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In a time of change, animals provide unity

Megan Tunnerman
Managing Editor

“What is your favorite animal?” is one of the most common icebreaker questions, but actually has a lot of depth. Think about it — how many people have refused to answer that question in front of you? Likely very few. No matter how “cool” a person considers themselves to be — no matter what nationality, identity or socioeconomic class — the vast majority of people will be able to easily come up with an animal that they feel attached to for some reason or another. Animals bring us together.

Especially in a time like this, animals can provide us with so much. Fish and other college approved pets seem to be one of the best ways to combat loneliness in dorm rooms. Students are also spending more time than ever outside, so why not increase your enjoyment by watching the squirrels and sharing what you see? Change is constant, especially now, but there are happy moments to be found and animals
can help provide moments of reprieve for free. Sit and watch the same tree for a couple days in a row, and I bet you will begin to see the personalities of the squirrels that live there. (Also, bonus: there are some baby squirrels around campus.)

In times of environmental disaster, caring for animals brings
society together. What if we allowed ourselves to bond over animals all the time? If the squirrels
outside Lowry brought together groups of students who would never talk otherwise? While this is a bit of an exaggeration, the point is still valid: if animals have the power to bring us together in the worst of times, why can’t they bring us together all the time?

People tend not to pay attention to shelter pets — until they see a dog in horribly sad conditions needing to be saved. Or to the issue of big-game hunting until they see a post where Jimmy John’s CEO, Jimmy John Liautaud, is posing with an endangered rhino that he just killed (sorry, sandwich lovers, there is still Subway or the Lowry sandwich station). But if people paid these animals attention all the time, not only would the lives of the animals improve, but there could be a real unity among peo-
ple working together on behalf of these causes. I know that this unity could be created because it already exists among wildlife and animal activists, rehabilitation centers, etc. I am not saying that everyone needs to devote their lives to saving animals, but I think that there is more happiness to be gained from watching animals than many realize. So next time you feel sad, watch a squirrel. Or a bee. Or a grasshopper. Maybe you’ll make a new friend.

Online Scot Spirit Day has challenges and victories

Emma Reiner

Senior Features Writer

 

Scot Spirit Day looked a lot different this year. In the past, it  consisted of a crowded outdoor event with student organizations tabling and encouraging students to join their groups while listening
to music from Woo 91 and the Scot band. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wooster decided to hold Scot Spirit Day virtually via Microsoft Teams. Additionally, this event took place over three days instead of one afternoon. Each day had different time slots for dif-
ferent types of organizations including Greek Life, multi-ethnic, club sports, arts and special interest organizations.

When asked about how this year’s Scot Spirit Day compared to  those in the past, Louis Schwartz ’21 had a lot to say about the event. “The virtual setting made it a lot more challenging to connect and engage with people. I think it turned out the best way that it could, given the circumstances, but it does seem like most student orgs are going to see a massive drop in recruitment compared to last year.” Louis tabled for four organizations throughout the three day period: Common Grounds, Live Action RolePlay (LARP), Hillel and Queer Student Union (QSU). Louis added that QSU and Hillel had more students show up compared to LARP and Common Grounds, but “numbers were still down.”

Cesar Lopez ’21, had a different view of the event, “It would be hard  to compare this Scot Spirit Day weekend to years past because  they’re so different in nature.” Cesar is an intern for Lowry Center
and Student Activities and is the Sexuality and Gender Diversity representative for Scot Council. He added that while Scot Spirit Day was different from usual, it “was pretty successful in its own right.”

Allison Ringold ’23, a member of the Quidditch team, explained how Scot Spirit Day worked compared to last year. “My first year I went to Scot Spirit Day and just let whatever happened next happen. With Scot Spirit Day being online, their specific interests had to come  first. So, of course we had less people sign up.” She added that there is more of an emphasis this year on using social media to interest  people in their organization.

Morgan Kromer ’22, the president of the math club, said that they  “had [a] super low turnout.” She reasoned that it was because “people [were] being dissuaded by the name and no one chose to see what we were about unless they were directly looking for a
math club.” The organization usually plays card games, but it was difficult for them to inform students of that, making recruitment challenging.

Lilly Woerner, ’21, the secretary of After These Messages, an all-treble a cappella group, said that most people “just came for about 10 minutes to hear our summary of the group. They asked some questions, but nothing too personal about the members.” She added that because there were “multiple a capella groups, people switched around a lot between them.” After These Messages
also had fewer people show up than usual.

The Rugby Club also had a low turnout. Sarah Snider ’23, is the vice president of the organization and explained that the low turnout was not necessarily a bad thing.

“I believe the turnout could have been better. However, the people that came to our booth were very welcoming and stayed for a long time.” She added that because of the way Scot Spirit Day was held, she “think[s] the people who are going to join are more dedi-
cated and more likely to stick with it.”

COVID-19 has impacted many parts of our lives, including student  organizations. But, as Lopez said, “there will still be opportunities to safely build and be in community with one another.”

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.”

College Fails to Support Neurodiversity

Amber Rush

Picture yourself walking into a stranger’s office. Not a therapist, not a doctor but someone you don’t know. The stranger tells you to explain your mental ill- ness and why you need an accommodation for an emotional support animal. Your worst fears have been realized. No one believes that you need help for your mental illness. It feels like it’s all in your head (which, I guess, it is).
Despite having recommendations from two therapists and being on medication, the stranger dismisses you, apathetic to your calls for help. You begin to tear up. Because who wouldn’t? The stranger is impartial to your pleas for understanding. You tell them the situation is worsening your anxiety. Once again, they are apathetic, treating you as someone asking for an unnecessary accommodation.

Despite the exhausting process of talking to ResLife, seeing a therapist, compiling medical documents and having to repeatedly expose the most vulnerable parts of yourself because of mental illness, you are dismissed. This stranger is supposed to help you, to get you the accommodations you need for your illness. You leave the office with tears in your eyes and feeling more anxiety than when you went in.

I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression at 17 years old after struggling with mental illness for years. Reaching out to my doctors and my parents to tell them how much I had been struggling was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.

Although mental illness is as serious and as difficult as a physical illness, it is not treated as such. This has never been more apparent than when I attempted to get accommodations through The College of Wooster. I have been receiving treatment for my mental illness for years and yet I was told that it wasn’t enough. I suppose my crippling depression and anxiety wasn’t severe enough for their liking. My treatment wasn’t acceptable to someone who was entirely unfamiliar with my situation and asked me if I had tried other avenues to treat my anxiety.

You may be asking yourself: was this stranger a therapist? A psychologist? A doctor? No. This stranger is the person who was supposed to be helping accommodate my disability but instead they exacerbated it. It is not their job to judge me, but to accommodate my needs as determined by a therapist. I have had to expose myself to so many people in order to even begin this process. I feel humiliated, invalidated and anxious.

She told me that her goal was to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She had no interest in helping me and no interest in expressing sympathy. I am being treated unfairly for my disability and I am not the first one.I expect more from a school that prides itself on its diversity. Diversity means more than just cultural or racial differences, but also neurodiversity and true acceptance of mentally ill people.

A couple weeks after this conversation, I received a vague email with the results of the accomodation hearing. I asked if I could be present for the discussion regarding my accommodation request but I was refused this request. It was a brief email. It read “the Housing/Dietary Accommodation Committee feels that an Emotional Support Animal is not an appropriate accommodation at the present time.” It felt that these people who were only distantly familiar with my situation had decided that they were more qualified to determine the treatment plan than my therapist.

The College claims they value their students’ mental health, but it has never been more apparent that their priorities lie elsewhere. I am not alone in experiencing this apathy and humiliation at the hands of ResLife. For so many students, they are living away from home for the first time and this is the first time they have felt they are in an environment where they can seek treatment for their mental health, or they are deal- ing with a variety of other painful issues that require accommodations. What does it say about the College that students are forced to suffer through an even more stressful situation during some of their most vulnerable times?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think human kindness is too much to ask for, especially for a college that claims to be supportive of its students.

 

College halts publicizing student achievements

Amber Rush

Viewpoints Editor

In a Nov. 11 email to the student body, the Office of Marketing and Communications announced that they will be working with hometown media outlets to learn about and share various student achievements. The email mentioned that there is an “opt-out” option, asking students to specify if they did not want the Col- lege to send out their information.

Melissa Anderson, chief commu- nications and marketing officer, clari- fied the current policy, saying, “When we send hometowners out recog- nizing students who have made the Dean’s List or performed in a play or concert or graduated, these achieve- ments are mentioned in local papers and can be shared on social media by the individual student.”

The College has modified the policy to allow for students to update their consent. Previously, students either consented or refused during ARCH, and they were not asked again throughout the rest of their four years.

“Each [summer] during ARCH the College asks all incoming students to complete a public information questionnaire that allows you to choose whether you consent or decline to having your achievements promoted in hometown papers,” Anderson informed. “We recently upgraded our system for sending these hometowners and wanted to do a double check on those forms from ARCH to make sure folks had a chance to opt out of hometown publicity if they had already consented to having their accomplishments shared with hometown papers. A lot hap- pens after the time a student shows up on campus for ARCH.”

However, students argue that an opt-in policy would better resolve any unnecessary pressure. Kaitlyn Khayat ’20 was disappointed to read the email, saying, “When I initially read the email, I was reflecting on my friend’s comment about high performance anxiety. If I am being honest with myself and others, I have probably been experiencing this phenomenon since freshman year of high school. In the past year and a half, I have been mentally, emotionally and physically feeling how exhausting this has been for the past seven years.” By having this opt-in policy, it helps to break the cycle of pressure that many students express they have felt in the past and into higher education.”

“As I prepare to transition out of college, I feel like I have been experiencing this more due to subconscious knowledge of people’s expectations for me in high school when I went to college,” Khayat continued. “I under- stand that we may have signed forms as first-year students, but I think that the College should have students sign this form every year because I have learned more about who I want to be, which does not align with most people’s expectations of me.”

Some students have taken issue with the opt-out policy as the con- stant flow of emails makes it difficult for them to keep up. Claire Montgomery ’20 explained, “The publication of students’ academic achievements should be opt-in, rather than opt-out. Students often do not have time to read the multiple emails they receive on a daily basis, and even though benign, students’ right to privacy shouldn’t be violated because an email wasn’t read in a timely matter.”

Montgomery added, “Moreover, I have no recollection of signing a document about the release of aca- demic accomplishments to relevant outlets during ARCH. While ARCH was four years ago, and I may have forgotten, the College should have made it clearer instead of burying it under the overwhelming couple of days that encompassed ARCH.”

In response to such student con- cerns, Anderson emphasized, “We never want to publicize achievements unless students affirmatively consent to our doing so. Our focus right now is to have some conversations with key offices on campus and interested students to identify ways we can provide students easy access to updates to their hometown publicity preferences on an ongoing basis through- out their time at Wooster. We also want to make sure students under- stand what we are asking consent for as part of the public information questionnaire on the New Student Checklist during ARCH.”

 

College hosts dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Ellie Kahn

Features Editor

On Thursday, Nov. 7, Lean Lecture Hall was filled with students and community members to hear from Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Israeli settler, and Shadi Abu Awwad, a Palestinian activist. Schlesinger and Abu Awwad are both integral members of “Roots-Shorashim-Judur,” a Palestinian-Israeli initiative founded in 2014. Officially abbreviated as “Roots,” the organization seeks to promote “understanding, nonviolence and transformation” among the two groups through human interaction, discussion and programming. Schlesinger and Abu Awwad are currently touring around the United States on behalf of the organization, speaking to campuses, community centers and places of worship.

Titled “Painful Hope: An Israeli Settler and a Palestinian Activist in Dialogue,” the event featured two speakers, who were brought to campus due to the initiative of Joan Friedman who serves as an associate professor of history and religious studies as well as chair for Middle Eastern and North African studies at the College. The event was made possible as a result of the collective support from the departments of history, religion, global and international studies, Middle Eastern and North African studies and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Additionally, Friedman notes that funds from the Kornfeld Endowment were utilized to bring Schlesinger and Abu Awwad to campus.

Friedman first interacted with Roots during the 2017-18 academic year, when she led a winter break TREK to Israel/Palestine and visited the organization in the West Bank. “When I learned that they were going to be speaking in the U.S.[during]the semester I was teaching my course on the Israel/ Palestine conflict,” Friedman reflected, “I jumped at the chance to bring them here.” Friedman felt it was important to bring Roots to the College not only because as an “institution of higher education … we should all welcome the opportunity to meet and learn from individuals representing a variety of view- points,” but also given the complicated nature of the conflict.

Of this, Friedman notes that due to “the superficial character of most reporting about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we need to be better informed … These two speakers represent an aspect of the conflict that is rarely seen, which is the extent of grassroots contacts between the two peoples. And within that area of grassroots efforts, this particular organization has a unique character because of its location and its participants,” referring to the fact that the center of Roots is located among both Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages in the Etzion region.

Prior to the dialogue in Wishart, a small group of students were able to have dinner with Schlesinger and Abu Awwad, engaging with the speakers in a more intimate setting. The group was primarily comprised of students who are part of Friedman’s history course Israel/Palestine: Histories in Conflict, as well as members from two of the College’s faith-based organizations, Noor and Hillel.

According to Maggie Dougherty ’21, a global and international studies major who attended the dinner, “having dinner with the speakers was a really rare opportunity, so I was glad to be included. It gave [Schlesinger and Abu Awwad] the opportunity to discuss topics they did not have time for during the public presentation, including the role of the United States and other Arab nations in the conflict.”

Dougherty continued by remark- ing that “both men were funny and personable, and I think the dinner was important for building trust with the students involved. This issue is so highly charged, and I know that I was worried ahead of the lecture about what biases might be at the table.” The conversation at dinner was particularly important to Dougherty due to her concern that the event’s informational poster described Schlesinger as a “passionate Zionist settler,” a concern reflected by other students at the College as well.

Dougherty explained that at the dinner and dialogue, however, Schlesinger emphasized the phrasing that followed this characterization; he describes himself as a settler “profoundly transformed by [my] friendship and exchanges with local Palestinians” whose perceptions of Zionism and the conflict have been “utterly complicated by [my] introduction to the parallel universe” shared by the two communities. “This dinner, as well as the lecture, was really important for students to be able to see that [Schlesinger’s] goal was not to invalidate the Palestinian experience, but to advocate for understanding of the other by citizens on either side,” concluded Dougherty.

Isaac Weiss ’20, another student who attended the dinner, echoed Friedman in that the first-hand accounts were helpful in combating the unreliable reporting often associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On hearing the personal experiences of Schlesinger and Abu Awwad, Weiss noted that “Mr. Shadi Abu Aw- wad had a rather upsetting account about his life in the West Bank, and I certainly feel as if stories like his are often drowned out by our politicians and by the political landscape of the United States. It’s important that we hear both sides, and get a firm understanding of the conflict.”

While agreeing with the importance of hearing from the speakers, Maya Lapp ’20 raised concerns about the way that Roots operates, especially emphasizing a worry that “the discussion-oriented advocacy that Roots promotes in fact impedes true action and reform.” As Lapp explained, “while it is undeniably important to foster trust between the Palestinians and Israelis, and [true] that without trust we cannot build peace, groups like Roots […] focus solely on discussion and away from substantive action focused on ending settlement and human rights violations in Palestine.”

At the dialogue, Schlesinger and Abu Awwad began by addressing the audience individually; they each discussed the ways in which they had been impacted by the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, both emphasizing a deeply-rooted fear of the other’s group. They also touched upon their respective journeys that led them to join Roots; Schlesinger was convinced by an Israeli neighbor to attend a dialogue hosted by the organization, while Abu Awwad’s uncle serves as the Palestinian co-director of Roots. Videos about the history and mission of Roots were woven throughout the night, showcasing initiatives such as after-school programs, summer camps, workshops and religious celebrations which seek to bring together Israelis and Palestinians living in the West Bank. Schlesinger and Abu Aw- wad’s presentations were followed by questions and comments from the audience, which the two speakers responded to collectively.

When reflecting upon the event, Friedman added that “I’d like to underscore what [Schlesinger and Abu Awwad] said — that this conflict is fundamentally about identities. In other words, all attempts to resolve the conflict must proceed from the recognition that there are two peoples involved, and that the identities of both are rooted in a connection to the Land of Israel/Palestine. All ideological attempts to assert that only one side has a ‘real’ identity as a people, while the other side’s claim to be a people is fake, will only exacerbate and prolong the conflict.”