Category Archives: Uncategorized

Students question lack of diversity in Scot Council election

Megan Tuennerman

Managing Editor

 

With four out of five open positions uncontested, this week’s 2021-22 Scot Council Executive Board elections left some students wishing for a more diverse and representative group on the ballot. “Scot Council, particularly in our executive leadership, is not terribly diverse,” current President Olivia Proe ’21 acknowledged. “Though we’ve been lucky to have students from all backgrounds in the Council at large, I am hoping that in the future our Executive Board will be more reflective of the student body as a whole.” 

According to Doug Morris ’22, Chair of the Scot Council Social Justice & Equity Committee, the Council is working to rectify this issue in the future by encouraging students from underrepresented identity groups to run for General and Constituency Scot Council positions later in the semester. “I will be personally messaging the group leaders [of organizations that fall under the committee’s constituency] on Teams to ensure that the message is sent through more than one platform. Some of the Social Justice & Equity committee members have stated that they will be attending some of the student organization meetings to encourage more students to run,” Morris said. The Committee is working with various student organizations to encourage members to run. 

Council member Maresa Tate ’21 suggested that, in moving forward, Scot Council should implement the idea of a “call-in” in order to help increase representation of BIPOC and other marginalized groups on Scot Council. Tate explained her idea, stating, “There is this unsaid expectation with some Scot Council members that it is solely BIPOC members’ duty or role to help other BIPOC students — this needs to stop. Thus, I am proposing a time when all newly elected Scot Council members are urged to be the ones to hold out their hands and not wait for marginalized students to call out or for marginalized Scot Council members to speak for and on behalf of other marginalized students because some Scot Council members fail to think of us. The purpose of this call-in would be to have the whole campus community come together to talk about what worked, what didn’t work and what we want to see moving forward. This is especially important for the voices of marginalized student groups.” 

Proe weighed in on Tate’s idea for the “call-in,” stating, “We are hoping to learn from this roundtable discussion how to make executive leadership a more welcoming position to marginalized students, as well as create a space for them to share their concerns about student life that our leadership can keep in mind for next year.”    

Proe added, for students who are interested in running in the general election of Scot Council, that “Applications to run will be due on March 5 and we’ll have a panel on March 8 so the candidates will have a chance to share their platforms with the student body. Elections will then start on the 15th.”

In the election for the Executive Board that was held this week, six students ran for positions: 

President — Abigail McFarren ’22 and Emmy Todd ’22

Vice President — Riskika Todi ’22 

Treasurer — Lilia Eisenstein ’22

Secretary — Elijah Shoaf ’24 

Chief of Staff — Carly McWilliams ’22

When all of the candidates were asked by the Voice why they were running, the following was received:

McFarren: “I wanted to run for President of Scot Council because I care about the student body and want to make Scot Council as effective as it can be. I know that transparency is an important element of student government and an executive board. The student body deserves to know what their elected representatives are accomplishing, specifically those in higher positions of the organization.”

Todd: “I’m running for Scot Council to increase transparency and effectiveness. I believe that Scot Council plays the important role of a bridge between students and administration, and that as President I will be able to strengthen that bridge by increasing efforts to connect students directly to administrators. I also want to ensure Scot Council acts in the most effective way possible by supporting all committees through the Executive Board, and by discussing and implementing reform based on student needs.”

Eisenstein: “I am excited for the opportunity to continue my involvement in student government at the College as Scot Council’s Treasurer.  I want to build on the work that I have done over the past three years as a representative for the Class of 2022. It will be important for my peers and I to continue to emphasize clear communication and to engage with a wide array of students and other members of our campus community in critical conversations.”

Shoaf: “Our campus democracy is only as strong as those who participate in it! Therefore, I want to increase voter turnout and the number of candidates running at all levels of Scot Council.”

McWilliams: “I am running for Chief of Staff on Scot Council because I have the qualifications and work ethic to serve as an effective member of the executive board. The Chief of Staff position is centered on student services, including the airport shuttles and ScotLends student lending service, so I hope to work with others on Scot Council and in our campus community to keep these services running, as well as create new services based on the evolving needs of our diverse student body. I also plan to make sure our executive board is effective and held accountable to the plans we promise to enact, and to cultivate a positive and productive environment in Scot Council to promote more competitive exec[utive] elections in the future.”

 

A Field of Dreams Deferred: on gentrification in NYC

Ellen McAllister

Contributing Writer

Aspen Rush

Managing Editor

 

On Feb. 3, Professor Hasan Kwame Jeffries from The Ohio State University spoke virtually to college students and staff about racism and inequality where he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He primarily utilized personal examples and connected his life to the topics he discussed. Additionally, he compared the past and present to help everyone understand the events and issues that took place.

Jeffries opened his talk with his origin story. He spoke about his neighborhood and the house where he grew up. His parents purchased a house in an all-Black neighborhood, but as the property grew in value, gentrification overtook his neighborhood. White neighbors purchased the surrounding property, leaving his parents the sole Black homeowners in the neighborhood. His parents had purchased the house fairly cheaply, and it used to be worth nothing. Since then, the neighborhood has changed significantly and the house is now valued at over a million dollars. 

Professor of History Greg Shaya hosted the event and invited Jeffries to speak. Reflecting on hearing Jeffries talk, Shaya remarked, “I loved the way that Dr. Jeffries connected his own story — his childhood in Brooklyn, his love of baseball, his passion for service — with his work of historical research and teaching.” Shaya also mentioned that he enjoyed the way Jeffries was happy to talk about his research in connection to students completing their I.S.

One student asked Jeffries if he had always wanted to be a history professor. The answer to this question was no. Initially, he thought that he wanted to work in the medical field, so he took the S.T.E.M. pathway in high school and got an internship at a local hospital. This taught him that he did not want to be in the medical field simply because he did not find it exciting. Jeffries told his parents that he wanted to change his path in life, and they were supportive as long as he chose a career in which he could help other people. He expressed that he always had a love for history, so he thought becoming a history teacher or professor would interest him. Other students asked him fascinating questions about his research, his life and some even shared that they were writing about similar topics for their I.S. Jeffries enthusiastically answered student questions, often adding a personal anecdote.

Issues of housing and racism are increasingly intertwined in today’s landscape, as evidenced by Jeffries’s story and his academic research. Being able to incorporate his personal experiences into his research helped to illustrate the human impact of academia and his story helped students and staff contextualize history. Jeffries provided students a valuable example interweaving personal experiences with academic research.  

RAs rebuke Residence Life over required course

Samuel Casey

Editor in Chief

 

Shortly after the spring semester commenced, Residence Life received applications from both new and returning resident assistants (RAs) which they reviewed and assessed by Feb. 10, according to the timeline on their webpage. However, this year’s process has included concerns from numerous RAs regarding a new course that will be required for those who accept the position. The Residence Life Staff Practicum, or RA Class, is a 0.25 credit course that will meet for 90 minutes per week, conducted half synchronously and half asynchronously to accommodate the schedule of RAs, some of whom are not on campus.

Myrna Hernández, the newly permanent dean of students, explained the practicality behind this new course. “The RA Class is designed to study and learn [important] skills over time to allow for appropriate reflection that isn’t possible in the current training model, which often leaves RAs feeling rushed and exhausted before the semester even begins,” Hernández said. “It also addresses one of the critiques that valuable career preparation opportunities are not available to students because of the time commitment of the RA position.”

Director of Residence Life Nathan Fein described that the current model of RA training takes place over two weeks in which the RAs “are given an abundance of information, but do not have the time to process and absorb it before working directly with residents.” He said the RA Class is not meant to add an “extra burden, but [is] rather something we all look forward to as both a support and professional development opportunity.” 

“By spreading out the material, it allows the staff to better absorb the information and have a stronger foundation to work from when we do training in the fall,” Fein said. “Also, it will allow us to reduce the number of hours we spend in training in the fall so that staff can be well-rested when residents arrive and they begin their semester, which has been a concern presented to us over the last few years.” 

Numerous RAs, however, have raised points of contention. According to an anonymous Viewpoint being published concurrently by the Voice and signed by 25 RAs, it would only diminish the two-week training by two days, a minimal change and one that is still less than the time taken up by the RA Class. These student workers were also concerned with the lack of input they could provide before it was instituted. One RA, granted anonymity for fear of reprisal during the hiring process, stated, “The RA Class was constructed and implemented with no input from the RAs and no consideration for the additional barrier this places upon first-generation, limited income (FGLI) students in maintaining their role … Residence Life is deeply out of touch with their RAs; they want us to be forced to engage with a course about community, while not being able to foster community with their own staff.”

These allegations were refuted by Fein, who noted ample opportunity to provide input. “The RA staff has been involved in providing feedback on the [RA Class]. The idea for a spring class for the RAs as part of the hiring process was presented to RA Council, a group of RAs I meet with regularly to share ideas and hear concerns from RAs. They were made aware of the course in late October 2020 and it was presented to all the current staff in November 2020 before the application for the 2021-22 academic year was posted.” He added that there was a form created by Residence Life to collect concerns and questions from RAs, which were then addressed and sent back. 

Many RA sources have described the course as redundant, teaching skills current RAs already know, thus making it a waste of time for those students who have already-busy schedules. Some RAs have also expressed that ResLife seems to think RAs are not doing a good enough job despite receiving positive evaluations, which the assistants think is disrespectful.

Hernández highlighted some of the benefits. “The RA role is one that is of utmost importance in Student Affairs and absolutely critical to the building of community on a residential campus,” she said. “It has the potential for learning and skill building, not only while in college, but as professional development and preparation for a career in many professions.” Hernández added that the 0.25 credit that comes with the course “is a way to recognize the work that RAs are already doing.”

Multiple RA sources claim that this is not sufficient, instead pointing to how they are only allowed to be paid for up to ten hours a week despite being in the role essentially 24/7. RAs stated that this is not a fight for a higher wage, but a disagreement on how the RA class was communicated. Several RAs came to the Scot Council meeting on Feb. 8 to further clarify their frustrations. The discussion centered around inequities for FGLI RAs, who often cannot add anything else to their schedule nor can they quit because of the financial assistance that comes with the position. They also addressed the hesitancy of many RAs to speak about their concerns freely, including in the Voice, for fear of retaliation during the hiring process.

Fein countered this narrative, stating, “While we are aware of staff concerns and questions, no one has been released from the position or not offered the position if they reapplied for voicing their feedback.” 

Hernández described some of the RA experiences as “deeply troubling” and offered herself as a resource. “It is very important that RAs have a positive and well-supported experience, and I am committed to make that happen,” she said. “I will continue to make myself available to the RA Council and to individual RAs during open office hours and by appointment. I want to create space for and have the open dialogue that is necessary for us to move forward and make progress toward a more sustainable situation and rewarding experience for the RAs.”

Seniors petition to revise semester for I.S.

Kate Murphy

News Editor

 

The past year has seen unprecedented changes on college campuses. Specific to those changes, and specific to Wooster’s campus, is the new and updated semester schedule put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. One of the more unpopular and controversial changes that has occured revolves around the lack of any significant break during the spring semester. This is especially significant for seniors, who are facing the fast approaching deadline of I.S. Monday. Amelia Kemp ’21 took it upon herself to speak up for the seniors and their needs when facing the daunting task of completing their Independent Studies. 

Initially, Kemp created an email campaign to address the conflicts that the spring semester has created for seniors. However, with the help of Maresa Tate ’21 and Alexis Sotelo ’21, the email was soon turned into a petition that has since been signed by over 450 students, faculty, staff and alumni. The petition is prefaced with an acknowledgement of the importance of the senior Independent Study thesis, as well as the hardships the College has faced this year. The petition states, “According to The College of Wooster website, the Independent Study senior thesis is a significant piece of original research, scholarship or creative expression that demonstrates ‘what one has learned and skills they have honed at Wooster’ and is ‘tangible proof that you have developed key skills and abilities that employers and graduate schools alike value.’” Challenges have been faced far and wide on Wooster’s campus as well as across the globe, especially by those who belong to marginalized groups. While Kemp acknowledges the steps that the College has taken in response to Scot Council’s request for mental health days, she believes there is still more that should be done for the class of 2021. 

The petition proposes three steps that should be taken in the spring semester for the seniors. First, “during the weeks of March 8 and ideally also March 15, seniors should be able to choose whether or not they would like to attend class.” All other class years would still be expected to engage in their courses during this time, but seniors would have the option to have an on-campus break to focus on their Independent Studies. Second, during the week of March 22, faculty I.S. advisors must meet with their I.S. students at least once.”

Kemp continued, “Seniors have not been and will not be working under circumstances that [they] have been prepared for during [their] undergraduate careers. Thus, it is insincere for seniors to be denied help from their I.S. advisors and instead rely on their advisor’s benevolence because the College has failed to firmly stand with students’ need for extra support this academic year.” The third and final request is for “professors [to] allow seniors to work on midterms and other exams after March 29, the final deadline for I.S.; seniors will then be allowed to work effectively on I.S. without feeling immense burn out. It is imperative for seniors, who—for the first time in years—will not have the normal two week spring break, to not be assigned any midterms or exams that require extensive studying hours in order to pass.” 

In response to the support of the hundreds who signed the petition, the College released a statement on Jan. 29 to address the concerns and requests shared by Kemp. Provost Lisa Perfetti, the dean for curriculum and academic engagement (DCAE) Jen Bowen, Co-Chair of the Educational Policy Committee Amber Garcia, elected faculty across a range of disciplines and two student representatives had come together earlier that week to discuss the aforementioned requests. Rather than restructuring the semester for everyone, this group noted that “every I.S. is different and every class of seniors completing it is different, so what might help one student’s situation may well not be helpful in another situation.” They instead acknowledged the extraordinary pressure faced by Wooster seniors in regard to their Independent Studies, and proposed a statement for I.S. advisors, all faculty, department chairs and students in an attempt to engage a productive dialogue for those in need of assistance during this time. 

However, despite the urging from this group for the seniors, faculty and advisors to communicate their needs with one another, Kemp and Tate were not impressed. Kemp states that “after lengthy conversation with them, they basically said that the deans have no power over what professors do in terms of meeting students’ needs as outlined in the petition — they literally did not have the power to tell professors to implement my plan. Ultimately, they agreed with my plan, and they released that email that seniors and faculty received as a way to try to support students in asking for these accommodations.” Tate further expressed that there is still work to be done to help Wooster’s seniors, stating, “I am very disappointed with the College’s continual failure to put students first. The Education Policy Committee (EPC) reviewed the petition, and ultimately decided that they could not make a “blanket statement” for all seniors, despite many seniors being in support of the proposals, because they simply do not have the authority to tell faculty what to do. As a student who has worked with faculty, staff and administration throughout my Wooster career, this is not something I have not heard before, but I hoped that that would not be the case when so many seniors have expressed dissatisfaction with the current plan.” 

When asked if there was faculty support, Tate said that “there were a number of faculty and staff members that expressed to me that they thought the proposals were reasonable and that the College should seriously take them into consideration.” However, she continued, “When the EPC chairs contacted Kemp, Sotelo and me about meeting, I told my peers that my main worry was a response of denial due to preserving faculty autonomy, and that is exactly what we were told.” On the other hand, Kemp pointed out the issue of faculty independence when formulating a college-wide change. “The inability of deans to implement a plan like this across the board because of ‘faculty independence’ is an issue that I feel needs to be addressed even outside of this specific issue,” she said. “In a perfect world, the school would have implemented the plan as laid out in the petition across the board. I suppose that, considering the limitations of power, the solution they’ve given is basically the best they can do at this time. I did speak to several faculty members who thought the plan was good and reasonable, which makes me hopeful that many will be willing to adopt the plan if students ask for it.”

Overall, despite the urging of the provost and DCAE to promote a better environment for seniors working on their Independent Studies, both Kemp and Tate feel as though students have yet again been left to fend for themselves. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on many of the issues the College faces, and unfortunately, students have had to suffer from the faults of the College,” said Tate; similarly, Kemp stated that she is “not happy that the onus has fallen on the students once again to advocate for their own wellbeing, but that is currently the only way to really get this specific need met.” However, Kemp emphasized,: “You are allowed to ask your professors for the accommodations laid out in the petition. If your professor refuses to find some kind of accommodation, you can elevate that request to the chair of the department, and after that to Dean Bowen.” Seniors, and all students on campus, are encouraged to ask for help, reach out to faculty and get through this semester as best as they can.

Students studying off campus adjust to a new normal

Sam Boudreau

Senior News Writer

 

For Marloes Krabbe ‘21, an anthropology and art history double major, Art History & Museum Studies club meetings are usually a normal part of her routine. However, since studying remotely due to COVID-19, this meeting has taken a turn she never expected. As Krabbe was preparing to start the meeting online, a commuter bus slammed into a nearby powerline, knocking out the power for her whole street in a town right outside of Detroit, Mich.. “It’s like if I lose power at home, and I don’t have any way of contacting my professors, it feels like I just disappear.” This is just one of the many obstacles facing remote students this semester.

For many, living in different time zones has been an issue. Across the Pacific Ocean, sophomore Kaylee Liu ‘23 lives in Singapore, where the time zone is 12 hours ahead of Wooster. “All of my classes are recorded, so I watch them asynchronously, and then meet with my professors once a week. I am really grateful for how much professors have helped me this semester,” Liu said. “While professors have worked around the time zones, group work appears to be a major challenge. “I can’t really ask [about] problems in the group chat since nobody is awake.” Liu serves as an editor for The Wooster Voice and is a member of Pi Kappa, where she has been able to communicate with members.

While some clubs and organizations have been able to thrive remotely, others have struggled to adjust.

Kennedy Pope ’23, a psychology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS) double major, is studying remotely from Atlanta, Ga. and the distance has hurt her ability to contribute to clubs on campus. “It has definitely been rough to adjust to clubs remotely,” said Pope. “The clubs that I’m an active participant in are all focused on creating safe spaces and community for Black people on campus. A large part of creating that atmosphere has always been having events and meetings face-to-face and present with one another, so that people know they are seen and  appreciated. Sadly, going completely virtual has made it harder to recruit and be known to the first-years on campus. I am optimistic that everyone’s efforts will allow us to get over this hurdle.”

Pope noted that “the last time it was election year on campus, it was not the safest or healthiest environment for people of color in Wooster, so I hope that all cultural clubs will still be effective resources for students in need.”

This remote semester has helped Pope learn more about herself, she tells The Voice. “I had never realized how much I relied on the positive peer pressure from my friends to study … It is a lot easier to do your work and study when everyone around you is doing the same thing as well,” she expressed. “If you’re the only person in your environment who is in school, it is extremely easy to not feel any sense of urgency to complete assignments.”

Like Pope, many other students have focused on how to make a difference in an election year. Alec Monnie ’21, a political science major currently studying from Meadville, Pa. is serving as an advisor for Joe Biden’s rural coalition in Pennsylvania and working at a local deli. “Socially, it has been pretty hard to be at home pretty much all the time,” Monnie reflected.“I have been working in a deli at home two days a week, and recently started a position on the Biden campaign, so I’ve been working a lot more than I normally do on campus, and even with my I.S. and classes, I still have considerably more free time than I do when I’m at school.”

When asked how professors have made their courses accessible, Monnie has been very impressed as “professors have been wonderful at being accessible in light of the circumstances this semester.”

Halen Gifford ‘21, a communication studies major from New Albany, Ind., agrees. “All of my professors have been extremely accommodating,” she told The Voice. Due to health concerns, Gifford decided to study from home. While she misses her dorm, she admits that “it is nice having a real kitchen [as] it has been great to wash dishes in a real sink and make toast whenever I want.”

Chris Roche ’23, a sophomore studying remotely, agrees. “Not to throw shade on Lowry food, but having home cooking every day is a plus to studying remotely. Another plus is being around my family a lot more and being able to walk my dog when it’s nice out,” Roche noted.

For many, the Independent Study (I.S.) experience defines senior year, as Gifford pointed out that “this is not the I.S. experience I expected … but I have enjoyed it so far.” While working on her I.S., which “is a genre study of horror cinema,” Gifford credits her mom as a great support. “One nice thing [is that] my mom has watched all the films I’ve looked at for my literature review with me which has been very wholesome. Virtual learning, as we all know, is a challenge. However, I have gotten pretty used to it.”

“Working successfully on an I.S. from home sounded intimidating at the start of the semester, but I think it has gone well so far,” said Carlos Owusu-Ansah ’21, a math and physics double major. “The  hype around I.S. is not felt as strongly from [home]. That is a bit sad because I was hoping to put my best effort into the project.”

Many students miss the resources that the College of Wooster offers, especially during I.S. “For books and articles that I need for I.S., I want to critically read them, but without the printing capabilities offered on campus, that has been hard,” said Marloes. “There’s just this weird duality with being at school and home.You have to keep up with your friends, attend classes and be there for your parents. It’s something that I’ve never had to deal with before.”

College COVID plan is flawed and dangerous

Maggie Dougherty

Viewpoints Editor

 

As someone who dedicated my summer to working as a case investigator for my state health department and spent hours each day telling people how to stay healthy in the midst of a global pandemic, I really can’t stress enough how flawed our campus  testing strategy is.

Now that many of us have returned to campus, I have already seen students breaking the COVID-19 guidelines or only following  guidance partially. I get it — there is this perception on campus that we’ve all been tested and everybody is negative and we are a perfect little bubble, right? Now that we all have negative test results, we  can hug our friends and have little gatherings in our basements with less than ten people and take cute pictures with our friends, right? Actually, no.

Why not? The testing strategy that we used — test everyone and quarantine them while they wait for their test results — makes no  sense by public health standards because those tests are just a snapshot in time, and they may not capture the presence of the virus if you were exposed recently. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, the incubation period for the virus is two to 14 days, and on average is around four to six days. What does that mean? It means that if you were exposed two days before coming to campus, it wouldn’t necessarily show up on your test, because there  isn’t enough active virus to be detected. It means, on average, if you were exposed four days ago, it still might not show up on your test. A negative test result doesn’t mean you are free of COVID-19; it  means that there was not enough active virus built up in your system at the time of the test.

Now, if we knew that everybody had been able to fully self-quarantine for two weeks before coming to campus, and had no potential exposures during their travel here, this testing strategy would work. However, a lot of our students come from far away, some on airplanes or buses where they cannot necessarily control or limit their exposure to other people. And, as discussed above, those people who might have been exposed in the two days before coming back wouldn’t test positive, even if they might have caught the virus and will become infectious in a few days.

Of course, this isn’t the students’ fault; it’s a flaw in the institutional plan and a major failure in communication. Your roommate, or your best friend in the entire world who you trust and just know is following the rules, or your sports team, or the people you eat with in Lowry could all potentially be carrying the virus all while thinking that they’re negative and totally safe.

That’s why this testing strategy doesn’t make sense. We have told students that it’s okay and safe for them to eat in Lowry, with masks off, not socially distanced, all while knowing that there’s a high level of uncertainty as to whether students might be carrying the virus and knowing that talking and eating with masks off carries a high risk of transmission. If I’m being honest, Lowry is a public health hazard. I avoid it as much as possible, and primarily get my food to-go and take it back to my
room to eat during my Zoom meetings. I know that’s not convenient, but I would recommend that others
do the same when they have the ability to do so.

To act like it is the students’ fault if we have an outbreak would be wildly unfair when the conditions are set up so recklessly. The fact that we haven’t had an outbreak yet — between the way Lowry is functioning and the way our testing was implemented — is pure luck. We know campus is not a COVID-free bubble, so why are we treating Lowry as if social distancing and mask-wearing just stops being important while students are eating? It is an institutional decision that is not only flawed, but also dangerous.

We need another dining space open so that students can eat while socially distanced, or Lowry should have half the seating capacity with the rest as to-go only. In my opinion, we should all be tested again two weeks from the date that the last students arrived on campus. I know that won’t happen,
so, until then, I anxiously await the start of the satellite testing promised in the most recent email update from the administration.