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Bolton announces virtual commencement, senior celebrations during B&G Weekend

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

 On Friday, April 10, President Sarah Bolton announced that The College of Wooster would be holding a virtual graduation ceremony to celebrate the class of 2020’s accomplishments and time at the College.

Bolton announced this in an email sent to seniors. The virtual commencement ceremony will be held on Monday, May 11 at 1:00 p.m. EST, the same day as the in-person celebration would have been. There will be a virtual Baccalaureate ceremony on May 10 at 1:00 p.m. The email also stated that an in-person celebration for the class of 2020 would take place during Black and Gold Weekend which will be October 23-25. 

Bolton said that many of the missed senior spring events would be held during Black and Gold Weekend. “We plan to hold an I.S Monday parade, to recognize your academic accomplishments, and to host the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony, including presenting students with their stoles,” Bolton stated in the email. 

However, some seniors were not happy with the revised commencement plans. Some took to social media to voice their concerns, the primary of which being a perceived lack of student input when making the decision .

To address this, Bolton said students will have input in planning Black and Gold Weekend. “Our plan had been to reach out to ask seniors what they would like to see happen for the weekend of celebrations in their honor, so that we could create a gathering that would be best for seniors and families,” Bolton said. Additionally, Bolton said that she is aware of student opinion.

“We also are listening to the many seniors who wrote to us overnight, some of whom want an earlier celebration (August) and others who want something much later (May of ’21),” Bolton stated in an email.  “We are doing everything we can to create a celebration that is best for everyone, knowing that there are many different circumstances and needs in the class.”

Other students are afraid many won’t be able to return to campus for Black and Gold Weekend. Bolton said she is aware of this, and its part of what led to the decision to hold a virtual ceremony.

“Knowing that [travelling back to Wooster is difficult] was part of what made us want to make the virtual celebration on May 11th a little more than just the ‘official’ granting of degrees, so that those who may not be able to come back to Wooster at all in the coming year would still have something they could be a part of,” Bolton stated. 

Bolton said it was important that there was both a virtual ceremony as well as an in-person celebration. She affirmed the College’s commitment to holding this in-person celebration, emphasizing in a follow-up email on April 11, “We definitely will have a full, in-person commencement ceremony including all of the parts of the program—processions of students and faculty, bagpipers, honorary degrees, speakers and reading of individual names when we gather in person.”

Since announcing the decision, Bolton said she has heard a lot of feedback from seniors and said this is “all changing quickly as we speak … we understand that many seniors are not happy with this approach, understandably, and will think on it further to see what else could work.”

At the end of the initial email, Bolton confirmed how proud she was of the class of 2020.

“In this challenging season, please know how proud we are of all of you,” the email read.  “You were already a special class before COVID-19, and now you are learning, caring for others, persevering and making a difference in a historic time.  I am so looking forward to watching your futures unfold, and to seeing the positive impact you will make across the US and around the world.”

When will Wooster take student concerns over tuition seriously?

Zoe Kopp-Weber

Contributing Writer

C.O.W. tuition increased 4.6 percent in 2013. This was my junior year and I was anxious. The sticker price of our education exceeded $50,000 before additional expenses, and I was also shouldering bills for my family at the time. I advocated for tuition transparency alongside the Wooster Student Union (WSU), but the administration met us with apathy, bemusement and ridicule. We didn’t ask for a tuition freeze; we just wanted to know where our (loan) money was going. We questioned the sitting president’s salary — Grant Cornwell’s base compensation was over $300,000 — and emphasized that solutions proposed by the financial office didn’t address our problem; in some cases such solutions even failed to assist international students. The odds were stacked against us. After a year of organizing, the movement dissolved when the majority of WSU graduated.

 I graduated from C.O.W. six years ago and have only recently secured my first salaried job upon completing my Master’s, and 70 grand of student debt looms over my head. It felt like fate when, during my research at said job, I stumbled across a current C.O.W. student — Maggie Dougherty ’21 — advocating for a tuition lock. This isn’t the first or second time a student has taken to the Voice regarding tuition; in 2014, Jai Ranchod ’15 estimated that by 2024 tuition would reach $73,000, and in 2017, Evan White ’18 wrote a viewpoint expressing continued frustration with the lack of transparency accompanying tuition hikes. Do students really have to keep addressing this? What will it take for C.O.W. to seriously evaluate the cost-benefit of a liberal arts education, especially taking into account that a Bachelor of Arts isn’t what it was ten years ago?

 The fact is that the current cost of a four-year education at C.O.W. is $267,000. I’m sure the Financial Office, President Bolton, four vice presidents and roughly sixteen deans/associates will take the usual stance: students may apply for more loans or need-based aid. But with the burgeoning student debt crisis, the struggle for living wages and healthcare, the widening gap between upper-income households and middle- and lower-income households; is it worth it anymore?

 I’m sure there are alumni who are living sustainable, happy lives, who aren’t working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. Even still, I hope that C.O.W. takes into consideration what students like Maggie Doughtery, Jai Ranchod, Evan White and I have said. Even if C.O.W. is falling in line with every other college, these hikes make education a privilege few can afford and continues to marginalize students who are trying to do what we are told in order to succeed.

 Close to the end of WSU’s campaign, President Cornwell approached me and two other members outside of Andrews Library and said point-blank, “You think I should take a pay cut.” It was an egregious flex in which he failed to consider that he was making a yearly salary worth more than a cumulative four years at Wooster for one student. I find it troublesome that those with money continue to try and convince those without that somehow we are unreasonable for believing that education — a stepping stone towards a better quality of life, as they say — should be affordable.

 The global pandemic has further deepened the cracks between the upper-class and everyone outside of it. What direction is Wooster going?

Spring athletes struggle with loss of season

Chloe Burdette

Managing Editor

As the College of Wooster Class of 2020 had their last in-person class on March 6, the Friday before spring break, the hardworking seniors were unaware that this would be their last class on the College’s campus, ever. Due to the ramifications of COVID-19, a virus that has turned into a global pandemic, almost all colleges in the United States had no choice but to shut their doors for the rest of the spring semester. On Tuesday, March 27, President Sarah Bolton sent a campus-wide email stating that the College would finish the semester online and students would not return. 

In particular, the College’s spring athletes were faced with the unimaginable — their season had come to a sudden end. For senior athletes, they had stepped on the field, court or track as a Fighting Scot for the last time, without any kind of warning. Many athletes heard the heartbreaking news on their spring break trips with their teams, making the news even more gut-wrenching. 

When I found about my season ending far ahead of our normal schedule, I was in Hilton Head Island, S.C. with the rest of my team on our annual spring trip,” women’s golf player Emily Stoehr ’20 said. “I was devastated to see my collegiate career end so suddenly …  it hurts especially as a senior, as these last moments of college are so profound.” 

Wooster track and field senior Miki Rae ’20 was dumbfounded when he heard the news on his team’s trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. “Several schools in our conference started pulling their sports teams out of competitions for the rest of the season, and since it was so early on in the pandemic, many of us thought administrations were blowing the situation out of proportion,” Rae said. “But as time passed, news started rolling out, more schools started pulling their athletes out of competitions for the year, it became clear that it was becoming a really serious crisis.”

 Waverly Hart ’20 said that losing her track season so abruptly was more heartbreaking than missing out on all other Wooster senior-based activities. “I think the worst part was not realizing that the last race I ran in was indeed my last race ever,” Hart said. “I’m really going to miss the running community and family that my team is.”

The Wooster baseball team knew their time playing together was limited, so they focused on enjoying each other’s company as much as they could on their trip. “Honestly, it’s been tough dealing with it,” Harry Whitwer-Dukes ’20 stated. “Obviously we didn’t want to go out like that and I think we are all sad that we’ll never get to play together again, but at the end of the day, I think we all tried to enjoy each other as much as possible.”

Although their time at The College of Wooster was cut short, athletes do not fault the school for the actions they took to prevent the spread of the disease. “I thought the school handled the situation as best as they could,” Witwer-Dukes added. “As a senior, it really felt like they were compassionate toward us about the whole situation as it was obviously a very tough spot for everyone.” Stoehr agreed, adding that students will need to be there for one another during these times of uncertainty. “This is new territory for everyone and there are no previous experiences to base mandates off of in this country, so we have to do our best to trust what’s been asked of us and hope that it pays off,” she said. “Wooster is such a strong community and I think we need to stick together as one in this trying time.”

As athletes mourn the loss of their seasons, they have had the opportunity to learn valuable lessons through these chaotic times. “I hope that we all recognize the impact we have on each other, regardless of if we personally know each other,” Stoehr said. Rae added, “One thing that we can definitely take from it is that we can’t take any of our relationships or our privileges for granted. Be intentional in the love and appreciation you show for others– especially now– but also take care of yourselves.”

As for Hart, she knows one thing — “right now, I’m just happy my family and friends are healthy and safe. If they stay healthy, I can get through anything.”

How the Wooster Class of 2020 pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes (by accident)

Claire Montgomery
Senior News Writer

I am here today to tell you why almost every senior snickers when a professor discusses plagiarism, saying something along the lines of, “You all signed the Wooster Ethic, so you should be committed to not plagiarizing.”

Picture this: sometime during first-year orientation, at one of the many events in McGaw Chapel, there is a ceremony where each new student receives a shiny new pen and uses it to sign the Wooster Ethic, a statement that affirms your commitment to uphold “academic and personal integrity,” among other things. Hurrah! You have signed! You are now officially part of the Wooster community.

Now, picture this: August 2016. Otherwise known as orientation week for the current senior class, the Class of 2020. We were given speeches about the Wooster Ethic, telling us why it was important and to truly think about our commitment before we signed. It was really important that we actually consider what we were dedicating our academic pursuits to. In fact, we were told that we were going to be given extra time to think about what it would mean if we attached our name to the document. There would be so much time given to us that we would not be having a signing ceremony, and instead, at some point in the future, the Wooster Ethic would be placed in several prominent locations on campus and we could sign at our own leisure. The sentiment was great. The reality was not.

I never found the Wooster Ethic, and soon forgot that it was a commitment that I was supposed to have affirmed. I therefore never signed the Wooster Ethic. Several of my friends and acquaintances also never found the Wooster Ethic and as a result did not sign either. I have not spoken to a single person who signed the Wooster Ethic from my class who are not transfer students or who took a year off between their first and subsequent years of college. I’ve heard from the grapevine that some people did find it and signed, but I know the vast majority did not. The result is clear: most of the Class of 2020 never got a cool pen.

I think at some point the administration recognized that the lack of ceremony did not yield a result in the way they had previously hoped, because to my knowledge, all subsequent years have had a signing ceremony. It was very quietly acknowledged that the Class of 2020 did not sign the Wooster Ethic because the model that we followed was not repeated; however, the oversight was not corrected. Like the other classes, I had to sit through hours of orientation on the cold, wooden pews of McGaw, but I got nary a pen as a reward.

To the seniors: congratulations. We made it through I.S. while never making a “commitment to the Wooster Ethic.” We took an average of eight semesters of classes plus wrote an entire I.S.! However, I think we have an opportunity here. The Class of 2020 should be given a chance to retroactively sign the Wooster Ethic. At this point, does it really matter that I haven’t signed? No. However, my pencil cup has a suspicious lack of a ceremonial pen.

COVID-19 updates following student meeting with administration

Claire Montgomery
Senior News Writer

A meeting was held at 3:30 p.m. on March 12 to update students about the College’s decision to close campus until at least April 5 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Sarah Bolton hosted the meeting, with several other administration in attendance.Bolton spent the first part of the meeting giving an update on the situation, saying that theCollege is getting new information hourly and that they are hosting this event and future conversations because they want students to be aware of what is going on. She reiterated that the College is following guidance from organizations leading the response against COVID-19 such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and public health experts at the county, state and national level. Bolton stated that the Ohio Health Department confirmed that there are five cases of COVID-19 in Ohio, including three in Cleveland and one in Canton. Moreover, the illness is likely circulating in the larger regional community, and once the illness is circulating, will probably circulate for a while.

On Tuesday, March 10, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio held a conference call with all the presidents of the universities and colleges in Ohio and discussed the role that colleges play in transmitting diseases. DeWine took the seemingly drastic actions of recommending that all universities and colleges in Ohio go to remote classrooms and to remove students from dorm room housing because people on campuses live and work particularly close which will make the disease more easily spread. This is also needed because people are contagious before they show symptoms.

“The moment you need to act, it will seem ridiculous to do so,” Bolton stated. “[But] by the time more people start to become ill, it is too late to take those actions. That’s why governor is doing things that seem drastic.”

In Bolton’s initial email sent on March 12 she stated, “There will be no in-person classes between March 23 and April 3. We hope to resume in-person classes on April 6, if health conditions permit.” However, she said to expect the dates to continue to change as updates occur. When referencing the idea that some students wanted more certainty about the situation, Bolton stated, “I would love to be able to tell you that [we will be back by April 6], but the true answer is the health situation is changing daily.”

The CDC recommended that the College follow its recommendations, including reduce as much as possible the number of people living densely on campus as quickly as possible, limit travel and to limit gatherings of large groups. Bolton stated that any following update meetings would be remote in order to maintain such guidelines.Therefore, students are asked to be off campus until at least April 5. “This is a burden for everyone, and impossible for some people,” Bolton stated, referencing students who live abroad, do not have a safe place to go and can’t afford travel expenses. “If you absolutely need to be here, we will make it possible for you to be here. There will be food, there will be support.”

If students do not have the resources to leave campus, the College will work with the student to cover the cost. Students in such circumstances are to put that information in the student planning form that Bolton sent out in her March 12 email (a revised version was sent by Myrna Hernández later on March 12). When asked where the College is getting the money for students to travel home, Bolton stated, “I don’t know where that money is coming from. We are going to make it happen anyway. Period. I’m serious. My worry this week is not budget, my worry this week is taking care of students.”

Bolton also addressed the students who are counting on student jobs, saying that the College is working on it. Bolton acknowledged that there is not a full answer, but that the COVID-19 Task Force is trying to figure out what they can do to manage or makeup for that missing income. Regarding what will happen to hourly staff who may rely on their income from the College to sustain their livelihood, Bolton noted that hours would not be cut because those workers will still be needed for the students that remain on campus. Additionally, the College is dedicated to working with employees who may need to stay home with their children since Wooster public schools have closed for several weeks.

“No one is losing income because they have to stay home,” Bolton said.

A common worry from students was how the school would manage going to an online platform, especially for discussion, performance and lab-based classes. Bolton stated that they do not have a concrete plan in place, but that there are discussions in place for each department — led by the relevant faculty — and that information would be coming shortly with such details.Because the College is not the only school in the country facing such challenges, universities and colleges across the country are asking the same types of questions and starting to come up with solutions that will be shared among different institutions. For students who left course materials behind because they expected to be able to come back to campus after spring break, Bolton acknowledged that the College is aware of such circumstances and that faculty are trying to figure out how to work around that. Students who are in a position to come back to campus to collect personal and class materials will be allowed to do so. If something was left that a student needs, they are encouraged to fill out the student planning form or contact the Dean of Students’ Office.

Another common question concerned Independent Study. “If you’re here, feel free to turn in I.S.,” Bolton stated. The due date was moved from March 23 to March 25 to allow for a couple of buffer days, and that students who are not on campus should email their document to the registrar, which is tracking the sequencing so students will still know the order in which they turned in. Seniors are encouraged to follow the instructions emailed to them specifically on March 12. Bolton emphasized the everything will be done to make sure Wooster seniors will get some type of celebration for their accomplishments.

In responding to a question about the likelihood of a refund to students for room and board, Bolton said that there may be some kind of refund, but that it hasn’t been completely figured out because it depends on how long students are required to stay off of campus. Bolton reiterated that the College is concentrating on “health stuff first and that kind of stuff second,”but it is still an important discussion the Task Force and others are focusing on. For students who are remaining on campus, Bolton assured them that dining options would be available. “We are trying to make it as good as it can be while also as safe it can be,” she said.

International students raised questions about their visa status and whether or not they should stay on campus. “If your visa requires you to be in the U.S., we will make sure you can stay in Wooster,” Bolton said. International students with questions about visas or U.S. students who will return from an outside country should reach out to International Student Services (ISS) and those with questions about traveling to and from virus hotspots in the U.S. can reach out to the Dean of Students.

According to ISS staff, alumni, host families or willing students will not be encouraged to host students who do not want to stay on campus or travel home, but they will not be dissuaded from doing so. This will be at the discretion of the interested parties and will not be officially facilitated by the College.

Bolton emphasized that administrative offices remain open and that students and other concerned parties are encouraged to get in touch if they have questions. The Dean of Students office, CDI, the chaplain, the president’s office, ISS and the student affairs team all remain open and accessible. The Wellness Center will be open to calls starting Mach 13 for students who may be concerned they are exhibiting symptoms of the virus and the next steps that should be taken; they are also looking into providing counseling services for students whose mental health has taken a toll throughout these events. Even if it seems unnecessary, all students are able to fill out the student planning form. Additionally, the Student Government Association (SGA) will be providing shuttles before March 19 for those on campus who need to get to the airport and will provide updates regarding their status. The College has setup an email specific to the COVID-19 virus that people can contact: wooster-covid-19@wooster.edu.

Overall, Bolton emphasized that the administration is taking everything into account and students will be updated as soon as decision are made, most likely starting at the same time every day so students can look for an update at that time.