Author Archives | arapson16

Housing designations to change for 2015-16

Mariah Joyce

News Editor

Due to the closing of the Holden Annex for renovations, there will be changes to housing for the 2015-16 academic year. These changes include making both Douglass and Babcock halls partial first-year dorms, increasing emphasis on all on-campus houses being filled to capacity, and until the afternoon of Tuesday, April 7, the increased housing pressure had called into question whether or not Greek Life would indeed be housed in Bissman Hall again.

Doug Brush ’77, former vice chair of The College of Wooster’s board of trustees, gave $5 million to the College this year. Four million dollars will go toward the construction of a new science facility, and the remaining $1 million is allocated for the renovation of Holden Annex.

According to Dean of Students Kurt Holmes, the anticipated changes to the Annex, which was constructed in 1921, include stripping down the stucco siding, refurbishing the bathrooms, updating the electrical system, and building an outdoor plaza/patio.

As the building was tested for asbestos earlier this year and found to be within a healthy limit, Holmes hopes to hire a student wrecking crew to begin demolishing the building “hours after commencement.” The building will be out of commission for all of the 2015-16 academic year; Holmes hopes that renovations to the Annex will be completed by July 1, 2016. Said Holmes, “when [construction crews] do things fast in the summer, we pay a premium to get it done.” While the College will save money by renovating the building during the school year, this means that Residence Life is short 48 beds that would typically be available to students. This, coupled with a level of uncertainty from admissions as to how many students will actually be in the incoming class of 2019, results in the need for a balancing act on the part of the Office of Residence Life.

According to Holmes, this is one of two pressure points that the office of Residence Life is dealing with for the upcoming year. The other is filling on-campus houses to capacity. While these points change from year to year, Holmes commented that housing does change every year as the sizes of the incoming classes fluctuate and various clubs and administrative buildings are moved around.

This year, the increased pressure to fill every bed caused some ambiguity as to whether or not Greek groups would be housed in Bissman Hall again for the 2015-16 academic year. Director of Greek Life Joe Kirk met with the Greek presidents on Monday evening to try and brainstorm possible alternative solutions if the Greek community was not able to fill Bissman to capacity, according to President of Delta Theta Psi Kaitlin Starr ’16. After meeting with members of Residence Life and various deans on Monday and Tuesday, Kirk reported that Greek life would indeed be housed in Bissman again.

Bissman Hall, which holds 142 students, had 132 students signed up to live in the dorm as of Tuesday, April 7.

Although five rooms remain to be filled, Kirk said that “during the room selection process some members may not get other spaces they wanted and are currently on the list to go into Greek housing if they don’t get their first option,” and expressed confidence “about being able to take care of those rooms at this point.”

There will also be changes to Babcock and Douglass Halls next year. This year, Douglass Hall was a first-year dorm, which caused difficulty because although it was officially a dry dorm, Douglass basement was considered a designated party space where alcohol was allowed during registered events. Next year, Holmes hopes to allay this issue by making at least the first floor of Douglass upperclassmen housing, thus creating a buffer of sorts between first-year halls and social events.

To compensate for this shift, Babcock Hall, which has historically housed the C3 program, will now be split, with the C3 program occupying one floor and the other floor being taken up by first year housing. Holmes said that this change was in part because the College tries to keep first-year housing as localized as possible.

Although Holmes said that typically, it takes until approximately July 15-Aug. 1 for every student to be placed in housing, he is not worried about any student not having a bed next year.

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Campus Life under scrutiny

Meg Itoh

Staff Writer

The Campus Life Office will undergo an external administrative review by the end of this month. The decision for a review was prompted by a group of student leaders who met with the Board of Trustees’ Student Development Committee in February.

“The Board of Trustees comes to campus once every semester and once in the summer. Within the Board of Trustees, the Student Development Committee is a committee that sits down with student leaders and discusses concerns,” explained Sunny Mitra ’16, Student Government Association (SGA) president and a member of the group that proposed this review. “A couple nights before [the meeting] … student leaders [met] to get the agenda down … lots of groups were having concerns with the Campus Life Office.”

The student leaders subsequently drafted and presented a proposal to the Student Development Committee calling for a full external administrative review of the Campus Life Office. Student leaders from the Wooster Activities Crew (WAC), SGA, Campus Council, Greek Life and Residence Life presented the proposal at the Feb. 26 meeting.

The students’ main concerns regarding the Campus Life Office were the inadequate handling of safety complaints, significant staff turnover, lack of staff training, understaffing of the office and lack of communication with employees and the campus at large.

The student leaders proposed “that a thorough administrative review of the Campus Life Office be undertaken, with emphasis on incorporating student input, to identify problems and determine solutions,” according to their memo to the trustees.

Furthermore, the proposal addressed that the administrative review will “examine all aspects of the Campus Life Office to determine how its operations can be made more efficient and effective with regards to the hiring process, employee training, communication by Campus Life, ability of students to voice opinions and dissent and office culture.”

According to President Grant Cornwell, he and Bill Longbrake, chair of the Board of Trustees, “agreed that the student call warranted a serious response.” Cornwell subsequently sought a team of professionals to come to campus to conduct the review.

Student leaders met with Cornwell soon after.

“We met with him … and talked about what the review process is going to look like,” said Spencer Gilbert ’17, one of the student leaders involved.

The external review team will “meet with different people that have investment in the office and then make suggestions for improvement. Hopefully, they will be able to provide some insight for improvements that can be made to the department,” said Amy Burroughs, Residence Life area director.

The external review team will be on campus April 23 and 24. The team members are Sherra Babcock, vice president of education at the Chautauqua Institution; Hudlin Wagner, dean of students and vice president for student development at Carleton College; and Marc Gamson, an organizational psychologist and executive management consultant for the College.

“They will meet with various student organizations, members of administrative teams and individual students, staff and faculty,” said Cornwell.

According to Mitra, specific organizations that the external review team will be meeting with include RAs, members of WAC, Greek life, SGA and Campus Council, gender-neutral representatives and international multicultural student leaders.

SGA plans to send out a survey to students about the Campus Life Office. Mitra and Gilbert said that they hope to have the survey sent to students by today.

“We wanted to make sure that every student who has interacted with the Campus Life Office has the opportunity to voice their opinions on their concerns,” said Gilbert.

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College considers hiring outside investigator for Title IX cases

Maddi O’Neill

Editor-in-Chief

Administrators are considering hiring an external investigator to conduct fact-finding in Title IX violation cases, including sexual assault. The investigator, if hired, would be shared among the “Ohio Five” schools, including Denison University, Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan University and possibly Oberlin College.

The investigator would be “an experienced Title IX professional who could conduct and coordinate investigations, provide annual training for key campus personnel, and monitor legal developments that might affect processes and procedures,” according to a Statement of Need produced by representatives from the “Ohio Five” schools, who met last week to discuss the possibility of a shared investigator.

The representatives from Wooster included Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College Angela Johnston, Senior Associate Dean of Students Carolyn Buxton, Director of Security and Protective Services Steve Glick and Dean of Students Kurt Holmes.

Johnston explained that the move to an external investigator would “provide the benefit of having a person who can completely dedicate themselves to conducting a thorough and timely investigative process of fact-finding.” The investigator would need legal expertise in Title IX to ensure that he or she is prepared to conduct investigations and produce reports on possible violations.

The College’s current process, according to Johnston, requires intensive involvement by a number of Wooster employees, all of whom must split their time with their other responsibilities to devote themselves to an investigation of a Title IX violation.

Adding an external investigator would allow administrators to focus their efforts on providing help to those involved in the case.

With an investigator, College employees “could dedicate more of their attention and time to remediating the effects of these cases and tending to the well-being of all of the individuals involved,” said Johnston.

Each of the “Ohio Five” schools will have to decide on their level of involvement by April — some may choose to ask the investigator to help with Title IX trainings, while others may simply ask for assistance with investigations.

“We’re in a process of looking at that possibility,” said Holmes of hiring an investigator. “We don’t yet know what that would look like or how much that would cost.”

The idea for a shared investigator came from Lawrence University, a fellow member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association that has successfully used an external investigator for nearly 20 years.

Nancy Truesdell, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Lawrence University, explained that having an investigator with specialized Title IX training had successfully reduced the number of appeals Lawrence received after deciding sexual assault cases.

“All of the kinds of things we hear about [at other schools], particularly with appeals, have to do with the dual roles of investigators,” she said. “We avoid any of the bias.” In other words, many schools without an external investigator use campus officials to investigate sexual assault cases; on small campuses where administrators and students know and interact with each other, this can lead to charges of bias after the case concludes.

“We always face the dilemma that a student comes in and makes a complaint, and somebody knows them from class or somewhere else around campus, and that introduces the possibility of bias into the system,” said Holmes.

The use of an external investigator, who presents a final report to all involved parties after the investigation, preempts this problem and also adds clout to the result.

“I think when both parties are able to see a professionally completed investigative report of fact-finding in front of them, there is a discussion with each about whether or not there is a preponderance of evidence to indicate that there has been a violation of College policy, they both will be more accepting of the outcome,” said Johnston.

Once an investigator is hired, the College will consider new ways to resolve sexual assault and other Title IX cases.

“Having an investigative fact-finding report completed by a professional investigator may allow us to move away from hearings by a panel to an administrative resolution process that is more sensitive to the parties involved and more private,” said Johnston. Johnston expects that a legal firm and specific investigator will be selected by Aug. 15.

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Longbrake hires new counselor

News Editor

The College of Wooster recently hired Emily Harstine as a counselor at Longbrake Wellness Center after several short-staffed months resulted in a weeks-long waiting list for counseling appointments.

“Our goal is to get ourselves fully staffed and with the addition of Emily we are a few hires away from that goal,” said Ray Tucker, director of Health and Wellness Services. “We would like the Wellness Center to continue [to] develop into a place of teaching and learning. Emily Harstine is very willing and able to begin outreach efforts and engage with the College community beyond the Wellness Center.”

Harstine was previously employed with a community mental health agency and was a member of the Adult Crisis Response Team. She worked in a variety of concentrations, including severe mental illness, alcohol or drug treatment and forensic treatment for violent offenders.

“What this boils down to is that I am comfortable dealing with difficult circumstances whether they be mental health concerns or relational issues within both partnerships or within family of origin,” said Harstine.

Tucker noted that Harstine has worked “with many people of various races, gender[s] and socioeconomic status[es].”

“The College of Wooster community is a microcosm that I feel Emily Harstine will work well with and in,” he said.

Hartsine emphasized preventative care within the College community, stating that “balance is difficult in almost every stage of life, and it can look different for each individual.”

“The coping skills that are developed now can often impact lifestyle and boundaries for career and future relationships,” she continued. “This is why the concepts of self-care and healthy boundaries are so important.”

Encompassed in this preventative care is the “first responders” concept, according to Harstine. “Frequently, we think of that being a counselor or other medical professional,” she said. “As a student body, there is a much more accurate assessor in friends and classmates. Look after each other, encourage individuals that you see struggling to seek out help if it is necessary.”

Harstine hopes that encouragement from friends will increase the number of students who need counseling to seek help.

“There are not ‘silly’ or ‘small’ problems. There are just problems, and there are times that they can seem insurmountable,” she said. “In those times it can be so intimidating to reach out to a counselor, especially one that you have never met. […] My desire is that regardless of what you may be wrestling, it is not fear that keeps you from seeking out connections.”

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Res Life turnover is an opportunity for improvement

In light of the upcoming staff changes in the Campus Life Office and the news that the College will soon be conducting an external review of the office (see page 1), the staff of The Wooster Voice would like to emphasize the importance of incorporating student voices throughout this process.

With the departure of Director of Residence Life Amber Zifzal and the impending resignation of Assistant Dean of Students Christie Kracker, administrators are in a position to make staff changes that will fundamentally alter this office, which many currently consider dysfunctional.

Students should play a major role in crafting an office that serves the campus and maintains the culture of The College of Wooster. We are encouraged by the support the trustees and administration have shown for the idea of conducting a review of the office; that the review will incorporate ideas and frustrations from a number of student groups is a good sign. However, it is not enough just to collect this information — it must be used constructively.

The changes students propose must be taken seriously and considered during the process of hiring new staff and making changes to the office’s structure. We hope that the College will not take lightly that this review is a student-fueled measure, and will include student viewpoints accordingly.

In particular, it will be crucial to ensure that staff replacements in the Campus Life Office are willing to communicate their policies to the campus in a transparent and timely manner, an issue the current office has consistently struggled with. Better organization and communication should be a priority.

Consistency should also be emphasized; although the office as it currently exists is in need of serious repair, it will be jarring if new staff members take the office in an entirely new direction. This is a concern especially because important members of the staff are leaving; therefore, there will be opportunities for new employees in high-level positions to make major changes without consulting the student body. The College should select a “point person” with experience in Wooster Campus Life to oversee the transition to new staff.

It will be of the utmost importance that new hires be trained thoroughly and know the extent of their responsibilities — proper training of new staff has been a major oversight in the past few years. It is a problem that must be solved if the office is to become more efficient and functional.

Above all, new leaders who are sympathetic to students’ needs and passionate about Wooster culture will be crucial. We hope that administrators will listen carefully to students’ thoughts and take advantage of this opportunity to fix a long-broken office.​

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Party culture must embrace sexual respect Cecilia Azar and Caren Holmes

Let us preface this by mentioning that our purpose in writing a viewpoint is not to punish or shame specific groups, but rather to initiate a conversation and evoke critical reflection on aspects of our campus party culture.

In recent years, with the publicity stemming from movies such as Dear White People, colleges around the country have begun to call into question party themes that promote blatant racism and cultural appropriation. However, the conversation has ignored the prevalence of the sexist and misogynistic themes that consistently find their way into our Facebook newsfeeds. Over the last several years, our campus is guilty of throwing parties with themes including “CEOs and Corporate Hoes,” “Deans and Teens,” “Walk of Shame,” and “A Farmer and His Hoe.” While some seem less problematic, in practice they produce restrictive and oppressive standards of dress contingent upon gender expression.

Though some may disagree, as representatives of k(NO)w, we perceive these themes to be sexually disrespectful and representative of harmful ideology that permeates our campus sex culture. While we do not suspect that the hosts of these parties have intended to promote sexist or oppressive agendas within our student body, our attempts to shed light on the underlying nature of these events have been largely delegitimized. Statements like “Political correctness has gone too far,” “it’s just a joke” and “you’re taking it too seriously” exemplify recurring discursive tactics employed in these personal exchanges that have become tiresome.

We suggested trying an alternative to hosting a “Farmer and His Hoe” party, not because the term “hoe” is “politically incorrect,” but because language has power. We all send messages to others through our word choices and should consider their impact carefully in order to foster a supportive, respectful community. We ask that our campus take a moment to deconstruct the implications of a name such as “A Farmer and His Hoe.” The term “hoe” shames people, most commonly women, who choose to engage with their sexual agency. In addition, the term “hoe” objectifies women as a sexual object, while the farmer is privileged with the status of an occupation. This theme insinuates that a woman is first, inappropriately sexually promiscuous; second, an object; and third, the property of a man. It also enforces the gender binary paradigm that is not inclusive to those who express gender differently or identify as non-gender conforming. We consider this reflective deconstruction necessary to examine the ways in which Wooster party culture is misogynistic and demeaning to those who identify as female within our student population.

We ask that when choosing themes for parties, we take a minute to consider the messages we’re sending. In the end, the “hoe” pun may still seem too clever to pass by. We aren’t advocating for bans or censorship, but we encourage our campus to recognize that these choices are not isolated or without impact.

They influence the entire campus and perpetuate a culture of sexual disrespect within our student body. Question the reasons for choosing such a theme and why alternatives can’t be used. If you find that your themes digress into “hoe” puns and dichotomous-gender themes, it is not only your misogyny that should be brought into question, but also your creativity.

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