Public Safety Catches, Charges Spray Paint Vandal

Two students were charged by Public Safety for destruction of property. Spraypaint marked almost a third of the buildings this semester. (Photo by Tom Keen)

After weeks of outrage over vandalism on campus, the community can be reassured that the person responsible has been caught and sanctioned by the College. Student Joe Ireland took responsibility for the acts of vandalism during a third interview with Public Safety on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The vandalism began Friday, Oct. 16 and over the course of a month, at least 10 campus buildings and landmarks have been spray-painted. The damage cost the school a total of $5,781.

Sgt. Tony Brooks confirmed that Ireland was charged by Public Safety with destruction of property, disorderly conduct, possession of drugs, possession of alcohol and hindering an investigation. In a written statement, Ireland confessed to the vandalism and named a second individual as an accomplice. The second student was charged by Public Safety with destruction of property, hindering an investigation, disorderly conduct and possession of alcohol.

According to Dean of Students Laura Bayless, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the details of the judicial process. However, the student handbook, To the Point, lays out the process for this type of misconduct. It is likely that the College Judicial Board heard the case, as it handles the most serious, complex cases. In addition, the handbook states that the minimum expected sanctions for acts of vandalism are restitution, parent notification and Housing Contract revocation.

According to Brooks, Public Safety suspected Ireland earlier on in the investigation. On Oct. 24, Officers Lauren Phelps and Christopher Kessler questioned him after receiving a tip from an unknown student. “He denied it,” said Brooks.

When the student came forth again two weeks later, Officers Keenan Enoch and Michael Colvin interviewed Ireland for the second time on Friday, Nov. 13. Again, he denied it. The following night, Brooks brought him back to the Public Safety Office around 1:00 a.m. “We interviewed him for a couple hours. He kept denying it, but finally he broke,” said Brooks.

Brooks suspects that the State will also prosecute both students, but the application has not been submitted to the District Court yet.

Since the vandalism began the community has been vocal in their opposition to the defacement of College property. The Student Government Association (SGA) responded by passing a resolution denouncing acts of vandalism and thanking the physical plant staff on Oct. 27. “It’s clear that such disruptive behavior cannot be tolerated. I’m proud to see strong efforts to preserve what we’ve worked so hard to build on campus,” said SGA President Justin Perry.

Bayless agreed. “It’s not what we’re about. I was really proud of our campus’ response to it. It was clear that everyone was outraged. It’s not something I want to see in our community.”
Public Safety would like to recognize the students who assisted with the investigation. “We want to thank students for helping out,” said Brooks.

Faculty Express Concern over Agreement between College and CMRS Program

In a letter sent to the Board of Trustees last month, the Faculty expressed concerns regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) in Oxford, one of the College’s signature study abroad programs. The letter outlines three main issues surrounding the MOU—financial risk, lack of consultation with the faculty prior to the MOU’s execution, and conflict of interest.

According to Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman, the College created the MOU to ensure students have the opportunity to study abroad. Under the new CORE curriculum, the College expects an increase in the number of students hoping to study abroad. Eighty percent of the first-year class is planning on studying abroad.

Approved by the Board in July 2009, the MOU commits the College to sending 25 students a semester to CMRS, paying 9,500 British pounds per student. After giving back 15 percent of their operating budgets last semester, the faculty is concerned that the MOU is too costly if not all of the spaces are filled. For instance, this semester only 20 students studied at CMRS.

According to the letter, board member of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Foundation and former trustee Harry Weitzel indicated in a Faculty Senate meeting that given the numbers, the risk was worth taking. Yet, “[their] concerns remain.”
Botzman explained that CMRS is being flexible with the College given the economic crisis and the fact that the classes with the most demand to study abroad will not begin applying until next fall semester. This semester the College was only billed for 20 students, and not the empty five spaces.

The faculty was never consulted about the MOU and was only informed of it after it had passed through the Board of Trustees. “The faculty didn’t have the chance to review it. We’re looking at it after the fact,” said Faculty Senate president Bob Paul. He described what would have been an appropriate process. “It should’ve gone to the Senate, the Senate would have given [it] to the Committee of Internationalization, [had it] come back to the Senate and go back to the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board but none of that happened,” he said

“It’s the board prerogative to make major decisions concerning finances, but it’s still in the faculty realm to design and execute curriculum. That’s what we do; we should be part of the process instead of it being presented as a done deal,” said Senate Vice President Dan Ingersoll.

The faculty also views the MOU as a potential conflict of interest. The MOU was drafted and signed by former president Maggie O’Brien. After stepping down from the presidency, O’Brien is working full time on implementing the MOU. “That the former president will assume the administrative and other responsibilities associated with the implementation of this MOU could easily be interpreted as more than coincidence,” the Senate wrote in the letter.

According to Botzman, O’Brien is a professor of the College and reports to the Provost and acting president Larry Vote. The faculty points out in the letter that CMRS is the only study abroad program coordinated by a professor full time. Professors who manage other study abroad programs do so in addition to their full time teaching responsibilities, for an additional $15,000 in salary.

In response to the letter, the Board of Trustees has created a sub-committee of the Academic Affairs committee. It will consist of Weitzel, three faculty members and three Trustees. “I think they’ve responded favorably. They’re listening, willing to see the establishment of this committee,” said Ingersoll. “We hope negotiations will add strength to the program and I’m optimistic about working with them on this.”

College Periodic Review Report Submitted for Campus Feedback

Acting President and Provost Larry Vote has asked that the campus community provide feedback on the current draft of the Middle States Periodic Review Report available on the Portal.

Every 10 years, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires a major self-study assessing the institution. Based on the self-study, the Commission reviews the College and makes recommendations for improvement. Five years later, the College is required to submit a Periodic Review Report. It responds to recommendations made by the Commission, outlines challenges and opportunities, looks at enrollment and finance trends and projects, assesses institutional effectiveness and student learning and links institution planning and budgeting. “It’s critical to our accreditation process,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “It helps external people understand what we’re doing and helps us evaluate ourselves.”

Bayless and associate professor of psychology Cynthia Koenig are responsible for drafting the document.  According to Bayless, they have pulled together experts from across campus to contribute to the draft but would also like to receive feedback from students. “We know a lot about the College, but we don’t know every detail. We want the document to truly reflect the College,” she said.

Students are asked to review the Report on the Portal and send feedback to selfstudy@smcm.edu.

Remember the Titans Coach to Speak at Southern MD MLK Prayer Breakfast

William Yoast, the high school football coach featured in Remember the Titans, will be addressing the College and local community at the sixth annual Southern Maryland Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast held on Monday, Jan. 18 in the Great Room.

Remember the Titans, released in 2000, portrayed T.C. Williams High School football team as they experienced their first year as a integrated school in the early 1970s.   Assistant Coach Yoast, played by Will Patton, served alongside Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington in the film.

“I believe that William Yoast is an excellent choice for the speaker at the MLK prayer breakfast this year… in our time in our nation’s history where the only way to move forward is teamwork and unity, I don’t think there is a more qualified person to talk to our student body,” said Black Student Union President Darren McCutchen.

The event will also feature guest speaker John W. Franklin, the associate director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open 2015. U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer will also be in attendance and the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Gospel Choir will be performing.

The breakfast starts at 7a.m. and the program begins at 8a.m. Tickets are available at the door for $7.

Environmental Press Conference Provides Facts, Hope for the Rest of the Nation

Professor Dave Kung, who spoke at the press conference, is optimistic that the given College's success, the U.S. can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (Photo by Matt Molek).
Professor Dave Kung, who spoke at the press conference, is optimistic that the given College's success, the U.S. can reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (Photo by Matt Molek).

The state of Maryland is among the top 10 states reducing CO2 emissions, according to an analysis of government data released by Environment Maryland on Thursday, Nov. 12. The report was released at a press conference held in Goodpaster Hall, an energy efficient building that has contributed to the College’s 80 percent reduction of emissions.

“The transition to clean energy is a marathon, and we’ve just laced up our sneakers,” said Environment Maryland Field Associate Mike Sherling. He emphasized that investing in clean energy is not only good for the environment, but also facilitates job creation. For example, four states have cut their pollution levels by five percent and increased their gross state product by 65 percent since 2007.

Both Emily Saari, co-president of SEAC, and Shane Hall, the College’s Sustainability Fellow, discussed how students are largely responsible for the emission reductions. In 2007, students voted to increase fees in order to purchase Renewable Energy Credits that offset carbon emissions.

The announcement comes a month before the UN Framework on Climate Change in Copenhagen, which two College students plan to attend. “St. Mary’s is a microcosm of what’s going on in Maryland and across the nation,” said Hall.

Nearly One Third of Campus Tagged

Vandals have defaced walls and structures all over campus, most noticeably the bell tower. Photo by Tom Kline.
Vandals have defaced walls and structures all over campus, most noticeably the bell tower. Photo by Tom Kline.

Over the past few weeks, the College has been plagued by several incidents of vandalism on campus. Since it began Oct. 16, 10 College buildings and landmarks have been defaced with spray-paint. The estimated cost of repairing the damage is $2,500.

Trinity Church, the River Center, the ARC, the Alumni Lodge, the Bell Tower, Calvert Hall, Kent Hall, Schaefer Hall, Prince George’s Hall and the bridge over St. John’s Pond have each been spray painted with various symbols and obscenities. According to Public Safety Sergeant Tony Brooks, the separate acts of vandalism seem to be caused by the same person or group of people. Symbols, lettering and paint color are consistent from incident to incident.

The community garden behind Daugherty Palmer Commons was also vandalized. According to Brooks, plants were pulled up and stakes were thrown over. However, because there was not spray paint, he does not believe the incident is related. “They would have left their mark,” he said.

Provost and Acting President Larry Vote, along with Faculty Senate President Bob Paul and SGA President Justin Perry, sent a letter to students regarding the vandalism. In the letter, they expressed concern for both the monetary and social costs of the damage. They equated the cost of damage to “the funding of twelve St. Mary’s Projects, eleven windows being replaced in residence halls, or two comedians sponsored by Programs Board.”

Many students are taking a stance against the defacement of College property. “For us to now have to spend such a large amount of money on vandalism that is in direct opposition to our College’s values is sad and extremely disrespectful to those who have made had to make sacrifices for the College. This money could have been far better spent on furthering our College’s mission,” said Danielle Doubt, one of the SGA Senators to sponsor a resolution regarding campus vandalism.

On Oct. 27, the SGA passed a resolution to not condone acts of vandalism on campus and to thank the Physical Plant for their extra time, energy, and resources in responding to the vandalism. “I think it is important for SGA to reach into the vandalism issue because there was an overwhelming feeling from SGA that this isn’t what St. Mary’s is about,” said Perry.

According to Brooks, Public Safety received a tip last week that could be helpful in finding those responsible. He urges students who have information to come forth anonymously.

Over the past twenty years on campus, Brooks explained that the only incident comparable to the vandalism occurring on campus were pots for cigarette butts being thrown over across campus. “I’ve never seen anything like this though. This takes the cake,” he said.

Board Declares Do-Over: Presidential Search Process Restarts

After campus visits by four finalists, followed by two weeks of deliberation, the Board of Trustees announced that it will continue the search for the College’s next President. In a letter to the College community on Oct. 21, Molly Mahoney, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, explained that some candidates withdrew from consideration and the Board could not reach a consensus.

According to the Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Vice President of Business and Finance, Tom Botzman, the application process will reopen, the Executive Search Firm Isaacson Miller will solicit candidates and propose candidates from the search pool. Some candidates from the original pool may be included. From that pool, the Search Committee will select candidates for interviews and have finalists visit the campus. Botzman  anticipates that the Board will end the search in time for the next President to take office by July 1.

As for the Board’s decision, Botzman felt they have a better idea of what the right match would be. “It was a hard thing to do, they wouldn’t have done it unless they were sure,” he said.

Students and Alumni Vocal, Board Still Silent on Presidential Candidate Search

Halfway through October, there is still no word on the College’s next president. The Board of Trustees will meet Monday, Oct.18 to discuss the presidential search in a closed session by teleconference, a conversation that began at their last executive session on Oct. 3. As the Board deliberates, the campus buzzes with speculation and differing perspectives on the candidates.

Two weeks ago, at the conclusion of the presidential candidates’ campus visits, the Presidential Search Committee delivered their recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The recommendations have not been disclosed.

Some candidates have been receiving more attention on campus than others. In particular, there is a vocal group of alumni and students that oppose the potential selection of Jim Bacchus and have sent petitions to the Board of Trustees.

Most recently, 166 College alumni signed a letter arguing that Bacchus holds a narrow perspective on liberal arts and as a non-academic candidate, “he lacks higher education administrative experience and institutional fundraising experience.”

According to Ben Wyskida ‘99, many alumni were impressed with Baenninger’s experience in higher education and fundraising. He suggested that if polled, the alumni would most likely split between Baenninger and beginning a new search.

The letter also expresses concerns about clients Bacchus has represented through the Global Practice Group of Greenberg Traurig in Washington, DC and his 8 years as a judge on the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization. Among the clients the alumni group finds most questionable are New Balance, Lennar Corporation and Group Menatep. Bacchus’ role in representing these companies is unclear, and in no case is there any indication of wrongdoing on his part. However, signatories feel it is fair to “ask whether or not his work for those institutions is consistent with the values of the College.”

Additionally, the letter asserts that three academic departments have rated Bacchus as unacceptable. However, according to Wyskida, these three departments have not been identified.

Faculty members have denied that this is the case. “I haven’t seen anything that indicates three whole departments don’t approve of a particular candidate,” said Chair of the Political Science Department, Michael J. G. Cain. “The faculty did not agree on all the candidates, but there was a good exchange, and a lot of people learned from the discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.”

Prior to receiving the alumni letter, the Board of Trustees also received a student petition against Bacchus with 157 signatures. Petitioners offer the same argument addressed in the alumni letter. According to organizer Tess Wier, Bacchus’ potential strength as a fundraiser is not a sufficient quality for the next president. “I think the other candidates, particularly Kate Conway-Turner, have much more of a St. Mary’s feel to them; they are interested in issues of diversity and critical thinking, and they have experiencing approaching these through their work in higher education, which I think is the epitome of what a college president should do,” Wier said.

However, other students disagree with the petition and feel the anti-Bacchus movement is negative for the campus. “Voicing opposition to one or more candidates without promoting another surrounds the search with a lot of negativity and weakens our ability to find the best president for St. Mary’s,” said Vice President of SGA, Lisa Neu.

“It elevates his visibility above other candidates, who if offered the job may feel that the sole reason they were chosen was the fact that they are not Bacchus,” she said. “These candidates are also exploring opportunities at other schools, and from their perspective, why should they want to accept a second-hand offer? Also, if Bacchus is selected, the perceived hostility may affect the College’s ability to negotiate a mutually beneficial contract, and affect his opinion of the school.”

Some faculty members agreed. “The search committee has done a good job vetting candidates. I don’t think it’s the purpose of faculty, alumni or students to find things that would disqualify candidates in the eleventh hour,” said Cain.

Two members of the faculty served on both this Presidential Search and the last search that brought former President Maggie O’Brien to St. Mary’s—Bob Paul and Lorraine Glidden. According to Paul, there was none of the same opposition to any of the candidates in the last presidential search. However, Glidden said, “Campus opinion of candidates wasn’t as transparent last time.”

While campus views are widespread, members of the Search Committee have offered assurance that all constituencies were represented fairly. “I think the recommendation was made with a broad cross sectional view,” said Paul.  “I have to listen to everybody, not just the loudest. There was strong support for some candidates and opposition to others but our charge was to represent the total faculty opinion. I think…we were fair and impartial.”

Before the next President is announced, the Board must decide on a candidate, await the candidate’s acceptance, and come to an agreement on a contract.

“It takes a lot of negotiation, such as salary and term of service. It takes a while, I think in Maggie’s case it may have been as long as two months,” said Paul.

Letter Raises Concerns About Salary Disparities Between College Employees

salaryincrease_graphWith the College undergoing the process of hiring a new President and a Vice President for Development, Department Chairs and Cross-Disciplinary Area Coordinators have reached out to the Board of Trustees in a letter regarding recent trends in executive pay at the College.

In the letter, the signatories suggest an imbalance between top administrators and other employees. The letter includes a graph that details the salary increases of various College employees. It clearly shows that the President and Cabinet member positions have outpaced average faculty salaries, inflation and student tuition. The Chairs and Coordinators find this trend “unsustainable [and] unfair to our State and community.”

The letter acknowledges the 56 percent increase in wages for the lowest paid staff members in the last few years. They argue that the increase, part of the living wage campaign, was supported by the College community at various levels and was approved through the College’s Strategic Plan. The 69.6 percent increase in administrative salaries, however, was not included in the strategic planning process.

Salaries at the College are set based on the median of the College’s Peer Institutions—liberal arts four-year institutions that are primarily undergraduate residential colleges. They problem with that, according to David Kung, Chair of the Math Department, is two-thirds of our peer schools are private. “I hope that a different benchmark is found that takes into account external factors and also internal factors of equity and fairness within our community,” said Kung.

The signatories argue that the growing disparity between administrative salaries and the rest of College employee salaries leads to low morale, which “has the potential to erode employees’ commitment to the College.”

“When people on campus feel as if they are not being fairly treated, they’re more likely to be talking about that than discussing important issues, such as what can be improved for students,” said Kung. “The things we could be doing instead of feeling under appreciated and complaining about that could really improve education.”

Discrepancies in salaries also undermine good recruitment and independence of faculty. According to Kung, for example, the Math Department offered someone a position but they declined because other institutions were offering higher salaries. “It’s hard to compete,” he said.

Another issue is support for research and professional development. For example, faculty members are expected to attend academic conferences and professional meetings. While the amount of the annual travel grant to attend them has remained the same over the past 10 years, conference costs have doubled. According to Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Bjorn Krondorfer, it would take about $70,000 to add $500 to the travel allowance for each full time faculty member. “Now compare this number, from which many of us would benefit, to the increase of salaries of the four top administrators,” he said. “It is just one example of many other worthwhile and important incentives to the benefit of larger groups of people.”

The Board responded with a letter to Robert Paul, Senate Faculty President, confirming receipt of the letter and notifying the faculty that the Finance, Investment and Audit Committee has been tasked with a fact finding mission regarding compensation practices. The results will be reported before the December 2009 quarterly board meeting.

“The fact that the Board of Trustees will now undertake their own fact finding on these issues is a needed and welcome gesture,” said Krondorfer. “More transparency on the college’s policy of financial compensation would be appreciated.”

Krondorfer suggested that board and members representing different groups of our campus community meet after gathering the relevant data and discuss reasonable salary structure and expectations.

Other Chairs and Coordinators have expressed interest in dialogue the results might bring. “Like my fellow co-signers, I look forward to hearing the results of the board’s evaluation. Indeed, the board may bring other factors to the discussion that both broaden and deepen the conversation,” said Julie King, Coordinator of Museum Studies. “It seems to me such dialogue is healthy and serves everyone.”

From the Patio: Preparations Begin for Annual Hallowgreens

We weren’t prepared for the cold and rain that has forced us off the patio last week, but we’ve found a meaningful way to bide our time. With Hallowgreens just a couple of weeks away, we’ve dedicated our free time to finding and creating the perfect costumes to honor this venerated campus tradition.

Every Halloween, students gather on the Townhouse greens donned in outrageous costumes, wandering from house to house in search of college-style tricks and treats. Without fail, it proves to be the best party on campus year after year.

Students seem to outdo themselves every Hallowgreens. The creativity that goes into costumes amazes us. Here’s a few of our favorites:

A large-scale Trojan horse complete with an army of Greek soldiers, a D-Day landing craft that stormed the Greens with Saving Private Ryan inspired soldiers, and high-tech superhero costumes complete with plastic armor and LED lights.

Any costume inspired by sexual innuendos and catchy phrases, including but not limited to “Dick-tator,” “one night stand,” “chick magnet,” “spooning,” “gold digger,” “cock block,” and “wounded soldier.”

Full casts of TV shows and movies, such as Sesame Street, Scooby Doo, Doug, The Price is Right, Super Troopers, Transformers… the list is endless.

Costumes inspired by popular YouTube clips, among the best are characters from “My New F-ing Haircut,” Darrell from “Can I Have Yo Numba?” and Carpenter, Dutch, Storm and other teammates from the Mad TV Abercrombie & Fitch skits.

The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. As you search for your costume, we’d like to make a few suggestions:

Avoid anything with “sexy” attached to it, such as sexy nurse, sexy librarian, sexy teacher, etc. This also includes cheerleaders and Hooters girls. It’s cliché, overdone and typically used by last minute costume seekers. Trust us, there are more creative ways to be sexy.

Try to find a way to stay warm—whether it’s by wearing a beer jacket or other means. One of the most innovative means of doing so has been incorporating Camelbaks into costumes and filling them with hot chocolate or other tasty beverages. Keep in mind, there’s a fine line between staying warm and not remembering the epic event.

Homemade costumes are best. Don’t even think about ordering something online. This is college. Get creative and be budget-friendly.

It’s also best if you leave your beer goggles at home. In the event that you don’t, be sure to say hi to the Condom Fairy (a.k.a Dean Bayless).

We hope some of these suggestions help as you gear up for Hallowgreens. Looking through archived issues of The Point News, we’ve found several interesting accounts of the event. One individual went as far as to say it’s the “classiest night at St. Mary’s.”

While it may not be the classiest, it’s by far the most memorable and always gives us something to laugh about from the Patio.