Category Archives: Front Page

Cost of staying over winter break changes for students

Students staying during winter break claim they were not explicitly notified of the College’s price change for housing accommodation (photo by Sadie Wittenberg ’22).

Savannah Sima

Contributing Writer

The College will no longer offer discounted housing rates to international students staying on campus for winter break after realizing this policy did not comply with the federal Fair Housing Act, according to Carly Jones, housing coordinator for the Office of Residence Life. The rate will change from $7 for international students to an $11 flat rate for all students — a change students claim they were not explicitly made aware of.

The College has a high proportion of international students; nearly 20 percent of the 2023 class is made up of international students from over 40 countries. Additionally, the Wooster student body also represents over 55 countries. Many of those students take advantage of the College’s housing accommodations over breaks, especially during winter break. Due to this, in the past the College has routinely offered discounted rates to international students staying in their dorms for the four-week period in which students have to pay a nightly rate.

Jones remarked, “In the recent past, the cost for international students and those who were staying on campus for a ‘college commitment’ were charged $7 per night. Everyone else was charged $15 per night.” That rate is now $11 per night for all students, according to the email sent out to the student body by Jones regarding winter break.

This change is due to the College realizing this discount did not comply with the Fair Housing Act. “Through trainings that we have been a part of in the last six months to a year, we learned that it is against the Fair Housing Act to charge different rates for different people based on their nation of origin,” said Jones. “It is also considered a taxable benefit when we lower the rate we charge for housing. Therefore, the decision was made by the Business Office and Dean of Students Office to move to one rate for all students for break housing. We found a rate that was in the middle of the previous two rates offered.”

“Unless the student is required to be here to participate in a College-sponsored activity (athletics, mandatory training, etc.), they will be charged $11 per night for the time that they are on campus,” Jones said. Though this change is concrete, not all students are aware of this flat rate for all students.

International students planning on staying during winter break remarked that they should’ve been explicitly made aware of the change. “I did not know that they had changed the pricing and had [to start] budgeting my stay over break accordingly,” Pratisth Pradhan ’22 said. “The people who stayed over breaks last year also told me that international students would have to pay less. Everyone seems oblivious about [the price change].”

Meklit Minassie ’22 held the same sentiment. “I was surprised to find out that we would not get a discount to stay over break. We should have been explicitly informed about it,” she said. The lack of an explicit indication of a price hike for international students seems to have contributed to this confusion.

However, this change was not made abruptly. Jones remarked, meetings were held with the director of international student services, dean of students and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to discuss the changes. The message was sent to all students on Oct.  28 included information about nightly fees. The information is also available on our website, signs hung in the halls and was sent to faculty and staff.”

Though information may have been posted on ResLife’s web-site and sent out through a brief email on Oct. 28, neither directly acknowledged that international students will not be offered a discounted rate this year.

 

Student representatives discuss housing changes

There are currently 18 service houses with a total of around 200 residents at the College (photo by Sarah Vandenbergen ’20).

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 7:00 p.m., an information session was held about proposed changes to on-campus service houses with representatives from service houses as well as Director of Experiential Learning and Community Engagement Nate Addington, Director of Residence Life Nathan Fein and Housing Coordinator Carly Jones. The meeting served as a Strategic Planning update and a discussion about the future of service houses. On campus, there are currently 18 service houses, which hold a total of around 200 students, according to Addington. There were 10 houses who didn’t send representatives to the meeting.

One of the biggest changes suggested at the meeting was to change the application process for the houses. The proposed change states that students would have to apply to live in service houses on an individual level instead of multiple students applying as a group. “If you are a new applicant, there is a change. It is not that students would apply individually,” Fein stated. “The change that was proposed was instead of large groups applying to live together you could apply to live in the space as either an individual or a roommate pairing.”

According to Addington, there are several reasons for this potential change. “The first is about equity,” Addington stated. “Right now, the applications process calls for people to apply as a whole group. So, if I am [a] student who wants to enjoy the benefits of a learning/living community but I’m not a member of that specific group of students who applied, or I’m not sure how to access that community partner for some reason, then there is an unjust barrier preventing me from participating. We want to make sure that anyone who has a desire to participate, regardless of background, identity or access to means, has the opportunity.”

Addington and Fein are also planning the steps moving forward if the College decides to eliminate house living. The College is about to start their master planning process, which will include considering all the physical structures and buildings on campus and deciding what to do with them in future years. “As part of that process the College will be making decisions as to both renovation and new construction to meet the needs of our students,” Fein said. “This may mean that we take more houses offline. At this point, it is too early to say if we are getting rid of all houses.”

No matter what the College decides about the houses, however, Addington and Fein are committed to continuing meaningful work within the Wooster community. “Nathan Fein and I have consistently said we want to make sure of two things: 1. That the work our students do with our community partners could continue without the physical house,” Addington said. “Everything in this world [is] temporary, especially in Ohio with our unpredictable weather. And so, the systems we have in place need to provide for continuity regardless of physical location. 2. That if the College would think about building structures that would replace the houses, that we would work to build structures that fulfill the spirit of what our current houses provide and students are excited about.”

In achieving these goals, Fein emphasized the importance of student feedback. “We want to make sure that the changes that we are invest- ing in our physical spaces in ways that meet the needs of our community,” Fein stated. “As we move through the process we will need students to provide their voice to the process. The more input we get the better we can serve the needs of our students.”

A common worry among students is that if there are no houses, there won’t be a shared private space for students to gather and hang out in social settings. Fein assured the audience that the College was taking this into consideration when thinking about future living situations.“Armington is great; Armington is not bumping,” Fein stated at the meeting. “We will make sure that we are being mindful of providing spaces where students can still have private gatherings that allow them to build community.”

Mia Stevens ’20 lives in the Community Breakfast House (Corner House) and is worried about the potential to eliminate houses from campus. “I am concerned about the transition away from houses that may happen in five to 10 years,” Stevens stated. “I don’t think that the same community can be created in  an apartment/suite/town house setting.” Other changes to service houses include the interview process, a well as the decision to add no new community partners during the 2020-21 academic year. “New applicants will not interview with a panel of professional staff from Residence Life and representatives from Wooster Volunteer Network, which was both professional staff and students,” Fein stated. “They will now interview with a member of the non-profit organization they wish to volunteer with. This allows both the student and the organization make sure it will be successful for both.”

Fein assured that groups already living in service houses that are in good standing with the community organization and the College will not have to interview with their organization. Additionally, the change would help build a “reciprocal relationship” with community partners.

“There are power dynamics at play when the College asks a small nonprofit to take on a program of this size,” Addington stated. “We want our partners to know we view them as co-educators in this process, and so we are suggesting that we give them the central voice in who gets to work with them and in how many students that they can realistically accommodate.”

Some students in service houses see this change as problematic for the community partners.

“I don’t think that individuals should interview directly to the community partner because they have already limited time and I do not think adding more to their plate is a fair thing, especially if its individual interviews with students,” Stevens said.

Before moving forward, Addington and Fein are waiting to hear feedback from service houses.

College takes actions to strengthen campus safety

Security & Protective Services (SPS) engaged in talks with students to get an idea of what could be improved (Photo by Rhiannon Johnson ’21).

Savannah Sima

Contributing Writer

Following the open forum with Security and Protective Services (SPS) hosted by Campus Council (CC) on Oct. 27, and the two hate incidents that targeted members of the College, Dean of Students Scott Brown sent an email to the campus community with an up- date on some introductory mea- sures to improve campus safety.

This included installing cam- eras, opening faculty/staff park- ing spots for students from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., positioning SPS outside the libraries when they close, reporting demographic data, sharing more information about security protocols, pro- viding anti-bias training of old and new SPS workers and creat- ing the Student Safety Advisory Committee.

Brown remarked that camera installation is in the phase of “de- termining the right amount of

coverage right now, which will determine our eventual number, and those will be detailed later.”

Questions of where to place the cameras have been posed to students through groups like the Multicultural Student Organiza- tion Coalition (MSOC), Student Government Association (SGA) and CC. These cameras will go “beyond the existing 60 cameras in key traffic locations across campus,” according to the email Brown sent to the student body. He also mentioned that “[the] cameras will be ordered in early November with a goal install date prior to the end of the semester, weather permitting.”

Moreover, starting Nov. 1, SPS have been positioned outside An- drews, Gault and Timken Library when they close each weeknight at 2:00 a.m. Brown informed that the officers will be there unless called away for an emergency.

“We will assign more people, whether officers or additional

Student Security Officers, to make sure students are escorted safely to their rooms, as needed,” he stated.

The addition of SPS trainings and new hires were also pres- ent in the email, SPS has hired a new officer and a new dispatcher “who will bring more diversity to the department,” which is one of the concerns students noted in the open forum and Chief Diver- sity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Townhall on Oct. 23.

With regards to training SPS officers, Brown mentioned that community outreach has been added to the training of new SPS staff, and that SPS is adopting national community engagement standards in tandem with “anti- bias training,” an “expert trainer on diversity and bias for the de- partment in November” and Safe Zone training.

Additionally, SPS has updated the SPS website to include the names of all current staff mem- bers, as well as their specific shifts.

In an effort to foster more transparency on campus, SPS of- ficers will also begin “recording and reporting demographic data regarding all stops.” This infor- mation will be, “share[d] … each semester with campus.”

Furthermore, an additional body to bolster campus safety, the Student Safety Advisory Com- mittee, has also been formed “to increase student engagement and opportunities for input.”

Brown thanked the students who spoke at the forum because their voice has led to some of these changes. “I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the students who attended the recent townhall and safety forum and willingly sharing their frus- trations and contributed valu- able input,” he said. “We greatly appreciate your efforts to make Wooster a safer, more welcoming place for everyone.”

Brown added, “We continue to ask all members of the communi- ty to please report any instances of bias or harassment immedi- ately to SPS or fill out a bias form so that we can address issues as promptly and effectively as pos- sible. Those reports are shared with many individuals who are trained in bias reporting who will reach out to the reporting party and initiate investigation.”

Campus Council holds forum to discuss campus safety

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

In light of recent bias incidents that have occurred at the College, Campus Council (CC) held a dis- cussion on Oct. 27 regarding stu- dents’ concerns about safety on campus. President Sarah Bolton, Dean of Students Scott Brown, Chief Diversity Equity and In- clusion Officer Ivonne García, Associate Director of Security and Protective Services (SPS) Joe Kirk and Director of SPS Steve Glick were present at the event to answer several questions.

According to Halen Gifford ’21, Chair and Service & Civic En- gagement Representative of CC, the security talk stemmed from a discussion CC had a few weeks ago. During CC’s constituency reports, Annays Yacamán ’22, the organization’s at-large represen- tative, informed the Council that she and her friend, both students of color, were stopped by the Wooster Police Department and SPS in the span of 30 minutes because they “looked suspicious.”

“This led to a larger conversation about a lack of diverse represen- tation in SPS and the importance of making sure students, specifi- cally students of color, felt pro- tected by security, not targeted,” Gifford said. “I also brought up that I had heard reports from students that there

seemed to be an in- creased police pres- ence on Campus (this feeling was echoed by other CC student mem- bers). We started to have a conver- sation about what role Campus Coun- cil could have in addressing this and we came up with the idea of doing a sort of forum.”

The questions at the forum ranged from personal security to overall diversity in campus. Members of CC also emphasized the need of diversifying SPS staff. However, Kirk informed that the number of applicants for SPS has declined over the last six months, because of which diversifying the pool has been a struggle.

Concerns related to Wooster Police Department’s (WPD) pos- sible racial profiling were also addressed at the forum. Yacamán informed SPS about an incident where her black friend was stopped by WPD for sitting in a car because they looked suspicious, was asked questions and had a flashlight shone into the car.

Another issue included secu- rity officers drinking alcohol with students at a house instead of responding to a call.

Kirk addressed these by suggesting that they email SPS in cases where events like this occur. The forum also addressed an increasing number of hate crimes that have been taking place on campus. Glick mentioned that the FBI has been in- volved with the in- cident related to Pa- triot Front stickers (where the group posted hateful stick- ers in different parts of the College). Kirk reminded the students to report any incident that may occur to SPS as soon as possible.
In addition, Brown also men- tioned that the Board had a dis- cussion about safety issues, and that they will find funding to get additional cameras to make the campus safer.
Gifford mentioned that CC was pleased with the discussions that took place at the forum. Whilethe forum was in the works before CC heard what students had to say about SPS at García’s town- hall meeting, the council added relevant questions after hearing the concerns about safety as well.

“I am really glad we chose to do the forum as students brought up concerns we did not originally consider,” Gifford said. “Our goal was to give students an opportu- nity to raise their concerns with SPS and I think that was success- ful. We also wanted students to feel like SPS was hearing their concerns and doing their best to make campus safe.”

After the forum, Kirk men- tioned some changes SPS is work- ing on implementing at the mo- ment. Some of the changes they are working on are updating SPS staff list to include the shifts that they work, including demograph- ics in all of the reports and log- ging information as SPS encoun- ters people and working with Student Government Association (SGA) and CC to identify and cre- ate a student advisory council to look at security and safety issues.

CDEIO hosts townhall following hate incidents

Ivonne M. García discusses concerns around October bias incidents and listened as students offered their perspectives (Photo by Sarah Vandenbergen ’20).

Samuel Casey

News Editor

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) Ivonne M. García hosted a townhall in Lean Lecture Hall to provide an update on the 2017 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan (DEISP) which, according to an email sent by García, “provided that The College of Wooster communicate to the community about the progress of these efforts.” President Sarah Bolton joined García in the front of the hall throughout the event, which was attended by ap- proximately 90 people.

While the original purpose of the meeting was to provide an update to the campus community about the DEISP, Bolton sensed that the audience would be more focused on the two recent bias incidents that occurred on campus during the month of October. The first incident involved the placing of hate propaganda stickers by the Patriot Front, “an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism” according to the Oct. 18 issue of the Voice, across Wooster’s campus and 150 other campuses and cities throughout the country on the morning of Oct. 4.

The second incident occurred on Tuesday, Oct. 22, the day before the townhall. In an email sent by Bolton to the Wooster community, she said, “A member of our faculty received a package through the mail which included a racist, hate-filled message with the intent to intimidate and harass.” The package, mailed from out of state, contained a perfume bottle filled with bodily fluid and was labeled with a racial epithet.

“This community is not where it needs to be,” Bolton said. “Both of these acts are reprehensible, illegal and intolerable and we won’t stand for them.”

After an introduction to these incidents, Bolton and García left the rest of meeting open to questions and statements from audience members, which were mostly students of color.

Evan Jackson ’20 described Wooster as a “ghetto” where the international students and domestic students of color are designated to the campus while the city of Wooster remains predominantly white. He encouraged members of the College community to reach out and make more connections to the city.

“We can’t huddle back and retreat to our campus. In times of distress, we have to go reach out to the community,” Jackson said.

Bolton responded by saying that García and herself have been talking to the Mayor of Wooster, Robert F. Breneman, and stated that “the city won’t thrive if the College isn’t thriving. White folks shouldn’t be the only ones feeling comfortable.”

In response to a comment that students of color are being stopped at places like Walmart to have their bags checked, García related this to her own undergraduate experience 30 years ago. She said that students were being stopped when she was in college and she could not believe that it is still the same. García echoed the comments made by Bolton and said that they were making the Mayor aware that students, faculty and staff of color were being harassed. According to a faculty retention survey, professors at the College were leaving because of racism within the city and their own departments.

“If you are a community member and Wooster resident, if this is your town, it is our responsibility to put pressure on the people we elect,” García said. “This is everyone’s responsibility.”

The students in the audience voiced their concern.

“What are the options for people that look like me?” asked Lesley Chinery ’21, a student from Ghana. “There are places we should be able to go on campus, but we don’t feel comfortable.”

Bolton reassured that there are many outlets that students can go to, not just the obvious ones like Security and Protective Services (SPS) or administration.

When asked what the plan was to make faculty and staff more comfortable at the College, Bolton pointed to changes made regarding the DEISP. There have been trainings for all faculty to prevent bias when doing position searches and honesty regarding what faculty of color should know about Wooster. Part of the DEISP included “ensuring diversity among faculty in each department by 2020” which Bolton said was accomplished.

Jackie Perez ’21 stated that she was from a city much larger than Wooster, but still felt less safe here. She noted that it should be easier, but is not. “How can I feel safe here?” Perez asked. “What can I do to defend myself without being the offender?”

García paused to “take a moment and reflect on the gravity of that statement” and Bolton conceded that people don’t report incidents because it is a lot of physical and emotional work and feel like nothing will happen anyway. She encouraged students to go to the safest place possible and discussed the possibility of having a training for those instances.

Kennedy Pope ’23 stated that she was having a disconnect between what is actually happening and what Bolton and García are saying. “It’s not a good feeling to sit here and think about having these meetings every year of college,” she said. Pope noted that when these issues are brought up, it is the people of color on campus who are forced to deal with the problem which is reflected by the audience of the townhall.

García wanted the attendees to understand that this was her first year as CDEIO and asked for patience even if that’s not what students wanted to hear. She stated that if nothing improves in four years, then she has failed.

Courtney Lockhart ’20, president of the Black Student Association, acknowledged that García is entering her first year, but the responsibility is not solely on her. Incidents have been happening for four years, but Lockhart felt like information was not relayed back to students, which is frustrating given the possibility of a perpetrator walking freely around campus.

“With racism, the bullet does not have a name on it,” Lockhart said.

Annays Yacamán ’22, an at- large representative for Campus Council, was concerned that a student could have been the one to post the hateful stickers around campus could be sitting next to her in class.

“I can’t say for certain that the person saying intolerant things next to me is not a neo-Nazi,” Yacamán said.

García explained that the administration was in the process of reviewing and restructuring the bias incident report process, which did not previously meet Title IX standards, and will be available at the start of 2020.

Alana Smith ’20 stated bluntly that she had not been satisfied with any response from administration during the townhall and anytime over the last four years. She said it was hard for her to care and understand if all of this keeps happening every year anyway and went as far as to say that coming to Wooster was a waste relative to the debt she would be in given her low level of satisfaction.

Associate Dean of Students Ashley Benson acknowledged the feelings of the students of color and could relate to them, but countered by stating, “Welcome to the training ground.” Benson said that this is only the beginning of what these students will experience in the professional world, admitting, “I hate having to say that.”

Eventually, Bolton and García stopped responding to students’ statements and instead just listened and nodded. The meeting ended up lasting three hours and continued in the talk with SPS on the following Sunday.

On Oct. 29, Bolton sent a follow- up email to the campus community regarding the two incidents. The College reviewed footage from cameras around campus but could not get any footage of someone(s) putting up the stickers. Patriot Front posted photos of the stickers on Twitter and eventually their account was removed.

Regarding the racist package, the College reported the incident to the U.S. Postal Inspector and the police since the package was from out-of-state. A case was opened, but the individual responsible has not been identified.

SGA faces issues after students fail to register for shuttle on time

 Savannah Sima

Contributing Writer

The shuttles for students traveling to airports offered before and after break by the Student Government Association (SGA) have been a point of contention between students, parents and members of SGA. SGA offers shuttles to and from the Cleveland and Canton-Akron airports for each major break — fall, spring, Thanksgiving, winter and summer. To utilize the shuttles, students must register through a link provided via an email that SGA sends out. The link is typically sent a couple of weeks before any break occurs and carries a late fee for registrations past the provided date. 

Just in setting up this program, SGA president Emilee McCubbins ’20 noted that she has to execute many negotiations and programs to alert students— coordination with transportation to set up the link, and with the shuttles themselves to check seats with the Business Office. Alongside that, SGA also sends out frequent reminders, hangs posters and answers many questions from parents and students. Grace O’Leary ’20, SGA service chair who is in charge of shuttles, stated that she also has to create surveys, monitor who boards and keep track of walk-ons in order to charge their account later.

Within this round of shuttles for fall break, there has been a huge uptick in late registrations and disrespectful comments from both students, parents and professional staff according to McCubbins and O’Leary. McCubbins specifically noted that she had “countless students, ten parents and two college staff” reach out to her regarding late transportation. In almost all instances, McCubbins indicated that the messages have been “curt” or have posed accusations against SGA. O’Leary added that she had received over 20 emails from students to book a seat after the purchase date.

It is important to note that SGA provides these shuttles voluntarily, and that the program is not associated with the school. McCubbins and O’Leary understand the frustration of dealing with a late fee but provide these services to make travel for students accessible. In one instance, McCubbins stated that a student accused the implementation of a late fee to be illegal, because it was discriminatory against students who had forgotten to register. Parents have also contacted McCubbins and O’Leary days before break ended and accused SGA of “stranding” people at the airport simply because they did not care. Online, one parent noted that they disliked that their child had to sit at the airport for a few hours and feared for their safety. McCubbins was concerned about the general misunderstanding between SGA and parents about how the shuttles are entirely student-run and that they are not associated with the administration in any way. 

O’Leary stated that SGA will do more in the future to bold deadlines so that the closing date is more visible. McCubbins also stressed that SGA has discussed many avenues to improve the shuttle system due to how many issues arose over the past fall break. This included possibly cutting the Akron shuttle in favor of a Columbus shuttle and eliminating the possibility of walk-ons. O’Leary noted that when walk-ons do not buy a ticket but show up anyway, it may take a seat away from a student who did buy a ticket. This is why O’Leary stated that SGA will not allow students to purchase a ticket who send late e-mails to reserve a seat. 

McCubbins is happy to see more students utilizing the service that they provide but does not want to be disrespected by parents and students over the shuttles. She added, “We can all go enjoy Thanksgiving break without the added tension of being accused of ruining someone’s experience over a late registration.” O’Leary expressed a similar sentiment of volunteering to carry out the shuttles simply because she loves Wooster. O’Leary simply called for more respect and to book tickets in a timely manner, as to respect her time and the process of obtaining a ticket. She added, “Hopefully there will be a change of heart for Thanksgiving break and students will buy their ticket ahead of time.”