Category Archives: News

College plans celebrations for the Class of 2021

Kate Murphy

News Editor

 

As the end of the academic year approaches, the following are some important dates, celebrations and options that the senior class, as well as the entire student body, should keep in mind. All Independent Study (I.S.) submissions have been moved online, but the College has taken steps to make the process as normal as possible to imitate previous years. An option to book a time to have a Tootsie Roll photoshoot was implemented earlier this semester and will be available until March 29. The day also marks the final day for seniors to submit their projects, after a one-week grace period that has been granted due to COVID-19. The senior and up to nine others of their choice will be allowed access to the inflatable Tootsie Roll for a ten minute slot. Along with these festivities, I.S. celebration bags will be available at the Dean of Students Office in Galpin Hall for seniors on campus to stop by and pick up. Seniors who are studying remotely this semester will be mailed the celebratory bag. To sign up for a Tootsie Roll photoshoot slot, visit https://wooster.edu/info/2020-2021-guide/seniors/independent-study/

Senior Research Symposium continues to be an option for any and all seniors who wish to share their Independent Study projects with friends, family members, faculty and staff. On Friday, April 16 the 2021 Senior Research Symposium will be held virtually from 8 a.m. to midnight (EDT). This will allow the College of Wooster community to experience senior presentations and engage in a live Q&A with presenters about their projects, as is tradition. This will be the second year that Wooster has held a virtual symposium, the Class of 2020 being the first to spearhead the new experience. A link to the virtual symposium will be available at 8 a.m. on April 16. Members of the Class of 2021 who wish to participate must complete an online submission form and attach all necessary documentation no later than April 2. The symposium submission form and other information can be found at https://wooster.edu/academics/research/is/symposium/submission/

While I.S. celebrations and Virtual Symposium have been able to remain as traditional as possible despite the circumstances, the issue of commencement continues to be uncertain. After holding a meeting and sending out a survey to seniors to gather input, President Sarah Bolton sent a letter to the seniors and parents of the Class of 2021. Bolton wrote, “We really appreciated the discussion about commencement itself, as well as other important ceremonies like the multicultural stoling, academic prizes, musical performances and lavender graduation. Our goal in planning the ceremonies is to provide the greatest possible opportunity to celebrate your graduation and all you have achieved, consistent with safety and public health.”

Senior responses heavily favored an in-person graduation with as much normalcy as possible. Bolton acknowledged these wishes, saying, “While we do not yet have guidance from the State of Ohio, we are very optimistic that we will be able to hold in-person commencement ceremonies for those seniors studying on campus this semester. Our ongoing campus COVID-testing program makes us confident that we can gather seniors safely, with masks and social distancing, without risking transmission.”

Another aspect of commencement that is under discussion is the inclusion of the seniors’ family members being allowed to attend in-person. “Our ability to safely include family members and students studying remotely in on-campus ceremonies will depend critically on the national public health situation,” Bolton said, “which we hope will continue to improve with additional vaccinations. Whatever shape our campus ceremonies take, we will provide a robust opportunity for those who cannot be on campus to watch and participate virtually.” 

While plans for graduation this spring are still uncertain, The College of Wooster seems to be favoring an in-person, although modified, celebration. Until then, seniors are encouraged to share their work on April 16 during Virtual Symposium and take advantage of the Tootsie Roll photoshoot!

Faculty and staff can report concerns to an independent officer

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On Oct. 7, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) Ivonne García and Dean of Students (DoS) Mryna Hernández sent an email detailing changes in the CDEIO office, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and the DoS office. One of the significant changes included the addition of an Ombudsperson for faculty, staff and administration. An Ombudsperson is an independent officer who “informally works within the institution to listen to concerns, promote equitable resolutions, provide information and referral services and to serve as an organizational resource to promote conflict management skills and provide insight into patterns of concerns that are operating within the institution.”

The email mentioned that the position was added “in response to requests from Black Indigenous Persons of Color (BIPOC) and underrepresented faculty and staff,” and introduced Patricia Romney as the College’s Ombudsperson. In an article that Romney wrote for the College’s newsletter, she detailed her role as the College’s Ombuds:

“The College of Wooster Ombuds is an independent, informal, impartial and confidential resource for faculty, administrators and staff. The Ombuds exists to help faculty, administrators and staff explore concerns and receive assistance in resolving conflicts. She may clarify procedures, make referrals to other services and provide conflict management services as appropriate. The Ombuds Office is a place where members of the faculty, administration and staff can communicate issues of concern without fear of reprisal and offers a place for people to seek guidance on ways to address actual or potential inequities.”

The email sent by García and Hernández also emphasized Romney’s credibility, stating, “For the past 30 years, Dr. Romney has been engaged in dialogue work, large-scale diversity initiatives, leadership development and team building, as well as professional coaching of individual faculty and administrators in academia.”

“The Ombudsperson reports directly to the College president. She works independently of all administrative and academic offices to promote fair conflict management systems, to identify harmful problems or trends that may impact equity and fairness, and to suggest where attention should be directed to address these issues. She maintains confidentiality of communications, delivers anonymous aggregate data to the President and provides information on any harmful trends identified by visitors to the Office of the Ombuds. She may also make recommendations for revisions in policy and/or structure as well as assessments of campus climate. The Ombuds Office will not disclose the names, departments or details of an issue without permission. The only exceptions to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be imminent risk of serious harm, are Title IX violations or a felony is involved. Communications with the Ombuds Office are therefore considered confidential and privileged.”

While Romney plays a critical role in promoting equity on campus, this important addition to the College community has not been adequately advertised, especially considering how Romney’s title is rather ambiguous in terms of detailing her position. First, although Romney has served as an Ombuds for the past five months, she does not have a profile on the College’s website yet. The only mention of Romney’s role on the website can be found in Bolton’s announcement in late August. She has not yet been listed on the faculty and staff directory either, so contacting her requires a faculty or staff member to check their email and find the newsletter that contains her contact information. Recently, when members of the custodial staff expressed concerns about their work environment, the Voice asked the staff if they knew about the Ombuds — the custodial staff did not. This lack of visibility of a potentially influential official has raised concerns about the College’s intention in supporting members of the community, and some members have questioned whether the College’s actions are merely performative.

“I remember how the administration committed to take actions to create an equitable campus, but I don’t know much about what they have done so far,” Ezana Kiros ’22 stated. “I did not know about the Ombudsperson until recently, but the position seems very important, so the College should definitely work to ensure faculty and staff have access to her. They’ve said they hired the Ombuds in response to BIPOC’s requests, but what is the point of having a resource if nobody knows it’s available?”

Romney is currently working part-time, and her office hours are Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon or by appointment. She can be contacted via email at promney@wooster.edu or by phone at (413)-253-5630. 

Students express dissatisfaction with campus security

Samuel Boudreau

Senior News Writer

 

On their first week back on campus this semester, Aspen Rush ’22 and their friend were on a late-night walk near the forested-area between Bornhuetter Hall and the softball diamond. In the night’s darkness, Rush claims that around five Security and Protective Services (SPS) officers followed and “attempted to corner” them. When the officers asked what they were doing out so late at night, Rush reportedly explained that they were going on a walk. According to Rush, the officers then took their C.O.W. IDs and reported the friends to dispatch, informing them that they were “very suspicious” and asked to search them. Rush refused, and the confrontation concluded with the officers telling the two that they would “likely file a report,” leaving Rush unclear of what the report would be.

Concerns about SPS at The College of Wooster have grown in the past two years. During the summer of 2020, the College community members started a campaign on change.org called “No Cops on C.O.W.;” The petition states, “The College of Wooster’s relationship with the Wooster Police Department and its own [SPS] Department puts the lives of Black and brown students in danger and makes the College of Wooster community less safe.” In total, the petition calls for the College to “disentangle policing from our community and KEEP COPS OFF CAMPUS.” The petition currently has 1,336 signatures. 

Saeed Husain ’20, a resident assistant at the College had a similar experience to Rush on Nov. 25, 2020, at 9:30 p.m. when three security officers “aggressively spoke to [his] friend” about his car being parked in the front of Kenarden Lodge. Husain acknowledged that parking here is not allowed, but he claims that one officer “patronizingly lectured” his friend for placing his car there. Saeed remarked this event as embarrassing, outrageous and unacceptable. Husain is “confident” that Nathan Fein, Director of Residence Life, reported these concerns to Joe Kirk, the Associate Director of SPS. However, Husain stated that he has not received a response from Kirk.

Additionally, Rachel Catus ’22 told the Voice that she had a “super dismissive” experience with SPS. Catus lives in a program house along Spink Street, an area that is home to a large stray cat population. On Feb. 28, a dead cat lay in one of the College’s parking lots near the street. Catus and others contacted SPS to remove the cat from the vicinity, only to be “dismissed” and told to wait until the following Monday to call groundskeeping. Catus reflected on the event, stating,  “It was just very frustrating considering that SPS clearly has time to deliver donuts to sorority girls on campus, but you actually call them for help and get dismissed. We ended up just disposing of the body ourselves using a snow shovel and bags.”

When asked what training procedures and requirements security officers go through at the College, Director Kirk told the Voice that two departmental supervisors and himself “review every application and send [the applicant] an initial email with the job description to determine if they are still interested in the position after learning the shift that is open and the pay rate for the position.” Security positions are advertised by Human Resources in a number of newspapers and on job sites.

If a candidate is interested, then SPS conducts an interview, which focuses on the following: why they are interested in security, why on a college campus, what diversity means to them and what experience they have working in a diverse environment. Before COVID-19, SPS had candidates visit campus and conduct a scenario-based interview.

Kirk explained, “We want to see how the candidate interacts with the student actors, what their observation skills were, how they handle the things found in the room.” Due to COVID-19, SPS now has “the candidate interview with current officers, [the] dispatcher, and other administrators.”

When hired, Kirk mentioned that “the new officer is put through six weeks of training before they can start a shift on their own. Officers must complete a training checklist to pass before they serve at the College. Supervisors and Kirk are regularly updated on new officers’ weekly training progress. While most officers complete training regimens for other security positions outside of Wooster, Kirk identified that “it is important during their training that they understand what is expected of them here.”

In a six-month period, SPS officers are also required to take training programs consisting of Safe Zone, several FEMA training programs on responding to emergency disasters, CIT (Crisis Intervention Training — dealing with issues of mental health), QPR training, which also deals with responding to mental health crises, Fire Safety training, First Aid[,] CPR training and Hazmat training. Kirk noted that COVID-19 has required additional training procedures.

With the pandemic comes more responsibilities for SPS. When the pandemic broke out in the United States last March, Kirk noted that SPS’s 24-hour office “had to answer a number of questions for different offices, accept packages and respond to visitors.” Additionally, security “conduct[s] a lot more transporting of students to places of isolation and quarantine.” He continued, “We had to at times deliver meals, packages and other items to students in isolation and quarantine. We had a lot more meetings about what to do, how to do them and maintain the highest level of health and safety.”

When told that some students describe security officers’ actions as embarrassing, dismissive and unacceptable, Kirk stated, “I am greatly concerned when I hear students describe our department as being embarrassing, super dismissive and unacceptable. I would like to hear about those concerns directly so I can determine if it is multiple staff members or one in particular.” Kirk added, “All students are welcome to reach out to me directly with any questions or concerns that they might have about the department, actions of my staff or a policy that they are unsure of. I know that some students have reached out to Scot Council to express their concerns. I meet with a member of Scot Council every other week to talk about a variety of issues and student concerns is one of them.”

Kirk has been the Director of SPS since last August, and it is his mission to “change and reshape the image of the department.” He says, “I believe that I have a good team here but there is work that needs to be done.”

Scot Council Elections begin for the 2021-22 academic year

Chloe Burdette

Editor in Chief

 

Scot Council has begun the elections process for the upcoming 2021-22 academic year. The ballot will include seats for four class representatives for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 class years, as well as five constituency representative positions. Scot Council’s constituency representative positions are meant to allow for greater advocacy for identity-based groups. In the past, there have been only four of these constituency positions: a Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative, a Racial and Ethnic Diversity Representative, an International Diversity Representative and a First Generation/Limited Income (FGLI) Representative. This year, however, Scot Council has added a new seat for an Accessibility Representative.

The Accessibility Representative position was created to better support students with disabilities and those with accessibility needs. It will allow a Scot Council member to dedicate their efforts towards working with the Learning Center and helping students navigate the appropriate offices while making resources more accessible to the campus community. The proposal for the new position was brought forth under the leadership of Scot Council Class of 2021 representatives Maureen Hanes ’21 and Maresa Taté ’21 in coordination with First Generation Student Organization president Savannah Sima ’23. 

On the importance of the new seat, Hanes explained, “The disability community is arguably the most intersectional and marginalized community, yet I think it is also the least well-represented community on campus. I am so excited that the Accessibility Rep position has been added, because not only will this rep be able to help advocate for students with disabilities or accommodation needs, but they will also generally be able to help raise awareness for people with diverse needs and increase the visibility of these students on campus. I think this position will also benefit the campus as a whole by creating a more inclusive environment overall; many of the things that can benefit students with disabilities, such as more accessible buildings, more lenient attendance policies, etc. can also benefit so many people on campus regardless of their experience or identity.”

Sima discussed the development of the role, saying, “The process of implementing the Accessibility Rep position was really motivating. It was great to see the consistent support for this position from Scot Council, and how excited the student body was to engage with the position. Knowing that my peers recognize how deep the barriers to an equitable education run for people with visible and invisible disabilities is great! Knowing that any of us could turn to these representatives to ask for support means a lot. I think a lot of progress within accommodations and ResLife will be made by this position.” 

In addition to the new position on the ballot, this election differs from its predecessors because of its competitive nature. Last year, Scot Council was created following the dissolution of Campus Council and the Student Government Association (SGA). In addition to a lack of clarity separating the responsibilities of the two former governing bodies, one of the goals of reshaping Scot Council and SGA into one singular organization was to increase the level of competition in elections. “The first two times I ran for student government as a class representative, I had no competition,” Scot Council Vice President Sam Casey ’21 said. “While it made it easy to win, it was problematic because student voters were not able to weigh the pros and cons of multiple candidates and choose the best person for the job. However, when we had elections as the Scot Council for the first time last spring, there was already a major improvement.” This year, all but two positions are contested, meaning that students will have a much greater say in who will represent them. 

“I’m really excited to see that we have 36 candidates for Scot council this year,” said current Scot Council President Olivia Proe ’21. “It’s the greatest amount of interest in student government that I’ve seen in my entire time at Wooster. I’m especially happy about the interest that our constituency seats have garnered, with seven students running to be the International Diversity Representative. To me, the number of candidates is indicative of how caring Wooster students are and that we’re determined to make a better community.” The most highly contested races this year are for the International Diversity seat and the Class of 2024 seat, which have seven and eight candidates running, respectively.

The candidates for the four Class of 2022 seats are Rachel Catus, Thinh Huynh, Abby McFarren and Doug Morris. The candidates for the four Class of 2023 seats are Z. Iris Filippi, Courage Kusena, Noah Golovan, Ruisha Prasai, Andrew Seifert and a joint ticket of Grace Braver and Jenna Dyroff to accommodate off-campus study. The candidates for the four Class of 2024 seats are Gabriella Boateng, Carrie Buckwalter, Atlas Dwyer, Sarah Epstein, Jaylin Hudson, Yeeun Koh, Dylynn Lasky and Giselle Rivera. 

There are two tickets for the FGLI representative seat; students are able to vote for either Sinqobile Nyasha Tagwireyi ’22 or a joint ticket of Savannah Sima ’23 in the fall semester and Shelby Jones ’22 in the spring, again to accommodate off-campus study. 

The three candidates running for the Gender and Sexual Diversity Representative seat are Artemis Swanson ’23, Micah Morrow ’24 and Mochi Meadows ’24. Ryan Seaton-Evans ’23 is running for the new Accessibility Representative position, and Kennedy Pope ’23, Victoria Silva ’23 and Liz Santiago ’24 are the three candidates running for Racial and Ethnic Diversity Representative. 

Lastly, the seven candidates running for the International Diversity Representative position are Iván Akiri ’22, Aelon Ketema Samuel ’22, Tyusha Sarawagi ’23, Ishika Gupta ’23, Sadia Raisa ’23, Sukriti Chiripal ’24 and Amanda Iskin ’24. 

Students will be able to vote between next Monday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 17. By the time of print, a panel where candidates can share their platforms and answer student questions will have been held on Wednesday, March 10. A recording of the panel will be available by email from Scot Council for any students who were unable to attend but wish to listen to the candidates before the voting starts next week.

Ohio PenFriends comes to Wooster

Kate Murphy

News Editor

 

Earlier this year, The College of Wooster became involved in a pen pal program open to any student who wishes to participate. Wooster joined Ohio PenFriends along with many other Ohio universities and colleges, including Denison University, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio University and more. To become involved, students from Wooster can reach out to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and become connected to a student at one of the other universities. There are clear community guidelines and expectations, and Ohio PenFriends is a chance for students, whether remote or in-person, to connect with new people in a COVID-19-friendly way. 

On Feb. 2, remote student Sam Casey ’21 received an email from CDI asking if he would like to be involved in Ohio PenFriends. Casey says that “during my time at Wooster, I’ve always thought about how great it would be for students who go to similar schools (Oberlin, Kenyon, etc.) to connect, and this seemed to be what the pen pal program was doing.” Casey noted that “it is especially nice right now because I’m studying remotely and don’t have the opportunity to meet new people.”

In order to become involved with the program, the student must fill out an informational form about themselves to find a good match. One of the program guidelines highlighted is for students to “keep expectations realistic.” However, for Casey, his expectations were not met at all. Casey says that over twenty days after the initial email from CDI, he “received a follow-up email from CDI with the name of a student from Kenyon College who would be my pen pal. I excitedly emailed them but have yet to receive a reply. Of course, this is a busy time for everyone but it also defeats the purpose of the program. The email said to contact CDI if you no longer wish to be in the program, but it did not say anything about what to do if you don’t hear back. It’s been two weeks so I plan to reach out to CDI, but it’s still pretty disappointing to have it not work out initially. I know this happened to another Wooster student as well.”

Mahi Lal ’22 made an attempt to take advantage of the new program as well. She unfortunately did not get off to a smooth start when her first pen pal dropped out of the program before they could even be put in contact. Lal had also received an email from CDI about the opportunity and thought “it would be an exhilarating experience making friends virtually in the middle of a pandemic.” Lal continues, stating “I liked that they [Ohio PenFriends] had clearly stated guidelines and suggestions of how to make the friendship/relationship safe and effective. It also gave me something exciting to do whilst in isolation.” 

Furthering her sense of comfort in the program, Lal says that the CDI had interested students fill out a form with their interests and identities so that “they would match us with appropriate people. Also, although they knew which identities were salient to us, they didn’t reveal those identities to the potential pen pals because that would be up to us once we were put in contact and that made me comfortable.” 

Unlike Casey, Lal has since been successfully matched in the program. After her first match dropped from the program before they could start contacting each other, Lal was almost immediately matched with someone from Kenyon and they have been conversing regularly. Lal says “We have already established shared interests and identities. I followed the appropriate guidelines and immediately established which form of communication worked best for both of us. I think I have been matched appropriately and couldn’t have asked for a better pen pal!”

Lal is very content with her experience with Ohio PenFriends and thinks “the program is an effective program for remote students because the two people involved are from different institutions anyway. There are options of doing voice calls and video calls if people are comfortable with that.” 

As for improvements, Lal says that the program could be made even better if “CDI holds an event where pen pals could meet when it’s safer to after having formed a long and beautiful friendship.” For Casey, he says that “the idea of the pen pal program is great, but starting it in the middle of the semester may have caused some difficulties.” He points out that “it would make more sense to start [the program in Wooster] at the beginning of either the fall or spring semester as they are a natural place where people are dedicated to trying new things and where motivation is highest. CDI said a lot of people signed up to participate, but I wonder how many people are in the same situation as me. I wish there was a way to hold people more accountable if they decide to sign up.”  

In order to become involved in the Ohio PenFriends program, email CDI@wooster.edu to get started. 

 

Dean of Students office provides staff update

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

On Mar. 1, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Myrna Hernández sent an email to the campus community regarding changes in staff within the dean of students office. Hernández stated that these updates were made to “help students find support in the right places during the time of hybrid work.”

The changes include Lori Makin-Byrd, who is now serving as the interim associate vice president for student affairs. Makin-Byrd will also continue to be the Title IX coordinator, where she looks after “the management and resolution of all complaints of discrimination and harassment related to sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and works closely with the College’s investigators and adjudicators for Title IX cases to ensure that all processes meet best practices.” As an interim associate vice president, she will oversee the class deans while also managing COVID-19 support for students in isolation and quarantine.

Furthermore, Associate Dean of Students Shadra Smith will continue to work at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and serve the role of interim director of multicultural student services until May 2021. Smith will serve the Class of 2023 as an associate dean.

In addition, Director of Sexuality and Gender Inclusion Melissa Chesanko will also serve the role of interim associate dean of students for the Class of 2024. Finally, Director of International Student Services (ISS) Jill Munro will serve as the interim associate dean of students for the class of 2025 while continuing her position as the director of ISS.

Finally, justin adkins, the interim senior associate dean of students and associate vice president for student affairs, will no longer work at the College after March of 2021.

The current dean of students staff includes Myrna Hernández as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students,  Ashley Benson as the associate dean of students for the class of 2021 and 2022, Amy Franklin-Craft as the director of student rights and responsibilities, Amy Egle as the executive assistant to the vice president for student affairs and Susan Remark as the administrative coordinator.