St. Mary’s Tuition to Climb By Five Percent

Tashia Graham, Mary Donahue, Tess Wier and Rhett Greenfield prepare to protest an increase in tuition. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
Tashia Graham, Mary Donahue, Tess Wier and Rhett Greenfield prepare to protest an increase in tuition. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

The Board of Trustees chose not to break from over a decade of precedent and voted last Saturday to once again raise the cost of obtaining a St. Mary’s education.

Tuition, fees and room prices will increase five percent for the 2009-2010 academic year, while meal plans will spike about 11 percent. The Board voted nearly unanimously in favor of the rate upturn, with Student Trustee Jeremy Pevner casting the sole dissenting vote.

After hearing the opinions of over 100 students, Pevner chose to vote as a representative of the student body. “Students were looking for some way to feel that they had a voice, to feel that they had some sense of efficacy on the Board,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged that increases are needed to maintain “the premier liberal arts education that the Board expects, that the administration provides and that the students demand.”

The Trustees discussed the proposed cost changes for over a half-hour, making them the centerpiece issue of the hour-and-a-half general session. Most debate focused on preserving the accessibility and quality of Maryland’s designated Public Honors College in the face of rapidly escalating operational costs.

Secretary of the Board Molly Mahoney said, “I think I speak on behalf of the Board in saying that this is not something we do easily.” She stressed that the Board’s aim was to support the students of the College.

The Board and the high-level administrators of St. Mary’s ultimately concluded that maintaining the College’s academic program and student services has sufficient utility to approve a rate increase.

Trustee Gary Jobson said, “No one around this table wants to compromise the quality of education in any way.”

“The one thing that is inviolable is our superior academic program,” added President Jane Margaret O’Brien.

Both O’Brien and Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman were frank about the need for raising tuition, fees, and room and board.

One factor is rapidly growing operational costs. The College’s medical insurance premiums are skyrocketing by approximately 1.2 million dollars and energy costs are increasing by about 1 million dollars.

Student initiatives have aided the College in conserving money, but the savings are not enough to offset escalating costs. The Great Room’s trayless program reduces food waste by 23 percent and sustainability efforts have saved over 20 percent on heating oil and electric bills, according to Botzman.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the students are helping us,” he said.

Cuts were also made by the administration. After hiring 16 new faculty members, plans to employ three more have been delayed. Also, some vacant staff positions, including posts in institutional research and athletics, have not been filled and their duties have been reassigned when possible. Salary increases have been delayed as well.

St. Mary’s is also anticipating a cut in Maryland state funding. The College’s block grant is currently around 17 million dollars. “We will find out, we believe in the next month, that the state has rescinded funding [to the College] in the amount of about a million dollars,” said O’Brien.

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Foundation – the College’s endowment – has suffered during the country’s recession and has seen its returns shrink.

Botzman said, “The endowment has not been strong. In fact, the College will supplement endowment funds for next year. Any scholarships typically come from the Foundation, what the Foundation can’t support, the College will.”

In addition to scholarships, St. Mary’s will add to its financial aid pool in proportion to rate increases so that sufficient need-based aid can still be designated to students.

Botzman noted that each percentage point raise in tuition, fees, and room and board brings St. Mary’s about 200,000 dollars in revenue. The College would face around a 1 million dollar deficit if rates were frozen for the 2009-2010 academic year and a 3.5 million dollar shortage if they were held constant for two years.

“We would have extreme difficultly closing that gap,” Botzman said.

The Trustees were also concerned about a possible rate freeze affecting future students of the College. “Five percent is a lot, but it could be a lot worse,” said Jobson. He added that if tuition, fees, and room and board were not raised this year the College could be forced to implement a 15 to 20 percent increase in the near future.

If the increases were voted down, St. Mary’s would also have to make more wide-reaching cuts to its spending. “If we do have to decide to reduce expenditures, it will affect the academic program,” said O’Brien.

Though the Trustees voted to approve the rate hike with the long-term interests of the College and its student body in mind, not all students agreed with the Board’s rationale.

After hearing of a possible protest against cost increases, James Muldoon, Chairman of the Board, invited sophomore Sarah Shipley to address the Trustees before they voted.

She said, “The student body is extremely concerned about the increase in tuition for next year” and added that most students are “confused” as to where their tuition money actually goes.

Student Government Association Vice President Matt Fafoutis agreed that there should be an increase in transparency and student participation in the budgeting process. “Usually our exposure to the budget is ‘This is how the budget is’ and we have to say ‘Oh, okay.’ The process doesn’t always directly involve the students,” he said after the meeting.

Botzman offered to review the budget with students and present it to the SGA.

In her presentation, Shipley told the Board that, “You all are charged with looking after the long-term health of this College.” She said the “health” of St. Mary’s was staked on the diversity and happiness of its students and that both factors could only decrease as tuition increased.

Shipley originally planned to protest tuition increases outside of Aldom Lounge, the site of the Trustee’s meeting. Senior Tashia Graham, who is also one of the SGA’s Commuter Senators, organized the demonstration on Facebook. 24 students confirmed their participation online, but only around five attended. Protesters cited the cold weather and the relatively early starting time of the meeting – 11:00 a.m. on a Saturday – as the chief factors that thinned the crowd.

The protesters largely focused on the burden of higher tuition prices and the possible loss of socioeconomic diversity at St. Mary’s. Graham said, “I just see the economic diversity that was at St. Mary’s my freshman year dwindling.”

“Economic diversity provides different perspectives. People who come from more economically diverse backgrounds bring different ideas and different experiences,” she added.

Fafoutis did not protest, but was one of about seven students who attended the Board’s open meeting. He said, “I think we’ve reached a tipping point with socioeconomic diversity. I feel like we’re not nearly as diverse as even during my freshman year.”

Sophomore Mary Donahue, another protester, was concerned with her burgeoning debt load and the prohibitive cost of higher education across the country. “I need to pay for my own college education. My interest rates aren’t looking very good. To have to take more loans is so daunting of an idea,” she said.

Pevner also shared the stories he heard from students struggling to pay for college. One student he quoted said, “If you’re going to tell the Board anything, tell them not to forget the working-class students.”

Though attendance at the protest and the Board’s meeting was low, Trustees still took notice of student dissent. “I think it’s important that the students’ voices were heard about this issue and I believe they were,” Fafoutis said.

House Majority Leader and Trustee Steny Hoyer praised Shipley’s presentation and agreed that St. Mary’s should closely look at its expenditures. He also acknowledged a protester with a sign that read “$67,000 in Student Loan Debt” and said, “debt is a tremendous challenge for our country.”

The Office of Admissions and the Office of Business and Finance plan to aid both current and incoming students. “Access is part of our mission,” Botzman said.

The College has budgeted for sufficient need-based financial aid and will support scholarships that the Foundation cannot. Admission is need-blind, unlike many private institutions, and does not consider the financial situation of students before offering them acceptance, according to Rich Edgar, the Director of Admissions.

The Office of Admissions will continue to recruit a diverse student body. “The students have my word. We’re working hard to preserve the socioeconomic diversity of this institution,” Edgar said.

Botzman said that the Foundation’s end of the year appeal for funds is now for a call for donors to consider a gift to the Emergency Assistance Fund, which “goes directly to students struggling in the aftermath of an unexpected financial setback,” according to the College’s website. Both Admissions and Business and Finance also work directly with students to help them secure loans when necessary.

Botzman and Edgar also stressed that rapidly growing tuition costs are a national issue and that students considering St. Mary’s will likely see an equal, if not greater, upturn in costs.

“It is not insular…it’s a broader picture, everyone is going to have increases at this time and everyone is going to have cuts,” Edgar said.

After the concrete raises to tuition, fees, and room and board were in place, Pevner said he was “pleased with the amount of discussion that the Board had” and that he believes the Trustees will scrutinize the budget even further at future meetings. He added that he voted against the increases to give a “voice” to the students.

“It is important that the students feel that their voice was heard. Because, if not, then we stop caring and we can’t stop caring about this campus. As soon as we start doing that, then that makes us the same as everyone else,” Pevner said. “From here we move forward as a community,” he added.

Counselors Overcome Challenges

The new staff of the College’s counseling services center are trying their best to fulfill the responsibilities of their predecessors with limited resources and time.

Kyle Bishop is the College’s Assistant Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
Kyle Bishop is the College’s Assistant Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

This year, the College hired a new counseling team for the counseling services center which includes Director of Counseling Services Mary-Jeanne Reynolds and Assistant Director of Counseling Services Kyle Bishop. They replace Counselor Shawn MacDonald and Psychiatrist Christine LePoutre, both of whom left last year. Reynolds, although new to the job, says her prior experience allows her to be comfortable in her position “I was a director of a counseling center at a college like this size before…so I wouldn’t say I’m learning the job, but I’m learning the environment and the students.”

The counseling service center, located within the health center, deals with mental health on campus. According to Reynolds, the center’s services include individual and group counseling, referrals to outside psychologists, psychological assessment, outreach, preventative work, and prescriptions for psychiatric medications through their psychiatrist. The center also holds events, such as mental health screenings for depression and suicide prevention training for psychology students. Counseling services is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but is not open on Saturdays or Sundays.

According to Bishop, the only thing a student has to do to get counseling help is to make an appointment at the health center. Bishop also said, “If [a student] is in a crisis they can walk in, and if there’s a therapist available we’ll see them on the spot.”

Although the center provides a myriad of services, some believe that the counseling services center many not have enough resources to handle the College’s student population. Along with Bishop and Reynolds, the counseling services center includes Counselor Mary Haugaard, Wellness Advocate Candice Daniels, and an outside psychiatrist who prescribes medications. However, according to Reynolds, these three counselors see upwards of 35 to 40 students regularly, and have more than 200 open case files. In contrast, Assistant Professor of Psychology and part-time Clinical Psychologist Debbie O’Donnell only has two current clients, which is her “typical load.” This large patient load is even worse in light of the fact that the counseling services’ psychiatrist is only available four hours a week on Tuesdays. The counseling services center also cannot hire student volunteers because of the confidential nature of patient information.

Mary-Jeanne Reynolds joined the Health Services counseling team this year, becoming the Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
Mary-Jeanne Reynolds joined the Health Services counseling team this year, becoming the Director of Counseling Services. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

Finding the resources and time to provide these services is also a problem. According to Chris True, assistant vice president of Business and Finance, the counseling services center currently has a budget of $151,000 for fiscal year 2008, $33,000 less than last year. O’Donnell said, “From my perspective, they’re having to do a lot on limited resources.” She added, “I think that the college should be investing more resources in the center because I think it is such an important service.”

Regardless of these limitations, Reynolds is confident in both the center’s ability to handle even a large-scale traumatic event and in the relationship the counseling services center has with other counseling centers in Maryland. Reynolds said, “Depending on the level of event, we would call other people to help us out.”

According to Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, there are currently no plans to expand the counseling services center’s staff. However, that doesn’t mean that the center doesn’t want to increase its presence on campus and provide more support for students. Reynolds said, “I’d love to do more outreach and more preventative work and have more availability for students, and we’re still building all that.”

Part of it may just be getting the word out about this service on campus. “I think the counseling service provides an extremely valuable service,” said O’Donnell. “I think it is definitely something that students should be aware of.”

Salary Increases Explained

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If anybody knows where the chart that appeared on the wall of the Kent Hall copy room came from, they aren’t saying.  Entitled “SMCM Salary Increases Since 2000,” the chart gives a picture of the disparity between the salaries of administrators and professors.

Since salaries are public knowledge, the chart could have been made by anyone with basic statistical knowledge.  The chart (whose data set is the same as that in the St. Mary’s library records) shows the proportional increase in the salaries of the president, provost, vice president for business and finance, vice president for development, the average assistant professor, average associate professor, and average full professor.  Additional lines show the increase in inflation (based on information from the bureau of labor statistics) and tuition, room and board (based off of the in-state tuition and including fees).

There are some statistical problems with the chart, said Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance.  The line for the president, for example, shows the increase in salary for a single person who has been at the College for a number of years.  The line for the average associate professor is an “average with replacement,” said Botzman — an average of many different salaries drawn from a pool that people enter and leave fairly frequently.

The housekeepers’ salaries, “jumped by sixty percent,” for example, said Botzman.  “The line would outstrip the provost.”

Housekeepers’ salaries, however, started out around minimum wage.  The recent increase is due to a raise in the salary floor – the minimum that a housekeeper can be paid – that was won after the workers were unionized a students staged a protest.

Full professors, however, are a more stable group.  The average salary increase for full professors is similar to that of the average associate professor and well below the inflation line.

It’s not necessarily an unusual problem.  Across the country, “Salary simply could not keep pace with the cost of living,” said political science professor Todd Eberly.

“It’s unfortunate that the salaries of some of our college employees have not even kept pace with inflation.  What that means is, in effect, their salaries have gone down,” said political science professor Sahar Shafqat.  “Because the student body has grown, that means that some people are doing more work for less pay.”

Salaries at the College are set based on the median of the College’s peer group, said Botzman.  “Our peer group includes a number of colleges like Dickinson, Connecticut College, [and the] University of Minnesota-Morris.”

Essentially, the peer group colleges are “Liberal arts four-year institutions,” said Botzman.  They are a blend of private and public (two thirds private, one third public), and, “They’re primarily undergraduate residential colleges.”

Salaries at the College aren’t comparative to those at a school like the University of Maryland, but for good reason.  “College Park is a doctorate research institution,” said Botzman.

River Center Christened

river-center-didication-james-127On Saturday, December 6, Board of Trustees Chairman James P. Muldoon dedicated the River Center, which is named in his honor. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

St. Mary’s Tries Integrated Pest Management

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The bird house that was built outside the campus center to attract insect-eating Purple Martins. (Photo by Matt Molek)

This year, the College is setting up bird and bat houses in the hopes that their future denizens will cut down on the pest population.

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program was brought to the college by Supervisor of Grounds Kevin Mercer after he heard about a similar program at the University of Maryland.  The program seeks to reduce the number of pests on campus in an environmentally friendly way.

Bird and bat houses were set up at two locations on campus, the most visible house being near St. John’s pond.  Carl Dyson, a certified arborist, helped with the installation of the bat houses.

“The birdhouses are going to hold Purple Martins, which are migratory birds, and combined with the bats, the population of insects should be cut down, especially mosquitoes,” said first-year Travis Lear.  Along with the Purple Martins, the college is hoping to attract Hoary and Little Brown bats.

Although the Purple Martins will likely establish themselves with in a year or two, it takes several years to attract bats to a new location.  The placement of the bat houses near the water (a ready mosquito source) is intended to help facilitate their switch to a new home.

The IPM is not a one-time program.  “The program is looking for people to help maintain the birdhouses (not really the bat houses as they are about forty feet up a tree) by cleaning them out after migration of the Purple Martins, and ‘winterizing’ the houses by sealing them, preventing other species from nesting there,” said Lear.

“Down the road, I’m going to be installing bluebird houses in our meadow,” said Mercer.  The school is also planning to install light traps for insects.

Although the IPM program intends to reduce the number of insects, it will not eliminate them completely.

“This is a program that’s going to help work with the sustainability to help biologically control the pests,” said Mercer. “First and foremost, this is not a plan to have zero pesticides.”  The school will always need them, he said, but environmentally friendly varieties can be used instead.

Already, “we don’t put any insecticides down on our grass,” he said.  For now, those involved with the IPM program will make sure that the birds and bats establish themselves in the houses.

“I hate disturbing the environment,” said Mercer, “so I hope the bat houses are in [the right] location.”

Students Speak Out on Medical Amnesty

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SGA Parliamentarian Louis Ritzinger listens to student opinion. (Photo By David Chase)

Students have brought up their concerns and opinions at the recent Medical Amnesty policy discussion forums held by the Office of Residence life and the student discussions held by the SGA.

The Medical Amnesty policy as it is currently drafted states, “When a student assists an individual who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs in procuring medical assistance, neither the intoxicated or drugged student nor the individual who assists will be subject to formal disciplinary action by the College.”

However, the student who required medical assistance may also be required to go through certain “educational interventions,” which could include a meeting with the dean of students or associate dean of students, an alcohol or drug assessment, and/or parental notification.

The forums and discussions, held over several weeks from October through December, were intended to involve the general student body in the decision making process.

“We are in the process of compiling and making sure we understand the feedback from students, faculty, and staff,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “We did two open forums last year, and seven this year, so it’s a lot of feedback to digest.”

Although the student body has generally been in support of the policy, “Some students did bring up questions, concerns and issues about the policy, and of course, many students wonder what effect the policy will have on the campus and community,” said Area Coordinator Kelly Smolinsky.

Many of those who supported the policy still questioned whether or not it would encourage people to take more risks.  “I don’t want to see students interpret it as a sign that the College is becoming more tolerant towards underage drinking and destructive behavior,” said first-year Jackie Norris.

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Senior Lauren Payne and Sophomore Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall discuss the new Medical Amnesty Policy. (Photo by David Chase)

Whether or not outside groups should be involved was also discussed.  Norris, who also works as an Emergency Medical Technician, said that, “It is extremely important that Emergency Medical Services are included in the design of the policy since they will be involved in any case in which this policy may be invoked. It is important for the College to understand how the system operates, what its limits are, and what medical personnel are required to document.”

“I would say, get the Rescue Squads who respond here the most often involved. Let them know what the College is trying to do and invite them to a meeting,” she said.

Also among the concerns were whether or not some students would be able to pay for the cost of treatment, whether or not there should be a graduated system of treatment based on number of violations, as whether or not there should be unlimited amnesty for the person calling.  Students also wanted the college to acknowledge the high rate of binge drinking and offer more alcohol education.

“Student voice is valuable in this process, and I appreciate those that came out to share their point of view,” said Wellness Advocate Candace Daniels.

“We had really good conversations at each forum,” said Bayless. “The relatively small groups meant that the conversations were very rich.”

Student suggestions will be carefully considered.  “If we do in fact implement the policy, having something easy to understand will remove the debate of someone getting into trouble out of the situation. Instead of someone trying to figure out how amnesty applies by flipping open their student handbook, the idea calling for help will be a no-brainer,” said Daniels.

The administration will continue to work the students and SGA to edit the policy. Kelly Smolinsky said, “Once we’ve gathered all of the information from the forums and the student discussions through SGA…we will likely draft some changes to the policy and then pass it on to the handbook committee (which is comprised of student, faculty and staff input) for the final approval. If the policy is implemented, it would go into effect for the Fall 2009 semester.”

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Addresses Country’s Direction

As the capital buzzes with speculation about Obama’s cabinet nominations, one “hotly circulated” name for Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, spent last Monday evening addressing the College.

In his lecture, “The New American Democracy,” Lieutenant Governor Brown addressed a thin crowd and discussed the direction our country is moving, key priorities for the next administration and the renewal of the American promise. The event was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy.

Though Eric Shinseki was recently announced as Obama’s nominee for the position and Lieutenant Governor Brown promptly explained the possible nomination was only a political rumor, his name seemed in the running, as he is the co-chair of Obama’s Veteran’s Affairs Department Agency Review Team. “I think he has been putting in a great deal of work into [Obama’s] transition team, which suggests he was interested in a nomination,” said the Center’s Director and Chair of the Political Science Department Michael Cain.

While Lieutenant Governor Brown’s popularity is gaining steam in national politics, the event was not as well attended as Cain had hoped.  There were about forty audience members in the Auerbach auditorium of St. Mary’s Hall. “The Center has done a really good job of bringing people down but it upset me that a potential Obama nominee came all the way to St. Mary’s and so few students came out,” said senior Matt Fafoutis.

In addition to students, faculty and administration, community members joined the audience. “A lot of people in the community and from the Base come out for events with speakers like Tom Brokaw, this seemed like something they would have come out for in larger numbers,” said Fafoutis.

Lieutenant Governor Brown spent last summer on the DNC Platform Drafting Committee and focused his lecture on what he felt was the Democratic Party’s compelling argument for change and a new promise for Americans.

He criticized the Bush Administration’s “broken promises” and outlined the four key principles of the platform he helped draft: “come together to renew the American dream, restore American leadership at home and abroad, revive the American community by reaching beyond our borders and change the system of politics and policies to revitalize America’s trust in democracy.”

As America transitions to embody those values, universal health care coverage, preventing more home foreclosures, investment in early childhood education, exiting Iraq and refocusing in Afghanistan and implementing a new GI bill were among his top priorities.

Lieutenant Governor Brown piqued students’ interest when he highlighted the Democratic platform’s offer to pay college tuition for Americans who give back through military and community service. “Today, the most valuable economic commodity is not iron or ore or access to a deep seaport — it’s knowledge and the blunt reality is that countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow,” he said.

Other initiatives that caught the interest of St. Mary’s students included the expansion of the Peace Corp and the AmeriCorp and the importance of language and cultural awareness. “I think those were really important things to emphasize as we look to gain international trust…When we go out into the world we can either send the Peace Corp or a military with guns—I think the international community would much rather support the former,” said Fafoutis.

While Lieutenant Governor Brown was highly critical of the past eight years and stressed the obstacles before our nation, his message was constructive and optimistic. He said, “We are a great nation, we are strong but we are not perfect. We have a unique opportunity to come together to prefect our nation. This is a time like any other but despite challenges, future generations will see the greatness of our generation.”

Students Protect against Lice Outbreak

Fear not. The lice outbreak that had many students in a near-panic was successfully stopped by the separation of students during Thanksgiving break. The break offered any infected students the opportunity to go home and treat themselves. Karen Mumbert,  Assistant Director of Health Services, says that she is “impressed by the willing students” who were “very diligent” when it came to treating their lice.

But what should you do in the event of another outbreak? Lice cannot fly or jump, which is why outbreaks are only seen where there is “close living,” according to Mumbert. This mean that to protect yourself, you should vacuum any floors or couches that infected people have used, refrain from sharing hats, combs, or brushes, or any of the other numerous suggestions offered at the Health Center or on the Center for Disease Control’s website.

Or, you can use the following suggestions offered by your fellow students, all of which have been proven to work.

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. “A kid at fencing had it,” said sophomore Heidi Ewing. “I didn’t go to fencing at all that week”
  2. Be careful of the people with whom you associate. “We just stayed away from dirty people,” said sophomore Amelia Lynch. Her roommate, sophomore Megan Tawes, added, “We checked each other’s heads a lot.”
  3. Do not allow any of your things to touch those of an infected person. Freshman Sara Manchester’s roommate had lice, so she said, “I sprayed down the room, went to the health center, and made sure nothing of mine in the room touched hers.”
  4. Follow the example set by your Residence Assistants. “I saw some of the PG RA’s wearing swim caps and gloves during checkout,” said sophomore Brian Van Parys.
  5. Do not necessarily rely on the help of your parents. On returning home, sophomore Anna Kasicky told her mother that there had been an outbreak of lice and “she freaked out. She checked my head three times and put my clothes in a bag. My mother wouldn’t let me wash my clothes in the house. She told me I had to use the laundromat in the city!”
  6. Drastic times call for drastic measures. When four of the six people in his suite contracted lice, sophomore Danny Patrick Thomas Ruthenburg-Marshall took a few extra steps to prevent himself from becoming infected. “Sheets were down to one use, towels were down to one use. I washed everything I ever touched. I sprayed de-lousing stuff. I treated my hair anyway. I trimmed my torso hair!” The result? “No lice,” he said.

The College did all it could to prevent the lice from spreading. The Health Center worked with Housekeeping through Residence Life in an effort to be sure that all shared living areas were sufficiently clean, says Mumbert.

According to Mumbert, because lice seem to spread more between friendship and relationships than actual geography, the Health Center has no way of knowing where the outbreak originated on campus.

Roadblocks to Registration

This year, some students were initially unable to create a full time schedule due to limited spaces in classes for the spring.

While the  College prides itself on having small classes, this can also create a competition among students for these limited number of seats. The uncertainty of registration is intensified for students struggling to get in the classes, or the class periods, they want. Because first-years are the last to register their class was hit the hardest by the limited number of classes; not only were many first-years denied the classes they wanted, but were unable to even create a schedule of 12 credits, the minimum amount to be considered a full time student.

“Freshmen plans aren’t being taken into consideration,” said Class of 2012 President Karina Mandell. “Many couldn’t get into their first four choices of classes or any of their choices at all.” Mandell received many complaints from freshmen unable to take lower level required classes and upper level classes. For example, first-year Jana Fronczek was unable to take any of the art classes she needs to complete her minor requirements, making her future schedule planning more difficult.

Registration problems affected older students as well. Students like sophomore Hannah Goszkowski was unable to find any classes that would help her advance in her major. “The upper level classes I need to be a history major are all filled. What is the point of being in school if I can’t take the classes I need?”

To solve this problem, registration was extended for 24 hours for each respective grade starting with first-years and more seats were added to select classes. This was similar to the add/drop slip process provided by the Registrar Office, but the extension was “quicker, more eco-friendly and saved paper used by the add/drop process,” according to Registrar Susan Bennett. A joint effort by Department Chairs and the Registrar Office was made to decide which classes needed spaces the most, including many required and core classes.

“Ninety-seven percent of underclassmen and 94 percent of seniors are now registered full time and many classes are still open,” said Bennett.

The Registrar Office works to meet the students’ academic needs, and often their preferences cannot be known until students begin the registration process. The addition of the Core Curriculum program has also created a greater variety of required classes to choose from, complicating the prediction of what classes students will take. The Registrar Office has now created a survey that will assess these preferences before registration begins to minimize the future additions to classes that need to be made.

For students still concerned with their schedules, Bennett advises them to email professors to be put on their wait lists. Mandell urges any first-years still having registration problems to email her at kdmandell@smcm.edu. Late registration will be open until Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.

New Student Blogs Describe St. Mary’s Life to Prospective Students

With the upcoming unveiling of the new admissions website comes a new feature: student blogs that describe life at St. Mary’s. These blogs, written by seniors Matthew Decker, Matthew Fafoutis, and Kathy Orellana, will emphasize the activities and daily life of students at the College in an interactive and engaging manner.

Currently there are three blogs that will, according to Decker, “highlight the multidimensional atmosphere of St. Mary’s campus.” For example, in his blog Decker will be writing about his schedule and how he balances his class work, his St. Mary’s Project (SMP), his jobs, and his socially awkward interactions. These blogs will strive to show prospective students a human side to the campus. The writers will detail their troubles and their triumphs in order to show possible incoming students what their lives at the College might encompass.

The blogs will appear on the new admissions website which admissions plans to release before the winter break. The student writers have their own blogs to chronicle their College experiences and will update them approximately weekly.

Ben Toll, Assistant Director of Admissions and the man spearheading the blog project, is very excited about this new feature. He said the one of the reasons behind the creation of the blogs was the possibility of prospective students not visiting because of travel costs so he wanted to create a feature on the website that would “provide a similar experience to what the students have on a tour.”

Toll billed the blogs section of the Web site as being very user friendly and allowing instantaneous, direct communication. Anyone will be able to comment on the blog and ask the writer any questions they have about the blog. Toll said that frequently updated blogs will give prospective students a “reason to be engaged.”

Orellana described the importance of the unique, personal nature of the blogs. “Stories make people feel a little more connected, I think,” she said. “I also think that hearing the St. Mary’s lingo (SMP, the waterfront, etc) gives prospective families a more in-depth look at life here, once they’ve decided to attend.”

The blogs are another way that students can gain information about life at the College. Toll stressed that he wanted students to write the blog because they are the people that could have an impact on incoming students, and they will be the ones that could have more of an impact on the daily lives of incoming students, rather than the admissions staff.

Overall, the writers of the blogs seemed very excited to be able to share their experiences with possible students. Fafoutis said, “It will allow people to get a better idea about what St. Mary’s is like and therefore they will be able to make better, more informed decisions about coming which is ultimately what we’re aiming at.”