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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.

 

Wooster offers 10 summer courses to students

Kate Murphy

News Editor

 

For the first time since 2006, The College of Wooster will be offering courses over the summer. All courses will be taught remotely, using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous modes of learning. This flexibility will allow for students to complete the courses no matter their time zone or summer work schedules. Director of the summer session Madonna Hettinger explains that “One of the reasons we are motivated to start up a new Summer Session is because we know a lot of students have been taking summer courses at other institutions to catch up on credits and we think we can offer them a better experience by offering Wooster courses that are more in line with Wooster’s graduation requirements.”

The courses offered range across various disciplines — biology, English, computer science, Africana studies, environmental studies, global media and digital studies, mathematics, music, psychology and Spanish — and all will count for a full Wooster credit (1.0), meaning that no paperwork or costs of transferring credits will be necessary. The courses will be taught by Wooster faculty. 

Each course will be six weeks long, beginning on May 24 and ending on July 2. The cost of each course is $2,500, which is discounted from the usual $3,050, and need-based financial aid will be available. Students can find out whether they are eligible for financial aid by contacting the Financial Aid office directly at financialaid@wooster.edu.

Summer courses may be taken for a variety of reasons: staying on track for graduation, boosting your GPA, staying connected to Wooster students and faculty or giving your summer a sense of purpose. Hettinger adds that “These courses will help students develop the skills for success in Wooster’s key programs, including Independent Study.  We are also really eager to help students stay engaged over the summer.” Registration for the courses is open online through Scotweb. Any questions can be directed to Professor Hettinger, mhettinger@wooster.edu. To learn more about the courses offered, please visit https://www.wooster.edu/summer-session/index.php

C.O.W. plans commencement; seniors to move out the same day

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On March 25, President Sarah Bolton sent an email to the Class of 2021 detailing plans for commencement this year. While the organizers have taken several factors into account while making the plans to ensure every senior has the opportunity to celebrate — such as planning an outdoor event while also considering the possibility of severe weather — students have expressed concerns about the move-out time being on the same night as the commencement.

I am excited to share that we are moving forward with plans for an in-person Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2021, to be held Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m.,” Bolton stated. “All members of the Class of 2021 — including those studying on campus and those studying remotely — are welcome to participate, and we will also be able to welcome a limited number of guests.”

Bolton added that students will also be able to participate in the ceremony virtually.

To comply with social distancing regulations, each graduate will receive two tickets to invite family members or guests. The ceremony is tentatively scheduled to be held at John Papp Stadium.

“The College will make all official weather calls no later than Thursday, May 6,” Bolton detailed regarding the plan to hold an outdoor ceremony.

The College has also made arrangements to hold the commencement ceremony at McGaw Chapel in case of severe weather. However, if the commencement is held in the Chapel, guests will gather separately at the Timken Gymnasium in the Scot Center to meet COVID-19 regulations. The event is set to start at 9 a.m., where students will march through the Arch and the commencement ceremony will start an hour later.

Several students have expressed excitement regarding the plan for the ceremony and the College’s determination to make it happen. “Overall, I feel great about the College’s plan for commencement,” Dante King ’21 said. “I’m so excited that our parents and other family and friends will get to attend in person!”

Another senior Dũng Chí Nguyễn ‘21 also echoed King’s sentiment. “It was a shame that our seniors last year could not have a graduation ceremony due to the sudden emergence of COVID, but it is impressive to see how far we have managed to come from that point,” he said. “Giving each senior two tickets is also a good thing, but hopefully will be done with caution, since quite a few seniors will be inviting family members from outside The States. I feel hopeful! The College has done a good job with managing the campus during the academic year so far.”

Although most seniors are excited about the graduation celebration, they have also mentioned discontent regarding the move-out time, which is at 8 p.m. on the day of the commencement.

“The move-out date being on the same day is a huge inconvenience, if I can be honest,” Dung said. “Before we reach the commencement date, there are a lot of responsibilities that seniors specifically have to deal with. These include finishing up I.S. procedures if we had not done so already, paperwork for possible employment, preparing for graduation and making the last memories with friends. For students from countries that are still not allowing the flights back like me, it is even harder to plan out our exact nearest future plan due to the predicament we are in. With these in mind, it would have been more favorable if the college had given us more leniency regarding the move-out date.”

Yuta Nitanai ’21, another international student graduating this year, also shared his dissatisfaction regarding the move-out time. “[Moving out] will be too much work for many seniors, especially for international seniors, to move out on the same day of Commencement,” Nitanai said. “I hope that the College changes their plan and delays the move-out time so that we will have some flexibility in our travel plans.”

College shares plan to open vaccine clinic “very soon”

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On April 2, President Sarah Bolton sent an email sharing that the College will be partnering with the Wooster Community Hospital to provide a vaccination clinic for the campus community. “The timing depends on exactly when the vaccine is shipped and made available, but we expect to be able to do several clinics on campus within the next two weeks,” Bolton stated. In the coming weeks, those on campus will have access to Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which only requires one dose for a person to be considered fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC, the vaccine exhibited a 66.3 percent efficacy rate in clinical trials to prevent COVID-19 after two weeks of receiving the vaccine. The vaccine was also fully effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in clinical trials. The CDC has stated that “no one who got COVID-19 at least four weeks after receiving the J&J/Janssen vaccine had to be hospitalized.”

This news comes following Governor Mike DeWine’s announcement that every person in Ohio above the age of 16 would be eligible to receive a vaccine after March 29. In a survey that Bolton had sent after the vaccine eligibility expanded to include college-aged students, 79 percent of the 755 respondents stated that they had already made plans to receive vaccination, and 30 percent had already received their first shots.

Many students have expressed relief about the eligibility as well as the availability of vaccines, and several have been diligent about getting vaccinated as soon as possible. On March 24, Ashland County Health Department announced that anyone over the age of 18 would be able to receive a vaccine that day on a walk-in basis between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and several students took the opportunity to receive their shots. Likewise, several students also called different pharmacies nearby and asked to be put on a ‘no-waste list,’ and many received calls from the pharmacies to get their shots several days before the eligibility to vaccines had expanded. One student, Emma Saxton ’22, shared her experience about how she received her vaccine.

“It was one of my teammates who told me that the Ashland pharmacy had extra vaccines and that I could call to be on the ‘no-waste list’ or to schedule an appointment,” Saxton detailed. “I wasn’t expecting to hear back from them for a while, so I was really surprised when they called me three days later saying they had an extra if I could get there in the next hour. I figured other pharmacies would have similar programs as well to reduce vaccine waste.”

When asked about what the process of getting vaccinated was like, Saxton explained, “The process was pretty easy, I didn’t even need to wait in a line. I just filled out some paperwork and waited 15 minutes afterwards until they said I could go!”

In an effort to offer flexibility with scheduling appointments, the College has also announced that students will be paid for the hours they miss if their appointment conflicts with their work schedule. “If the vaccination is scheduled during the student’s regular work hours, the student will be paid for the time they have missed,” an email sent by Student Employment read. “The supervisor should use the student special pay code (SSP) for that period when approving the student’s time in Scot Web.” It clarified, “If the student is not normally scheduled during the time of the vaccine, they would not receive any pay.”

To schedule a vaccine appointment, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov/. To learn more about the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, scan the QR code:

 

College takes stand against anti-Asian hate crimes

Samuel Boudreau

Senior News Writer

 

On Friday, March 26, members of the College and the Wooster community came together at the Kauke Arch and Wooster Square to march in solidarity against the rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community (AAPI).

The event was organized by multiple student groups on campus: Asian Supporters in Action, Chinese Scholars and Student Association and Women of Images.

On March 16, a gunman targeted three Atlanta-based spas, killing eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The victims of the hate crime were Soon Chung Park, age 74; Hyun Jung Grant, age 51; Suncha Kim, age 69; Yong Ae Yue, age 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33; Paul Andre Michels, age 54; Xiaojie Tan, age 49 and Daoyou Feng, age 44.

The Atlanta shooting is one of the many crimes against the AAPI communities that have intensified in violence and numbers since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. 

In a recent study, the Pew Research Center found that nearly “four-in-ten Black and Asian adults say people have acted as if they were uncomfortable around them because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of the outbreak.”

In another recent report, STOP AAPI HATE, a center launched amidst escalating hate crimes against the APPI community, documented 3,795 hate incidents against the AAPI community. The center found types of discrimination to be 68.1 percent verbal harassment, 20.5 percent shunning, 11.1 percent  physical assault, 8.5 percent  civil rights violations and 6.8 percent as online harassment. Intersectionally, the study shows that women were victims 2.3 times more than men.

On Wednesday, March 17, a day after the Atlanta shooting, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker told the press that Long, the gunman, “was pretty much fed up and had been, kind of, at the end of his rope. And yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” Baker also told reporters that “[Long] apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places. And it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” 

“When I was reading [Capt. Jay Baker’s] response to the incident, it did not sit well with me,” Zoe Seymore ’23, a member of Women of Images and AAPI community told community members at the march.

“I knew something had to be done,” Seymore continued, “because Asian people in America face a lot of oppression, whether it is through being fetishized or being told that we have to do well in school and it is very much overlooked because we’re the ‘model minority.’ I didn’t want to sit around and hear all these stories about the heartbreaking things happening to the Asian community, so that is why the shooting motivated me to pursue action.”

Dr. Ziying You, Assistant Professor of Chinese and East Asian Studies at the College, is Seymore’s faculty advisor for her sophomore research assistant position. Dr. You’s current research focuses on the discrimination faced by Chinese women and adoptees in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Seymore’s assistance, Dr. You found that Chinese adoptees and women “experienced different kinds of discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We heard some heartbreaking stories,” Dr. You told the Voice, “The killing in Atlanta just made us all very angry and heartbroken. We wanted to do something for our community and to support our Asian American students.”

During a Sophomore Research Assistant meeting on March 19, Seymore told Dr. You that she wanted to do something, to create a safe space for Asian-American faculty, staff and students to talk about recent events and to heal together.

“We always talk about wanting to do something and then we never get it done. So I wanted to do something and I wanted to start something,” Seymore stated.

Dr. You connected Seymore with Kejun (Coco) Liu ’22 — a Wooster senior and President of Chinese Scholars and Students Association — and Alicia Krielaart ’22, President of Asia Supporters in Action (ASiA).

On March 20, Dr. You emailed all of her colleagues at the College to help plan an event to commemorate the dead in Atlanta and for AAPI students to speak out on their experiences, emotions and reflections. Highly encouraged by a large number of responses from faculty and staff at the College, a planning meeting for an event was organized on Sunday, March 21. 

While the initial plan was to organize a discussion panel, 17 faculty, staff and students decided to plan a March for Asian Lives. Instrumental in planning the march was Dr. Désirée Weber of the Political Science department, who has helped organize daily Black Lives Matter Protests in Downtown Wooster since the death of George Floyd. 

On Monday, March 22, Dr. You sent out a campus-wide email with a poster for the March on Friday, March 26 at the Kauke Arch and the Wooster Square. 

“We are AAPI. Neither white, nor Black. People in this community have always faced hate or unfair treatments. The pandemic has just amplified it.  Among us, people were taunted, pushed, slashed, and now, even murdered. The case in Georgia was just a few of over 3,000 reported incidents in the past year. The increasing hate has been making AAPI feel like foreigners to the country day by day,” Liu writes. 

When asked what it meant to see the initiative from Liu and Seymore, Dr. You said  that “It means a lot to me and I see hope in them. I really admire their courage. They came out and spoke up for their own communities.” “I see their strong power and strong willingness to change the unjust, to build a more just and diverse future and society,” said Dr. You. “They have made significant impacts in our communities and I think they’ll make more influential changes in the future.” 

On the day of the March, Seymore told the Voice that she wasn’t expecting many people to show up. However, nearly 250 people were present. 

“I was very happy. I felt very loved and supported by everyone,” said Seymore. 

Liu agrees with Seymore and said that the turnout was a securing message for those they are worried about at the College. “The community is sending a message to me that I can [graduate] without worrying too much, without carrying that weight, without trying to help everyone with the stress that I have, which is impossible, so it is a huge support.” 

In their speech at the Wooster square, Liu touched on the intensifying acts of discrimination that they and their family faced since the pandemic. Liu told the crowd that some people in Wooster stared, spit and yelled, “Go back to China,” at them. On campus, Liu said that someone threw a Chinese flag in the trash in the language suite in Luce Hall. Liu also revealed that their nearest cousin was physically attacked. These acts of discrimination directed towards Liu led to severe depression, weight loss and panic attacks. Fortunately, through faith and love with their host family, Liu recovered during the summer. 

“This country has beautiful lies about equality and freedom,” Liu told the march, “the Atlanta shooting ten days ago and the spike of thousands of hate-fueled attacks against the AAPI community is painful, frustrating and unacceptable.” 

While hate incidents intensified against the AAPI community since the start of the pandemic, racist and xenophobic acts of discrimination against the community have occurred for centuries. 

In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers, and during the 1918 influenza pandemic, Anti-Asians were blamed for the outbreak. In the 1940s, 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps.

Mochi Meadows’ ’24, a speaker at the march, explained how their grandmother spent two years of her childhood in an internment camp and their great uncle was born in a camp. 

“This narrative of assimilation that America has pushed on the Asian American community since day one is still continuing to this day and it is disgusting and filled with hate.”

Meadows told the Voice that “The conversations I have with my Asian American friends is sometimes about discrimination, but it is more about erasure of identities because there’s a pushing of this ‘model minority narrative,’ so we occupy this weird space in-between outright discrimination, racism, exclusion and not full integration into what is considered a social norm.”

When also asked what they hope students take away from the march, Liu said that we must understand that racism is not “away [from us], but that it is around us  … it’s everywhere.”

Liu stated that, as a community, we need to focus less on stereotyping people and more on building personal connections and relationships, improving how we teach Asian American and Black history in textbooks, responding more effectively to hate crimes against the AAPI community and eliminating anti-voting laws enacted by state legislators. “All of these are happening and there can be a better solution as a country, as a person.”

On the College level, Liu noticed that “many Asian Americans don’t master English and don’t understand what is written, what support is given, and what they can do for it. The infrastructure can improve for them.”

“Many times, I found that international, especially Asian, students are not confident about their language,” Liu stated.

When Liu came to the United States five years ago, the first sentence they said to their high school class was “I am sorry that my English is not good and please bear with me … please point out my mistakes.”

Now, in a group project for their education course at Wooster, a first-year Vietnamese student told Liu and the group they were in that “I’m sorry if I make any mistake. My English is bad, and I am so sorry.”

“I hope people take away from this that it’s going to take a long time and it’s going to take all of us coming together and working towards creating that change,” Seymore noted.“Continuing to try to do the best you can, even if it’s just asking the community, ‘what can we do better?’ Just knowing that someone cares enough to reach out, I think is a really good way to start showing your support.”

While the march brought hundreds of community members together, Seymore made it clear that the memorial was just the starting point in creating positive change at Wooster and beyond.

After the march, Dr. You and members of the College community organized an anti-racism reading group. The group meets on Sundays from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. and is open to the Wooster Public. If you’re interested in joining the “STOP AAPI HATE” teams’ group, you can email Dr. You at zyou@wooster.edu.

“Even in Chinese and East Asian Studies, there are not too many professors that work in that department and not a whole bunch of classes,” Seymore stated. “Our main goal is to educate people, educate everyone at Wooster to let them be aware of discrimination towards minorities, towards women, and towards other marginalized groups.”

In her closing remarks at the march, Seymore told the crowd that “now is our time to start building a new future for us and our children. Things are not going to change over night. One march and one speech wont change systems. It will take time and all of us working together. With the right people and the right [steps], I believe we can begin to make this world a better place.” 

 

In-person fall semester as vaccine availibility rises

Sam Boudreau 

Senior News Writer

 

As spring embraces The College of Wooster community with warm weather and sunny days, President Sarah Bolton notified the campus community on March 10 that the College plans to welcome back all students in person for the upcoming fall semester, which will begin on August 25. Bolton wrote, “We have carefully studied the accelerating vaccine roll-out, the pandemic’s trajectory, and our own strength in using evolving public health strategies to keep the campus safe as we expand campus activities.”

Regarding the vaccine rollout, Governor Mike DeWine announced on March 16 that all Ohioans over age 16 will be eligible to get the vaccine by March 29. A week earlier, the Ohio Department of Health launched a centralized website for Ohioans to view their eligibility to receive the vaccine. To check your eligibility, visit https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov

On March 16, Bolton wrote that DeWine’s vaccine update “is fantastic, as the expert reviews of scientific evidence show that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are safe and very effective in preventing severe illness.”

Christopher Roche ’23 is one of the 695 Wayne County residents from the ages of 20-29 to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 16. When asked how the vaccination sign-up process went, Roche told the Voice that it was “surprisingly easy.” Roche continued, saying that “with the ‘Get The Shot’ sign-up process online that Ohio.gov has set up, it was fairly seamless. There weren’t too many obstacles that I can think of. My family and I were able to sign up and get an appointment within minutes.”

Along with Roche, only 4.72 percent of 20 to 29-year-old residents in Wayne County have received a dose of the vaccine, while only 0.28 percent of residents under 20 have started the vaccination process, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

In total, 18,901 Wayne County residents have started the vaccination process, which is 16.33 percent of the county’s total population. Since the initial rollout of the vaccine on Dec. 26, daily vaccinations in Wayne County have increased to the point where 1,252 individuals received a shot in a single day, as reported on March 11.

While more residents will receive the vaccine in the county, Ohio Health Department data shows that large segments of populations who have been eligible for the vaccine since January have not started the vaccination process. Only 44.4 percent of 65-69-year-old Wayne County residents have “started the vaccine.”

According to Bolton, many students asked whether the College will have a vaccine supply. She wrote  that “vaccines are only being supplied to the public sites around the state.” Ohio currently has 2,051 vaccine-provider locations with Wayne county having 13 administered locations. Locations in close proximity to the College, all in Wooster, include:

  • Walmart, 3883 Burbank Rd. 
  • Rite Aid Store 03028, 1955 Cleveland Rd.
  • Wooster Community Hospital, 1761 Beall Ave.
  • Marcs Pharmacy Wooster, 1799 Portage Rd.
  • Discount Drug Mart, 629 Beall Ave.
  • Wayne County Health Department, 203 S. Walnut St.

Bolton noted that College is “working on finding ways to facilitate access” and keep students informed of additional vaccine options.

Along with all students on campus for the fall, Bolton wrote that the College “anticipate[s] supporting students studying in approved Off-Campus Study programs through [the] Global Engagement Office.” With these updates, studying abroad is more likely to happen this year. One of the students planning to study abroad is Kayla Stevens ’23, who hopes to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan during the fall 2021 semester to learn about her heritage and to indulge in her love of travel. Stevens told the Voice, “Throughout the entire study abroad application process I didn’t have very high hopes and I kept reminding myself that there’s always a chance it won’t work out due to safety concerns.” Stevens “always wanted to participate in a study abroad program in college — [as] it seems like such an enriching opportunity.” When she heard news of the College supporting study abroad programs next semester, she gained hope and encouragement.

While the College community prepares for the mass-distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, many reflect on the challenges, hardships and lessons learned from this past year. Roche, who has studied remotely due to being at high risk for COVID-19, wrote, “Honestly, I am incredibly happy that the College is opening in the fall. This year of quarantine has been really tough for me, especially without being able to see my amazing friends that I’ve made at Wooster. With that said, I am incredibly grateful that I got to spend this year with my wonderful family.”

When asked what he has learned in quarantine, Roche said that “the biggest thing I will take away from this period of my life will be to never take life for granted. Life is too precious and filled with unexpected changes to not have fun, be kind and just enjoy life for what it is. Ups and downs.”

While the plans for fall semester are not yet set in stone, a return to some level of normalcy seems probable as the country makes progress in making vaccines available to the general public.