Per the rules of submitting a budget to the Allocations Committee, a student organization must hold elections for their executive board for the 2020-21 school year. The executive board typically includes the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, but may also include students serving as co-officers or other positions specific to that organization. While elections denote voters will have a choice between candidates, this is often not the case for student organization elections.
During her three years in the club, Oria Daugherty ’21, president of Greenhouse, explained that it is normal for their group to have uncontested elections, meaning there is only one person to vote for, or only have some positions contested.
“I think it can be challenging to have uncontested elections because it means the leaders of the club may or may not be truly representative of its members,” Daugherty said. She added that “club leaders [often serve] for two to three years in a row, making it difficult to replace them after graduation.”
Grace O’Leary ’20, president of Communications Club, spoke about the nature of uncontested elections and the difficulty in finding students to succeed them.
“I believe that there is a lack of interest from the student body in over- all participation in a lot of clubs and organizations on campus,” O’Leary stated. “Maybe this stems from the overwhelming number of clubs or the academic stress we’re under, but the result is limited participation as underclassmen, and therefore, uncontested elections. David Schulz ’20 (president of Lambda Pi Eta) and I had to reach out to individuals and ask them to run for [our club’s] positions due to this lack of interest. While I know these individuals will do great in this role, a contested election would lead to our club being taken more seriously.”
President of Sexual Respect Coalition (SRC) Miranda James ’20 described how smaller groups on campus inherently have a harder time filling those positions.
“Groups that are smaller or have a smaller dedicated base seem to be more likely to have uncontested elections, though I have seen my share of uncontested elections in larger groups as well,” James said, referencing the College Democrats. “… The number of people who come to [SRC] meetings is actually quite small (usually ten or fewer people). Those who are very interested and involved are also usually those who are deeply involved in multiple activities, which influences how much time they feel they can promise to the group.”
Angie Bos and Bas van Doorn, professors of political science, explained the nature of uncontested elections in the greater world of politics and how that can be applied to clubs at Wooster.
“Uncontested elections are actually quite common at the state and local level,” van Doorn said. “One way to interpret an uncontested race is satisfaction with the incumbent, but lack of competition can be really problematic from an accountability and representation standpoint … Extending this to clubs at Wooster, a lack of competition for these positions could be a problem if those who end up in the positions are unqualified or have plans that may not match the preferences of the larger membership.”
Bos, using her own experience as both a political researcher and a faculty member, had several possible explanations for the lack of competition. One reason could be the lack of reward for those serving in the positions, especially ones that are not the president. She has also seen with faculty positions that people do not want to compete against others. Whether the reason behind that is about insecurity or wanting to keep harmony, students in clubs may not want to force a competition against their peers.
Clubs are not the only ones facing uncontested elections — referencing a Voice article from April 2019 right after both Campus Council (CC) and the Student Government Association (SGA) had their elections, “al- most all of the student government academic year ran in uncontested elections.”
According to that article, only 15 students ran for 20 spots on SGA while four of the nine CC members ran without an opponent. O’Leary, who is also an SGA senator, stated. “I find it concerning that out of 2,000 students, we can only get 15 people interested in representing the student body. To me that means that people are not truly engaged in the community and the issues we face.”
Although having contested elections is what student organizations should strive for, it also depends on the structure and size of each group.
For SRC, their uncontested elections posed less of a threat due to their small size.
“SRC intentionally operates with a more horizontal [executive] board structure with shared responsibilities regardless of position … and we aim to keep most decision making in the larger general assembly meetings so all can be involved,” James said. “This reduces the distance between the board and the rest of the group as well.”
All three student organization leaders had similar sentiments regarding the reasons preventing contested election which revolved more around practicality than a lack of interest. Students at the College are often affiliated with many organizations, including athletics, on top of their academic work. Clubs also tend to be led by those not study- ing abroad, which approximately 40 percent of students engage in. If these students do run, they will run as a tandem further decreasing the level of competition. It is also dependent on a member’s year in school.
“First years often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility and won’t run, and seniors are often busy with I.S. and don’t want to run, so you are left with a bulk of positions being filled by juniors and ambitious sophomores,” Daugherty noted.
Describing the greatest factor of uncontested elections, she stated, “The biggest thing that I think impacts this though is the general size of clubs. The clubs I am in have [approximately] 20 consistent members, if that. Therefore, a full half of the club would have to be interested in leadership to have every position contested. That just isn’t realistic.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, President Sarah Bolton sent an email to the Wooster community regarding recent concerns about the coronavirus and questions raised by students, faculty and staff. According to the New York Times, the coronavirus is a “novelty respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan, China [that] has spread quickly throughout the country and to two dozen other nations, leaving many experts to fear a pandemic may be on the way.” Most of those infected have been in mainland China, but both the World Heath Organization and United States have declared public health emergencies. As of Feb. 18, around 72,500 people have been infected with almost 2,000 fatalities.
In her email, Bolton shared information about the precautions the College is taking.
“Our Wellness Center staff, and emergency planning teams are fol- lowing all advice of the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department ofHealth,”she stated.“We received updates daily from the local and state health departments.”
Regarding precautions that should be taken, the College has been advised to “follow normal health protocols,” which includes washing hands often, coughing or sneezing into sleeves and making the Wellness Center aware of the situation. The College does not recommend wearing a mask.
Bolton also explained how it is important to be aware of how the virus affects people differently in the campus community.
“Although there is no coronavirus in our area at this time, many in our community are deeply affected by the outbreak, as they are worried about friends or family at home, or unable to see loved ones due to travel restric- tions,” she said. “It is also the case that many Asian and Asian-American people are experiencing heightened xenophobia, bias or discrimination.”
According to Ivonne García, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer (CDEIO), “International Student Services (ISS) has been very proactive in reaching out to our Chinese students
…All Center for Diversity and Inclusion(CDI)directors and staff stand united in the effort to support all students, especially those who feel targeted during this time.”
Jill Munro, director of ISS, explained that the College has responded in several ways in addition to Bolton’s email. This includes sending an email to international students to offer support, the Chinese Department hosting a Lantern Festival, informing faculty about the stress, stigma and micro aggressions that Asian and Asian-American students are facing, and Bolton hosting an open house for Chinese faculty, staff and students.
Regarding travel restrictions for students for spring break, Munro said that only students flying to China would be affected.
“Currently, Chinese students who live in China are not able to travel home due to flight restrictions into the country,” she stated, “and if they are able to get a flight, they might be able to get in, but not be able to get out or return to the U.S.”
Munro also shared at the February faculty meeting that an Asian student had overheard racist comments from other students, but no bias reports have been filed.
In light of this incident, García spoke about how the campus can be adequately respectful during times like this.
“My advice is that we all join in efforts to be actively anti-racist, and to be more self-aware of or own positionality and privilege so that we can avoid engaging in racist and xenophobic actions or comments that cause harm to our fellow community members,” she informed. “The College of Wooster has a unique history of inclusion in its very founding, and I want to encourage every member of this community to actively engage with that historic commitment to the cause of equity and inclusion.”
Yuxuan (Katie) Ke ’20, a student from China, offered advice on how to act given the situation.
“Coronavirus is like any other epidemic in the world. It is not a race- specific disease, and it is a serious trauma for everyone being affected by the outbreak, regardless of their origins,” Ke stated. “I think the best way to support the Chinese community at Wooster is simply to recognize that we are all members of this community.
And let your friends know if you are thinking of them too, though not everyone is comfortable sharing personal stories. If you notice your friend is expressing emotional fluctuation, please try to understand their situation and be there for them when they need you.”
García noted that CDEIO Program Coordinator Kayla Campbell will host office hours in the evening once a week to help others understand the resources available.
Bolton’s email provided additional resources for students, including contact for the Wellness Center, Munro, MacKenzie Bowen, assistant director of ISS and Carol Knoble, international student coordinator. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of discrimination should file an online report available on the College’s web- site. Anyone with interest in traveling to China or any country affected by the coronavirus should contact Candace Chenoweth, director of global engagement or Jamie Adler, assistant director of global engagement.
“Wooster is a global community,” Bolton stated, “and we will support one another in the face of this challenge, which is rapidly evolving and may take significant time to resolve. We will keep [the College community] informed of any changes to health advice or other developments.”
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On Monday, Feb. 3, the faculty voted to change their policy on accepting transfer credits and International Baccalaureate (IB) exam scores, as well as changing the final exam schedule.
These changes were brought to the faculty by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC), which reviewed the changes and made a legislative decision on them. The changes the faculty ratified include accepting transfer credits from outside institutions, including credits from online classes, dual-enrollment programs and College Credit Plus. In addition to accepting these credits, the College will now accept IB scores on exams scored five through seven.
According to Dean for Curriculum and Academic Engagement Bryan Karazsia, who serves as the co-chair of the EPC along with Professor of biology Bill Morgan, these changes are effective immediately. Karazsia believes the acceptance of credits from dual-enrollment programs will attract and retain Wooster students.
“I suspect the change that will be most relevant to [incoming students] is the dual-enrollment policy,” Karazsia stated. “I know in the past that many prospective students lost interest in the College because their dual-enrollment coursework was not recognized via transfer credit at the College. For current students, it is [in] effect for them, too.” Karazsia also urged any students who think they might have credits that could apply to their “academic progress” to visit the Registrar’s office.
Both Karazsia and Basliel Ababayehu ’22, a student representative on EPC, said the decision in accepting transfer credits from accredited institutions came from discussions about equity. Ababayehu said these discussions were delegated to a sub-committee.
“This subcommittee raised concerns in equity and the College’s competitiveness in the higher education market,” Ababayehu stated. “This subcommittee found that accepting credit in the form of dual- credit and online courses would be more equitable and provide the College a competitive advantage.”
Karazsia echoed this statement, saying the change makes Wooster more equitable and competitive with similar institutions.
“Some students who might benefit from earning credit over the summer, for example, simply might not have access to coursework that fit our previous criteria for transfer acceptable. This could be due to geographic, transportation or a host of other reasons,” Karazsia stated. “Thus, we felt that the prior requirement was creating inequities for students. The second dimension was competitive advantage. Students who engage in IB programs … or who complete dual-enrollment coursework … are engaged in very high-level work. Most of our peer institutions recognized this work through their policies, and so we were at a competitive disadvantage.”
Karazsia says the push for these changes came from President Sarah Bolton. “President Bolton has really pushed faculty and staff at Wooster to think carefully about structures (including policies) that create inequities for students,” he stated. “As we reflected on this message, and as we worked with students affected differently by different policies, we realized that we could become a more equitable institution.”
Ababayehu is “ecstatic” about the decision to accept college credit and online credits, and think it will make The College of Wooster more accessible to all students.
“In my experience, online courses are more cost-efficient than the traditional brick-and-mortar courses,” Ababayehu stated. “With this change in place, a student who may otherwise have to spend an extra semester on campus can more affordably complete an on-line course and graduate on time. Without this change, students who need more credits but can not afford to take extra courses at a college campus during the summer are at a disadvantage because of their financial situation.”
In addition to the changes in transfer credit policy and IB exam scores, the faculty also ratified a new final exam schedule, which will make its debut at the end of the spring semester. Now each exam will be two and a half hours, instead of the three hour or two hour slots used in the past. Exam one will take place from 8:00 – 10:30 a.m., exam two at 12:00 – 2:30 p.m. and exam three at 4:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Karazsia said that the exam schedule of two years ago, which started at 8:00 a.m. and lasted until 10:00 p.m., presented concerns over learning, safety and balancing academics with student life. As a result, they piloted the most recent final exam structure, in which students took exams in a two hour time slot. EPC then solicited hundreds of survey responses to find out how students felt about the final exam schedule and worked to make it better.
“The current exam schedule of two hours did not produce a favorable impact amongst both students and professors, especially in STEM courses,” Ababayehu said. “It proved particularly difficult to fully test student knowledge in a two hour cumulative exam. So, it was reported that students felt that the actual exams were not shortened proportionately to the shortening of the time.”
As a middle ground, EPC and faculty decided on two and a half hour exams. “In my experience, two hour exams are too short for a comprehensive exam in courses that are not essay based,” Ababayehu stated. “I believe that there is little harm in increasing the time because a student done early is always welcome to leave the exam, but I have experienced that the length of some of my exams in STEM courses warrant a longer duration to truly reflect a student’s understanding of the material.”
EPC manages some significant changes occurring at the College, and Karazsia says they have a full schedule the rest of the semester. Moving forward, Karazsia says EPC will be “studying and making recommendations on [tenure-track] faculty lines.”
Beall Avenue acts as the main thoroughfare of The College of Wooster campus, but it has also long been an intersection between the lives of students and city residents. Hateful comments, harassment and sometimes acts of violence towards students along Beall have highlighted Wooster’s fraught “town and gown” relationship. Rooted in power dynamics not easily examined or unpacked in one article, there is no clear, agreeable solution on how to both improve the relationship between the City and College of Wooster while making the campus safe for marginalized students. However, some figures on campus have already begun to do the difficult work to both make Beall safe for students and better connect the campus to the City.
One of the most prominent initiatives to create connections between the College and the City of Wooster is“Bridging Beall,” a collection of service projects created in 2018 by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and local community organizations. CDI housed the funding from a grant to create the program, but the planning team was comprised of four faculty members and five members from the City of Wooster’s community. The program looked specifically at the political divide between the City and the College in its first year. In its second year, “Bridging Beall” focused on homelessness in the local community.
“The goal of the program was to create opportunities for discussions across points of difference in the campus and community,” said Nate Addington, director of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement. “Ultimately, we wanted to show that there is much more that unites us than that divides us and to create relationships within the campus and community.”
Addington feels that the goals of the program were met by both objective and subjective measures. “All participants completed a survey before and after participation in the program and we saw very clear trends in the data that showed that barriers were being broken down and that systematic ‘othering’ was being reduced,” he noted. Outside of survey data, Addington also observed that the program had created interpersonal relationships. “I know that several members of the program are still in touch with members of their small groups and that real friendships have been formed,” he said.
People to People Ministries, a City of Wooster non-profit whose goal is “to provide an immediate, realistic and compassionate response to people with … basic needs when these needs are not being met through any other programs,” partnered with CDI in the “Bridging Beall” initiative. People to People’s director Joe Szeker also felt that the initiative had positive effects on the relationship between City and the Campus. “I think the students got a good feel for the scope of the need in our city and found similarity with the places they grew up,” he said. Even though there still may be misunderstandings, Szeker believes that the initiative helped students and city residents find common ground. “I think one thing became clear for all of us as we talked at the conclusion of the event: that poverty and its effect on people in it are the same no matter where you are from, and I sensed in many that they gained a better understanding of the need in our city, and again, some could relate to it,” he commented.
Halen Gifford ’21, chair of Campus Council (CC), also participated in “Bridging Beall” and saw its positive effects from the student perspective. She felt that residents of the City of Wooster learned just as much about The College and its students throughout the service projects. “In my group, none of the community members knew that the College of Wooster has students that attend who are from low- income backgrounds. Learning this really surprised people and I think changed their outlook on the College even if they already thought positively about us,” she said.
In terms of safety for students along Beall Avenue, Director of Security and Protective Services (SPS) Steve Glick acknowledges that there are still general concerns about the use of racial slurs, traffic and lighting along Beall. However, he has seen some improvement in these issues thanks to College and City initiatives. “Based on the number of reports, the incidents have seemed to decline,” he said. “We have seen an uptick on pedestrians getting hit while crossing — almost every one has been after dark — which is why the College improved the lighting. Kudos to Facilities for working with the City and getting it done,” he said.
In terms of further initiatives, Glick spoke to a few plans that SPS has to improve student safety. “We have had some preliminary conversations with the City about changing some signage, maybe add some additional pavement markings; and we are adding additional cameras along Beall as well. Our patrol officers are reminded about being visible along Beall Ave., whenever they have the time.”
However, Wooster students still feel that there is much work to be done in terms of student safety. Annays Yacamán ’21, vice chair of CC, addressed concerns around student safety on Beall. “I have been yelled at several times while walking down Beall, either being catcalled or … with derogatory words. I am from the inner city of Chicago, and despite people’s perceptions of it, I have felt far less safe walking down Beall,” she commented. “I think there is a shared understand- ing amongst students of color and other marginalized people to avoid walking on Beall at all costs, even if it means being inconvenienced several minutes.” Though the College approved funds for additional cameras on campus, Yacamán does not feel that SPS has taken adequate measures to ameliorate student safety. “As far as I know, there haven’t been any new preventative measures for student safety on Beall — only reactive measures, such as stressing us to report incidents,” she said.
Moreover, the process of reporting incidents of harassment is still cumbersome. According to Yacamán, “I personally am not sure what constitutes being reported. I also doubt students want to be bombarded with having to follow up with a report and talk to a bunch of people, only to be told nothing can be done.” Gifford echoed Yacamán’s sentiment that students lack power in decision-making around safety. “Campus Council really doesn’t have any power in that area. We have worked with Security to identify areas they could improve. But again, we don’t have any actual power to make those changes. The best I can do is act as an advocate for student needs when they come up,” she said.
Still, members of both the College and City are continuing to create inroads and have positive outlooks on the future for the relationship between city and campus. Addington feels that the College is working towards building a sense of solidarity with the City of Wooster. “If we have a problem with equity on campus, then so does the town … creating that culture of solidarity isn’t something that will happen overnight, but programs like ‘Bridging Beall’ service houses, the community-based AMRE [Applied Methods and Research Experience] projects, the health coaches and so many more are helping to break down walls that have been built up over time,” he said.
Addington further expresses optimism about College initiatives underway that will continue creating this solidarity. In addition to hopes of bringing “Bridging Beall” back next year, the office of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement is working to engage community partners more with service houses. Finally, he commends student efforts to improve relationships with the city through Wooster’s newly re-chartered NAACP chapter and programs such as the Soft Power Project and Soup & Bread.
Szeker agrees that continued interest and energy from students will further create connections and improve the relationship between the City and College. “The students themselves have become the catalyst that will continue to help improve the relationship between the students, the College and the community for years to come,” he commented. By “infus[ing] organizations like ours with young people to help us (which we greatly need) … we can help students learn more about poverty and themselves.”
Gifford also encourages students to continue building a culture of solidarity with the town. “What I think is important for people to remember is the majority of community members do not hate Wooster students and they do not hate the College. Those individuals who do or say hateful things to us are not representative of Wooster or Wayne County,” she said. “The hate that those people promote is part of a much larger toxic culture that is a problem all over the country. It is wrong and inexcusable, but we shouldn’t label all of Wooster.”
Ultimately, creating solidarity between the College and the City of Wooster will require many more joint community efforts. Many student safety concerns still need to be addressed in order to make Beall an accessible area for marginalized students. However, both the College and the City look forward to improving their relationship at large.
Initiatives on the horizon show promise for further connections and addressing systemic injustices that both the campus and city face. Says Addington, “Anytime we can advance the mission of our institution, while also being a good neighbor to those around us, well, that is a win-win and I’ll take that offer every time.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, a meeting was held with Hastings+Chivetta, an architectural firm that specializes in campus master planning. According to an email that day from Dean of Students Scott Brown, students were invited to participate in this open forum to “provide input on key issues for the 2020 Master Plan.” The email elaborated that “campus master planning at the College has been in place since 1900.” This meeting was separate from the open sessions held recently regarding the Lowry Center renovations.
In attendance from Hastings+ Chivetta were Project Manager Carl Drafall, Programmer Nancy Sopuch and Project Designer Tom Anagnos. The meeting was also attended by several members of the administration and eight students. Mike Taylor, associate vice president for Facilities, Design and Con- struction, went into detail about what a master plan is and why the College needs it.
“A campus master plan is a physical manifestation of our college’s strategic plan,” he said. “At its best, it is a road map for the future of a campus, and becomes a crucial tool in confirming that short-term projects are working in conjunction with long- term plans and goals.”
The meeting started with a presentation by Anagnos focused on understanding the 2020 Master Plan objectives, providing an update on the 2012 Master Plan and opening up the floor the students for their input. He explained that this was the first “workshop” of five (amongst several other meetings) to develop the Mas- ter Plan that will culminate with a presentation to the Board of Trustees currently scheduled for May 28- 30, 2020.
Regarding the 2012 Master Plan, Anagnos explained that some of the goals were accomplished while others were not. Accomplishments included the phased renovations of Andrews, Armington and Stevenson Halls, suite-style living in Gault School- house, the construction of Ruth W. Williams Hall of Life Science and the upcoming renovation of the Lowry Center. Objectives that were not yet completed would be prioritized in the 2020 Master Plan. This includes the expansion of parking, a new roof for McGaw Chapel and notably, the repurposing of L.C. Boles Memorial Golf Course.
There are four main objective areas for the upcoming Master Plan: campus-wide issues, academics, student life and athletics.
Two students in attendace, Tristan Donohoe ’20 and Emmy Todd ’22, focused on student life, specifically the housing options and their condition. Donohoe emphasized the importance of volunteer program houses on campus and his recommendation for those to be options in the future if the current houses were torn down.“Basically, I wanted to make sure the improvements to student housing (specifically program houses) were going to hold precedence in the 2020 Master Plan for the campus,” Donohoe stated. “I tried to bring to [the firm’s] attention how unique the program houses are for Wooster; I really do think there’s great potential to keep students engaged with the community outside of the College in a positive, productive manner.”
While Donohoe expressed his support for program houses, he also ac- knowledged they are in disrepair. “I emphasized the health threats the current state of the program houses pose for students, as well as concerns over accessibility,” he said.
Todd echoed those sentiments and added that residence halls are also in bad shape.“I would like the College to focus on program houses and residence halls such as Bissman and Holden,” Todd said. “[These] are the residence halls I see being the worst off and [have been] neglected for a very long time. Program houses are also some of the worst options for housing on campus … Many houses have issues with their heating, number of bathrooms and just general upkeep such as peeling paint, crumbling molding and common rooms in disarray.”
Regarding the athletics objective, the presenters raised the possibility of getting rid of the golf course, which is free for students, and using the land for other projects, such as new tennis courts, expanded parking and more sports fields. According to Vice President of Finance & Business James Prince, the College is currently operating the course at a loss.
Representatives from the firm took notes throughout and asked several questions directly to students. Taylor elaborated on the importance of these conversations.
“Speaking directly to our archi- tects will help them fit together per- spectives that will connect people and resources and result in the plan that is best for our entire campus community,” he said. “We encourage students to attend upcoming sessions and share their thoughts on how the College of Wooster campus can best accommodate their needs now and in the future.”
Regarding the financial aspect of these projects, Vice President for Ad- vancement Wayne Webster stated, “It’s still too early in the process to discuss how philanthropy will play a role in making the Master Plan a reality. The first priority is to identify our needs and the vision for campus over the next seven to 10 years.”