The Climate of War: Russia and Ukraine

Archive, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By Amalie Nohe-Moren

Over eight years ago, in February of 2014, Russia annexed the disputed territory of Crimea. Four days after the anniversary of the annexation, this year in 2022, Russia invades Ukraine. Understanding the disputes over Crimea, even the name and whether it is “the autonomous republic” or just “the republic” of Crimea is part of a long and complex history. 

In essence, Crimea is a land with overlap, in people, language, military presence, from both Ukraine and Russia. By most Western powers, including the European Union, it was considered part of Ukraine, and Russian President Vladimir Putin disagreed, then forcefully tried to make it part of Russia again, as it was in the USSR under Khrushchev. 

However, these disputes are only the backdrop of what I want to talk about today. Just know that this conflict, the strife, and bloodshed in Ukraine, has been going on for many years and only worsened with these most recent escalations. This context is a large part of what can help us understand the current situation. 

This underlying problem is one felt all over the world right now: In Ukraine, across Europe, in Russia, and here in the United States. It’s the common condition of fear and anxiety which seems to be becoming more prevalent. This may seem abstract and in many ways is, but I found it to be something which the effects of are clear once you look at the situation with this in mind. 

I was introduced to a cat named Pumpkin while doing my research. Pumpkin had previously lived with two other families but been given away again and now has become a bit distrusting and scared of people. However, Pumpkin, like their owner Liza, has found a home here in Baltimore which I was kindly allowed in despite the tension of the world. 

Liza moved to America from Siberia to pursue an arts education here, and just in this introduction, I began to understand the real fear of this situation. Liza asked me to not include her full name which is very reasonable as in her home country the danger of being antiwar and even expressing dissent in any way is real. As I spoke with her and our conversation got deeper, I found we came to the base state of the Russian people and how all the politics are built off of that. 

We spoke a lot about the influence of the Russian government on people’s opinion. The tactics they use to create cooperation and suppress dissent. She feels this even here and fears what will happen if spotted at an anti-war protest and if there will be consequences. In Russia quality information is inaccessible and what people do learn about the war is mostly state propaganda. These narratives are spread through every aspect of life. She describes it as feeling like “a country of the absurd, black is white, war is peace ‒ there is no truth at all right now”.  

All the media in Russia is controlled by the government now and has become more controlled as of late. Sources considered more “independent” online are often part of Russian propaganda as well and have become prevalent all across the internet. Russians have nowhere to turn. 

Even in higher education and grade school, which people like to have faith in as teaching more critical thinking, has become an environment that  is mandated to re-enforce the biased Russian view of the war with Ukraine. Students have mandatory seminars in high school where they learn about the righteousness of Putin’s “special military operation” as calling it a “war” would in itself be a risky offense. 

Liza tells me that college professors in Russian have been telling their students they are at risk of losing their college scholarship funding or of being kicked out entirely from the university if they go out to protest the war. Even if students do go out to protest Russian police are extremely brutal and the threat would not just be to your freedom and education but of being seriously hurt as well. 

Many Russians oppose the war, the representation that it has high approval ratings is mostly a result of fear of the consequences of expressing dissent. However, as the government’s grip on information tightens and time passes the nationalism and support for the war seems to be increasing. Of course, this shouldn’t be excused but it does show an important incitement into  the role of this war for Russians. When describing were she is from in Russia she says: “In Siberia where I lived (outside) our apartment building, if you walk a couple blocks there would be wooden houses. They don’t even have bathrooms inside – when you have to live like that what do you have to be proud of? I don’t know”.

Many Russians are living through hard times in their economic situation on top of the increasing government repression. This war has become a marketing campaign to the Russian people in many ways. A campaign that  seeks to stoke nationalism and pride in a people that in many ways may feel defeated.

“You don’t have many options like if we choose not to veil our that Russia is so powerful then we are going to realize that we live a terrible life.”

It is a tool to get civilians to feel pride and strength when in many parts of their lives and in their country’s situation there has been a feeling of being weak or defeated compared to “The West”. Putin portrays himself as strong, he is getting back at western powers, fighting fascism, Russians don’t need international trade, they can fight and rely on themselves! 

For people living through hard times, Putin’s nationalist rhetoric becomes much more attractive. The tight situation also leads to people not having the energy or will to be politically aware. People know they could face consequences from the government if they speak out and can’t afford to deal with that. 

People who feel beaten down by the circumstances of their lives want a chance to feel strong again, to fight back, that feeling is something easy to exploit under a worsening dictatorship. This same issue is not unique to Russia. A central element of this war is Putin’s claims of combating fascist militias that have taken over Ukraine. 

Though his acts of bombing civilians, stopping medical aid, and cutting the Ukrainian people off from the world shows his motives are not to liberate the people of Ukraine their is some complexity to this claim. Ukraine does have a sort of unofficial military that has been fighting Russia in Crimea for for many years now. This military is not officially Ukrainian but acts as defenders of the country and has connections to the government. 

These militias are composed of regular citizens not within the formal government system and some are part of organized fascist militant groups. The most well known of these is Azof which is a Ukrainian far right ultra nationalist and white supremacist militia. However, it is important to understand the only reason these groups have any formal part in the defense of their country is because Ukraine has been put in such a desperate position. 

Poverty, ongoing war with little aid, and a weak military unable to fight Russia lead to facist groups being able to gain power and recruit while there was so much desperation and fear in their country. Just as Nationalism and violently prideful politics have taken hold of Russian in their worsening circumstances the same has happened in Ukraine just in a different form. 

Fascism takes advantage of the feelings of defeat and fear in a people which is only given more fuel when the country is under attack with little support from the rest of the world. When I asked Liza if she had any last thoughts on this matter she emphasized to me how something should have been done sooner to prevent this. 

“Why did you have to wait for thousands of people to die on the Ukrainian and Russian side to do anything?” 

The world has watched for years as Ukraine has faced more and more aggression from Russia along with many other harmful acts by the nation. Instead of pulling away European reliance on Russian oil Germany was in the middle of building a new oil pipeline as this war broke out.

Sanctions that  were in place before the war and become even broader in recent weeks do little to change Putin’s actions, most just affecting the quality of life of the Russian people. The ongoing aggression felt by Ukraine from Russia has created a sad, tragic situation, and has already caused so much pain, especially to thousands of innocents in Ukraine but even to drafted Russians as well. 

The world should not have allowed the acts of the Russian government to go unpunished for so long and in all parts of the world it is important to not tolerate dictatorship, and cruelty because this type of bloody conflict is the result.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

Survivors of BSA: A Year in Reflection

Archive, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By Isabel Thomas and Nell O’Hara

If you are an avid social media user or a member of the Baltimore School for the Arts community, chances are this time last year you were very aware of an Instagram account that had the sole purpose of allowing survivors’ of sexual harassment or assault in the BSA community voices to be heard. 

This account, Survivors of BSA (originally called Victims at BSA), would soon garner the attention of the school, local, and national community. But on the night before it was created, March 22, 2021, it was just beginning to come out of the woodwork.

 Visual arts senior Ruth Dawit was the one with the vision for this account. On this night she was FaceTimeing her friends and they began discussing how whenever they had brought their own cases of sexual assault to the previous Assistant Principal for Student Support, Mary Evans, nothing was done about it. Dawit said, “After that conversation, I got really mad. I was like, okay, we need some change.”

The next day the Instagram account was created and instantly gained traction. “My phone was actually overheating from all of the notifications,” Dawit said.

Taking on the role alone of going through everyone’s stories and making sure they were heard was extremely overwhelming for Dawit. Because of this, the day after the account came into fruition she reached out to her friend, Sydney Lane-Ryer (Film ‘22), for support. That day they became a team.

Together they would read the direct messages (DMs) sent to the account and share them to the community. The fact that this was finally happening was imperative and the goals were clear. 

Lane-Ryer said, “What I was trying to do was give survivors a place to share because so often by BSA administration and in their personal lives there had been nowhere to go.” After being silenced for so long, survivors were at last being given the platform to have their stories actually be heard and understood.

While Ruth and Sydney knew that there were a lot of stories to be told, they were not aware of just how many there were. On the first day of the account, 68 stories were shared.

Susan Rome (parent, teacher, and class of ‘82) was one of the many reading each and every story. “It just made me think about the 40 years of sweeping things under the rug,” said Rome.

This account gave students a voice that many had not had before. Lane-Ryer said, “I think that it did give at least some people that form of closure or let them know that they weren’t alone.”

Ruth mentioned that she was still in contact, a year later, with people who she connected with through the Instagram account. “I’m glad survivors have found each other,” she said.

Students who were watching this page in action were also given hope that a change in policy was finally going to come to BSA.

And while sharing every story, Lane-Ryer and Dawit were behind the account trying to find ways to make the BSA administration really listen and do something. “What helped us a lot was reaching out to the administration and saying to them ‘is this what you want your donors to see?’” Lane-Ryer said.

By being direct, they were able to get something out of the school administration and the district (even if it was not perfect), all through virtual modes. Rome said that the Instagram account coming out during online school and COVID-19 was a good thing. “It allowed a very emotional thing to be exposed when we weren’t in each other’s faces all the time. We needed the pause to be able to reassess how it was going to be handled.”

The results of that virtual pressure that students placed on the district and school administration could be seen in changes made as the 2021-2022 school year began in-person. Some of the changes included a movement team whose purpose is to keep students monitored and safe in the building, more security cameras, an adjusted dress code policy, and training sessions from Planned Parenthood and TurnAround, Inc. for both staff and students.

TurnAround, Inc. is a local service with a mission “to educate, empower, and advocate for all people impacted by intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking.”

Behind the scenes, there were people working hard to make these things happen before students and teachers returned in the fall. In April of 2021, an advisory council was formed to assist in this transition. It was mostly made up of students who elected to be on the council, but also included two arts teachers, two academic teachers, and two parents. 

Rome, who was selected as one of the two parents, sees the role of the advisory council to be a combination of things. She said, “I think that self-respect and wellness are so central to the message of the council.” 

She continued, “And then on the other side, there’s the very practical things like ‘Who do you feel safe going to?’ ‘What are the consequences going to be?’ ‘What’s the mechanism to keep us safe?’ It is a multi-pronged approach. It can’t be just students, it has to be administration and students working together.”

After a few months of meeting, gathering information, and planning, the council presented their findings and recommendations to Principal Rosiland Cauthen. As the former Theater Department head, Cauthen was entering her first year as head of the school, and she said that “stepping into leadership at such a difficult and tumultuous time was very challenging. I did want to think about what the previous administration had been putting into place and find ways to take that to the next level.”

In regards to the advisory council, Cauthen said  “we haven’t been able to fulfill all of the recommendations of the advisory council, but it’s been nice to have the input of the advisory council as we try to move forward.”

Upon reflecting on the advisory council’s work in the past year, Rome said, “I think we have to look at it as a five-year arc. Culture that has been developed, a culture of hiding these issues away for four decades, I think expecting it to be all rainbows and unicorns the first year is not realistic. If it was a sudden ‘about face’ like that, the foundation wouldn’t be lasting.”

BSA is in the midst of building that foundation. As the school and the larger community moves forward in this endeavor, there is a lot to consider.

As Rome said, “realistically, it’s a breakneck pace around here, students are being pulled in a million directions at one time. There’s enough stress. But it’s exactly when there’s that stress that you see an uptick in bad behaviors.” 

Sometimes it can be discouraging, as Dawit said. “There’s no definite way to prevent sexual harrassment or assault from happening unless you just convince people to not violate others.” 

Intervention and prevention is an important step, one that is hopefully building with the school’s efforts. Lane-Ryer said, “there is still a really long way to go but I think we got to a good starting point and at least got people to acknowledge that there is a problem.”

Getting the truth out there was a monumental first step. After starting the account a year ago, and seeing how much has happened from reckoning to real action, Dawit has realized that “most of the time it just takes one person to speak out and then everybody bands together.” 

To contact these writers, email Muse Newspaper at

COMMENTARY | Election Are Coming Up, Should You Care?

Archive, Opinion, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By: Quinn Katz-Zogby

Well folks, it’s that special time of year again. Bring out your wordy yard signs, put on your ugly T-shirts, and get ready to argue about nothing else for the next year, it’s election season.

This November is a midterm election. There is no presidential election and while every house seat is on the ballot, only about half of the senators will be up for reelection, while for us Marylanders, the most important election will likely be that of the governor race, with primary elections taking place on July 19th and general elections being held November 8th. Our current governor Larry Hogan will fortunately not be eligible to run again this year. However, do not worry, for a host of other terrible candidates have risen to replace him.

The Republican primary is fairly light on candidates, with the two main competitors being the unfortunately named Dan Cox, an ardent Trump supporter, and Kelly Shulz, who is basically just saying “I’ll pretend to be Larry Hogan for another four years.” Cox is running on a platform of basically everything you would expect, supporting the “thin blue line,” promising to loosen gun regulations, and shadow boxing against “critical race theory” while fantasizing about cutting eye-holes in his sheets.

 Shulz on the other hand, is running on the same boring policies that Republicans have been running on since Reagan decided that he couldn’t hurt Black communities enough in Hollywood and pretended to care about “states rights”. She wants to lower taxes, fistfight teachers’ unions, and protect small businesses.

The Democratic primary is far more interesting, primarily because their policy proposals amount to more than trying to solve imaginary problems. So far nine people are running for the Democratic nomination, and while most of them have absolutely no shot at winning, I think that it’s in all of our best interest to at least mention and laugh at most of these pale imitations of genuine left-wing opposition to America’s hegemony.

First up, we need to speed through some of the people who have no shot:

 John King is a former Obama education secretary who’s only interesting policy idea seems to be weed legalization, something so run of the mill for politicians nowadays that even Trump types are adopting it. 

Jerome Segal is a socialist who switched to the Democratic party from his own Bread and Roses party, presumably due to the realization that starting a third party has literally never worked for anyone in America in the last 150 years. Segal has essentially no shot at winning, especially since the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) would be the endorsement he needs to get any traction, and they will never associate with him due to his heavy involvement in supporting the state of Israel in otherwise progressive circles, being involved in the creation of the J-Street program, which the DSA condemned Representative Jamaal Bowman for simply taking part in.

Rushern Baker III came second in the Democratic primaries in 2018 and it’s not exactly surprising that he didn’t win, considering that his only campaign promise seems to be to “Take Dark Money out of Politics!” a vague political slogan seemingly only on his website to adorn the large green button prompting you to give him $250.

Jon Baron, despite having the name of the bad guy in a Pixar movie, is actually a former Clinton and Obama staffer who worked to give away $450 million in taxpayer money every year to private tech companies, so he clearly is using his Ivy League education well.

Peter Franchot is a former Comptroller of Maryland who is running as a political outsider despite having worked in state government since 1986. While he is much older than most of the other candidates on the ballot, time which he clearly used well as he spent most of his youth fighting on behalf of US imperialism in Vietnam. Since then, he has worked with progressive figures like Ralph Nader to be a real progressive voice and has fairly thorough plans for improving Maryland public transportation and expanding quality internet access across Maryland.

Right back into the liberal cesspool though, Doug Gansler is the former Maryland Attorney General who decided to split his time in power between combatting ExxonMobil, and teaching working class kids lacrosse so that they could win scholarships to go to Gilman and other private schools. Frankly, I think that playing lacrosse at all is grounds enough to lose my vote.

Now, onto people who do have a chance: 

Ashwani Jain is by far the underdog of those who have some chance at winning, being a former Obama staffer who gained notoriety and press coverage for his bid. If he would win he would be the youngest governor ever and the first POC to be governor of Maryland. However, especially when his two most serious opponents are also POC, this means relatively little, and if he can’t even win a city council race for Montgomery County, why should he be trusted with our livelihood as a state?

He has never held elected office, and while his campaign promises of eliminating income tax for the working class, making public transit free, and creating a jobs guarantee for all adults in Maryland are all promising and could yield amazing results for the working class population of Maryland. Though his own inexperience and reliance on imitating Obama during his speeches definitely leave a bit to be desired.

The next, and probably worst Democrat running seriously, is Tom Perez, the failure of a DNC chair slithering to Maryland after being ousted from the top position of his own party. Tom Perez, ironically, removed much of the inter-party democracy of the Democratic party, kicking out progressive figures and being largely responsible for laying the groundwork for the collusion and corruption that the establishment of the party have been using to make it more difficult for progressives and democratic socialists to win primaries.

He also was involved in the chronic mismanagement of the case against George Zimmerman after he murdered Trayvon Martin and failed utterly to bring justice to the family of Trayvon Martin and the greater Black community. He led the way for the continuation of these sorts of hate crimes to continue until today, crimes that are especially prevalent in Baltimore City. Perez is a crony of the Democratic establishment, listening to no one but his corporate donors and has been holding the Democratic party back from real change for the past 20 years; we should never let him do the same to our state.

Lastly, author, non-profit CEO, and man who killed human beings in Afghanistan because “college was really damn expensiveWes Moore. Who, while working with New York hedge-fund manager and natural gas lobbyists, earned $800,000 a year while working to “alleviate poverty.” Moore is portrayed by most media outlets as a progressive, for his brilliant policy ideas of “not giving tanks to police departments” and “Unions: maybe they’re fine?”

Wes Moore is promising to increase workers’ collective bargaining power and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which, according to an MIT study is far less than the $17.93 an hour that would be a living wage for an adult living on their own with no debt of any kind. While Moore may be better than much of the opposition, it doesn’t change the fact that he is just as much a mockery of left-wing politics as every other politician Maryland has seen for the past 30 years.

Now, I know that this article may have been a bit pessimistic, painting a grim picture of the myriad of bad options that Maryland will face this November, but I do still want to circle back to the end of the title of this article. The big question that you no doubt have been losing hours and hours of sleep to: “Should you care?” In a race with this many corrupt, under-experienced grifters running to lead our state, it is easy to feel like your vote doesn’t matter, and if I’m being completely honest, it doesn’t especially matter.

No matter who you vote for, it won’t change the root causes of the problems facing our state, it won’t stop your boss from stealing your wage, banks from gentrifying your neighborhoods, and police from murdering your friends, family, and community members with impunity. But while you can’t kill the virus, you can treat the symptoms. Vote for who you think will be the least bad, but don’t think that your responsibility to your community ends at the ballot box.

Work together with your neighbors and community to build real alternatives to this awful system, spend your free time volunteering for mutual aid organizations, educate yourself on politics, and don’t grow complacent. There is a better way for our society to run, but improving our society is not as easy as ticking a box on a sheet of paper; it will only get better if we work to make it better. November is looking dark, but there may still be light on the horizon.

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

Student Body President Sydney Lane-Ryer Profile

Archive, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By: Amalie Nohe-Moren

The SGA elections have come to a close and students have all placed their votes. Among the roles to be filled this election was the leader of the student body, the SGA president. For this position, the BSA community chose Sydney Lane-Ryer, a senior in the film department. While the SGA and her role in it is new, Sydney being a leading figure for the student body is not.

One of Sydney’s main motivations for running for Student Body President this year was her experience with co-running the Survivors of BSA Instagram page and working to address issues of sexual assault within our school, and the city school system at large. After hearing all the ideas of students, and seeing first hand the desire for change, she became motivated to continue to push for progress based on the feedback and values of the BSA community. Her policies are centered around creating a safer school environment where people are comfortable and the students’ voices matter. 

Student Government President Sydney Lane-Ryer. Photographed by Amalie Nohe-Moren.

Though BSA’s student government is new, Sydney sees the potential in it as a real tool for change. In her own words, she states, “I really hope the student council is a place where students can bring and voice those opinions and hopefully where something can happen because of them”. 

This system relies heavily on the students and their voices, meaning community engagement is central to Sydney’s idea of how to make a student government act most effectively. For this to be successful Sydney describes how important it is for the students of BSA to both be passionate and willing to give their opinions to create change in the school. To facilitate this, Sydney plans to focus on making it as easy as possible for students to speak directly to the SGA.

For this to work, according to her, it is crucial that students are embracing and utilizing not just the SGA but also the school’s workshops and events to educate and improve our environment. Along with this, Sydney wants to encourage that among the students we should always be working on creating a safer school environment.

Hopefully together with the more organized actions of the student government the BSA experience can become a healthier learning environment for future students. 

As greater student input and engagement is a main goal of Sydney’s as president, it is important to go more into how students could make their voices heard. Sydney stated how it is important that students have easy access to submit ideas, information, or anything else you feel may be helpful to the SGA.

One way she has discussed carrying this out is through a form which can easily be accessed by anyone at any time and have what they submit be read and taken to the proper place. This policy has the potential to make it easy and safe for students to voice their opinions.

In the past when students have had concerns they often have nowhere to go or don’t know who to speak with and this could be a system to resolve that if well executed. Sydney explains how this issue was one of her main motives for running: “I kinda realized that without bringing those somewhere they were just going to fall… and I didnt want to do that to the students. I had kind of a responsibility to uphold those. I also thought that I could hopefully make some changes.”  

As a community the students of BSA have lots of conviction, motivation, and ideas on how to improve not just our school community but our world. If all that energy and thoughtfulness can be listened to and acted upon there is so much potential for creating a better school environment. In the past the students have never had much access to a good resource where these ideas can be heard, but maybe now Sydney can help lead in changing that. 

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at

BSA Elects First Student Government Under New Administration

Archive, Politics and Activism, School Year 2021-22

By: A. W. Taylor

The students of the Baltimore School for the Arts elected 13 new student government officers on Tuesday, November 2nd. This election is the first under the school’s new administration and represents the first widespread student government election at the school.

Student Government Advisor Meg Grouzard has wanted to start a Student Government Association at BSA since 2012. While originally never coming to fruition due to administrative problems, the need for a Student Government became apparent after students spoke out about racism and sexual assault that happened at the school. 

Both Grouzard and fellow Student Government Advisor Jocelyn Providence emphasized the need for students to have a place to speak their voice. 

Student Government Advisors Meg Grouzard and Jocelyn Providence. Photographed by Ella Haber.

“I realized that people didn’t have a place to go,” said Student Government President Sydney Lane-Ryer. “Because people had nowhere to go with their concerns and because I had personally seen so many things, I thought that I had to do something.”

Lane-Ryer, who helped run Survivors of BSA, an Instagram page dedicated to sharing stories of sexual assault and harassment, plans to continue to work for the students of BSA. “My goal for the Student Government is to empower the students in any way that we can,” Lane-Ryer added. “We’re going to start training on things like consent and microaggressions.”

“I really want to see the SGA do a lot of things, not just events,” said Student Government Vice President Quinn Bryant. “I really want people to know that an SGA exists and be able to say by the end of the year, ‘Oh wow the SGA did this for me.’”

Student Government President Sydney Lane-Ryer (Right) with Student Government Vice President Quinn Bryant (Left). Photograph by A. W. Taylor

“I think we learned a lot when there wasn’t really a solid student government and there were all of these things that were happening. Until my friend created the page, there was nowhere to go, and still, with a lot of issues there was nowhere to go”, Lane-Ryer explained. “There has to be somewhere to go, and I think the Student Government can be that.”

To contact this writer, email Muse Newspaper at