Category Archives: News

Decrease in COVID-19 cases does not ease uncertainty

Bijeta Lamichhane 

News Editor

Sam Boudreau

Senior News Writer

 

The number of COVID-19 cases on campus continues to increase despite the College’s efforts and investments to ensure the community’s safety. As the case count  continues to rise past 100, all classes have switched to remote and students have begun leaving campus to finish their semester online. Hence,  to assess the severity of the situation, the College recently partnered with the staff of the National Guard to test every student on campus for COVID-19.

However, it seems as though the worst wave of COVID-19 on campus has now begun to settle. Although cases are still on the rise, the rate of increase is significantly lower than it was in the week of Oct. 12 when the College recorded 75 positive cases, the highest number of positive cases recorded in a week on campus. This week, 14 out of the 515 tests administered have come back positive as of Tuesday, Oct. 27. Furthermore, the census testing that was conducted on Oct. 24 also showed fewer  cases, where only 3 of 720 results have come back positive.

This decrease comes after the campus shut down venues where students could gather and enforced strict policies against social events. Some of the measures include canceling seating services in Lowry for meals and revoking housing services for students involved in policy violations.

Although the situation on campus now looks better than it did two weeks ago, several questions and concerns still remain regarding how the College will function next semester. One of the biggest concerns about opening the campus next semester remains ensuring in-person social gatherings do not take place again.

While addressing the College when the highest number of cases had been recorded on campus, President Sarah Bolton had stated in her email that “most of the cases are connected to the social-event clusters.” Later, Wayne County health commissioner Nick Cascarelli also echoed Bolton’s statement, saying, “Kids are being more active, mixing up more, and this is why we’re seeing an increase.”

Since most students live on campus, questions have risen about whether the College will be able to ensure that students take more proactive steps in ensuring everybody’s safety. After all, the College had invested in various resources to ensure a safe living environment for the entire campus community, and yet the cases rose because of social gatherings.

In-person activities being canceled on campus seems to be more of a problem raised out of students’ lack of responsibility instead of the College’s mobilization of resources. However, the question of how the administration will enforce measures to ensure that students take responsibility to create a safe campus still remains. The administration is set to announce tentative updates for the spring semester on Nov. 10 to provide the campus community with a better sense of understanding about the upcoming semester.

Trump parade passes campus prior to Nov. election

Samuel Casey

Editor in Chief

Artemis Swanson

Staff Writer

 

At around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3, a line of several dozen vehicles carrying various signs and merchandise in support of President Donald Trump conducted an informal parade, starting at the Wayne County fairgrounds, continuing on Liberty St. and up north on Beall Ave. before concluding on Milltown Rd.

The event was mostly coordinated in a Facebook event titled “Trump Parade,” with a poster asking potential attendees to “grab their Trump gear, a friend and join the vehicle/motorcycle parade.” Out of 571 respondents, 115 indicated they were “going” while 456 remained “interested.”  Though the group did not receive an official parade permit, the host of the event stated, “I got the OK from the captain of the police department. We will do our best to stay together and obey all traffic laws!!” 

Leading up to this demonstration, members of the campus community met to discuss the best strategy to maintain a safe and hate-free environment. On Sept. 9, 2020, President Sarah Bolton sent a campus-wide email providing clarity on the College’s response. “We are working closely with local officials to know as much as possible about what to anticipate at this event, and to do all we can to ensure that the campus and the entire campus community are well-protected and safe,” Bolton wrote. “Beall Ave. has been the site of racist and homophobic harassment, and so we will have a special focus on ensuring the safety of students, staff and faculty of color and LGBTQIA+ members of our campus community.” She added that there would be an increased presence from Security and Protective Services during the event.

The day before the event, Wooster students received an email from Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Ivonne García and Dean of Students Myrna Hernández providing additional information.

“To support the safety of everyone in our community, we would like to encourage all students to keep their distance from Beall Ave. as much as possible after 6 p.m. on Saturday,” the email stated. “We also remind students of the critical importance of staying away from groups of more than 20 in order to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission.”

In addition, they wrote that dining services would begin dinner service early at 4:30 p.m. to allow students to get their meal while maintaining social distancing, as well as holding a virtual gathering focused on well-being. The event featured William Washington, a licensed professional counselor, Heart-Centered Therapist and lifestyle manager in Cleveland.

With a similar sentiment, Teresa Ascencio ’23 asked her fellow students to stay away from the event in a post made on Instagram and Facebook. 

“I know it is ultimately your decision, but please, please, please: I urge you not to counter-protest this weekend. Many of these pro-Trump paraders are blatantly racist, homophobic, xenophobic and naive — fueled by hatred,” Ascencio wrote in a Facebook post. “They will most likely be armed and willing to do whatever it takes to ‘get their point across.’ As much as I believe in protesting and fighting for what you believe in, I am much more concerned about the well-being and safety of students in this instance. The most powerful thing we can do (in my opinion) is to stay inside and not give these paraders the benefit of knowing that their actions upset us.” She also made herself available as a resource for students seeking a safe space during the parade. 

The demonstration, which took place as political tensions continue to rise in anticipation of the upcoming November election, was seemingly directed at the College and local community by supporters of the incumbent president and Republican nominee. In particular, the choice in route made by the paraders, which included the Wooster Square downtown, local office of the Democratic Party and the College’s campus, led one member of the campus community, granted anonymity to prevent retaliation, to label the demonstration “a clear and deliberate attempt at incitement.” This was reinforced by the various chants and gestures from the drivers, including a call for “four more years” of Trump, a white supremacist slogan and obscene hand gestures.

Despite the official focus on internal community events, a number of counter-protests took place along the parade route, with several crowds gathered in a socially-distanced fashion along Beall Ave. and in the Wooster Square. Organizers of the counter-protest encouraged demonstrators to be peaceful, smiling and wishing passersby a pleasant evening. Counter-demonstrators on the Wooster Square additionally offered a number of alternative action plans for attendees, such as distributing postcards to be sent to elected officials, calling for letters to the editor of local newspapers and advocating for local policy to promote police accountability. Despite requests from  the organizers to remain peaceful, a group of students outside of Bornhuetter Hall met paraders with expletives and jeers of their own.

Following the parade, the Facebook event group featured posts from members of the Wooster community who attended and expressed that the parade was successful. The coordinator of the parade commented that due to this positive feedback, they would try to plan another parade for the end of October.

 

Students express concerns over lack of spring break

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

COVID-19 has continued to cause uncertainty without an effective treatment or a vaccine. Many countries have gone through multiple phases of lockdowns as governments and institutions try to minimize the impact of the pandemic. Likewise, the College has been adjusting its methods of operation to ensure a safe learning environment on campus. Considering the uncertainty that the pandemic entails, the College has decided to schedule the spring semester much like the current fall calendar. 

“Because our on-campus public health efforts have been strong thus far, we have designed our spring calendar similarly to the fall semester,” Dean of Curriculum and Academic Engagement Jennifer Bowen explained in the email she sent to the campus community. 

Although the semester opens on Jan. 18 to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day, classes will begin on Jan 19. This means that winter break will last a week longer than a normal academic year. Classes are also set to end on April 27. Normally, classes for the second semester would end around the first week of May. 

Bowen also clarified the updated schedule for the exam week in the email. “This updated spring semester calendar allows for reading days on Wednesday and Thursday, April 28-29, 2021,” Bowen wrote. “Final exams are Friday, April 30, 2021 and Monday through Wednesday, May 3-5, 2021. Commencement is scheduled for Sunday, May 9, 2021.” 

The current schedule is designed to maintain the safety of students on campus and provide flexibility. For example, students will be allowed to study remotely next semester as well. There are some challenges, however, that come with the updated schedule, especially due to the lack of days off in the middle of the semester. Instead of a spring break, the College has provided two “rest days” on March 9 and April 7, when all classes are canceled.  

One issue that has not been addressed is how seniors will work on their Independent Study (I.S.) without a break. 

One senior student, Dung Nguyen ’21, expressed his concern. When asked whether working on  I.S. without a spring break will be challenging, Nguyen said, “It won’t be impossible, but it will definitely be more demanding than it already is.” 

He continued, “It will be more difficult for students who are double majors and working on two different [Independent Studies]. Also, dealing with a pandemic is stressful by itself, so writing a thesis will probably be more challenging regardless of the break. Getting some time off other academic obligations to focus on I.S. would have definitely helped.” 

Another student has expressed a different concern, one pertaining to on-campus employment for international students. Since students are allowed to work on campus for 40 hours per week during breaks, many international students spend their breaks taking advantage of this opportunity since they cannot work outside campus. The removal of breaks may cause problems for students who rely on employment during breaks to earn their work-study financial aid. 

“Many of my friends and I work on campus during fall and spring breaks since we can work more hours then,” Ezana Kiros ’22, a student from Ethiopia, explained. “However, since there are no breaks this semester and the next, I’m worried we may not get to work as much as we used to. [International students] cannot work outside campus unless we have been approved for a Curricular Practical Training, so not having breaks means we may not be able to earn the amount of money listed on our work-study aid.” Since the hours of operation in different departments have been adjusted, many students have had trouble finding an adequate number of work hours. However, providing a longer break in the middle of the semester would guarantee that many students may travel off-campus, subsequently returning to Wooster from different parts of the country. This would increase the chances of student exposure to COVID-19 when everybody returns to campus. “We understand that the elimination of spring break will be challenging for many reasons, but given the public health circumstances surrounding leaving, travel and returning to campus, any full weeks off from classes would prove to be an irresponsible decision for our community,” Bowen explained.

Day 118 of protests organized by student leaders

Sam Casey

Editor in Chief

 

On Saturday, Sept. 26, downtown Wooster hosted  the 118th continuous day of Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations. Students, faculty and staff gathered at the corner of Market St. and Liberty St. from 12-2 p.m. to speak out against racial injustices in the United States, namely the killing of numerous Black individuals by police officers. 

Assistant Professor of Political Science Désirée Weber who has been involved in the daily protests throughout the summer, stressed the importance of applying pressure to the system.

The duration of the protests so far reflects the will and energy in the Wooster community to bring attention to these issues — but more importantly, it reflects the perseverance that’s needed to address deeply rooted issues of racism,” she said. “The status quo and the powers that be aren’t easily shifted — as we have seen many times — so our collective efforts need to be focused on the longer-term timeline.”

Weber explained that the Wayne County Racial Justice Coalition, Wooster-Orville NAACP and other local groups are trying to change local police policies, including the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

Even though these protests have been happening throughout the summer, the protest on Saturday was different because it was organized by student leaders, according to Weber and Associate Professor of Political Science Michelle Leiby.

“The most significant difference was the size and the overwhelming support and energy that the college students brought to the square,” Leiby said. “It was breathtaking and uplifting.”

Men of Harambee (MOH), a fraternal organization geared toward males of African descent or from developing nations, were the main coordinators of the event. However, Perry Worthey ’21, vice president of MOH, made it clear that it was the coordination of the Wooster community that allowed the event to be held successfully.

“We could not have done the demonstration without the help of the community members that have been protesting downtown every single day for the last 118 days,” he said. “They were [the] catalyst that started it all and should be recognized as such.”

Worthey went on to thank students both on and off campus who shared social media posts with details about the protest. “We, the Men of Harambee, could not have had the turnout we did without the support of our Black community and allies,” he said.

According to MOH, several messages were stressed during the two-hour gathering, the first of which centered around Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker from Kentucky. Taylor was shot and killed by officers in March during a nighttime raid on her apartment. One of the officers, Brett Hankison, was charged with wanton endangerment for firing his weapon recklessly into the apartment, while the other two officers who shot Taylor faced no charges, according to the New York Times.

“We wanted people to understand that the Black community is hurting from the decisions made pertaining to the murder of Breonna Taylor,” Worthey said. “We are sick of those who are sworn to protect us getting away with murdering us.”

Worthey enumerated that Black women in the country and on Wooster’s campus deserve better treatment. “They are treated as if they are invisible even though it is their beauty, their intelligence and their passions that give us the strength to not be bystanders and fight for what we believe in,” he said. “To every fraternity, sorority and organization on campus: Black women deserve better.”

Hiku Sherief ’21, president of Alpha Gamma Phi, noted the importance of Greek Life organizations’ presence at the event, especially because of the recent developments with Taylor.

“I think attending the protest is important not just for Alpha Gamma, but for the entire Wooster community,” Sherief said. “It is an extremely significant movement against an unjust killing of an innocent Black woman, and we wanted to demonstrate the unfair verdict that was passed on the subject of her killing. After all, we have Black women in our organization who have been directly impacted by recent events and everyone wanted to take this opportunity to showcase their support towards our BIPOC sisters.” She added that her sorority will continue to hold conversations regarding racial injustice.

Katie Harvey ’21, a lacrosse player who attended the protest with her team, also highlighted the importance of players being present for their teammates and engaging in this dialogue.

“Athletic teams can be a great place for camaraderie and friendship, but they can also breed discrimination and exclusion,” Harvey said. “It is imperative for myself, as a student-athlete, to show my dedication to combating the systemic marginalization of my teammates, my friends, my coworkers and my mentors. The protest was one small way that I could show that dedication.”

Annays Yacamán ’22, another attendee, acknowledged why it is crucial for non-Black people of color and white allies to support BLM.

“I think it is incredibly important for all of as non-Black individuals to show up for the Black folks in our communities,” Yacamán said. “At Wooster, Black students, faculty and staff experience the ingrained and institutionalized racism and Blackness that is [not only] violent  [but also] bars people from having the so-called ‘Wooster experience.’ We must show the Black people in our community that they matter, and that we are willing to sacrifice our comfortability as non-Black individuals going to these protests.”

According to Weber, almost 400 people were present at the protest during its peak, but Worthey stressed that the number didn’t matter.

“We didn’t bother counting [because] we didn’t care if three or 300 people showed up,” he said “We are happy that so many people came out and supported, but that was not our focus. We wanted to make sure that our organization is living up to the principles that we preach, and action is being taken. We would’ve still been outside no matter who showed up.”

Regarding what students can continue to do, Leiby explained that protests will continue from 12-1 p.m. everyday downtown. The protest organizers also hand out BLM postcards for attendees to send to their representatives to advocate for change. Those who are unable to attend the daily protests to pick up a postcard should contact Weber for more information on how to get them.

“If I had one message,” Leiby stated, “it would be for our Mayor, City Council and Sheriff’s Department: We’re not going anywhere. Where are you? What do you have to say to members of your community suffering from the effects of systemic racism (whether in the police force, the healthcare industry, the public school system, etc.)? Your silence and inaction is unacceptable.” 

College holds virtual convocation for seniors

Bijeta Lamichhane
News Editor

 

On Sept. 24, the College held a virtual convocation to recognize the milestone achieved by senior students and, as President Sarah Bolton stated, “To set our intentions for the year ahead.” Three student leaders — Catera Clark ’21, Olivia Proe ’21 and Yuta Nitanai ’21 — addressed the college community in the event, touching on a range of topics such as being a global citizen, fighting injustice and graduating during a pandemic.

In addition, the convocation also celebrated the promotion of several faculty members. Provost Lisa Perfetti announced the names of eight faculty members who were promoted to full professor effective this year. Likewise, two members were promoted to associate professor with tenure and Jacob Heil was promoted to Librarian II.

Interim Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Erin Guzmán welcomed the audience as she set the spirit for the event. “We know that this will be a different and difficult school year,” Guzmán said. “Despite the challenges we have already faced and the hurdles stretched out ahead, may we do all we can to remember what has brought us here and let it keep us from slipping into apathy.”

She emphasized, “May we be pushed to place compassion and kindness to the top of our collective values, for we can never truly know what our neighbors carry each day.”

Bolton’s address in the event echoed Guzmán’s sentiment. “We face a set of complex interlocking challenges and injustices,” she said. “So, as we gather to start our year, we are called to ask how we will respond individually and as a college.” She also stressed on the need to act for change. “We need to do much more than to just go back to the time before the pandemic, because Black lives matter. We need to move ahead; we need to become a more just and a more humane society, one that ensures safety and dignity for everyone.”

Bolton urged students to consider what they will choose to do with the time that they have as students at the College. “Who will you listen to?” she asked. “What will you seek to learn and understand? What change do you want to create and what action will you take to move towards it?”

The speeches by Clark, Proe and Nitanai answered Bolton’s questions, as they highlighted the importance of learning together, fighting injustice and being kind. While the speakers’ topics of discussion were different, all of them tied their messages to their experiences on campus and  shared the common themes.

“Four years ago, I would not have imagined the amount of knowledge, experience and growth I would gain during my time here at Wooster,” Clark said, recalling her past three years at the College. “From my classrooms to my weekly student  organization meetings, I have learned that basically everything the K-12 public school system teaches us is a censored whitewashed lie.”

“Along with my increased knowledge has come some pretty valuable experiences,” she continued. “I have been able to travel and occupy spaces I didn’t really even know existed let alone I could rightfully be a part of.”

The president of the Black Students Association also highlighted how being at the College helped her embrace her identity as a Black person. “I feel like at home it’s easy to get stuck in a bubble and in that bubble, there is no room for growth or change,” Clark explained. “But being able to connect with people from across the country and globe has given me so many beautiful examples of what it means to be a strong, unapologetic Black person.”

She then turned her attention to the racial injustice in the United States and the resilience of people of color in fighting such injustices. “Black and Brown lives are subject to death and inhumane actions on a daily basis in this country,” she announced. “Once again, much like our elders, we have brought our voices together as a community to call for action and real change where it has never been before: in our police and government structures.”

Clark concluded her speech with a message for students to recognize their ability to bring change. “We have the power, knowledge and grind to turn this entire country upside down for the better,” she said. “We all carry the privilege of higher education and with all the knowledge, experience and growth we have obtained in these four years, we also gain a power to stand together and create change in a country that we all can actually feel safe to exist in.”

Like Clark, Proe, president of Scot Council, also highlighted the importance of being together as a community. Her speech revolved around an experience she had shared with the Class of 2021 during her first year while watching a solar eclipse. “We all gasped when it suddenly got dark, and once the shadow passed, we dispersed as quickly as we had come together.” She then recalled her recent discovery that an eclipse signified difficult times.

“However, [the eclipse also] promised eventual prosperity and times even better than before,” Proe noted with positivity before connecting that experience to the seniors’ current situation. “We’re all huddled in this shadow, waiting for it to pass just as we did three years ago. It’s hard to say what the next few months will hold. While many of us are looking towards the future, no doubt with anxiety, I hope we can find small moments of relief in knowing that we’re here for each other.”

She concluded, “I look forward to standing with you as the shadow passes and may we all stand together in brighter times once again.”

Nitanai, the president of the International Student Association and the last speaker, also emphasized the importance of learning together and from one another.

“It is a privilege to live, learn and grow in [the College] community, but it is up to us whether or not we make Wooster a truly global learning community,” Nitanai said. “There are many learning opportunities hidden in your daily lives. It is your choice whether you explore outside your comfort zone at Wooster or not. Be open to the global learning community, be open to the international learning experience and new experiences. Seek them out and make the most out of your four years at Wooster.”

Nitanai concluded his speech urging students to engage with diverse groups of people. “The place where we are born does not dictate who we are, where we can go or what we can become,” he pointed out. “I urge you to not be content with just receiving your degree but to be an active participant in this global community.”

As the event came to a close, the intention that Bolton had mentioned in her email had become clear as all of the speakers urged the College community to learn from one another and stand up against injustice.

Positive COVID-19 test result on campus as numbers rise

Samuel Boudreau
Senior News Writer

 

In President Sarah Bolton’s sixth weekly health update, one COVID-19 test returned positive out of the 209 total conducted. “We have received one positive test result out of 209 tests completed over the last week (through noon [of Sept. 24]),” the email read. For each positive case, contact tracing from the Wayne County Health Department will identify any individuals who have been within six feet of the COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 minutes and 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient has been isolated. The 48 hours before illness onset is critical; the University of Harvard Medical School reports that individuals are most likely to spread the virus 48 hours before experiencing symptoms. 

Dean of Students Myrna Hernández provided an outline of how the College conducts contact tracing with the Health Department. “On our end, we identify roommates and housemates to be quarantined. Our Director of Emergency Management, Steve Glick, follows up with students who self-report as close contacts,” Hernández informed. 

Hernández also explained that quarantined students are often checked up on. “Students in quarantine have a staff person assigned to them to check-in on how they are doing and if things are going okay with academics, meals and how they are doing generally,” she said. “That first contact typically happens 24-48 hours after they go into quarantine.”

Wayne County is at a Level 1 in terms of COVID-19 spread, as there have been 30 new cases between Sept. 21 and 26. However, the Wayne County Health Department has noted a shocking shift in age distribution of the virus as adolescents and children represent 27 percent of COVID-19 cases, the highest in the county. Cumulatively, The College of Wooster has reported eight positive cases and there are currently 7,273 cases in 48 Ohio colleges. Miami University is emerging as a hotspot with 1,392 cases where students were reportedly partying while COVID-19 positive, per The Washington Post. Colleges also continue to move online; Merrimack College, a private Augustinian college in Massachusetts, shut their doors after an outbreak. Globally, coronavirus deaths have passed one million, as cases rise again throughout the United States. On Sept. 28, Ohio reported 993 and five deaths, with Putnam, Athens and Mercer Counties emerging as hotpots, according to The New York Times.

At the College, one major area of concern that has emerged for students is the Lowry dining hall, as hundreds of students eat inside despite having the ability to get take-out.

In her weekly email, Director of Campus Dining and Conference Services Marjorie Shamp told students that putting one’s mask on after eating, avoiding conversations without masks, following physical distancing rules and not moving chairs will help prevent the spread of infection in Lowry.

When asked if conditions in Lowry dining hall are adequate in preventing the spread of COVID-19, even if students follow guidelines, Shamp told the Voice that,  “Capacity in the dining hall was reduced and tables set for no more than 10 people, self-serve food stations were eliminated, our dish machine was certified to eliminate COVID-19 from all dishware, flatware and drinkware.” She also mentioned that they use a sanitizing solution on dining tables that kills a variety of viruses, including COVID-19.

“Campus Dining will follow all safety precautions necessary to provide a safe environment for guests and will refer to The College of Wooster’s COVID Task Force for guidance and recommendations on additional measures if they become necessary,” Shamp told the Voice. If more cases are reported on campus, then the “Campus Dining would work with the campus COVID-19 Task Force to determine what steps would be necessary if more cases are reported, including providing all meals to-go, with no seated dining.”

When asked how many cases on campus would justify canceling seated dining, Shamp responded, “I cannot answer that question, as it would be up to the College, since there are so many unknown factors.”

Chief of Staff and Secretary of the College Angela Johnston noted, “We do not have an established threshold for a specific number of cases that would trigger us to either go to quarantining, to-go meals, and/or sole remote instruction.” Johnston continued, “We continue to be in very close contact with the public health commissioner at the Wayne County Public Health Department. We would determine, in consultation with him, if we needed to change any of the current practices.”

Glick also echoed Johnston’s statement. “There really isn’t a ‘magic’ number to move to grab-and-go dining,” Glick said. “We would share our data with the Wayne County Health Department for their input on how to proceed.”

Lowry is currently seating 285 students, down 55 seats from capacity established in August and down 365 seats from normal capacity. Time will tell if this capacity continues to dwindle, based on whether cases rise on campus.