SMC Gets Serious About Organic Farming

Historic St. Mary’s City Administrator Mike Benjamin surveys the growth of seedlings in the community garden greenhouse. According to Benjamin, they will be transplanted mid-april. (Photo by Rowan Copley)
Historic St. Mary’s City Administrator Mike Benjamin surveys the growth of seedlings in the community garden greenhouse. According to Benjamin, they will be transplanted mid-april. (Photo by Rowan Copley)

Great strides are already being made on an ambitious new campus farm project, which promises to change the way students look at agriculture and food consumption.

The original community garden, created as an SMP project, was originally a plot of land outside of Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC) in which any student could “experiment,” according to the Community Garden club’s advisor Kate Chandler. However, its limited size, placement, and soil content made it far from ideal. “There was no space to teach gardening,” added Shane Hall, ’09, Sustainability Fellow and facilitator. The garden was also vandalized this past fall.

Because of these issues, and the growing sentiment of what Chandler called “concern about the food they eat and where it’s coming from,” a coalition consisting of students, faculty and staff including sustainability fellows Rachel Clement ’08 and Meredith Epstein ’08, the community garden club headed by Nathan Beall, and environmental studies students and professors started discussions last fall about acquiring new land for a larger community garden. Further investigations found open farmland in Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC), and HSMC “land manager” and Professor of Anthropology Daniel Ingersoll persuaded executive director of Historic St. Mary’s City Regina Faden to hold back around five acres for the garden, which will be leased at market prices. According to Sustainability Coordinator Christophe Bornand “[we] were always interested in how [this land] could be used for the college.”

Although the land has only just recently been leased, multiple projects are already underway to get the garden up and running. Much of this early momentum has been given through the assistance of both the Chancellor’s Point project, which built a Green House to store the early seedlings, and members of the community such as Frank and Christina Allen who provided heirloom seeds and other farming essentials. The SGA also provided funds to buy seeds and larger tools. As a result, the growing is already underway and seeds are already planted in flats in the greenhouse. Chandler said, “The oats are up two inches, and they were just planting it last week during spring break!”

The oats are up two inches, and they were just planting it last week during spring break! -Kate Chandler (Photo by Rowan Copley)
The oats are up two inches, and they were just planting it last week during spring break! -Kate Chandler (Photo by Rowan Copley)

According to both Hall and Chandler, the garden also has many academic applications. Hall said that when doing research members of the project had a “much harder time finding classes that wouldn’t benefit from [the Community Garden].” Classes currently offered in the environmental studies curricula, for example, could organize field trips to the garden as a learning opportunity. The garden also provides the impetus for many new possible classes that could take more direct advantage of the opportunity to farm. Hall said, “Because agriculture is essential to civilization, you can’t ignore food distribution and agriculture in a liberal arts curriculum.”

Produce grown in the garden could furthermore be sold to Bon Appetit in a “farm to fork” deal highlighting the garden’s potential. Chandler said, “Bon Appetit has been so supportive… [Director of Operations] Debi Wright has been an enormous help.” She added that Bon Appetit was “quite willing” to buy food from the garden, and plans are currently underway to get the garden certified to do so.

The garden, according to the announcement on the college’s sustainability web site (www.smcm.edu/sustainability/aboutfood.html), is meant to “Teach College and community members about sustainable agriculture while producing local, organic, nutritious food.” Foremost, the farm provides students the ability to actually learn how to farm, a talent that according to Hall is in short supply. Many students are coming to the realization that, “I’m 18 years old and I don’t know how to coax plants out of the ground,” said Hall. The garden also provides further experience to students already learning to farm on off-campus sites such as Even’ Star Organic Farm.

Students who want to get involved with the project can come to the farm days to take place April 7 and 8 in the Great Room, during which students can learn more about the project, how to get involved, and what sorts of produce the farm could provide. Chandler hopes students who have the time will also be willing to “jump in” on future opportunities to work part-time in the community garden, especially during harvest season. She said, “We recognize we need to get the word out, and we want the campus community to be excited about this.”

Photos: College Crowns 2010 MR. SMC


The Mr. SMC event at the campus center this year featured six contestants this year who sang, danced in drag, and stripped down to tight-fitting swimwear for the title of Mr. SMC. Brendan McCarthy, shown left, won the title. Other contestants are Billy Malouf, center, and Marshall Betz, right.

Men’s B-Ball Knocked Out of Sweet 16

Photo by Dave ChaseThe Sweet Sixteen Seahawks finished out their run in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championships on Friday, Mar. 12, with an incredibly close 92-87 game against Franklin & Marshall College that pushed the Diplomats into sectional final action on Mar. 13. In front of a sold-out crowd of students, faculty members, and even President-Elect Joseph Urgo, the CAC Champions played an intense game that brought the deciding shots down to the last twelve seconds of the fourth quarter, aided by a three-pointer from senior guard Camontae Griffin. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point went on to win the championship on Mar. 20.

Urgo Visits SMCM, Speaks on New Campus Vision

Dr. Urgo watches the Men's basketball game
Dr. Urgo watches the Men's basketball game
On Thursday, Mar. 11 through Monday, Mar. 15, Dr. Joseph Urgo, the next College president, visited campus with his wife Lesley to meet with students, faculty, and administrators and to enumerate his vision for the College.

Urgo’s formal introduction to the campus came at 5:15 p.m. on Mar. 11 in St. Mary’s Hall. He was introduced by James Muldoon, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Larry Vote, the provost and acting president.”He knows what high standards look like,” Muldoon said, referring to Urgo’s work at Hamilton College, both in acting as president for spring 2009 and in working for the Hamilton library coordinating academic programs in Paris, Madrid, Beijing, Washington, D.C., and New York.

Urgo defined his goals as accessibility, inclusiveness, meritocracy, and sustainability. Regarding accessibility and inclusiveness, Urgo mentioned “rapidly growing immigrant populations,” and said that “colleges need to prepare themselves for that so that they don’t become anachronisms.”
Meritocracy, to Urgo, meant that everything outside a student’s current performance in school, from SAT scores to family status, should not matter in college. “You rise or fall on your own merits,” he said.

To Urgo, sustainability applied to both environmentalism and finances. He said that he thinks that colleges should be models for the rest of the nation in terms of sustainability; “if we can’t do it here, we can’t do it anywhere,” he said.

Urgo also talked about his personal views regarding interaction with students that he formed from teaching for 30 years. “There is not one kind of intelligence and one way to measure intelligence,” he said. He also described the “malleability of identity” and experimentation with views and ideas that many students undergo. He also expressed a desire to live on campus with his family, to be able to “speak not from analytical knowledge but from deep emotional knowledge” about the campus.

He summed up his agenda by saying that “opening our doors to a more diverse population” is as important to the College as a new science building or physical plant because “unless we do that, we have no future.” He also expressed a desire to strengthen the bond between St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College, and in terms of finances, looked forward to 2015, the 175th anniversary (“demisemisepticentennial”) of the College’s founding, to galvanize alumni support.

Campus reaction to Urgo was positive overall.

“I found him to be energetic and ready to engage with the main issues in the St. Mary’s community. His wife was equally interesting, and I believe many faculty members are excited to be working with him,” said Michael Cain, chair of the political science department and director of the Center for the Study of Democracy.

“I was thrilled that he was received on campus warmly and that those who commented to me were very pleased with the Board’s choice,” said biology professor Bob Paul, who is also head of the faculty senate.

Students also reacted favorably to Urgo’s visit.

Sophomore Anna Weaver, who talked briefly with Urgo during lunch one day, said, “I think it’s great President Urgo took the time to see what the campus is really like. He seemed genuinely interested in the students.”

Junior Sam Geselowitz attended Urgo’s introduction and was impressed with Urgo’s plans to live on campus and possibly teach a class. “He seemed to also have a sense of humor,” Geselowitz said. “He already seems to be at least 10 times as good as Maggie (O’Brien).”

Urgo himself seemed eager to be on campus. “[My family and I] are so pleased to be here,” he said. “We are so looking forward to making this our home.”

Periodic Review Report: What Students Do After Graduation

Every five years, a college has to undergo an accreditation called a Periodic Review Report (PRR). As part of St. Mary’s PRR, the college has released statistics gathered about, among other things, life as an alumni. All data in the graphs is as of 2006.

The administration will still be accepting feedback on the PRR until Friday, April 2nd.

St. John’s Pond Becomes Home to St. Messie Monster

Flyers were placed all around campus asking if anyone had encountered the St. John’s Pond Monster known as St. Messie. (Photo by Ken Benjes)
Flyers were placed all around campus asking if anyone had encountered the St. John’s Pond Monster known as St. Messie. (Photo by Ken Benjes)
First, there were the signs, spread around campus. “Have you seen me?” they asked, next to a sea monster’s silhouette. Then, in the dead of night, a tail appeared in St. John’s pond. As the rest of the monster was assembled, the sculpture the artist prefers to call “St. Messie” became a conversation starter around campus.

St. Messie (the name is a combination of St. Mary’s and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster) was a project for an advanced sculpture class taught by professor Lisa Scheer.

“I charge the students to think up a way to create a sculpture that enhances an audience’s interactivity with it. Students can interpret that in a lot of different ways,” said Scheer.

“You can imagine how this sculpture could have just been like any sculpture that anyone put up. I would hope that some of the reason that it’s getting this sort of response is that the artist included all these ways to make it more interactive…as opposed to just presenting it as a given. I think the other thing about it is that [the artist] specifically chose something like the sea monster that is purposefully fun.”

According to the artist, who wishes to remain anonymous, the pond was chosen as the installation site because, “It’s right at the crossroads since everyone sees it. There are creatures in the pond but it’s really murky so you don’t really know what lives in there.”

The sea monster was assembled slowly in order to increase the interaction between audience and sculpture.

“This is the first time I’ve done something really public,” the artist said. “I think it added some character to the pond.”

In order to preserve anonymity, the artist installed the piece during low tide, at about three or four in the morning. “One of my friends helped me, but it was pretty hard because the mud is so thick and your feet get stuck in it when you step in it. We got stopped by [public safety] once because they were kind of confused about what we were doing,” the artist said.

The project received a lot more attention than expected. After the artist created a Facebook page called, “St. Mary’s Sea Monster?” current College students and alumni began a discussion thread about the monster’s name. Proposed names have included Alejandro, St. Messe, St. Messie, Johnny, Noah, Chessie (later clarified to be the Chesapeake Bay monster), the St. Mary’s Sea Monster, and Jessie.

“I think its name should be Noah because St. Mary’s City is famous for the Ark and Dove ships, as in Noah’s Ark and the dove that let them know the water was receding,” said Hannah Werme, one of the students who commented on the page. As of March 27, “St. Mary’s Sea Monster?” had 204 fans. The sculpture’s appearance was also recognized on Ken Benjes’ blog, SMCMLOL.

At least one student has met the monster in person. According to first-year Zach Etsch, “On March 10 right after my friends ponded me, I went out to do battle with the sea serpent, whose name, I was told as a reward for victory, was “Ursula.”

The campus community should keep an eye out for the sea monster’s return. “I’d definitely like to bring it back,” the artist said. “Possibly move it around the pond, like have it travel.”

Campus Blacks Out for Earth Hour

During Earth Hour, members of the campus community had the opportunity to band together in multiple venues.
During Earth Hour, members of the campus community had the opportunity to band together in multiple venues.
On Saturday, Mar. 27, St. Mary’s students gathered for an hour and turned off all of their lights and electronics in honor of the energy conservation movement, Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is a worldwide movement sponsored by The World Wildlife Fund to try to promote energy conservation by encouraging the turning off lights and electronics for an hour. “Everyone is supposed to start at a local time, so that every hour another time zone is switching off their lights to save energy,” said first-year Paula Riner, the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) member who headed St. Mary’s Earth Hour preparations.

The purpose of Earth Hour is to show that small actions, such as turning your lights off for an hour, can have a very big impact on the environment when a large number of people participate. “More than just about awareness of energy consumption, the act of turning off lights for an hour is a united, high profile way to show worldwide understanding of and a commitment to climate change,” said SEAC member Emily Saari.

Here at St. Mary’s, Earth Hour began at 9 p.m. and there where a number of different activities for students to partake in during the hour. There was a campfire at the Waring Commons fire pit, BBQ at the Dorch Circle, and events on the Campus Center Patio, such as, live acoustic music, food, and coloring.

Before all of this could take place SEAC members, Residence Life, and Public Safety had to work together to make sure that as many lights as possible were turned off on campus and that students remained safe and had fun during the hour. SEAC members went around to the academic building checking light switches and practicing for Earth Hour.

According to Riner, they also asked faculty and staff members to turn off all of their office lights before heading out on Friday. “We contacted the RHC’S and RA’s so they could organize activities, inform their residents, and put up flyers [in their halls],” said SEAC member Johanna Galat.

While the ‘official’ Earth Hour only took place for an hour, SEAC members hope that students will take something away from the experience and look at the bigger picture. Many do think it will make students more aware of their energy usage. “When we turn off our lights and realize how much we can still do, we realize that much of the lighting we use is extraneous,” said Galat.

College Professor Discusses Nature’s Sexiest Traits

On Wednesday, March 24, biology professor Jordan Price presented an explanation of the sexual selection of expressed traits. The lecture, which took place in Schaefer Hall, was part of the Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium series.

After an introduction from College biology professor John Ramcharitar, Price began his lecture by explaining the definition of sexual selection. “Sexual selection is the evolution of traits that evolve solely because they enhance reproductive success,” he said. Unlike natural selection, a theory of evolution conceived by naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in the mid-1800s, sexually-selected traits do not necessarily increase the fitness of an individual; instead, the trait is preferred by the opposite sex.

“Differences we see in the sexes are always presumed to be due to sexual selection,” said Price. This includes size dimorphisms (one sex having a larger overall size than the other), dichromatism (differences in color between the sexes), and even behavioral dimorphisms (one sex exhibiting behaviors different from those exhibited by the other sex). These dimorphisms allow for intraspecific competition between members of the same sex (usually between males) and intersexual mate choice between the sexes (usually by females).

“What is less understood is female choice,” said Price. “There are some questions we don’t understand yet about how it works.”
Price discussed two theoretical models used to try to explain this phenomenon, the “good genes” models (in which females prefer males with higher genetic quality, as exhibited by environmentally-influenced and energy-costly traits) and the Fisherian “runaway selection” models (in which genes for the trait and preference for that trait both exist, leading to a multitude of potential genetic outcomes).

From there, Price began a discussion of his research, a culmination of phylogenies (a tree-like diagram showing the evolution of species based on specific traits) and an extensive collection of bird data. He analyzed three assumption of sexual selection: that males are usually more elaborate and conspicuous than females (meaning that males change more often than females); that changes occur more rapidly in polygynous (one male mating with many females) than in monogamous (one male mating with one female) species; and that Fisherian selection cannot be tested empirically.

“There are different ways that dimorphism can evolve,” said Price as he addressed the first assumption. The difference could be due to the gain of a male trait, or loss of the female trait, and later differences in the expression could be due to the gain or loss of the trait in either sex.

After studying patterns in bird song and color patterns of New World blackbirds, the phylogenies seem to show the loss of bright colors and singing in females rather than a gain of these traits in males, questioning the validity of this assumption.

To verify the second assumption, Price analyzed two groups of blackbirds, the polygynous oropendolas and mostly monogamous caciques. Comparing genetic with behavioral observations, he determined that oropendolas seem to have evolved dichromatism and changes in song much more rapidly than did the caciques, validating the second assumption.

While Price has studied song patterns and plumage in these birds and the monogamous orioles to observe relationships among species, the validity of the third assumption has not been proven or disproven. “We’re not sure, and we still need to accumulate evidence for that,” he said.

It seems that while the monogamous orioles follow the “good genes” model through the repeated convergence and reversals of selected traits, the polygynous oropendolas seem to follow the Fisherian model in that new traits accumulate with little to no convergence, leading to a possible conclusion that the models each explain different relationship styles.

“I really enjoyed Dr. Price’s lecture,” said sophomore Sam Berry. “He did a really good job with the topic and tied it all together well with the three assumptions about sexually selected traits and two theories about the evolution of sexually-selected traits.”

“Dr. Price presented an animated and easy-to-follow overview of sexual selection,” said Ramcharitar. “It is clear that he continues to be a highly productive and innovative scientist.”

The next NS&M lecture will be given on Mar. 31 by College mathematics professor David Kung.

WGSX Colloquium Speakers Call for Activism

The 11th Annual Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Colloquium, (En)gendering Political Change, started with a call to action.
“The most important message of your colloquium is that change can happen. Organized and together, you really can change things,” said Alice Cohan, one of the two speakers from the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF).

Cohan, along with Danielle Geong, gave the first presentation and discussed feminist activism within the United States and other nations. “We wanted to talk about feminist political activism and what that really means,” said Geong. “Obviously we’ve made so many gains in the last few decades, in the last few decades, in the last century. That said, of course, we continue to hit up against those glass ceilings.”
The next speaker, Madeline Kunin, showed exactly how those glass ceilings could be broken. Kunin, the first female governor of Vermont, used her personal political success story to encourage the women in the audience to run for public office.

The United States, she said, “is seventy-third in the list of countries with women in the lower houses of parliament,” with fewer women in the House of Representatives than in Afghanistan’s comparative political body. Kunin said she had hope that the numbers would soon look different. “Your generation is much more concerned about social issues than my generation was,” she said.

Caroline Slobodzian, the third speaker and the president of the DC Chapter of the US National Committee for United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), screened the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell and led a discussion afterwards. The movie told the story of the Liberian women who staged a silent protest outside of the Presidential Palace in order to end their country’s civil war.

The fourth speaker, historian Marc Stein, gave a lecture titled, “Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement: Historical Perspectives.” He discussed the misconceptions surrounding the Stonewall riots as well as the debate over what terminology to use when referring to the LGBT community.

The last event was a roundtable moderated by professor Sahar Shafqat and including speakers Kunin, Slobodzian, and Stein. The speakers began by discussing what makes an activist and moved on to cover topics such as gay marriage, the recently passed healthcare bill, and textbooks in Texas. Ultimately, the speakers agreed that everyone has the potential to be an activist, and that change is the result of creative group work.

“Do we need to find new, creative ways of activism?” asked Stein. “Absolutely.”

The speakers also discussed what it means to be an activist. “I think we live with contradictions and I think we struggle with contradictions,” said Stein.

“I thought it was amazingly coherent, though they came from very different perspectives. They made it a point to be inspiring and empowering,” said Katharina Von Kellenbach, professor of Religious Studies.

First-year Lindsey Siferd agreed. “I really enjoyed the range of events and speakers they brought in because it really represented WGSX and not just women’s studies. I thought that was such a great range of opinions and voices.”

“There was so much overlap. Even though they were talking about different things, there was a kind of really nice camaraderie between them.”

“I think that a lot of students have been really affected by it,” said sophomore Jess O’Rear, the other student member of the colloquium board. “I think that this has really set a fire under a couple of students, people who wanted to do something but didn’t know how to go about it.”

Colloquium co-chairs Kate Norlock and Leon Wiebers said they began planning for the event a year ahead of time.

“When we invite the speakers to campus, we tell them what the theme is and they can interpret it however they wish,” said Wiebers. “That results in an unknown event. And we’re so happy that events so far have been delightful.”

The colloquium is held in part, said Norlock, “becase we don’t expect people to have a background in gender issues and feminist activism. It is our way of showing the many, many things that scholars and performars do.”

The colloquium, sponsored by a variety of academic departments and campus organizations, took place on March 23, 24, and 25. All events took place in Cole Cinema.

The subject of next year’s colloquium will be women and war.