Category Archives: News

Students React to C.O.W.’s Decision to Ease Mask Mandates

Caroline Ward

Staff Writer

 

 

 

On Friday, April 1, President Sarah Bolton sent an email to the campus community, with the subject line reading: “COVID Protocol Update: Mask policies.” The email announced the updated COVID-19 protocols on campus, focusing specifically on the new masking policies. The email explained that “masks are optional in all spaces on campus” with a few exceptions, including the Longbrake Wellness Center, studios, laboratories at the discretion of the instructors and private student residential spaces, with consensus from all occupants. The email noted that students should still carry a mask with them when moving about campus in case it is needed. 

Bolton had previously reached out for input from the campus community on the College’s COVID-19 protocols. In an email sent out on March 4, Bolton had asked students to fill out a campus poll regarding their preferences and concerns about easing masking requirements. Bolton announced the results of this poll in an email sent out over spring break, stating “the large majority of Wooster students, faculty and staff who responded to the survey support loosening our current mask mandates.” This conclusion, along with updated CDC guidelines and local COVID-19 statistics, informed the decision to begin loosening the mask mandate.

But the conclusion presented in the email, that the large majority of campus supports the easing of mask mandates, seems to oversimplify the feelings of the student body. One student, Carly McWilliams ’22 said, “The emails … made it seem like an overwhelming amount of students supported this decision, but … I know several people who responded negatively.” She then pointed to her own concerns about the new policies, explaining, “My biggest concern is safety since my roommate is immunocompromised.”

Some students who are more comfortable with the transition have reservations as well. “On one hand, I’m happy that the mask policies are not too enforced,” says Vincent Noonan ’22. “But on the other hand, it does raise a level of concern, because we’re still in a pandemic and it allows people to be reckless.”

McWilliams raised concerns about events this spring, pointing to her experience at the College during COVID-19. “All of us seniors have missed out on a lot of Wooster experiences,” she said, “so the idea of coming this far only to remove the mask mandate right before I.S. Symposium and graduation makes me nervous.”

For most of the campus community, the main priority is safety, and reservations about the changes to the masking policy reflect a worry for campus and community health. “We want to move on but we don’t know when,” said Rian Mokodompit ’22. “I think, largely, it’s welcomed, but welcomed with a bit of anxiety.” Currently, some members of the campus community and various departments have continued to consult their students and colleagues regarding easing policies in certain spaces.

If you would like to receive a door sign that requests people to put on their masks before entering your space, please contact your resident assistant or email Residence Life at reslife@wooster.edu.

College Moves Forward with Wooster Inn Demolition and Tennis Courts Plan

Samuel Boudreau

News Editor

 

 

 

Wooster residents condemn the College’s lack of communication in their decision-making process.

As members of The College of Wooster community packed into the newly-built Wooster Inn, Waldo H. Dunn, professor of English language and literature from 1913 to 1931, had one thought on his mind. “Today, as I stand in this beautiful Wooster Inn, I see in my mind’s eye a road running far back in time and space, a road along which I recognize hard working and devoted people, whose hopes and dreams and labors find fulfillment here,” Dunn told the crowd at the Inn’s 1959 dedication ceremony. 63 years later, however, the Wooster Inn’s end is near. 

On Feb. 11, President Sarah Bolton emailed the College’s alumni, notifying them of the College’s decision to demolish the Wooster Inn and detailing the reasons behind its demolition. “Faced with many other competing campus financial priorities, including much needed investments in campus housing for Wooster students (not to mention a growing Wooster hotel industry we wish to very much support),” Bolton said, “The College of Wooster Board of Trustees has made the difficult decision that it would not be prudent to move forward with the significant capital improvements required to operate the Inn.” The complete demolition of the Inn will take place on April 18. 

In 1950, the College purchased the two-and-a-half acres along Wayne Avenue and, in 1957, the College decided to build the Wooster Inn at the location. The Inn was built as a gift to the College on behalf of Dr. Robert E. Wilson and his wife, Pearl. The Wilsons viewed the Inn as a tribute to Robert’s father, William H. Wilson, a professor of mathematics at the College of Wooster from 1900-1907. “Although the Inn does not bear any family name, both Robert and Pearl desire that it should be completely identified with Wooster,” said Dunn, “it is intended as a memorial to their parents.” 

From its initial opening in 1959 to 2018, the Inn was a place for members of the campus community and the broader Wooster community to come together as one. The Inn also served as a place for guest speakers to stay at the College, such as Jane Goodall in 2004. In 2018, however, the College did not renew their 10-year lease with the Inn’s management, leading to the closing of the Inn in December 2018.

In 2019, the College’s Board of Trustees initiated a formal bid process to find a new innkeeper for the Inn. After a review of the Inn during the bid process, however, trustees concluded that the Inn was too expensive to repair for future use. “With estimated necessary repairs exceeding $4 million, not including the significant additional cosmetic renovations,” Bolton told the Voice, “we did not find a potential operator willing to take on that level of financial commitment.”

 The College’s decision to demolish the Inn was a surprise to many alumni including Wendy Barlow, a member of the Wooster community since 1970. “Devastated,” said Barlow when she received the news. Barlow fears that losing locations such as the Inn will lead to disconnections between the College and the Wooster/Wayne County area. “The Wooster community at large has so many amazing people, so much to offer, so to bring the two together is an exceptional equation,” said Barlow, “and once you start taking away the venues for bringing people together, you separate these ideas and the ability to do amazing things.” 

After the Inn’s demolition, the College will install 12 tennis courts at the Inn’s current location. “The College’s tennis courts, which are located on Beall Avenue, are in profound need of replacement,” said Bolton. “Only six of the 10 courts are safely usable, which significantly limits the ways that our teams can practice and compete there,” said Bolton. Along with the 10 courts, the Scot Center contains four indoor tennis courts and the tennis team also has access to six indoor courts at a local racket club, according to Adam Clark, head coach of the Wooster men’s tennis team, on Next College Student Athlete (NCSA)’s website. 

When asked how much the new tennis courts will cost the College, Bolton did not provide an estimate, citing that “the cost specifics will be known as the plan becomes solidified.” 

On April 7, the City of Wooster’s Planning Commission approved the College’s preliminary plan to install 12 tennis courts at the Wooster Inn’s current location. At the meeting, 30 concerned community members along with several College faculty and staff members attended the meeting. 

Doug Drushal, a Wooster attorney, presented the College’s preliminary tennis court plans to the planning commission. “What we need to understand here is that this really doesn’t have anything to do with the Wooster Inn,” said Drushal, “this didn’t cause the Wooster Inn to come down, this didn’t cause the Wooster Inn to have problems…” Drushal told planning commissioners that the new courts will be slightly larger than the current courts and that the courts will not have lighting. Additionally, the preliminary plans include a parking lot for 73 cars. 

Despite Drushal’s remarks, Wooster community members expressed disappointment with the College’s decision to remove the Wooster Inn, citing a lack of transparency on the decision and the College’s removal of 25 mature trees from the Inn’s location. 

Barlow shared her concerns with commissioners, calling for the Inn’s consideration as a historical site and her disappointment with the lack of community input on the College’s decision to demolish the building. 

Martha Bollinger, a Wooster resident, has lived adjacently from the Wooster Inn for 40 years. Bollinger shared several concerns with commissioners regarding the College’s preliminary plan, the College’s removal of 25 trees and the lack of a public forum regarding the Wooster Inn’s fate. “The College of Wooster, in sharing their plans and being inclusive, has been lip service at this point and their actions have spoken louder than what their words are and their actions are not something we appreciate,” Bollinger told commissioners.

Katherine Ritchie, a Wooster resident and an alumni of the College, also expressed disappointment with the College’s decision to shut down the Inn. “We’re here tonight because this is our first time that we can really vocalize how we feel,” said Ritchie. 

“We have no authority over the College of Wooster’s determination to tear down the Wooster Inn,” said Mark Weaver, a member of the planning commission and a professor emeritus of political science at the College, as he voted yes for the  College’s preliminary plan. After Weaver’s comments and the commission’s decision, Jeffrey Lindberg, professor of music at the College, left the meeting prematurely. “I was upset,” Lindberg said, “because I felt that the planning commission should have given the people who live in that area the opportunity to review, digest and discuss what was being planned for the Wooster Inn location. I don’t believe that the residents were allowed reasonable due process.”

Druchel said the planning commission will receive the College’s final plans for the tennis courts “relatively soon.”  

When asked what will happen to the current tennis courts, Mike Taylor, associate vice president of facilities, design and construction, told the Voice that the College does not have plans for the area and that the area will likely be a “green space.”. Taylor said he hopes the new tennis courts and green space will be available for students by this fall. 

Barbara Hustwitt, a member of the Wooster Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed her disappointment to the College of Wooster’s administration and called for the Inn to be considered as a historic site. “By initiating a community-wide fundraising campaign, the Wooster Inn can not only be saved but, by utilizing imagination and advertising, become a profit-producing enterprise, one that The College of Wooster, the alumni and the community can be proud of for at least the next [50] years,” wrote Hustwitt in a letter to the College’s administration. “It is not only disappointing that you have acted without transparency but highly offensive that you do not appear to acknowledge that we are a part of your community,” she continued. “You do not seem to be concerned about us or the relationship between the College and the community. Nor do you seem to appreciate that Wooster’s taxpayers cover the cost of paving the streets that border or intersect the College property, pay for plowing the adjacent and internal streets through the winter and pay for signs directing visitors to the campus.”

As the Wooster Inn’s future draws to a close, Barlow reflects on the Inn’s historical importance.

“Every person I have talked to about the Wooster Inn begins by giving me a list

of their special memories,” said Barlow. “It was a special place, designed with great care and with the purpose of bringing the campus, community and visitors together.” 

Wayne Webster Named the Interim President of C.O.W.

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

 

 

On March 29, Chair of the Board of Trustees Sally Staley ’78 announced that Vice President of Advancement Dr. Wayne Webster will be serving as the interim president of The College of Wooster after the departure of current President Sarah Bolton. Webster will serve as the President of the College from July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2023, when Bolton’s successor is presumed to take office. This week, the Voice sat down with Webster to discuss his impact on Wooster in the last five years and his incoming role as the interim president.

Over the past five years, Webster has served as the vice president for advancement at the College and “led the public phase of the record-breaking $190 million Wooster’s Promise campaign,” mentioned Staley. Webster also helped to grow the College’s endowment by more than $140 million. When asked to describe his role at the College, Webster detailed, “Most of my day-to-day work is external in terms of working with alumni, families and friends to engage with the College in terms of philanthropy and volunteerism. But a lot of my work internally has been across campus around strategic planning and campus master planning.”

Webster highlighted that the administration is currently planning to address issues with Holden Hall, stating that “the Board of Trustees and the administration are talking about what are the next steps in terms of renovating and updating resident halls, and Holden is very much on the list of priorities.” He added, “I think we know that Holden is much overdue for some serious upgrades. And it’s definitely something that I think the Board and the College will certainly take a lot of time this year planning for a renovation.”

He then explained that in addition to working to plan major projects within campus, he also leads several efforts to raise the funds to make the projects a reality. “I have spent a lot of my career, both here at Wooster and other institutions, helping campus partners, faculty, staff and students to think about where we are at, and where we want to go,” Webster said. “Then, I help make those aspirations a reality. So, I think of my job as being 50-50 in terms of being 50 percent externally focused working with donors and volunteers, but then 50 percent helping campus think about who we are, where we want to go and what it is going to take to get there.”

Regarding his goals as the interim president, Webster mentioned that he will prioritize completing the projects that are already in motion. “There are a lot of good things that are already in progress that just need to be seen through to completion,” Webster explained. “Obviously, opening the [student] center next year, both the fall and spring phases, and seeing that through to completion, opening on time, and also opening in a way that achieves the goals is important.” He continued, “I also want to ensure we continue conversations on campus about budget and our strategic plan, making sure that we’re putting resources where they are most important.”

Webster also detailed his interest in addressing safety concerns on Beall Avenue. “I live on Beaver Street, just a block over, and I’ll continue to live in my house,” Webster said. “Being a part of the campus community, I’m aware of the challenges we have with Beall Avenue and making sure that it is a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff, is of real importance to me and the Cabinet.”

Finally, Webster expressed that he is looking forward to improving the academic experiences of students on campus through Pathways and experiential learning. “We are doing a lot of exciting things with APEX to improve experiential learning. This will be a key interest of mine and I think it would be a nice capstone to the strategic planning process that is well underway.”

He concluded, “When a new president comes, a lot of the initiatives that have been in motion for the last few years will hopefully be at a point where they’re completed.

Webster also addressed a number of ways that he plans to engage with students on campus and conveyed that he plans to utilize sporting events, meals at the student center and his time walking his dogs — Brackster and Brinkley — around campus to socialize with students. “I was a very involved student when I was in college, and when I interact with students here, there are a lot of interests across campus that I can somehow relate to,” he said. “So, I am excited about being able to have that balance where I know that a major part of my responsibilities lie with interacting with the campus in a really meaningful way. It is something I miss in my current work, when I get to interact with a student, it’s usually intentionally planned. I’m excited about the opportunities to be, to be engaged and approachable.”

At the end of the interview, when asked if Webster would be spotted around campus in Tartan clothing, Webster laughed and replied, “If requested.”

Handling of Racism at the College of Wooster Follows a Predictable Pattern

Sam Killebrew

Senior News Writer

 

 

 

Content Warning: This article contains mentions of explicit and disturbing incidents of anti-black racism at The College of Wooster. 

 

On Feb. 10, Instagram page @wooinsider posted four photos of the 1989 Galpin Takeover, a movement “for the rights of Black students at Wooster” as stated in the caption. The comments flooded with responses to the post. “Imagine posting this but not fulfilling their demands,” said saeed husain ’21. Another follower said, “You say this but won’t even address the racist and offensive comments made by your lacrosse coach.” The account manager responded to one comment, stating, “While we know we still have much to do, we are committed to developing a diverse and equitable campus. Learn more about our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan here:” followed by a link to Wooster’s website. To examine this public display of dissatisfaction over the College’s apparent lack of racial competence, the Voice explored the College’s history of Black student equity movements. 

In 1969,  The Black Student Association released The Black Student Manifesto, which addressed the College administration’s empty talks and claimed that systematic racism riddled the institution. The College responded to these demands by hiring a Black admissions counselor to increase Black presence at the College.

 In 1989, nearly 200 students locked themselves in Galpin Hall with a list of demands in response to the mistreatment of several Black students, an event now known as the Galpin Takeover. Then President Henry J. Copeland responded to the protests immediately, sitting down with students and listening to their grievances. 

 In 2018,  Drake Schwenke, a student at the College, posted explicitly racist statements on Facebook. In response, students staged the Galpin Call-In, as students organized a sit-in at Galpin Hall calling for increased funds to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training requirements for all faculty and staff, and the expulsion of Drake Schwenke. This was met with immediate negotiations and action by administration to meet the demands, including $20,000 in CDI funding and new Title IX position restructuring.

In 2021, students released another Black Manifesto and demanded equitable treatment of Black students by the Financial Aid and Business Offices, the addition of two Black counselors in the Wellness Center by the next academic year, and notably, the immediate response by administration to the manifesto. Two days later, the College’s administration held a town-hall meeting at the Scot Center’s Governance Room. In the meeting’s aftermath, President Bolton emailed the campus community on the administration’s progress in meeting these demands, while a tenured staff member stepped down from their role in response to demands from BIPOC student groups.

Though these seem to be honest attempts at justice, cracks in the institution run much deeper.

In 1969, the “Black Students’ Manifesto” acted as a call for a new era at Wooster, an era  where “idle rhetoric” and empty promises were expelled from race discussions and policy. Shortly after its release, the Voice surveyed the campus and obtained a general consensus from the student body that frankly, people did not care for the demands. Additionally, though the demands in the 1969 manifesto were met by administrative response, a 1980 poll of the Black student body revealed that the campus’ efforts were unsatisfactory for most Black students. 

Following the 1989 Galpin Takeover, some of the students’ demands had been met, but to a very limited extent. Instead of instating a Black Studies curriculum requirement, the administration mandated that every First Year Seminar class incorporate race, gender and culture topics for the coming five years. Additionally, in an interview with The College of Wooster, student Deja Moss ’14 relays that certain demands, such as the demand for Black counselors, still have not been met. 

Again to the Galpin Call-In in 2018: After the surfacing of student Drake Schwenke’s Facebook posts saying that America did not have a gun problem, but rather a [racial expletive] problem, the campus community gathered in the student center to discuss the incident. As reported in Jan. 2018 by then Voice Editor-in-Chief Meg Itoh ’18, students expressed that this was not the only incident that had happened, but rather the first time the administration had dealt with it. Many of the demands from the Call-In were met with swift responses. The student body’s lack of satisfaction with these ‘fixes’, however, is exemplified less than four years later with“The Black Manifesto,” a list of demands released on behalf of the Black student body demanding many of the same things as past movements. To this, a swift response was given and promises were made, and following the swift response, there was dissatisfaction. 

Here, a cyclical pattern is revealed: frustration festers, concerns are brought up, concerns are met with a swift response, and somewhere between that and the course of several years, frustrations fester again. With the demands being strikingly consistent for the past 50 years, one question emerges: “What is going wrong?” 

The Voice brought this question to Tiffani Grayes ’25. Grayes’ role on campus is one that may stand out to many upon hearing her name. Following the town-hall addressing the “Black Manifesto” in Oct. 2021, Grayes sent a mass email to the entire campus expressing her deep dissatisfaction with the meeting, namely the unanswered questions. The Voice asked Grayes why she thinks the demands of Black students at Wooster have remained the same, despite over 50 years of Black student movements. 

“It’s a fine line between listening to us, and actually hearing us and implementing policy to satisfy our needs.” The Voice then asked her what she thinks makes the changes on campus unsustainable. 

“They don’t follow up with us. We don’t really know what’s changing without being informed.” 

When remembering the demands listed in the 2021 “Black Manifesto,” several demands addressed things that were already underway and happening on campus. Further, since the release of the “Black Manifesto” in 2021, President Bolton has released just two emails containing plans to address the demands. 

Grayes continued, “Another reason some of us are dissatisfied in general is because some of the promises that are being made to us are promises they can’t really keep.” The Voice finally asked Grayes what she believes to be necessary for actual change to occur, Grayes believes,“The higher-ups, specifically the Board of Trustees, should sit down and listen without trying to push back,” she continued, “A lot of these people are also just trying to save face, which doesn’t get anything done.” The Board of Trustees has been pressed since their perceived lack of sympathy toward “The Black Manifesto” and complaints that followed. Students at this semester’s Student Development Meeting emphasized that there has still been no apology from the Board for their behavior concerning the matter. 

One recent incident that exemplifies the school’s ability to respond to racist incidents on campus is when the Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach was reported for saying the N-word during a team bonding exercise, aiming to cross cultural boundaries. The Administration’s response was swift: Immediate suspension including six months of DEI training. Weeks later, the coach resigned. Again, this seems to be a just and swift response taken by the school, but are these swift responses a sufficient replacement for sustainable action?

And so, the cycle repeats. An incident occurs, cracks are shown in the school’s institution, and it reveals just as much as Wooster students have known for the last 50 years. This series of institutional failures witnessed by generations of Wooster students rings unjust in the light of the 1969 “Black Student’s Manifesto’s” statement that “The days of idle rhetoric are long-gone.” But still, as President Bolton put it in 2018, “It is crucial that The College of Wooster be a truly equitable and inclusive space…We know we have not yet reached that goal, but we must continue to work toward it — urgently, relentlessly and together” or perhaps as she put it in 2021, “The College of Wooster must be an equitable and welcoming place… While there has been much done toward this goal, we have not yet achieved it. It is urgent that we do so.” 

Student Shot by BB Gun Along Beall Avenue

Samuel Boudreau

News Editor

 

 

 

Since this is an ongoing investigation, the Voice granted the victim anonymity and will refer to them as “John Doe”.

After an evening of studying, John Doe looked forward to catching up with their friends at Kittredge Hall for fourth meal. Between the Lowry Student Center and Babcock Circle, however, three BB-gun/ airsoft bullets crashed into Doe’s ribs, arm and neck. “I think it might’ve been a BB-gun,” Doe said, “because It was able to give me a pretty good welt through the biggest part of my jacket.” Shocked, Doe looked to their left and saw the gun’s barrel pointing towards them, speeding into the dark. “I’m definitely going to be trying to stay on the interior of campus as much as possible,” said Doe, “especially after dark.” “With how hard it hit me through my jacket, had they hit me in the eye,” said Doe, “this is something that could have legitimately hurt me.” 

On Tuesday, April 4, at 8:50 p.m., a group of individuals in a light gray or light blue van shot airsoft/BB gun bullets at Doe along Beall Avenue. As of April 5, Director of Campus Safety, Joe Kirk, told the Voice that Campus Safety and the Wooster Police have not found the suspects but have obtained a photo of the vehicle. 

“Student safety is crucial, and we will continue to take actions to strengthen it,” said President Sarah Bolton in response to the emergency. “I am very sorry that a student was harmed in this way, and grateful that they reported it so that the Police could act on the information.” 

Bolton said the College is continuing to take steps to make Beall Avenue safer for students. Two steps to strengthen Beall avenue include the implementation of license-plate readers and the hiring of a security consultant on campus. “The first is the planned installation of license-plate readers,” Bolton said, “which do a much better job of capturing plates (and thus making it possible to identify and report to police those who may cause harassment or harm from passing cars) than our cameras do.”  The College will install these license-plate readers in late April. “In addition, the board has established a task force on Beall Avenue safety, and they are working to bring an excellent security consultant to campus to help us determine additional steps that could be helpful,” said Bolton, who said she will share more information with the campus community in the upcoming weeks.

“I hope the administration takes what I have to say seriously,” said Doe. “I saw the advice that they gave in the safety notification they sent out via email of traveling in groups.” “That is not something that we should have to worry about, so I hope Campus Safety and the admin do take this seriously.”