Category Archives: Viewpoints

Leveling With the Board

Saralee Renick

Contributing Writer

 

As a senior who used to serve on student government, I have attended many Board of Trustees Student Development meetings. For those not familiar, this is a specific committee that is tasked with meeting with students twice a year to listen and respond to our concerns. Despite no longer being required to attend this meeting as part of Scot Council, I still decided to go on Friday, Oct. 29. 

Interestingly, it was open to all students. While in the past, these meetings have only been open to students who were speaking to the Trustees or those on student government. This open admittance is integral because all students deserve access to the ultimate power on campus. I was thrilled to see students pack Lean Lecture Hall. I was impressed by my peers who asked questions and helped student speakers expand on their points when the Trustees fell silent. It would be a shame for the Student Development meeting to ever be closed again.

Shockingly, there were actually trustees there. In the past, these meetings have been held in the Alley (RIP) around a couple of tables pushed together. As a rough estimate, I would say there were only ever 5-10 Trustees there. Not even all the Trustees on the Student Development Committee would bother to show up, which I think says a lot. However, on Friday, there were 20-30 Trustees in the room. While most did not ask questions after student speeches, they were there. It may not have been the engagement students wanted, but at least Trustees were there to listen.

Also, the student speakers were phenomenal. It was no surprise that my peers spoke eloquently and passionately about student concerns, wellbeing and livelihood on campus. They left no room for the Trustees to undercut their statements and demands. The message was clear: students, especially Black students, deserve better. The student speakers challenged the Trustees and called them out, which has been sorely needed at past Student Development meetings. In one instance, a speaker demanded to know an outcome from a past meeting. After a bit of scrambling, the trustees were able to provide several examples. While they were few and far between and did not appear to particularly sway student opinions of the Board of Trustees, I appreciated that there were any. As I move towards graduation, I know that there are younger student leaders on this campus that will continue to challenge the Trustees and fight for student rights. The student speakers on Friday proved that and, for me, outshone past speeches.

There will be another Student Development meeting in the spring and then many more after that. I encourage every student to go. Not to antagonize the Trustees, who we often blame for everything that we dislike on campus, but to advocate for yourself and your peers. And if not to speak, to listen to and support other students. Continue to demand that the Trustees come to the Student Development meeting, listen, respond and then act. 

Board of Trustees Dismisses Lowry’s Predatory Behavior

Maggie Dougherty

Contributing Writer

 

Last April, I researched and wrote an article for the Voice about Howard Lowry, titled “The complicated legacy of President Howard Lowry: As our values evolve, do our heroes change as well?” Apparently, according to the Wooster Board of Trustees and their major donors, the answer is a resounding no.

The article outlined a pattern of predatory sexual harassment from a much older Lowry towards a great number of young female graduates. What I described was Lowry’s pattern of using his position of authority to impress himself on much younger Wooster alumni through promises of recommendation letters and leveraging of academic connections on their behalf. 

The article was explicitly published with a content warning for sexual harassment and predatory behavior. The article did not, however, allege sexual assault, illegal activity or relationships with students. Nevertheless, these are still the goalposts that the board has set for evaluating Lowry’s actions. Apparently, anything falling short of this does not constitute a problem for them.

I do not want to rehash the history of Lowry’s behavior here when I have already written extensively on that topic; I have had multiple conversations directly with the board and have shared my evidence with them. However, in the time since publishing the first piece, I have spoken with another alumna from Lowry’s tenure, who described being similarly pursued by the President in the pattern established by the women interviewed for the original article. She recalled Lowry’s secretary leaving a message at her campus dorm, inviting her to dinner with the President—something she also shared with the board in their investigation. She was a student at the time.

The board asserts that “When Dr. Lowry was made aware that his romantic advances were unwelcome, he ended them.” This completely misses the power differential involved in his relationships. The alumna I recently met explained that as a student receiving that invitation, “I did not have the option of saying no to dinner with him, as the President of the College. I know that.” It is easy enough to say in theory, “they could have just told him no if they weren’t interested,” but that is not often the reality for young professionals, desperate for new opportunities, when someone so influential pursues you with enticing professional connections.

The email from the board refers to some women who “found Lowry’s attention flattering or positive.” I do not begrudge them that: the women involved are allowed to feel however they want about their own relationships, and it is to be expected that there would be a range in how women reacted to his advances. 

However, the positive experiences of these women do not invalidate the negative experiences of the others. This should not be used to dismiss or disprove the experiences of women who felt uncomfortable about being pursued by the president of their college. To be honest, the use of those testimonies to undermine those of the brave women and their allies who came forward to share their stories is absolutely unforgivable in my eyes. 

For Irene, George and other unnamed women involved with the story and myself, this decision is a huge disappointment. More than that, it feels like a slap in the face—an utter rebuke of what these women experienced. On the day the decision was announced, Irene wrote in an email to President Bolton, “I and others thought C.O.W. was much better than this. Gut wrenching.”

However disappointing, I don’t think any of us were truly surprised. From day one, we knew where the decisions were coming from. We know that the student center renovations are being financed in large part by the $10 million donation of one singular alumnus: Richard Bell. Although the board would not speak to me during the investigation about the impacts of donor preferences on the renaming, it was the sentiment of some sources that the name would never change because Bell did not want it to. If this is indeed true, it seems to me that one man shall almost single-handedly determine the fate of the student center. 

To ask alumni how the school can support equity for current and future students (as was asked privately of Irene) while blatantly disregarding the concerns of those most affected… that is just downright inappropriate.

The board puts alumni and donor interests above the wellbeing of their students. As Irene described, “Depressing. An archaic decision to line their pockets for donor bricks and mortar instead of uplifting the quality of C.O.W. souls, particularly young women.” 

The other alumna I recently spoke with similarly expressed disappointment on behalf of future generations of students. She asked me, “what message does this send to incoming female students?” To me, the message is clear: Money talks. If it is not illegal, we will turn a blind eye. We will not protect you against the powerful. And, for the time being, there shall be no public acknowledgement for the wrongs of the past.

There are days that I am proud to be a Wooster alumna. This is certainly not one of them.

Dancing in the Dark

Munesu Kuzanga

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: Contains mentions of sexual assault.

It was 1 a.m. and, let’s be honest, you were too drunk or too unbothered (or were you?) to care about how to pronounce her ‘exotic’ name, which is why she ended up just going by “Amy” at the end of the night. However, you were not drunk enough to forget about her Afrocentric features. Her skin. Her hair. Her body. I know you precisely remember her image as that African woman you danced with so seductively in the dark, as you did a fine job trying to avoid her the next day when you two stood face to face in the light. 

If we had to be frank with one another, human to human, what really drew you towards her? It was her features and the extra confidence your red solo cup gave you. It drew you closer and closer towards me as the tempo of that overly- played rap song grew more robust. Yet still, my body did a good job to catching the beat before it even got the chance to drop. I want to assume that you were attracted to me at that very moment because I looked beautiful and unstoppable in my element. I want to believe you approached me from behind and clung to me all night because you were too afraid to let go of someone great, and not ‘something’ great. You even asked to dance, which I thought was respectful, but the nature of respect changed. You asked to dance but your grip tightened, and you forgot that you promised me to dance. But that dance hurt, and you called me a disgusting name when I pushed you away. 

“But it was a party. The dude was drunk, and why were you dancing like that in the first place?” Firstly, I was not dancing to be objectified. I was dancing with a body that you would not understand nor handle, which is why my ancestors passed it down to me. I was dancing like another girl at that party, having a good time. You saw it as provocative because of the combination of the color of my skin and my assets. You came behind me not because I was an attractive human but because I was a Black and African woman, and this was your time to experience something new. 

Secondly, making such comments are always two syllables away from justifying the rape culture and the objectification and sexualization that Black women experience regularly.

I suppose when I look back to that very moment, I am happy that you pretend like you do not recognize me from what you did and said to me that night. I want to believe that shame is behind your resentment or perturbation towards me. However, from the way you continuously glare at me and always mutter something to your boys that always look back at me as I am trying to mind my own business, I assume you are that type of guy who continues to make a girl’s life more socially anxious and objectifying because rejection annoys or angers you, especially when it causes you more sexual frustration. 

We are not strangers to the hookup culture on campus, but at times, as someone who finds herself occasionally in and out of it, I wish I was. The idea of being sexually liberated feels daring and risky, which makes the experience of discovering your body and of shaping your sexual preferences and limitations interesting. However, the feeling of regret seeps in quickly when the respect from the person you find yourself tangled with suddenly leaves the room, and you slowly realize that you are simply a vagina. And a slur for noticing it, but never a human. Some of us have forgotten that consent is a process, not a simple password that will allow you access to every inch of someone’s body. If you ask to dance with her, dance. A party is not the best place to go looking for love, and it definitely is not the best place to cure your sexual frustration because people will get traumatized by your lack of human decency and self-control. By the end of the night, a girl should not be asking her friends if it was expected that dancing was eventually supposed to lead to you choking her. 

Lowry’s Legacy Haunts Alumn

George Browne

Contributing Writer

 

Half a century or more ago, The College of Wooster had a bachelor President whose legacy still reverberates across the campus. Unfortunately, his legacy is threatened by a beatification process perpetrated by the College’s leadership. For those of us who have known, lived with and loved the College for over a century, this glossing over is painful. Both of my grandfathers graduated from the College, and when our son was preparing his application in 1978, we stopped counting Wooster legacy relatives at twenty-two. 

There have been more since.  

I do not question the quality of a Wooster education or the ongoing quality of faculty, programs and students. The refusal to recognize the clay feet of a lecherous President makes mockery of his sanctification. Howard Lowry pursued young women over the course of several years, and still was doing it when he died. Administrators and the Board knew this, though they didn’t figure out how to stop it.

When we learned of Lowry’s death in the summer of 1967, my wife—one of his victims—and I felt mostly relieved. Now it has come back to haunt me and other victims of his lechery. To those who say that he backed off once a young woman rejected his advances, I can only testify that in October 1966, he came to Washington, DC and asked my fiancée, at the time, to break our engagement. I consider this the basest of betrayals.

Over the decades, we have been loyal alumni. We endowed a scholarship at the College, and made regular annual gifts to the Wooster Fund. Physical therapists and academics don’t often earn enough to make headline grabbing contributions. For now, our annual gifts will go elsewhere. Likewise, as our grandchildren look for colleges that will enhance their lives, we cannot recommend Wooster anymore. That’s really too bad!

Letter from the BIPOC PAA

We are tired of bearing traumas, tired of empty responses, and tired of little action… 

BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance was founded on the need for social change and equality on our campus. As students from the theatre department, Teresa Ascencio and I (Victoria Silva), have witnessed first hand the way that whiteness permeates even the most creative of fields, silencing minority voices in the name of upholding archaic systems riddled with white power structures, bias, and discrimination that support racism. When the Black Student Manifesto was released to campus, BIPOC PAA was excited to see solutions and a push for change, and we applaud every Black student on this campus who has come forward with their experiences to hold our administrative bodies accountable for the traumas they inflict on their most marginalized and vulnerable students. However, on the 19th of October at the administration’s discussion Town Hall, we as an organization and as a campus community were utterly appalled by the evasive and disingenuous responses, continued inaction, and frankly insulting conduct shown to us by the highest bracket of power at this institution. The College of Wooster is a predominantly white institution, and as such, this college has prioritized its white faculty, staff, and students by denying the school more Black faculty, more Black counselors, and an overall more equitable environment for our Black population. With this in mind: 

BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance denounces any and all forms of racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and any other methods of discrimination that have permeated on this campus. We stand strongly and fervently with our Black student body to renounce and hold our institution accountable for the continued harm they have created over decades of time. Any of our resources, time, and focus that can be put towards change and proliferation of said change will be immediately committed to that cause, for this is a fight for Black lives, and Black lives have always and WILL ALWAYS MATTER. 

We are not the first to fight this battle, but as we continue to engage in discourse for change, we hope that we may be some of the last generations to experience the bias, racism, and discrimination that has systematically ingrained itself in this campus’s culture and has been allowed to fester since its founding. As an organization, and as people, the Board of BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance, as well as our advisor and many more who have joined our framework since our creation, sign below to dedicate ourselves to the statement of solidarity written above. BIPOC PAA was created for the betterment of our community and denounces any tokenization or sugar coating from any administrative force that seeks to use it as such. We are run by BIPOC students, primarily for BIPOC students in the performing arts and beyond, and we hope to

continue to create a safe haven for discussion, resources, and artistic collaboration for many years to come. 

Signed, 

Co-President: 

Victoria Silva 

Co-President: 

Teresa Isabel Ascencio 

Secretary: 

Zoe Seymore 

Treasurer: 

Amari Royal 

PR Management: 

Rickey D. Cooper 

Advisor: 

Jimmy A. Noriega

“The Manifesto Proved Exactly What Action Should Look Like…”

Cher Kornma

Contributing Writer

 

On Monday Oct. 18, the Black Manifesto was posted all over campus as a wake up call to admin, faculty and students about the grievances, trials and hardships Black people across campus face. This Manifesto, along with the growing areas of concern that were expressed in the town hall meeting that following Tuesday, shed light on the many ways the College of Wooster has neglected not only its Black students but its Black faculty as well. The opening poem of the Manifesto expressed deep exhaustion with the “placations” that continued to prolong and quell the concerns of Black students. The empty promises and the endless performative stances and words that have yet to resonate with Black people on campus have created a gap between what the students are no longer asking for, but are now demanding, and what the administration continues to peddle. 

Like many Black students on campus, when I read the poem I saw a reflection of the frustration, exhaustion and defeat I too felt, looking back at me. I recalled moments over my last three years of being singled out in class, racially harassed on Beall and constantly dismissed, discredited and underestimated by my peers and professors, and it struck me that I also did not want to graduate from Wooster without trying to make it better for those that will come after me. The Manifesto sparked a level of passion in me that I forgot I had. A renewed sense of believing that change and action can happen. The Manifesto proved what action looked like. You see something? You find it unjust? Then demand change. Hold the school accountable for their promises of safety and equitable treatment. Ask the admin what they are willing to do about the fact that their previous efforts have continued to fail. 

This is the disconnect that the administration failed to see. Telling students at a town hall dedicated to holding the school accountable that they are heard is frustrating. Telling students who face racially motivated agressions everyday that the school has done a lot to improve equity on campus, is frustrating. Telling students who are tired of asking for the same thing for years on end, that there are many ways that the school has improved, is frustrating. It is frustrating that students themselves have to ask for these basic forms of support. The town hall seemed at times to derail from the point of addressing the persistent anti-blackness that students face and moved to becoming a forum for administration to defend themselves. While I respect Sarah Bolton’s presence and attempt at listening to students, the town hall was mishandled and counterintuitive. The very thing that was staged for giving Black voices on campus a platform made Black students feel alienated. The Manifesto demanded action, and that is the immediate response it should have received in the first place.