an advantage to clutch

Don’t Forget About the Humanities!

As Universities shift their focus to business and STEM programs, it’s important to not let the liberal arts fall behind.

“I study English!”

“Oh! To do what with?”

An interaction I and countless other humanities majors have had way too many times. One that doesn’t fault the person who asks but instead is a direct embodiment of how our society has dropped the liberal arts as legitimate areas of study.

I was a victim of this push for productivity — formerly engrossing myself in the business world because I thought I had to. Side eyes of disapproval came from all different places when I announced my desire to study English in hopes of becoming a teacher. Eventually I caved, switching over to a sector of business just before I registered for my first set of college classes. But, a few years later I withdrew, resorting back to who I knew I was — a writer, a reader, a fanatic for analytical conversation, I was an English major.

Going back to my roots allowed me to tap into a belief I didn’t realize I had until that “girlboss-ification” was pushed on me — Universities are more than institutions to churn out workers. St. John’s University is close to opening the new St. Vincent Health Sciences Center. The building is set to come with a slew of new majors, minors and opportunities for incoming STEM students. The opening of the new science building is incredibly exciting — it’s nice to know that the University is interested in reaching out to students of all prospective interests. But generally speaking, this shift in college priorities is leaving those outside of the business-STEM realm in the dust.

It’s highly important to properly prepare students for the job force, but it’s also highly important to allow them to experience

life emotionally. Lowering the shrinkage of a liberal arts investment ensures that the authentic human experience is preserved. While business and STEM programs are necessary for continuing world development and sustainment, we can’t forget about the sustainment of human emotion. Nor about the sustainment and preservation of our history — not in a way to capitalize on, but as a way to hold the sacredness of humanity close to our hearts.

the 2024 presidential election, leaving many voters relieved but underwhelmed.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Democrats are more united than ever, sure, but where are the people that are far too left than Joe Biden and his voters? Should there be another party made for them? Right now it does not look like it, many leftists are silencing their opinions and genuine dislike of the current President in order to ensure extremists are hanging high and dry at the polls.

This means that those who are appalled by Biden’s funding of Israel and feel that he should be doing more when it comes to student loan forgiveness have nowhere to turn when it comes down to it.

“Those in a position of power will rarely lose it...”

and now every vote for any candidate, especially independents, means that you are not with the Democrats but against them, and being against them is dangerous in a time like this.

There is nothing worse than despising the leaders of both parties, but feeling like you have no choice but to deal with one of them. The current political climate leaves little choice but to vote with a deteriorating party due to fear of what the other side will do once in office. The demand for more voices and more political flexibility is needed now more than ever, lest voters have to wait for the candidates to back down or succumb to age before genuinely getting the representation wanted on a major scale.

A liberal arts education, even just a few meaningful classes, is useful in that it provides students with the capacity to explore their world from a critical lens. It allows for better operation of our current society politically and economically, as students are able to assess their world critically. But while the productivity of a liberal arts education is all well and good, it is also productive to study for the sake of knowledge rather than purpose. The liberal arts allow for an understanding larger than just our niche major — it’s an ability to take off the blinders and see all there is we could possibly see in just our short college years.

Liberal arts and the “productive majors” need to be taught side by side — but not making liberal arts an afterthought. Everyone should have basic business comprehension, basic anatomy and life-saving skill comprehension, and everyone should have basic knowledge of how our environment works. Simultaneously, everyone should be able to critically assess and basically understand an artistic work as well as the systems of their society.

Now what “basic knowledge” is one can’t really articulate in a world ever changing its truth. So, this is to say we cannot leave

out one or the other if we want well rounded individuals to come out of our universities. Equal attention must be paid to all majors, minor and concentrations as each are vital to what makes our current society function. Diverging from the liberal arts will make nothing but flat minded worker bees.

What I’m mad about is why was I told I couldn’t follow my passion. Why was I staying up at night wondering how I’d have a home, a family, see the world because apparently studying the liberal arts meant I wouldn’t have a cent to my name. I’m not meant to be a cog, you’re not meant to be a cog — let’s get real and understand the importance of understanding. Not just production, not just sustainment, but… I can’t even put a word to the practice of emotional experiences. Intelligent, emotional, thought provoking connection to our reality, and our reality is not in a corporate building.

We need to experience alongside our existence. Living things –us, as humans – are capable of so much more than robotic being. Let’s relish the opportunities we have to remember our humanity, and that can only be done by having a chance to experience the liberal arts.

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ElizabEth Kaufmann | fEb. 14, 2024 Carlyann CarEy | fEb. 27, 2024 Photo Courtesy / YouTube Highlight Heaven Photo Courtesy / Colin Lloyd Torch Photo / Elizabeth Kaufmann

What Films Will Bring Home an Oscar in 2024?

The Torch’s

Oscar predictions ahead of the star-studded event?

Nominations for the forthcoming Academy Awards broke Jan. 23 and were met with a number of mixed reactions. Barbie-heads wondering how director Greta Gerwig and lead actress Margot Robbie could have possibly been left out, fans of Oppenheimer rejoicing for its whopping 13 nominations and everyone everywhere collectively asking what “Nyad” is. But the time for reflecting on what is or isn’t nominated is over, it is now time to predict who will win Hollywood’s most prestigious awards.

Best Supporting Actor:

Winner: Robert Downey Jr. – “Oppenheimer”

This year’s best supporting actor category is as stacked as it’s ever been. With Robert De Niro reuniting with Martin Scorsese, delivering his best performance in decades in “Killers of the Flower Moon” and Mark Ruffalo giving a career best turn as the posh fiend Duncan Wedderburn in “Poor Things.” Not to mention Sterling K. Brown and Ryan Gosling stealing every scene in their respective films. But Robert Downey Jr. rises above the rest in his most impressive role to date. Already the winner of the Golden Globe and Critics Choice award this year for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss, the three time Oscar nominee would deservedly secure his first Academy Award for this subtle yet explosive performance as the villainous Strauss.

Best Supporting Actress: Winner: Da’Vine Joy Randolph – “The Holdovers”

Moving on from one of the most competitive categories to maybe the biggest lock of the night and one of the best stories of the awards season. It is no secret that Da’Vine Joy Randolph is poised to win the Oscar for her breakout performance as Mary Lamb in “The Holdovers.” She’s swept every other

major awards show and the Oscars will likely prove to be no different. In this perfectly intimate and tender role as a grieving mother, Randolph is the heart and soul of a wonderful film.

Best Actor:

Winner: Cillian Murphy – “Oppenheimer”

The best actor bid has been a two-man race all year. No disrespect towards Jeffery Wright or Colman Domingo but they can’t compare to Cillian Murphy and Paul Giamatti’s performances. Giamatti’s turn as Paul Hunham in “The Holdovers” is finally making the world realize how brilliant he is. This joyful and touching character has won him a Golden Globe and Critics Choice award but those are probably all he’s going to get.

Cillian Murphy as Robert Oppenheimer is nothing short of a behemoth; this all encompassing showcase is tuned to Murphy’s best traits. He wears every emotion on his sleeve and conveys about a thousand words through one look; it’s almost safe to say that his eyes in the film alone could win him this Oscar. Any other year would have been Giamatti’s, but it is a shame he ran into one of this generation’s best performances.

Best Actress:

Winner: Lily Gladstone – “Killers of the Flower Moon”

The best actress race has been just as competitive with Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone both having an argument for the award. Emma Stone’s Bella Baxter is a symbol of freedom which Stone portrays perfectly. Within “Poor Things’s” 161 minute runtime. Stone goes from a blabbering infant to a fully formed and brilliant mind which she makes seem effortless. But Lily Gladstone’s win would mean so much more. In another very physical performance, her role as Mollie Kyle becomes the face of genocide

in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” she captures the horror and pain of the crimes committed against her tribe so vividly. If Gladstone were to win the Oscar, she would be the first Native American actor to win an Academy Award, and there isn’t a better performance that would break that curse.

Best Director:

Winner: Christopher Nolan – “Oppenheimer”

Best director is another award that seems all but decided, and it looks like Christopher Nolan will finally get his first Oscar. Nolan faces giants like Martin Scorsese and Yorgos Lanthimos, with first time nominees Jonathan Glazer and Justine Triet standing in his way.. Having been nominated five times and losing each time, this best director win would be long overdue for one of the finest modern filmmakers.

Best Picture:

Winner: “Oppenheimer”

The grand prize of the night could have a number of suitors. Could it go to either of the benchmarks in feminist cinema to be released this year: “Barbie” or “Poor Things?” Perhaps some of the more emotional entries like “The Holdovers” or “Past Lives” could take it. Maybe the best picture honor returns to Martin Scorsese for “Killers of the Flower Moon.” But the writing is on the wall for the year of Christopher Nolan to continue and for his opus “Oppenheimer” to sweep the Academy Awards. Having been the front runner all year, it’s almost becoming boring to say that “Oppenheimer” deserves to win best picture but it truly is that good. Sporting a deeply impactful true story that is becoming more timely by the day, brilliance on the screenwriting and directing side plus the phenomenal acting from its all-star cast, it’s hard to see any film this year matching the heights of “Oppenheimer.”

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Web of Lies: Sony’s Latest Superhero Blunder

A Hollywood production or an iMovie creation?

“Madame Web,” released Feb. 14, is the latest installment in the Spider-Verse series and the most unsuccessful. Featuring subpar acting and elementary level dialogue, the newest Sony film proved to be an extreme disappointment.

One of the most notable failures of this film was the sound dubbing of actor Tahar Rahim, who played villain Ezekiel Sims. From the first instance of Rahim speaking, there was clearly something off with the timing of the conversations — it looked as if the original dialogue was in a foreign language with an English voiceover. This was due to the use of ADR, or Automated Dialogue Replacement, to ineffectively cover up issues with the original sound in filming. On several occasions, it appeared as if Rahim was delivering lines out of thin air and his voice sounded extremely far away. Laughable and lazy, the use of ADR in this film was a careless replacement for reshooting scenes.

Almost as bad as the sound, the cinematography rivaled that of a CapCut edit. With unnecessary zoom-ins and back and forth shots, the film felt like a choppy merge of iPhone filmed clips.

The special effects were jarring and unimpressive compared to previous superhero films. In demon-

strating Madame Web’s powers, producers could have given viewers whiplash trying to understand and follow the direction of these effects. Overwhelming and chaotic, there should have been a warning for the flashing lights and unstable camera work with her transformation scenes.

Though every superhero movie is not based on reality, “Madame Web” requires an extreme suspension of disbelief from the audience, to the point where the supernatural elements were not the only hard to believe events. Dakota Johnson embarks on a solo adventure towards the end of the film, and it is this use of deus ex machina that sloppily ties the film up with a loose knot. Too easy and horribly predictable, there is no real conflict that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats.

As Madame Web, Johnson also develops powers that are ill-represented and difficult to follow as the film continues. She displays no clear “revelation” of her capabilities aside from a rushed side quest in Peru. Even the dialogue being spoken by Johnson about her character’s “growth” is half-hearted and extremely cliched.

There are many internet theories about Johnson being so embarrassed by the outcome of her film that she took the lengths to fire her entire

talent agency. Though these are just rumors, it has certainly been inferred on the press tour that the “Madame Web” heroine is not happy, or even knowledgeable, about her role in the film.

In an interview during her press tour, Johnson stated:

“I’ve never really done a movie where you are on a blue screen, and there’s fake explosions going off, and someone’s going, ‘Explosion!’ and you act like there’s an explosion. That to me was absolutely psychotic. I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is going to be good at all! I hope that I did an okay job!’”

She claimed to have not even watched the film, although this is a tactic many actors pursue when they are uncertain with their performance. This leads us to question if Johnson was grossly misled on what this film would end up looking like. Either way, it proved to be a blunder among both fans and the box offices.

Despite the obvious issues with the film, it can still be considered a good “bad” movie that fans of the Spider-Verse can at least enjoy laughing at. Captivating, although cliche, “Madame Web” is a must see in spite of, and perhaps because of, its faults.

“One Day:” A Heartbreaking Tale of Love and Time
The Netflix limited series is a classic right person, wrong time trope.

“One Day” is a heartbreaking story of love, regret and time. The Netflix limited series released on Feb. 8 is the second screen adaptation of “One Day,” originally a novel written by David Nicholls and an adaptation of the 2011 film starring Anne Hathway and Jim Sturgess. When first released the film received mixed reviews, generating doubt when Netflix announced the limited series. However, it surpassed 15.2 million views, becoming the most-viewed English series five days after its release. The series follows two friends and lovers, Emma (Ambika Mod) and Dex (Leo Woodall), from their original meeting at the end of university through the next 20 years of their lives. Each episode occurs on the same day–July 15th–one year apart. This structure creates an interesting insight into the two throughout the 14 episode span. Spanning over two decades “One Day” is a beautiful commentary on how time changes people and alters one’s life.

and intense version compared to the film, allowing for more character development seen in Emma and Dex. We see the two grow up, become best friends and deal with their ambitions in life.

In the series, Emma and Dex constantly engage

The show quickly transforms into a right person, wrong time scenario. Despite the overall theme of heartbreak, viewers will gain aspects of hope throughout. Whether platonic or romantic, no matter where Emma and Dex are in their story, they still share love for one another.

Following the same storyline as the novel and film, the two have significant similarities. Despite the similarities, we get a more drawn-out

in a will-they-won’t-they situation.From their original meeting as a failed one-night stand, the two become tied to one another with an undeniable bond. However, when one is ready to be romantically involved, the other isn’t.

A massive plus for the limited series is that a woman of color, Ambika Mod, plays Emma. It’s incredibly refreshing and well-needed to cast women of color in these romantic roles, which usually lack representation.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mod said, “Many people, when reading the book, wouldn’t have imagined a brown Emma, but I think that, if anything, it amplifies and puts a spotlight on the things that make her more relatable.”

With newfound representation, the limited series is a well-needed step forward from the film and novel. “One Day” is a heartbreaking yet beautiful representation of humanity, love and time lost. The limited series is now available to stream on Netflix. The film is available on Amazon Prime Video for viewers wanting more of this story.

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Small Artist Spotlight: Ruby Leftstep

Meet some stars of the Connecticut music scene, Ruby Leftstep.

From the sticks of Northwest Connecticut, Ruby Leftstep is a young, four-man indie-rock group made up of Adam McDonald on vocals and bass, Dylan Hrinda on vocals and guitar, Thomas Busemeyer on vocals and guitar and Eddie Dahill on drums.

Their music is one that could fall into the broad category of indie-rock, but it’s something along the lines of introspective, northeast emo—with a hint of folk—taking on the title of “Garden Emo.” Their developing discography is currently made up of a handful of singles and one EP entitled “The Ground Up,” but will soon be growing after the release of their next single, “Shuteye.”

The Torch sat down to chat with the band to talk about their group’s dynamic and their music.

The group began to develop in August 2021, after Hrinda and Dahill met while taking music lessons at the same place Busemeyer was teaching. “Eddie and I were playing this show, there were 15 people in the band,” Hrinda said. “It was like everybody playing music all at the same time together. Eddie was playing bass, and I think I was probably playing guitar. And then after that show, it went really well, I messaged Eddie and said,

'Why don't we do this forever? All the time.'"

Once Dahill agreed, the two played together, coming up with the name for the band through a combination of random word association and Hrinda’s old dog, Ruby.

In November 2021, Busemeyer joined and started “playing some awesome solos and writing all the lead parts.”

The group cycled through a few drummers until January 2023, when Dahill switched to his current instrument because he thought drums “were cooler than bass.” Finally, McDonald joined the group as their bassist and the rest was history.

Growing up, their interests in music varied from Green Day, to Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer, all the way to Breaking Benjamin. Nowadays, they each pull influence elsewhere — such as Jerry Garcia according to Busemeyer, or Big Thief for Hrinda.

“Well my personal ones —I know Adam doesn’t like this — but for the [rest] of us, Pinegrove and Big Thief are big ones. Big Thief is very cool. I think we all grab different influences from all around which kind of helps us sound more unique,” Hrinda says, describing their musical direction.

Dahill elaborates on their differing tastes saying,“Thom’s a jam band guy and I grew up with jam bands, too, but I’d say my drumming is not similar to the Grateful Dead, which gives it a cool contrast. And then we got Dylan playing Breaking Benjamin.” However, Hrinda wants to make it known that he hasn’t played Breaking Benjamin in “seven years.”

Their sound is unique in its nature due to the mix of influence each member brings, but also because practically every step of the creation process is done by themselves. For each of their songs, the recording takes place

in Dahill’s living room, then gets mixed and produced by Hrinda in his bedroom. This is something that continues to develop with each new track. Speaking about their latest release, “Remaining,” Busemeyer says “I feel like we figured out how to produce things a lot better, so it just sounds better than the earlier songs.”

When it comes to writing their own music, their process is very fluid, changing for each person. “Some of us prefer to map it out, and then kind of present a finished product. Some of us kind of prefer to work on it from the ground up with just a riff and then work on it from there. I think almost every song has had a different starting point. But they all kind of end with the same workshopping process of coming into rehearsal, presenting different ideas, playing it differently for about a month, until we kind of settle on something comfortable,” says McDonald of their creative process.

To the band’s surprise, fans have been singing those lyrics right back to them during shows. At a show in Winsted, CT, people were singing the chorus of their song

“For the Record” loud enough for Dahill to hear all the way back on the drum kit. At a gig at UConn, fans in the front row were even singing the lyrics to a song that hasn’t been released yet.

“We were honestly, I wouldn’t say scared,” says McDonald of the experience, “but it took us a second to find the comfort in that because you’re like ‘Really?’” While excited about the fans’ energy, Hrinda admits: “I mess up lyrics a lot, too, so I was really worried.” As the band grows, clearly so does the dedication of their fanbase. And with songs as captivating and electrifying as theirs, how could fans not sing along?

Ruby Leftstep has a lot of character, both in personality and in their music. The group had no shortage of laughter, joking about things like pre-performance rituals and adding a fifth member to the band, contemplating Neil Peart, Django Reinhardt and even Ice Spice. But as of right now, they’ll remain a group of four, continuing to make the music they love and have fun doing it.

With approaching shows across New England and upstate New York, the upcoming release of their new single “Shuteye” and the possibility of an album dropping this summer, Ruby Leftstep is certainly a band to keep an eye out for.

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Photo
Torch Photo / Jack Joiner

The Red Suit Guy: A St. John’s Basketball Tradition

Billy Rabold has become a face and fan favorite in the St. John’s basketball scene.

Have you ever seen a man wearing a red suit in the front row of the student section at almost every St. John’s Basketball game?

Meet Billy Rabold, affectionately known as the “Red Suit Guy,” a St. John’s alumnus and prominent figure in the Red Storm community for the past eight years. Dressed in his signature red suit, he’s been at practically every home game to cheer on the Red Storm

He graduated from St. John’s in 2017 with his degree in education and is currently a teacher and athletic director for Mary Louis Academy. Since his first game at St. John’s, Rabold has been in the student section cheering on the Johnnies, win or lose.

In 2016, Rabold and his best friend, Dylan Powers were tired of seeing a lack of life in the SJU student section. They came up with an idea that became a growing venture for Rabold.

After the pandemic let fans come back to games in person, the University athletic department asked Rabold to be the season ticket holder of the game in the 2021-2022 season against Georgetown. This was the first time he worked with athletics as Red Suit Guy and is one of his favorite memories

were taking pictures with me and my mom said, ‘Oh, my goodness, Billy actually has fans.’”

Rabold has continued to grow as a face of the program alongside players and coaches. Win or lose, he always puts on a happy face and supports the Red Storm. He’s even created his own “Red Suit Guy” merchandise and was featured in the 2023 Big East Tournament promotional content.

“We said, ‘What if we just were to go and buy suits like a matching outfit,” and we did it kind of as a joke,” Rabold said in a sit-down interview with The Torch. “It took off the first night that we did it, it was incredible.”

Since then, Rabold has attended every game in his suit and prides himself on not missing any home games.

to date.

“It was the first time after COVID that they had done it here at the Garden,” he said.

It was the first time Rabold’s family came to a game and saw how big he is in the St. John’s basketball community.

“It was really funny that after the game, people

One of Rabold’s favorite things about being in his red suit every game is going to games and people coming up to him.

“When I’m taking the train, people stop me. When I’m at [Madison Square] Garden, when I’m at Carnesecca [Arena], people stop me,” Rabold said.”It’s become so much more than I thought it could become.”

Rabold has no plans on hanging up his red suit anytime soon.

“I’m going to plan on wearing this red suit forever,” he told The Torch. “I’ve joked that if I ever were to retire it, I would like it to be hung up somewhere, but I truly love it too much to not keep doing it.”

Look out for “Red Suit Guy” this Saturday as the Johnnies take on DePaul in their final game at Madison Sqaure Garden for the 2023-2024 season.

New Kids on the Block: Mid-Season Report Card

The future of the Red Storm is bright, thanks to Brady Dunlap and Simeon Wilcher.

Prior to November 2023, freshmen Brady Dunlap and Simeon Wilcher were promising recruits added to Rick Pitino’s impressive roster. Having left their imprint on high school courts, St. John’s fans eagerly anticipated how the pair would fit into Red Storm play.

Flash forward to the present: both have entered the starting lineup at least once, and both have begun to show their potential in just 20 games. These glimpses ignite fans’ excitement and promise of what’s to come. Here’s a closer look at their respective journeys so far:

During non-conference play, Dunlap initially saw small glimpses of on-court action, contributing single-digit stats in points, minutes and rebounds. The California native expressed his commitment to personal growth under Pitino.

“I wasn’t committing to this program expecting lots of minutes,” he said. “I just wanted to get up and get as good as I can throughout this year.”

And that it did.

A turning point occurred in the team’s first game of 2024. When an ankle injury held graduate forward Chris Ledlum out vs. Butler on Jan. 3, Dunlap took his place and proved himself. In 28 minutes, the forward scored 13 points and hit 3-of-5 three-point attempts. Postgame, he recalls his readiness if “[Pitino] calls my name.”

What stands out is his growing confidence, with

the Butler victory catalyzing his transformation. Pitino and graduate guard Daniss Jenkins echo these beliefs.

“Brady came in very confident at practice and that’s how he played,” Jenkins said. “That’s what he looks like in practice and we encouraged him to shoot. Whenever he’s open, you shoot.”

Since then, he’s consistently demonstrated improvement. In the Jan. 10 victory over Providence, he played 31 minutes, put up nine points and shot 71% from the field. His 15-point contribution showcased his mid-range shooting abilities. Against Marquette on Jan. 20, he tallied four rebounds and assists, showing his potential defensively.

After the Red Storm’s first win over Villanova, Joel Soriano praised Dunlap’s performance and hard-working spirit, “I’m just happy he is bringing it to the game. With him, it’s a confidence thing, getting his feet wet in games and believing in himself because we believe in him,” Soriano said. “He’s one of the hardest working freshmen and the hardest workers I know.”

With his confidence and skill growing by the day, what will Dunlap look like next year? If his freshman season tells us anything, this is just the start of a successful college career.

As for Wilcher, his potential outweighs his current season totals. He averages 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.

His play has drastically improved in 2024; he looks more comfortable with the ball and seems to have adjusted to the collegiate level. In the Jan. 16 blowout vs. Seton Hall, he played a season-high 23 minutes, putting up five points and three assists.

The guard made his first career start vs. Villanova on Jan. 24, putting up four points, five rebounds, and one block— a defensive high for the New Jersey native. According to Pitino, Wilcher got the “much deserved” start because “he is the best cheerleader on the bench.”

Off the court, Dunlap praises Wilcher’s ability to be an “uplifting” teammate and friend.

“I have a great relationship with [Wilcher], and every day we go back to the dorm, whether we play or not, and it’s always positive in that room, and we uplift each other,” Dunlap said. “That’s one of my best friends right now. We just keep each other up and that’s why we keep the confidence.”

Wilcher’s performance begs the same question as his freshman teammate — how will he look in one, two or three years from now? While both have much room to grow, they possess the traits needed to join the likes of Chris Mullin, Felipe Lopez, Ron Artest and other St. John’s legends.

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Olivia Seaman | Jan. 30, 2024
Sara Kiernan | Feb. 25 2024
Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

From Private School to the Ivy League: Jordan Dingle’s Mark on St. John’s

Reflecting on his time at the prestigious Blair Academy, the senior has upped his game for the Red Storm.

Although he grew up only 11 miles from Carnesecca Arena, Jordan Dingle’s journey to St. John’s was not linear. From basketball camps with his dad, to private schools in the middle-of-nowhere New Jersey and even into the Ivy League, the senior guard has been surrounded by this game his entire life.

Before committing to St. John’s in May, Dingle had a unique tie to head coach Rick Pitino. His father, Dana Dingle, played at UMass under John Calipari in 1996 when the team made it to the final four game against Kentucky. Kentucky beat UMass 81-74, and Rick Pitino hoisted up a national championship trophy two days later.

Dingle’s father is the biggest role model in his life. He was the first person to put a basketball in his hands and taught him the fundamentals of the game while setting him up with the opportunity to play with the New York Lightning, his Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Program.

As Pitino was putting together his new team, Dingle went through the motions of the NBA draft process following a stellar year at the University of Pennsylvania. Flying to places like Salt Lake City and Denver, the New Yorker found himself in an experience that was “a huge amount of fun.” With the opportunity to think about the future and all of its possibilities, Dingle’s approach to the season was to be a contributor.

“When I saw all the players that St. John’s got and obviously playing for Coach Rick Pitino, I thought that I

needed to improve on my game a lot so as to not disappoint them,” he told The Torch at St. John’s Media Day in October.

As St. John’s narrowly hangs onto a NCAA tournament berth, credit to one too many second-half collapses late in the season, Dingle’s most recent performances (avg. 16.3 pts.) have proved to be an increasing asset late in the season.

Ahead of the Feb. 28 win (82-59) against Butler, Dingle said that there is no secret to his work.

“Everything just happens according to God’s will and God’s plan,” he told the press before the game. “I’m just grateful God is allowing me to play well.”

In the past three games, Dingle has tallied 22 points at Georgetown, 18 against No. 12 Creighton, and nine at Butler. He also came up with three steals in the victory over Butler.

“If it’s scoring, if it’s rebounding, if it’s assisting. I need to be the loudest voice.”

Composure and intelligence is nothing new for Dingle. He competed at the prestigious Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey for two years under head coach Joe Mantegna. With the team, he won two (of the fifteen that Mantegna has won overall) Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) Championships.

“I remember when I learned that Jordan’s morning routine at Blair (pre-breakfast) included early morning bodyweight calisthenics and read-

ing the Wall Street Journal,” Mantegna told The Torch through email. “From the age of 17, he was always focused and mature beyond his years.”

He brings a versatility to the Red Storm, something that Mantegna saw the moment he stepped on Blair Academy’s campus six years ago.

“All the success he has had is a direct product of his willingness to pour into his game, his body and his intellectual growth,” Mantegna said.

Reflecting on his time at Blair ahead of his new season with St. John’s, Dingle remarked that it was a necessary process in his growth as a player and a person.

“They all did an amazing job pushing me and inspiring me to step out of my comfort zone to try things that I wasn’t forced to try earlier,” he said. “Playing for Coach Mantegna was the closest I’ve ever gotten to playing for someone like Coach Pitino in terms of their relative dominance.”

With an opportunity to go dancing, every game counts for St. John’s in the last stretch of the season. Dingle could be the key to a tournament run for the Red Storm, and is not going down without a fight.

“We owe it to one another, [to] this coaching staff for trusting us to come here, and to Johnnies Nation for being so supportive to us all year, to go out fighting,” he said. “There’s no sense of quit on this team, regardless of what our record is.”

St. John’s Searching For Answers Following Seton Hall Loss

Insanity (verb): Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Albert Einstein’s famous definition of the term is the perfect way to describe the 2023-24 St. John’s men’s basketball team. In their last four losses, head coach Rick Pitino and company led after the first half, just to falter in the second. Sunday night’s 68-62 loss to Seton Hall offered much of the same.

Dominating the opening stretch, St. John’s outclassed the visitors in every facet. They were visibly tougher than Seton Hall, driving Pirates’ head coach Shaheen Holloway to commit a technical foul late in the period. This incident sparked fires inside Al-Amir Dawes (19 pts., 3 rebs.) and Kadary Richmond (18 pts., 11 rebs.), completely swinging the momentum in Seton Hall’s favor.

The Red Storm headed into the break leading 41-29, thanks to near perfect first half efforts from Joel Soriano (13 pts., 12 rebs.), Daniss Jenkins (17 pts., 6 assts.) and Jordan Dingle (9 pts., 3 rebs.). The trio combined for 28 points, nearly outscoring the Pirates themselves.

Surely, they couldn’t blow another big halftime lead, could they?

Of course they could.

After possibly their most complete display of the season, St. John’s opened the second half scoring only four points in 11:27 of play. A Sean Conway triple and RJ Luis Jr. free throw was all the Red Storm could muster, opening the door for a Seton Hall comeback. The Pirates took this opportunity and ran with it, orchestrating an 18-4 run and claiming the lead.

Despite multiple attempts to rediscover their first half selves, St. John’s once again came up just short. After squandering multiple leads over some of the Big East’s top contenders, the Red Storm’s hall-offame coach now finds himself in unfamiliar territory.

“If I said I was disappointed, that would be the understatement of the year,” Pitino announced. “Our toughness is just something I’ve never witnessed in all my years of coaching. I’ve always enjoyed the first year. I’m not going to lie to you, this [has been] the most unenjoyable experience in my lifetime.”

Of all of Pitino’s gripes, he was most displeased with his team’s lack of lateral quickness.

“It’s really, really difficult if you can’t move your feet and guard people laterally without fouling. You’re not going to win a whole lot of games.”

With a NCAA Tournament berth on the balance, the 71-year-old is approaching the remainder of the season “one game at a time.”

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15 Current St. John’s Men’s Basketball Metrics According to KenPom: Rank 28 W-L 17-12 Adjusted Efficiency Margin +17.71 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 116.3 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 98.6 Adjusted Tempo: 69.5
Isabella Cautero | MarCh 4, 2024 Kyler Fox | Feb. 19, 2024 Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

St. John's Upsets No. 15

Creighton at "Johnnies Day"

The St. John’s Red Storm took down the No. 15 Creighton Bluejays, 80-66, at the second annual “Johnnies Day” festivities today.

The Red Storm showcased a remarkable transformation, fueled by a Rick Pitino tirade following a Feb. 18 loss to Seton Hall.

Madison Square Garden was covered in white, as the game was complete with a pep rally, free merchandise and games. Even Rick Pitino himself was dressed in a white Armani suit, labeled as “sharp” by Daniss Jenkins and rethe team.

The game tipped off with an immediate shot by graduate guard Jordan Dingle (18 pts.). This shot set the tone for the rest of the game, after the guard’s impressive 22-point performance vs. Georgetown earlier this week.

The Red Storm seized a lead in those opening seconds and never looked back. Areas of concern highlighted by Pitino, such as

speed and toughness, seemed to be forgotten. Freshman guard Simeon Wilcher increased playing time and made his mark, tallying six points in 12 minutes of play.

Junior guard Trey Alexander held down the front for the Bluejays, totaling 31 points and shooting 51% from the field. The first half ended strong with the Johnnies going on a 17-3 run against the Bluejays who trailed 41-28.

This is usually when the story goes downhill. But today was different.

After the half, the same momentum was seen from every possession on the floor. Where the team historically loses stamina, they collectively ran back and forth with some huge defensive blocks from graduate forward Chris Ledlum, who contributed seven points and six rebounds.

While the Bluejays fought to narrow the lead, senior center Ryan Kalkbrenner’s six blocks

with 5:46 left in the game hinted at a potential comeback. Jenkins went on a 9-0 run himself to pull the lead to 72-56 with under three minutes in the game, to end the game in a much-need victory for the Johnnies.

As the shot clock counted down, the Garden erupted with cheers; something that fans have been waiting to see all season. Reflecting on the team’s journey, Jenkins emphasized the team’s unity after Pitino’s vocal misgivings garnered national attention.

“After [last Sunday] we were either going to lay down or come together,” he said. “Today, we came together. We were one tight fist.”

Pitino started off by applauding the team’s offensive performance, with the team having 15 offensive rebounds.

“When you have 24 assists and only three turnovers, that’s a special offensive night,”

Taylor Jr. (4 pts., 10 rebs.) also

spoke on his increased role in today’s game, “I’m really just trying to fight for my guys on the court, no matter if I play one minute or 20 minutes.”

Jenkins, who led the Red Storm with 27 points and six assists while going 12-18 on field goals, spoke about his vision for the team that he finally saw in motion today.

“Every possession, we executed the game plan for 40 minutes,” Jenkins said. “It was really just [being] proud of each other that we came out and had that mindset like we were saying, basically it’s a pride game. We stand up, show what we are made of, show our true character.”

The Johnnies hope to extend a three-game win streak as they go on the road against DePaul this Tuesday at 9 pm. The Johnnies beat the Demons 85-57 at UBS.

VOLUME 101:24, FEBRUARY 2024 ISSUE | TORCHONLINE.COM
SPORTS
Sara Kiernan & Olivia Seaman | Feb. 24 2024
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Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan
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