Beloved Housekeeping Staffer Gains Student Support

If you lived in Calvert Hall or Waring Commons during the past two years, then you have undoubtedly been greeted with a cheery “Hey honey, how you doing?” during a morning trip to the bathroom. These sweet moments would be courtesy of Elsie Dickerson, a housekeeping staff member whose buoyant personality never failed to bring smiles to the faces of grumpy students waking up after a long night of studying. During her years at St. Mary’s, the woman dubbed “Ms. Elsie” became a very well-known and beloved figure among the students, and her care and concern for those with whom she interacted was undeniable. This is why it came as a shock to many when Ms. Elsie was fired from her position at an unspecified time in the past month under dubious circumstances.

A petition was created on the website MoveOn.org by junior Ruth Tyson, a member of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), to revoke the clause “fired with cause” from Dickerson’s unemployment status, as this prevents her from finding future employment outside of the College. “Because she was such a great worker and person, we care as students of St. Mary’s College of Maryland about her well being the same way she cared for ours,” the petition’s webpage states. So far, the petition has gained 259 signatures out of its proposed goal of 300. Once this goal is reached, the petition will be delivered to Derek Thornton, Assistant Vice President of Operations, and Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees).

Students’ reactions on the petition’s webpage have been mostly ones of disbelief and deep concern. “This woman emanates the spirit of a saint…she is someone who wants to make everyone around her smile,” commented senior Juliana Torres. “I don’t know much about Ms. Elsie, but I do know she took pride in her work, and…deserves recognition for the love and time she poured into the successful foundation and running of this institution.”

Junior Derrick Fyfield asked school administrators to “please reconsider the judgement that has been passed. Although I am unaware of the situation that caused her release, I completely disagree with such a harsh statement. [P]lease remove the ‘with cause’ from her record. Give her the opportunity to make others as happy as she has made us here at St. Mary’s.”

Because Dickerson was not able to receive any unemployment checks until Dec. 4, students were worried about her well-being during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Tyson started a fundraising petition on YouCaring.com to help Dickerson financially before the holidays. As of press time, the petition has raised $427 out of its goal of $500.

Dickerson’s selflessly caring attitude truly embodies the the type of warm and inclusive community that St. Mary’s strives to create, and it is evident from the responses to these two petitions that this attitude is something which current St. Mary’s students are eager to emulate.

Winter Sports Keep on Swimming

‘Tis the season for exciting sports news!

In their latest swim meet, the Randolph-Macon Yellowjacket Invitational, St. Mary’s Men’s swim team placed fifth out of eleven teams competing. St. Mary’s Women’s swim team came in fourth in their respective set of events, but a new school record was set by Junior Elaina Kohles, who placed first and had the impressive time of 4:43.03 in one of her events, the 400 individual medley, following up on a decisive win in the 500 freestyle.

Meanwhile, on the basketball court, women’s basketball scored their first win of the season over Penn State Harrisburg, winning by a single point in a game that almost certainly came down to the wire. Senior forward Sophie Pruden scored this game-winning shot, propelling the St. Mary’s team onwards.

The men’s basketball team also managed to defeat Penn State Harrisburg, which after all is a “league newcomer”, beating them by seven points in a 67-60 match, improving their record to 6-1, and perhaps hinting at another successful playoff run in the future.

 

Burlesque: "Booty is in the Eye" of the Audience

On November 22-24 the SMCM Burlesque Club held their bi-annual burlesque show “Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder”. This show took place in Bruce Davis Theater with a very supportive audience to cheer on the performers. All performers used stage names instead of real names in order to make the show more about the acts than the personalities involved. Some audience members knew the names of their friends who performed and would wait anxiously to watch their friend perform.

Burlesque is a type of theatrical performance where female or male performers act out a short story while simultaneously stripping themselves of clothing. The stories performed had a mix of themes from defying racial and gender stereotypes to animals fighting over a watering hole. While the themes are not necessarily sexual in nature, the point of the show is to become comfortable in one’s own body and convey a story. Burlesque also differs from traditional theatrical shows in that there are stage kittens instead of stage hands who would set up the performance or clean up after one. This would include setting up a fog machine to cleaning up the multitude of clothing that covers the floor after many performances. Many of the stage kittens were also dressed in provocative clothing such as corsets and fishnet stockings to match the clothing worn by the performers.

The show opened with two MCs, Gawyn Commando and Juciy J. Cart, who would introduce the performers and create witty banter between the acts to tie together the show. The hosts competed against each other in challenges to see who would be the best host of the night. These competitions included challenges such as who could pull off their own sock in the smoothest motion. Gawyn Commando even performed a recitation of “Jabberywocky” to try and prove that he was the best host. This competition livened the time between the acts and gave the audience a way to interact with the performance in a way more substantial than cat calling and cheering.

The acts within the show varied greatly to cover a vast range of themes. The performance by Miss Miri Minx and Wanton Willow told the story of death coming to visit her victim to the performance. Another performace, by Bella Pepper, told the story of breaking out of traditional gender roles for women to become more independent. The acts were either performed solo, had two to three performers, or had help from the stage kittens during the performance. All of the performances were accompanied by music and some of the performances were choreographed to the beat of the song. The music ranged from “Time of the Season” by the Zombies to “Confessions” by Tim Minchin. Sadly there were no male performances, although there was a male stage kitten this year but many are hoping for more male roles in the spring semester performance.

Most of the acts had various and unique ways to draw attention and differentiate themselves from the other acts. The act by Baron Samedi, Sinister Spider, and Tigress featured a pole in which the performers would contort their bodies on the pole and dance around it. Sinister Spider also began the performance on the pole, only holding on to the pole with either an arm or a leg. The performance by Miss Miri Minx and Wanton Willow incorporated the use of a fog machine to set the mood of the act. Along with props to make the performances unique, the themes of many acts performed were unique. La Dame d’Artois performed as a mime stuck in a box and mimed the removal of each article of clothing before actually doing so.

The burlesque show “Booty is in the Eye of the Beholder” was an entertaining event that combined dancing, storytelling, and stripping. The next burlesque performance will occur in the Spring 2014 semester and is expected continue the tradition of quality entertainment.

Music Students Form New String Quartet

Musical ensemble concerts on campus have always been a popular past time among the students and faculty at St. Mary’s. Usually the jazz band, orchestra, and the many choral ensembles will perform at least one concert during the semester, although this year a new classical string quartet will be added to the Music Department’s concert season. Introducing The Elemental String Quartet, in which four orchestra students have decided to try something a little more individualized. This new musical group was formed at the end of this past summer and includes two violinists, a cellist and a violist.

Sophomore violinist Nathan Blumberg, fifth-year transfer violinist Kaitlin Rose, and sophomore cellist Amanda Durst were in a piano quartet last year. When they met first-year violist Emily Magruder, they decided to form a string quartet. This Tuesday, the quartet will open its first concert with Antonin Dvorak’s “American Quartet,” a piece which Magruder says contains “energy in the movements and gorgeous melodies. Durst says her favorite part of being in a quartet is “that it causes you to listen so much more carefully [to your peformance] than you would when in a larger ensemble.”

Both Blumberg and Rose are music majors who play violin as well as piano.  Besides playing music, Rose enjoys “sewing costumes and playing video games” and if she could play any piece it would have to Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden.” According to both the Durst and Rose, the hardest part in being part of a quartet is to listen to each other and to be “accountable for not only your own part but others’ as well.” So when they aren’t playing in a large ensemble or doing academic work, these four string players are having fun discovering the passion of Dvorak’s “American Quartet” and growing as musicians. Their first concert as a group will be on Tues., December 10, at 8pm in St. Mary’s Hall.

Shelby Perkins' Ride Across America

It seems every year some of our great St. Mary’s seniors grab their bike and helmet and cycle…across the entire country. Maybe it’s inspired by all the biking done on the path, or maybe it’s just because St. Mary’s students have an innate desire to help others, but this trend isn’t slowing down.

This summer, senior Shelby Perkins will be biking with a group of other college students from Baltimore to Seattle. This trek is a total of 4,000 miles and will take Perkins 70 days. She is biking to raise money for The Ulman Cancer Fund. On her donation page she says that even though none of her close family members have suffered from cancer so she bikes for Chastity Dunnaville, a fellow alumni from Perkin’s High School, Notre Dame Prep. Perkins wrote that “Chastity was the perfect example of a Notre Dame Prep girl who was always nice, helped out around school, and worked hard no matter what.”

Chastity was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma. She went on to continue living her life and volunteering at Notre Dame Prep until she passed away in December 2012. Perkins says that “Chas stands out the most in my life but I’m also riding for those who have fought and survived cancer.” This opportunity is a chance for Perkins to give back to people. Like many St. Mary’s students, Perkins values service; she says that “helping others is what life should be about.”

Perkins choose to ride with this foundation because it “supports young people our own age who have cancer and it’s a group that faces really unique problems when it comes to cancer so I think its people I can relate to more.” This is not the first St. Mary’s senior to go on this voyage. Perkins found inspiration in past St. Mary’s alumni who have done similar rides in the past. She says that “as soon as my friends did it this past summer I knew I had to sign up.” Perkins trains in her free time now. Next semester “I planned my schedule to have Monday, Wednesday, and Friday off from class” in order to do so. She intends to increase mileage over the next semester with “lots of running and biking and swimming and mental preparation.” The St. Mary’s community applauds her and shares her excitement. She says that “thankfully the people I’m riding with are super awesome and supportive and we’re all already helping each other.”

Perkins has a set goal to raise $6,000 by the time of her ride. Right now she has achieved $1,475. You can look at her donation page and donate to her cause at http://4kforcancer.org/profiles/shelby-perkins/.

Budget Cuts May Mean Reductions in Sabbatical Funding

Cuts being made to next year’s budget may affect funding for faculty sabbaticals in a way that has some professors concerned about their ability to take academic leave in the coming school year. At this early stage of planning, no official decision has been made on whether the college will go forward with the cuts, or what the nature of the reduction will be.

According to Beth Rushing, Dean of Faculty, St. Mary’s currently allots over $300,000 to sabbatical benefits and salaries, as well as hiring temporary faculty to replace professors on leave. It is her hope that the college will be able to reduce the costs of faculty leave and replacement in a way that will mean the least possible disruption to students’ academic pursuits. One of the proposed solutions to reduce sabbatical spending would be to cover teachers on sabbatical at only 50% of their salary, a 20% reduction from normal sabbatical coverage. “I want to find ways to sustain our ability to offer sabbatical leaves, but within our more constrained budget. I’m confident we’ll be able to figure this out.” says Rushing.

Faculty are apprehensive about the potential reductions, not only because of how this may affect their ability to be compensated for sabbaticals and the course offerings for the coming academic year, but also because the cutbacks may mean having to scrap long term plans for sabbaticals, and shelve their initial research preparations. Dr. Katherina Von Kellenbach, professor of Religious Studies, expressed her frustration with how the cutbacks may impact her plans to take next year to work on her own research. “I would hope that the institution would make a commitment to maintain a sabbatical expense at 70% of the salary,” says Von Kellenbach in describing her hopes for the best scenario. “The third leg of our professional life is research and scholarship, and that takes a lot of time.”
Because of a reduction to sabbatical coverage, Von Kellenbach points out, more professors would probably take one semester sabbaticals as opposed to an academic year. “There is no way you can form that kind of long-term scholarship or research in one semester as opposed to having a full year,” she said, “and I think what that would mean is faculty would no longer be active as scholars in the field.”

Von Kellenbach also notes that decreasing funds for sabbaticals could potentially devalue the a student’s education if not handled properly. “What I would hope students appreciate is that we [professors] are not just transmitters of knowledge but producers of knowledge.” she remarks. She emphasizes that although having professors absent may seem in the immediate sense like a detraction from students’ academic experience. However, by having recognized experts in the field with a respected body of work as their instructors, the value of students’ academics increase exponentially. It is the hope of all that the issue of sabbatical funding will be resolved in a way that will be satisfactory to faculty and will create minimal impact upon student life.

SMCM Alumni Inspire at Voices Reading Series

The Voices Reading Series hosted two St. Mary’s graduates, fiction writer Tony Quick and poet Michele K. Johnson, on Thursday, Nov. 21. Many students and visitors alike attended the reading, proud of what St. Mary’s College alumni have accomplished since their time at the school. The Voices series has seen a steady increase in popularity since recent readings, and both alumni shared their excitement for returning to the school as part of their opening.

Michele K. Johnson  is currently pursuing an MFA with a concentration in poetry at George Mason University, where she teaches Composition and Literature, as well as Creative Writing. She is also the editor-in-chief of the university’s literary magazine. Johnson chose to share some samplings from her upcoming book. The first part of her reading was based off the physical aspect of memory. She wanted to share her personal history by relating her poetry to past relationships without being “too sentimental.”

Johnson is fascinated by the idea that “history is everyone’s business before it was made personal.”  The second part of Johnson’s reading was based on the physical aspect of mining, meaning “to dig to the core” and taking ownership for one’s actions and life. The third and final samples from her book were based on her memories of certain places at St. Mary’s College. During the question and answer session after the reading, Johnson explained that her writing style sounds effortless, but that it actually takes many revisions to produce the beautifully written imagery and vivid descriptions that define her work.

Next, the Voices audience welcomed Tony Quick, who has had success at Iowa State University where he teaches English and is an editor for the university’s fiction writing journal. Quick combined his interest in crime movies with his religious beliefs. The story he shared with the audience left a lasting impression, using both Catholicism and an intricate crime story of two brothers to show how people respond to violence.

Specifically, Quick explored how people are often both repulsed and intrigued by the violent stories in today’s culture. Quick is attracted to alliteration and rhythmic writing, and he tries to incorporate these styles into his own writing by creating an audibly pleasing story and dialogue. The audience was intrigued by Quick’s dynamic fiction writing and Johnson’s inspirational poetry. St. Mary’s was honored to have these alumni return to share their success stories and accomplishments with students and visitors alike.

Student-Led Dance Company Aids Victims of Typhoon Yolanda

During the Fall 2012 semester, senior Jemarc Axinto founded Dance is COMMUNITY, a dance company that started here on campus and eventually moved to an off-campus studio, House of Dance, in Hollywood, MD. During the season (from August to June, when school is in session), people can attend workshops once a month, featuring dance teachers from the Maryland, DC, and Virginia areas, as well as from North Carolina. For 12 dollars, people can attend three workshops, all taking place on the same day, from 9 am to 4 pm, and workshops are once a month, on the second or third weekend.

Axinto founded Dance is COMMUNITY for a simple purpose: to bring people who are passionate about dancing together and form a community. Axinto said, “There aren’t many opportunities for people who are passionate to really experience a community base.” Additionally, studios in the area more often feature contemporary and modern dance, with not much hip-hop. Axinto added, “For the first three years, it was just me dancing in my basement, posting videos on YouTube…but at the same time I was able to be self-motivated and not a lot of people get that opportunity… I thought to myself, what if I built up this idea of community? Come experience something with a group of people you are pretty much guaranteed to see once a month, people you can grow with, people you can see grow every time they come out, and through that you can get training; through that you can get passionate.”

When asked why he named his company “Dance is COMMUNITY,” Axinto responded, “People ask, ‘What does dance mean to you?’ and a lot of people say that dance is passion, dance is family, dance is community. To have that is really important, to have this base that is not about competition in a world where everyone’s struggling to be the best. It’s not about looking good, it’s just about growth, and the self, and building something around a community as opposed to building something around your own self-involvement. It means that you’re willing to not only take critique, but you’re also willing to accept other people’s talents and use that as motivation to build you up instead of using it as something to make you feel like you can’t do this anymore.”

On Saturday, Dec. 14, Dance is COMMUNITY will be offering three workshops from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to support aid relief in the Philippines. On Nov. 8, an extremely powerful storm, known as Typhoon Yolanda, tore through the Philippines, and as a supporter of Arts for the PI, Dance is COMMUNITY will be donating proceeds from these workshops, as well as any other donations, to the Philippines Red Cross. The workshop will be at House of Dance in Hollywood, MD. The cost is 18 dollars per class, and 45 dollars for all three classes (but 40 dollars if you bring a friend).

For those who wish you attend, you can register using Eventbrite. For those who do not wish to attend but wish to donate, contact Jemarc Axinto at jraxinto1@smcm.edu. For more information on this fundraiser, go to the event page (called Dance for a Difference, Aid for Yolanda) on Facebook.

More information on Dance is COMMUNITY can be seen on their Facebook page and videos can be seen on their YouTube channel.

Humor Column: Parents and Administration Fearful About ‘Secret Santa’ Fad Engulfing the Campus

Faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland are responding this week to the concerns of parents about a recent trend of anonymous gift-giving parties taking place on campus. Since the beginning of December, Public Safety, with the help of local police, have shut down seven of these so-called gift exchanges, and made several arrests. Yet they still have no explanation for why the epidemic started so suddenly.

This popular youth fad, known by its street name “Secret Santa,” but also sometimes called “Polyanna” or “Amigo Secreto” south of the border,  involves a group gathering together and putting their names into a hat or bowl. “One of the dangers of this fad is that it creates this sense of group responsibility,” says Dr. Michael Hernandez, an expert in young adult psychology. “You feel obligated to do it because everyone else is doing it, and they’re all telling you that if one person backs out it’s going to ‘mess up’ the exchange.” Once they’ve put their names in, kids randomly select a name, sometimes a complete stranger, from the bowl. Investigations show this creates an initial adrenaline buzz that is then intensified by buying or making this person a thoughtful gift. By not informing the person who is giving whom a gift, students can delay gratification, creating a big rush when they at last gather and reveal the gifts they are giving and receiving.

“It’s scary how easy it is to get caught up,” one Public Safety Officer commented. “Kids go in thinking they’ll just experiment a little, buy someone candy or a bargain bin movie, and it’ll be no big deal. Next thing they know, they’re spending upwards of 25 minutes on Amazon trying to figure out something that won’t make you look like an uncaring dick compared with everyone else’s thoughtful gifts.”

These facts pale, though, in comparison to the frightening statistic of enormous risk people who do Secret Santa have of “OD’ing,” a shorthand for “overdoing.”

“I’d never seen anything like it,” said Tanijah Williams, who is currently doing her residency at Lexington Park General Walmart. “This kid came in, he’d gotten the name of a girl he had a crush on. His friends were with him, wheeling the cart, and they told us he’d taken 30, maybe 40 dollars, that’s nearly twice the amount a person his age can handle. He knew she liked The Hunger Games, so he was trying to get her one of those Katniss pins, but not the cheap plastic ones, one of those collectible kinds they sell in magazines that they make out of freaking gold or whatever. I was at the checkout, trying my best to keep him calm while he stood there rummaging through his pockets, pulling out loose change wherever he could find it. There were coins everywhere. All just to impress a girl. I wish I could forget that day, but I know I never will.”

For many students, getting involved means staying involved, whether they want to or not. Young people are often reluctant to talk about their SS experiences with others, out of fear that they will reveal their gift receiver. This makes breaking through to a person involved in Secret Santa especially difficult. In describing her experience, recovering Secret Santa participant Renee Carlson spoke about her fear of her family finding out. “I’ve always told my mom everything, but for the first time in my life I couldn’t bring myself to be honest,” said a teary-eyed Renee. “I had chosen my best friend’s name, and I was terrified if I told her the truth, she would call her mom and give it all away. The only people I could talk to were my other friends in Secret Santa, and they always told me to keep my mouth shut or I would mess it up.”

The Board of Trustees is holding an open forum for parents and students to voice their concern, during which they will field questions about the new get-tough policy on Secret Santa. This response has prompted ire of some students, who resent the so-called “policing” of families and administration. “I truly don’t see what the problem is,” said sophomore John Merritt. “Nobody has ever ruined their life doing Secret Santa. I’m sure most of our parents did Secret Santas when they were in college too. My uncle is an engineer, and he even does it at work. Plus it’s legal in Amsterdam, I went there on my winter break.”

Perhaps this may be true for some, but for the mother of Ambrose Green, a student at Oberlin College when he had his Secret Santa experience, this kind of statement reflects the attitude that changed her son’s life forever one December evening. “He’d never done Secret Santa before, he thought it would be fun. He got his Secret Santa a giant Hershey’s kiss, it seemed like it was going great. Then he got to the party, gave his gift, and what did he get? Nothing. His Secret Santa had forgotten to get him anything. And the people who had got him into this, who claimed to be his friends? They just stood by. I could barely recognize him the next time I saw him. The look in his eyes…was pure irritation.” Though it is too late for Ambrose, Mrs. Green is hopeful the increasing attentiveness of parents will prevent future tragedies.

In the meanwhile, campus security will be on the alert for signs of Secret Santas on campus. If you see someone displaying the signs of doing Secret Santa, which include secretive behavior, stress, and participation in group activities, please contact Public Safety immediately.

 

*ONE MORE THING!* Ever wanted to live the glamorous life of a humor columnist? Submit you ideas and stories next semester! If you’d like to include a special feature humor column, submit it for review to featureseditor@thepointnews.com.

Food Review: Smokey Joe's Barbecue

In a little nondescript parking lot just off of Three Notch Road sits a place that I’m assuming most people who haven’t been there have always overlooked. A little red wooden building, it has a dingy, cluttered look to it. There are picnic tables out front, and inside the seating is relatively cramped and limited. Having being dragged there by my friend Mike, and now seeing this, I prepared myself for disappointment.

However, Smokey Joe’s Restaurant and Pit Barbecue defied my initial first impressions. While I’m no enthusiast of barbecue flavors, and the authentic Southern vibe to the restaurant is not really my scene, the restaurant makes up for it by being delicious.

Once you’re inside, the feeling of clutter and “hole-in-the-wall” becomes homey, and is definitely one of the restaurant’s selling points. While we’ve reviewed barbecue places before, it is, I think, the general feel of this place that sets Smokey Joe’s apart.

From the moment I walked in, I was flooded with options. Mike described the pulled pork sandwiches as “crucial,” and so that was what I ordered with a side of fries. While the sides are not particularly appetizing or distinctive (indeed most taste rather bland and unappetizing), the one thing Smokey Joe’s does well is pork. Their pork, be it in rib or pulled forms, has that excellent juicy and yet tender quality to it.

While I can highly recommend this restaurant, I’m not sure I can necessarily recommend any of their non-pork meals. I did not have the opportunity to try any of them, and I have yet to see anyone order anything that isn’t pork as a main course. Vegetarians should also be aware that there is very little Smokey Joe’s serves which does not have some form of meat in it.

So in the end, I have to give a rather qualified recommendation. Visit, feel good that you’re supporting a local business, but at the end of the day you really should just go for the pork.