Category Archives: Viewpoints

Alumni express concerns over new student government, Scot Council

Jordan Griffith

Members of the Board of Trustees,

We write to you as a collective of former members of Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Council (CC) regarding the proposal to merge Campus Council and the Student Government Association into one novel organization. The following letter enumerates our concerns that the proposal weakens students’ access to administration, that the proposal weakens the tradition of collaboration that CC and the SGA represent, that the process of developing the proposal was undemocratic and that the time frame presented for successful reform is unrealistic and places an undue burden on the student leaders of the College. Ultimately, we ask you to reject the proposal so that proper time and care can be afforded to the important issue of improving these governing bodies. We stress we are not opposed to reform, as evidenced by the significant reforms we advanced in our time as leaders. We also came to understand the principle that change requires investment, careful planning and adequate time.

Wooster has been uniquely ahead of the curve in embracing a stakeholder model of campus governing as a result of extensive student activism in the 1960s. This proposal would have Wooster abandon our cutting-edge structure of giving staff, faculty, administration and students an equal seat at the table. It minimizes a format for students to bring concerns directly to representatives of each part of the campus in weekly, public and accountable forums. We value the efforts of administrators to be accessible, but no administration-led initiative can match the access that these two bodies provide, even in their current, imperfect forms. We are concerned that this new proposal would restrict the students’ ability to bargain as equals with the Board, the administration, the staff committees, and the faculty committees.

Every student-led initiative, protest and collective action in recent memory at Wooster has been designed to bring student voice to the table. If Wooster is to proceed with this new system, we roll back the efforts that our peers took to build a stronger community that includes all parts of the campus. Fundamentally, this proposal reduces student input in important decisions at Wooster, divides the community and is inconsistent with the principle of “independent minds working together.” We reiterate that we do not reject reform, but we propose that reform requires care and planning, two elements that have not been central to this process. Further, reform should be progressive, improving on the progress made in the past.

The hastiness with which the Oversight Task Force (Oversight Committee) has executed this process raises red flags. In just one semester, the group submits that they have fully and comprehensively assessed the efficiency levels of both SGA and CC and found them so inadequate that the only reasonable path forward is to eliminate both organizations. SGA and CC voted on the proposal in question merely two school months after announcing the intention to completely overhaul the existing bodies. We further understand that while developing the new organization’s constitution, the advocates for the proposal often responded to critique with hostility, focusing on minimizing input for the sake of expediency. We also understand that the committee refused to provide drafts of the proposed constitution during forums designed to solicit feedback. It alarms us that the people who will feel the direct ramifications of this overhaul have largely not had the chance to ruminate on the changes or provide meaningful feedback. Indeed, the opaque and rushed process behind the proposal seems out of alignment with Wooster’s prioritization of collaboration and community engagement.

In response to the Oversight Committee’s claim that the structure of SGA and CC is ineffective, we strongly disagree and respectfully point to several student-led projects and accomplishments from our tenures. Students leaders in SGA and CC created gender neutral housing which has helped the College remain competitive amongst its peers, made strides to improve student safety on campus, developed meaningful free-expression guidelines that encourage the intellectual growth of Wooster while recognizing the inherent dignity of every member of our community, reformed budgeting processes to ensure groups can contribute to a stronger Wooster community, developed new sustainability projects that reduced coffee cup waste by thousands each year and created a new College tradition that helps seniors reflect on who helped shape their time at the College. These are just a few in a long list of accomplishments made under the leadership of SGA and CC. While these governing bodies are not without imperfections, they have still contributed to the betterment of the College while working to improve their functioning.

Because of the time we spent as leaders of the SGA and CC, we are acutely aware of the merits and disadvantages of the organization of Wooster’s two elected governance organizations. We do recognize and encourage reform of the two governing bodies to ensure that the voices of the campus constituencies are heard and translated into action. Further, we respect and appreciate the motivation of the committee to improve Wooster. However, the proposed reform does not take mind of the significant time, effort and care necessary to successfully improve governance at the College of Wooster. Finally, considering the myriad new issues Wooster will have to face in light of COVID-19, we believe that the Wooster community will be best served by the established leadership of CC and the SGA unburdened by the need to rebuild itself from the ground up.

In this spirit, we advance the notion that while continued reform is necessary, reform must be carefully planned and take mind of the work that is necessary to make reform successful. We the former leaders of CC and SGA believe that this plan is not ready for the Board’s seal of approval. Ultimately, the purpose of this letter is not to defend the status quo, but rather to encourage that changes are made with an abundance of caution and care with the aim of building a stronger, more collaborative and more equitable community. We encourage the student leaders of Campus Council and Student Government Association to continue to evaluate where the bodies are ineffective and to work to effect positive change for student governance.

Sincerely, the undersigned

Annabelle Hopkins, Chair of Council 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Monét Davis, President of Student Government Association 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Jordan Griffith, Chair of Council 2017-2018, At-Large Council Member 2016-2018

Jordan Ouellette, Vice President of Student Government Association 2017-2018, Senator 2014- 2017

Jack Johanning, Chair of Council 2016-2017, Vice Chair of Council 2015-2016

Spencer Gilbert, President of Student Government Association 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016, Senator 2014-2017

Ben Taylor, Chair of Campus Council 2015-2016

Sayantan Mitra, President of Student Government Association 2015-2016, Vice Chair of Campus Council 2013-2014

Josh Foerst, President of Student Government Association 2014-2015, Senator 2012-2015

Elliot Wainwright, Chair of Council 2014-2015

Molly McCartt, President of Student Government Association 2013-2014

Reagan Kazyak, Student Government Association Vice President 2018-2019, Senator 2016-2018

Robert Dinkins, Vice Chair of Council 2018-2019

Marina Dias Lucena Adams, Vice Chair of Council 2017-2018, International Council Member 2017-2018

Theresa Spadola, Vice Chair of Council 2016-2017, At Large Council Member 2015-2016

Robin Emmons, Selective Organization Council Member 2018-2019

Christian Betre, International Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Stachal Harris, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2018-2019

Ethan Barham, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2017-2018, Student Government Association Senator 2015-2018

Vrinda Trivedi, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2017-2018

Aaron Roberson, Racial and Ethnic Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Heather Smith, Gender and Sexual Diversity Council Member 2016-2017

Geo Tramonto, Selective Organization Council Member 2015-2016

Matthew Hartzell, At-Large Council Member 2017-2019

Garrett Layde, Senator 2018-2019

Callie Ogland-Hand, Senator 2016-2018

Kenyon Moriarty, Senator 2017-2019

Juwan Shabazz, Senator 2018-2019

Gabe Wasylko, Senator 2018-2019

Class of 2020 deserves better communication about graduation plans

Claire Montgomery

Senior News Writer

I don’t think I am alone in thinking that our administration went above and beyond in the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were sent information as quickly as it came, there were in-person meetings and then online meetings, and we started getting daily emails. Additionally, I don’t think any person begrudges the decision the College had to make for us to pack up and leave early — a sad situation, but one necessary with the current reality we face. But when it came to the administration’s communication and decision making about the lack of end-of-school ceremonies and traditions for the Class of 2020, myself and my peers were blindsided and upset by the lack of communication and decisions that had been made about such ceremonies. It’s not necessarily that these decisions were bad, it’s just that they were not communicated, thus leading to outrage and confusion.

First, on March 30, we were told that the original day for Commencement, May 11, was canceled, but we were led to believe that an in-person ceremony would happen at some date in the future. We had all been expecting Commencement to be canceled — given the projected timelines of the pandemic, such a cancelation would make sense. But then, on April 10, we were told that there would be an online ceremony on May 11 instead of an in-person ceremony. Second, a replacement I.S. Monday parade for the one that we missed would be held next semester during Black & Gold (B&G) Weekend. Also during B&G Weekend would be the Lavender Celebration and Multi-Cultural Stole Ceremony.

The April 10 email caused outrage, and in my personal experience, tears. I can only imagine the inbox flooding that Dean Brown and President Bolton experienced, and the Class of 2020 Facebook page blew up. The day after the announcement, another email was sent, along with a similar post on the Class of 2020 Facebook page, saying that the virtual ceremony was to ensure that we would receive our diplomas, which could be necessary for future jobs and graduate school. Wooster would still celebrate with an in-person ceremony at a later date — they just wanted to make sure we had officially “graduated.” I understand that decision, though why it wasn’t included in the original email is one I am astonished by. Were they not expecting the Class of 2020 to wig out when it looked like we wouldn’t get the ceremony we had been expecting? We should have been given this information in the initial email.

People were similarly outraged with the second announcement about B&G Weekend. There was the general consensus that the Class of 2020 had been ripped off, because we were expected to share our celebrations with all of the other usual events that happen during the weekend, such as the homecoming football game, parent’s weekend, a huge number of prospective students coming to campus, and reunions for several campus organizations. Moreover, students were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to come to an October weekend because of job or graduate school schedules. Additionally, Wooster usually has full hotels during B&G — where is the Class of 2020 going to stay?

Again, this seemed to be a situation where we hadn’t been given enough information. In the follow-up email, we were told that B&G Weekend would be made “extra special” for our class, and the usual model of the weekend would not be followed. I’m willing to believe that may be the case — but again, why weren’t we told in the initial announcement? Did the administration not expect us to consider all the reasons why B&G might not be the best time to celebrate our achievements? Were we expected to divine that information when we weren’t explicitly told in the first place?

I love Wooster. It has been my home for four years and I have made so many close friends that I expect to keep in close contact with in the years to come. But the Class of 2020 deserves better information especially when it concerns our end-of-school ceremonies. Give us the opportunity to weigh in, explain what you are thinking from the beginning, and you might find that we won’t be as upset. The COVID-19 pandemic is already challenging enough — please don’t add more stress to an already upsetting situation.

Administration should have consulted students when making commencement decision

Marco Roccato

Contributing Writer

The Class of 2020 has been and is a group of incredible people. Students from the Class of 2020 have been scholars and community leaders: they created unique research projects, they led student organizations through years of changes, they stuck with an institution whose tuition hikes made it harder and harder for them and their families to afford it. Through all of it, most importantly, they loved the College of Wooster. And sure, they got bored after the fifth trip of the week to Walmart (remember those?), but they gave everything to this college community — inside and outside of the classroom. 

Would you like to know how many members of the Class of 2020 were asked to contribute any feedback before a decision about our commencement was made? Zero. Would you like to know how many members of the Class of 2020 will be asked by the Alumni Office for contributions in a few months? All of them. Let me be clear, I don’t expect the Class of 2020 to be the one that solely gets to pick a date for a future commencement and to plan all of the festivities. But I had at least hoped that the administration would have reached out to us for some kind of feedback. A Google Form, a quick email, a Facebook poll. Nothing, niente, nada. Rather than being proactive and at least showing an effort in collecting ideas from us, we simply received an email detailing the plans that were decided for us. We could have happily waited for more information, waiting for this whole situation to be a thing of the past — yet a decision was made now without consulting us and then it was just shared with us. The result? Around 500 angry and disappointed Fighting Scots and soon-to-be-Alumni. 

I fully understand that our administration is rightfully overwhelmed with the daily developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I do truly appreciate how well they’ve been operating on most sides of things, especially as someone stuck on campus at the moment. I have my own gripes with an October graduation, but that is not what I want to focus on in this brief article. The biggest disappointment is how our opinion was not even requested at any point. This was a rushed decision-making process for a school that prides itself on valuing its students’ opinions. It took us long enough to get used to the idea of a Scot Center graduation, and now we have something else to get over. The Class of 2020 is the 150th class to attend and graduate from the College of Wooster. We have made a lasting impact on this beautiful community. We deserved to have our opinion heard. The final decision does belong to the cabinet, but I truly wish that someone at some point would have reached out for some input. I love Wooster and I love the people of Wooster; I always will. I just do not want this to become a bitter epilogue to a beautiful story.

A quick-fix solution isn’t the way to plan commencement

Brandon Borges

Contributing Writer

The uncertainty of COVID-19 has severely impacted administrative planning across the world. International, national, state and even local administrators of all organizations are currently at the whims of the virus, with events of all types being postponed for an arbitrary date in the future. This patchwork planning style is no different for the administration of The College of Wooster. I understand the massive difficulties in planning for major traditional events during this time period and recognize that it is in the best interest of all during this time to not have events such as commencement at the previously scheduled time of early May. I also understand, at least somewhat, that degrees and transcripts need to be sent out to us so that we have at least that aspect of post-Wooster life out of the way. The current plan for the ceremonial commencement, however, strikes me as a major misstep disguised as the “best-case scenario” for the event.

The current plan is to have the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 during the Black and Gold weekend of next semester, planned for mid-October of 2020. Several individuals, like myself, decried the timing of the event, posting a date within the summer. The College, understandably, responded that based on the current orders within Ohio, large gatherings such as commencement could not be planned for the summer, and thought of Black and Gold weekend as another time that would make the event “special” for the class. So much about this date in particular, still, makes it a choice that ranges from awkward at best to disastrous at worst, starting with the October 2020 date that is seemingly both too late and too soon. Students at this point in their lives will be pursuing job opportunities, if not already within an occupation. Asking for a free weekend at a time when the job market will still be so bleak and undefined may be too much for many individuals to undertake. This does not account for any of the senior class who will have to leave the country at some point before that date. If large gatherings are to be one of the last social activities allowed within the country, international travel to and from the U.S., which currently holds the highest count of individuals infected with COVID-19, would be nigh impossible for any student, especially for a single weekend.

Black and Gold weekend is traditionally an event that hosts all types of alumni and admissions events. Having traditional events for the senior class would go one of two ways. One scenario would see the cancelation of those alumni and admissions events, which would be a puzzling decision for the College given the amount of potential revenue available during the weekend. However, that event would be the preferred alternative to having all the events occur. Hotels and other housing in the area would be packed to the brim, and the campus would have its resources stretched to its absolute limits. Plus, think of events such as the Independent Study march occurring while confused first-years and parents watch several grown adults day-drink.

At a time where some colleges are thinking of continuing remote classes until 2021, choosing Black and Gold weekend for commencement is a decision that seems to be a quick-fix solution to an uncertain future event. It’s equivalent to putting pink duct tape over a herniated disc, a misguided and frankly off-putting solution only concerned with the optics of an administration limping and waiting for the hospital to empty the ICU of COVID-19 cases.

For first-gen college students, commencement symbolizes upward mobility

Margie Sosa

Contributing Writer

For first-generation college students, walking across the stage at commencement is something bigger than just us. It symbolizes a start to educational and intergenerational mobility, one of the many reasons why my family chose to immigrate to the U.S. and why I decided to pursue a higher education.

When I found out that commencement was going to be “virtual,” I didn’t know how to feel. While it is important to recognize the gravity of the pandemic, it does not take away the feeling of disappointment of not being able to participate in a traditional commencement ceremony this May. There is no doubt that the College is taking reasonable and responsible measures, but the sentiment of not being able to take part in the ceremony is bittersweet. Commencement was not only an important moment for me but for my family. As a first-generation college student and first-generation American, walking across the stage at commencement was something that kept me motivated through the toughest times. It is what pushed me to keep going despite all those late nights in the library, having to work three part-time jobs and supporting my family back home. This May, I was supposed to walk across that stage not only for myself but for my parents who never had the opportunity to do so. I was supposed to walk across that stage to prove to my two little brothers that they could do it as well.

Commencement was a time to finally show not only to my family but to myself how far we have finally come. How much I have invested into myself, how many disappointments and triumphs we’ve gone through to finally see this finished product. These past four years at Wooster have been anything but easy. There have been many times that I just wanted to pack my bags and go back home. However, as much as I struggled to succeed and fit in, I managed to make Wooster my “home away from home.”

Receiving my degree and having it physically in my hands will be gratifying no matter the setting, but our recognition, our hard work, our achievements and our breakthroughs deserve to be celebrated. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and all the soon to be first-gen grads; while we’re not living out our last semester of college like we would have wished, we will surely have a story to tell. 

Decisions are made by those who show up

Oria Daugherty

Contributing Writer

Over the last year, the College has started to undergo a lot of changes in a lot of different areas — we have begun the Master Planning process to plan for the next decade of Wooster’s future, the planning for the Lowry renovation has begun in full force and the College is in the process of moving from two student governing bodies to one. These are big changes, and the entire student body should make their voices heard in these processes, yet most do not.

There are countless meetings, planning sessions and Q&A sessions about these issues. The Oversight Committee planned several sessions to hear about what the student body wanted the new student governance to look like, and yet the meetings were almost exclusively attended by students who had participated in one of the two existing bodies in the last several years — very few students outside of student government came. Similarly, something like a half-dozen sessions have been held to field suggestions, questions and comments about the Lowry renovation, and yet at the most recent presentation, I was the only person in a sea of chairs set up in the Pit when the meeting was set to start at 5 p.m. I know that students are busy — I know practice, rehearsal and study groups prevent some students from attending these meetings. But to have one student available out of 2,000 feels unlikely. (I will say that other students showed up shortly after, though the group never exceeded 10.)

I believe it is the responsibility of the administration, the student government or whatever group plans these sessions to ensure there is variety in timing, so that different parts of the student body can attend different sessions. It is also important to send out the information about the meeting time and place sooner rather than later, and that is something that has been done poorly in several instances. However, it is not the responsibility of those planning the meeting to beg students to attend and give feedback (which they essentially are — trust me, being the only student in a large, empty space with President Bolton presenting directly to you from a large projector clearly set up for a crowd is less than a comfortable experience). The student body should care enough about the future of the College and the future students that will attend to show up to at least a few of these meetings. While it can be hard to invest time into something like the Lowry renovation, which most of us will never see as students, we should care enough about the improvement of the College to show up.

I decided to write this not only because I saw how poorly attended these events are, but because I catch my peers, my friends and myself making regular complaints about how things are on campus. Students complain about a lack of representation in student government bodies, but do not attend meetings about government. Students complain about the design of Lowry, the dining services available and the dysfunctionality of the Alley, but do not attend Lowry renovation meetings. Feel free to complain. We all do; I do. But my request is this: when given the opportunity, direct those complaints productively, to someone who is looking for student opinions. You might just be able to prevent a couple complaints for the classes that come after you.