Students Abroad Struggle to Find Housing

Residence Life is facing a housing crunch for next semester as 104 of the 120 students studying abroad are returning to the College and seeking campus housing. In previous years, the number of returning students was closer to the low fifties.

“We usually don’t have a housing crunch in the spring,” said Joanne Goldwater, Associate Dean of Students. Housing problems typically occur in the fall, since the exact number of incoming students cannot be predicted.
Though other students are returning to campus for various reasons, those students currently abroad are facing the brunt of the problem. There have been several cases of miscommunication and the general problems with contacting people in remote areas with limited or no internet access.

Sophomore Lauren Jacoby, studying in Thailand, had trouble finding a place to stay. Although she currently has housing, it took awhile to figure out where she was living next semester. “…the housing list was sent out while the Thai Studies program and the Asian Connections program were on a village home-stay [without] wireless which put us at a bit of a disadvantage [compared] to other returning study abroad students,” she wrote. She attempted to find a place to live in Queen Anne before a suite opened up.

Jacoby said that despite the problems, Residence Life has been helpful. “[Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky] said if I was trying to coordinate something to keep her in the loop and she would help as best she could on her end — no real complaints on her end, I think she is doing the best she can with what she has to work with.”

There have been problems with housing in the Gambia as well. Several students there didn’t receive the initial email with a list of vacancies. Another student, studying in Thailand, didn’t receive the same email until he contacted Residence Life a second time. Several students studying abroad had problems finding housing upon arrival, as well.

“With 120 students studying abroad, there were one or two whose information didn’t get where it needed to go,” said Smolinsky, Assistant Director of Residence Life. “The other piece of it is I’m new in this position. I started in June…I wasn’t sure what the communication had been like.” A student might have been on her predecessor’s radar, “but that information didn’t travel over so well.”

The housing situation for spring semester appears to be worse right now than it actually will be. “People aren’t telling us that they are leaving,” said Goldwater, so Residence Life doesn’t know all the spaces that are available. “Of course, some people may be released through housing for…judicial reasons, academic dismissals…we know we’re going to be getting some more beds opening, [but] we don’t know when or where,” said Goldwater. Still, “The people who are going to transfer are typically first or second year students…and most of them live in the traditional halls.” The juniors who are studying abroad prefer to live in suites, townhouses or apartments, “understandably so,” said Goldwater.

Residence Life is considering different ways to relieve the housing crunch. “If students are willing to take a third person into their room, we’ll give them that $40-per-person-per-week credit,” said Goldwater. Corner rooms in the traditional residence halls can be converted into triples as well as some of the double rooms on North Campus. “We have in the past actually put a fifth person in some of the townhouses,” she said.
Residence Life has also rented a house about a mile from campus and is looking for people interested in living there. “We’re hoping that these are students who are community service-oriented and would be willing to work with the Christmas in April auction,” said Goldwater.

Students who are not planning on living on campus next semester are encouraged to contact the Office of Residence Life as soon as possible, and “students who have a vacancy in their room need to decide in a timely manner how to fill it,” said Smolinsky.

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.

New Chancellor’s Point Projects: A Plan to ‘Get Credit for Time Outside’

Students are currently working to restore Chancellor’s Point, a 66 acre property owned by Historic St. Mary’s City. (Photo Submitted by Katie Krieger)
Students are currently working to restore Chancellor’s Point, a 66 acre property owned by Historic St. Mary’s City. (Photo Submitted by Katie Krieger)

Chancellor’s Point is a 66-acre property off of Rosecroft Lane that belongs to Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC). Several College students are currently working to restore the property so that it can be opened to the public.

A wide variety of projects are planned, including restoring an old building on the waterfront, putting in extensive gardens based on the local ecology, and creating a space for a local immersion program where students could live on the property instead or in addition to studying abroad and receive credit for work done there.

“It started first on a trip to Easter Island,” said Mike Benjamin ’09. After the Leave No Trace study tour, “Maggie O’Brien contacted me to talk about ways that we could further Leave No Trace programming…She suggested this site and so I kind of chased after it.” At the end of his St. Mary’s Project, Benjamin proposed a local immersion program. He brought the proposal to HSMC, the joint advisory group, and Maggie O’Brien. He was hired under contract by the state to continue the program after he graduated.

“There aren’t that many opportunities to get credit for time outside in a university setting,” Benjamin said. “We want this to be something that becomes part of the curricula for the college.” The hope is that it will also involve community members.

One of the first projects on the site will be to restore the waterfront building and transform it into a simple nature education center. “It’s in such bad shape that we’re just trying to stabilize it and secure it and keep the outdoors from the indoors. With what we have we can make a useful educational space,” said Benjamin. Due to budget constraints, “it’s not going to have the sort of green or LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] ideals we’d like it to have.”

Several other projects are currently in motion. Senior Cheryl Corwin has been working with professor Kate Meatyard to create raised beds made up of native plants. “We’re planning to have a nursery so that we can sell plants as well as use them to replant…in the future,” she said. The gardening project came out of, “this amorphous idea to plan out the landscape according to the cultural significance of the plants here.”
“Students who will hopefully be living on site can take care of them,” said Chris Madrigal ’09.

In addition, Rachel Clement ’08, and Madrigal, who are both enrolled in the MAT program, are working on the sustainable education aspects of the site. Their focus is on the community, and they hope to use the site to give, “everyone around a place to learn and teach sustainable living,” said Clement.

Those involved in the project recently formed a Chancellor’s Point Club.

“We realized that we were [almost] all upperclassmen,” said Corwin, one of the club members. For it to work, “We needed strong campus community support. Plus, we just wanted to get the word out that there’s all this opportunity,” she said.

On a recent trip opened to all interested students, over forty people showed up to tour the property and learn about the planned restoration. Several more put their names on a list for anyone interested in receiving more information.

The Chancellor’s Point Club will begin to have regular meetings in the upcoming semester. Those interested in the project can find more information on the Chancellor’s Point blog at http://smcm.edu/chancellorspoint/blog.

Tuition to Rise Three Percent

In a meeting on Dec. 5, the Board of Trustees, headed by Chairman James Muldoon, voted to increase tuition rates for 2009-2010. (Photo by Dave Chase)
In a meeting on Dec. 5, the Board of Trustees, headed by Chairman James Muldoon, voted to increase tuition rates for 2009-2010. (Photo by Dave Chase)

The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to raise tuition for the 2010-2011 academic year by $300 at their Saturday, Dec. 5 meeting.

The tuition hike represents a three-percent increase for in-state students and slightly more than a two-percent increase for out-of-state students. The Board also voted to increase fees, room and board by three percent for all students.

The increases come as the Board and school administration try to balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The current global recession has affected the school’s fundraising ability as Gail Harmon, Trustee, reported to the Board, “This is a tough time for development.”

Harmon added, “[The school] has lost [its] two top fundraisers, the College president and vice president of development” but feels confident that the development staff can reach its goal of $3 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

In terms of costs, the school’s greatest increases over the last year have been in the cost of health care and energy, according to Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance. Although, he said, “prices in general have not risen much in the last year, which helps with our budget considerations.”

Fortunately, the College was spared in the latest round of state budget cuts, approved by the Governor on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The College’s funding from the state comes in the form of a block grant. “It’s [an unofficial] agreement between the college, the legislature and the governor that [the College] won’t ask for increases in good times and in bad times [the College] won’t get cut,” according to Michael Cain, chair of the political science department and director of the Center for Democracy Studies.

“It’s been a really good strategy for [the College] to maintain a steady income from the state,” said Cain and, “if [the College] does get cut I am not anticipating that [the College] will get really large cuts.”

The grant block that the College receives each year is indexed to inflation and this year the school gained an additional $153,000 to compensate for inflation, according to trustee Peg Duchesne ‘97. She added that, “overall the College has been treated very favorable as the state addresses revenue falls.”

During the board meeting, Steny Hoyer, trustee and U.S. House Majority Leader, noted that the school’s financial outlook was greatly helped by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year by Congress but that the funding will likely not be available next year as Congress will focus on, “job creation and financial responsibility.”

According to Botzman, federal funding for next year “is not yet an immediate concern,” and that he will wait until “the quarterly estimate scheduled to come out in December” before worrying about federal funding. “The College has built a solid budget for next year and that board is very careful about how [it] spends money…. [The Board] is trying to keep tuition increases as low as possible.” The three percent increase is lower than the national average.

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.

Number of Vehicles Towed on Campus Skyrockets

After receiving four citations for missing a decal or parking in the wrong lot, vehicles will be towed. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
After receiving four citations for missing a decal or parking in the wrong lot, vehicles will be towed. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

As many students have noticed, the Public Safety office has recently started cracking down on students and visitors who have illegally parked their cars on campus property.

Last year, Public Safety officers only towed an overall total of 43 vehicles throughout both the fall and the spring semester. So far this year, they have already surpassed this number.

Since the start of classes 15 weeks ago, Public Safety has already towed 48 vehicles off of campus property on account of either being illegally parked, being parked in the incorrect lot, or not having a visible parking decal.

According to Sergeant Eric “Tony” Brooks of the Public Safety office, most of the towed vehicles come from Lot T, also known as “Guam,” because it is the campus’ largest lot where students try to hide their vehicles if they do not have a parking decal. Brooks also said that Public Safety “get[s] a lot of phone calls” from other students on campus who get annoyed with the extra vehicles parked in Guam.

Each time that students, visitors, or staff members park their vehicle on campus without a campus parking decal, or in a lot different than their designated lot, they receive a parking citation. When a person receives a fourth citation, his or her vehicle will also automatically be towed, whether previous citations have been paid off or not.

The exceptions to this rule include when a vehicle is parked in a fire lane, in a designated handicapped area when not having a handicap permit, or when blocking access to a loading dock, dumpster, or bus access lane. In these cases, the vehicle will automatically be towed without any citation or warning.

Towed vehicles are then taken over to a local towing company located a few miles away from campus where the owner of the car will be charged $25 for each day that the car stays there. This naturally caused a problem for students or visitors who lack parking decals on their vehicles.

Without a parking decal, Public Safety has no way of knowing to whom a car belongs. Therefore, many students in the past have parked their cars illegally, been towed without knowing, only to find out a week or so later it is gone  and  they must pay around $200 or more to the towing company.

This caused the Student Government Association (SGA) to propose that Public Safety start sending all-student e-mails when they tow a vehicle and have no other way of getting in contact with its owner. “The idea behind it was several students were getting towed and they weren’t being notified,” said one of the Caroline senators, first-year Alex Walls.

This is the reason for the recent flood of campus e-mails referring to the towed cars these past two months. “SGA wanted a way for us to tell students,” said Sergeant Brooks, “because we don’t know whose cars they are.”

Now, students who are towed for not having a parking decal will still be notified and will be able to retrieve their car before the penalty costs start racking up. But what about finding transportation to go retrieve a car? “That’s on them,” said Sergeant Brooks.

Some students on campus, though, still disagree with a few of the towing policies put in place by Public Safety. Sophomore Rachel Kaelber had her car towed this year sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

“I left it in lot Z,” said Kaelber, “with a note in the window saying I would move it when I woke up because I needed to be in Baltimore.” When she woke up, however, her car was gone and she needed to quickly find a ride to the towing company, convince her parents to lend her $150, and retrieve her car in order to get where she needed to be that morning.

“The employees of the towing company were very respectful,” Kaelber said, “but I felt like my personal space had been invaded, and that something so commonly done was inappropriate for such a small crime.”

College Buildings in Repair after Heavy Flood

Many buildings around the College are undergoing repairs after a heavy rainstorm caused flood damage Nov. 11-14. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
Many buildings around the College are undergoing repairs after a heavy rainstorm caused flood damage Nov. 11-14. (Photo by Kevin Baier)

Several buildings around campus were left water-damaged after a severe rainstorm in St. Mary’s County during the week of Nov. 9, raising concerns about the extent of the damage and the best ways, if any, for repairs to be made.

The storm crossed several Bay-lined counties from Nov. 11-14, hitting the Patuxent and Potomac River Corridors with 0.25 inches of rainfall and a coastal flood warning on Nov. 13.  During the course of the week, the accumulating water levels caused minor floods in several of St. Mary’s 47 buildings on campus, including Goodpaster and Montgomery Hall, the library, and the newly-built Glendening Hall.

“[The flood] was a minor one,” said Celia Rabinowitz, Director of the Library and Media Center, after finding a leak in the ceiling of the multimedia lab.  Noticing that the lab was wet after “taking one more look around,” Rabinowitz was able to move furniture and computers to prevent permanent damage to any supplies in the room.  “[We’ve] never had any materials get damaged,” she said.  No books or library-owned items were damaged during the flood.

Montgomery Hall faced a similar problem.  “We didn’t have the electrical problems other buildings had to worry about,” said Joe Lucchesi, Department Chair of Art and Art History, after the rainwater formed a large hole in the art studio ceiling across from his office.  Discovered Wednesday, Nov. 11, the studio became too small for use once the equipment had to be moved away from the damaged side of the room.

Rain also found its way into the shop area outside of the studio, from where some student artwork had to be moved to prevent damage.

The floors outside the lecture hall of Goodpaster Hall were heavily damaged from the storm, as rain accumulated under the bamboo-covered floorboards and raised portions of the panels.  Leaks also appeared in the equipment room of the lecture hall, where much of the electric equipment is stored.  On the other side of the room, another leak caused paint damage on the walls and led to a water-filled carpet on the ramp by the classroom steps.

The Physical Plant responded fairly quickly to the reported damage, assessing Goodpaster, Glendening, and Montgomery Halls, as well as the library, in the days following the flood.  While the ceiling tiles were replaced in the library, the water-damaged portion of the ceiling was removed in the Montgomery studio.  Floor repairs are still being made in Goodpaster Hall, but the equipment room and HVAC system are functional.

“They’ve been really responsive and good at getting things fixed when they needed to be fixed,” Rabinowitz said.
The Physical Plant includes grounds and housekeeping, mechanical trades (which includes HVAC systems around campus), and general support (including the mail room), and is in charge of handling maintenance repairs in the event of a flood.
Derek Thornton, Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations at the Physical Plant, said that while new buildings like Goodpaster Hall, Glendening Hall, and the River Center would be covered under warranty for flood damage, “other buildings are our responsibility.”

For Glendening Hall, Goodpaster Hall, and the River Center, which also received damage during the week’s events, the building contractors were on-site the next day to assess the damage.  For the older buildings on campus no longer under warranty, including the library and Montgomery Hall, the Physical Plant was in charge of surveying any flood-related problems.

While the Physical Plant’s operational budget has not been impacted by the economic problems facing the College, the budget of its departments has been somewhat affected.  “We lost various positions from our Housekeeping and Trades departments,” said Thornton, “so there was some impact on our budget as it pertains to staffing.”

Classrooms have resumed use in Montgomery and Goodpaster Halls, and the computer lab in the library is still functional.  While the kitchen in Glendening Hall received damage, the building as a whole has not closed for repair, and neither has the River Center.

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.

AIDS Documentary Raises Awareness on Campus

It is estimated that about 33 million people around the globe are living with HIV or AIDS this year. According to the Joint United Nations program on AIDS/HIV, the number has more than tripled since 1990 and continues to grow, but a cure for HIV remains elusive. In order to raise awareness and commemorate those who have died, the College recognized AIDS Day Dec 1. In Cole Cinema at 6:00pm, Pandemic: Facing AIDS was screened, giving students a chance to discover for themselves who AIDS affects, and its detrimental impacts on the world.

The documentary focused on certain individuals around the globe who were facing the epidemic firsthand and how they were living with it.  One couple in Russia had abused drugs and contracted the disease, and were now activists attempting to raise the awareness of AIDS.  Another family in Africa had lost their father to AIDS and once the mother deserted her children, they were left on their own to survive.  These heartbreaking stories are but a few of the million worldwide whose distressing situations are gaining attention and raising awareness of AIDS.

Students found the documentary to be insightful. “It was a good documentary.  It was very informative and revealed how biased people can be about the disease. It’s amazing that people still remain ignorant,” said Rakeena Banks.

Junior Binta Diallo and the Coordinator of Orientation and Service Programs Ashley Tomlin set up the video.  Both women helped to coordinate Worldwide AIDS day at St. Mary’s.  According to Tomlin,  they decided on the documentary because “it chronicled the very different stories of people affected by the HIV/AIDS virus and really showed the destruction that the virus is causing across nations.”

With AIDS continuing to spread and cause damage around the world, the College has taken the initiative to become involved. Though Diallo indicted they weren’t sure what the plans for AIDS Day 2010 were, “[she] wants to do something else to get students out and involved and to incorporate students more ,” she said.