Letter to the editor responds to alumni concerns about Scot Council

Olivia Proe

To the editor:

As incoming president of Scot Council, I would like to take this opportunity to address the concerns some of our alumni have voiced regarding the new governing body. I am proud of the governing body that students have worked so hard to create, and strongly believe the creation of Scot Council to be a critical change undertaken with due diligence. 

Campus Council (CC) is relatively young in the grand scheme of Wooster’s history, having just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. It was borne out of student dissatisfaction with the governing system at the time. Accordingly, students overhauled the constitution to create a new system to address structural inefficiencies and underrepresented voices. Now, 50 years later, it is time for another change, one that will accomplish similar objectives.

While I was not a member of the Oversight Committee that drafted the Scot Council constitution, I firmly believe it was created in good faith to better serve Wooster students. These representatives from both Student Government Association (SGA) and CC pulled from the best aspects of each governing body to streamline our current system, making it more accessible and welcoming to students who have not served before.

I disagree with alumni concerns that the Oversight Committee did not take student opinions into account while drafting the Scot Council constitution. The Oversight Committee spent months consulting various student groups across campus, seeking input about the new governing body. Oversight also hosted numerous panels where students were encouraged to address concerns — ultimately changing the scope of the constitution to ensure that it has the same powers that Campus Council formerly held after students offered feedback. Scot Council will still have the ability to make policy changes, allocate funding to student organizations and approve charters — all powers that were clarified in the constitution thanks to students who contributed to the Oversight process. Had Oversight received significant opposition from students about overhauling the dual system, the taskforce would have ended the process; in fact, student opinion favored creating this new system.

Based on feedback from students, and from my own prior experience serving on SGA, the dual system of SGA and CC was not working well. There have been almost no contested elections on SGA the past few years — and oftentimes so few students were interested in running or stepped down before the end of their term that both bodies had to run emergency elections where students were selected by application, rather than elected, to fill seats. In fact, SGA saw nearly a 50 percent turnover of senators during my first term. 

In contrast, the new election system under Scot Council has garnered such incredible student turnout that every seat is filled or hotly contested. I am especially pleased that we have four students running to be the new First-Generation/Low-Income (FGLI) Representative, showing that we have filled a need that was not previously addressed by SGA or CC. Having one governing body removes confusion around elections, which encourages more people to run. With more people running for fewer seats, the new system offers more democratic representation. 

I am sure that Scot Council’s constitution is not perfect, and I anticipate bumps along the road while we navigate the new system. We will remain open to constructive criticism and peer input while we refine our constitution to best suit the needs of the student body.

I hear the alumni who are frustrated with changes. You are individuals who poured your hearts and souls into SGA and CC, and I sincerely thank you for your commitment to making Wooster a better place. We are doing the same and following in your footsteps to make positive changes to our home. Ultimately, I am sure we agree that we all want the best for the students we serve — and I believe that Scot Council is the way for us to accomplish that shared goal. 

Sincerely,

Olivia Proe, former SGA Advocacy Chair, President of Scot Council ‘21

Sam Casey, former SGA Vice President, Vice President of Scot Council ‘21

Rishika Todi, former CC International Diversity Representative, Treasurer of Scot Council ‘22

Maggie Dougherty, former SGA Class Senator, Secretary of Scot Council ‘21

Srushti Chaudhari, former SGA Class Senator, Chief of Staff of Scot Council ‘22

Emilee McCubbins, former SGA President ‘20

Nick Shereikis, former SGA Vice President ‘20

Carly McWilliams, former SGA Secretary ‘22

Isaac Weiss, former SGA Treasurer, former Oversight co-chair ‘20

Matt Mayes, former CC At-Large Representative, former Oversight co-chair ‘20

Emmy Todd, former CC At-Large Representative ‘22

Amber Rush, former CC At-Large Representative ‘22

Jill Munro, Former CC Faculty Representative, Director of International Student Services

Grace O’Leary, former SGA Student Services Chair ‘20

Abigail McFarren, former SGA Outreach & Diversity Chair ‘22

Anna Medema, former SGA Advocacy Co-Chair ‘20

Jennifer Grossman, former SGA Advocacy Co-Chair ‘20

Abby Donohue, former CC Selective Service Organization Representative ‘20

Marco Roccato, former SGA Class of 2020 Senator

Saralee Renick, former SGA Class of 2022 Senator

Oria Daugherty, former SGA Class of 2021 Senator

Devon Matson, former SGA Class of 2021 Senator

Lillian Dunning, former SGA Class of 2021 Senator

Yuxuan Ke, former SGA At-Large Senator ‘20

Doug Morris, former SGA At-Large Senator ‘22

Lilia Eisenstein, former SGA Class of 2022 Senator 

Ivan Akiri, former SGA At-Large Senator ‘22

Alumni express concerns over new student government, Scot Council

Jordan Griffith

Members of the Board of Trustees,

We write to you as a collective of former members of Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Council (CC) regarding the proposal to merge Campus Council and the Student Government Association into one novel organization. The following letter enumerates our concerns that the proposal weakens students’ access to administration, that the proposal weakens the tradition of collaboration that CC and the SGA represent, that the process of developing the proposal was undemocratic and that the time frame presented for successful reform is unrealistic and places an undue burden on the student leaders of the College. Ultimately, we ask you to reject the proposal so that proper time and care can be afforded to the important issue of improving these governing bodies. We stress we are not opposed to reform, as evidenced by the significant reforms we advanced in our time as leaders. We also came to understand the principle that change requires investment, careful planning and adequate time.

Wooster has been uniquely ahead of the curve in embracing a stakeholder model of campus governing as a result of extensive student activism in the 1960s. This proposal would have Wooster abandon our cutting-edge structure of giving staff, faculty, administration and students an equal seat at the table. It minimizes a format for students to bring concerns directly to representatives of each part of the campus in weekly, public and accountable forums. We value the efforts of administrators to be accessible, but no administration-led initiative can match the access that these two bodies provide, even in their current, imperfect forms. We are concerned that this new proposal would restrict the students’ ability to bargain as equals with the Board, the administration, the staff committees, and the faculty committees.

Every student-led initiative, protest and collective action in recent memory at Wooster has been designed to bring student voice to the table. If Wooster is to proceed with this new system, we roll back the efforts that our peers took to build a stronger community that includes all parts of the campus. Fundamentally, this proposal reduces student input in important decisions at Wooster, divides the community and is inconsistent with the principle of “independent minds working together.” We reiterate that we do not reject reform, but we propose that reform requires care and planning, two elements that have not been central to this process. Further, reform should be progressive, improving on the progress made in the past.

The hastiness with which the Oversight Task Force (Oversight Committee) has executed this process raises red flags. In just one semester, the group submits that they have fully and comprehensively assessed the efficiency levels of both SGA and CC and found them so inadequate that the only reasonable path forward is to eliminate both organizations. SGA and CC voted on the proposal in question merely two school months after announcing the intention to completely overhaul the existing bodies. We further understand that while developing the new organization’s constitution, the advocates for the proposal often responded to critique with hostility, focusing on minimizing input for the sake of expediency. We also understand that the committee refused to provide drafts of the proposed constitution during forums designed to solicit feedback. It alarms us that the people who will feel the direct ramifications of this overhaul have largely not had the chance to ruminate on the changes or provide meaningful feedback. Indeed, the opaque and rushed process behind the proposal seems out of alignment with Wooster’s prioritization of collaboration and community engagement.

In response to the Oversight Committee’s claim that the structure of SGA and CC is ineffective, we strongly disagree and respectfully point to several student-led projects and accomplishments from our tenures. Students leaders in SGA and CC created gender neutral housing which has helped the College remain competitive amongst its peers, made strides to improve student safety on campus, developed meaningful free-expression guidelines that encourage the intellectual growth of Wooster while recognizing the inherent dignity of every member of our community, reformed budgeting processes to ensure groups can contribute to a stronger Wooster community, developed new sustainability projects that reduced coffee cup waste by thousands each year and created a new College tradition that helps seniors reflect on who helped shape their time at the College. These are just a few in a long list of accomplishments made under the leadership of SGA and CC. While these governing bodies are not without imperfections, they have still contributed to the betterment of the College while working to improve their functioning.

Because of the time we spent as leaders of the SGA and CC, we are acutely aware of the merits and disadvantages of the organization of Wooster’s two elected governance organizations. We do recognize and encourage reform of the two governing bodies to ensure that the voices of the campus constituencies are heard and translated into action. Further, we respect and appreciate the motivation of the committee to improve Wooster. However, the proposed reform does not take mind of the significant time, effort and care necessary to successfully improve governance at the College of Wooster. Finally, considering the myriad new issues Wooster will have to face in light of COVID-19, we believe that the Wooster community will be best served by the established leadership of CC and the SGA unburdened by the need to rebuild itself from the ground up.

In this spirit, we advance the notion that while continued reform is necessary, reform must be carefully planned and take mind of the work that is necessary to make reform successful. We the former leaders of CC and SGA believe that this plan is not ready for the Board’s seal of approval. Ultimately, the purpose of this letter is not to defend the status quo, but rather to encourage that changes are made with an abundance of caution and care with the aim of building a stronger, more collaborative and more equitable community. We encourage the student leaders of Campus Council and Student Government Association to continue to evaluate where the bodies are ineffective and to work to effect positive change for student governance.

Sincerely, the undersigned

Annabelle Hopkins, Chair of Council 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Monét Davis, President of Student Government Association 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Jordan Griffith, Chair of Council 2017-2018, At-Large Council Member 2016-2018

Jordan Ouellette, Vice President of Student Government Association 2017-2018, Senator 2014- 2017

Jack Johanning, Chair of Council 2016-2017, Vice Chair of Council 2015-2016

Spencer Gilbert, President of Student Government Association 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016, Senator 2014-2017

Ben Taylor, Chair of Campus Council 2015-2016

Sayantan Mitra, President of Student Government Association 2015-2016, Vice Chair of Campus Council 2013-2014

Josh Foerst, President of Student Government Association 2014-2015, Senator 2012-2015

Elliot Wainwright, Chair of Council 2014-2015

Molly McCartt, President of Student Government Association 2013-2014

Reagan Kazyak, Student Government Association Vice President 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Robert Dinkins, Vice Chair of Council 2018-2019

Marina Dias Lucena Adams, Vice Chair of Council 2017-2018, International Council Member 2017-2018

Theresa Spadola, Vice Chair of Council 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016

Robin Emmons, Selective Organization Council Member 2018-2019

Christian Betre, International Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Stachal Harris, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Ethan Barham, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2017-2018, Student Government Association Senator 2015-2018

Vrinda Trivedi, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2017-2018

Aaron Roberson, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Heather Smith, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Geo Tramonto, Selective Organization Council Member 2015-2016

Matthew Hartzell, At-Large Council Member 2017-2019

Garrett Layde, Senator 2018-2019

Callie Ogland-Hand, Senator 2016-2018

Kenyon Moriarty, Senator 2017-2019

Juwan Shabazz, Senator 2018-2019

Gabe Wasylko, Senator 2018-2019

Global and International Studies panel aims to help students better understand current pandemic

Laura Haley

Chief Copy Editor

On April 28, the Global and International Studies (G&IS) department hosted a roundtable discussion titled “Contextualizing Pandemic” via Zoom for current and admitted students from the class of 2024. The meeting featured G&IS professors, Matthew Krain of the political science department, Amyaz Moledina of economics and Margaret Ng and Christina Welsch from the history department and was hosted by Dean of Admissions Jennifer Winge. The panel was intended to help produce a better understanding of the current pandemic through historical, political and economic perspectives via the professors’ presentations and accompanying slides. The topics discussed ranged from human rights concerns to the U.S economic state and strains on global organizations. Each professor led a brief presentation related to their field of study and how it is tied to COVID-19. 

To begin the roundtable, Welsch discussed epidemics that spread throughout the British empire in the Indian Ocean in the 19th century and their relation to larger societal issues. She mentioned that “responses to pandemics are not equal and they reflect societies in which those responses are made.” 

Screenshot from the virtual panel.

From there, Krain highlighted the rhetoric of the current pandemic and how the words used to discuss and respond to COVID-19 are tied to issues of human rights, stating, “sometimes that language [of securitization] gives countries or leaders an opportunity to do things that otherwise wouldn’t be acceptable during peacetime.” For example, he highlighted the recent centralization of power by Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban, under the guise of a response to the threat of the virus. Krain explained that global leaders may be inclined to frame pandemics as a security threat as a justification for authoritarian accumulation of power. 

Ng then discussed prior epidemics and history in China, including the 1910 Manchurian plague and the 2003 SARS epidemic in order to contextualize the current situation. She compared these epidemics with COVID-19 and the responses to them,  especially after 2003 with the emergence of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She also showed pictures of the social distancing measures being taken by children in China today, and compared them to historical methods of maintaining social distance, such as attaching sticks or planks to the head to make sure that others stay a certain distance away. In the current example, children are attaching long balloons to their heads, as well as wearing masks, to protect their health and others. 

To wrap up the panel, Moledina focused on COVID-19 and the economy, specifically by highlighting that those who experience financial distress live in areas with a disproportionately high number of cases and fatalities from the virus. He mentioned that, although “COVID-19 is a public health crisis, not an economic crisis … there is no economy without people.” In conclusion, he stated, “Our economy today really relies on connections and the way we combat this disease, in the absence of a cure, is actually disconnection.”

The panel concluded with a few questions from those watching virtually. Regarding a question about how COVID-19 will impact our global organizations as countries begin to open at different rates, Welsch stated, “We think of the 21st century as a period of increased globalization and increased movement, but there’s another story where it’s a period of decreased movement, of the creation of boundaries and borders through immigration restrictions and passport controls.” 

A final question was asked: “do we anticipate similar measures [to China] being implemented in schools in the U.S?” Ng responded, “I think the College has been working very hard to think through some of these possible measures. But one thing that I think we might see becoming the norm will be what has been the norm in most East and Southeast Asian countries which is the wearing of face masks; not because they are sick, but out of courtesy so that they do not infect other people. I think that will become the norm in North America for at least the next year or two.” 

 Concluding the panel, each professor welcomed those with questions, especially admitted and undeclared students, to share them via email.

Academic policies change for 2020 Spring Semester due to COVID-19 pandemic

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to online learning, the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) has made several major changes to the academic policy for the 2020 Spring Semester. 

Many of the changes relate to a student’s ability to pass/fail a class. One of the primary changes is that students are able to pass/fail any and as many courses as they would like, even those in their major or minor, which is usually prohibited. According to The College of Wooster website, “courses elected as Pass-Fail for the Spring Semester 2020 will not count toward the maximum number of Pass-Fail courses that a student may take at Wooster.” Additionally, the deadline to pass/fail and drop courses has been extended to the last day of classes, May 1, at 4:00 p.m. Independent Study will retain a standard grading system, but there was a one-week grace period where students could submit their projects past the deadline without a petition.

Dean of Curriculum and Academic Engagement Bryan Karazsia, co-chair of EPC, said the changes were made so students could have flexibility and hopefully adapt to the changes in learning and class structure.

“The main reasoning is because our context is completely different than what any of us expected when the school year began… than when any school year begins,” Karazsia said. “We wanted to build as much flexibility for students into our policies as we could do so, reasonably. Any student may always petition for further exceptions, but we also try to build a system that minimizes the need for students to petition.”

The process for students petitioning is different as well. There is now a more streamlined petition process for course additions, drops, grade changes, and double major proposals. All petitions will be completed online. 

Because of the circumstances , Karazsia said these changes were not made in the usual fashion. “These decisions were made rapidly, and not through typical channels, due to the rapid evolution of circumstances pertaining to COVID-19,” Karazsia stated. “The timing of societal evolutions coincided with our Spring Break period, too, which contributed to the unique processes of decision-making.”

Basliel Ababayehu ’22 is on EPC and was part of the decision process to make these changes. He believes these changes will make online learning more equitable for all students. 

“These policies attempt to maintain equity as some students will experience varying degrees of stressors due to their location, reduced family income or access to learning tools while also recognizing that this is a generally stressful period for all students,” Ababayehu stated. “These policies ensure that students can remain in their major or graduate on time despite a momentary underperformance due to COVID-19.” 

While the changes made represent  major differences to Wooster’s academic policy in a traditional semester, some colleges went a step further and have decided to automatically make all their courses pass/fail for the 2020 Spring Semester. Karazsia said the College considered this, but decided against it.

“Ultimately we wanted students to have the autonomy to choose what works best for them,” he said. “Of course, our advisors are here to help students think about what might be in their best interest, though the decision is the student’s … Our policy on ‘good academic standing’ requires all students to have a semester and cumulative GPA at or above 2.0. There are students who are working very hard to increase their GPAs to return to good academic standing (which can have important implications for federal financial aid and other opportunities), and we wanted them to still have the option of earning their grades. Other students may be trying to increase GPAs for other reasons, and again, we wanted students to have that option. Ultimately, we wanted students to own the decision, and we are always here to help students navigate their academic decisions.”

Ababayehu says he is happy with the speed and flexibility with which the College has implemented policies. “I think this is a very welcome move for students because it offers flexibility,” he stated. “This is beneficial for all students because the students who were happy with their grades can keep them while those most affected by the virus can choose to continue learning without fear of a lower GPA.”

The Weeknd’s concept album “After Hours” combines genres, decades with artist’s cathartic, personal experience

Kamal Morgan

Senior A&E Writer

 A journey of reconciling with love and doubt blends with a blast from the past with ’80s beats. The future blending together is a new sound for Abel, aka The Weeknd’s newest album “After Hours.” His silky voice over the ’80s synth beats provides a pop style of upbeat sounds and grooves that keep listeners feet-tapping and head-bobbing. An electrifying album,  “After Hours” could sonically fit in a variety of decades as it races to capture our attention from the eerie mix of “Alone Again” to the pop of “Heartless.” This truly is an album exhibiting the creative and influential genius of Abel.

 “After Hours” is not a mashup of songs, but a concept album where Abel takes responsibility for his mistakes in past relationships while holding back his selfish toxic traits. This 14-track project is a heart-breaking, drug-filled journey of cathartic uneasiness where nostalgia meets accountability. His personal and heartfelt lyrics that grace each track diverge from his earliest works.

 One of the best tracks, “Scared to Live,” gives the album the best introduction to Abel’s struggle as he recognizes the harm he has done to women in his life. He explains his problems of being a toxic partner to the women he was with, even when he saw issues popping up. He was clingy and desperate to always be in proximity to them. Abel sums it up poetically with: “And if I held you back, at least I held you close (Yeah),” emphasizing how he prevented her from moving on and doing better things but claiming he was always there for her even at the end.

 “Snowchild” explores Abel’s troubling past of drugs and women while he was soaring to fame. He also addresses his challenging upbringing of having little money, finding places to live and staying warm in the freezing Toronto weather, as well as his fear of not being successful in his music career. When he does establish fame and becomes what he always wanted, reality hits him. He has the house, women, jewelry and drugs, but none of it was making him as happy as he thought. Legal troubles were always around the corner, and he admits he never felt comfortable at his own mansion as he explains, “Twenty mill’ mansion, never lived in it,” and his fear of failing in life still lingered.

 “In Your Eyes” is one of the most vulnerable tracks as we see The Weeknd having to confront his lover head-on. The song shows the troubles Abel must experience knowing the women in his life are reluctant to tell the truth to his face. Abel sings, “In your eyes, you lie, but I don’t let it define you,” reiterating that he sees her displeasures but continues to ignore them. The best part of this track is the saxophone that blares halfway through for an eargasmic blast that left me stunned.

 “After Hours” is beautiful from top to bottom as we get to flesh out not just the singer, but the man. It’s a wonderful album that tests out sounds and mixes which others will surely copy. It is a mix of pop, jazz and R&B which will provide for those with multiple tastes.

Class of 2020 deserves better communication about graduation plans

Claire Montgomery

Senior News Writer

I don’t think I am alone in thinking that our administration went above and beyond in the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were sent information as quickly as it came, there were in-person meetings and then online meetings, and we started getting daily emails. Additionally, I don’t think any person begrudges the decision the College had to make for us to pack up and leave early — a sad situation, but one necessary with the current reality we face. But when it came to the administration’s communication and decision making about the lack of end-of-school ceremonies and traditions for the Class of 2020, myself and my peers were blindsided and upset by the lack of communication and decisions that had been made about such ceremonies. It’s not necessarily that these decisions were bad, it’s just that they were not communicated, thus leading to outrage and confusion.

First, on March 30, we were told that the original day for Commencement, May 11, was canceled, but we were led to believe that an in-person ceremony would happen at some date in the future. We had all been expecting Commencement to be canceled — given the projected timelines of the pandemic, such a cancelation would make sense. But then, on April 10, we were told that there would be an online ceremony on May 11 instead of an in-person ceremony. Second, a replacement I.S. Monday parade for the one that we missed would be held next semester during Black & Gold (B&G) Weekend. Also during B&G Weekend would be the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony.

The April 10 email caused outrage, and in my personal experience, tears. I can only imagine the inbox flooding that Dean Brown and President Bolton experienced, and the Class of 2020 Facebook page blew up. The day after the announcement, another email was sent, along with a similar post on the Class of 2020 Facebook page, saying that the virtual ceremony was to ensure that we would receive our diplomas, which could be necessary for future jobs and graduate school. Wooster would still celebrate with an in-person ceremony at a later date — they just wanted to make sure we had officially “graduated.” I understand that decision, though why it wasn’t included in the original email is one I am astonished by. Were they not expecting the Class of 2020 to wig out when it looked like we wouldn’t get the ceremony we had been expecting? We should have been given this information in the initial email.

People were similarly outraged with the second announcement about B&G Weekend. There was the general consensus that the Class of 2020 had been ripped off, because we were expected to share our celebrations with all of the other usual events that happen during the weekend, such as the homecoming football game, parent’s weekend, a huge number of prospective students coming to campus, and reunions for several campus organizations. Moreover, students were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to come to an October weekend because of job or graduate school schedules. Additionally, Wooster usually has full hotels during B&G — where is the Class of 2020 going to stay?

Again, this seemed to be a situation where we hadn’t been given enough information. In the follow-up email, we were told that B&G Weekend would be made “extra special” for our class, and the usual model of the weekend would not be followed. I’m willing to believe that may be the case — but again, why weren’t we told in the initial announcement? Did the administration not expect us to consider all the reasons why B&G might not be the best time to celebrate our achievements? Were we expected to divine that information when we weren’t explicitly told in the first place?

I love Wooster. It has been my home for four years and I have made so many close friends that I expect to keep in close contact with in the years to come. But the Class of 2020 deserves better information especially when it concerns our end-of-school ceremonies. Give us the opportunity to weigh in, explain what you are thinking from the beginning, and you might find that we won’t be as upset. The COVID-19 pandemic is already challenging enough — please don’t add more stress to an already upsetting situation.

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