On Feb. 25, 2021, The Auburn Plainsman released its last weekly print publication with a front page editorial titled: "A spirit that is not afraid of change."
Later that Thursday, the editorial staff lined up a dozen newspapers, signing the top of each one, as memorabilia to take home. Some of us framed the paper on our wall, some of us folded it to keep in a memory box, but none of us will ever forget.
However, this full year of being an online publication has certainly had its highlights. The editorial staff of 2022 gathered some of the top stories over the last year. These stories were selected based on views, quality and diversity of news coverage.
Being an online news source will be a forever-growing adjustment for us. So, we would like to thank our readership, old and new, for continuing to support our content.
The following is in order of publication date. One story has been selected to highlight each month.
Published Feb. 28, 2021
Auburn women take safety into their own hands
By Natalie Beckerink | Former Content editor
Excerpt: From a young age, many women are taught the many things they have to do and the ways they have to act in order to protect themselves from safety concerns: Never walk alone. Clutch your keys in the parking lot. Lock your doors immediately after getting to the car, among many other things.
These lessons are not given without reason. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there is an elevated risk of sexual violence for women aged 18–24 — the “college years.” Even further, women that are enrolled in college are 20% more likely than non-students to be at risk for sexual violence.
Auburn, Alabama — The Loveliest Village on the Plains — is not excluded from these statistics. Women enrolled at the University are taught to be just as aware of their surroundings as they would be anywhere else.
Published March 29, 2021
AU student survives shark attack
By Jack West | Former Editor-in-chief
Excerpt: Bryce Albert, sophomore in public relations, grew up in Naples, Florida, and said he used to go to the beach everyday until he went to college. He used to live five minutes from the ocean, and he loves to surf.
So, when Albert and some of his friends left Auburn on Wednesday, March 17, they were expecting to have a relaxing long weekend in Palm Springs. A bit burnt out by the lack of a spring break, they drove the eight-and-a-half to nine hours in one night and went to Juno Pier Beach the next day.
However, their plans changed drastically that day when Albert was attacked by a 6-foot-long blacktip shark.
Published April 8, 2021
Whataburger headed to Toomer's Corner
By Larry Robinson | Sports Writer
Excerpt: Toomer's Corner will be the next home for the Texas-based burger joint Whataburger's newest location according to reporting by Atlanta Tomorrow's News Daily. The location is the state's 20th Whataburger location.
The location was first reported by the publication Atlanta Tomorrow's News Daily. The City of Auburn's Development Review Team's monthly report from April 8 shows that the chain applied for a permit for the downtown location on March 3.
The Whataburger will replace the recently-closed Pieology in the former Bank of Auburn building at 101 College St, directly across the street from Auburn University and Toomer's Drugs.
Published May 11, 2021
Buc-ee's looks to add Auburn location off I-85
By Evan Mealins | Editor-in-Chief
Excerpt: It might not be expected for a gas station to develop a cult following, but that’s what Buc-ee’s, the chain of giant gas stations and mini-supermarkets, has done in Texas — and a new location may be coming to Auburn.
The Auburn City Council will vote on a proposed Buc-ee’s location near Exit 50 on Interstate 85 at its May 18 meeting. If the resolution is passed, the Auburn location will be the next in the Texas-based company’s expansion into Alabama, having opened or approved the development of three gas stations throughout the state since January 2019.
Buc-ee's stores are known for having a large number of fueling stations, large, sprawling selections of food, complete with delis and a barbecue selection and their recognizable iconography, brandished on shirts and hats of Buc-ee's devotees.
Published June 28, 2021
Auburn's development pushes some residents to move to Opelika
By Destini Ambus | Content editor
Excerpt: The expansion of Auburn, to high-rise apartment buildings and more chain businesses, seems to be causing some of its residents to decide to settle in the quieter neighboring town of Opelika.
Auburn and Opelika have both grown rapidly in recent years. Auburn grew by 24% from 2010-2019, and Opelika grew by 16.7% over the same time period, according to Census data. With this growth, Auburn's downtown has quickly expanded upwards.
Kimberly Freeze, lead administrative assistant for clinical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is now a resident of Opelika but grew up in Auburn before moving to different parts of the country.
Published July 29, 2021
Suni's gold brightens future of AU gymnastics
By Callie Stanford | Sports Writer
Excerpt: Following Sunisa Lee’s gold medal victory in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics, Auburn head coach Jeff Graba is excited for the future. Lee’s victory came with a total score of 57.928, continuing the U.S. women’s all-around win streak going back to 2004.
Lee is currently coached through Midwest Gymnastics by Jess Graba, twin brother to Jeff, who will coach Lee when she arrives to The Plains this fall.
Lee became the face of the individual competition when her teammate and defending champion Simone Biles withdrew from the competition citing mental health concerns.
Published Aug. 7, 2021
Panhellenic makes changes to sorority recruitment
By Emery Lay | Former Campus Editor
Excerpt: This year, sorority recruitment is looking a little different than previous years as sororities work to climb back into a sense of normalcy. Following a year and a half disrupted by COVID-19, the Panhellenic Council has taken this year as an opportunity to implement change.
Things will still not be the same as before the pandemic, as some precautionary measures will still be taken, including a virtual option for those interested.
Lady Frances Hamilton, Auburn University Panhellenic Council president and senior in public relations, joined the Panhellenic community upon arriving her first year. As her love for recruitment grew, she sought a way to become more deeply involved. She soon stepped into the role of Panhellenic delegate and later ran for president.
Published Sept. 14, 2021
Auburn students protest sexual assault, University response
By Kara Mautz | Culture Writer
Excerpt: Auburn students held a protest at Toomer’s Corner Tuesday night raising awareness of sexual assault and protesting Auburn University’s response to the three sexual assault reports that have been made in the past week.
From Sept. 8-14, Auburn Campus Safety and Security sent three emails regarding instances of sexual misconduct that have been reported on Auburn’s campus, including two reported rapes on campus.
The latest report, sent out Sept. 14, detailed a rape that was reported to have occurred at a fraternity house on Friday, Sept. 10. In the email, Campus Safety did not name the fraternity where the assault occurred, which left some Auburn students feeling frustrated and unprepared against future assaults.
Published Oct. 26, 2021
Demonstrators protest vaccine mandate for AU employees at Toomer's Corner
By Caroline Craig | Community Reporter
Excerpt: Protesters gathered Tuesday at Toomer’s Corner in response to the University’s announcement that employees are required to be vaccinated. Protesters had signs that read "No vaccine mandates," "My body my choice" and "I used to believe in Auburn and love it."
Protestors flew American flags and Gadsden flags while cars passing by honked in support. Dean Odle, a Republican running for governor against Kay Ivey, attended the protest.
The mandate is in accordance with President Biden’s Executive Order 14042 requiring federal contractors to provide adequate COVID-19 safeguards for their workforce, including requiring vaccinations for its employees.
Published Nov. 11, 2021
Panthers sign former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
By Caleb Jones | Sports Editor
Excerpt: Party like it's 2011, Panthers fans.
Former Auburn quarterback and Heisman winner Cam Newton signed with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday afternoon, first reported by The Charlotte Observer. It begins his second stint with the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
The 32-year-old Newton has been a free agent since being released by the New England Patriots on Aug. 31.
Published Dec. 2, 2021
Doctoral student opens coffee shop in Opelika
By Laney Mayfield | Community Writer
Excerpt: Catrice Hixon is the owner of the Melanin Coffee Shop in Opelika, Alabama. Since college, Hixon has dreamed of owning a coffee shop. After opening in September that dream is a reality.
Born and raised in Opelika, Hixon described herself as a quiet child who "kept her head in the books." She was a member of the Science National Honor Society and stated that she "came alive" in science classes.
Hixon's love for science prompted her to study biology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 2007. She wanted to become a forensic scientist.
Published Jan. 25, 2021
COLUMN | Auburn Arena built for able-bodied students
By Noah Griffith | Sports Reporter
Excerpt: Dear President Gogue and staff:
Feeling scared, embarrassed, helpless and angry, I sat on my parked walker, looking back as people sprinted past me toward Auburn Arena. I realized my hard-earned spot in line that I had held for the past two hours flew to the wind. So I sat there, looking behind me to make sure people saw me and wouldn't run me over.
After a long day of work and classes, I was pumped to go see the No. 2 Auburn basketball team take on the rival Georgia Bulldogs. Now, it seemed unlikely that I could even get into the arena before it reached full capacity.
Students have made a habit of sprinting toward the arena and into the student section as soon as the doors open. As a disabled person, even if I am able to get there early and get a good spot in line, other students run ahead of me, so people behind me in line still get better seats.
Published Feb. 17, 2021
Pharmacy dean sexually harassed student, Title IX documents show
After Auburn's Title IX Office initially said the dean would be suspended, it later said details of his punishment would not be shared.
By Trice Brown | Multimedia Editor and My Ly | News Editor
Excerpt: Richard Hansen, dean of Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy, was found responsible for a violation of Auburn’s Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment after sexually harassing a student at an off-campus bar last spring, according to documents received by The Plainsman.
The student, who is enrolled at Auburn University but not the pharmacy school, reported Hansen to Auburn University's Title IX Office in late September, which conducted an investigation into Hansen's behavior.