SGA Victors: Weiss/Benjes, Smith, Harvey

Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes. (Photo by Jackson Webb)
Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes. (Photo by Jackson Webb)
On Monday, Apr. 19, the results of the Student Government Association (SGA) executive board elections were announced. The 2010-2011 SGA president and vice-president will be juniors Marlena Weiss and Ken Benjes, the treasurer will be junior Matt Smith, and the director of campus programming will be junior Jessica Harvey.

“I was extremely excited when I saw the email from Louis [Ritzinger, SGA Parliamentarian],” said Weiss. “The first thing I did was call my mom, since she had been contacting me throughout the weekend… And then I texted Ken.”

“I was talking to a friend outside Schaefer before class and noticed that I was suddenly getting a lot of texts, which turned out to be congratulations texts,” Benjes said about his finding out about the election results.

Weiss said that initially, she was “somewhat intimidated by the process” because unlike this year, the past couple of SGA presidential tickets have run uncontested. However, Weiss said, “I think that winning a contested election will make us better at our jobs since we have more of a promise to fulfill.

“I am extremely honored and excited that our campus chose us for these important positions,” she said. “My goal for the 2010-2011 year is to follow up on all the ideas I put forth in my platform and always be on the lookout for ways to make St. Mary’s even better than it already is. I plan on staying on campus this summer and will be devoting a large amount of time to SGA and preparing for the upcoming year. I wholeheartedly look forward to working with Ken to lead the campus.”

“As I said in my platform, I plan to fight terrorism on campus,” Benjes added.

Current SGA president senior Justin Perry said that he thought that Weiss and Benjes would do an “amazing job.”

Of Weiss, Perry said that it “sounds like she’s going to continue to place an emphasis on sustainability” and added that her “progressive policies on sexual health,” such as the gender-neutral housing proposal which she spearheaded would have a broad impact on the campus.

“She’s been very involved in the past,” he said.

Perry said that he felt that Benjes would be “incredibly strong” at building openness between between the SGA executive board and the senate. “It feels very divided sometimes,” he said.

Perry also commented on Matt Smith’s election to the office of treasurer. He said that “Matt has been a very vocal leader in the senate for responsible spending,” noting Smith’s role as a “senate leader” this year.

“And he’s awesome,” Perry added.

Junior Colleen O’Neil, the head of the presidential ticket that ran against Benjes and Weiss, said that although she did not win the election, she would still remain active in campus life.

“Of course I am discouraged that my running mate, Hillary [Powell], and I did not win the election but I do think that Marlena and Ken are fully capable of leading our school,” said O’Neil. “I wish them nothing but the best and am excited to see where else in the school I can be involved and invoke change. I love St. Mary’s and its student body and was excited about being SGA president for the sole purpose of giving back and making a lasting change at SMCM.

“I will still be involved and fulfill this purpose in some other manner,” she added.

Students Support Referendum to Raise Fees for Green Projects

During the SGA elections, which ran from Apr. 13-16, students voted on a referendum to raise their Student Government Association (SGA) fees $10 so that the SGA can fund green/sustainable initiatives on campus via a revolving loan. SGA Parliamentarian Louis Ritzinger said that with just over 30 percent voter turnout, the referendum passed “overwhelmingly.”

The idea for the referendum came from SGA president senior Justin Perry, Queen Anne senator first-year Becky White, and Caroline senator sophomore Danielle Doubt. After tabling and conducting surveys to see how much people would be willing to pay for green energy and what they would want the money to fund, they sent their results to Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall.

Perry said that they found that some students were willing to pay hundreds of dollars for green energy. Regarding the nature of the projects that students wanted to fund, 60 percent of students wanted their money to go entirely to green campus projects, 39. 5 percent wanted a combination of green projects and renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset emissions, and 0.5 percent wanted only RECs (which is what green money goes to now). “Green campus projects” might look something like geothermal heat pumps for the townhouses, the residents of which pay their own utility bills.

Perry said that 2007 was a “watershed year” for devoting money to green energy, and that the College was a national leader in environmentalism. He said that other campuses were catching up, but St. Mary’s would continue to lead.

“At St. Mary’s, we pride ourselves on being on the cutting edge,” he said.

Current Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall was involved the first time that a green energy referendum passed, and said that “hearing that “[the current referendum] passed was really exciting…It sends a lot of messages.” Now, he says that he and the administration will be working with the SGA to figure out how to put the money raised to the best use.
Perry said that “renewable energy can save the students a lot of money.” Sustainability was part of Perry’s platform when he ran for SGA president, which led him to get involved and propose a “modest increase”–originally five dollars–in fees to fund green energy. According to Perry, the SGA had originally considered making the referendum a proposal to raise fees $20, but when this was put to a vote, it was defeated by one vote in favor of raising fees $10. Class of 2010 president Chris Rodkey cast the tie-breaking vote.

“I fully support green initiatives, especially upgrades that will save the College – or more specifically the students – money,” he said. “I just think the timing of this was off on this one.” Rodkey did not support the $10 fee increase as a whole, either, for the same reason.

Waring Commons Senator junior Zachary Agatstein agreed. “Students are already paying massive amounts of money to come here…While $10 is not a massive sum of money, it strikes me as somewhat cruel to ask students or their families to contribute yet more money at a time when many are struggling to pay their tuition bills or are struggling to make basic ends meet. Don’t get me wrong; I think that green initiatives are important. It’s something for which our campus is known. But now was not the right time.”
Still, Perry thinks that the fees will save the students money, at least in the long run.

“The SGA’s role is to properly steward student funds,” he said. “This is a responsible way to do that.”

Farewell from the Chief’s Desk

For three years, I have sauntered down to the campus center every Monday night at 8 p.m. Every Monday, I have swiped my student ID across the sensor and opening the club room door as it unlocked with a beep to make msy way to the table where staff writers and editors alike brainstormed and assigned story ideas to write about. For the past year or so, the number of Point News staff writers has sorrowfully declined, but despite our small numbers, we continue to receive comments about the quality of the newspaper that we pour so much energy into designing and distributing. As much as part of me would like to remain a part of this campus institution, I have to say goodbye, and wish the editors that are staying behind the best of luck.

I would also like to thank all of the people involved with the paper, especially the editors past and present who have acted as friends and mentors. The staff that I have worked with has always been very reliable and hardworking, willing to sacrifice as much as 24 hours total every other weekend in the newsroom, not counting the time in between spent at meetings, covering events, conducting interviews, and writing articles. I will miss the camaraderie between editors that flourishes during meetings, the fake headline placeholders, and the ridiculous captions about guest lecturers eating people or displaying superhuman powers, all of which have to be replaced before publication. I’ll miss the ability to serve the campus community, although you’ll still see me around campus, especially in the Writing Center as a tutor.

I also want to express how happy I am for the opportunities that next year’s staff will have. If President Urgo keeps his word, then next year’s editor-in-chief will have weekly access to the president to be able to cover issues important to the students. The Point News is also ordering some new equipment to be able to provide more media for both the paper and our Web site. I have no doubt that The Point News will continue to improve, and I hope that the campus community will continue to look to us for information about the pressing news around campus. I know that I will continue to read the paper, and to appreciate all of the hard work that will continue to go into it.

Dance Show Asks, “Are You Ready for Me?”

Photos

Click to enlargePhoto by Brendan O'HaraPhoto by Brendan O'HaraPhoto by Brendan O'HaraPhoto by Brendan O'HaraPhoto by Brendan O'Hara

The Spring 2010 dance show, entitled “Are You Ready for Me?” ran for four shows from Thursday, April 8 to Saturday, April 10 in Bruce Davis Theater.

Students packed into the theater after waiting outside for over an hour to see the wide variety of dances, from hip hop to lyrical to jazz to a fusion of Irish and Mexican styles.

“It was definitely as good as some previous years,” said senior Andrew Keppel. He added that the show had “lots of energy.”

Junior Laura Mateczun said that the dancing “seemed way more professional than [she] thought it would,” although she said that “she was frustrated by the seating situation,” referring to the way in which students stormed the theater as soon as the show started, forcing some students to stand or sit at an odd angle to the stage.

Still, when asked if it was worth the wait, Keppel said “definitely.”

St. Mary’s Professors Show Off Their Musical Talents

On Wednesday, April 7, several members of the administration, faculty and staff performed in front of a packed St. Mary’s Hall auditorium.

Performers included:

David Kung (Associate Professor of Mathematics), violin
Shizuka Nishikawa (Assistant Professor of Economics), piano and vocals–soprano
Stephanie Peppler (Internship Coordinator/Career Counselor), cello
Anne Marie Brady (Assistant Professor of Psychology), piano
Jeffrey Byrd (Professor of Biology), vocals
Lois Stover (Chair of Educational Studies), vocals
Laura Bayless (Dean of Students), vocals
Lyn Schramm (Supervisor of Music Interns and Adjunct Professor of Educational Studies), piano
Brad Park (Assistant Professor of Philosophy), vocals and banjo
Bill Friebele (Art Professor), electric bass
Jeff Hammond (English Professor), drums
Conrad Helms (Patron Services Librarian), guitar
Rick Loheed (Assistant Director of the Waterfront), guitar and vocals
Richard Wagner (Director of Campus Store), guitar and vocals

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.”

MPO’BARC, and an Onslaught of Other Crazy Acronyms

On March 10, the campus received an all-student email urging the members of the campus community to refer to the Athletics and Recreation Center by its new official name (as of Feb. 20): the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center. Because it was a campus-wide email, many students probably deleted the email without looking at it carefully, if at all. I remember reading it and shrugging and then proceeding to delete it. New emails from Tom Fisher, the director of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center, had the full name of the center typed out in the headings, but then, this was only a reflection of the fact that, well, the building’s name had officially changed. I didn’t think anything of it.

Then Monday, the night of Point News meetings, came around.

As you have probably noticed, The Point News has a policy of giving the full name of associations or buildings on the first reference, and then the abbreviation on the second reference. For example, the Student Environmental Action Coalition becomes SEAC, and the Athletics and Recreation Center becomes the ARC, or at least it used to. Now, after some discussion with the Point News staff, we’re still not sure what the Michael P.O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center would officially become upon abbreviation. An email sent out a week or so ago abbreviated it to MPOARC. In the Point News room, we had discussed the possibility of MPO’BARC, or MPOBARC (without the apostrophe, for those who think that MPO’BARC looks too much like a chant from an H. P. Lovecraft story). Either way, whether we use MPOARC or MPO’BARC or MPOBARC, this poses a problem for us.

The purpose of acronyms is to allow a text to become easier for its audience to read. Ideally, the reader is already familiar with the acronym used, and so slogging through the wordiness of full titles becomes a non-issue. Even if the reader is unfamiliar with the full name of whatever is being abbreviated, the abbreviation still makes reading easier and less wordy. This is especially necessary in journalism, where wordiness is the easiest way to get a reader to put the newspaper down and to switch on the TV instead. Therefore, the whole notion of using MPOBARC as an acronym makes very little sense. Not only are most students and faculty unused to seeing this acronym or any of its variants in print, but the sheer use of so many capital letters in one acronym–which can’t even be pronounced like a word in itself, as can, say, UNICEF–would actually make the reader slow down every time the acronym popped up in print. This is counterproductive.

We talked about this as a staff, and taking this into account, decided that we would now refer to what was the Athletics and Recreation Center as the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center on first reference, and the old usage of ARC on all other references to make articles read more smoothly.

I would also like to add that none of us have anything against Michael P. O’Brien. None of us resent that the athletics building is now named after him. I do, however, wonder why the ARC is the only building that seems to have drawn administrative attention regarding the use of its proper name. I rarely see emails calling the River Center the James P. Muldoon River Center (JPMRC?), even though Muldoon is the chair of the Board of Trustees while O’Brien is a trustee that to my knowledge holds no special rank within the Board. The Health Center’s official name is Ethel Chance Hall (ECH? ECHC?), named after a nurse who worked at the Health Center for 32 years, although I have never seen or heard anyone call it that (except maybe on some of the campus maps). If any of us at the Point News just missed the memo on any of these names, then we’d be happy to rectify this and begin including other proper names as part of the first reference wording of these buildings ‘ names. Until then, Ethel Chance Hall is the Health Center, the James P. Muldoon River Center is the River Center, and the Michael P. O’Brien ARC is the ARC–after the first reference.

Future President Speaks about Campus, Leadership

Dr. Joseph R. Urgo (Photo from smcm.edu)
Dr. Joseph R. Urgo (Photo from smcm.edu)
On Friday, March 5, The Point News was fortunate enough to be able to talk to the College’s next president, Joseph Urgo, currently vice president of academics and dean of faculty at Hamilton College. He talked about his impression of the College, his views on the College presidency, and more.

The Point News: How did the St. Mary’s presidential search first come to your attention?
Joseph Urgo: I got an inquiry from the search firm asking if I would be interested in learning more about St. Mary’s College.

TPN: When did you decide to put your name in for the search? Why?
JU: Sometime last year. What attracted me mostly is [St. Mary’s] distinctive model as a public liberal arts college. I’m fully committed to making the liberal arts accessible to all members of the population who wish to experience this level of academic challenge. I don’t think the liberal arts should be reserved for the privileged few, but rather an option available to all motivated students. The liberal arts are of great public value to the nation as a whole, and should attract the brightest intellects in the rising generation.

TPN: As you know, the presidential search process was closed to the students the second time around, which led to many of us wondering what went on behind closed doors. Could you describe the selection process a bit from your end?
JU: From a candidate’s end, you might prefer it if your home institution didn’t know you were involved, or thinking about accepting a new set of challenges. Presidential searches are often kept confidential.
I had long conversations with the search committee, and there were faculty, students, staff members, and trustees on the search committee. I did visit campus, but I did so quietly, on my own. I remember meeting some students swimming off a dock, and they told me that this was a great place to study…As for the search, there are some endeavors where we need to put our trust in shared governance, in a representative system, as a substantive gesture of faith in our colleagues and peers.

TPN: What do you remember about your college president from when you were an undergrad at Haverford, and how does that affect your view of the job?
JU: I knew my president personally—Jack Coleman. I took a class with him (he taught a class in the Political Science department)…He was pretty much a fixture on campus: not only he, but also his family, his dog. That’s always been my model of a residential college presidency.

TPN: You have a family and two dogs. Will they be a part of this campus as well?
JU: Yes, that’s how I understand the president’s role. The St. Mary’s College campus will be my and Lesley’s new home. I consider the president’s role to be a living part of the institution — interacting with all members of the community, on and off campus, students as well as employees. This is important, I think, so that the President is able to speak about the College not only from knowledge, but from day-to-day, residential experience. Willa Cather has a nice line about the kind of work involved in a presidency (she was writing about artists, in The Song of the Lark): “Your work becomes your personal life. You’re not much good until it does.”

TPN: You teach classes along with your work as dean of faculty. What classes do you teach, and could you describe them? I heard you’re teaching a class about Faulkner…
JU: Yes, I’m teaching a seminar on Faulkner this semester. Every spring, I’ve taught a course here [at Hamilton]. And if the St. Mary’s English Department will have me, I’d like to teach a course for them. Maybe not the first year (I’ll be learning a lot!), but after we’re settled.

TPN: Okay, onto the more fun stuff: some of the students here have noticed that you have a Facebook page, and several students have already written on your Wall. How do you plan to use social media to interact with students at St. Mary’s?
JU: I will use Facebook to keep students and others in the St Mary’s community involved in what I’m doing for the College. Also Twitter; I have a Twitter account. At Hamilton, I would Tweet at sports games to give scoring updates, or to give updates at alumni events– that sort of thing…. I had a radio program, which I’d like to have at St. Mary’s, if the station is looking for help. I find new social media—although I guess radio isn’t that new—to be very useful…You can keep the campus informed of things and stay connected, regardless of location and travel.

TPN: Your Facebook wall also shows you on a Vespa. Will we see that at all on campus?
JU: Absolutely. That’s my chief mode of transportation when the weather permits.

TPN: Now, you said you’ve visited campus. What was your favorite part?
JU: Yes, I did a self-guided tour, and it was over the summer. What I told the search committee at the time is “land, water, sky”—I was struck by the sheer prominence of these sensations: the vastness of the sky, the surround of water, the historical significance of the topography, excavated …. And, of course, the architecture as well, 19th and 20th century (and 21st!). The students must feel fortunate to be in this location. I am certain that it must be conducive to deep and rewarding academic thought—what beauty in which to do one’s work!

TPN: What are you most looking forward to about becoming president of St. Mary’s College?
JU: I’m looking forward to helping the College to define and meet its aspirations. But first, I look forward to meeting everyone and coming to know the community, its present, its past, and its idea of the future.

TPN: Before we wrap up, is there anything that you want to say to the St. Mary’s College community?
JU: Just that this is a great honor I’m thrilled and humbled by the invitation to join the community and campus as its next president. Lesley and I look forward with great pleasure to transplanting our lives to St. Mary’s College and St Mary’s City.

Urgo will be visiting campus from Thursday, March 11 to Monday, March 15. According to the schedule sent out by Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman, Urgo will be informally meeting with students after the Cabaret performance Thursday and at 1:30 p.m. on Friday in Montgomery, Schaefer, and Glendening Halls.

Leading 2010 Mr. SMC Contestants Announced

In the Mr. SMC pageant on Saturday, March 27, several young men will compete to see who is the manliest, sexiest, and maybe even prettiest of them all. According to the Facebook group, as of March 7 the leading nominees were: 1- William Clement, 2- Brendan McCarthy, 3-James Freeman, 4- Matt Foerster, 5- Darren McCutchen, 6- Charles Onwuche, 7-Billy Malouf, 8- Andrew Smith, 9/10-Eric Horwitz, Ross Wixon, Gordon Lamphere, and Chris Chapman. The deadline for Mr. SMC nominations is Friday, March 12.

From the Chief's Desk: A Talk with Joe

On Friday, March 5, I was lucky enough to be able to talk to our next College president, Dr. Joseph Urgo, or just Joe Urgo, as he signs his email correspondences. The interview is printed in the news section, but in my opinion, the text of the interview doesn’t tell the whole story. Sure, it reflects Urgo’s voice and provides an insight into his personality, his style, and his views of the College, but because of practical purposes, it doesn’t allow the student body to witness the dialogue that took place after the interview–dialogue that underscores even more the paradigm shift in leadership that St. Mary’s College is about to experience.

Current first-years never met our previous president, Maggie O’Brien; they may or may not have seen Acting President Larry Vote around campus. For our current acting president, any lack of visibility makes sense because of the new roles that he has taken on in this period between official presidents; however, Vote still leads choir and chambers, so some students interact with him on a regular basis. Regarding our previous president, Maggie O’Brien, I have never heard of any students regularly interacting with her. She was a recluse–campus “Maggie sightings” were a cause for excitement. I remember seeing her maybe five or six times in my first two years here, and talking to her in person maybe three times (and this was only because of my Point News connections).

Based on what I have heard from Urgo, this is all about to change. In the interview, he talks about using his Twitter account to give updates from sports games or alumni events. He has a Facebook page. He wants to have his own radio show, and starting in the spring of 2012, he may be teaching a seminar class. He’s talking about us seeing his family on campus as a regular fixture. Outside of the interview, he expressed a desire to meet with Point News editors and SGA leadership on a weekly basis. And from what I’ve read in the Hamilton Spectator, the college newspaper of Urgo’s home institution, this isn’t just empty talk. Presidential leadership is changing at St. Mary’s, and it sounds like it’s changing in a big way.

But this isn’t just change in terms of our president’s visibility. The sort of immersion that Urgo has discussed indicates the development of new channels of both informal and formal communication. In our last issue, Point News editor Dave Chase outlined several issues that he felt the new president would need to address. Two of his concerns, about tuition and construction, I felt were outside the scope of the interview because Urgo hasn’t taken office yet. But the third, Dave’s priority of creating a new decision-making structure that involves students as much as possible, already seems to be a priority for Urgo as well.

Urgo and his wife will be visiting campus from Thursday, March 11 to Monday, March 15. There are two opportunities to see him: one during and after the Thursday performance of Cabaret and one at 1:30 p.m. on Friday around Montgomery, Schaefer, and Glendening Halls. To students: these are your first opportunities to meet Urgo and decide on him for yourselves. Dave and I will be there after Cabaret; we hope to see you there.