First and foremost, welcome back! We hope everyone had a wonderful and relaxing holiday break, whether you found yourself celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or whatever else. With every new semester and every new year, we often reminisce about the past year and the excitement, drama, sadness and joy we experienced. 2015 was a crazy year; from the horrific and sad attacks across the world to the horrific yet amusing presidential horse race, 2015 was nothing short of, well, exhausting. And 2016 seems to be starting off just as 2015 left us — bewildered and anxious — anxious for a new year that might bring with it some new found hope in a fight against Daesh overseas, hope in our political system and hope in our test scores. The year has only just begun yet with it come some major stories and news.

Currently in the midst of award season, the Oscars found itself embroiled in heat. After a stark white list of acting nominations, many have voiced their concern at the Academy. The likes of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee have announced that they will not be attending this year’s show, with many calling on Chris Rock to step down from his hosting position. Nominations lack the inclusion of many thought to be potential award winners: Idris Elba from Beasts of No Nation, Will Smith from Concussion and Straight Outta Compton. But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a lack of diversity from the show; 2016 marks the second consecutive year we’ve had 20 all white nominees. The backlash that the nominations have garnered is cause for optimism; with enough support and enough vocal dissent we can continue to wage a war against racism and for inclusion, no matter how long it may take. We don’t want awards to be given to minority directors or actors by the Academy because they feel obligated to do so for fear of public backlash — we must have an Academy that is reflective of our feelings of inclusion and diversity, where all are met with equal and just treatment.

Other major news that emerged from early this year is the possible readdition of a ninth planet. No we’re not talking about Pluto. We’re talking about “Planet Nine,” ten times the size of Earth and rotating 20 times further away than Neptune. That means it take around 10,000 to 20,000 years for it to orbit the sun. Of course this discovery isn’t about to appear in every astronomy and science textbook across the world just yet. The planet has yet to be actually observed, but due to some mathematical modeling and computer simulations, evidence points to the planet’s existence (whose size makes it a clear cut planet, not like everyone’s favorite ex planet Pluto). Sure the addition of a new planet in our solar system may not affect your daily life but still, it’s pretty damn awesome.

And finally, while not really breaking news of 2016, the presidential race continues on. With the final debates before the Iowa Caucus over with, the sides seem less clear every week. On the right we have everyone’s favorite slightly (a possible understatement) racist, xenophobic and toupeed uncle Donald Trump battling against the Southern darling Ted Cruz. Recent polls put the two within two points of each other, both ways. On the Democratic side we have the same front-runner in former Hillary Clinton but with Bernie Sanders, Simon and Garfunkel enthusiast, still holding steady. Polls for the Iowa Caucus show Clinton with a nice 9 point lead on the Bern but a New Hampshire poll puts him ahead by 3. Basically, polls aside, the race is shaping up to be, as it is every year, a nice, long and bloody battle. Regardless of who you support, as long as it isn’t Trump, make sure you get out and vote. It’s still a ways off we know, but doing your part as an active citizen is crucial. You may think your individual vote may not count — and if you’re voting for O’Malley or Paul you may be statistically right. But that shouldn’t matter. The importance of the vote isn’t bound to whether or not it has an effect on an election or whether your party’s candidate does or doesn’t get elected — it’s important because it endorses, in a meaningful way, a certain view of society.

Protests are important even if they don’t change opinion or accomplish their goals. Participating in our system is our inherent right, a right of all citizens to advocate your own principles and voice your own opinion. So get off the couch, get registered, and go out and vote.

With only three weeks into the new year, 2016 is shaping up to be another hell of a ride — here’s hoping it brings with it the right changes.