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Wooster A Capella Group Will Keep on Singing

Sarah Caley

Staff Writer

 

Across the country, performing arts groups have struggled for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many have found alternative methods of pursuing the arts while remaining as safe as possible. Such is the path that the College’s a cappella groups have found themselves on this semester. 

Annika Balish ’21, president of COWBelles, emphasized that safety is the group’s number one priority for the semester. Participation is optional, with the primary focus on the social aspect of the group, a sentiment that is echoed by the presidents of other a cappella groups on campus as well. A Round of Monkeys, Merry Kuween of Skots and Shades of Gold are planning to maintain the musical aspects of their groups while holding social events for members. Woo Sang Clan is not planning to hold rehearsals for now, but will have virtual group bonding sessions throughout the semester. 

For the groups that are planning to hold rehearsals and performances, logistics have been difficult to coordinate. The College only recently released its safety guidelines for a cappella groups; because of this, the groups’ executive boards have had to rethink their plans based on the lengthy list of restrictions. COWBelles is the only group planning to hold in-person rehearsals this semester, and their structure will greatly differ from previous years. Singers will now rehearse outside, spaced twelve feet apart and wearing masks specially designed for singing. 

The groups holding virtual rehearsals are facing their own challenges. Tim Cotter ’22, president of Merry Kuween of Skots, reflected on his cabinet’s thought process, saying, “Because multiple people can’t effectively sing at the same time in virtual rehearsals, we plan on focusing more on each individual during rehearsals and having a separate call for those who aren’t singing at a given time.” 

A Round of Monkeys President Cecilia Payne ’21 also cited the audio feedback through Zoom and Teams calls as an issue. Instead of using these platforms, members will learn pieces on their own with the group’s music directors available to assist them, filming and sending videos of their parts. 

While the groups’ rehearsal processes for the semester differ, they have all taken the same approach to performances. The College has prohibited in-person performances for the campus community due to concerns about COVID-19, so the groups have elected to release virtual performances throughout the semester. This will be accomplished by mixing individual recordings together with editing software to create a cohesive sound. Information on performances and how to access them will be released on the groups’ social media accounts, as well as through the College’s activities emails and virtual events manager 25Live. 

When discussing the difficulty in planning this semester, Balish expressed gratitude for the other a cappella groups’ presidents. Due to the overwhelming nature of organizing under such tight restrictions, the groups have been communicating more closely than in a typical year, largely to ensure that new members are spread evenly across groups and that no one group’s plans will compromise another’s. “There has been nearly constant communication about our plans and I really appreciate that,” she said.

Members of the College attend BLM rally

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On Aug. 29, the City of Wooster held an “I Have a Dream” rally at the square in downtown to commemorate the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom protest where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Sponsored by the local NAACP chapter and the Wayne County Racial Justice Coalition, the rally this year had over 200 attendees.

However, while students from the College expressed their desire to attend the rally, the campus quarantine that lasted until Sept. 10 restricted them from taking part in the event. Members of the faculty, however, were able to attend the rally.  

One of the attendees was the Chair and Associate Professor of Economics Amyaz Moledina, who commented on the significance of the rally. “The protest has catalyzed civic participation in really neat ways,” said Moledina. “For example, thanks to the efforts of a few key people, we are aware of what is going on in our City and its associated governing bodies. We are not just protesting, we are learning about the issues, getting to know our neighbors and engaging in dialogue to make our community better.” 

Furthermore, President Sarah Bolton not only attended the event, but also was one of the speakers. When asked about the spirit of the rally, Bolton said, “I thought the Wooster rally was powerful for several reasons.” She continued, “There was a great turnout, and great collaborative effort between the Wooster-Orrville NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and many other allies. It was an honor for me to speak after Dr. Yvonne Williams, who was a long-time Wooster professor and leader in the campus community.  There were also many others who spoke powerfully, intersecting their own ideas and experiences with timeless words from Dr. King and from Congressman Lewis. I particularly appreciated what Dr. Williams said regarding the idea of having a dream that we would one day live in a society that was free of racism and racist violence. She said, ‘It is important to have a dream. But right now, we need less dreaming, and more action.’  I couldn’t agree with her more.” 

As the members of the faculty took part in the event, students on campus conveyed their frustration with being unable to participate in the rally. 

One of Wooster’s students, Samuel Casey ’21, noted that he thought it was important to go and was also encouraged by a faculty member to take part in the rally. “I got an email from one of my professors about attending [the protest] in Wooster and I thought it was very important to go,” Casey mentioned. “On the day of the rally, however, I found out that attending would be a violation of the Community Care Agreement.” 

He also expressed his discontent with the lack of clear communication between members of the College community. “There seems to be some kind of miscommunication between the faculty and the College because there is no way [the faculty] would advertise [the event] if they knew that the students could not even go,” he noted. 

Led by this frustration and unable to understand why only students on campus were required to quarantine, Casey reached out to Bolton to receive clarification about the quarantine policy. 

As a response, Bolton stated, “This is because of differences in living situations.” She went on, “Students live in what’s called a ‘congregate setting’ — with relatively high numbers of people sharing a building, restrooms, etc. In general, public health advice for congregate living is more stringent than is the case for other spaces, because the higher number of people means everyone needs to be extra-careful to avoid illness transmission.” 

Bolton continued, “This is why we have invested in more extensive testing for students, and also why — as we brought students back and started up the community — we required students to stay on campus unless it was absolutely necessary that they go elsewhere. Similarly, when the county public health advisory level increased [the first week of Sept.], the County Health Commissioner wanted to be extra-sure that students didn’t increase their risk of exposure by spending time off-campus. This was to protect students – because if one student catches an illness off campus and brings that back to the dorm, that provides a greater risk for infecting multiple individuals and increases the risk of illness more broadly on campus than if one staff or faculty member (who does not live in a dorm) does.” 

While students could not attend the rally this year, the faculty’s presence and Bolton’s address in the rally nevertheless represented the College’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The College is also actively working to promote anti-racism at the campus, so students will have more opportunities to express their support.

Academy Guidelines Spark Controversy

Zeke Martin

Contributing Writer

 

Content warning: Sexual violence

Last Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which manages the Academy Awards, also referred to as the Oscars, announced several new standards for representation and inclusion that will be required for eligibility in the Best Picture category starting in 2025. These standards push for the inclusion of women, people from ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+ people and/or “people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing.” 

The standards are split up into four categories. First, “On-Screen Representation, Themes and Narratives,” requires a certain level of diversity in the film’s cast and subject matter. Second, “Creative Leadership and Project Team” applies similar rules to the film’s crew and relevant management positions. Third, “Industry Access and Opportunities,” requires the film’s major studios and/or producers to provide “substantive, ongoing paid apprenticeships/internships inclusive of underrepresented groups,” as well as “training and/or work opportunities for below-the-line skill development.” Finally, “Audience Development,” requires a certain level of diversity in “marketing, publicity and/or distribution teams.” According to the New York Times, “The standards will be enforced via spot checks of sets and through dialogue between the Academy and a movie’s filmmakers and distributors.” However, to be eligible for Best Picture a given film only needs to fulfill two out of these four requirements.

According to the Academy, these requirements “are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.” Some have praised the new standards, with one Twitter commenter (@melythemac) saying that “this needed to be done because it doesn’t seem like many would do it on their own.” 

However, the response from the public has largely been one of dissatisfaction from both the political left and right. On the right, critics like actor James Woods, known for his role as the voice of Hades in Disney’s Hercules, accused the Academy of trying to erase history, claiming that “it will now be difficult … to do many historical movies [because] streaming services are not interested in making movies that can’t qualify for an Academy Award.” Meanwhile, on the left, journalist Aina Izzah, writer for Malaysia Tatler, replied to the Academy’s tweet and called these new requirements “the bare minimum,” citing the fact that a film only needs to fulfill two out of the four requirements to be considered eligible and telling critics on the right, “just say you don’t want diversity/inclusivity and go.” 

Stronger critics also accused the Academy of simply paying lip service to progressive causes without enacting real change. Stand-up comedian Tim Dillon, for instance, referenced the pervasiveness of sexual abuse in Hollywood by quipping, “How ’bout for Academy Awards consideration no one working on the film can have raped children?” 

It would seem that between now and 2025, the Academy will have to either rethink their approach to diversity or accept diverse public criticism.

Wooster physics students find opportunities amidst uncertain summer

Jonathan Logan

Science & Environment Editor

 

The value of an internship is hard to overstate. For many undergraduate students, an internship represents the potential to spring into a good post-graduation job. Equally hard to overstate is the value of research here at The College of Wooster, where the students’ efforts culminate in the year-long Independent Study thesis. Thus, summer research positions, just like internships, have always been a premium — especially to students seeking admittance to graduate schools. Unfortunately, many internships and research opportunities were cancelled this past summer due to the novel Coronavirus. Yello, a talent-acquisition company, conducted a survey of almost 1,000 undergraduates. 35 percent of the respondents claimed that their internships or research programs had been cancelled because of COVID-19. However, students here at the College’s Physics Department persevered, finding opportunities in internships as far away as Germany or research positions as close to home as campus itself.

Close to home, Melita Wiles ’22, a physics major, worked with Professor of Physics Susan Lehman here on campus through the Sophomore Research Program. She studied the movement of bead piles as they collapse into an “avalanche.” Bead piles can be thought of as a system of granular materials interacting until one bead breaks the pile’s back and an avalanche, big or small, occurs. Wiles used software called Particle Image Velocimetry (PIVLab) to “measure the velocity over a given pile.” Using a graphical user interface (GUI) process, she was able to “analyze multiple avalanches at a time,” in addition to creating a mathematical process to resolve the distortion of the bead pile input images.

 

Throughout the summer, Wiles had to learn software applications such as MATLAB “on the fly.” She found this to be one of the most rewarding parts of the research experience as “[her] ability to learn new programs and troubleshoot on [her] own are very valuable and attractive to real-world prospects.”

Matt Klonowski ’21, a physics and chemistry double major, interned at General Atomics through the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships Program. Klonowski worked on the cutting edge of fusion energy research by analyzing turbulent behavior in plasmas using Python — a popular programming language. Plasma can be thought of as a soup of ions and electrons allowing electrical currents to flow (lightning is an example of plasma). Images of plasma taken at a Japanese laboratory were fed as input to Klonowski’s Python program. The results of his analysis then informed the overall fusion energy research processes at General Atomics.

Among the highlights of his experience was a series of talks hosted by Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). These talks introduced Klonowski to the expansive field of plasma physics and fusion energy. Additionally, he attended a seminar at which “Sir Steven Cowley, a plasma physicist that was appointed a Knight Bachelor for his contribution towards the development of nuclear fusion” was a speaker. Klonowski stated that his “Wooster physics and chemistry education prepared [him] well for this internship because the labs emphasize an independent approach to answering questions.” On the flipside, the internship “helped solidify [his] critical thinking and independent approach to research” here at Wooster.

Dani Halbing ’22, a physics and philosophy double major, interned across the pond at Shaeffler Group. Shaeffler is an automotive and engineering company headquartered in Germany with branches all around the world — including one here in Wooster. Halbing did research on hydrogen fuel cells — the hopeful future of sustainable, clean energy in the automotive world. There are many complications with introducing these to the global market. One of the primary challenges to be overcome is in the bipolar plates that house the actual fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells “create a very corrosive environment,” Halbing said. His research focused on developing a surface coating for the bipolar plates that would “resist corrosion, but also maintain a high electrical conductivity.”

The coolest part of the research, Halbing said, was conducting the “compression electrical resistance test.” A constant current was run through the bipolar plates while a force was applied to the plates in steps of 100 Newtons up to 1000 Newtons. He found it “incredibly interesting to see the vast differences in electrical conductivity for coatings that varied in formulation by just a few micrometers.”

In these uncertain times it can be hard to come by opportunities such as internships and research positions. Yet, the opportunities are there. Wiles encourages students to “talk to professors! They love to share their research with students!” Wooster professors represent the leading edge of research in their respective fields. Klonowski advises his fellow students to “start looking early and apply to as many opportunities that interest [them].”  He also shares that “internships are a great way to better understand where your professional interests are, without actually committing to a real job.” Halbing advises undergraduate students to expand their horizons and try new things that they may not have much knowledge in. He says “surface coatings are almost entirely based in materials science, and while [his] educational background is in physics, a lot of materials science is based in chemistry.” So, armed with your Wooster education, go forth, explore and effect change.

Concerns arise as students travel into Wooster community

Samuel Boudreau

Senior News Writer

 

On Sept. 10, as students, faculty and staff settled into their routines, President Sarah Bolton sent out the fourth Weekly Campus Health Update. After testing every student entering campus during the move-in period, the College has now adopted monitoring testing, which “tests approximately 250 students per week” and can test more, if needed. In the latest campus update, all 259 tests taken had come back negative.

 

Although the restrictions were supposed to ease up by Sept. 7, the College extended off-campus restrictions to Sept. 10 in response to the rise in cases in Wayne County. However, as the pace of cases has dropped considerably in the past two weeks, the College has allowed “some more flexibility for students going into the local community,” as stated by Bolton in her latest Campus Public Health Update.

While students are now allowed to enter the community, Bolton continued to emphasize  that “the only way to maintain the safety of our community, and for students to live and learn on campus is to stay extremely diligent in preventing the spread of COVID-19.” Furthermore, when the Wayne County COVID indicator went from red to orange, Bolton stated, “the Wayne County Health Commissioner indicated that it was safe to move about the city of Wooster utilizing the same precautions that we have put in place since the beginning of the semester, with respect to our congregate living situation on campus.”

 

While no new positive cases have been reported since Aug. 20,  it is crucial that students continue to follow safety protocols. Bolton points out that colleges and universities across the country continue to shut their doors as the virus tears across campuses, most notably with UNC-Chapel Hill canceling in-person classes one week into the semester. 

 

Furthermore, cases are soaring in major universities in Ohio as well. The Ohio State University has the highest number of reported cases in the state with 1,528, followed by the University of Dayton with 1,141. Smaller schools in the state are also experiencing outbreaks. Wittenberg University, a school with a student body of only 1,910 students, has already reported 39 cases.

 

Wayne County had also seen a spike in cases between Aug. 16 and 30. According to the Wayne County Health Department, 159 cases were reported during the two-week period which led to the Ohio Public Health Advisory System labeling Wayne County as level three red, meaning there is high exposure, spread and risk.

 

The recent high level of cases stem from an outbreak at the Wayne County Care Center, where there has been a cumulative total of 77 cases from, 38 residents and 39 staff members, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The Care Center is home to 46 residents, so roughly 83 percent of residents have tested positive for the virus. The home has faced 9 total deficiencies in the past three years.

 

Moreover, since the start of the pandemic, numerous homes in Wooster have experienced outbreaks. The Smithville Western Care Center has been devastated by the virus as 92 cumulative cases and 30 deaths have been reported among residents and staff. The home has been cited for 17 deficiencies in the past, including one infection-related deficiency in 2017 where the home violated federal standards to protect residents from the spread of infections, and was fined $6,500 on Nov. 29, 2017 for a deficiency where “actual harm occurred.”

 

Along with Smithville Western, other homes that have been hit by the virus in Wayne county include Glendora Health Care Center (31 cumulative cases), Apostolic Christian Home (5 cumulative cases), Doylestown Health Care Center(2 cumulative cases) (ProPublica), Windsor House – Doylestown( 5 cumulative cases), Westview Healthy Living1 cumulative case) and The Avenue (2 cumulative cases).

 

However, as students spent their time outside campus this weekend, some reported concerns about the safety practices among community members outside the campus.

One student, Bijeta Lamichhane ’22, recalled her experience commuting in Wooster transit on Saturday. “I don’t have a car, so I took the transit with my friends to downtown,” Lamichhane said. “When I walked in, I noticed that none of the three people already inside — including the driver — were wearing masks. My friends and I stayed as far as we could from them and sanitized ourselves the moment we left the bus, but I was really concerned.”

 

She continued, “We wanted to take a Lyft back instead, but our ride did not arrive on time so we had to take a shuttle back to campus. When we got in, the driver told us that over 40 students had commuted by the transit that day.” Other students have noted the lack of mask enforcement in places such as Walmart, and the nonchalance of community members walking on campus.

 

Although there is greater control over social distancing measures due to policy enforcements, violations are still taking place. As reported by Samuel Casey ’21, the first weekend of college did not get off to a promising start as resident assistants and Security and Protective Services (SPS) officers made reports of two parties; 15 students were not socially distanced among other infractions.. Between May 1 and Aug. 31, 69 COVID-19 policy violations have been reported on campus.

Acknowledging the campus climate, Dean Myrna Hernández told the Voice, “[Many] students are working really hard to honor the spirit of the COVID agreement and keep things safe on campus. At the same time we are hearing reports of some students blatantly ignoring the guidelines.”

 

In a follow-up to Bolton’s Campus Public Health Update, Hernández added to the update and urged students to continue to maintain social distancing protocol and to wear masks while in the community. In this email, Hernández stated that the visitors of students were not allowed to be inside any campus buildings, with the exception of Lowry for use of the bookstore or post office. While student visitors are not allowed into campus buildings, prospective students and their families have been seen entering multiple campus buildings, such as Babcock Hall and Timken Science Library. Student athlete recruits and their parents have been seen interacting with coaches in the Scot Center as well. When asked if prospective students and their families entering buildings on campus raised concerns about the safety of the campus community, Hernández told the Voice that admissions has received permission from the Health and Safety Task Force to enter some specific buildings. Guests are asked to take their temperatures the morning of their visit.

 

As seen with the alarming totals in nursing homes, the virus can infect the majority of populations, even in a rural area such as Wayne County. “This virus moves quickly and is very easily transmitted, and everyone’s daily actions — especially masking and social distancing — matter tremendously,” Bolton told students.

Reevaluate (dis)service trips

Saeed Husain

Contributing Writer

 

Every year, thousands of people — mostly high school and college students — will travel across the world to engage in voluntourism, or its theological cousin, service trips. Touted as experiences that can positively impact the lives of who you help and your own, young adult trips account for a multi-billion dollar industry.

At face value, who can blame bright-eyed teenagers wanting to take part in what they think makes the world a better place. Haven’t these students been told countless times about the Third World, the Global South, the Underdeveloped World and Low-Middle-Income Countries? Have we not told them that people “over there” live in devastating poverty, and that it is only through their 18-year-old benevolence that “those people” can have a better chance at life?

At their very core, voluntourism and service trips emphatically fail to address the complex systems that espouse poverty and the structural racism that has both created and enabled our poor understanding of the people we wish to help. Week- to month-long trips that ultimately appear bent on generating poverty porn only proliferate these doubts.

Think about it, are we really qualified to build houses, teach English and provide medical advice? Would we build our own homes, or not visit a doctor when we fall ill? It’s a rather disgusting thought that we can be okay with providing mediocre and lackluster “service” to people, when we wouldn’t even be comfortable in those positions ourselves.

Now let’s look at some of the programs which we offer right here at the College. Wooster service trips in the past have cost $150 (West Virginia) and $1000 (Tijuana). Imagine if we donated that money directly to the communities so that we could empower them to rebuild homes. Would that not be a more effective way of helping? Rather than driving/flying a bunch of college students who might have little to no knowledge of the area for a week or so, we would be funding projects in a much more efficient manner.

The people at Wooster who work behind organizing these service trips are truly wonderful and have no malevolent intentions when they leave for them, yet one would argue that service in the community alone would be much more powerful and meaningful. Several student groups, APEX and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion are involved in making Wooster a terrific community. If we focused our attention solely on issues such as solving food insecurity in Wayne County, or abolishing the prisons that are literally just down the road, we would be creating a much larger and more positive impact.

The response to this piece might be that voluntourism and service trips are ways to make compassionate global citizens. However, is this not also feeding into a Western saviour complex, saying that “those” people “over there” need our physical help, otherwise they would not be able to build their own homes? If the aim is to make a compassionate global citizen, does one really need to go all the way to WV and Tijuana? We must critically ask ourselves if we are truly wishing to help people and make a difference in our world, or are we continuing to keep intact hierarchies and give ourselves a misplaced sense of pride.

I can understand the desire to travel to new places, meet different people, and open your mind to various thoughts and ideas. There are still plenty of ways to do that. Practice sustainable tourism, educate yourself about the complex issues of poverty, racism and imperialism and ultimately go to places as a learner, not as a saviour.

Trust me, there are plenty of other Instagrammable moments in life.