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Will Dr. Lowry Remain The College of Wooster’s Hero? Board of Trustees Release Findings of Inquiry and Students Respond

Aspen Rush

Editor in Chief

 

In the days prior to fall break of this year, Sally Staley, chair of The College of Wooster’s Board of Trustees (BoT), and Tom Gibian, vice chair of the College’s board of trustees, released the Special Committee’s findings of an investigation into the personal conduct of Dr. Howard Lowry during his time as president of the College from 1944-1967. The investigation came as a result of the persistence of an alumna pursued by Lowry.

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, an alumna from the class of 1962 — identified in Voice articles only by her first name, Irene — reached out to Sarah Bolton in Nov. 2017 to share her experiences regarding former President Lowry with the College for the first time. Between Nov. 2017 and June of 2018, Irene and Bolton exchanged a series of emails relating to the naming of the Lowry center and the dynamics of the Board at the time. After a lack of a substantial response from College officials, Irene reached out to the Voice directly and asked if the Voice’s staff heard of any other women with similar experiences who might validate the claims she was raising to the Board. Led by Co-Editor in Chief, Maggie Dougherty ’21, the Voice launched an investigation into the validity of these claims. Dougherty conducted a thorough investigation, combing through Special Collections, reading biographies of Lowry’s life and histories of the College, speaking with alumni and collecting additional documentation of Lowry’s personal and professional life. Dougherty’s investigation found ample evidence to suggest that former President Lowry engaged in predatory behavior towards recent female graduates of the College. The Voice published Dougherty’s investigation, “The Complicated Legacy of President Howard Lowry: As Our Values Evolve, Do Our Heroes Change as Well?” on Apr. 16, 2021. Dougherty’s article prompted many members of the College community to reconsider their idolization of the College’s former president. The full article is  on the Voice’s website. 

After Dougherty notified administration in advance of the article’s publication and made a request for comment, the BoT sent an email in response to the allegations, outlining the board’s next steps. First, the BoT appointed a Special Committee of trustees ranging in identities, ages and experiences. The Special Committee’s goal was to conduct an investigation free of bias into the allegations against Lowry. The Committee’s inquiry surrounded whether Lowry committed sexual assault or engaged in any illegal behavior.

After concluding the investigation, the Special Committee’s goal was to develop a set of recommendations regarding the potential renaming of Lowry namesakes. Committee members were selected intentionally to represent Wooster’s diverse campus community. Additionally, none of the members knew Lowry personally. 

Following the committee’s formation, they hired independent law firm BakerHostetler, a firm with “extensive experience in gender bias and sexual harassment” according to the Special Committee. However, their core practice groups, as outlined on their website, do not include any specialization in gender bias. The College’s contract with the firm guaranteed the privacy of those who wished to maintain confidentiality. The Committee wanted to ensure that their investigation was up-to-date with practices, as they conducted extensive research on the procedures and grounds for renaming the student center. The Committee elected to draw on guidelines from Stanford University’s “Principles and Procedures for Renaming and Other Features at Stanford University.” As per the procedure, a name change is necessary if  “there is strong evidence that retaining the name is inconsistent with the University’s integrity or is harmful to its research and teaching missions and inclusiveness.” 

The committee spoke directly with fifty  people who had personal experiences with Lowry. The BakerHostetler team interviewed the two alumni who came forward in the Voice’s original investigation. In addition to interviews, the committee reviewed more than 2,000 pages of documents from the archives. 

After months of investigations, the Special Committee did not find Lowry responsible for any legal wrongdoing or improper behavior with students. However, there was evidence that Lowry pursued multiple women within a few years of their graduation. When he pursued recent graduates, Lowry maintained his role as president and even suggested they seek employment at the College. 

Following the inquiry’s conclusion, the Special Committee recommended to the BoT that Lowry Student Center maintain its name, as requested by its donors. The BoT accepted the committee’s recommendation. 

After the BoT reached a conclusion and decided to maintain Lowry’s name on the student center, alumni directly affected by Lowry’s behavior and who testified to the Board were made aware of the outcomes. Shortly following their notification, the Wooster community received an email with the investigation’s findings. Enclosed, they detailed the review process, the findings of the review, the recommendation of the Special Committee and the Board’s decision. The email also listed Lowry’s accomplishments and his continuing impact on the College.

As Riley Smith ’22 addressed at the biannual Student Development Meeting,“That email began not by discussing the allegations themselves or the College’s plans to investigate them, but by detailing Lowry’s many contributions.”

 Shortly after the BoT email was sent, all students received a follow-up email from Myrna Y. Hernández, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. The email acknowledged the potential negative implications of the decision and provided student resources including the Title IX coordinator, counseling services and the chaplain. 

Many students took issue with the Special Committee’s recommendations and with how the BoT conveyed the inquiry’s conclusions. Smith expressed that the email’s timing, sent mere days before fall break, “felt like an intentional attempt to prevent student organizing around the issue.” 

Smith also emphasized that “certain behavior is not acceptable simply because it is legal. Regardless of romantic intent or lack thereof, it is inappropriate to offer employment specifically to young women one finds attractive.”

Chair of the Board Sally Staley also echoed this sentiment, seemingly contrasting with the conclusion of the Special Committee, saying “I don’t think his conduct is something I would support.”

Lia Kahn ’22, interim president of Sexual Respect Coalition, reflected on the findings’ ramifications: “Do we as an institution want to send the message that we protect and revere predators while discrediting and actively harming survivors? What would happen if a current president or administrator acted this way? Why aren’t we holding Howard Lowry to the same standards?” Since the BoT’s decision, a new petition emerged on Change.org titled “COW Community Urges Board of Trustees to reconsider Lowry Center Name Change.” 

Though the BoT reached its decision, the question posed in Dougherty’s article remains: “As our values evolve, do our heroes change as well?” Looking back at Lowry’s life, it is  difficult to reach a conclusion about his actions within a modern context. That being said, it is essential to validate the experiences and needs of survivors. In a conversation with Voice editors, Staley reflected on this question, again appearing to contradict the decision. “Our heroes do change,” she said. “If anything has been highlighted for us, it’s a belief in the critical importance of equity. We need to do more work. We need to challenge ourselves to think when we need to change our heroes.”

C.O.W. Confronted with Reality of Institutional Racism

Sam Killebrew

Senior News Writer

An anonymous pamphlet titled “The Black Manifesto” appeared throughout campus, prompting discussion and call for actions.

On a quiet autumn morning at The College of Wooster, a document, dubbed The Black Manifesto, was released across campus. The document outlined experiences of Black students at Wooster: lack of Black staff, lack of comprehensive curriculum regarding Black experiences and few resources available for Black students to feel safe and welcome at the College. The demands to the administration encompassed a simple theme: do more to make Wooster a safer place for Black individuals. 

This declaration was given on Nov. 6, 1969. 52 years later, another manifesto appeared at the College, detailing strikingly similar demands. 

On the morning of Oct.19, Wooster students and faculty awoke to campus being covered in pamphlets reading, “DEMANDS.” These pamphlets were titled The Black Manifesto. The manifesto confronted many in the Wooster community with a harsh reality: Black students do not feel safe on campus. The demands outline the expectations that the author(s) have for  the College administration, as the manifesto demands the addition of two Black counselors on campus, more transparent financial opportunities for Black-international students and accountability from  the College to work with the Wooster Police Department for legislation that provides adequate protection against  hate crimes and hate speech on Beall Avenue. The final demand on the seven-part list reads, “WE DEMAND THAT THE ADMINISTRATION PUBLICLY RESPONDS TO THIS MANIFESTO IN ITS ENTIRETY WITHIN ONE WEEK.” 

In response to the manifesto, at 7:35 p.m. on Oct. 20, President Sarah Bolton, interim Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer of Academic Affairs Leslie Wingard and Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Myrna Hernández stood in the Scot Center’s Governance Room, hosting well over 200 students, both in-person and virtually. Bolton opened the meeting with her intention of ridding the college of racism completely. 

“Our purpose here tonight is to talk about a simple thing, which is making Wooster better. To make Wooster better we need to talk tonight about making Wooster equitable, inclusive and making Wooster a place where racism is not happening and harming black students, staff and faculty. We need to make it a place where discrimination and harassment are not taking place,” Bolton said. The meeting opened up to questions, allowing the campus community to voice their concerns. 

Many students asked a simple but important question: if people have been asking for these changes for decades, how many more meetings will it take before progress is made? In response, Bolton said,  “… There’s a lot of things that people have worked on over time… it’s also true that there are a lot of changes that haven’t happened.”

Wingard added to Bolton’s comments, expressing that she “hears the student(s)” who asked this question. Questions continued to pour in from students concerned for themselves, their peers,  their organizations, and their safety at the College. Many of the questions focused on the demands directly, pressing Bolton and the administration on their words and actions. As the meeting progressed, discussions became heated as students, dissatisfied with the administration’s responses, asked the speakers on how effective they will be in making change. Some students claimed that Bolton and  deans in-attendance were lying straight to students’ faces, referencing policy on racial discrimination training for students. One student said, “You guys have straight up lied multiple times about what you’ve done. As a member of the class of 2024, we barely had any orientation and none of [it] revolved around anti-racism or cultural competency… Our orientation was essentially nonexistent,” they said.

The student also claimed that the College fails to hold students with white supremacist beliefs on campus accountable. “Also, [student evaluations] are not actually taken into account… I know personally … white supremacist students are not being dealt with,”

 Neither President Bolton nor the deans present responded directly to this claim, and the microphone was passed to another student. At one point, a student called the administration out on the tone of their responses to the questions presented throughout the meeting. 

“All of this has been unsubstantial,” they said. “Are you going to fire the staff that is racist? Are you going to actually look through audits? Because none of us believe the audit on Howard Lowry, for example,” said one student.  

The student also brought up particular incidents in which lack of accountability within administration forced students themselves to hold the administration accountable. 

“I used to be an R.A. I went through R.A. training for racism. None of it was substantial. [Former Director of Residence Life] Nathan Fein left, because we had to push him out as students. He told R.A. Council in meetings that he was overwhelmed by us telling him the things that he did wrong, and that we were in the wrong for doing that. [Students having to pressure racist staff] is a trend at this school.”

The meeting continued, with students becoming increasingly upset with the administration’s response — and often, lack thereof — for over two hours. By the end, most of the students in the Governance Room  left, unsatisfied with the meeting. Cam Love ’25, who attended the meeting, stated, “I did not get what I wanted from this meeting in terms of response. The administration looked confused and only answered with head nods and gestures—nothing sustainable for the issues at hand,” he said. Love finds the College’s lackluster response a reflection of the College’s view of the black community. “I am sure this can be echoed throughout the Black community, but the lack of attention to this meeting reflects how The College of Wooster views Black people and displays the College’s lack of care for the Black community.”

Love was not alone in this sentiment, either. About an hour after the meeting ended, Tiffani Grayes ’25 emailed the entire school, including organizations and staff, an eleven-paragraph response to the meeting titled, “Black Manifesto Meeting.” In the email, Grayes explained her frustration and blatant dissatisfaction with the meeting. She wrote, “Why did you stop recording? Why did you ignore the chat? Why was it not mandatory for everyone to attend and get a first-hand witness on how we feel? Why were certain departments not addressed? Why weren’t financial aid concerns addressed? Why weren’t there any transparent answers? Why was there no structure? This isn’t just an event that should have been thrown together last minute. These are real life issues that we are still facing and know for a fact that you can’t relate to due to privilege.” 

Throughout the next few days, President Bolton responded to Grayes’ email as well as to the Manifesto itself in writing. First, Bolton sent an apology letter in response to the common sentiment that the protocol during the town hall was inadequate. Then, on Oct. 21, Bolton presented an outline of the plans for change by the administration that included a list of actions that are planned in direct response to each demand made by The Black Manifesto.  

As student organizations analyze this situation and how they want to address it locally, it is important to recognize the underlying theme of this situation. If there is anything that should be understood about The Black Manifesto, it is that it is not a new sentiment. For decades, students have demanded change to the way the College treats black students and staff. What hangs in the balance now is the student body’s trust in the college’s ability to adequately address and respond to these long-standing demands. 

 

The Manifesto outlines the following demands:

  • We demand at least two black counselors in the wellness center within the next academic year.
  • We demand that black faculty and staff are given equitable pay and resources, including counseling services, in accordance with the racial barriers that they face.
  • we demand that the college of wooster holds the wooster police department accountable for legislation that ensures protection against hate speech/crimes against black wooster students on beall avenue in accordance with our right as students to be in a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, and bigotry.
  • We demand that all faculty and staff receive ongoing, mandatory training on cultural competency, bias and empathy, safe zone, etc.
  • We demand that faculty and staff are transparent with all financial resources available to black international students.
  • We demand to stop having to constantly bear out our traumas to justify why we need to receive aid and scholarships.
  • We demand that the administration publicly responds to this manifesto in its entirety within one week.

Bolton’s response to the Manifesto can be found here: https://livewooster.sharepoint.com/sites/DiversityEquityandInclusion/Shared%20Documents/Forms/AllItems.aspx?id=%2Fsites%2FDiversityEquityandInclusion%2FShared%20Documents%2F10212021%5FManifesto%5FResponse%5FActions%2Epdf&parent=%2Fsites%2FDiversityEquityandInclusion%2FShared%20Documents

Dr. Leslie Wingard named Interim CDEIO in Academic Affairs

Malachi Mungoshi

Viewpoints Editor

 

Viewpoints Editor Malachi Mungoshi ’24 talks with Interim Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer (CDEIO) of Academic Affairs to discuss her position and her plans to deal with issues specific to her role.

What is your role in CDEIO?

I am the interim Chief  Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer in Academic Affairs, which is a three-part job: there is someone else who deals more explicitly with students, a person who deals more explicitly with staff, and I deal more explicitly with faculty. 

In my role, I am the liaison for Black faculty and staff. I help with bias incident reporting, as it is a process that goes through the Dean of Faculty Christa Craven. When Craven is pursuing complaints about faculty here on campus, or any other type of concerns, there may be a bias report filed and I help with it.

What offices do you work most closely with?

I work closely with Craven and Provost Lisa Perfetti. Dr. Ivonne Garcia, our predecessor, did all aspects of this job and while we are in the interim role, it has been split into the three components. I also participate in a cabinet for the College which includes the President, the Dean of Curriculum and Academic Engagement, Jennifer Bowen, and the senior officers in Admissions, Communications and Student Affairs, as well as the head of IT. We all come together once a week to discuss things from all of our different perspectives.

Dr. Garcia had a five-year plan during her time as the CDEIO. Are you planning to continue with that plan, or are your goals different?

My plans are more short term since I am only in this role until early 2022, but I continue to work with Kayla Campbell — the CDEIO staff member that works primarily with students — and with Shaquez Dickens, another member of the CDEIO staff that works primarily with the staff members at the College. I meet with them once a week and I regularly check in to see how my CDEIO work with faculty could overlap with their work with students and staff. In addition, we have a BIPOC faculty and staff group that meets once a month where we bring issues to the President and we just support one another on this campus. There is an event coming up this Oct. 6 where Black students are being invited to talk to the Black faculty that are currently on campus so that they know that we are here, and that we can provide support if they are feeling like fish out of water. We want to erase the line that is sometimes drawn between faculty and staff on this campus, so that is one reason why we want to have the BIPOC group that includes faculty and staff members. We want students that may come from underrepresented backgrounds to know who we are and what support we can offer.

How do you see yourself creating a safe space of learning, especially for minority identities?

We are working on an initiative that all faculty on campus are engaged with — it is a series called “Colleges Must Change.” As faculty and staff, we are all [holding the series] to understand what it is like to be a person of an underrepresented identity on this campus. There are two courses that faculty can choose from to take, one of which is about dealing with conflict in the classroom. We will talk about this coursework in our department meetings which is being presented by Dr. Chavella Pittman. Faculty are required to sign up for these, and staff can sign up to do them if they want to, so it gets us all talking more and more about what might happen in our classrooms, or how students of different backgrounds, like the ones you just laid out, might be feeling. In this way, all people on this campus that teach and learn may better understand how to approach incidents that could be jolting for certain types. Right now, everybody is taking one of the courses, and we are set to be finished by December 26th. And even then, it is not as if we are completely finished. But instead, we have had the formal conversations, but I suspect that those conversations are going to carry on and we can keep referencing them in the spring semester and on into the future. The faculty voted on this last year, that we wanted to require it of all of us.

What are some challenges you face in your role as the interim CDEIO?

Sometimes I feel like there is some confusion about where to go, so I hope that becomes clearer and people know that we, as the three branches of the CDEIO, are all working together. But there is a point person, depending on what kind of diversity and inclusion question you have. It is a problem right now, because I think people are confused and there has been a lot of turnover, so I hope that as we interview to hire a full team for the CDEIO that we can be more clear about where to go for help. 

How do you separate your role as a professor from your role as interim CDEIO? How exactly does that work for you?

I do not separate them right now. I am not teaching any classes, although I am still chair of the English Department. I feel like I can allow my different identities in these roles as faculty member, chair of a department and interim Chief of Academic Affairs of CDEIO to work together so I can get the word out more quickly about things that involve us all. Because this is supposed to be a campus endeavour and the CDEIO work is supposed to be for diverse populations, we should all be talking to each other. So I do not  see [my different roles] as a problem. Instead, it is helpful to be both on the faculty and now in the administration. 

Traditionally, there has been an issue among student organizations — especially organizations that represent ethnic and cultural minorities and underrepresented groups on campus — of a lack of support from administration in general. For example, the Women of Images house is still named Colonial House. How do you plan to handle this disconnect and issues?

I want to listen to students and understand their needs. For instance, I meet with Black students alongside other Black faculty on Wednesday, and on Thursday I meet with BIPOC faculty and the President. If the students tell me something that they need on Wednesday, I can go to my next meeting on Thursday and report that. I feel like I have my ear to the ground now. I want to work from there and get some things done, so it is not just listening. However, I can figure out how to prioritize the action if I listen first and then, since I am interim, if I have a short amount of time to get things done, I can at least keep record of what else needs to be done when I am no longer in this role.

“The body hurts”: Dining Adjusts to Staff Shortage

Sam Boudreau

News Editor

 

COVID-19 and lack of dining locations pushes understaffed dining crew to the limit. 

While preparing as many smoothies as possible for the day, Joe Snow, a campus dining employee, watches the line of students grow, grow and grow in front of Knowlton Café. While Knowlton Café is relatively well-staffed, the absence of previous dining options, such as Mom’s Truck Stop, creates an overwhelming amount of students at Knowlton for employees to serve. “I bust my ass a lot more to try and get people through the line faster,” Snow said. “Parts of [my] body hurt that I didn’t realize hurt in the past, because I am moving so much.”

“I feel bad for the students because they complain that it takes so long for us to get the food out,” Snow said, “but we are going as fast as we can.”  

While Knowlton Café sees a dramatic increase in students, Lowry Center Dining Hall continues to face a lack of staffing. “We usually have one or two people at each [food station],” said a Lowry Dining Hall employee, “today, we have only seven employees, and two to three of them were students. A lot of students are here who help us; we appreciate them,” the staff member said.

Despite numerous job openings, schools across the country are currently struggling to find campus dining staff. Wayne County is currently experiencing staffing shortages, and multiple small businesses in the area have closed their doors. “Essentially all employers in our city and region – from small businesses to medical providers and more – simply are having a very hard time hiring,” President Bolton said. “Every business owner I have talked with in the last few months has fewer employees than they need, and that is true at the College as well.” 

Snow, who also works at Grille at Lowry every other Sunday and Saturday, finds that the lack of staffing creates higher expectations for The College’s dining staff. “Everyone expects a lot more from [us] because we’re so understaffed,” he said, “so you have to work two or three people’s jobs instead of just your own.”

One dining employee echoed Snow’s statement. “It’s hard,” they said, “we are short-staffed.”  

In response to the nation-wide staffing shortage, the College took steps this summer to increase wages for campus employees. “We raised wages across the board in dining this summer,”  President Sarah Bolton said, “with the starting wage now 14 dollars per hour, up from 12 dollars per hour starting wage prior to this summer, and are reviewing wages for continuing employees for additional increases.” 

Thomas Tierney is chair of the Strategic Planning and Priorities Advisory Committee, a committee that advises President Bolton on budgetary and planning issues. “We have been concerned, as a committee, with the staffing challenges we have been facing in the last few years and expected that this year would be particularly difficult given the labor shortage in this area,” Tierney said. “So we were fully supportive of the decision to raise the entry level hourly wage, but had concerns that this wouldn’t be sufficient to solve our staffing shortages.”

Along with the nation-wide staffing shortage, a dining employee claimed that COVID-19 has taken a toll on the Lowry Center Dining Hall, as dining employees occasionally cannot work due to testing positive for COVID-19 or being a close contact. 

Bolton acknowledged that COVID-19 can impact dining staff numbers, but she was not able to provide specific case totals among dining staff. “Those are constantly shifting numbers, and we can’t share them by department because that could become a violation of privacy – for example, people might notice someone is out and then also hear that there is a COVID positive report.” 

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 26, the College reported five COVID-19 cases among staff members,  according to the College’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

“We have people out,” a dining employee said. 

Along with raising wages, Bolton said the College has multiple strategies to help support the depleted staff. “We will be asking other employees across campus if they wish to support dining by volunteering there or working overtime for additional wages,” Bolton said. “We have arranged food trucks to provide other food options (which you can purchase with swipes).”

She also said that they have “added more cold storage at Kittredge to make it possible to store and provide a wider variety of food there to take the pressure off of Lowry, where the lines are longer.

Bolton added, “We are also looking to add a grab and go station at the C-store. Of course, our incredibly hard-working dining team, including Marjorie Shamp and others, are working extra shifts as well.” 

When asked to describe the amount of work required of dining employees at Lowry, Snow was at a loss of words. “It is hard to put into words … it’s really hard to put into words,” he said. “People I’ve talked to before just say, ‘oh, you just cook burgers all day on a grill, it’s easy’ but whenever you run out of burgers and there’s a line of 20-something people who want burgers, you have to stop and cook the burgers.”

John Reynolds Looks to Improve Residence Life

Sam Killebrew

Staff Writer

 

In the beginning of July, John Reynolds joined the College community as the new director of Residence Life. This week, Voice staff writer Sam Killebew met with Reynolds to discuss his transition into a smaller community and his plans to improve different areas of Residence Life.

Holding a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in both communications and art as well as graduate degrees from The University of Dayton in education and higher education administration, Reynolds seems to have prepared himself well for this position. As a former Assistant Director of Residence Life at Clemson University, Reynolds oversaw a student body of around 30,000 students, with an on-campus population of 7,800 — a large contrast to the roughly 2,000 students he oversees at Wooster. This difference, he explained, brings a lot of hope in regard to fulfilling his role here.

 “[Clemson] was very indirect. Here, I can call across campus and get in touch with [department directors] immediately.” Reynolds explained. “The biggest difference [between Clemson and Wooster] is the approach that Wooster takes in outreaching to students — there is a larger focus on student care. It’s very much a culture of, if someone’s struggling, try to get them the support they need.” While the culture of Wooster has brought its benefits, Reynolds explained that there are some difficulties in completing his role at the College. “The ability to have staff in all the spaces we need—we are currently not there,” he said. “We need at least three or four more people to effectively serve our roles. We also need RAs. An ideal goal would be to grow by at least 10 RAs.”

Reynolds also explained that many of the processes in ResLife, whether it be navigating a complaint, a maintenance order or switching rooms, seem like a barrier to action, rather than a step towards it. His solution to these issues is to implement a more holistic approach to housing on campus. Reynolds emphasized the need for more RAs in making ResLife a more reliable resource for students. 

“We want to make RAs more present in residential life. We want them to be part of the residence hall, rather than just an authority figure or just a resource.” He hopes that with more outreach, students will be more interested in becoming RAs, something he mentioned is a key challenge in ResLife right now. He also believes that with more ResLife staff, there will be more effective allocation of human resources. With only three staff members in ResLife currently, it can be extremely difficult to meet the demands of the entire campus. Despite this, Reynolds said that he wants to remain a consistent figure at the College of Wooster.

 “I want to develop more of a presence [of ResLife] on campus,” Reynolds explained. He mentioned that he values offering office hours in the Hider House, in Lowry, or just being able to be reached by phone or email. 

Although Reynolds has only been at the College of Wooster since the beginning of July, his position has already handed him some pretty hefty responsibilities. However, when asked about how his position affects his work-life balance, he replied, “The transition [to Wooster] has been going really well. All my past experiences have prepared me for this role, but mostly it’s just a matter of learning the culture, the student body, and resource involvement on campus.” He added that he views students on campus as his own family.

 “I have two kids, so navigating how to meet their commitments while also supporting students on campus is difficult … sometimes I find myself working until 8 or 10 p.m. to try and meet everyone’s needs,” he said, before reiterating that his experience has suited him well for this role, and he is more than happy to be providing the services he does. “My door is always open if you need to chat,” he concluded.

Howell House Residents Detail Their Housing Situation

Savannah Sima

Features Editor

 

         Since the start of the semester, Howell House residents have experienced an onslaught of housing issues. From bats to bees, to sewage leaks, the house has navigated some seriously unexpected emergencies. “It is no secret that the houses on Spink Street are old houses,” said Rachel Catus ’22, a Howell House resident, “however, when you own an old house, you have to do regular upkeep to maintain its safety.” From Catus’ perspective, housing maintenance t is where the College is lacking. “[The College’s housing] negligence led to bats being able to enter the house, an unattended massive yellow jacket nest under the porch, pipes being compromised, therefore leading to sewage leaks and smells,” Catus said “just to name some examples.”. Catus, along with housemates Riley Maas ’22, Lauren Kreeger ’23 and Carrie Buckwalter ’24, mentioned that they have attempted to reach out to departments across campus to make their space livable, with no luck. “Even when we have reached out to facilities or security for emergency assistance,” Buckwalter said, “they have asked us to catch the bats ourselves or have blamed our roommate for having an AC, despite us directing them towards the attic and being ignored.” 

         Howell House residents have had multiple unsavory interactions with different departments in an attempt to mediate all of these issues, especially Facilities Management & Planning. “Our confidence in maintenance and housing decreased dramatically,” said Kreeger. With bats and other infestations, Kreeger claimed that Tom Lockard failed to help the house address these issues. “Anytime there’s an issue that has to do with animals (bats or the yellow jackets), we desperately hope that the College won’t send Tom Lockard,” they said. “He just does not listen to us or take us seriously. I had to yell at him to get the entire house examined for bats. I shouldn’t have to resort to drastic measures. I don’t want to yell at people.”

The conduct of facilities’ staff members with Howell House residents is concerning, ranging from yelling and harassing the residents, to physically leaving the space messy. “Plants got spilled and my room was so covered in dirt that I had to miss a class in order to clean up,”  Catus said. Thankfully, not every interaction with staff members has been as negative. “When Mike Taylor and/or Johnathan Reynolds have responded, things have worked out a lot better and we feel a lot more heard,” Catus said. Kreeger agreed, adding, “[Taylor] has gone above and beyond his job requirements to help us.”

         ResLife has organized several meetings to try and address issues as they arise, after persistent reports of these issues from Howell House, “After we repeatedly reached out with our problems, we had a meeting with the head of housing and all the important people in ResLife,” Kreeger said. “We were listened to, at least.” Even after Howell House residents recieved  attention from facilities, they were ignored by staff members only to find out that they were not misguided in their concerns. “It turns out there was an open space in the attic large enough for a bat to get through. Carly Jones did forget to get the yellow jackets taken care of, though, despite writing it down and saying it needed to be taken care of. That indicates a concerning nonchalance about the safety of students,” Kreeger said. 

         The impact these near daily issues have had on the residents day-to-day is significant. “It’s been rough,” Kreeger said  “I’ve lost a lot of sleep, and it definitely impacted my ability to be the best TA and student I can be.”

I have had to miss a pretty significant number of classes already this semester because chaos will erupt in the house and makes it frankly impossible to just leave the situation at that moment to attend class,” agreed Catus. “I also have had to cancel a lot of premade, standing plans when things in the house go awry or maintenance issues are persisting, so I have to further spend my time engaging with staff to get the problem even looked at. Missing social opportunities in tandem with classes has really negatively affected my mental health,” Catus added.

ResLife is aware of the extent of these issues, and has tried to offer support where they can, “I, as a Director of Residence Life, have been over to the house four times to provide support in regards to bats, post follow-up to observe the presence of bees, and to walk through the house to identify the smell of sewage,” said Reynolds. 

Jones added, “Residence Life has been made aware of the maintenance situations for Howell House and has been a primary responder to those concerns and facilitated connections with the facilities service center. This includes coming over with facilities to observe the concerns, outreaching to the students post-situation to see if the problem has been resolved, and providing a response for interactions and other questions as needed.”

Jones elaborated, “While Residence Life doesn’t mitigate the actual work being done inside the house to resolve the issues noted above, our role is to respond promptly to the request and provide support for the students living in our facilities as well as making sure that facilities are following through on requests in a timely manner.”

Reynolds touched on how ResLife is limited in the support it can offer, but stated, “In my conversations with the residents of Howell, I am hoping that they are able to have a positive experience in their house. I am also hoping they are able to outreach directly to our office and know that we would support their living environment to the best of our ability.”