Niko's Pizza: Go There for the Greek

Tucked away in the same shopping center as Food Lion in Lexington Park is an unassuming little joint with a faded red “PIZZA” sign. If you come a little closer, you will also see that the name of the place is Niko’s, and that there’s a poster in the window featuring a pretty lady who wants you to eat more gyros. Heed that woman’s advice, my friends, and eat their gyros.

Here at Niko’s, the two great Mediterranean food powers of Greece and Italy combine to deliver a mouth-watering array of choices. Inside is a collection of cozy booths surrounded by blue-and-white Mediterranean-themed decor, complete with paintings of fishing boats and quaint white-washed houses.

Up at the ordering counter (there is no wait staff), you can peruse a menu of  your typical subs, salads (especially Greek salad), sandwiches, and appetizers along with their pizza menu (with the option of adding such Greek food items as gyro or souvlaki meat and feta cheese), dinner plates such as moussaka and lasagna, as well as their gyro and souvlaki options under the category “Greek Subs.”

By Greek subs, they mean pita bread stuffed with ribbon strips of gyro meat or chunky souvlaki meat, feta cheese, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and smothered in awesome tzatziki yogurt sauce. You will not be disappointed.

If you’re still not full after stuffing your face with meat, I highly recommend ordering up a serving of their sweet and syrupy baklava for dessert. Baklava, for those who don’t know, is layer upon layer of phyllo dough filled with walnuts and soaked in a sugary mess of honey. Lick those fingers and enjoy.

It is very important to note that Niko’s does not accept credit cards, so hit up the ATM for some cash before you head over. Despite that slight inconvenience, going to Niko’s is a thoroughly satisfying way to take a break from your normal weekend-pizza routine and get your Greek on.

The Editor-in-Chief Goes to the St. Mary's County Fair

If the faint smell of kettle corn and manure wafting down Route 5 didn’t clue you in, the St. Mary’s County Fair is in town bringing rides, games, and giant vegetables to satisfy even the pickiest fairgoer. From Sept. 19-22, the 67th annual county fair packed the best, worst, and weirdest of St. Mary’s County in the pavilions dotting the fairgrounds.

Even with impending storms rolling into the area, the parking lot was completely full on Saturday the 21, touted as “Parade Day” in the program. As I entered the gates with my group, my senses were bombarded with familiar smells and sights that can be found at any country fair: heart-stopping food and enough hay to send an allergy sufferer running.We made a beeline for the back of the fairgrounds where the event boasts an impressive array of stomach turning and dizzying rides that cost only a few tickets to enjoy, complete with not one, but two Ferris wheels for people who can’t get enough of being slowly hoisted into the air with a chance of getting stuck up there.

As we meandered through the grounds, we squeezed by tables featuring political campaigns, “Adventures with Jesus” storybooks, and local businesses advertising their services in the packed commercial buildings. The Farm and Garden building inspired me to change my major to “Produce Expert” so I could someday judge the impressively enormous squash on display and determine the quality of the tobacco leaves, carefully dried and hung by local farmers. We spent far too long in the Poultry and Rabbit building, crowding around the baby ducklings and surprising array of bunnies, and unfortunately missed the duck race.

The sky finally opened up on us as we headed to the food court for some “drank,” “kones,” and Thai food that was advertised as “no spice, no curry.” The attendees who were smart enough to bring umbrellas (hint: it was not us) simply carried on with the festivities while the rest of us looked for any canopy or tree that could protect us from the deluge. We eventually grabbed our “no spice” lo mein and headed for the cars in defeat, reaching the parking lot just as the rain let up. We drove away soaking wet but impressed with the array of crafts, animals. and activities that this small county has to offer.

The Relevance Of Chemical Weapons

There should be no question that chemical weapon stockpiles pose a threat to the security and safety of the United States. However, the nature of this threat is often misrepresented. The likelihood of another state striking the United States with chemical weapons is slim to none. Not only would such an attack be difficult to pull off, but it would be a death sentence for the perpetrating government. The real threat is the possibility of a chemically armed terrorist organization.

From a tactical perspective, chemical weapons can be likened to a poor man’s nuke. Pound for pound, they are less deadly and generally lack the physical destructiveness of a nuclear device. Whereas nuclear fallout and radiation can last for decades, chemical residue does not last very long and is comparatively easy to clean up. All that being said, chemical weapons are cheap to produce and rely on simple technologies. It is for these reasons that poorer nations, lacking the capability to build nuclear arsenals, choose to assemble stockpiles of chemical weapons instead.

Since terrorists are the only people willing to openly attack the United States, and since no government will ever risk giving them chemical weapons, it stands to reason that the only plausible way for a chemical attack on the United States to occur is for a terrorist organization to steal from a chemical stockpile. Such theft is most likely to occur in countries where the government is weak or defunct.

This leads to two conclusions. First, that the mere presence of chemical weapons in a war-torn nation like Syria threatens the safety of the United States and the international community. Second, that the stronger Assad’s regime is, the less likely terrorists are to get ahold of these chemical weapons. It is clear then, why the United States and Russia are so eager to see Assad’s stockpile destroyed. Without the presence of chemical weapons, the international community loses most of its reasons for caring what happens in the Syrian Civil War. Whether Assad wins, the rebels win, or both lose and anarchy ensues, there will be nothing inside Syria threatening anyone except those few countries unlucky enough to border the failing state.

The decision to treat the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” for the Assad regime makes very little sense.  Though atrocious, immoral, and a crime against humanity; the use of chemical weapons within Syria does not pose a threat to the greater international community. The argument has been made that the use of chemical weapons is significant because of the speed and suddenness with which they kill. A handful of terrorists looking to attack a neighborhood would be hard pressed to do much damage with conventional weapons. It is then true that a chemical weapon would make their task far easier. However, the claim that removing Syria’s chemical weapons will save Syrian civilians is preposterous. The Assad regime has thousands of soldiers and vast stores of military-grade hardware. If the regime wishes to kill several hundred people, their machine guns and tanks will prove just as effective as a canister of Sarin gas.

Do you have a political, economic or public policy question that you’d like answered? Email your question to japosoap@gmail.com and it might be featured with a response in a future issue of The Point News.

 

VOICES Presents Poetry of the Immigrant Experience

Poetry-lovers at St. Mary’s were treated to the work of Washington, D.C.-based poet Carlos Parada Ayala at the first VOICES Reading of the year on Thurs.,  Sept 19. Parada Ayala, who is originally from El Salvador, composes his poems in both Spanish and English. His first book of poetry, entitled La Luz de la Tormenta (The Light of the Storm), was recently released by Zozobra Publishing, a new bilingual publishing press founded by José Ballesteros, a St. Mary’s Associate Professor of Spanish.

The poems read by Parada Ayala dealt with themes of cultural identity, immigration, and existential frustration. The soft-spoken poet himself said that he tries to invoke “a concern for beauty, charm, and creativity, but at the same time dealing with the hard reality of social injustice within the world.”

A highlight of the reading was when Parada Ayala read his poem “Chirilagua Blues” in its original Spanish. The poem, which is described from the perspective of a Salvadorean immigrant, featured such witty lyricisms as (in English) “One day I was deported / I snuck back, it was damn hard. / I came undocumented, / Now I have my own green card.” Parada Ayala also treated his audience to one of his unpublished poems (edited out by Ballesteros), which was influenced by the rhythms of reggaeton music, which combines Latin and Caribbean musical styles. The audience snapped (rather than “clapped”) for more.

24 Hour Theater Project Returns

Imagine you are given twelve hours to construct an entire play and then only another twelve to memorize the script, find all the costumes, set props, and run through it all before you have to perform it exactly 24 hours after it was written. Does this sound insane? Well, a total of sixteen people pulled it off with help from the Secretary of the White Room and sophomore Windy Vorwick and senior acting stage manager Hannah Sturm.

The 24-Hour Project is hosted in the White Room, a student-run theater in the basement of Montgomery Hall, where twelve hours are set aside on Friday for the writers to make their scripts and the rest of the time to pair up actors and directors with the writers to create a play. There were four total plays this semester with eight actors, four directors and four writers assigned to each.
Participant Rachel Buxton said of the experience, “The hardest part is to get started and to decide what to do. But after that, it was surprisingly easy to get it done.”

Throughout each play the amount of effort and hard work put into every part was visible from the costumes made “from whatever is in your closet or that you can find in the costume room” (according to stage manager Hannah Sturm) to the actual people acting out the scripts as well as the lights and sound people in the back. The one play was written by junior Michael Gill and was aptly named Missed Fortunes. Most definitely a comedy, Missed Fortunes featured a Scrooge-like visitation from a future self to a ruthless businesswoman involved in the famous coffee chain Star-Bucks.

Though most of the plays had humorous aspects, there were little specks of seriousness that would come through now and again. The play Science Hat, as it was named two minutes into its dress rehearsal, was written by senior Kevin Koeser. While it started out as a more serious play, as it developed it involved the audience and became comical. The plot centers around two scientists who are secretly experimenting with a strange metal hat that their company has produced and whose properties they are trying to discern.

Sophomore Hannah Dickmyer was an actor in the last play, Once Upon a Time, written by senior Yna Davis. Dickmyer said that this was her third time doing the 24-Hour Project and that her “favorite part of the play was her next to last line.” She played a princess who has become fed up with her author’s farcical attempts at writing them out of a tower where they are trapped together.
In only a day, about twenty people put together four approximately ten-minute plays that were witty, engaging, and hilarious in their characterization. Besides being exhausted from staying up for a day and rushing to go get everything done, it seems that all involved are also pleased with what they accomplished.

Center for the Study of Democracy Hosts Two MSNBC Pundits

On Friday, Sept. 20, the Center for the Study of Democracy hosted two MSNBC political pundits in St. Mary’s Hall to discuss and debate the present state of American politics. Michael Steele, known most recently as the former Republican National Committee Chairman, took up the conservative-leaning side of the discussion, and Steve McMahon took up the more liberal-leaning side of the discussion. After each of the pundits gave a short introduction, a four-person panel consisting of Political Science Department Chairman Michael Cain, Assistant Professor of Political Science Todd Eberly, Point News Editor-in-Chief Allison Kight, and Point News Managing Editor Maria Smaldone directed questions at the two pundits.

The chief focus of the evening was on the state of American politics, which both pundits seemed to conclude is in disarray. Although their specific points and examples varied, both Mr. Steele and Mr. McMahon agreed that partisan gridlock is the root of the problem. They argued that the common practice of Gerrymandering has resulted in very homogenously opinioned districts. As a result, representatives cannot afford to compromise on anything because their constituency lacks a diversity of opinion. Furthermore, they argued that the media has become more and more opinionated and biased; such that people can pick and choose which perspectives they want to be exposed to. This means that people tend to read and watch what they want to hear and are rarely confronted with viewpoints that differ from their own.

On the subject of compromise, the two pundits brought up the less-often covered issue of gridlock within parties. Both Mr. Steele and Mr. McMahon laid considerable scorn upon the Republican Party for its disunity and failure to appeal to a wide variety of voters. They also addressed the issue of the Tea Party and its unwillingness to compromise on virtually any issue. Mr. Steele brought up the interesting point that he respected the initial purpose of the tea party as a group of legislators who sought to stick to their campaign promises but lamented that they seem to have since twisted that commitment into a mandate that prevents them from accepting any sort of compromise.

In offering solutions to the present problems in Washington, Mr. Steele and Mr. McMahon turned to the past. They argued that politicians need to be more willing to work with one another and suggested that professional friendship could be a good way achieve such a change. They described times when most lawmakers lived in Washington and how their proximity to each other, and to each other’s families, brought about a sense of friendliness and comradely that would not otherwise exist. They contrasted this with the modern state of affairs where most lawmakers live outside the city and so view their coworkers as little more than nay votes and yay votes.

Clearly, the topics and points made during the discussion resonated with many in the audience. Certain points were received much as one would expect choice bits of a sermon to be; with forcefully mumbled agreement and a shaking of heads and hands. However, despite covering a range of complex and emotional topics, the discussion retained a light-heartedness that made the event all the more enjoyable. Mr. Steele and Mr. McMahon sustained an air of friendly disagreement that never became uncomfortable or hostile. Indeed, their occasional jabs at each other’s political affiliations was quite endearing and seemed to support their enduring argument that politics in Washington needs to be more open and more friendly. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the evening was when Mr. McMahon ended his introduction by  saying, bluntly, that the Republican Party is “a shit show;” Mr. Steele took to the podium a few moments later and opened with the line “good evening, I’m the former chairman of the shit show.”

Cross Country Faces Promising Season

By Monica Claro

This fall the St. Mary’s cross-country team is racing their way to earning a spot among the top five winning schools for the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships. With new devoted players, improving returners, fresh beginnings, and a winning attitude towards challenges, this season seems quite promising, according to head coach Tom Fisher. “The team has been doing fairly well; they’ve been getting second in most meets for both girls’ and boys’ teams. The team chemistry is great, our runners are improving on their times, and they seem to be really enjoying themselves,” says Fisher, who has returned to the position as head coach for the first time in four years.

The season has kick-started on a strong note, as senior captain Keighly Bradbrook earned the honors of being selected as the Capital Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week on Sept. 10. The team’s latest statistics have also reached high rankings. Recently, both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams have finished in the top five at the Coach Achtzehn Classic at York College of Pennsylvania, with the men ranking in third and women in fifth, respectively, out of twelve teams. Furthermore, both cross-country teams ranked in second out of six schools at Generals Invitational at Washington & Lee University.

Team captain David Kersey, a junior, tells The Point News, “It’s safe to say that this is the best team that St. Mary’s cross country has had in its five years as a program. Members from previous years are dropping times at every race, the new runners have been able to contribute immediately. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and can’t wait to see how we do in the final stretch. We are getting better each day.”

As for the team goals, Bradbrook had a lot to say: “Ultimately I would like to see both the girls and guys teams place at least one spot higher than we did last year in champs. As a new team doing so well I think it would be awesome if we could stir things up a little for the other teams in our conference and show them that we are a competitor.”

Sailing Season Begins

By Brianna Glase

With the wind behind their sails, the St. Mary’s sailing team raced into the new season victoriously, taking first and second place awards at the Riley Cup and placing sixth at the Harry H. Anderson Trophy, according to the official college sailing score release.

According to Director of Sailing Bill Ward, the team finished the last season strongly.  “Last year we were second at the women’s nationals and second at team nationals,” he said.

According to senior co-captain John Wallace, the addition of fifteen new members to the team should help challenge all the members to excel.  “We are very excited to have such a good group of freshman sailors.  We added fifteen new members to the team this year which is above average and will make our practices much more competitive and therefore make us stronger overall as a team,” he said.

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15 saw the sailing team performing strongly in two competitions, the Riley Cup, sponsored by Old Dominion University, and the Harry H. Anderson Trophy, sponsored by Yale University.  Currently in their division, the St. Mary’s sailing team is ranked seventh.

Ward hopes that this success will continue throughout the season, leading up to the national championship in the spring, which St. Mary’s will be hosting.  “We hope to qualify for [the national championship] and contend like we did last year,” Ward said.

Wallace echoes Ward’s optimism.  “We hope to improve on our results from last year and continue to improve all year in order to peak at the national championships in the spring,” he said.

Living Wage Campaign: Third Time's a Charm?

A dedicated group of St. Mary’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni has once again come together in a campaign to restructure the salary ratio of all employees of the College. United under the banner of “St. Mary’s Wages, the St. Mary’s Way,” this group has drafted a proposal for establishing a benchmark minimum salary for the lowest-paid full-time employees on campus, and capping the salaries of the highest-paid employees to only 7.5 to 10 times the lowest salary.

The benchmark salary is designed to adjust with inflation, a sustainable solution which ensures that the lowest-paid employees will be paid enough to keep up with the cost of living in St. Mary’s County—a concept known as making a “living wage.” The other goal of this proposal is to avoid using the strategy of temporary fixes that have been implemented in response to past reincarnations of the living wage campaign.

The proposal, which is available to read in-full on the St. Mary’s Wage’s website (“http://www.stmaryswages.org),  “seeks to align our salary structure with [the College’s] mission,” which is to keep St. Mary’s a place “where people foster relationships based upon mutual respect.” One faculty member who has overseen the creation of the proposal, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science Sahar Shafqat, said that this proposal “explicitly addresses…one of the huge massive inequalities among people on campus that is antithetical to [St. Mary’s] values,”

Laraine Glidden, Professor Emerita of Psychology, has been an involved faculty member in the drafting of this proposal. She characterized the resurgence of the living wage issue this year as different from those in years past because this time, the campaign is presenting its own solutions to the problem, rather than just making the campus community  aware of the problem. “I think the big difference is that in the past, the living wage idea has stood by itself  and a lot of people were supportive,” said Glidden, “but the crucial argument was ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”

Now, however, the living wage campaign organizers have created a financial model in which administrative salaries are capped in order to leave more available income for the lowest-paid employees. “We’re linking it to income disparity…I think the proposal is very good at laying out the increasing disparity over the last decade, and it’s very clear where the increases went,” Glidden added in regards to the income gap resulting from the raises in administrative pay.

The discussion of the living wage issue comes at a time in which college administrators and the Board of Trustees are looking for ways to maintain an affordable tuition at St. Mary’s despite a national trend of growing higher education costs. “One big factor to [rising tuition rates] is executive compensation,” said Shafqat, “and I think for lots of reasons we need to discuss changing the whole salary structure, partly because of the living wage issue and partly to get a handle on tuition.”

As a result of the admissions shortfall and subsequent budget cuts that occurred in May, the Business and Finance Office released a compensation plan for the upcoming fiscal year. This plan will give the lowest-paid employees of the College (those who make under $55,000 a year) a one-percent increase in pay starting in January, and those in the highest earning bracket (over $150,000 a year) will have a five-percent decrease in pay from September to May.

Such financial measures, living wage supporters say, are a step in the right direction for their cause. “It basically saves money…with the most wealthy people sacrificing salaries, and the lowest paid people not only not sacrificing [their salaries], but actually getting a small salary increase,” said Glidden.

There are 110 staff members who are also members of the AFSCME (Association of Federal, State, County Municipal Employees) union. Only twenty percent of these members make under $25,000. Brad Newkirk, a chemistry lab technician and the union president for the staff at St. Mary’s under AFSCME, says he fully supports the living wage proposal, but has reservations about how it might be implemented.

“If we supported every aspect of this plan, that means that the union is only supporting twenty percent of the members of our unit, and we’re just not going to do that,” said Newkirk. “I would love to see our lowest earners see a raise of that nature, but if the wage earners just above that or someone who’s been [working] here for a while doesn’t get anywhere close to that, it’s not really fair.”

However, Newkirk also stated that he thinks that this is “the faculty and administration that will be affected more,” as the pay cuts to the higher earning brackets are what will finance the pay increase for lower-wage employees.

A decrease in the presidential salary offered to potential candidates during the Board of Trustees’ search for a new college president is another factor that must be considered in light of the restructuring of salaries that must occur if the living wage proposal is to be implemented.

When recruiting candidates for the presidency, a search firm hired by the Board of Trustees would usually try to offer a competitive salary package in an attempt to attract high-quality leaders. However, some think that if the Board were to hire a search firm that is willing to offer candidates a more modest salary, then the College would find a leader who adheres closely to the College’s mission. “If we are to recruit candidates who really share our values,” said Shafqat, “then that’s a great way to weed out folks who are coming here for the wrong reasons and actually attracts really interesting people who would come here for the right reasons.”

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) has spearheaded the student contingent of the living wage campaign in years past, and the club is planning to host events in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal on all levels of the College’s administration. Abiola Akanni, junior and president of SDS, said, “we’re planning a forum to have on [Wednesday, Sept. 22] to bring the discussion to the first-years and get them involved in the conversation. We’re also organizing and planning activities to hit SGA (Student Government Association), the faculty senate, the Board of Trustees, and staff meetings.”

Newkirk added that he hoped members of the union’s bargaining unit will “be involved [in these proposal forums] to at least make sure that other people know where we stand,” but that the bargaining unit reserves the right to discuss how their wages should be distributed if there is any extra income that would become available to them.

Two alumni who were involved in the 2006 and 2012 campaigns for a living wage are heartened to see the issue being brought to the forefront of campus issues once again. G. Paul Blundell, ’07, was one of the students who participated in the sit-in at the office of former president Maggie O’Brien. “The concessions won from the administration back in 2006 by the campaign I was involved in, while significant, were a far cry from a living wage,” he said. “St. Mary’s moving in a more egalitarian and democratic direction is not only the principled and wise thing to do, but it would also do oodles to communicate to students that living by principle is possible and that demanding that the institutions of your world behave morally is an entirely reasonable demand.”

Caroline Selle, ’12, hopes that this proposal will be met with a positive reaction from College leaders. “I think staff, faculty, and students have learned a lot over the years and understand much better what it will take to convince the administration and motivate those holding the power to act,” she said. “Hopefully, the new administrators will recognize both St. Marys’ values and what they mean. Community doesn’t mean rigid hierarchy.”

Despite the mostly positive response to the living wage campaign’s proposal, SDS member and senior Ashok Chandwaney hopes that those who do not completely agree with the proposal or think that there is a better method with which the College can better provide for its lowest-paid employees will be present at the upcoming forums and voice their opinions. “It’d be nice to have some constructive and engaging conversations about different ways to implement the plan,” he said.

Chandwaney also stressed that the College is “at the ideal time for this campaign,” since one president has resigned and the College is in the process of finding a new leader. “The Board of Trustees knows that their job is to be good shepherds of the community, and if they hear really loud and clear from the community that wage justice is something that we care about, then hopefully they will take this into account while searching for a new president.”

SGA Update from the President

Hello SMCM! My name is Kate Brennan and I am your Student Government Association President. I wanted to share with the community the topics the senate will be addressing this year and what you can do to get more involved.

Last week, the SGA executive board participated in their retreat, an opportunity for us to get to know each other and discuss what we want to accomplish as a group. A main objective we had was to seek out student opinions and alert them to the legislation that we are working on.

This year members of the senate will be tabling outside the Great Room on Tuesdays before SGA to encourage students to attend and address any questions they have.  Furthermore, our publicity will be improved by utilizing the Facebook St. Mary’s SGA page, Twitter account SeahawksSGA, and the new SGA website. These resources are for the students to ensure that their representatives are accurately speaking on their behalf.

For the year, students can anticipate legislation about the Living Wage campaign which will include working with the faculty and student organizations. Other objectives are creating a more concrete Talon Grant definition and to encourage more student proposals. In addition, the senate would like to see more Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund projects.  Our agenda for the year is relatively flexible because we want to take suggestions from students of what they want to see on campus. This includes club constitutions or suggested legislation; we are representatives for the student body and will work to make their ideas a reality. Do not hesitate to ask myself or other members of the senate for help. Additionally, elections for senators and the first-year executive board will start on Wednesday, Sept. 25. An e-mail will be sent out to all students so be sure to vote for the candidate you believe will best support you.