Category Archives: Viewpoints

(IS)olation goes on, even after I.S.

Olivia Azzarita

Contributing Writer

 

Like everyone, I’ve had to make sacrifices because of the pandemic, and I know I’m lucky in that regard — I certainly haven’t been the most impacted by any of this. But writing a thesis in a pandemic has taken its toll, and not just on the amount of sleep I get at night. Without structure, motivation or a sense of purpose, I fell into patterns that I don’t know if I can recover from in the short time I have left here at Wooster.

In the fall, my advisor told me that I.S. should be my first priority; that it was okay if I missed assignments for another class if it meant I could meet a deadline. I started missing things regularly, especially the nights before advisor meetings, and staying up late just to make sure enough got done on my I.S. so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed by it. I’d spend every minute of every Monday on finishing touches, up until the Microsoft Teams ringtone played, then afterward my brain would shut down. Tuesdays, when I happened not to have many classes or other obligations, became my recovery day, and I spent Wednesdays and Thursdays slowly regaining productivity. Then the weekend came, I was behind on I.S., and it was time to push myself past my limit to make up for it again. Wash, rinse, repeat. In a time when days ran into each other and nothing seemed to matter, this became my routine; I was either pushing myself to exhaustion or being exhausted. It was dysfunctional, but it got results.

That vicious cycle left no room for me to establish my own life outside of I.S., and neither did living under lockdown in a single. I lost touch with friends, even on campus, because I was always either too busy or too burnt out to fully maintain relationships. I never had the energy to participate the way I wanted to in any clubs or activities. And hobbies that I used to enjoy? Forget it. Now, I feel so out of touch that I wonder if some people remember I exist. Isolation and burnout were how I experienced the “new normal” during I.S., and now that it’s done, I worry that I don’t have enough time left to really reestablish those connections. In some cases, I’m not even sure where I would start.

I don’t think any of this has a real solution. Nor do I believe anything or anyone is to blame, except for COVID-19. And I know that to some extent, burnout, loneliness and less-than-ideal habits are par for the course with I.S. But in a normal year, there would at least be more contact with people. There would be moments of relief. There wouldn’t be the sense that I was alone in all of it. Maybe it wouldn’t even feel like there was so much lost time to make up for.

College of Wooster seniors deserved better

Amelia Kemp

Contributing Writer

 

Independent Study (I.S.) is an integral part of the College of Wooster experience. Since our first year or even our campus tours, we have been told that we would be supported all the way through our I.S. experience. And yet, here we are.

The 2020-21 school year brought a litany of challenges, no doubt, but the College’s administration failed to come up with creative solutions for these challenges concerning the I.S. experience. Even at the best of times, I.S. is an incredibly difficult process. Wooster’s class of 2021 seniors have had to complete I.S. in what could be considered the worst of times, and what support have we gotten? Two campus-wide “rest days” and a one-week deadline extension (with all other classes and their assignments still ongoing) to replace the usual two-week spring break that precedes I.S. Monday. Is this really the best that admin could have done to give our seniors the support they need in the toughest part of their academic career at Wooster? I think not. At Wooster, we are pushed to think critically and come up with creative solutions to a variety of problems (both theoretical and concrete), so why is admin not held to these same standards? The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for admin to come up with creative ways to tangibly support seniors beyond the distinctly uncreative “rest day” solution. There were so many ways that administrators could have given seniors the time they needed to focus on creating a polished I.S. without falling behind in other classes. And yet, even when presented with a fully fleshed out and widely supported plan submitted by two peers and myself, administrators still failed to fully implement any piece of that plan, citing a lack of power to enforce changes to professors’ plans and policies. Seniors were left to fend for themselves, relying on the kindness of professors in order to not lose their footing in their classes while they struggled to finish their I.S. projects. In fact, even after seniors turned in I.S., admin expected us to turn in all of our symposium materials one week after that I.S. deadline. Senior students once again had to raise their voices to ask for support, this time in the form of an extension on the deadline for the materials.

Ultimately, the issues around this overall lack of student support have implications beyond just this pandemic and the class of 2021. The fact that the deans and other administrators lack the power to implement changes to professorial policy is a problem that COVID-19 brought to light, but one that needs to be addressed in the name of supporting students when we make our needs clear. We should not have had to beg for the kind assistance that should have been implemented ahead of time. We should not have had to rely on the kindness of our professors to get the leniency that we needed to complete this gigantic project well without failing our other classes. The class of 2021 deserved better, and the administration has some changes to make.

For Independent Study, leniency is key

Samuel Casey

Editor in Chief

 

March Madness is finally over! No, not the basketball tournament; I’m talking about the rush to turn in I.S. before the deadline(s) at the end of last month. Regardless of when it was finIShed, every senior deserves a standing ovation for completing their thesis during a pandemic. With an abundance of free time, I’ve been able to reflect on the I.S. process and the necessary adaptations, many of which should continue in future years. Of course, I can only speak to my own experience as a political science student. How one approaches I.S. is often an individual decision based on what they want out of it, whether that’s the first step toward a career in research or just being good enough to pass and graduate. These determinations should be equally respected which, in my opinion, is currently not the case. Doing exceptional work should absolutely be honored and celebrated, but just finishing an undergraduate research that is, remember, not elective but required, deserves the utmost appreciation as well. This goes beyond Wooster and is a problem rooted in our education system where GPA and test scores are correlated with self-worth. I.S. should be strictly pass/fail, instead of the tiered system that currently exists, especially because getting “honors” is tied to inclusion in honors societies and graduation distinctions which is mostly subjective. Not to mention that the difference between “honors” and “good” rhetorically feels like the difference between Earth and Mars.

On the topic of subjectivity, the I.S. experience of many seniors is based on their major and advisor. While I’m sure most students leave I.S. meetings stressed, yet supported, I know of others who have felt the complete opposite. The project is supposed to be challenging, but the level of challenge truly depends on the faculty you are working with. In general, I felt that professors were more understanding about missed deadlines than ever before due to the pandemic, but we should normalize this in any given year for many reasons, only one example being first-generation/limited income students who are often working maximum hours and cannot dedicate the same time to I.S. each week. It also isn’t a secret that I.S. takes a toll on students’ mental health and this is only amplified for students who already have conditions that make completing a thesis even harder. Are professors adequately trained on what to do if a student is having an anxiety attack, for example, during a weekly meeting? Much like anti-bias training, it should be thoroughly discussed and practiced continuously. This could also benefit faculty who may be in unfamiliar territory if they are new to Wooster and could easily find themselves overwhelmed.

I would also like to see the I.S. process become less restrictive. We all know that Independent Study is supposed to be a “class of one.” But is this really feasible? The spread of majors is not evenly distributed across departments, and some faculty find themselves many more students. This year, my own political science advisor decided to create cohorts among his advisees, grouping students with similar topics together and meeting with the group as a whole each week. There can be a lot of pressure meeting individually with your professor each week, especially if you did not get all your assigned work done, but hearing other students going through the same thing was quite relieving. It also gives you extra people to reach out to who are working through the same thing at the same time (shoutout to Stachal and Elizabeth). This should not be required, but I’d love to see more professors adopt this cohort model as it can be very helpful to students and will alleviate the schedules of the advisors as well. Also, it would be awesome if students had the option to do more creative projects, outside of studio art and music, as writing a 100+ page paper is not always the best, and definitely not the only, way to exemplify the goals of I.S.

These are only a few suggestions and, of course, I do not know everything about what works and what doesn’t for Wooster students. More than anything, the College should be having conversations about how I.S. can evolve because what worked when it was created (or even ten years ago) does not necessarily work now.

I.S. has major limits in COVID

Sydney Barger

Contributing Writer

 

Writing an Independent Study (I.S.) during a pandemic is difficult, especially when you have to write two. As a double major in Music (B.A.) and German Studies, I was required to write a 50-page German thesis, a 10-page program and perform a 45-minute recital in order to complete both degrees. I expected this to be difficult as a junior, but then COVID-19 hit me like a brick. I could not perform my junior recital at the end of the Spring 2020 semester and was already nervous about completing next year’s senior recital. I was told at the end of the semester that I needed to complete this recital the following semester while also preparing for my senior recital. Completing my Junior I.S. alone was an overly complicated process, as both my flute professor and I were given little instruction on the recording procedure other than renting cameras from I.T. This was partially due to Scheide receiving new recording equipment and not having a recording crew at the beginning of Fall 2020. Initially, I was expected to record my recital as soon as I returned to campus, which did not happen, causing me to reach out to the department for further instruction. I had to extend the deadline for turning in my Junior I.S. to accommodate for these changes. On top of that, the recording process itself was frustrating and confusing. I was told by the department that I could complete my recital recording with only my professor and accompanist in the recital hall. Since my professor was remote, I had to record each take on my own, running on and off stage between pieces to push the record button. I also had to call I.T. during my recital as the camera’s microphone did not have great audio quality. Even then, the audio quality was still not the same as most music department recordings. This process was stressful and frustrating during an already challenging performance.

My Junior I.S. in music pushed starting my Senior I.S. over by a few weeks, which, in hindsight, was more stressful as I had no advisor to write my program notes for Senior I.S.. I realized the weekend before the final I.S. deadline that I needed a full-time professor in the department to assist writing this program. I spent a whole weekend trying to write the program notes while not knowing how to write them. I panicked and emailed the department about this issue. I am thankful it was resolved quickly, and that I was granted an extension on this I.S., but this meant that I would have to complete the paper the same week I would be recording my senior recital. Completing both I.S. projects had given me less time to focus on practicing for my recital.

As for my German I.S., I received a Copeland Grant the summer before my senior year to complete my research in archives in Washington, D.C., which I was unable to do as many of them were closed. My research was limited as very few documents of my topic are digitized, which made I.S. a much more difficult process. With the added stress of writing my program for music Senior I.S., I had to extend my turn-in deadline for this project by another week.

Having to balance ensembles, student activities, work and three full classes on top of two Independent Studies has proved to be extremely difficult, especially with no fall or spring break. I feel that if I had a break away from classes to write, I could complete my I.S. projects and notice these mistakes much earlier in the semester.

We have a name

This Viewpoint was submitted anonymously by a College of Wooster student following the March of AAPI lives.

“You think the only people who are people 

Are the people who look and think like you.”

 

– Colors of the Wind, Pocahontas 

 

The statistics: disheartening. 

The victims: countless. 

The perpetrators: walking free. 

As per the current situation, many Asians, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are angry, hurt, sad and afraid. These are all very real and very valid feelings that are most definitely being experienced at this moment in time. Lives have been lost. Changed. Completely uprooted, like a tree that’s fallen in the woods with nobody around to hear it. Yet, the rest of the world acts as if they were not the ones who cut the tree down in the first place. 

I spoke to Mochi Meadows ’24, who had a lot to say regarding the matter. As a multi-ethnic, Asian-American individual, they articulated just how angry and frustrated they felt, and that they are disappointed in the way that overall authority figures (eg. police), and influential individuals, such as government officials, have chosen to react … or not to react. The killings of multiple Asians within America has been treated like a trend — as if this is something that is completely isolated and not actually happening in our day to day lives. No human is a trend. No one’s pain is a trend. 

At this moment in time, it is imperative that we be there, not just show up for the sake of showing up. Mochi spoke up against performative activism, which is something they, among other members of our community, have seen becoming more prevalent on our campus, specifically from the white students who think they have fulfilled their community service quota by reposting something on Instagram once or twice. The AAPI community needs support, love and respect. We are all humans, and yet somewhere along the line, some people thought they were more human than others. When I say be there, I mean check in on your Asian friends. Donate to worthy causes. Support BIPOC-owned businesses. Educate yourself. Read a book, an article, listen to a podcast. Watch a documentary. There is so much around us. This world is not our own. And in this moment of fear, hate and destruction, it is imperative that we play whatever part we can.

A website with links to different resources for AAPI individuals: https://asianamericanstudies.cornell.edu/anti-racism-resources-aapi-community

Dedicated to all the lives lost, to all the ones who are gone but never forgotten. You have a name. You have a name. You have a name. 

Performative activism fails your Asian peers

This Viewpoint was submitted anonymously by a College of Wooster student following the March of AAPI lives.

 

I am not going to go into statistics of anti-Asian violence in the last year. It is more than obvious that there has been a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate. What I will share is how I, an Asian-American, am feeling and have felt since COVID-19 became an issue in America. I am used to being told to, “go back to China” or asked, “when does your visa expire?” Usually I respond with a joke, because what else am I to do? Asians are taught to be quiet, and not take up too much space.

In Wooster, at the march on Friday, March 26, Zoe Seymore ’23 gave an impassioned speech about the experiences of Asians during COVID. Looking around me at the Wooster Square downtown, I saw a lot of performative activism. White people watching but not listening. White people lowering their heads but to look at their phones. White people looking elsewhere, instead of  where the speakers were bravely sharing their personal experiences. There is no such thing as “not racist.” You are either actively working to combat racism or are supporting racist institutions and structures. Complicit behavior is racist. Performative activism is racist. 

Marching for the lives of fellow community members deserves reverence and deep reflection. Not going to one march saying, “wow, Asians are scared… so anyway, what’s for dinner?” We do not exist to provide cultures and heritages to be exploited for your amusement. I have been spat at, physically attacked, verbally abused, had my heritage mocked and disrespected on Wooster’s campus and in the wider world. The most painful thing about this pandemic has been seeing people who looked like me die at the hands of people who look like those who raised me.

At the march for Asian lives on March 26, I wanted to walk up to that platform and speak but was too choked up with emotion hearing that what I was feeling was not isolated from other Asians. That my experiences were almost exactly the same as others who feared a society they called home. I am tired of living in fear. Racism allows billions of people to be categorized under one term. It allows the tragic deaths of innocent people. Speaking as an Asian American, we suffered alongside every other American during 2020. We lost those we loved, but from more than just a virus. We saw fellow Asians die due to a virus as well as hate. As a Wooster student, I had my senior year changed drastically like every other senior. But there have been too many times that I’ve been too afraid to cross Beall after a series of Tr*mp parades last semester. There have been too many times that I have felt isolated. Unsupported. And like I should be ashamed of my heritage because of a virus that I had no control over.

What can you do to be an ally? Listen. Learn. Empathize. See our collective humanity. I have never been so heartbroken than when sharing my experiences with people who did not listen, did not learn, did not empathize. The hardest lesson I have ever learned at Wooster is that some of my friendships are based on my cultural whiteness. That some of those around me will not see my race and therefore my experiences, traumas and pride. Despite my fear and heartbreak, I am still proud to be Asian. I am here. I am American. And I matter. #stopAAPIhate #StopAsianHate #ourstoriesourpower #WeAreNotAVirus