Yes, this year really did happen. From campus closing in March, to Newton-based organizations helping frontline workers and struggling families, to the return of sports in the fall, The Heights takes you through the biggest moments and stories of 2020.

As always, thank you for reading.

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BC Declines Calls for Divestment 

Members of Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) participated in national Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in February, protesting across campus from St. Ignatius Church, delivering a list of demands to administrators, and calling on BC to divest from fossil fuels. In response to the protest, the University agreed to engage in conversations with CJBC, but in a statement to The Heights Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn said that BC remains opposed to divestment. 

In June, BC rejected a call from the Vatican for Catholics to divest from companies engaged in harmful activity to “human and social ecology.” CJBC joined with 29 other colleges to release a joint statement calling for divestment from fossil fuels on Sept. 8. In December, a group of BC alumni, local politicians, environmental advocacy groups, and scientists filed a complaint calling on Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to order BC to divest from fossil fuels. 

Admissions Alterations

BC accepted 24 percent of the 29,400 applicants for the Class of 2024, a three-point drop from the acceptance rate from the past two years. Since admitted students could not travel to campus before the May 1 deadline, many students committed to BC without visiting the campus. 

Due to concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic would hinder students’ ability to take standardized tests this fall, BC announced over the summer that it would be test optional for the admissions cycle for the Class of 2025. With prospective students unable to preview campus, the Office of Undergraduate Admission curated a virtual visit experience. BC also moved up two spots this year in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report, being named the No. 35 best national college. 

Drive for Racial Justice Heats up On and Off Campus

Protestors gathered and kneeled in solidarity with George Floyd, holding up signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “How many more?” in Franklin Commons on June 2 to fight against racial injustice and police brutality. The University was criticized for sending BCPD officers to conduct crowd control at the peaceful protest. About a week later, roughly 100 protestors, including BC students and Jesuits, held a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside of St. Ignatius Church. Even from their homes over the summer, BC students got involved, releasing several petitions that called on the University to address and do more to fight against racial injustice in the BC community and across the United States. In late June, BC was accused of untagging its Instagram account from multiple posts on @blackatbostoncollege, an Instagram account which documents BC students’ experiences of racism at the University.

In the fall, BC football sat out a practice in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake. University professors and scholars participated in the 48-hour Scholar Strike in response to racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration in the United States. Students stood in solidarity with protestors across the country who demanded racial justice for Breonna Taylor after a grand jury in Kentucky ruled to not charge any of the police officers involved in her murder. Protestors stood outside of Corcoran Commons and chanted, listened to students speak, and held up signs. 

BC faculty members spoke about Black Lives Matter and the necessity of racial justice intervention at the University’s webinar BLM at BC: Formation and Racial Justice in Higher Education on Oct. 22. Members of the BC Community held signs with slogans such as “End racism now” and protested on Middle Campus in support of racial justice on Oct. 27.  

Issues surrounding racial justice were also at the forefront of conversations on campus ahead of the 2020 presidential election on Nov. 3. After a long four days, the campus community watched as president-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was named the projected winner, and The Heights collected their reactions.

Dynamic Campus Turns Desolate

BC students returned to Chestnut Hill from spring break with COVID-19 on their minds, as other colleges around the country began halting in-person classes and sending students home. The Undergraduate Government of Boston College called for the suspension of in-person classes on March 10 in a letter signed by 27 of its members. The University officially canceled on-campus classes the following day and required students to leave their residence halls for the semester by March 15. Campus erupted in chaos during those four days as students tried to wrap their heads around this new reality and make up for the time they would be losing. BCPD saw a sharp uptick in vandalism on campus, and students coped with the campus closure by hanging signs, dancing in the Mods, and even creating a Facebook “Marathon Friday” event. 

For some LGBTQ+ students, going home was not an option and so they had to quickly devise housing arrangements or apply for an exemption to stay in BC housing. Students with unstable living situations, such as low-income students and students experiencing homelessness, spoke on how BC’s abrupt, four-day move out plan left them scrambling to figure out their next move in such a short time.

The Heights also created a timeline to document the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the University. 

No Eagles Studying Abroad

Boston College’s Office of International Programs announced the suspension of all Spring 2020 programs on March 12. OIP sent an email to students in May stating that they were planning to move forward with Fall 2020 programs, but in June, they officially canceled all fall programs. BC officially canceled all Spring 2021 abroad programs on Oct. 26.  

New Majors and Minors 

In April, BC announced its new Human-Centered Engineering program which will begin with the Class of 2025. BC named Glenn Gaudette as the inaugural chair of its new engineering department. Journalism officially became a minor for the 2020-21 academic year, and will be taught using a liberal arts model in six courses. 

All Circumstance, No Pomp 

BC postponed the Class of 2020’s May Commencement and Senior Week events until October due to the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 restrictions for large gatherings. In the fall, BC canceled the previously rescheduled Commencement for the Class of 2020, and instead is planning, along with the Alumni Association, to hold a first-year reunion in June 2021 to allow the Class of 2020 to participate in Senior Week traditions.  

New Beginnings on the Heights

BC named Laura Steinberg as the first director of the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society. In June, BC’s major construction projects were all under active construction, including the Schiller Institute, a steam line under Gasson Quad, and on the former site of the Flynn Recreation Complex. The Schiller Institute is on schedule to be completed in December 2021. Restoration of Bapst Library and renovations in Rubenstein Hall are also underway. 

Students Return To a Changed Campus Environment

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., announced in May that BC would resume on-campus classes in the fall. Throughout the summer, BC incrementally released more detailed reopening plans, which included implementing social distancing in classrooms and wearing masks at all times outside of private rooms and offices. The University also offered its summer courses remotely. Douglas Comeau started as the new director of University Health Services in July. 

In June, the University filled in more of what the fall semester would look like, including specifics on guest policies within residence halls. Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore also notified students that they would be required to sign the Eagles Care Pledge, promising to adhere to the University’s COVID-19 policies and to care for themselves, others, and the community. Moore also told students to “pack lightly.” 

The Office of Residential Life released a COVID-19 addendum to the housing contract for students living on campus, which stated that students would only be allowed one guest per resident in each unit, and all unapproved social gatherings will be prohibited, signifying a substantially reduced social life on campus for at least the year. In October, BC updated its guest policies, lowering the number of guests allowed in residence halls to as low as one guest at a time, depending on the type of room.

This fall, BC allowed students to choose their plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, either to leave Massachusetts for the break and finish the semester remotely or to remain in the Commonwealth and complete the semester at BC. Students spoke to The Heights about their difficulties deciding their Thanksgiving plans. The University also announced it would delay the spring semester by nine days and cancel Spring Break.   

COVID-19 Testing on Campus 

The University tested all community members upon their arrival to campus, which began in Conte Forum on Aug. 17. BC partnered with the Broad Institute, which analyzed the COVID-19 tests conducted on campus, with an average turnaround time for results ranging from 6 to 26 hours. During the second week of testing, as the majority of students came back to campus, six undergraduates tested positive, with some reporting delayed results. As the semester began, BC transitioned to random surveillance testing, and the University saw the largest spike of the semester, with 73 undergraduates testing positive from Sept. 7 to Sept. 13. BC fixed a reporting error, causing the undergraduate rate for that week to increase to 3.6 percent. The second highest undergraduate spike was from Nov. 16 to Nov. 22, with 63 undergraduate cases.

The Commonwealth took the lead on contact tracing for BC on Sept. 15. The beginning of October saw lower positivity rates among the BC community, and Boston University surpassed BC in total reported cases on Nov. 4. The University had conducted over 100,000 undergraduate tests by Dec. 18. The last week of classes brought a spike in non-undergraduate cases. Students who tested positive or were contact traced were required to remain in quarantine or isolation housing past the University’s closing date. 

BC housed students that had to be placed in quarantine or isolation due to the virus nearby at Hotel Boston and Pine Manor College, a private liberal arts college that it absorbed in May.

Academic Life Amid a Pandemic  

The new mix of in-person, online, and hybrid classes posed a series of challenges for the BC community. Professors overcame technology issues and had to decide whether to continue to hold in-person classes as cases spiked throughout the semester. During the fall semester, BC’s honor system raised questions about students’ academic integrity when taking exams online. 

Nursing students took extra precautions to continue with their clinicals in the fall, and Lynch students returned to in-person and virtual classrooms to complete their practicums. The PULSE program also resumed, but unlike previous years, students served the greater Boston area virtually. With many students leaving campus for the semester at Thanksgiving, professors reflected on creating connections with students, trying to mitigate students’ stress, and their pride in students’ resiliency during this unconventional semester.

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A look back on our most important front pages

To see more, visit our archives.

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Early Days of the Pandemic 

Newton recorded its first positive case of COVID-19 in Newton on March 9. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth in response to the rapidly spreading virus on March 10. Soon after, several Massachusetts colleges moved classes online and sent students home for the semester. 

Also in March, Historic Newton came together to create Newton Connects, an initiative in which residents shared their thoughts and feelings surrounding COVID-19 in the form of photos and written entries on Facebook and Instagram. The Newton Community Cameras project also documented the early days of the pandemic, providing a space for residents to submit photos of virtual piano and dance recitals and Black Lives Matter protests, among other events. 

Boston Marathon Postponed, And Postponed Again

On March 13, the Boston Marathon was postponed from its traditionally scheduled April date to September. On May 28, the Boston Athletic Association announced that the rescheduled September race would be hosted in a virtual format from Sept. 7 to Sept. 14. In October, the association announced it would postpone the 2021 marathon until at least the fall of 2021

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back  

In May, Governor Baker released his four-phase plan to begin reopening Massachusetts. On June 1, the Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group, a group of 14 college presidents, compiled Baker’s plan and public health guidelines and released a framework with recommendations for the safe reopening of colleges and universities. Newton students returned to school in person in September.

A spike in Boston’s positivity rate forced Boston Public Schools to suspend in-person learning and transition back to online classes on Oct. 21. On Nov. 2, Baker announced a new stay-at-home advisory, which included a 10 p.m. curfew for residents and required restaurants to close and businesses to cease alcohol sales by 9:30 p.m. 

It Wasn’t All Bad Though 

While the pandemic presented unforeseen challenges, the Newton and Boston communities rallied. Beginning in April, Feed the Fight Boston donated meals to front line workers. The Newton Covenant Church hosted a virtual benefit concert to raise money for the Boston Resiliency Fund, which assists Boston Public Schools, and the Newton COVID-19 Care Fund, which helps Newton residents.  

In September, outdoor restaurants got creative in order to expand outdoor dining and continue reopening safely. Also that month, the Newton Nomadic Theater presented Waiting for Godot, their first in-person performance since the beginning of the lockdown months earlier this year. The play was outdoors and distant from public spaces, so that spectators could spread out from one another. 

In December, over a hundred cars lined up to donate holiday gifts for the Newton Police Department’s “Stuff A Cruiser,” a holiday gift drive for Newton children. 

Local Businesses

With the absence of students in Boston this spring, local businesses struggled significantly. Newton restaurants voiced their concern about the city government’s lack of communication and support in a letter in October. 

But some restaurants embraced the challenge of opening their doors for the first time amid a pandemic. The Dial, a fusion restaurant in Cambridge that draws from Central American, European, and South Asian cuisines, opened in September. Villa Bakery Cafe, a female-, family-, and minority-run cafe with Brazilian-inspired food opened in October. Caffè Nero, a coffee shop with tasty coffee and a great atmosphere for studying, opened up a new location in Newton in November. 

A Year of Elections

This year also saw the 2020 presidential election. Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said that 35,502 Newton residents requested mail-in ballots this year, a sharp increase from the 2016 election. Newton held early in-person voting from Oct. 17 to Oct. 30, during which 9,954 Newton residents cast their ballots. Unofficial results from the City of Newton on Nov. 4 showed that current President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were projected to win by a large margin, but the overall election was still too close to call. Following Biden and Harris’ projected victory in the overall election four days later, Boston residents took to the streets to celebrate, dance, and sing.

Newton City Councilor Jake Auchincloss campaigned for and won the Massachusetts 4th District congressional seat on Nov. 4. 

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Take Your Mark, Draw the Curtain

Students showcased their talent with a variety of performances on campus in the spring. BC Theatre presented Back The Night, which dove into the realities college women face with on-campus sexual assaults. Theatre students also staged The Shape of Things, a performance about a whirlwind romance with a shocking twist at the end. At the McMullen Museum, students directed and performed five 10-minute plays. Students performed Vagina Monologues, a play centering around topics of sexuality, body image, and, of course, vaginas. 

Dance, Culture, and Spontaneity 

In January, UPrising held a showcase that brought together BC hip-hop groups and teams in the Boston area, including a goofy all-male squad and a bold LGBTQ-focused group. Presenting Africa To You and the South Asian Student Association each hosted shows that shared and celebrated various cultures and traditions of the world. Boston College Irish Dance showcased their intricate moves of the traditional dance style with an added contemporary spice. Several members of the Dance Organization of Boston College choreographed routines for their biggest show of the year, Limitless

In the spring, COVID interruptions prompted an informal and impromptu gathering of dance groups who were scheduled to perform at the annual ALC showdown.  

Mic Check. One, Two

In the spring, student musical groups put on a slew of live performances. Eight a cappella groups battled it out to raise money for Boston Children’s Hospital in the second annual A Capella Riff-Off in January. Later that month, the Campus Activities Board held Boston City Limits in the Margot Connell Recreation Center, with singer-dancer DaniLeigh headlining the night’s electric soul theme. In February, Stencia Bastien, CSOM ’23, won the annual Sing it to the Heights competition to raise money for St. Columbkille Partnership School’s music program.

Keeping the Creativity Flowing

The pandemic brought great changes for the artists in the BC community. With students away from campus in the spring, the Boston College Arts Council held the annual Boston College Arts Festival virtually. The virtual Arts Fest spanned three days and featured student a capella showcases, poems, and short stories. The event was a testament to students’ talent as well as their ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. 

Music instruction was challenged by online platforms and modified in-person instruction due to the pandemic. BC’s marching band released a series of variety shows during the fall semester to boost school spirit. The Boston College Music Guild and CAB teamed up to present a live concert with student bands and artists. A cappella groups around campus adjusted to the new protocols and utilized online platforms for performances, including by posting series of videos on Instagrams.  

Getting the Show on the Road Again

In the fall, BC Theatre adjusted to new distancing guidelines by altering scenes to keep actors six feet apart, preparing to film performances over Zoom, and pushing themselves to think outside of the box to make the virtual shows as meaningful as they were in person. Using these new tactics, BC Theatre delivered a successful performance of Sweat on Zoom. The pandemic brought obstacles for actors looking to continue acting outside of BC theatre and attend graduate school, as many graduate programs closed applications for the 2021-22 year. 

Sculptures and Exhibits

When students returned to BC for the fall semester, so did on-campus art. BC Libraries hosted a Black at Boston College exhibit, displaying over 130 posts from @blackatbostoncollege, an Instagram account dedicated to making the struggles of the Black community at BC heard and validated. Van Xu, CSOM ’21, and Kaitong Hu, CSOM ’21 co-hosted Sheng, a photography exhibit that provided an abstract yet truthful look at 2020. O’Neill Plaza was also the location of Angels Unaware, an art installation depicting scenes of immigrants crowded on a boat to promote a message of acceptance within the BC community.

Pops OFF the Heights 

This year, the annual Pops On The Heights was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions. Grammy award winner Josh Groban headlined the event and BC students Tiffany Brooks and Olivia Constantino, both MCAS ’21, delivered solo performances. 

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Momentum Awards 

This year’s Momentum Awards highlighted the people who stepped up in the face of fear and uncertainty during the pandemic to make those around them feel safe and seen—epitomizing BC’s values of being “men and women for others.” 

Epidemiologist and assistant professor of public health Nadia Abuelezam wrote articles, created instructional videos, and held weekly “fireside chats” with the goal of making information about the pandemic accessible to everyone in the BC community. Philip Landrigan, director of BC’s Program for Global Public Health, served as one of the University’s top consultants during the pandemic and also joined Abuelezam in hosting the “fireside chats.”  

Melanie O’Neil, BC ’03, and her husband created Signs of Hope—rectangular wooden signs that displayed words including “hero” and “hope”—and donated the profits to small businesses that were impacted by COVID-19. Torry Stamm, BC ’03, shifted her business, Katsiroubas Bros., to distribute fresh food to people in the Boston area so that residents could buy affordable food without having to go to the grocery store. Daniel Arkins, a former National Guard member and BC ’81, worked at the Boston Hope field hospital, where patients who either did not need hospitalization or were homeless could receive care. Lori Niehaus, the president and co-founder of Feed the Front Line Chicago and BC ’18, delivered food to health care workers, nursing home staff, pharmacy workers, and others through her newly founded organization. 

 The Momentum Awards also honored groups of people who made an impact on the BC community including essential employees who stayed behind to keep campus afloat and alumni who nursed COVID-19 patients in hospitals nationwide.

Hiatus From the Heights 

As BC students transitioned to online learning, The Heights collected their experiences of the infamous March 11. Students recounted the memorable events that transpired on campus after learning that they would be learning remotely for the rest of the semester, including final dinners with roommates and walks through the mods. As the dust settled and students found their way home or to the places they would finish the semester, they grappled with dwindling motivation and other aspects of learning behind a screen. 

Professors in the Pandemic 

The Heights spoke to professors who stepped up and showed their support to the undergraduate community during the sudden move-out process in March. They extended a hand to help students with meals, language services, and hotel accommodations via a Google Sheet that BC Law professor Hiba Hafiz created. Some professors even offered their homes as storage spaces or purchased plane tickets for students who could not afford them. 

As professors readied for the fall semester, The Heights chronicled their preparations for returning to the classroom, whether physically or virtually. Professors detailed their reasons for choosing to teach in a hybrid format, in-person, or fully online format, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Even Virtually, Eagles Run for a Cause 

The Boston Marathon was held virtually this year, and Connor Longo, BC ’20; Carmen Martin, BC ’20; and Sarah Keffer, Lynch ’21, ran to raise money for the Campus School. They relied on various sources for motivation to keep them going during the unconventional race, including seeing their families at the finish line. 

The Red Bandanna Run was also held virtually this year, from Oct. 17 to Oct. 31. Despite the different format, this year marked the largest turnout in the race’s history, with a final total of 1,844 runners and walkers participating, among them students, community members, and Welles Crowther’s friends. 

New Leadership 

Of four candidates, students elected Christian Guma, CSOM ’21, and Kevork Atinizian, CSOM ’22, to president and executive vice president of UGBC, respectively, in February. The team ran on a platform of accessibility, inclusion, and improvement.

Diving Into BC’s History 

Amid an unconventional year, The Heights took readers back to another period of uncertainty, in which students were out of the classroom for reasons different from 2020. This year was the 50th anniversary of the student protests of 1970, during which BC students protested the University’s proposed tuition increase and United States’ foreign policy. 

This year also marked the 50th year of Boston College as a coeducational institution, and The Heights took readers along the timeline of women on campus. In 1969, the Academic State voted unanimously to admit women to all colleges in BC, and in 1970, 247 women enrolled and BC officially became a co-ed institution. Over the past 50 years, gender equality issues have prevailed, but women at BC have battled against them and continued to make history. 

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The Abrupt Halt of Spring Sports 

This past spring, Boston College sports faced some tough decisions. On March 12, the University limited all sporting events to essential personnel and families of athletes, and later that day the ACC suspended all athletic-related activities indefinitely. Five days later, the ACC amended that announcement to cancel all athletics until the end of the 2019-20 school year. 

The NCAA canceled all Division I basketball tournaments and remaining winter and spring championships on March 12. The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee granted spring athletes another season of eligibility about a week after the announcement. 

The postseason cancellation impacted BC men’s hockey, a team that had just earned itself a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, and BC women’s basketball, a team that was en route to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006. 

Return of the Athletes 

BC football resumed practice in June, being the first athletes to return to campus. Other teams followed in late August, instead of the typical early August preseason practices, having to prepare for an already shortened season. 

Football Frenzy

In July, the ACC announced an updated fall football plan detailing safety guidelines and schedules for the upcoming fall season. The plan included teams playing 11 games over 13 weeks, allowing each team two “open dates.” In accordance with guidance from the Commonwealth, the Eagles played a season without spectators.

In September, redshirt sophomore quarterback Phil Jurkovec made his BC football debut in the Eagles’ 26-6 victory over Duke. BC dominated the first half of the game against then-No.1 Clemson, but the Tigers made a comeback in the second half. Midway through the Eagles’ final home game of the season against Louisville, Jurkovec injured his knee, but BC still managed to pull out a win.

After finishing the season 6-5 overall, the Eagles decided in December to opt out of participating in a bowl game this year. The Eagles signed 25 players on early signing day, a class that ranks 39th in the nation and ninth in the ACC. 

Schedule Changes as a Result of COVID-19

BC field hockey postponed five games early in the season after one player tested positive and, as a result of contact tracing, nine other players had to quarantine. When the team returned to face off against Wake Forest in November, the Eagles lost 6-2. Entering the ACC Tournament ranked No. 7 after an 0-2 regular season, the Eagles lost 3-0 in the quarterfinals to UNC.

Boston College men’s soccer chose to cancel its 2020 season, citing the inability of some student-athletes to return to campus this semester and the desire to protect the health and safety of players and staff as reasons. 

Out With the Old, in With the New 

After three years as athletics director, Martin Jarmond left BC to fill the same position at UCLA. Two weeks after Jarmond accepted the position at UCLA, BC hired former Temple Athletics Director Patrick Kraft

A New Era: Hafley ‘Gets In’ 

Head football coach Jeff Hafley faced about as many challenges as he could have during his first year at BC, but still led his team to success. BC announced Hafley’s new position in December of 2019, and he instantly became a member of the BC community. Eagles players spoke highly of his attitude, enthusiasm for the team, and of course, his “get in” motto, to incite the BC community’s spirit for the team. Hafley got his first win as head coach against Duke on Sept. 19. With BC’s victory over Louisville on Nov. 29, it tied its most conference wins since 2009—a feat for the new coach and his team. Ultimately, it was clear Hafley had his head in the game this season, and there is no telling the limits of what this team can do in the future with him at the helm. 

Eagles in the Pros

AJ Dillon, former BC running back, was selected at No. 62 overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFL Draft in late April. Following in his footsteps, redshirt juniors Hunter Long and Isaiah McDuffie announced in December that they would forgo their last year of eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. 

After the end of the 2019-20 hockey season, Aapeli Räsänen signed a two-year contract with Kalevan Pallo, a professional team based out of Kuopio, Finland. Six members of BC men’s hockey were slated to be contenders in the 2020 NHL Draft, and come October, three Eagles were drafted. Trevor Kuntar was selected by the Boston Bruins in the third round. Eamon Powell was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fourth round. Colby Ambrosio was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the fourth round. 

Hockey on the Heights 

BC became Hockey East regular season champions after defeating rival BU 4-1 on March 1. With no hockey left to play after the NCAA’s cancellation of postseason games, two leading hockey outlets performed simulations of the NCAA tournament. In College Hockey News’ simulation, BC rose above to win the 2020 National Championship. 

In July, BC hockey welcomed 10 new freshmen and one Division I transfer to the team as a part of its 2020-21 recruiting class. Hockey East officially announced that the 2020-21 season would begin on Nov. 20. 

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The Heights photo editors took a look back through the archives for the most significant moments they captured on camera this year. Here are some of their favorites.

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