Polar Bear Splash Leaves Students Cold, Wounded

Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)

On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, over 150 students and faculty members  participated in St. Mary’s third annual Polar Bear Splash. Over 200 other students and onlookers cheered on their friends as they prepared to make the plunge.

The College’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) passed out waivers in order to protect themselves from any liability if injuries should occur before participants in the event were allowed to jump in. The result saw four students hospitalized, and numerous others in need of serious medical attention.

The Polar Bear Splash was started by SEAC in January of 2007 with hopes of raising awareness about global climate change and its effects. Each year since then, the event has attracted a growing number of students as well as media and has been successful. This year, in addition to raising awareness about climate change and green initiatives like the Green Power Referendum, SEAC also raised some green in order to fund their trip to Power Shift 2009, a nation-wide youth meeting in Washington D.C. committed to solving the climate crisis.

“Today is ridiculously windy, but it’s worth it,” senior Marjorie Foley said just moments before she took the plunge. “They’re doing a fundraiser!”
While Foley was being subtle about just how cold it was, even before she ran into the 38 degree water, Patrick Gilbert complained that it was “colder than a witch’s tit” outside. “Everything about it is cold,” he continued, “but we’re raising awareness about Global warming.”

Sustainability fellow, alumna, and participant in past Polar Bear Splashes, Rachel Clement feels that one of the great things about the Polar Bear Splash is that “it gives students an opportunity to make a strong statement to the campus, surrounding community, and the local, regional, and national media that we know and care about stopping climate change, and are willing to jump into a freezing river for the cause.”

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” a soaking senior Kait Gruber remarked just moments after the polar bear splash ended. “We’re really affecting the planet a lot more than we think, and it really is important to raise awareness about global warming.” Seconds after this statement, Kait had to limp away because she discovered the bottom of her feet were severely cut and bleeding profusely.

Countless participants of the splash this year were injured as a result of the oyster shells, rocks, bottle glass and other debris that polluted the sand outside of the new river center. Leading member of SEAC and senior, Shane Hall feels “terrible for all those people who came out to have a fun time showing their commitment to stopping climate change who were injured” especially because of the fact that in previous years the splash has incurred only a few injuries.“Because of how safe the former two splashes were, even for people who refused to wear shoes, we did not anticipate the amount of injuries that occurred.”

“While SEAC repeatedly communicated to the school community that participants should bring a towel and wear shoes, unfortunately many people did not heed this warning,” Hall added. “The other problem is many people interpreted “shoes” to mean flip-flops, which come off easily when you sprint in the water.”

“I was running barefoot – stupid, I know,” recalled sophomore Jamie Phillips about his experience in the polar bear splash a week later,  “but I know people who were wearing shoes that still got cut up from the ankle up.” Phillips was outraged as he was “sent away by the Health Center when [he] requested crutches and a brief check-up.”

Because the local hospital had already opened a case for the other students, the health center did not want to “get involved,” said Phillips. “I had to buy my own medical prescriptions out of pocket,” he laments about the situation.

Even though he was one of the few who actually received medical care, Phillips was unable to walk from Thursday night to Monday evening. As a result, he missed nearly a week of classes, and remains still with a limp, a wound to remember deep within his feet, and a hole in his pocket. Jamie is not alone, however, as many students are still feeling the effects of the Polar Bear Splash of 2009.

“I’m still healing,” Gruber said about her injuries from that day.

“We should have done more,” said  Hall on behalf of SEAC, but he also contended that while greater safety measures are a must, “I’m positive the hardy, dedicated students of St. Mary’s will be ready to splash again next winter.”

However, some students, including Phillips feel as though it we might just be better leaving the splashing to the Polar Bears. Phillips said, “It’s not well-publicized or dynamic enough of an event for me to want to go down and get injured on a cold February day.”

Academic Budgets Cut

Students, faculty and staff gather to consider different budget options at the budget forum. (Rowan Copley)
Students, faculty and staff gather to consider different budget options at the budget forum. (Rowan Copley)

The College’s academic departments saw 15 percent of their yearly discretionary budget slashed earlier this spring, according to Provost Larry Vote and numerous department chairs.

Maryland Higher Education Student Advisory Council Representative Lauren Payne said the budget cuts were “unfortunate given that we are an Honors College and academics should be our first priority.” But, she added, “I know that St. Mary’s is not the only institution of higher education that is feeling the impact of these economic times”

Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman said the cuts were necessitated by a budget shortfall of approximately 2.3 million dollars. Shrinking interest earnings and endowment funds, coupled with growing energy, food, travel, benefits and minimum wage costs caused the deficit. Also, the State of Maryland rescinded 125,000 dollars of funds from St. Mary’s, with an additional 232,000 dollars of cuts pending approval by the Board of Public Works.

The 2.3 million dollar discrepancy was partially offset by leaving vacant staff positions open and filling the College to capacity, but Botzman said, “We still needed about 750,000 dollars to close this fiscal year’s budget.” This burden was proportionally spread between each Vice President’s office and the Dean of Students, according to Botzman.

The Office of the Provost, Vote said, “had a target number to meet and 15 percent of each unit’s operating budget potentially allowed us to meet the target with the least amount of impact and most equity across the campus.”

Many academic departments were able to absorb the budget cuts without suffering extensive obstruction to their day-to-day operations.

“I don’t think it really affected us that much. My big concern is really on the teaching side. Since that budget was already allotted, it only had a small effect on us,” Michael Cain, the Political Science Department Chair, said.

Charles Adler, Chair of the Physics Department, added, “We were able to give the requested amount back without too much change in the department’s operation.”

English Department Chair Ruth Feingold said that the cuts would have “little to no” impact on English students. But, she added that, “Morale might be lower across the board.”

Still, the Biology Department – whose budget hovers above 100,000 dollars – “didn’t have as much money left in the kitty as we needed to pay back,” according to Department Chair Rachel Myerowitz.
“I was really scared, I thought I might jump out of a window because I didn’t know how we could give the money back,” she added.

Myerowitz credited Vote for being “flexible.” The department eventually was able to return 5,000 dollars after being asked for 16,000.

Biology students will see the department ordering fewer supplies, sharing reagents and traveling less this spring. “We won’t replace broken glassware. There’s a piece of equipment that is down, so we’ll try to catch the moment where it’s functional instead of replacing the software,” Myerowitz said.

Other departments are responding similarly; many are delaying new technology purchases, prioritizing the travel plans of professors and inviting fewer speakers to campus. Dave Kung, Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Departments, said he had to “postpone plans to build a network for Computer Science students.”

Overall, Vote said, “We have tried to minimize the effect on students. People will be asked to be more observant of waste and use of equipment. Some replacement purchases will be postponed, some materials may be in shorter supply, social events will be less expensive.”

While the College has attempted to shield students from feeling the effects of the budget rescission by cutting from various pools of funds, there are consequences, according to History Department Chair Tom Barrett. He noted the benefits of on-campus speakers. Also, Barrett said, “It would have been nice to be able to use some of that money to hire students to help us with research. That’s a direct value for students, in many different ways.”

The Chairs of both Mathematics and Political Science also anticipated possible consequences for their student-workers. Kung asked his department’s teaching assistants if they would be willing to work for credit instead of an hourly wage. Additionally, Cain said that Political Science students might not be able to conduct paid research as late into the semester as in previous years.

Many Department Chairs noted their relative unease over fiscal year 2010, which begins on July 1, 2009. “We’re very concerned about FY2010. We don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Barrett said.
While no academic budget cuts have been planned for the next fiscal year, Vote said, “The [economic] environment is unstable.  We will need to be ready for further action should it be called for.”

To address the College’s budget issues, Kung hosted an all-campus forum that was attended by about 50 students, faculty members and staff last Friday.

“I think there is a real benefit in getting the people on the ground – the students, the staff, the housekeepers – involved in finding solutions to budget cuts. They’re the people who see how the money is spent and might generate great ideas. Having this sort of forum generates a shared sense of sacrifice,” he said.

Senior Stephanie Hartwick attended the forum. She said, “Everyone needs to realize that every light they leave on, every load of clothes they dry, every paper towel they use drains money away from the livelihoods of the teachers and the staff we depend on.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall Chosen to be 2010-2011’s Student Trustee

Student Trustt-in-Training Designee Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall
Student Trustt-in-Training Designee Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall

This Friday, Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall was chosen as the new Student Trustee-in-Training Designee. He will take over for current student trustee-in-training Debbie Travers in May and eventually become student trustee for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Ruthenberg-Marshall, along with his new position of student trustee-in-training designee, is also currently President of SafeRide and an active member of SEAC, the outdoors club, and the rock climbing club.

“I look forward to seeing how Danny will add his own personal touch to a unique and special position in the campus community,” said Jeremy Pevner, the current Student Trustee.  “I know that he will represent the student body to the Board well.”

Other finalists for the position, such as sophomore Sophia Traven, also spoke highly of both Ruthenberg-Marshall and other applicants. Shortly before the decision was made, Traven said, “I believe [the Board] won’t be able to choose wrong.”

The position of Student Trustee, according to Pevner, is a “way of pulling together students with the right set of administrators, and sometimes the trustees as well, to manage the lines of communication.” Officially, the Student Trustee is an ex-officio member of the SGA executive board, and has such duties as reporting back to the SGA senate on the executive board’s actions and authoring and cosponsoring legislation. The Student Trustee also sits on multiple SGA and administrative committees, such as the Enrollment and Student Affairs and Strategic Planning committees. What makes the position of the Student Trustee unique, however, is his or her work with the Board of Trustees; at every quarterly meeting, Pevner has had the duty of informing the board of current events on campus and opinions on issues currently facing the College. According to Pevner, in his time as Student Trustee, he had to express student opinion on such issues as the River Center and tuition increases. Pevner said simply, “You have to be the representative of the students.”

The process of selection for the next Student Trustee began last semester, when applications were sent to students asking them about issues such as what constitutes a campus role model, how they would improve the quality of life for St. Mary’s students, and what the role of Student Trustee should entail. Some students, such as sophomore finalist Hillary Powell, were also recommended for the position by professors and staff; all applicants, however, had to submit three letters of recommendation. The seven applicants then presented their case at a candidate forum held two weeks ago. Feedback from students was then used to narrow the selection pool down to three Sophomore finalists: Ruthenberg-Marshall, Traven, and Powell. A committee of consisting of Pevner, Travers, sophomore class president Charles Onwuche, and two other students chosen by Onwuche made the final decision.

According to Ruthenberg-Marshall, he will have two main priorities as Student Trustee: listen to student opinions, and fight for the student’s perspective.

“I would love it if I could know all 2,000 people on this campus, and I really feel like I can get people’s opinions and express them very well,” he said.  Because of this strong focus on representing the students, Rutherberg-Marshall plans on getting student opinion before bringing any concrete plans forward to the Board of Trustees.

Ruthenberg-Marshall also expressed the fact that he is not afraid to push for the student perspective, even if student views are unpopular with the Board of Trustees. “I don’t like taking no for an answer,” he said. “I will stand up…and explain to [the Board] that this is what the students want, this is what the students need, and this is what we should be doing.”

Although enthusiastic to take on the role of Student Trustee, Ruthenberg-Marshall still has a year as Student Trustee-in-Training, during which he will, according to Pevner, sit on committees such as Building and Grounds, begin to take on increasing responsibilities, and learn more about the workings of the Board of Trustees and the SGA. By May of 2010 Ruthenberg-Marshall will inherit the full position from Travers, a position that in the grand scheme is quite unique.

“The fact that we have this [position] is really special,” Pevner said. “A lot of schools don’t have this kind of representation for their students.”

Men Finish on Top

Sophomore Alex Franz scored career high 23 points. (Photo by Matt Molek)
Sophomore Alex Franz scored career high 23 points. (Photo by Matt Molek)

With two key starters missing due to suspensions, the men’s basketball team still delivered on their promises of victory Saturday afternoon, defeating Wesley College in a 79-73 thriller to secure the No. 1 seed in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) playoffs.

Junior guard Camontae Griffin, the second highest scoring player in the CAC, and senior center Alex Irmer were stuck watching the game from the stands, both serving one game suspensions resulting from an altercation in an 84-74 win against Gallaudet on Feb. 14.

Despite the setback, senior forward Calvin Wise said, “[the team was] confident coming into the game… We knew players were going to step up big in this game, and they did. They answered the call.”

The flow of the game was familiar to anyone who has followed the Seahawks closely this season. The team was dominant early in the game, achieving a 31-16 lead 11 minutes into the first half.

That lead wouldn’t last though as Wesley immediately turned the score around with a 22-6 run, taking a brief 1 point lead with 3 minutes left in the half. The Seahawks got back into their groove though, and finished the half leading by 5.  The second half was a close one, with the Seahawks never leading by more than 9 points. That was all they needed though. They never surrendered the lead again.

The CAC’s leading scorer, Wesley senior Rashawn Johnson, was held nearly 10 points below his season average of 25.3 points per game.

Head coach Chris Harney recognized two of his younger players for their defensive efforts, “I can’t say enough about how big James Davenport, as a freshman, and Mikey Fitzpatrick, as a sophomore, were going up against [Johnson] … They went toe to toe with him.”

With 3 minutes left in the game, and the score 68-67 in favor of St. Mary’s, sophomore Mike Bowden put away huge dunks on two consecutive drives. The Seahawks were up by 5 and the crowd was electrified.

As the game came to a close, Alex Franz was experiencing serious leg cramps, and limped to the bench in visible pain at each time-out.

Franz said, “I was like, ‘just a few more minutes. I’ve just got to push it for these last couple minutes.’ I just knew I had to do it.”

It was a good thing Franz kept fighting because he owned the last two minutes of the game. With the Seahawks lead cut to 2 points and only 45 seconds left to play, the ball went to Franz on the baseline. He eyed up a 3 pointer through heavy defensive coverage, and let it fly. “I wanted that shot,” said Franz. “I knew if I hit that shot, it was over.”

Franz got what he wanted. Ball met basket, and the crowd went insane.

In the final 20 seconds, Franz pulled down two defensive rebounds, and drew a foul. His free throw brought the score to its final tally, and as the clock wound down, everyone in the house was on their feet. At the sound of the buzzer, Franz triumphantly pointed to the fans, as if to say “thank you.”

“The crowd was huge, just huge… I can’t say enough. I love this place,“ said Harney.

“I said it last time we were out here. I guaranteed we were going to beat Wesley at home. We might have been down two starters, but our most important player, the fans, came through for us again,” said Wise.

In the end, four players scored double digits, with Franz putting away a career high 23 points.

Harney credited the win to the Seahawks teamwork. Missing Irmer and Griffin left a big hole for the team but Harney said, “[the team has] 14 guys on the roster and it [was] those other 12 guys. They just stepped up…with a lot of heart and a lot of guts.”

The team has captured the No. 1 seed for the CAC playoffs, which means that they have the opportunity to hold onto home court advantage all the way to the CAC championship.

The winner of the CAC championship gets a spot in the Division III NCAA tournament. The Seahawks are defending CAC champions, and made it to the sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament.

With Saturday’s win the Seahawks ended the regular season on an 8 game winning streak, and with a 21-4 record, the best in program history.

This is the second season in a row that Harney’s squad has broken the regular season wins record.

The Seahawks next game is the CAC semifinal at home on Thursday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 pm.

Said Wise, “We’re going to win it all. We’re going to go to the NCAA [tournament]. We’re ready to do it.”

Professor Dowla Awarded Hinda C. Landers Endowment

Professor Dowla has been teaching at St. Mary’s College for 17 years.
Professor Dowla has been teaching at St. Mary’s College for 17 years.

After 17 years of teaching at St. Mary’s, economics professor Asif Dowla was recently named holder of the Hilda C. Landers Endowed Chair in the Liberal Arts.

The chair, which was previously held by Lucille Clifton, is given to a faculty member of the college for outstanding achievement both at and outside of the school.

According to students and faculty, Dowla fits that description.

“He’s always in his office and is always willing to chat with students about anything,” said senior Alec Stone.  “So devoted is he to teaching that I can only remember him canceling class once – because he had to be in Oslo,

Norway to watch his friend and former professor receive the Peace Prize. He even held class on the day of his flight, leaving for the airport directly from class.”

“Dowla is one of the best teachers in the College because he challenges students to think beyond graphs and models, and to consider the social and moral implications of different policies,” said David Wessler. “He has the unique ability to humanize economic problems.”

Professor Andrew Kozac, chair of the Economics department, also described Dowla as devoted to his students. “One of the secrets to Asif’s success in terms of teaching is that he sees his students for more than being just students,” he said.  “He’s got a certain caring for them as individuals.  And that care extends farther than what happens to them in the classroom, but also after they leave the classroom.”

Besides his work at the College, Dowla has worked with Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with microfinance, including starting the Grameen Bank.

Dowla’s book about the Grameen bank, The Poor Always Pay Back: The Grameen II Story, has been translated into French, simple and complex Chinese, and Baha Indonesian and is used as a textbook at Duke, Harvard, and Princeton.

Dowla, who describes his reputation among the students as “very demanding,” says that he is humbled by being chosen for the Landers Chair.  “For an academic,” he said, “this is the ultimate honor.”

Fundraiser Reiterates Student’s Pleas

Students of the Class of 2010 held a fundraiser to cater to the student’s desire for on-campus pizza. (Photo submitted by Chris Rodkey)
Students of the Class of 2010 held a fundraiser to cater to the student’s desire for on-campus pizza. (Photo submitted by Chris Rodkey)

It’s 11 or 12 o’clock on a Friday night and you are craving some late night food. The Upper Deck is closed, a Sheetz run is out of the question for obvious reasons and the Ramen Noodles or Easy Mac you have in your room are simply not sufficient.

An easy call to x8140 was the obvious choice: Kohler’s Pizza. One bite yielded instant satisfaction for the late-night cravings.

On January 30th, the Class of 2010 stepped up to fill the Kohler’s void by teaming up with Bon Appetit, Nicolletti’s Pizza and Pepsi to bring pizza delivery back to campus.

Orders started coming in early and did not stop until pizza dough ran out less than two hours later.

I cannot even begin to convey the pure excitement of the students when I knocked on their doors holding a steaming box of goodness. One student made me wait while she sampled the pizza. One bite of the greasy, cheesy pizza and the result was clear: we passed the taste test.

If the success of the Class of 2010 Pizza Delivery is any indicator, the campus would like to see weekend pizza delivery come back. In fact, students even offered to sign a petition in support of campus pizza delivery.

Maybe your dreams are about to come true. The Class of 2010’s business plan is being used as a model for various other clubs and groups. I see this as a complete win-win situation: students get their pizza and clubs can make a few hundred dollars.

With continued support from the students, I am confident pizza delivery will slowly work its way back into St. Mary’s culture as the hallmark of weekend shenanigans.

-Submitted by Chris Rodkey

SGA Urges Campus to Vote on All-Student Referendum

You might have heard a lot recently about the SGA All Student Referendum that is going on from Sunday February 22 through Wednesday February 25th. Wondering what it’s all about? Well here is a bit more information for you.

This referendum was created in response to a significant amount of concerns raised to a number of SGA representatives regarding the current financial crisis. Specifically, we were hearing two things: 1. Concerns about student’s ability to pay for things ranging from tuition payments to rent payments 2. Concerns about the recent budget cuts for the academic departments.

In a show of solidarity with the rest of the campus community the SGA decided to cut our own budget by $15,000 and donate this back to the college for the use of the academic departments. This money will not affect club or programming funding at all. The areas where we have decided to cut are as follows:

-Copier and Rental Supplies:    $600.00
-Executive Board Constituent Outreach: $1,100.00
-Leadership Conference (Executive Board):  $5,500.00
-Senator Constituent Outreach:   $1,800.00
-Helium Rental: $250.00
-Office Supplies: $2,200.00
-Publicity Committee: $1,050.00
-Capital Resources Committee: $2,000.00
-Technology Committee (Club Room Tech): $500.00

Although these funds are traditionally unspent, any money that might be needed to cover these costs may still be obtained by petitioning the SGA Senate through a bill.

In addition to this budget cut, the SGA would also like to donate $20,000, out of our (approximately) $150,000 carry-over account, to the College for the Emergency Assistance Fund. This fund was created to give monetary assistance to students who have “a sudden, drastic change in their financial situation.”

Last Tuesday, the SGA voted unanimously to support these donations. In addition, we voted to approve putting this decision in the hands of the entire student body. With this, we hope that we can make a unified and collective decision on how we, the student body, will approach the rough financial times ahead.

Finally, if the referendum is passed, the SGA will then issue a challenge to the alumni and donors of the College to match our donation. Before we can do any of this however we must vote. The referendum will not be considered valid until 30% of the student body votes on this referendum. Whether you vote in favor of or opposed to the referendum please please vote on the issue!! Anyone can vote on Blackboard any time of day! If you have any questions about the voting process, email Parliamentarian Adam Matthai at almatthai@smcm.edu.

Best of luck with your classes!

By Sunny Schnitzer, SGA President

From the Chief’s Desk: Vote…and Vote Yes

While conducting interviews for “Academic Budgets Cut,” I was frequently stunned by the amount of discretionary funds that each academic department receives every fiscal year. The amounts, which often hovered around 35,000 dollars, were absolutely dwarfed by the Student Government Association’s budget of about 350,000 dollars per year. Even The Point News’ yearly allocation of 24,375 dollars comes close to the operating budgets of some disciplines.

Now, this is not to say that the SGA and TPN are not worthwhile investments. I believe that just the opposite is true. But, hopefully, these numbers illustrate that, after enduring a 15 percent cut, some of the academic departments’ budgets are less than healthy; different disciplines have seen their travel plans scaled down, their new purchases delayed and they will invite fewer speakers to visit campus this semester.

Thankfully, though, we as students have an SGA that recognizes their relative wealth. And, further, we are fortunate that our SGA is committed to helping the academic departments – and their fellow students. They have pledged to cut their own budget by 15,000 dollars this year to aid the departments. Also, 20,00 dollars from the SGA’s Special Carryover Fund will be donated to the Emergency Assistance Fund, which provides scholarships to at-need students.

Though the SGA has taken the steps to prepare for these donations, they cannot act until the student body passes a referendum. On this referendum, which will be available on Blackboard until Wednesday, I strongly the College’s students to vote. And, moreover, I urge you to vote in favor of it.

I cannot give enough credit to President Sunny Schnitzer, Treasurer Jesse Lee, the rest of the SGA’s Executive Board and the Senators for not only writing and voting in favor of this bill, but also for allowing the students to ultimately decide.

The SGA has proven its commitment to the College’s academic program, now it is up to the students. We must vote in favor of this bill; the funds will not only greatly aid the academic departments and students, but by passing this referendum we can show our solidarity with them. The results of this vote will prove where we stand as a college. If our priorities lie in upholding our tradition of a superior liberal arts education, this referendum will pass.

Post Secret Creator Frank Warren Speaks at Second Annual President’s Reception

warrenThe second annual President’s Reception, hosted by College president Maggie O’Brien and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, was held on Friday, February 20 in Glendening Hall.  Attended by most of the senior class, it was an opportunity for the class of ’09 to meet their graduation speaker, Frank Warren.

The reception began with a welcome and introduction from Kalada Nemieboka, the president of the class of 2009.  Frank Warren, the creator and author of the PostSecret project, followed.

Warren shared several of the Valentine’s Day secrets that were currently posted on the PostSecret blog and spoke briefly about his experience with the PostSecret project.

“One of the things I learned from seeing the three thousand secrets from strangers is that we all have secrets that can break a heart,” he said.  “If we could understand that connection between friends and strangers, I think there could be more peace in the world.”

President Maggie O’Brien and David Sushinsky, the director of alumni relations spoke next.  Sunny Schnitzer, the president of the Student Government Association, concluded with a toast.

Afterwards, Warren signed copies of his books and posed for pictures in the Glendening Annex.

The senior class began the process of finding a graduation speaker in their sophomore year.

“We tried something new,” said O’Brien.  “It speaks a lot to the senior class that they chose a person who shows so much heart.”

“The students made a strong case for the speaker this year,” said Kelly Schroeder, the Assistant Dean of Students.  “It’s a very relevant topic for the age that we’re in.”

“I thought he was fantastic,” said Nemieboka.  “It’s not about the money.  It’s not about the fame and fortune.  He’s basically a hometown hero for us.”

The College is creating its own PostSecret project in preparation for the Class of 2009’s graduation.

“It’s open to the whole campus,” said Nemieboka.  Students, faculty and staff are invited to pick up pre-addressed postcards from the info desk in the campus center or the circulation desk in the library and send in their own secrets.  It’s anonymous and students are allowed to send in an unlimited number of secrets, the only requirements being that the secrets are true, anonymous, and have never been shared.

There is currently a display case with secrets on the second floor of the library.  As more secrets are sent in, they will be displayed at other spots around campus.

Jafar Not Aladdin’s Only Dark Side

Islamic Studies professor Dr. Betül Basaran discussed the mischaracterization of Arabs in Disney’s “Aladdin” with students. The movie was shown Wednesday, February 11 Cole Cinema as a part of The Other Side of Disney Movies series.

The movie, which originally debuted in 1992, quickly became a hit, bringing in over $217 Million in the US and more than $507 million worldwide. The movie takes place in fictitious, Middle Eastern city of Agrabah, where protagonist, Aladdin, fights for the city’s princess, Jasmine, as well as to prevent a plot conceived by the King’s Grand Vizier, Jafar, to become King himself.

Despite the popularity of the movie, Disney ended up releasing the movie with several changes after the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) boycotted the movie.

The Committee’s biggest concern with the movie was the first line of the movie’s opening song, which originally said, “Oh, I come from a land, From a faraway place, Where the caravan camels roam, Where they cut off your ear If they don’t like your face, It’s Barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

In the re-release of the movie, Disney dubbed the opening line to change it to say, “It’s flat and immense, and the heat is intense. It’s barbaric, but hey’ it’s home.” Although it’s an improvement, Marvin Wingfield of the ADC in a 1995 newsletter article said that “problems remain” with the movie.

Professor Basaran agreed. She pointed to the movie’s contrast of the “good guys,” Aladdin and Jasmine, as light skinned with no accent and the “bad guys” with darker skin, dirty clothes and heavy accents as “an unfair stereotype of dirty Arabs.”

Basaran went on to ask that “while some might brush it off as a cartoon, how many kids watched [Aladdin] and formed stereotypes? Doesn’t Disney have an obligation to do better?”

First-year Keith [last name withheld] agreed and said that, “until middle school, that’s what [he] thought Arab culture was.”

Senior Rawle Lucas points to Disney’s change of the location—from Baghdad, as was originally proposed, to Agrabah—as a sign that filmmakers did not intend for the cartoon to be taken as a serious cultural statement.

“They purposely did not portray the time period [or culture] seriously by taking it out of context,” Lucas said.

“That’s a perfectly valid argument, but the movies are a stepping stone to a larger conversation.” according to junior Sara Metz, who is the chair of the Program Board’s Multicultural Committee and organizer of The Other Side of Disney Movies Series.

Metz, who very much likes many of Disney’s movies, is concerned that when “people grow up watching these movies they are instilled with certain stereotypes.” It was this concern as well as the desire to “combine what people like with a discussion of the stereotypes portrayed” that inspired her to organize the series.

The next movie in the series will be “Hercules,” which will air Wednesday February 25th in Cole Cinema, and will be followed by a discussion with Linda Hall, Associate Professor of History. Other movies in the series will include “Mulan”, “Pocahontas” and “The Lion King.”