All posts by Anna Regan

Difficulties faced by black students at the College

Wyatt Smith

News Editor

The black experience in higher education is simultaneously an incredibly broad and regrettably narrow topic. Broad because race can influence many different facets of a student’s college experience; narrow because race is but one of many factors that interact to shape that same experience. With these limitations in mind, this article will explore the experience of black students at Wooster from quantitative and qualitative perspectives, as well as consider the steps the College is and should be making to improve the well-being of its black population.

According to an administrative report from January, the current proportion of black students retained by the College is just as large as, if not larger than, the proportion of white students retained. For instance, of the original black students in the class of 2014, 83 percent  are still enrolled, as compared to 77 percent of their white classmates.

These retention rates stand in sharp contrast to the graduation rates of previous classes. As reported on the College’s website, Wooster’s overall six-year graduation rate for the classes of 2006 through 2010 was 76 percent. Yet the graduation rate of black students during the same period was 60.2 percent. No other reported demographic group — racial, national or gendered — had a graduation rate below 70 percent.

When Wooster’s former graduation rates are compared against those of similar institutions, this achievement gap appears even more stark. According to data from the government-run National Center for Education Statistics, the graduation gap between white and black students at The College of Wooster was twice as large as the gap at any other Ohio Five school (Denison, Kenyon, Oberlin and Ohio Wesleyan).

Wooster administrators are quick to point to the discrepancy between the retention of current students and the graduation rate of past students as evidence for significant progress in the College’s ability to retain black students.

“The institution realized we could and should do more to improve and have been working hard the past four years to implement new initiatives to do so,” said Robyn Laditka, associate dean of students for retention and academic engagement. “I think we are beginning to see some positive improvements in minority retention as a result.”

Yet it is worth noting that graduation and retention rates for small groups of students, such as Wooster’s black students, can fluctuate wildly from year to year. For example, 71 percent of black students in the class of 2002 graduated, followed by a mere 52 percent in the class of 2003. Consistent patterns can only be found when data from multiple years are averaged together. It will take time to tell whether Wooster’s current high retention rates will translate into a lasting upswing in the College’s black graduation rate.

Another downside to graduation and retention rates is that they give a rough sketch of student achievement and satisfaction. There are many variables that influence whether or not a student will graduate, necessitating further information to understand racial disparities among Wooster students.

To find more nuanced quantitative measures, one cannot turn to the College —  which does not collect any demographically divided satisfaction data from its students. A better source for detailed quantitative information on the experience of Wooster’s black students is the Senior Independent Study of Carmen Guess ’12. Guess, a psychology major, polled black and white students with a variety of psychological questionnaires designed to quantify their relative success and satisfaction with college. Wooster students comprised 95 percent of Guess’s sample (140 out of 147 participants), with the other seven participants also coming from predominantly white colleges.

In Guess’s study, black students reported lower GPAs, less satisfaction with college and less support than their white classmates, as well as heightened racial identity and pressure to conform.

“In comparison to black students, white students appeared to be more successful and satisfied at predominantly white institutions,” wrote Guess in her discussion.

Even though Guess’s study is several years old, uses some participants from other schools and looks at a relatively small proportion of Wooster’s student body, it still offers perhaps the most comprehensive and nuanced quantitative look at racial discrepancies at the College currently available.

Yet in the eyes of many members of the campus community, numbers can only explain so much. Qualitative information is needed to properly contextualize the statistics.

“I get out there with the students,” said MarTeze Hammonds, associate director of the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement, director of multicultural student affairs and assistant dean for retention and academic engagement. “I’m going to club meetings, I’m going to their programs, I’m having focus groups. I’m rolling up my sleeves to be in the midst of my student population to see how I can put my thumb on the pulse of what’s going on. … That’s how I get my quantitative reality. That’s how I get the real story, by going out there and literally speaking to these students.”

“Large institutions, they’re probably really interested in big data and trying to crank through numbers and then adjust,” said Henry Kreuzman, dean for curriculum and academic engagement. “What we tend to do is we look at students as individuals.”

At the very least, qualitative data is more readily available than statistics. Students reports abound of black students bearing the brunt of insensitive jokes, consistently being picked last for group assignments, receiving poorer grades than their white classmates for similar work, etc.

From the beginning, the transition to college contains unique challenges for black students.

“Students of color, particularly black students, coming here from different class backgrounds have a varying level of experience with predominantly white learning institutions,” said Deja Moss ’14, president of the Black Student Association and a member of Women of Images. “Whether it [was] parental advice or the resources that they had available to them if they went to a school where they were the only black student, [it] really shapes what social activities they think they can be involved in, what resources on campus they think are best fit for them and supporting them, whether it be with academics [or] social endeavors.”

“Obviously a great number of black students at Wooster come from these communities in these different areas where the schools are under-privileged,” said Antwan Chambers ’14, president of Men of Harambee and longstanding officer in the Black Students Association. “So, what is Wooster doing to fill that gap, to fill that achievement gap that obviously very much exists in the students here? How are the college writing courses that a lot of those students have to take actually preparing the students? How are the professors actively thinking about the fact that there may be some sort of gap in the students’ understanding?”

Another common belief is that Wooster is much more interested in recruiting black students than supporting them once they arrive on campus. According to a 2013 institutional self-study, the number of domestic multiethnic students has doubled since 2006.

In the report, the College admitted, “we have achieved a more diverse campus more quickly than we were prepared, programmatically, to support it.”

“What has been a consistent cycle at Wooster is  [that] there is always this push for more diversity, for more students of color in x, y and z. Just more, they want more,” said Chambers. “But what they don’t provide more of is the support that these students need. … How are you going to make them feel connected? How are you going to prepare the students, the faculty, the other administrators who may not necessarily be involved in this kind of choosing process?”

“We have to be careful,” said Hammonds. “We double numbers, we make numbers look so much [better] quantitatively and on paper, but qualitatively and in the day-to-day, we don’t have the people, we don’t have the tools and resources.”

Recent steps the College has taken to address the needs of black students — and multiethnic students more generally — include last fall’s forum series on race, a greatly increased number of events surrounding Martin Luther King Day, Wednesday night study sessions targeted at students of color, an investigation into minority student retention in the life sciences, social justice education and Susan Lee’s new position as the special assistant to the president for diversity affairs and campus climate.

“This year, we’ve had plenty of opportunities for faculty, staff and students to embark on an amazing journey of diversity,” said Hammonds, “an amazing journey of learning about race.”

“I feel like the school has made some steps — not by their own doing, but by a strong push by black students — to address the issues of race on campus or how they’re feeling slighted,” said Moss.

Perhaps the most-cited suggestion to further academic and social support for black students is to increase the number of black professors and administrators, especially in influential positions.

“One thing that the College will point out that they have — and that all students will acknowledge — is that the College has definitely grown in its faculty support for students of color,” said Chambers. “There are more faculty and administrative individuals of color who really have an eye out for students of color. … They look out for us. I think the College has done that. I think what they haven’t done is placed — I think there’s potential though — them in positions where they have enough power in order to effect the necessary changes.”

“It doesn’t have to be a black person,” said Hammonds. “There are some white professors who are amazing and understand white privilege [and] understand the black culture. … They can connect with those students and those students will go to them, hands down, and talk to them about anything. But we need more people who are like that.”

There is disagreement, however, on whether black students face struggles beyond those experienced by other racial minorities on campus.

“The pressures, that I believe exist uniquely [for] black students, is this overwhelming presence of subtle or overt racism, or prejudice or sexism, that is reflected in everyday conversations,” said Moss. She holds that the perceived otherness of black people is more salient than for other ethnic or racial groups.

“I absolutely do not think that that’s the case,” said Chambers. “Just off the top of my head, the other ethnic group that is probably underserved on a larger scale than African-American students here is Latino students. That’s huge, and I think that’s something that Wooster absolutely does not pay any attention to. Those students get very little attention and very little support. … They’re just kind of out to fend for themselves.”

“Our administrators, our faculty, our staff, everyone — and students — have to be mindful that everybody’s background is different,” said Hammonds. “Everybody’s life experiences that they come from are different. We have to figure out how we accommodate those, how we support those differences, nurture those differences and understand that this is an educational institution so [it’s] a great place for us to learn from those experiences. That’s the hard part. It’s hard work and we miss the mark a lot, but we get it in some places as well.”

The scene: A new Hannibal

By Travis Marmon

While I have never understood the popularity of food and cooking shows, my attention will be drawn to televised meal preparation tonight. Why? Because season two of Hannibal premieres at 10 p.m. on NBC, and everything Dr. Lecter cooks up looks delicious — as long as you ignore the fact that it’s made from people.

For the unaware, Hannibal is a television adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon novel series (famously brought to the big screen in The Silence of the Lambs). The show is the brainchild of Bryan Fuller, the man behind the morbidly obsessed series Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me. It focuses primarily on Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), an FBI investigator whose extreme empathy helps him solve homicide cases; and the titular Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a brilliant psychiatrist who assists the FBI in these cases while hiding the fact that he is a cannibalistic serial killer. The two have both a professional and a doctor-patient relationship, but season one ended with Hannibal framing Will for a string of murders that Hannibal had committed under the FBI’s nose.

The show is as gruesome as television gets. The first season included a pharmacist who grew fungi on comatose diabetics, a human cello and a totem pole of corpses, among many other grotesque displays (which somehow only earned a TV-14 rating for most episodes). But lest you think it’s another stupid serial killer show like The Following or the last few seasons of Dexter, you must realize that Hannibal is not attempting the same gritty realness as those shows. Its visual imagery is supposed to be the stuff of nightmares, not a harsh reminder of our grim reality. The atmosphere is one of constant unease and wrongness, like in the work of David Lynch or the Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining. The music and lighting isn’t meant to scare, but to disturb.

While the popular consciousness thinks of Hannibal Lecter as Anthony Hopkins portrays him in The Silence of the Lambs — all one-liners and malevolent grins — Mikkelsen brings an eerie calm to the role. His thick Danish accent and stoic facial expressions make Lecter appear almost alien to this world of stressed-out FBI agents. There’s also the fact that, while Hopkins’s Lecter was a convicted serial killer helping the Feds from prison, this version of Hannibal is a practicing psychiatrist who has murdered countless people in secret and often feeds his victims to his houseguests. He keeps a Rolodex full of people who have annoyed him over the years and a book of gourmet recipes, into which he likes to include their remains. And the food always looks good.

Although NBC has moved Hannibal from Thursdays to Fridays (perhaps because Parks and Recreation was not the most fitting lead-in), it’s worth suspending your weekend partygoing for an hour. If not, you can always catch up on Hulu. But if, like me, you enjoy nightmarish stories and talented actors, you’ll be gluing yourself to a television as part of your Friday pregame. Just don’t think about it too much when you’re eating at Mom’s later.

Heroes reborn with Heroes Reborn

Dominic Piacentini 

A&E Editor

This week NBC announced that the station would air a miniseries in 2015 titled Heroes Reborn, a continuation of the four season series Heroes, which first aired in 2006. The show featured actors such as Zachary Quinto and Hayden Panettiere, who have now become common names in media. The first season of this innovative show attracted much critical acclaim, and 17 million viewers tuned in to the season two premier; however, this number would continue to decline throughout seasons two, three and four until only 4.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the show’s final episode.

“How long can they dwell in the shadows before either fate or their own flawed humanity draws them out into the light again? And how will they know what awaits them when it does?” says Heroes’s Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) in the season two premiere. Given recent entertainment news, this quote takes on an ironic parallelism. The show did have flaws, and maybe this is an effort for Heroes to redeem itself. Another possibility is that this is simply a better time for its story to be told than in 2006, when the prominence of superheroes in TV medium had not yet boomed.

Prior to the pilot of Heroes Reborn, a digital series will be available, which will introduce the new characters. NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke explained that although the series will be considered stand-alone, they are very excited about “original cast members popping back in.”

Salke went on to say that, “The enormous impact Heroes had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening. Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment.”

This show will be another example of the exponentially growing monopoly of superhero drama in visual media. NBC’s other superhero series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiered its first season this past fall, and the well-received CW show, Arrow, has been renewed for its third season. FOX will also be joining the fray with Gotham, a new live-action series depicting the life of a young Jim Gordon. The show will include a variety of rogues from the DC universe, such as The Penguin, and will star Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded), Ben McKenzie (The O.C.) and Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy).

Tim Kring, who created and produced the original series, will be back to supervise this new installment. Between these two superpowered bookends, Kring created and worked with two other TV shows, Touch, featuring Kiefer Sutherland and the five-episode mini-series Daybreak.

Salke explained that NBC is excited to see “all the new textures and layers [Kring] plans to add to his original concept.” Heroes began as the heroes in film industry began to explode, and it will be returning amidst this chaos and frenzy. Kring and the producers will have to find a distinct, original story in order it to get its voice heard amongst the “Pows” and “Whams” of every other superhero franchise.

Wooster Students predict Oscar winners

The Academy Awards airs this Sunday at 7 p.m. and will   be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Ian Benson ’14, Rachel Wortman ‘15, Lee McKinstry ‘13 and Clara Cuccaro ’15 gave us their predictions for this year’s event.

Best Picture

RW, IB: 12 Years a Slave

At this point everyone on the planet knows that this is going to be a huge toss-up between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, but in the end, I believe 12 Years a Slave will take home this ultimate prize. It’s a beautifully moving, expertly acted film with a very human, America-centric story. Historically, Academy members have favored character-driven films over flashier fare. But, if the Oscar went to most risk-taking, visually stunning and innovative movie of the year, Gravity would surely win. Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi masterpiece is a mind-blowing piece of cinema. It feels more like a ride than a movie; it pushes 3D, IMAX and the theater-going experience to their limits and, much like its hero, left audiences gasping for air. In my opinion, it’s the most unique movie experience I’ve ever had. I think it deserves but, unfortunately, will not receive the title Best Picture. (RW)

Best Actor

LM,IB: Matthew McConaughey

Though early in the season many thought this was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s to lose, McConaughey has swept most major awards for his ragged portrayal of homophobic AIDS patient Ron Woodruff. Every critic alive has commented on McConaughey’s recent career renaissance, and he is absolutely transformed in this, a raw charmer with cracks in his smile. I could quibble that he should have earned his first statue for Magic Mike a few years ago, but as far as the Oscars go, this one will be most deserved. (LM)

RW: Bruce Dern

Best Actress  

IB, RW, LM: Cate Blanchett

Not even the recent Woody Allen controversy will impede Blanchett’s chances of winning on Sunday night. The only potential for an upset I see here is Amy Adams, the only non-winner in the category, but it’s still a long shot. Blanchett has won all of the awards leading up to the Oscars, and I think the bigger question for Sunday is not whether she’ll win, but what she says about Allen during her acceptance speech. (IB)

Best Supporting Actor

IB, RW, LM, CC: Jared Leto

I can’t believe the guy from 30 Seconds to Mars is going to win an Oscar, though I am excited for Jordan Catalano to get some recognition. Again, he didn’t give the best performance in my opinion, and I think both Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips or Michael Fassbender from 12 Years a Slave are more deserving, but that doesn’t translate to success. Abdi was a revelation as the chief pirate and Fassbender brought an uncompromising darkness to his role as Ejiofor’s vicious owner, but both will be shut out  Sunday night. (IB)

Best Supporting Actress

IB, RW, LM: Lupito Nyong’o

Nyong’o deserves every award for her performance. She won this award in the scene where she asks Ejiofor to kill her. Not to take anything away from Fassbender or Ejiofor, but Nyong’o was the best part of this year’s best movie. She captures the devastating energy of Patsey, a slave subjected to frequent rape and the most brutal whipping scene in recent memory. I’m a Jennifer Lawrence fan, but if she wins for American Hustle, then the Academy dropped the ball. It seems even Lawrence has recognized that, and isn’t campaigning for the award like others. (IB)

Best Director

IB, RW: Alfonso Cuarón

Cuarón won’t go home empty on Sunday, and he’ll rightly be recognized for practically inventing the technology necessary to complete his vision. He’s also won all of the awards in the buildup, besting McQueen at every turn. He also co-wrote and co-edited the film. McQueen’s work has been fiercely artistic and uncompromising, but I think that’ll turn off some Academy voters. (IB)

Best Original Screenplay

RW: Her

Although the Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell script for American Hustle seemed like the surest win, Spike Jonze’s Her has triumphed at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and WGA.  It is whimsical futuro-romance that effortlessly evolves into ambiguous, unfathomable and expertly executed sci-fi. The film is sweet, smart, insightful, funny  and thought-provoking and its insights into relationships are sharp without being earth-shattering. As a window into a relationship that carries real meaning for the two people in it, Jonze has created something crystal clear. (RW)

Best Original Song

RW: “Let it Go”

Wildly praised as the revival of the animated musical, Frozen has struck a global chord.  Not only has it made over a billion dollars in the box-office, and assembled a haul of prestigious awards including a Golden Globe, BAFTA, Producer’s Guild Award and five statues from the International Animated Film Association, but Frozen’s soundtrack has done the unthinkable and produced a genuinely iconic song, “Let it Go.” Performed in the film by spurned ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), it has been  a Top 20 hit in the U.S., U.K. and Australia since its opening weekend, and one could get lost for hours in a YouTube wormhole of renditions and parodies of this Oscar-deserving song.  Because Elsa can’t control her untapped power, she fears she might do harm so she flees her queendom and heads to the mountains where, in the privacy of her ice castle, she lets it all go. It’s about the love two women share for one another and the bond of family, and a big step in the right direction for Disney away from its patriarchal past. In this Oscar category, there is simply no comparison. (RW)

Trophy hunt for women’s lax

Isabel Abarca

Contributing Writer

The College of Wooster’s women’s lacrosse team is looking strong as their season nears. With a final record of 13-5 at the end of their 2013 season, the Scots are ready to pick up where they left off. With eight returning starters, they will head a team full of talent and experience.

The team is determined not only to make it to the championship this year, but to come out on top. Currently, no player on the team has won a conference tournament and as a team they are motivated to achieve that goal and raise the NCAC trophy.

Winning conference is not all this team wants to accomplish this season. Good team dynamic on and off the field is an important aspect of the women’s lacrosse team. The team will not reach these goals by mere luck. The team is fairly mixed with young and old players, but there is talent throughout.

“Our offense will definitely be a strong point of our team,” said  Ellie Hudson-Heck ’16. “We have great attack players who work together with one another.”

Offensive returning players Eliza Perry ’14 and Shelby Stone ’15 will lead the attack for the team. Players Ashley Parry ’15, Heather Honn ’16, Jamie Wren-Jarvis ’16 and Abby Szlachta ’16 will also be contributors to the attack this season.

The team’s midfield is looking very strong as well. “Midfield-wise, Hudson-Heck, Molly Sennet ’15 and Cassie Greenbaum ’14 are key players on both ends,” said Alison Schlothauer ’14. “Without them it’s pretty hard to make that transition from defense to attack.”

Emily Turnbull ’15 will provide a backbone for the team’s young but hardworking defense. As a unit, the back line is looking to be more aggressive in order to keep opponents out of the eight-meter arc.

Finally, there has been much excitement about Isabel Perman ’16 stepping up as the team’s goalie. This season will mark her second year in goal, but her teammates have been impressed by her hard work and are excited to have her as their last defender.

The Scots will open the season up Saturday, March 1 at home against Centre College in Danville, Ky.

 

Do I hear crickets or is that just ignorance?

Sheamus dalton

Everyone enjoys an innocent chirp. As long as it doesn’t include profanity or particularly heinous comments, a humorous, well-timed chirp never hurt anyone, right?

Over the weekend, I watched the men’s lacrosse team play Walsh University in an early season scrimmage. And yes, seemingly intrinsic to the nature of lacrosse and maybe even college athletics, there was some chirping to be heard from the COW students. “Number 24 can’t even read!” was one of my favorites because it was funny but also clearly erroneous. (For those of you who are unaware of what exactly chirping is, the UrbanDictionary.com defines chirping as “talking large amounts of [crap] towards…individuals” or, in this case, opposing teams.)

So, what is the harm? At nearly every athletic event I have attended in college, there has always been some form of chirping from the fans, or even players. I have been the target of opposition chirping before, and in most cases it has only made me play harder. Being called illiterate never bothered me anyway.

However, it is reasonable to assume that not everyone can maintain a tough skin to all chirps. Drunk college students are not always conscious of the line over which a chirp is no longer innocent. So, there must exist a clear distinction between a chirp and a blatant insult. I suppose that this distinction is what is most important in deciding whether to laugh or be offended.

But translate this argument to the tweets sent during the Olympic hockey competitions, and much of the innocence is void.

Both prior to and during the U.S. men’s and women’s hockey games against Canada in the past two weeks, Twitter was flooded with chirpy tweets from Americans and Canadians in support of their home country. Some were innocent. For example, a trending topic on Twitter quite humorously announced that the loser of the men’s United States-Canada game would take unfortunate claim to pop star Justin Bieber, quite an awful punishment, but also fair in regard to the magnitude of the game.

However, the majority were far less innocent. Attached to many tweets from Americans was the hash tag #F***Canada. Often it followed tweets like that of  @dillydiesel89 who tweeted, “I don’t even like hockey, but I’m on team #F***Canada.

This sort of tone oversteps innocent chirping all together and becomes simply scornful. From behind the safety of a computer screen, many tweets like @dillydiesel89’s were drafted, filling Twitter with ignorance and profanity.

Personally, I make a concerted effort to leave profanity out of any tweets I post from my Twitter account. A Twitter account is a significant representation of its owner and I believe that disregarding this fact by posting inappropriate and heinous language is a huge personal disservice. As we all look toward our future careers, these are the considerations we need to make about what we choose to publish in a public forum. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I hate to see students limit themselves and contribute to the stereotypes placed around our generation’s use of social media.

I always try to avoid these sorts of issues, and just brush them off, but I feel that when chirping of this nature receives such public attention, it cannot be overlooked.

I hope everyone reconsiders their chirping game. Let’s keep it clean, lean and only a little mean. Go Scots.