Lessons Learned: Why Voter’s Privilege Should Apply to World Carnival

It’s disgusting to me how people refuse to take advantage of the resources handed to them to better ensure that their voices are heard. In the past, I have said some things in The Point News that people have disagreed with and I am sure that this article will be no exception. After all, there will always be conflicting views on a topic and this is something that any writer submitting an opinion article should acknowledge going in. However, this is very serious, it means a lot to me, and therefore, allow me to be blunt.

Since coming to this school, I have done my best to culture myself by going to any and all events promoted by the Programs Board and other clubs even if that means I eventually leave because it’s not my particular taste. At least I can say I went and explain my reasons for why I left. When it has come down to World Carnival, however, I haven’t always been the most enthusiastic. I have voted for the band at World Carnival all three years I have attended the college and not once has my top pick been the one to headline the event.

Carbon Leaf wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I went because it was free and my cousins had given them praise in the past. I wasn’t impressed, but the show was okay. Same thing with The Cool Kids last year. I liked what I heard on their mixtapes and I was at the front of the crowd during the show, but had I not been in that position, I probably would’ve been disappointed by the performance.

That brings me to this year.

It seems that the student body at this school is highly unappreciative of the resources handed to them. I have heard on multiple accounts by my fellow students that they are “unimpressed” or “upset” by the acts that were chosen for this year’s World Carnival and, especially, Virginia Coalition who won the vote. However, as it has been in past years, a decent amount of these students refused to vote.

To those of you who did not vote because you either didn’t know the bands that were offered to you or because you simply didn’t like them or just because you were apathetic: YOU HAVE NO ROOM TO COMPLAIN. If you voted, then you have reason to complain. It’s a voter’s privilege.

Even then, if your choice isn’t chosen, at least try to find something positive out of the situation. Okay, so maybe the band that was chosen wasn’t your first choice, but the band must have some kind of redeeming qualities. They must be able to perform, to interact, to at least bring something exciting to the table that wouldn’t be there otherwise. After all, this is coming from someone who has yet to see his first, second, or third choice play World Carnival.

After speaking to the people in charge of World Carnival for an article I wrote earlier this year, I was given the voter turnout statistics for this year and they were abysmal. A little over 200 people, 10 percent of the student population, participated in the vote this year. This is horrendous and for so many people who are disappointed with Virginia Coalition playing this year (and they played a great set I may add), the numbers don’t quite add up.

The fact of the matter is students, if they want their voices to get heard, have to participate in the system. That’s the only way they are going to get what they want. If the community at large is upset with the results of the voting or the choices they have or whatever else, it is up to them to make it right. If I remember correctly, the school is currently gearing up to hire people for Programs Board next year. If you want reform, apply for a position.

The amount of negative comments slung from the student body at Programs Board is appalling and when it comes to World Carnival, it gets especially ferocious. Sure, I will admit that sometimes events that are planned are misfires, but the Programs Board breaks themselves to ensure that there are free events for the student body.

So make a change if you don’t like how things are going. Speak up if you want your voices to be heard. Vote. Use the resources at your disposal to make the events you want to have happen. If you don’t get what you want, at least cherish things you now have. Be adults.

Take Back the Night Reaches Out, Empowers Women

On Wednesday, April 6, the “Take Back the Night” event of Sexual Assault Awareness Month commenced on the Townhouse Greens lawn. Take Back the Night, a multi-national event that aims to empower rape victims and women in general, was once again held at St. Mary’s College and co-sponsored by Programs Board, Walden Sierra, and the College’s First Responder Network. The event aims to reduce the social stigma associated with rape and produce awareness to help change the status quo.

The main goal of Take Back the Night is to speak out against sexual violence and domestic abuse through methods such as protest and direct action. This year’s event took these issues to heart and not only made it clear that rape, abuse, and refusing to acknowledge such crimes happen is foolish and morally reprehensible, but also that there is a community which is open and wants to provide care to survivors in the wake of trauma.

A representative from co-sponsor Walden Sierra, Laura Webb, spoke briefly about the services they offer to victims of sexual assault and violence.

The organization, which is largely operated by volunteers and aims to provide free assistance to those in need, has a 24-hour hotline in addition to ongoing treatment such as consultation and therapy. Walden Sierra, whose ultimate goal is to promote behavioral health and wellness, also treats individuals with substance abuse and is open to men in addition to women; in fact, one of the major points of Take Back the Night this year was to make it known that men are just as affected by these crimes as women are.

The organization also looks for volunteers to share their stories via audio or video in an effort to reach out to a wider demographic.

The featured speaker this year was Liz Seccuro, an advocate for victim’s rights and writer of the memoir Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice. Securro had been a victim of sexual assault while she attended the University of Virginia in 1984 and her case was avoided by school officials until, almost twenty years later, she was contacted by the rapist and decided to press charges.

Seccuro, however, opted to keep her story to a minimal. “Tonight is more about you and not me,” she said to the audience attending the event.

Securro spent the majority of the evening discussing the horrors of trauma, the steps that can be taken to prevent it, and the harsh reality of American culture’s conceptualization of rape. However, she also was adamant that there are people out there to aid victims, make them feel safe again, and assist them in rebuilding their lives.

“It’s a work in progress,” she continued, noting that even after all this time, a little over 25 years, she still has to take each day one at a time. “But I am not a victim. You are not a victim. We are survivors.”

Seccuro touched on some of the things that are important regarding events like Take Back the Night, relaying that even though the people who attended this year care, there are bigger issues at hand regarding activism on this “hush hush” topic. “When we talk about activism…it’s about the types of people who don’t go to these events and they need to have this spark lit.” She said this specifically about another incident at UVA in 2010 where student George Huguely assaulted classmate Yeardley Love. “Had people recognized the warning signs, it may have never happened.”

She also spoke directly to survivors in the audience, telling them to take “rape kits” and to seek justice, to “take back the right to be individuals,” and “the right to be humans.” Seccuro also mentioned that the accusation of rape is not one to be taken lightly, and people need to recognize this. According to Seccuro very few rape accusations are false, as they are sometimes assumed to be, despite the overwhelming amount seen annually.

She also presented some very astonishing statistics, citing that one in four women have been sexually abused and one in six males have been abused as well.

Regardless of these figures, it is still commonplace to see criticisms hurled at the victims of these crimes, many of whom come from quite surprising backgrounds. “Jesus does not support hate mail,” Seccuro joked, shedding light on the amount of nasty comments she gets from Evangelical Christians.

At the close of Liz Seccuro’s speech, students and faculty were given the opportunity to share their experiences with those who attended the event. As per tradition, the event came to a close after a candlelit march through campus grounds. The vigil is supposed to stand for the refusal to support acts of sexual violence and domestic abuse; it was an exercise of solidarity.


Adjusted Campus Farm Bill Passes SGA

In the last Student Government Association meeting, a bill to expand the funding of the Campus Farm and cover expenses for supplies and summer employment was approved, with changes and contingencies given the current economic difficulties of the SGA this semester.

Co-written by sophomore SGA senator Alex Walls and sophomore senator Becky White, the bill brought to light the current funding situation of the Campus Farm, a quarter-acre of land in Historic St. Mary’s City officially established in Spring 2010 to grow a variety of vegetables to be sold to the College community.  Established by the Sustainability Committee and former Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall, its goals were two-fold: to offer students an opportunity to learn more about farming and to create a sustainable food source for the College.

The Campus Farm runs year-round, growing vegetables in all seasons (including kale in the winter). This also includes during the summer, when volunteers alongside Associate Professor of English and Environmental Studies Coordinator Kate Chandler continue to maintain the farm until the academic year begins.  Volunteers include students on campus, faculty members, and members of the St. Mary’s community outside of the College.

However, a decrease in number of volunteer farmers during the summer makes it more difficult to maintain the summer crops, which die without high maintenance and care.  While two paid volunteer students (working part-time) and Chandler were enough to maintain the Farm last summer, the Farm will need funding for the hiring of student managers who can also work to maintain the farm this summer.  Every semester, the Campus Farm would request for funds from the Finance Board for Fund Appeals to meet its supply demands.  But, this practice will be difficult to maintain in future years.

“[Farmers] were basically going to Finance Board for Fund Appeals every semester,” said White, “but as a bigger more expensive enterprise with much more potential than the standard student club, Finance Board wouldn’t have been able to keep meeting their needs, and it made more sense for them to get their money elsewhere.”

In a presentation before the SGA, Walls, White, and Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall explained that funding for the farm for the entire year costs about $8300.  Each Fall and Spring semester requires $900 for supplies ($200 for seeds, $300 for tools, and $400 for soil), and $6500 is needed for two student summer employees to work 30 hours per week at $7.25 per hour.

“The Campus Farm is getting funding from the Sustainability Office and the ENST (Environmental Studies) committee that Chandler heads. The former will be committing $2000, and the latter $1000,” said White.  “The legislation itself stipulates that we pay the Campus Farm per semester…to come out of the SGA’s Special Carryover Fund.”

In the legislation, Walls requested for two years of funding, $5300 per year.  “I wanted to find a source of stable funding for the Farm,” he said.  “Without stable funding, especially to pay people during the summer to manage it, the Farm will cease to exist.”

While the SGA passed the bill to give the Campus Farm funding for the 2011-2012 academic year, which will include this summer’s expenses, funding for the following year was not approved.  Matt Smith, junior and SGA Treasurer, mentioned during the proceedings that the Special Carryover Funds were low due to the recent economic constraints of the College, and that funding for two years would be a heavier investment than the SGA would reasonably be able to make.

“The reason we were only able to commit to funding the Farm for one year is that we are simply not sure how many more hits Special Carryover can take,” said White.

Further complicating the issue was the recent loss of funding for the Terrified Pedestrian Bike Shop by the Office of Planning and Facilities.  Without a higher budget for College clubs, the SGA will not be able to successfully fund the Bike Shop and Campus Farm once other clubs are funded.

To aid in funding for College clubs, Walls, White, Ruthenberg-Marshall, and the rest of SGA is pushing for a referendum (to be included in the SGA Elections on Blackboard, starting on April 20 at 8:00 a.m.) that will increase student fees by $25.  With a student body of almost 1900, this increase would allocate an additional $47,500 for club funding, which would loosen the tight restraints on College clubs while also allowing for stable funding of the Bike Shop and the Campus Farm until it can sustain itself as an organization.

“I can’t thank [the SGA] enough,” said Chandler.  “The SGA has been incredibly supportive of the farm…I think what it’s doing is impressive.”

Besides being a sustainable food option for the College, the Campus Farm has very quickly taken on academic uses.  “Dr. Gorton’s Biology 101 class forms part of our one acre,” said Chandler.

Beyond community involvement and academics, the Farm itself is becoming more stable, expanding its size with a one-acre lease from Historic St. Mary’s City and making an agreement with Bon Appétit’s manager of operations Dave Sansotta.

“[Sansotta] agreed to purchase all the produce we grow,” said Aaron French, who designed his St. Mary’s Project around the Community Garden and its connection between the Campus Farm and the county, “which is a huge step towards a sustainable food system on this campus.”

After the SGA Elections and the approval or denial of the $25 increase, the SGA will determine the future funding conditions of clubs, including the Bike Shop and Campus Farm.

“I do believe that the Farm has the potential to be something great,” said Walls, “but we need to get through this period of uncertainty.”


Graduation Order Back to Being Based On Major

An ostensibly minor change to how students line up and receive their degree at graduation has led to a much larger discussion between students and administration regarding how students affiliate themselves in relation to their academics.

The proposed policy, which calls for students to process in alphabetical order, was brought forth by President Joseph Urgo upon reviewing the graduation policy earlier this year. Urgo said, “I want to present St. Mary’s College as one student body … not divided into smaller segments.” He added, “I’ve never seen a small college line up by major.”

Urgo also said that the system could help double majors, which he said was an increasing segment of the student population, who were torn between their majors.  Shortly after knowledge of the change got to students, however, Urgo said that he received a significant number of emails from students, especially Biology majors, expressing their wish to maintain the original policy, which was to process alphabetically by major, with majors ordered alphabetically. At the April 12 Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, the SGA also passed a resolution in support of processing by majors.

At a meeting held April 14 to discuss the issue, students from the senior class expressed their concerns in person to Urgo. Many students said that, though they identified themselves as St. Mary’s students, they felt a special bond with the people they worked with in their departments.

One biology major said, “We’re a pretty tight-knit group of nerds. We’ve kind of struggled together the past four years.” Other students noted that they not only had a strong academic connection, but personal connection to the people in their majors. One student said, “I’m a math major, and about 95 percent of my friends, my close friends … are from [the math department].”

Students from humanities majors also came out in support of walking by major. One english major said, “I’d rather sit with people who have been in the same types of classes … I’m proud of my major, and I want to sit with people who are proud of our major too.”

Even double majors, a group Urgo thought might welcome the change, had similar sentiments. One art/art history double-major said, “doing [the processional] alphabetically, I would feel a lot more alienated.” Another double major said that, despite her status, “I’m definitely sure which major I would walk with.”

Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall, as a student-designed major who said he may not have ties to people in his major in the way that others do, was the sole dissenting voice.

Although he understood the reasoning behind Urgo’s proposed change and personally agreed with it, he added, “I’ve never heard anyone vehemently for walking alphabetically, and there’s a whole group here vehemently [for walking by major].”

After hearing student opinion contrary to his proposal,  Urgo noted that he was not particularly attached to either plan and suggested that he would change the policy back to processing by major as students wished. He said, “I really need to know what the class wants to do…this is not a ditch I’m going to die in.”


ODK Hosts Honor Code Discussion, Leads to Campus Civility Dialogue

A panel of 27 faculty members, after meeting on Feb. 25 for 70 minutes to discuss overall issues on campus, began a conversation of an honor code and civility that has culminated in an emphasis on the St. Mary’s Way, a document all incoming students see during orientation but seems to be less emphasized by the College this year with an increase in disrespect among different groups and disregard for civil behavior among students and faculty in day-to-day interaction.

In an email with subject line “On Civility” sent to students and faculty on March 10, College President Joseph Urgo emphasized a troubling observation: “Simply put, word on the banks of the St. Mary’s River is that people are becoming less nice.”

While this is something that not all students seem to notice outside of recent conflicts regarding the selling of Chick-fil-A sandwiches at the Daily Grind, overall civility on campus has taken a downturn with a rise in what Urgo called “mean-spiritedness.”

Students and faculty alike have shown less attention to one another on campus, with less of that inclusive, personal feel that the campus is known to possess.  Given increased property damage this year, last year’s spray paint tagging issue by Joe Ireland, and what seems to be increased discomfort among members of the College community, Urgo’s email is appearing to be even more relevant as the semester continues.

These issues were mentioned before Urgo’s email to campus during an honor code discussion meeting on Feb. 25 to discuss overall campus issues.  While the meeting initially began to discuss the College’s lack of (and potential need for) an honor code, the discussion turned into a conversation about a civil code, and how the importance of such a code seems more important now than it has in past years.

The panel, hosted by the ODK chapter on campus, was a continuation of honor code discussions hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA).

During the meeting, Associate Professor of Psychology Jennifer Tickle found an online version of “The St. Mary’s Way,” a document given to all incoming orientees as they are inducted into the St. Mary’s community.  “The Way” details the importance of tolerance of the ways of others, respect for the environment and community, open dialogue among those with different views, and ethical values.  While this is something the community sees during orientation, a large number of students do not remember even receiving this document, or remember its main points.

For the panelists, this seemed to be the workings of an honor code of its own.  While its lack of visibility on campus, need for a more concise message, and need for edits were discussed, it became important to the panel for “The Way” to be more emphasized, in Residence Life, new student orientation, and everyday life.

“It shouldn’t just be an academic code,” said ODK President Mary Walters, head of the ODK committee discussing this issue and part of the Feb. panel.  “It’s an honor code … that doesn’t directly say honor code, but more sends a subconscious message of integrity and respect, one more attractive and community-based.”

The meeting marked a need for an update of “The Way,” its modification to be more of the style of an honor code that the community can embody (without being explicitly called an “Honor Code”), and its potential enforcement in the case of major violations after its incorporation in To The Point.

“Everyone should be a part of it,” said Walters, “and we’re hoping that others carry this on [after ODK].”

By the end of the semester, ODK is hoping to give “The Way” more projection in the Campus Center, as well as on campus with flyers of what “The Way” means to students once the College furthers its discussion of the issue.  In the meantime, ODK encourages the student body to voice its opinion of “The Way” and the idea of an honor code.

“It’s not solely an ODK thing,” said Walters.


Journalist Gwen Ifill Talks Politics During Ben Bradlee Lecture

On Thursday April 14 in Auerbach Auditorium journalist Gwen Ifill spoke to a standing room only audience about her experiences in journalism, the present state of politics and media, as well as their potential future.

Ifill was introduced by Todd Eberly, Interim Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, and began her lecture by speaking about her background in journalism and her current position on The PBS Newshour.

She said that at the Newshour,  “we assume that you can decide what you think if we simply give you the information to work with.”

The current state of information and media can be overwhelming, said Ifill, and many commercial news networks are not able to or do not cover stories in depth like PBS can. She explained that when she worked in commercial news an in-depth story was given a little over a minute to be covered, while on the Newshour, there are often multi-section, weeks-long investigations and reports on topics that are not covered by other stations.

She brought up conversations with college students about the state of media and the news; she reported hearing frequently that many people get their news from sources like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. To this Ifill responded, “But guess who [Jon Stewart] watches?” and pointed to herself with a grin.

She said journalism “is less out of whack than it seems” and that many major advances have been and continue to happen in journalism. She cited the rise in the number of female news anchors and other important breakthrough candidates in politics, the subject of her recent book.

This book and the criticism that she received for it, specifically that she was too biased to moderate vice presidential debates in the 2008 election, led into the lessons that Ifill has learned and would like to impress upon others.

“I’ve learned to be a woman, a leader and to be informed.”

In response to critics, she said, “You just put your head down and you do your job and the critics will fade away.”

An important start, Ifill said, is to “learn how to write and how to challenge authority appropriately” because ultimately, “the search for truth and the search for justice are not incompatible.”

At the end of her talk, Ifill fielded questions from the audience, which she said was her favorite part of giving lectures.

One audience member asked about bias in journalism and how decisions are made about what to air or report on. Ifill said that bias mainly comes in the decision about “stories we don’t cover, rather than what we do.”

Again she lauded the benefits of non-commercial broadcasting: “we have luxuries we do not have in commercial broadcasting.”

Another audience member asked her what she thought was the future of journalism. She explained that with the large amount of media that people are exposed to, the sheer volume of consumable information leads to the need to “create an environment in which we are all more literate in what is the news,” as well as the need for “news consumers who know what news is.”

Ifill responded to a question about her opinion of punditry; she said, “I don’t mind that people engage in a debate … I just don’t want it confused with what I do.”

“I always want to be the one asking more questions.”

Audience members were impressed with Ifill’s lecture. Community member Bob Aldridge said, “I liked her differentiation between media and journalism…and her sense of humor came through” which he said was a stark contrast to her demeanor on The PBS Newshour.

Assistant Vice President of External Relations Keisha Reynolds said, “Gwen was insightful, engaging and thoughtful … [her lecture] offer[ed] an inside look at true journalism and politics that we would not have otherwise been exposed to.”

Board of Trustees member Peg Duchesne said, “she’s powerful … [and] thought provoking.” Duchesne agreed with the importance of “letting the consumer of the news program make their own choices.”

Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week, is also a senior correspondent for The PBS Newshour, a weekly program that gathers important journalists to analyze major news stories.

The lecture was presented by the Center for the Study of Democracy and was part of the Benjamin C. Bradlee Lecture in Journalism series, an endowed lecture that brings important names in journalism to speak at St. Mary’s.


New Bill to Curb Amount of All-Student Emails

In less than three minutes on Tuesday, April 5, the Student Government Association (SGA) voted to limit the amount of all school emails that clubs will be able to send out. The bill, which had already been discussed by the SGA, received no opposition.

The bill itself, sponsored by SGA President Marlena Weiss, states that, “All club leaders will no longer have access to all school emails.” The legislation also means to encourage club advisors to not to send out emails to all students and also states “that an improved events calendar will be created by CTSS with automatic email capabilities which will synthesize all previous all student emails into a single email on a weekly basis.”

Caroline Hall Senator Anna Weil said, “I think the main reason people are doing it is because students just delete the emails anyway.  This is not only just to limit the amount of emails people receive, but also to make a more organized way of delivering information so more people will come to events.”

She also said, “I think it’s a good idea, I think at the very least club leaders will find that they have the same amount of attendance as before.”

However, not all students are in agreement. First year Beth Smith said, “We’ve gotten so used to checking out emails, I don’t think I will want to go out of my way to check a different website.”

In regard to whether or not she actually read all of the emails, Smith said, “I may not read all the emails, but I know what I’m interested in, at the very least I read through all the subject lines to make sure I’m not deleting anything important.”

However, the bill recently passed will try to take into account how successful it will be and states, “This policy will be revised based upon effectiveness at the SGA Executive Board’s discretion in consultation with the SGA Senate” and more specifically that it will run six weeks before being evaluated.

These changes will not affect a Senator’s ability to send emails to their constituents, which is one of the ways they are allowed to fulfill the requirement detailed in the constitution that states they “shall be responsible for communicating with his/her constituents either through some form of mass communication … at least twice a month.”

Meetings for SGA are every Tuesday at 8 p.m., with student speakout for those interested in presenting their opinions to the general assembly. For those who are really interested in taking part in SGA, applications, according to an email to all students, are due on April 22 and elections will be on April 28.


Speaker Discusses Situation in Afghanistan

This past Wednesday, Malalai Joya, former member of the Afghani Parliament and an accomplished writer and activist, came to the College to give a talk about the current situation in Afghanistan.  Also the author of Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, Joya was expelled from the Afghani Parliament after she denounced members of the assembly for being “warlords and drug smugglers.”

Her previous lecture, planned for earlier in the semester, was originally delayed by the U.S. State Department, who did not grant her a Visa until a grassroots campaign forced the government to change its decision.

Joya spent some time discussing why she thought she was not allowed to enter the country.  She said she believes that her view of the war in Afghanistan is one that the American government does not want the public to know.  “I know that billions of U.S. dollars are going to the warlords and indirectly to the Taliban,” said Joya.

There were few pleasant words towards the U.S. government and the NATO coalition that are currently fighting the decade long conflict. She described that the U.S. and NATO forces “pushed us from the frying pan and into the fire.”

According to Joya, this conflict has “not freed women” while over 8,000 civilians have been killed during the last four years of the occupation.  She continued by saying that the “10 years of occupation has doubled, tripled the miseries of women.”

Joya stated the “warmongers” within the U.S. government were doing their best to spin the story in a positive light by celebrating the fact that democracy is coming to Afghanistan.  However, Joya said that “democracy is nothing more than a thin curtain,” and even though “Western leaders and media like to talk about democracy,” it does not exist in Afghanistan.

When discussing the difference between Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Joya said that “Obama is a second and more dangerous Bush.”

Joya referenced the surge and how “[President Obama] brought more war and conflict” during his time in office.  She even went so far as saying that “[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates and [General David] Petraeus should be sent to court for following bad policies.”

Joya then stated what she believed U.S. and its NATO allies should do next.  The “only solution,” in her words would be “to get rid of U.S. troops.”  She later added that it would be “better today than tomorrow.”

“It won’t be heaven,” Joya said, “but it would be easier to fight two enemies [the Warlords and Taliban] if the third enemy [U.S. and NATO] left the country.” She continued by saying that if the U.S. left, “the financial backbone of the warlords would be broken.”

When answering a questions about why she  didn’t stay in the government and become rich, Joya said that “death is better than being a part of this government; death is better than silence.”

At the end of the talk, many members of the audience were left speechless by the power of Joya’s words.  Senior Allison Bailey said that the talk was “excellent and that [Joya] was very inspiring.”

Junior Danielle Doubt said, “[Joya] was a very powerful speaker, I’m honored for her to be here and [she] empowers students to make a difference.”

When she introduced Joya at the beginning of the program, Professor Sahar Shafqat said that this was the “most exciting event I’ve been associated with while at St. Mary’s.”  Shafqat continued by saying that “[Joya] has a message that we don’t hear often in the U.S.”

“To me, it is telling that the fact that she was denied a visa by the U.S. and expelled from Parliament makes me think there are a lot of people who want to silence her,” concluded Shafqat, “[it’s] very special and meaningful to have her here.”


Professor Panel Discusses Status of War

As part of the political science department’s ongoing lecture series, a panel made up SMCM’s very own political science professors Susan Grogan and Todd Eberly discuss what it means to be at war.

They said that in recent years, there has been a widening “disconnect” between what war is and is not.  The U.S. Constitution, Article 1 Section 8, gives the power to declare war to Congress.  However, the United States Congress has not declared war since World War II.  In other words, you could say that since 1945, the United States has been at peace.

Yet, in the past 65 years, the United States has been involved with many “armed conflicts” that include but are not limited to conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya.  This leads to the central questions of the talk: what counts as a war and who determines what it is?

According to Grogan, who gave a brief history of war in the United States, Congress has on several occasions deferred the war-making powers to the President without declaring war. For example, Congress authorized President John Adams to use privateers against the French government, and President Thomas Jefferson had Congress authorize military actions against the Barbary Pirates.

The most impressive authorization without a declaration of war from Congress was the Civil War.  According to Grogan, the Civil War was not a legal war and that the name is actually a misnomer; a better name for the conflict would be “The Great Suppression.”  Eberly seconded this comment by saying that the Civil War should really be called the great “Civil Police Action.”

Eberly then discussed the two opposing views within political science about if the President should have the power to use the military and force without authorization of Congress.  On the one hand, it could be argued that the world has changed and that the country needs a President who can make quick decisions about the use of force without waiting for Congress to debate.  On the other hand, there is the belief that even if times have changed, one can not run around the Constitution.

“If we like the [President having more war-making powers], we have to change the Constitution,” Eberly said, “the Constitution is the law.”

Even though the Congress in the past has authorized the use of force, in the present case of Libya, President Obama has not asked for authorization from Congress, thereby skipping the branch entirely.   There is now questions whether this was the legal move.

Eberly continued by saying that he is, “hung up on if American force in Libya is legal or constitutional.”

After the discussion ended, several members of the audience asked questions. One concerned student asked, “can we fix this problem by defining what ‘war’ means?” Grogan answered by pointing to the War Powers Act.  This act was Congress’ attempt to regulate the President’s power after Vietnam; however, it did not work.  This act has opened the door to a greater increase of power, since the President is allowed to send troops for a set period of time before he must ask for re-authorization.

Grogan ended the talk by saying that in the end, if Congress wants the power, it must fight for it.  “Congress doesn’t call the President out,” concluded Grogan.

Sophomore and former student in Eberly’s American Politics class Kristen Diehl said she “found [the talk] very interesting, including the question whether its right or legal for the President to send troops into conflict without Congress’ approval.”


Students Win Award at Research Society Meeting

Seven SMCM biology majors presented their research at the Spring Meeting of the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons over the weekend of April 9.

They were among the 30 students from New York to North Carolina who gave either oral or poster presentations. Students who presented were: Maddie Gillis, Elizabeth Lee, Amanda Liebrecht, Chelsea McGlynn, Erika Schmitt, Katie Studholme and Mike Studivan.

Chelsea McGlynn won the Best Undergraduate Presentation for: “The Effect of Claw Characteristics on the Interactions of Male-Red-jointed Fiddler Crabs (Uca minax)”, and Amanda Liebrecht won the Best Undergraduate Poster for her work: “Are Salicylic Acid and Hydrogen Peroxide Involved in Zostera marina Defense Against Wasting Disease?”

Advisors and professors Chris Tanner and Bob Paul, from the Biology Department, also attended the meetings.