Category Archives: News

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update Report

Samuel Bourdreau

Senior News Writer

 

On Sunday, April 25, members of the campus community met to discuss the annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update Report. The meeting was led by President Bolton and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Ivonne M. García. The report shined a light on diversity, retention rates and challenges faced by BIPOC and underrepresented students, staff and faculty at The College of Wooster.

García told the Voice that “the College has improved both in the recruitment and retention of students, especially BIPOC and underrepresented students over the past several years. Since 2017, we have grown our BIPOC student population by 20 percent. Four-year graduation rates now stand at about the same for nearly all demographic groups, something that was not happening only a few years ago when Black and Latinx students, especially, experienced much lower rates of retention.”

However, Bolton and García noted that the campus is not the equitable campus that it needs to be as of now. “Our retention rate is not the one we aspire to have, and we know we have a lot of work to do to continue to make this College one in which all students feel they can stay and thrive, and that work will continue unabated,” García told the Voice.

While diversity and retention rates have increased on campus, Bolton and García noted that the pandemic has slightly affected these rates as it has “made it difficult for new international students to come to Wooster and, as the pandemic progressed through the year, we also saw a slight drop off from years prior of total new international students to Wooster.”

In the past two years, the College’s faculty continues to increase in diversity as 83 percent of last year’s incoming tenure track faculty identified as BIPOC or are from underrepresented communities.

However, García noted that the College is much less effective in retaining BIPOC faculty than white faculty. The College’s 2018 faculty retention study “showed that BIPOC faculty, especially Black faculty, do not tend to stay at the College.”

Results from the College’s Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) Assessment in May, 2020 revealed that gender identity and racial/ethnic identities were the main reasons that students, faculty and staff did not have inclusive experiences at the College. With only 19 percent of students responding to the assessment, Bolton and García hope the 2022 assessment will yield greater student participation.

In response to this study, the College launched the Faculty Mentoring Cohort Program, now in its third year, modeled after successful BIPOC student-focused mentoring programs in the Fall of 2019. The program established cohorts of mentors and mentees rather than relying only on individualized or department-based mentorship. García told the Voice that the first year of the program was successful.

The College also hopes to improve the relationship with the broader Wooster community, particularly on Beall Avenue. When the Voice reported on the March for Asian Lives on March 26, Mochi Meadows ’24, Gender and Sexuality Diversity Representative for Scot Council, told the Voice that someone yelled “Go back to China” at the March, and a truck with a confederate flag drove by with a sticker that said “I don’t brake for protestors.” When asked how the College is taking their next steps with the local community at the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) meeting, Bolton said that signage and security resources have been added to Beall, but that there is room for improvement.

Starting June 1, Dr. García will undertake a position at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education to lead their work in inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy. As the College’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion has greatly expanded under her leadership as she told the Voice that “before the academic year ends, the CDEIO will have trained nearly everyone in the Academic Affairs division, including faculty in departments and programs, administrative coordinators and Athletic staff in antiracist/anti-bias practices.” Additionally, the center has trained 50 student organizations and recommended that they establish antiracist/anti-bias action plan for future school years.

Sweeping the shadow of the past under the rug: How lack of recognition for historical harms still affects Wooster’s LGBTQ+ Community

Aspen Rush

Managing Editor

Maggie Dougherty

Editor in Chief

 

On April 12 at 4:33 p.m., The College of Wooster shared a message from the Board of Trustees on their Facebook page regarding the behavior of former President Howard F. Lowry. The message elicited a wide range of responses from a great number of alumni and students, quickly receiving over a hundred comments from members of the College community. A subset of these comments focused not on Lowry but on a different piece of Wooster history: the 1995 almost-presidency of Susanne Woods, who would have been the College’s first female president. Although the Board of Trustees never shared an official explanation for Woods’ stepping down, the alumni in the comments all held the same notion: Woods was dismissed because it was discovered that she had a female partner.

One alum wrote, “Let’s also address the dismissal of Susanne Woods [by the Board] because she was a lesbian in the mid-’90s while we are at it. […] I was appalled by the Board’s action then and I still see it as a blight on the history of the College.”

Charles Gall ’93 commented similarly, writing, “[It] would be lovely if the Board would do this kind of detailed and bulleted self reflection and pursuit of truth/restorative justice concerning the quiet payoff of Susanne Woods in the mid-’90s, after hiring her as president and then realizing she [was] a lesbian before sending her packing.” Others agreed, seconding the call for the Board to address Woods’ case and stating that they hoped to see justice for her. Another alum wrote, “The College owes a very public, comprehensive, genuine apology to Susanne Woods and an action plan to address past and present homophobia.”

Wooster in the 1990s was a very different place than the Wooster we know today. As one alum described, Wooster was a more conservative, “buttoned up” place, stuck slightly behind the rest of the world in a “sweet age” before swipe keys and cell phones. According to a Viewpoint written by Terry Miller ’90, in 1989, the College had not engaged in conversations about homosexuality in the campus comminity. Then, as they do now, Wooster boasted that they “celebrate diversity.” Even so, they did not have a non-discriminatory policy in place for LGBTQ+ individuals. Miller pointed to both students and administration alike for their exclusivity. The ’90s was also a time of more conservative social values, not just in Wooster, but nationally: The United States was a battleground between the progressive left and religious, conservative right.

While the ’90s seem like a recent past for many, public opinion regarding the LGBTQ+ community has shifted dramatically in the last 25 years. It was a decade punctuated by anti-gay legislation and hate crimes even as queer culture made its way into the mainstream. Madonna introduced voguing, Elton John came out, Pedro Zamora publicly battled AIDS and conversations about homosexuality entered public discourse. On the other hand, there was an endless list of politicians and civilians accusing gay and lesbian individuals of ruining the American way of life. Across the U.S., national and local governments attempted to pass anti-gay legislation.

In 1990, only five years since the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, queerness remained interwoven with stigma surrounding homosexuality. The American public was fueled by homophobic rhetoric echoed by conservative politician and radio show hosts, like Rush Limbaugh.

In 1994, only one year before Susanne Woods was dismissed, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act made its way to the floor of the House of Representatives once again after repeated failure. The law, if passed, would have protected lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from employer discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. 

That being said, it was by no means unheard of to establish equality for gay individuals in the corporate sector. World renowned companies such as Xerox and AT&T publicly supported their employees and created anti-discrimination policies. Around the country, Wooster would have set the precedent for academic institutions in hiring their first woman president and their first lesbian president.

In this context, Susanne Woods was selected to be the first female president of The College of Wooster. Woods was chosen by a 16-person search committee tasked with finding Henry Copeland’s successor, made up of eight trustees and eight faculty members. Woods was an English literature professor who had received her doctorate from Columbia University, and at the time of her hiring was employed as the vice president for academic affairs at Franklin & Marshall College. At Brown University, she had been the director of graduate studies and the associate dean of faculty; she also founded the Women Writers Project. By all accounts, Woods was highly qualified in her scholarly, administrative and fundraising accomplishments. 

In April 1995, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees approved the nomination of Susanne Woods for president. Woods accepted the offer and was set to take office as Wooster’s tenth president on July 1, 1995. At the time, trustee and chairman of the search committee, John (Jack) Dowd, was quoted in The Akron Journal saying, “Our goal was to find the best president for The College of Wooster… and we have achieved our goal.”

The English Department, which was responsible for officially recommending Woods for tenure, was particularly excited to work with her. Nancy Grace, professor and chair of Wooster’s English Department at the time, stated in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “I was thinking, ‘Wow, this person is extremely qualified, I’m glad they appointed her.’” 

Grace described the move as an inflection point, a moment where the College was on the verge of taking a major progressive step by hiring a woman to lead the school. Except something happened, and the scales tipped in the other direction. On June 30, Woods’ resignation was announced in a statement released by the College, citing Woods’ and the Board’s mutual “deep regret” over “significant differences concerning the role of the president.”

Speculations have been made about what “significant differences” were missed throughout the entirety of the search process and only discovered in the week before Woods took office. Although the relevance of this information is contested by some of the parties involved, Emeritus Trustee Jerrold Footlick wrote in his book, “An Adventure in Education,” “The one piece of important information that no one appears to dispute is that Susanne Woods had a close relationship with a professor of English at Denison University, Anne Shaver.” 

Dowd vehemently denied that any prejudice was involved in the decision. In the Sept. 1, 1995 edition of the Voice, Dowd said, “I think I have heard almost all the rumors, and none of the rumors are correct.” 

Grace recalls meeting Dowd for lunch at the Wooster Inn to discuss her concerns. “He totally denied everything — he just lied straight to my face,” Grace told Footlick in an interview, the transcript of which is stored now in the College’s Special Collections. She elaborated to the Voice that Dowd told her the decision had “nothing, nothing, nothing” to do with Wood’s sexual orientation. Nevertheless, Grace recounted, Dowd shared no reasonable alternative explanation, citing the confidentiality agreement that Woods and the Board signed as a condition of her resignation; still, she felt that he was lying.

Despite Dowd’s assertion that Woods’ sexual orientation played no role, multiple articles from the Voice and the Chronicle refer to the circulation of the Denison phone directory on Wooster’s campus, in which Shaver listed Woods as her partner. Although it was openly reported that Shaver identified herself as a lesbian, Woods was, according to the August 4, 1995 edition of the Chronicle, “a very private person who does not describe herself as a lesbian or discuss her sexual orientation.” Nevertheless, at around the same time the directory began to circulate, so did an op-ed by an openly lesbian professor at Kenyon College, encouraging Kenyon’s new president to work closely with female presidents at the other Ohio schools, including “Wooster’s newly appointed president, lesbian Susanne Woods.”

Although there are different accounts of the exact transmission of information, the details made it to the trustees and, according to a source who spoke with the Chronicle at the time, a few of the trustees met with Woods to ask her about the directory and the rumors. The full Board was alerted on June 20 that there would be a phone conference on June 29 to discuss Woods’ contract, and the next day, Woods resigned as president-elect. 

Reactions from the Wooster community to the Woods resignation were swift and strong. Carolyn Durham, a professor of French and coordinator of Wooster’s women studies program, told the Chronicle that she was “shocked and dismayed by the news.” She added, “It’s difficult for me to understand how there could have been ‘disagreements about the role of president’ that would not have been discussed prior to her appointment by the Board.”

In an interview conducted for his book, Grace told Footlick, “I can remember the day I heard, I just burst into tears — I really burst into tears. It was like we’d been stabbed. I cried, when [Emeritus Professor of German] Susan Figge told me, I just cried on the phone.” 

In another interview, Footlick asked another professor of English, Jennifer Hayward, if the English department felt angry about the decision. “I don’t know if even angry is the right word,” she answered. “I think it cut deeper than that. I think we felt betrayed. I think we felt as if we had this wonderful woman who was going to make connections for us with major funding institutions and with really exciting text projects like the Brown [University] project, and was going to bring all kinds of new ideas. Then, there was never a clear explanation for what happened.”

Wooster alumnus Charles Gall graduated in 1993, but was still living and working in Wooster in the spring of 1995. In the same edition of the Voice that shared a comprehensive interview with Woods, introducing her as president-elect to the Wooster community, there was an announcement that Judd Winick — roommate of Pedro Zamora, AIDS educator and MTV star — would be visiting campus to talk about Zamora’s life. As Gall listened to Winick speak, he said, “I realized how much Pedro had accomplished in the five short years between coming out and his death, and it made me think that here I was, still in the closet at 24 in small-town Ohio, living in fear. When I returned home that evening, I gathered the courage to come out to my roommate and his girlfriend, which began my coming out process to family and friends.”

Reacting to Woods’ departure just a few months later, Gall said, “As a newly gay alumnus of Wooster, the Woods situation was highly disappointing. For a college that openly promoted diversity and that engaged Winick to speak on AIDS education just months prior, the announcement was a confirmation that all the talk of diversity, at least as it related to sexual orientation, was simply lip-service, and that there was no way the Board was comfortable supporting a gay President who would be the face of the College and chief fundraiser.”

Since 1995, there has still been no official explanation for what happened because of the confidentiality agreement signed by all parties involved. Although the incident happened over 25 years ago now, it still lives on in the memories of many alumni and faculty who were here at the time, as well as in the way that current LGBTQ+ students interact with the institution. 

One of the clearest reminders of the Susanne Woods controversy is the John Plummer Memorial Scholarship for Promoting a Welcoming Campus for LGBTQ+ People. During his years working as the comptroller of the Wooster Business Office, Plummer was one of the only openly gay individuals on campus and served as a mentor to many of Wooster’s LGBTQ+ students. 

Following Woods’ resignation, Plummer and alumnus Hans Johnson ’92 discussed what could be done to support LGBTQ+ students on campus, and Plummer suggested the possibility of creating a scholarship. In an interview in 2018, Johnson recalled, “The Susanne Woods episode was a searing and stinging rebuke for people who respected LGBT rights and met for many of us who were LGBT ourselves. It wasn’t just us, but a whole network of allies was deeply offended by that move and by the signal that Wooster would discriminate in such a high, and such a highly exposed way in its expression of values.”

Though Plummer died in 2006 before the dream for the scholarship could be realized, Johnson continued advocating for its creation and by 2008 the endowment threshold for the scholarship was reached. Speaking to the importance of the scholarship in light of the case of Susanne Woods, Johnson said, “the Plummer Scholarship became an acceptable way for many deeply offended people to give to the campus for the purpose of institutional change, and I think we succeeded in that.” 

Eleanor Linafelt ’20, a women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS) and English double major, learned about the Woods story in the spring of her junior year while working on the WGSS digital history website. She said, “I was shocked by the story, of course, but also by the fact that I had never heard anything about it before, especially as a queer student and WGSS major fairly engaged in Wooster campus life. It occurred relatively recently but it does show how easily things can be lost in the institution’s collective memory, especially things that aren’t to be proud of.”

Outside of those researching the topic, recipients of the Plummer Scholarship may be some of the only students who hear directly about the Woods situation, and through them this history is remembered. Harry Susalla ’22, the 2021-22 recipient of the scholarship, told the Voice, “When I first found out about this moment in Wooster’s history, I was completely disappointed that the College made no effort to educate its students on its homophobic past. If the College publicly addressed this history, it would show me that they have a real commitment against bigotry, not just a performative one.”

Similarly, Mylo Parker-Emerson ’19, the 2018-19 Plummer scholar, recalled a sense of shock over hearing the story for the first time. “When I was in college right around the time it had been announced that Sarah Bolton was going to be the new president of the College, rumors started to go around about a previous President that was fired/never fully hired because she was a lesbian,” Parker-Emerson said. “I remember hearing this and being shocked because I knew about the Plummer scholarship. I remember thinking to myself how progressive of a school in 2014 to have a scholarship like this available.” They continued, “Hans describes [the scholarship] as a response to not only the silence of Wooster administration but also the blatant disregard to the queer students on campus. Which is ironic if you think about it; I was shocked that both of these things existed and yet one caused the other.”

Director of Sexuality & Gender Inclusion Melissa Chesanko also commented on the silence and its impacts both on alumni and current students. “The huge silence about the situation due to the non-disclosure agreement creates a vacuum that folks often try to fill with speculation and pieces of the truth,” she explained. “Because there has been no formal or informal resolution for the situation, many people have been unable to heal from the harm caused and also unable to move forward.”

Gall similarly spoke to this harm, stating, “In the 26 years since, there are still hurt feelings among gay alumni that this has never been addressed publicly.” He added, “Many of us (gay alumni) would like to see the Board address the handling of the Susanne Woods situation and perhaps issue an apology for their actions in 1995.”

Reflecting on how the incident relates to current students, Chesanko explained, “We often understand our own experiences through a lens of others’ experiences, and witnessing a negative climate for alumni in the past can put students’ own perspective of campus into a different light.” She also noted that the negative experiences of LGBTQ+ alumni from past decades has translated into more limited alumni engagement, “which affects students’ connections with queer and trans alumni, LGBTQIA+ centered donations and queer representation on our alumni board.”

Parker-Emerson spoke to the limited alumni engagement as well, saying, “To me, [the silence] highlights the continued effort of queer students and alumni and how that differs from institutional support. In a way it makes sense that older queer alumni aren’t as engaged, because think about what their version of the Wooster administration has showed them: silence.” 

They added, “Personally, I think if the College were to finally speak on this publicly, it would show students and alumni that they’re not alone in caring about making the College a better place, and not just for queer folks, but for every person the College goes out if its way to attract. To get to a better place, it’s best to be honest about where you’ve been and what you’ve done before.”

Finally, Chesanko emphasized the importance of representation at all levels of campus leadership. “Past leadership has put current leadership in a difficult situation by crafting this N.D.A.,” she said. “This is why it is so important to have diverse representation of all identities in positions of power, including and especially, on our Board of Trustees.”

The original 1995 Chronicle article detailing the Woods situation quoted Durham, who argued, “They didn’t need to know or not know” about Woods’ sexual orientation. “What they needed to decide is,” read the article, “can we handle it if the president is [gay]?” Without openly addressing that question at the institutional level and acknowledging the hurt that still lingers 26 years later, will Wooster be able to provide students the diverse and accepting campus it has always claimed to be?

COVID-19 updates spread hope for a better semester

Savannah Sima

Senior News Writer

 

On April 20, The College of Wooster announced that an on-campus clinic will be available for students, and this time, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be administered. This comes just one week after the nation-wide pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that was originally going to be offered at Wooster from April 12 to April 16. Dean of Students Myrna Hernández stated in her email on April 20 that “thanks to the staff from the Wooster Community Hospital we have been able to get a limited portion of their weekly vaccine supply and they will be administering the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the Scot Center testing site on Thursday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to noon.” Hernández continued, “summer students will be given priority and then the remaining appointments will be open to any students, faculty or staff within driving distance who can be here for the second dose on May 13 at the same time.” This clinic will have the same procedures as the Johnson & Johnson clinic that was supposed to take place.

President Sarah Bolton had also announced that the College shifted from a “green” operational COVID-19 level to “yellow” due to an increase in positive tests that put the campus at a 0.80 percent positivity rate. Bolton wrote, “We are doing so because of a modest increase in student cases, and because several cases came to our attention when students had symptoms, rather than through our weekly screening testing. This week, we have 854 test results back so far, with six students testing positive and one employee testing positive.” This momentary change in levels was amended on April 20, where Bolton reported via email that no additional positive tests came back from testing, “Our campus testing from April 11 to April 17 showed no positive COVID-19 test results among 1325 tests. We also have no students in isolation or quarantine at this time. The determination and relentless hard work of many people across campus are responsible for our good position as we draw close to the end of the term. Thank you for all you are making possible! The campus will return to ‘green’ operational status as of today.”

The original shift from a green level to a yellow level means that “students are permitted to go off campus — only for socially-distanced outdoor recreation and for necessities such as food, work, medical needs and official college activities such as course-related activities and athletics.” This is “very similar to those we have had in place over the last month at ‘green,’” according to Bolton. Hernández detailed this shift as well, writing, “Operationally, the phases are similar. The decisions made by the College are largely based on the spread and prevalence on campus. The biggest differences for students are movement throughout the community (freely, when in ‘green;’ more cautiously and for necessities in ‘yellow’) and our level of flexibility in approving overnight requests.” 

Bolton added a few reminders about safe practices at any level, explaining, “All members of the campus community should be extra careful to maintain masking and a distance of six feet, and to follow limits on the numbers of people permitted in residential and other spaces. Our testing program is critical to maintaining a safe and healthy campus. It’s particularly important now that everyone tests regularly, as scheduled. Use the daily symptom checker to assess your wellness daily. Students should report any symptoms to Longbrake Wellness Center right away.”

The patterns in positive cases among students and staff mirrors the community public health climate. Bolton added, “We are also aware that Wayne County and the State of Ohio are seeing increasing case numbers, some of which are associated with more transmissible variants, and so we want to act cautiously to preserve campus safety and ensure our ability to have campus activities continue.”

Bolton also noted that this level would be reevaluated on April 14 when more testing data returns, and urged students to get vaccinated via the campus clinic.This clinic was offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but was canceled due to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, “Unfortunately, our campus vaccination clinics, which were set to start [on April 12] with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, were cancelled this week due to the FDA and CDC pausing use of that vaccine for review of possible, extremely rare, side effects.” 

“We are working closely with Wooster Community Hospital and do expect to be able to provide a vaccine clinic on campus soon — either with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it is cleared again for use, or with Moderna or Pfizer vaccines,” stated Bolton. As mentioned earlier, the Pfizer vaccine will be an option for the College community on April 22. Bolton continued, explaining, “For students leaving campus at the end of the term, there won’t be time to start and complete the two-shot series required for Moderna or Pfizer vaccine while on campus. However, students living on campus this summer are required to be vaccinated, and will have time to complete the sequence, and we also want to make an on-campus clinic available for employees. We will update you as soon as we have additional information on campus vaccine availability. Vaccine appointments are also widely available in the local community.”

Ray Tucker, director of the Wellness Center, also detailed further why the Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic was cancelled. “As reported by news outlets, the day before the vaccine clinic, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had a risk for blood clots,” he said. “So the state sponsored vaccination opportunity was cancelled statewide. Next semester, we will continue wearing masks, continue observing distancing, gather responsibly and testing to catch and curtail the spread of COVID-19. The College will disseminate any new community standards as they develop. How the college will actually look when we are all back on campus together. We all have to wait and see.” 

Hernández added institutional context to the cancellation of the vaccine clinic, stating, “We always follow the guidance of public health agencies. On Tuesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA both made the strong recommendation that everyone temporarily stop giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, so that they could look into possible very rare, but very serious, side effects. When the pause was recommended, use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine stopped nationwide. We also consulted with the Wooster Community Hospital, who advised that this was the most prudent action until we knew more about when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would resume and would allow students who had the means to get appointments in the community which were available both at the hospital and through the Health Department. We are going to be able to sponsor a clinic, using the Pfizer vaccine, for summer students and those that can get back to campus easily for a second dose in mid-May.”

Members of the College community have urged students to get the vaccine. Ivonne García, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, details her experience getting vaccinated, stating, “I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on a Wednesday around noon, and by that evening was doing perfectly fine. At 3:30 a.m. that Thursday morning, though, I woke up with a 101-degree fever, chills and body aches. Even my nose hurt! The fever and chills lasted into the weekend and the fatigue/tiredness lasted into the following week. Regardless, I wouldn’t hesitate to get another shot or a booster because whatever inconvenience the vaccine caused it’s not even close to the damage that the COVID-19 virus has been shown to cause, even in those who survive it. As someone with underlying conditions, I have been worried about contracting the virus for more than a year. Now I can at least have a little less anxiety even as I continue to protect myself and others for as long as necessary. I definitely encourage those who are able to get vaccinated to do so!” 

Bijeta Lamichhane ’22 detailed what it was like to get the second round of the vaccine as well. “I got my second dose on April 17, and I did not experience side effects right away,” Lamichhane said. “I was fine when I went to bed, but then I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep because I had chills. The day after the vaccination wasn’t great. I had a fever and a headache all day. I was anticipating all of this, though, so I wasn’t too worried. I’m feeling alright now, and the relief of being vaccinated far outweighs the short-term reactions.”

Looking forward to next semester, Hernández concluded, “We will follow the best public health guidance available to us at the time. Given that we have been very safely holding activities this semester with the tools we have, even before the vaccine, and that safe and effective vaccines are now plentifully available to everyone this summer, we are confident that we will operate fully in-person with all activities this fall. We are planning to be sure that our campus is very broadly vaccinated, well beyond the levels that are required for “herd” immunity, and we are pleased that so many students, staff and faculty are vaccinated already. Things like whether we still need to wear masks and keep distance will depend on what’s recommended by public health experts.”

I.S. Symposium receives over 6,500 attendees from 96 countries

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

The College held a virtual Independent Study (I.S.) Symposium on Friday, April 16, where around 200 students from the class of 2021 presented their senior research projects. Although the symposium was virtual this year, the College had set up various ways for the campus community to engage with the presenters. Furthermore, the virtual format of the event allowed people from across the world to participate, ultimately drawing in about 7,000 attendees from 96 countries.

In order to make the event as interactive as possible, the presenters were signed up for two-hour blocks to answer any questions that attendees might have. In addition to the live session, each students’ webpage also included an interactive comment section where attendees could ask questions and provide feedback to the presenter.

Although this year’s Symposium had a similar format to last year’s event, the participation and engagement was significantly higher this year, and even made records. Last year, around 67 graduating seniors had presented; this year, the number was closer to 200.

On Saturday, April 17, Dean for Faculty Development Christa Craven announced that there were 6,704 unique visitors to the Symposium website and 60,037 total pageviews, out of which 33,538 were unique. A total of 7,910 comments were made on the presentations.

“We hit some pretty impressive new records — more than doubling the unique pageviews we had last year, as well as the number of comments left on student webpages!” Craven shared in the email that was sent the next day. The 2020 I.S. Symposium had 4,186 visitors to the website, 17,218 unique pageviews and 3,382 comments.

When asked about her experience as a presenter this year, Gracie Bouker ’21 remarked, “I thought the I.S. Symposium was great! On the one hand, it was kind of disappointing to see that it went exactly as it had last spring, despite having a year to prepare. But given the fact that campus was on a yellow level, it’s understandable. More than anything, I’m just glad family and friends from home and all over were able to share in that special moment with me! That’s one thing that wouldn’t have been possible in a normal year, so I’m focusing on the small blessings.”

Several students from the class of 2021 from different departments were also presented awards for their presentations. The list of winners is presented below:

Zhen Guo: Most Timely; Zoe Bills: Most Socially and Emotionally Connected; Tiago Garcia Ferrer: Most Joyful; Rachel Greer: Most Engaging Poster; Indigo Adobea Abena Joy

Quashie: Most Creative Video; Sophia Peller: Most Creative Slideshow; Bryce Knopp: Most Creative Slideshow (Honorable Mention); Morgan P. Fields: Most Applicable in Current Moment; Brittany Leyda: Dr. Melissa M. Schultz Sustainability and the Environment; Claire Davidson: Dr. Melissa M. Schultz Sustainability and the Environment; An Hoai Tran: Dr. Melissa M. Schultz Sustainability and the Environment; Camryn Roseinstein: Dr. Melissa M. Schultz Sustainability and the Environment (Honorable Mention); Stephanie Pokras: Dr. Josephine Wright Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Angela Danso Gyane: Dr. Josephine Wright Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Maresa Tate: Dr. Josephine Wright Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Devon Matson: Critical Digital Engagement; Alayt Issak: Critical Digital Engagement; Delaney Zuver: Critical Digital Engagement; Holly Engel: Best Use of Genre; Yuki (Amanda) Han: Best Creative Exploration; Abigail Fisk: Best Animation.

The campus community still has access to the presentations, which can be found following the link: https://news.wooster.edu/symposium-2021/.

Good news from around the world

Former cook gets her mortgage paid by fraternity

Jessie Hamilton — a former cook at Louisiana State University — recently had her mortgage paid by several members of Phi Gamma Delta, a fraternity at the university.

When the fraternity brothers found out that Hamilton was still working two jobs at the age of 74 to pay off her mortgage, they pitched in to surprise her on April 3, calling the day “Jessie Hamilton Day.” They handed her a $45,000 check to clear the mortgage on her house, which she had bought back in 2006.

The surprise was organized by Andrew Fursaotti, a former student at LSU and a member of Phi Gamma Delta, after he learned that she was working as a cook at a country club as well as a custodian at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport to pay her bills in her 70s. When Fursaotti heard about her situation, he reached out to his old fraternity brothers to help her out.

Hamilton is now planning to retire and take a trip to Hawaii in the future. She had worked at LSU for 14 years, and is currently working at the airport as a member of the custodial staff. (source: today.com)

First Human Trial of HIV Vaccine Produced Immune Response in 97% of Volunteers 

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have not been the only impressive vaccine breakthroughs we have seen this year. A recent phase I clinical trial of an experimental vaccine primed the immune system using a unique approach in order to prevent HIV. HIV, which affects more than 38 million people globally, is known to be among the most difficult viruses to target with a vaccine, in large part because it constantly evolves into different strains to evade the immune system.

The clinical trial, which took place at two sites — George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle — was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and enrolled 48 healthy adult volunteers. Participants received either a placebo or two doses of the vaccine compound.

The promising results, announced in February by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research, the vaccine showed success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against the fast-mutating virus — and the targeted response was detected in 97 percent of participants who received the vaccine.

“We showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans,” said William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose lab developed the vaccine. He continued, stating, “We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”

“This is a tremendous achievement for vaccine science as a whole,” says Dennis Burton, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, scientific director of the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center and director of the NIH Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development. “This clinical trial has shown that we can drive immune responses in predictable ways to make new and better vaccines, and not just for HIV. We believe this type of vaccine engineering can be applied more broadly, bringing about a new day in vaccinology.”

This is a landmark study in the HIV vaccine field, demonstrating success in the first step of a pathway to induce broad neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1. The study sets the stage for additional clinical trials that will seek to refine and extend the approach — with the long-term goal of creating a safe and effective HIV vaccine. (source: Good News Network)

Deaf Sheepdog Returns to Herding Her Flock After Learning ‘Sign Language’ 

A working dog, Peggy was unable to continue the job she excelled at — herding sheep — when at the age of eight she lost her hearing. No longer able to communicate with her, Peggy’s owner subsequently relinquished her to the care of a local animal shelter.

But as it was near Christmas, the shelter was at capacity. That’s when animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten stepped in. Shorten and her husband, Jason, who had two other working sheepdogs, decided to take Peggy home.

“We knew Peggy wanted to be working, so we started the long process of teaching her how to herd and work with a shepherd without relying on voice commands,” Chloe Shorten told the BBC. “We started by teaching her to look at us for hand signals.”

Using repetition and “positive reinforcement,” with the help of a sheepdog trainer, Peggy eventually learned to respond to hand signals and body language rather than traditional verbal commands.

But Chloe says the most important lesson Peggy learned had nothing to do with sheep. It had to do with trust: “[It took time to] learn that we love her, and understand our praise.”

These days, while Peggy is semi-retired, with her GPS tracker in place, she still heads out with the flock from time to time, happy in the knowledge that a “thumbs up” means she’s a good girl. (source: Good News Network)

The complicated legacy of president Howard Lowry: As our values evolve, do our heroes change as well?

Maggie Dougherty

Editor in Chief

 

Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual harassment and predatory behavior.

In early March, a Viewpoint titled “Consider implications of renaming buildings” was published in the pages of the Voice. Near the end of the article, author Geoffrey Allen ’23 posed a question to the paper’s readers: “Today we may know about the life and work of Alfred Louis Kroeber, but what about other past figures whose names occupy some of our buildings such as Kauke, Morgan and Lowry? Do we truly know the moral integrity of some of Wooster’s greatest benefactors…?”

In the first two cases, we have little information to address that question. However, concerning Howard Lowry, there is more to say. This month, the Voice has received testimony from Wooster alumni, backed up by letters from Lowry himself, that shed new light on the life of the man whose name adorns one of our most central campus buildings.

“An Adventure in Education,” published in 2015 by Wooster alumnus and current Trustee Jerrold Footlick, traces the history of The College of Wooster from the arrival of Howard Lowry and into the 21st century. The first sentence of the book’s opening chapter, A Visionary Arrives, reads: “This story begins with Howard Lowry — how could it not begin with Howard Lowry, who brought to The College of Wooster the academic standard that for nearly three-quarters of a century has distinguished it from other outstanding liberal arts colleges; the scholar admired and honored on both sides of the Atlantic; the orator with a baritone so mellifluous that his lectures sounded operatic…”

As the man who brought Independent Study to Wooster, many consider Lowry to be the one who put Wooster on the map. “Indeed,” Footlick maintains later in the chapter, “one might identify Lowry as the most influential single figure in the College’s history.” 

Yet, it seems there was another side of Howard Lowry, documented even in his own biography “Howard Lowry: A Life in Education,” published in 1975 by James Blackwood, as well as in Footlick’s descriptions of Lowry’s life. In fact, Footlick’s opening chapter quoted above continues with its description of Lowry, calling him “the nineteenth-century Romantic who cherished the company of attractive young women yet somehow could not bring himself to marry one.”

In other places, both Footlick and Blackwood put it more succinctly: Lowry was “a lifelong bachelor.” As members of the Wooster community, we are all too familiar with how gossip and conjecture spread on this campus. As such, there are a great number of theories behind Lowry’s inability to settle down: his overbearing mother; the loss of his father; his need to feel young via proximity to (much) younger women. There were also those who considered Lowry “Too good a bachelor to spoil,” and others who apparently “thought him a demon,” according to Blackwood. Regardless of the psychology that the reader would like to attribute to Lowry to explain his behavior, it is clearly documented that Lowry had a well-established pattern of relatively short-lived relationships with women significantly (i.e., sometimes 40 years) his junior.

At the age of 53, Blackwood reports that Lowry still “loved the acquaintance of young people… If one of them happened to be a lively, attractive young woman, so much the better.” Blackwood describes how Lowry would regularly ask groups around him some variation of the question, “Does an older man have the right to marry a younger woman?” Blackwood’s narration continues with the “young woman of the moment” positing that, if the couple loves one another, then why should they not be married? He then describes Lowry’s reaction:

“Talking with this young woman in the next few days, Howard told her of his great interest in her views. When could they talk further? Soon, he hoped. They went out to dinner and attended the theater; they listened to records, they talked by candlelight. For Christmas, he gave her the album of a symphony or the first edition of a book she admired. On her birthday, he sent her, as he sent and would continue sending each one, in turn, a blaze of red roses. At night he walked with her as he had walked, slowly and meditatively, with Fran, Aileen, Elma, Helen, Ruth, Virginia, and the rest.” Each one in turn. And the rest.

Later in Blackwood’s book, he expands the list of names that make up ‘the rest,’ adding to the list of young women Gladys, Margaret, Janet, Jo, Eleanor, Norma, Louise, Anne, Mary, Beth and again, “the others.”

And what if, as Blackwood asks, he was in his fifties? Or, later, when his behavior had not changed, what if he was in his sixties? Footlick describes Lowry within the last months before his death, shortly before he would have turned 66: “In one way he remained the original Howard — he had not lost his taste for the company of attractive young women; pretty undergraduate women could still get swift access to his office hours or dinner invitations, and one in particular, only five years out of college herself was his hostess at the end.”

Although listing 16 young women and alluding to more he is unable to name, Blackwood seems unphased by Lowry’s behavior, instead describing him as a serial romantic. He further posits, “Howard’s unassailable idealism kept him from damaging charges by the young women he courted.” Blackwood claims that one of the young women reflected after her entanglement with Lowry that she still continued to view him as a friend and “spoke of him with affectionate goodwill.”

From these anecdotes, Blackwood concludes that there must not have been any misconduct on Lowry’s part, but rather an inability to maintain a long-term relationship. Nevertheless, it seems that even Lowry himself knew the truth; Blackwood reports a conversation between Lowry and his close friend Dean William Taeusch, in which Lowry confessed to Taeusch on the topic of his relationships with young women, “That is the part of my life I have managed most poorly.”

Apparently, the school’s leaders at the time knew enough to be wary as well. Although there are differing reports on the nature of his relationship with a young woman named Gretchen Harmon — some sources saying that they were engaged, others referring to her simply as another of Lowry’s “young women,” others calling her more innocently a friend — all agree that Lowry was visiting her in California at the time of his death in July of 1967. Whatever the true nature of their relationship, it seems to have made the school’s leadership nervous. Footlick writes, “These leaders worried about circumstances they didn’t know, which they feared might be scandalous.”

Despite Blackwood’s assertion that Lowry’s relationships with young women were all consensual and harmless, we would be remiss to forget the context of his observations. Lowry was president of the College in the 60s, at a time when “boys will be boys” attitudes were prevalent, and the language of sexual misconduct was not. There were no published accounts from the young women themselves. And why would we expect there to be, when we have established what an influential and respected man Howard Lowry was? Not only would a woman coming forward with claims of misconduct likely have been dismissed, if not threatened or slandered, but her account would also have faced major hurdles for publication.

It is also crucial to point out that, despite the normalization of the “boys will be boys” mentality at the time, Lowry’s behavior was extreme to the point of atypicality, as evidenced by the extent to which it was written about throughout his life.

In the basement of The College of Wooster libraries, stored in Special Collections, is a box of transcripts of the interviews that Footlick conducted as part of the research for his book. In one such interview, Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies Gordon Tait said to Footlick, “Well, I think, I’ve heard enough stories from certain alumni that Howard might have been accused of female harassment, if he’d lived to…”

Although Lowry has long since died, some of the women who he pursued all those years ago have decided to come forward to share their experiences with Howard Lowry. Now, allusions to his relationships with young women need not stay hidden in dusty boxes in the basement of the library but can instead come to light from the women who navigated their relationships with him.

One of these women — identified in this article simply by her first name, Irene — graduated from The College of Wooster in 1962. She was in her early 20s; Lowry was in his 60s. Irene characterizes her younger self as naïve and trying to make her way in life. “I still feel the angst of not knowing how to deal with the machinations of a person I respected, and whom many held in high esteem,” she describes. “He showered me with letters, and gifts and his very close physical presence for multiple years.” 

In the accounts Irene and others share, Lowry offered career assistance — a letter of recommendation, advice on graduate schools, whatever the young woman might need. In some cases, the women report that Lowry even went to the lengths of creating new jobs at the College specifically for the purpose of bringing them there. This would be an excuse to follow up with attentive and romantic letters, to take them out to dinner and to the theatre, as corroborated by the descriptions in Blackwood’s book. Irene herself recalls, “he wanted to marry me and make me a Dean of Women.”

For decades, Irene kept her discomfort to herself, assuming that her experience was an isolated incident. At the time, she says, “the words ‘sexual harassment’ were not in our American vocabulary.”

Irene’s letters from Lowry are often addressed affectionately to “Reeni,” (a nickname Irene’s family uses for her) and signed “Love, Howard.” The signature is unmistakably his own, matching the scrolling gold signature that adorns the front of the otherwise modest blue cover of the Blackwood biography. One letter, dated May 9, 1963, is signed “Love (and not so damned Platonic, either) to you, Howard.” One of his most overtly non-platonic gifts to her was a full-length sheer, powder blue negligee, which Irene notes has remained unworn for the last 58 years.

One letter of Lowry’s to Irene references an enclosed $300 check (just over $2,275 in today’s money) to cover her airfare to come visit him in Chicago to discuss his advice for her post-graduate plans for grad school. In Irene’s words, “He was quite knowledgeable about and had connections in the field of education.” She went along with meeting him, she explains, without realizing his more romantic intentions, but rather expecting career advice from her trusted school leader. 

Lowry writes in this letter, “I’m free to devote myself exclusively to being your guide, escort and friend. This is what my tired spirit needs. And the spirit isn’t a bit tired now! In fact it’s full of adrenalin.” Even at the time, however, Irene felt uncomfortable with the situation. She wrote a quick note to herself on a hotel pad of paper: “I just came from an evening with Dr. Lowry — I can’t get used to even thinking of him as ‘Howard.’” The letter further describes feeling anxious upon her arrival and awkward while watching a show together.

It wasn’t until years later that Irene conferred with a classmate, Mary Behling ’62, and she realized she wasn’t alone. Behling put Lowry’s actions into language that Irene had long been unable to verbalize: in Behling’s words, Lowry was a predator. More so, Mary seemed to know about a great number more women who had been subject to Lowry’s over-attentiveness. In late 2017, Irene and Behling began discussing their relationships with Lowry in relation to the emerging #MeToo movement. An email from Behling to Irene, sent on October 17, 2017, reads, “When we get together I will tell you all about my problems with HL. And I keep meeting other people who had them… they fall out of the sky. He was a predator.”

In a later email, dated June 3, 2018, Behling wrote to Irene, “You and I appear to have survived Howard because we were relatively strong people, naïve but strong. The ones I feel sorry for are the ones whose lives were really messed up by him and my sense is there were many of those over the years.”

Behling’s stories about Lowry include an account of an intervention by the “powers-that-be” at the College to “knock it off” with his predatory ways after an angry father caused a scene. Unfortunately, Behling died soon after in July of 2018 and is not alive to shed more light on these circumstances, and the Voice has been unable to find other records documenting the situation. However, Behling’s husband George Browne ’63, still remembers Lowry’s pursuits of his then-girlfriend and fiancée.

In an email sent on March 3 of this year to a senior administration official in the President’s office, Browne writes, “The dark side of Lowry’s heritage touched me all too soon. Mary Behling ’62 went directly to physical therapy school and a job at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia. Lowry came calling, invented a new job, Assistant Dean of Women, and persuaded Mary to take it. During the two years she held the job, Mary was determined to reject Lowry’s advances. She knew too many other young women he had burned.”

Browne continued, “Mary and I announced our engagement in August 1966 and planned for a December wedding. In October, Lowry came to Washington (D.C.) to persuade Mary to break the engagement. She knew better.”

Reading through Lowry’s letters, Browne reflected, “As I read these letters I am amazed at the energy Lowry put into his contacts with women,” while at the same time rarely devoting his efforts to helping young men, who also could have used his guidance and recommendations. “To me,” says Browne, “that makes his behavior toward women much more clearly predatory.”

In the Voice’s reporting, we have tried to get in contact with several other women who were rumored or thought to have had relationships with Howard Lowry. Sadly, time has taken its toll, and many of the women who we hoped to contact have either died or lost their health and memories of that time to serious dementia.

Nevertheless, Lowry’s letters to other women at the time are telling. Though few of them remain in The College of Wooster collections, the archives do contain a series of letters from Lowry to a graduate from the class of 1953. The letters are available for public access in Special Collections, but because the Voice has been unable to get in touch with the alumni at this point to obtain permission to use her name in connection with this story, we have opted to exclude her name for the time being. The four letters included in the collection are a series of attempts on Lowry’s behalf to meet the young woman during his business travels. In the first letter, dated January 1, 1954, Lowry wrote that he was sorry that his most recent trip had not overlapped with the graduate’s time there. “That was really too bad — for I would have insisted on you knocking off work and going fishing with me,” wrote Lowry, underlining the world ‘really’ for emphasis. Lowry would have been in his early 50s at the time; the graduate in her early 20s. He then outlines his schedule for the coming weeks, and requests that she send him her plans for the same period. He writes, “I still think the Florida business [i.e., failing to be there at the same time] was a shame, as I should have so much enjoyed introducing you to some nice bass and of setting the world in order with you.”

His second letter in the collection, dated February 16, 1954, begins, “Foiled again, I was!” He again describes their failure to overlap in location and outlines his upcoming travels. On the second page of the letter, he continues in his appeals for her schedule, writing, “I don’t suppose your route is yet clear. But I feel balked and a little mad at having been deflected from my Alabama stopover; so I’d like to twist the [unclear] of circumstance yet!” He references writing a letter on her behalf, and then expresses once more his disappointment over their inability to cross paths. The third letter, dated March 15 of the same year, again expresses dismay over their inability to meet. The fourth and final letter in the collection dated March 30, 1954 voices Lowry’s excitement that they have finally found a date and location to meet and he discusses the proper attire for their dinner together. There is no other correspondence following up after this letter or to confirm that they did in fact meet. [Note: in his will obtained by the Voice, Lowry instructed that his letters, notes and any books with extensive notation be burned or destroyed upon his death, unless deemed particularly worth saving. As such, little of his correspondence remains.]

His pursuit of recent female graduates throughout his travels is a common theme in Lowry’s story. One woman, who did not wish to have her name included, recounted a visit from Lowry in which he took her out to lunch in St. Louis, and recalled close dancing that made her uncomfortable. Between the years of 1962 to 1967, we are aware of reports from female graduates of Lowry showing up and making some connection with them, seemingly out of the blue, all across the country. Other locations of his visits include Cleveland, Philadelphia, Berkeley and Oakland.

Lowry’s modus operandi, as established in both the direct and indirect testimonies shared with the Voice, as well as in Footlick and Blackwood’s books about his life, was clearly predatory. He would somehow identify a recent female graduate, find out her post-graduation plans and make some connection on that basis. He would then follow up with an increased level of intimacy — letters and gifts, and then scheduled business trips to her location.

When Lowry sought Irene’s hand in marriage, a close friend wrote her a letter advising against acceptance. The friend cited their age difference, Lowry’s many prior engagements (asking, “Why did he not marry them?”), his insistence on an answer before a certain deadline and his reputation as “a confirmed flatterer and chaser.” Finally, in one of the less generous assessments of Lowry’s character, the friend wrote, “My opinion, and opinion only, is that he is a lecherous old man with a girl in every port. He has probably been playing this game for years in many of the places he visits.”

It is true that business and personal relationships may have overlapped much more fluidly during the period of Lowry’s life than what we now are accustomed to, and that part of his job would have included the recruitment of young professionals for jobs at the College. However, it is also clear that a great many of Lowry’s relationships with these women crossed the line of professionalism. His position as an internationally respected scholar and college President, as well as his significant age differential relative to the women he pursued, distorted the balance of any potential relationship with these young female graduates.

The information that Lowry took advantage of his powerful position in order to get close to young women is significant now for two reasons. Firstly, because we are in a different cultural context, and with new information, we can reassess how we honor figures of the past. Do they still represent us and our values? Our world has changed dramatically since Lowry’s lifetime, and we as a society have evolved in many ways. As Irene wrote in a 2018 email to a member of the Wooster administration, in Lowry’s days “he was just one of the boys, and boys will be boys. But those of us women did not invite his behaviors — later to be termed sexual harassment.” Our society today has shifted significantly towards valuing civil rights, equity and justice. Following the #MeToo movement, we as a whole have had to grapple with the harms of inappropriate and predatory behavior, of sexual harassment. By and large, we have recognized it as unacceptable.

Secondly, the information is significant because there might be a window of opportunity for change because of the upcoming renovations to the Lowry Center. George Browne, Mary Behling’s widower, entreats the Wooster community to pay attention: “The dark side [of Lowry’s life] must not be swept under the rug. If the student center at The College of Wooster is to bear Lowry’s name, we who lived it must demand public acknowledgment and an accounting of the harms Lowry visited on multiple young women, and the collateral damage to those who loved them.”

As for Irene, she asks simply, “How do we women now reconcile ourselves that he is so honored?” She added that when visiting campus now, she feels deeply uncomfortable stepping into the building that bears Lowry’s name.

Confronted all these years later with information about Howard Lowry’s personal life, the Wooster community must ask itself if it wants to uphold the romantic idealization of his legacy, or to accept that the uncomfortable truth that the impact of his life was a lot more complicated than the simplification recorded by history up to this point.

Irene and Browne, as well as some of the unnamed sources referenced in this article, have suggested a shifting of Lowry’s honors to be more directly associated with Independent Study at the College. Independent Study was a brilliant and ingenious idea when Howard Lowry brought it to Wooster, and no one would deny that it has set Wooster apart from other small liberal arts colleges for decades. For this reason, Irene and Browne propose that his name be more explicitly tied to I.S., to a digitalized I.S. database, or perhaps to the registrar’s office as a symbol of I.S. completion, in exchange for its removal from the student center building.

Finally, it should be noted that this is not new information to the administration or the Board of Trustees, and that both Browne and Irene have come forth to shed light on this issue multiple times since 2017. After corresponding with a senior administration official throughout 2017 and 2018, Irene again reached out in March of this year to follow up. During the Voice’s reporting, Irene and Browne have been contacted by President Bolton to discuss their concerns.

When the Voice reached out for comment this April, President Sarah Bolton wrote, “The board has discussed these matters, and takes them very seriously.  They have begun a process to gain a fuller understanding of what took place, and to then make decisions about how the College should proceed to address the issues.” She added, “The board is forming a small group to lead the work on this important matter, and they will communicate with the campus and alumni community regularly.”

Soon after, on Monday, April 12, the Board of Trustees released a statement to alumni and members of the campus community outlining their plans to form a board to review the concerns brought forward. Part of the email read, “We owe it to the alumni who have raised these concerns, and any other alumni who have relevant information but have not yet come forward, to welcome, receive and assess the information they provide us with an open mind.” Later in the email, they wrote, “While our first goal at this time is to understand and address the issues surrounding President Lowry’s actions, we will also consider what additional efforts we should undertake, particularly to understand the histories of matters related to equity.” The Board of Trustees further encouraged anyone with additional information to send an email to inquiry@wooster.edu or to leave a voicemail for the trustees at 330-263-2111.