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Student’s televised comments ignite town-gown dispute

Maddi O’Neill

News Editor

A day after Chadwick Smith ’17 appeared on a CNN youth panel to discuss race relations and the Michael Dunn verdict, a disgruntled email response from a local woman was circulated throughout Wooster, sparking a wave of town-gown controversy.

The email, written by Kay Rowekamp, took issue with one of the comments Smith had made on CNN. When the show’s host asked Smith if he ever feared for safety as a young black man, Smith replied, “The college I go to is in a majority white town, and we have a main street running through it. Sometimes people from the town will ride through and -— where’s the black people? But back in Atlanta where I live, I don’t feel that way. Just because Atlanta is a majority black city. But definitely in Wooster, Ohio, I do sometimes fear somebody is going to throw something at me … Is somebody going to walk up to me? So yes, I think as a black male I am sometimes fearful for my life.” Smith also mentioned that women and students of color are often the targets of harassment.

Smith’s comment referred to Beall Ave., which is infamous on Wooster’s campus for catcalls, racial slurs and objects being thrown at students from passing vehicles.

Rowekamp, who saw the CNN segment, felt that Smith’s comment was damaging to the town and College of Wooster. She wrote a response, which she then emailed to several local friends. From there, the email went viral in the town and was eventually forwarded to College administrators.

In her email, Rowekamp used Smith’s full name and identified him as a black male who attended the College of Wooster.

“Our COW student, a black male, was the only one on the panel who felt he was being harassed,” she wrote. “His hometown is in Atlanta, GA and he spoke of how safe he felt there while growing up. But, in Wooster his friends and he have had objects thrown at them and terrible names shouted at them on the street that divides the college. He added that in Wooster, he ‘feared for his life’!  REALLY?”

Rowekamp continued, writing, “I was personally offended as I think the administration at the College would also be. I did hear today that there is a program at the college to bring inner city students to Wooster with federal funds, grants etc. I would hope that this young man is not one of those students who is getting a free education.”

Once the email was brought to the attention of College administrators, an emergency meeting of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement (CDGE) board was held to consider the issue. Jahqwahn Watson ’17, a student member of the CDGE board, was present at the meeting. “The board is definitely behind Chad 100 percent, and planning a response to the situation,” he said. “There were definitely some underlying tones of racial prejudice and misunderstanding coded within the email.”

Smith, who didn’t see the email from Rowekamp for several days, heard about it through Dean of Students Kurt Holmes. Holmes said of the email, “I and several others around campus were forwarded the message from a couple community members who received it from the sender. They were concerned that these expressions of frustration by an individual would be mistakenly construed as a general sentiment from the community.”

The contents of the email reached Smith before he had a chance to see it himself. He knew that it referred to “inner city students” who get “a free education,” and he responded to Rowekamp’s disapproval in an interview with the Voice. “I live in an all-white suburb of Atlanta. [My family] is the only black family on the street,” he said. “I’m a Posse scholar … but I pay room and board.”

Smith continued, “When I got on CNN I wasn’t trying to say this is a bad town, but rather that this town needs improvement, as every other town does. This [email] solidifies that it doesn’t just happen on Beall but it also happens in the community as a whole. This has opened my eyes that it happens everywhere in the community.”

The College community, however, has been largely supportive of Smith. College President Grant Cornwell said he was “chagrined by the lack of understanding of the experience of students, faculty and staff of color in Wooster expressed in the email. When I was able to hear [what Smith said on CNN] I was very proud of the way he handled himself in the interview. I think Chadwick was poised, articulate and courageous in how he expressed himself.”

The Black Student Association has also showed support for Smith. BSA Public Relations Officer Shyniece Ferguson ’14 said, “I just hope that the school and the town recognize that the student was the innocent victim of this situation, not the town’s imaginary reputation.”

Some community members from the town of Wooster have backed Smith’s comments as well — on Monday, Feb. 24, a local Unitarian Universalist church held a community meeting about the subject. Smith also tweeted that Pastor Rickey Brown of the Second Baptist Church in Wooster brought up the email during a service and suggested that community members attend the Feb. 24 meeting.

When she was emailed for comment, Rowekamp said that she did not want to discuss the matter further.

“I certainly am aware of the problems on Beall Avenue with all students being targeted with comments and gestures,” she said. “But that problem has existed for 50 years and it would seem that the city and college should be able to control it; it is their problem. My concern as I watched the CNN interview was that our city and the college were blemished by Chadwick’s remarks. I was sorry that the College of Wooster, which has an excellent reputation, was portrayed in such a degrading manner.”

Cornwell feels that this email could be a jumping-off point for improving relations between the College and the community.

“I hope we can grab hold of this moment as an impetus for developing strategies not only to address the Beall Avenue issue, but more generally to raise awareness of the realities that students, faculty and staff of color contend with every day at Wooster, on campus and off,” he said.

Smith believes that Rowekamp’s remarks have only served to prove his original point. “I think [Rowekamp] should know that she proved my point about racism and white privilege in this city,” he said.

 

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Drunk driver careens down Beall, flips car

Maddi O’Neill

Wyatt Smith

News Editors

On Thursday, Feb. 20, a drunk driver careened down Beall Ave. and flipped his vehicle after failing to navigate a turn onto E. University St. No one, including driver James D. Wheeler, was hurt. Wheeler, a Wooster local, was arrested at the scene and charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless operation of a vehicle, failure to control his vehicle and having a blood alcohol content higher than 0.08.

At about 10:50 p.m., Wheeler was seen driving erratically by multiple witnesses. Nick Isles ’14, who was standing in front of Bissman Hall, saw the light gray Ford Taurus speeding south on Beall Ave. “It took me a second to realize that this car was going much faster than it should have been,” he said. After swerving around a stopped car at the intersection of Beall and Wayne, Wheeler’s vehicle hit the sidewalk in front of Bissman Hall, narrowly missing Isles, who jumped out of the way.

“I was shaken up at first,” said Isles. “Any time you have to jump out of the way of a moving car like you’re somebody in Grand Theft Auto, it’s intense.”

Adam Shapiro ’14 and Isles both report that Wheeler pinballed down Beall Ave., bouncing between the sidewalk and the median. “I was expecting him to stop,” said Shapiro, “but he actually sort of sped up as he was coming down the hill through the crosswalk.”

Wheeler continued down Beall until turning on to E. University St. According to the Wooster Police Department’s accident report, Wheeler hit a tree on the corner in front of the Scheide Music Center, turned sharply to the right and flipped his vehicle after hitting a utility pole near Holden Hall.

Security and Protective Services officers Trevor Strock and Jamin Sprowl were the first to the scene. The Security report indicates that Sprowl smelled a strong odor of alcohol when he checked the driver for injuries. Wheeler had blood on his face but claimed to be unharmed. Wheeler was reportedly still talking on his cell phone and “shushed” Sprowl several times.

Sprowl proceeded to pull Wheeler from his vehicle and instructed him to lie on the ground until help arrived, but Wheeler stood up and began dialing his cell phone again.

“I don’t think he really understood the enormity of what just happened,” said Shapiro. “He was out of it.”

“I’m just glad nobody was hurt,” said Isles.

Minutes later the police arrived, followed by the fire department. By this time, a sizable crowd of student onlookers had gathered as well.

Wheeler was arraigned on Tuesday, Feb. 25 by the municipal magistrate.

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Student’s website attracts investors, thousands of users

Wyatt Smith

News Editor

 

In early February, Fahim Aziz ’15 launched a website that gives users access to the global market, called Backpack, which has since attracted thousands of users and substantial offers from investors.

Backpack, which Aziz created with his high school friend Sakib Sauro, allows users to obtain goods from foreign countries, giving shoppers access to cheaper prices or exotic products.

The process has four steps. First, the shopper identifies the item they want via Amazon.com or similar websites. Second, the shopper looks through a database of “travelers” — people who post their international travel plans to Backpack — for someone who is heading to their location from a country where the item is available or cheapest. Third, the shopper and traveler negotiate the traveler’s fee and confirm the deal. Fourth, the traveler gives the desired item to the shopper, resulting in a profit for the traveler and a cheaper product for the shopper.

“[It’s] a peer-to-peer platform,” explained Aziz, an economics and mathematics double major, “which means that people can come here and connect with each other without being a part of an institution or a group or anything. … Backpack is the first of its kind.”

The website’s current domain name is backpackbang.com; Aziz and Sauro plan on purchasing the name backpack.com when they can.

The site’s terms and conditions say that the traveler is responsible for obeying international trade laws, though Aziz hopes to make a database of that information.

“It could sound very shady,” said Associate Director of Internships Ryan Ozar, who beta tested Backpack and gave Aziz feedback. “But I think they made it so transparent and simple; It’s really about two people. Two people connecting and saying ‘Could you do that for me?’ ‘Yes, I could do that for you.’ On that level, it’s beautiful.”

In its first week in operation alone, Backpack drew over 1,000 users from 80 countries.

Aziz holds that the site could be of use to college students in a variety of ways. Students stuck in Wooster could use Backpack to access foreign scholarship or purchase exotic products cheaply, while students traveling internationally could use the platform to subsidize their journey.

“I personally could see exactly how I could use it,” said Simon Doong ’15, who learned about Backpack through the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class he takes with Aziz. “For me, I like Japanese video games and some anime and manga stuff that’s only available in Japan. … A Japanese video game can be like $70 on Ebay. … But I thought, ‘oh, with this, if someone was already going to Japan, they could go and get the game for like 20 bucks, and I could pay them $20 to get it.’ Next thing I know I’m only paying $40 for something that I couldn’t even have had access to otherwise without paying a higher price, or maybe not even had access to at all.”

Aziz got the idea for Backpack last fall, while traveling back and forth between America and Bangladesh, where he grew up.

“Every time I go back home, my friends tell me to get these products for them,” said Aziz. “Similarly, when I come back to the U.S., my friends from the U.S. tell me to get these products from Bangladesh. We realized the reason is there’s a huge market distortion there and this is true for all countries around the world.”

Aziz shared his idea with Sauro, a junior computer science major at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and soon they were teaching themselves programming languages to make Backpack a reality. Over winter break, the Bangladeshi duo designed the website from scratch. Both passionate about design, they worked tirelessly to give Backpack a slick, user-friendly interface. Aziz and Sauro took online courses and met with entrepreneurs and website design experts, soaking up as much information and advice as they could.

Shortly after Backpack’s February launch, Aziz was contacted by a Wooster alum who wanted to invest in the website with an offer Aziz described as “substantial.”

Despite a flurry of offers, Aziz is not yet ready to accept investment in Backpack. He says he is only interested in working with investors who share his vision for the website; making money is a secondary concern. Aziz plans on traveling to Silicon Valley during spring break to meet with potential investors. By the end of the semester, Aziz plans on setting up a California office and hiring employees, for which he’ll need outside funds.

Aziz and Sauro are currently paying for the site’s operating cost themselves and do not receive any payment for the transactions Backpack facilitates. The website will most likely be monetized through advertisements, although other models are also being considered.

Aziz and Sauro are constantly adding features to Backpack. Upcoming additions include an on-site payment option and a messaging system.

“I’m curious to see where it grows,” said Ozar.

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Jon Frey to speak on archaeological advances

Mariah Joyce

Chief Copy Editor

Jon Frey, archaeologist and assistant professor of art history at Michigan State University, is coming to the College to present “Excavating the Archives at the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.” Isthmia, located in Greece, was an important religious site in the Panhellenic era, and one of four Panhellenic religious centers — the better known ones being Olympia and Delphi. Apart from having religious significance, Isthmia boasts a huge bath complex and was the site of many ancient athletic games. Additionally, the site was visited by historical figures such as Emperor Nero and Alexander the Great.

Frey has worked at the site (located in what was once Corinth) for more than 10 years now, and travels to the sanctuary on a yearly basis. His talk will largely focus on the enormous amount of work that goes into examining and classifying artifacts once they have been excavated. For example, during the medieval era at the Sanctuary of Poseidon, many ancient Greek and Roman buildings at the site were pillaged for their stone. These stones then became part of other structures, meaning it is not uncommon to have a building from the eighth century CE made with material that was initially part of a temple from the second century BCE. Frey is in part focused on classifying this material in order to build a fuller picture of the sanctuary’s initial floor plan.

Frey will also touch on some of the new technologies archaeologists are using to recreate more accurate pictures of a building’s initial appearance and floor plan. Technological advances such as lasers have replaced manual measurements, allowing for a more exact reading of the building’s initial dimensions. Computers have made it possible to then create a digital reconstruction of the building, rather than struggle to make a physical model that accurately represents the building.

Frey will present “Excavating the Archives at the Sanctuary of Poseidon” on March 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Lean Lecture Room of Wishart Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, and a reception will be held following the talk.

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New group asks for student accountability

James May

A new on-campus group is leading the charge to develop and expand the relationship between the student body and College of Wooster hourly wage employees.

Headed by Cullen Dolson ’16 and Kristen Estabrook ’16, the group Heart Work is drawing the attention of students to work done by College staff.

“We want to raise awareness of what the staff does for us so that we might be more responsible for our actions,” explained Dolson.

“The club was inspired by Professor [Charles] Kammer and his class called The Life and Thought of Gandhi,” said Estabrook. “For a final paper addressing any social injustice, Cullen and I wrote an essay about the lack of living wages for hourly workers on the Wooster campus.”

The group, still in its infancy, wants to take up initiatives such as cooking for staff or Staff Appreciation Day in order to further their vision for improved relationships between these two facets of the campus community. Referring to Kammer’s Just Work class, Dolson remarked, “We want to find ways to bring this [mentality] to other students who do not already think this way.”

“We’re still in the process of brainstorming how we can make this happen,” said Estabrook. “We’re thinking of hanging posters to raise awareness, or organizing events that would cause hourly workers and students to come together.”

Though not asking for funding for the upcoming year, Heart Work hopes to be recognized as an official student group in the future and is tentatively planning to begin their first project by early April.

In the meantime, both Estabrook and Dolson expressed their sincere desire that anybody interested in their mission participate in the group. Heart Work is currently in the process of brainstorming, planning and scheduling through their Facebook page, which they encourage students to join.

They welcome to new members and new suggestions for how to proceed in achieving their goals.

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Wooster student launches on-campus trading website

Mary Gagliardi

Contributing Writer

 

With the help of some friends from Minot State University, Wooster’s Jonathan Allotey ’15, recently founded www.collegeitem.com, a website where students can buy and sell various items such as textbooks from students at the College of Wooster. CollegeItem was, like most businesses, created as a solution to a problem.

“I’m from Ghana,” Allotey said, “Like many international students, I accumulate a lot of stuff at college. So when it was time to go back, I didn’t know what to do with my unwanted things. I soon realized that many people were in the same situation as I was and needed a platform to get rid of their things. I had an ‘aha!’ moment and decided to create a website to fix that problem.”

Although it was a fast transition from Wooster student to entrepreneur, it was not an easy one. Allotey was building the website within 24 hours of the original idea, “I researched how to make a website and then I … started building. It took a lot of time, a lot of heart and I made a lot of mistakes. I was just experimenting. Typically, I didn’t sleep until 4 a.m.”

Today, his efforts have paid off as CollegeItem is up and running. Most importantly, Allotey sees his website as a marketplace for students. “You want to be able to know who you are buying from. You can check the username, who is selling what and where you can find them before you proceed to make your purchase.”

This marketplace is easily accessible and navigable. Right now, CollegeItem is exclusive to Wooster, so any COW student can buy and sell from the website and pay securely through PayPal. Registration is easy and online. Allotey hopes to make it Facebook friendly because it is easier and faster. “I’m hoping every Wooster student will be on the site one day, and my dream is that when people finish a class they’ll take their textbook and sell it through the website to a student who needs it.”

If there’s anything this young entrepreneur wants us to know about him and his website, it’s this: “I don’t like to be part of a status quo. I’m a biochemistry major, and I’m always wondering how to be different in my field of study. I’m not your typical nerdy computer guy, so I’m surprised I’m doing this, but I’m doing it because it can solve a problem. I like to be valuable to my community.” In response to his favorite Steve Jobs quote, Allotey adds, “I’m one of those crazy people who believes he can change the world.”

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