Club Spotlight: Habitat for Humanity

On Monday, March 17, the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Habitat for Humanity club will embark on their yearly spring break service trip. The club will go to Greenfield, Georgia with a total of seven students and two advisors, Lisa Cote and Dan Schell. This is the seventh year that Habitat for Humanity has done this service trip to Georgia. Junior Leah Berry, the Outreach Coordinator, stated that the purpose of this trip will be, “building a house from the ground up.” The work schedule will be rigorous with the students working from 8a.m. to 5p.m. every day, with a lunch break in the middle of the day.

The club will be hosted by a local farmer who has converted two silos into hostel-like housing. The club will be provided food by the community, “three meals a day, at local churches, homes, and organizations.” This trip also provides the club members with an unforgettable experience of helping others who are less fortunate than they are.

“I cannot express enough how amazing it is to give to the community, and in return they teach so much about life and what it means to give back,” stated Berry.

The club also holds bi-monthly trips to Patuxent Habitat Restore. If interested in these activities, make sure to attend a meeting. Meetings are held on Wednesdays at 8p.m. in Goodpaster 198.

Peer Support Alliance Launched for March

Health and Wellness services have announced the implementation of a new Peer Support Alliance during the month of March. The initiative, in place on a trial basis until late March, is intended to give students a relaxed, friendly environment in which to air concerns and feelings on a variety of issues to a support group of students. The initiative came in response to a survey conducted last fall, in which most students indicated they would be very comfortable talking about problems and questions with non-friends and family members.

To prepare for the Peer Health Alliance, Peer Health Educators (PHEs) underwent 30 hours of training, learning how to effectively communicate with students. Meghan Root, Counseling Services Wellness Advocate, described the program as a starting point for getting help addressing personal concerns, and says that thus far, feedback has been positive. “We are just seeing if SMCM students will benefit from this type of support,” says Root. “The PHEs can help with sexuality, relationships, sexual health, STIs, birth control choices, alcohol use, drug use, tobacco, communication, roommate conflicts, anxiety, stress, depressed mood, and other topics. If they don’t know the answer, they can help find it.”

The survey that served as the jumping off point for the Peer Support Alliance was created by Ali Leonardi, a wellness fellow. On the subject of the Peer Support Alliance, Leonardi summed it up like this: “The Peer Support Alliance offers St. Mary’s students a comfortable and relaxed environment where they can discuss concerns and questions they have about a variety of issues with someone who they can relate to and understands what it’s like to be a student here on campus.”

The Peer Support Alliance will meet on Mondays and Thursdays in Goodpaster Hall from 4p.m. to 8p.m. until March 27, and is open to all students. For more information on the program, please contact Counseling Services at their designated work emails.

Encounters: A Night of Poetry, Dance and Creative Expression

Running from February 26 through March 2, “Encounters” was a emotional and breathtaking performance by ten dancers and three narrators on the redesigned Bruce Davis Theatre floor, where each person stood in the literal limelight (on top of a glass cutout in the floor with lights shining through it) to talk about their lives. This was not just a dance show, but also one that included poetry and spoken word.  Performers sang and recited poetry alongside the individual choreography of the dancers.

A mixture of fantasy and reality, “Encounters” allows the audience to peek into the dancer’s worlds for a moment. In the theatre, there were four rows of benches set up at each side of the room and in the center, on a black tarp-like stage the dancers stretched before waiting to begin their performance. In the center, a square glass addition had been added to allow the person speaking to be in the center and to draw attention to them. Each of the ten dancers had an introduction, which was either a story about themselves or a poem that really spoke to them, followed by specific choreography to their personalities. In addition to the introductions, many of the dancers had solos or duets. The costumes were all white and tan made of undyed, natural fibers to represent the personal, raw nature of the dancer’s stories. As costume designer Prof. Jessica Lustig pointed out, “the only color in the show was the handprints on the columns – the human touch literally is what colors this place.”

One of the most striking of performances had junior Celia Rector and sophomore Windy Vorwick connected in a duet that had them both finishing each other’s steps and words. They gave a powerful monologue on women and gender equality through a first-person story in the life of a woman. Celia Rector said “the hardest part of the show (for me) was making a whole bunch of different pieces fit together. Transitions were really tricky at first because we wanted to make sure everything made a cohesive whole.”Another highlight was senior Shukriyyah Greaves, who talked about needing peace in a world that sees her as the enemy, a very consciousness and symbolic dance that was powerful and raw. Freshman Austin Gore was impressed with the show, saying “I admired the bravery of all of the students in the production of “Encounters,” because it was about their own lives. There is nothing more vulnerable than placing yourself in front of an audience to express yourself, and when it is your actual self and not a character, that takes an immense amount of bravery.”

Sean Tallarico Resigns

On Feb. 24, Sean Tallarico resigned from his position as Director of Public Safety. Sean Tallarico came on as Director of Public Safety in Feb. of 2013, serving the St. Mary’s College of Maryland community for two semesters. His tenure here was marked with controversial rumors surrounding campus safety and debate about a lack of timely warnings.

Tallarico came to us from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania where he was Director of Parking-Transportation; Security Services. While there, he created and updated a new parking program for the University. Prior to working at East Stroudsburg he was the Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety at Moravian College for 25 years. There he created the college’s police department and was its Chief Law Enforcement Officer. Additionally, Tallarico is a member of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.

In the meantime, Ed Adams will be stepping in as interim Public Safety Director. He was the Director of Public Safety for the college from 1997 to 2004. Adams will assume the role on March 3. The college will soon begin the search for the new, permanent Director of Public Safety. We wish Sean Tallarico the best of luck in his future endeavors and welcome Adams.

Doug Gansler Comes to SMCM

Maryland’s gubernatorial race is rapidly picking up steam. Primary elections are less than three months away and the general election will soon follow. For most of the men and women who have declared their candidacy the primary election will mark the end of their campaign. As a result, many campaigns will begin, if they have not already, to shift their focus from fundraising to voter appeal.

The SMCM College Democrats, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Democracy, has invited three of the most prominent Democratic Party candidates to campus to give talks and answer questions. In doing so, the club hopes to stimulate interest in the gubernatorial election while also offering these candidates an opportunity to promote their campaigns.

On Monday, Feb. 17, Attorney General Doug Gansler came to the campus to give an informal talk and meet with members of the College Democrats. The talk was held in Glendenning Annex and lasted about an hour. With the exception of his short introduction, Gansler relied on questions from his audience to direct topics and subject matter. These questions ranged from broad concerns such as taxes to specific issues regarding welfare recipient urine tests.

With regards to the Maryland economy, Gansler asserted that the state has two primary industries that it should focus on cultivating: life sciences and cyber security. He pointed out that “no other state has NIH (National Institute of Health) and the NSA (National Security Agency) like we do, which makes us very attractive to companies in those industries; it’s a big advantage for us.” Gansler indicated that Maryland should try to capitalize on advantages such as these in its attempts to attract businesses.

Despite his optimism, Gansler had big problems with a trend that he described as “tech transfer”. As he described it: “money comes in for research and development, products come out. But then, the people who invented those products tend to leave the state to start their private companies and open up production.” Gansler identified this trend as one of the most pressing issues for Maryland’s economy. As he puts it, Maryland already benefits from invention but needs to find a way to hold on to the products of invention; businesses and jobs.

Questions about Gansler’s opinion on the proposed expansion of the Dominion facility at Cove Point led into an extended talk regarding Gansler’s positions on environmental regulation. In the specific case of Cove Point, which has become something of a hot-button issue at the College as well as the surrounding county, Gansler said he would reserve his opinion but keep an open mind until more information becomes available. Specifically, he claimed to be waiting for an upcoming environmental impact report to be released.

In addition to economic and environmental issues, Gansler had much to say on social issues. In this regard, most of his criticism was leveled at prisons and minority achievement. Specifically, he felt that the state could do more to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates as well as the minority achievement gap, which he cited as being the second worst in the nation. In both cases, his proposed solutions were based on improving education. He argued for fairly conventional improvements to failing public schools; better teachers, better facilities. However, his goals for prisoners were more innovative. First, he argued for better job training and placement programs outside of prison. Second, he argued for considerable improvements to education within prisons that would, as he put it, “enable prisoners to leave prison already equipped with the tools they need to become employed.”

Generally speaking, Gansler seemed well received by his audience. Junior John Holtzman, a self-described ardent supporter of competitor Delegate Heather Mizeur, said that he was “impressed, but concerned about [Gansler’s] responses to questions about the environment.” First-year Madeline Edelstein said she “enjoyed the talk, but felt unconvinced.” Her opinion is likely shared by other undecided voters who, according to a poll by The Baltimore Sun, make up approximately 40 percent of registered Democrats. This considerable margin indicates that the primary is still hotly contested, despite Lt. Governor Anthony Brown’s considerable lead, 21 points according to the same poll by The Sun, over his competitors.

According to College Democrats President Alice Mutter, the club hopes to work with the Center for the Study of Democracy to bring all three leading Democratic candidates, Brown, Gansler, and Mizeur, to campus before the end of the semester. At the time of writing, Heather Mizeur is scheduled to be on campus for an event Friday, Mar. 7.

SMCM's First Black Student Discusses Her Experience

By Yna Davis, Contributing Writer

On Friday, Feb. 28, Elizabeth Walker, the first black student to attend St. Mary’s (SMCM), returned to the school for a Black Student Union (BSU)-sponsored event in honor of Black History Month. While Walker’s visit was advertised as the main draw of the event, she was joined by a panel of three other black alumni: Kelsey Bush (’94), Jayson Williams (’03), and Esrael Seyum (’09) to discuss their experiences at St. Mary’s.

Held in Goodpaster 195, the discussion was introduced by junior Demara Austin, President of the BSU. The panel spoke in order of graduation year, beginning with Walker (’64), who chose to read a poem she had written about her experiences rather than give a speech. Titled “She Got Through,” a reference to a Mulberry Tree article about her experiences, the acrostic poem addressed her struggles, her faith, and the help she received from her family and community throughout her experience.

Each of the panelists who followed spoke on a different aspect of his experience at St. Mary’s. Bush, a first-generation student, had transferred from Lincoln University, a historically Black university. Bush had focused on creating teachable moments and a safe space during his time here, believing that “college should be a place where you’re safe to ask those questions and not be chastised.” He joked about White students’ questions about hair and tan lines, but also commended the diversity in the panel’s audience: “If the BSU had held an event while I was here, you wouldn’t see the mix!”

Williams, who is now involved in Prince George’s county politics, found his political passion at St. Mary’s. When he began running for  Student Government Association (SGA) office, however, he faced doubt that he could win. He said, “There was just this air of ‘you cannot succeed because of the color of your skin’ and it wasn’t coming from the White students, it was coming from the other Black students.” Things changed after he was elected as the first Black SGA President at St. Mary’s, however, and ultimately, Williams said, “The things I learned at St. Mary’s inspired me.”

An immigrant from Eritrea, Seyum, who now works with SMCM’s InterVarsity chapter, came to St. Mary’s avoiding African American students on campus. When an InterVarsity student with a strong belief in cultivating one’s identity pushed him to join the BSU, his experience changed. He said, “There’s something about feeling supported that gives you so much confidence.” Now, he encourages students to embrace their own identities: “Keep pushing your friends…keep embracing who you are.”

After the panel wound down with a few questions from the audience, the BSU presented each panelist with a gift, including a plaque for Walker, who responded with emotional stories from her experiences here. “I was not invited to any of the events that the president of St. Mary’s hosted…she didn’t shake my hand at graduation,” said Walker. “But it’s so good to see so many different people here today supporting each other.” Walker made it clear that a lot has changed since her time here. As first-year Stephanie Sraha commented, “There has been a definite change in social dynamics at St. Mary’s. If there was any doubt that this school, county, and state have come a long way, this reassured you.”

Presidential Search in the Home Stretch

In the coming months, St. Mary’s will finally have a new captain at the helm.  Gail Harmon, the Chair of the Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee, sent out an all-student e-mail on Feb. 19 which gave an overview of the ongoing search for a full-time president to take office after the departure of current interim president Ian Newbould next fall. According to the e-mail, Witt/Kieffer, the search firm responsible for advertising the position and generating SMCM’s presidential candidate pool, “received 85 formal applications for our presidency, compared to an average pool of 50-60 applicants for their other small college searches.”

Of these 85 applicants, 11 semi-finalists were interviewed by the Presidential Search Committee (comprised of trustees, faculty, students, and staff) off-campus on Feb. 26 and 27. Following these interviews, three final candidates, who were selected during these interviews, will come to campus on March 6, 11, and 13, at which time they will engage in meetings and conversations with students, faculty, and staff and in open sessions for all members of the St. Mary’s community. Harmon said in an interview on Sunday, March 2 that the names of the candidates will likely be announced on Monday, March 3.

After the on-campus visits, she said, the Board plans to conduct an online survey in which the campus community will be able to indicate their opinions and reactions to each candidate.  This survey will be a continuation of the Board’s gathering of student feedback on the presidential search process; students had the opportunity last semester to voice characteristics that they would like the president to have or policies that they would like the new president to address during open-meetings hosted by the Board and the search firm to discuss these issues.

Taylor Schafer, a junior and Student Trustee-in-Training, is a member of the Search Committee who has had a hand in narrowing down what qualities the Committee is looking for in a president.  “As a whole committee, we want someone with a fine academic background, a believer in the liberal arts, a strong sense of leadership, and success in fundraising–both from donors and through the state legislature,” she said. “We want someone who will know what questions to ask immediately upon arriving to campus in the summer in order to not only learn the community and culture, but also to understand our most prominent needs so they can be addressed.”

Harmon predicts that she will announce the Search Committee’s final presidential selection “certainly before the first of April,  and hopefully a lot earlier.” Schafer echoes Harmon’s confidence about the quality of the candidates for SMCM’s next president. “I’m very proud of the committee’s work and very excited to present our three finalists to the campus community,” she said. “I firmly believe the finalists are all excellent and viable candidates for the position.”

The Life and Times of the Calvert Porch

Dorch Porch is a soggy ashy mess. QA Porch is nice for first-year girls to get that fresh-baked tan next to the pond after a long winter. But it has long been an unspoken agreement that the porch on the second floor of Calvert Hall is the best porch at St. Mary’s. Of all the residences on campus, Calvert has an unbeatable view of the St. Mary’s River, which provides a sparkly blue backdrop to the charming red-brick Trinity Church and its lush graveyard, green and fertile thanks to its ancient inhabitants. It’s a sight that I will always be pining for after I graduate this year.

One of the main highlights of my sophomore year, when I lived amongst the creaking stairways and rotund windows of Calvert Hall, was the strong but strange community forged amongst the Hall’s residents by virtue of their collective use of the Porch. In comparison to the formality of the first-floor of Calvert which houses many administrative office, the second floor porch formed the building’s seedy upper-world. On any day in any weather, one was always likely to find a friendly face, a listening ear, or a free cigarette waiting for the Porch.

The complexities of language when used in the pursuit of love. The drudgeries and affirming joys of life. Magic the Gathering. Every topic was fair game among the Porch-dwellers. We even made up a game called “porch ball.” The premise was to knock around one of those cheap bouncy balls that you’d find at Walmart for as long as possible and to keep it in the air by any means possible. The only rule was that if the ball fell off the Porch into the bushes below, whoever touched the ball last had to retrieve it. And the game would continue.

I found the Porch endearing simply for its shabbiness in contrast with the glorious beauty of its surroundings. Three sagging couches that had seen better days (two the kind with wooden arms provided by res-life, and one plush but cigarette-scarred lazy-boy recliner whose origin has been lost to the ages) circled a small weathered tree stump splashed with painted color whose function doubled as a table and footrest. The sill of a window looking out to the porch directly behind one of the couches is painted win blue with the phrase “but for the sky there are no fences facing.” Certainly, the Calvert Porch was an environment in which the residents of the hall felt relaxed and uninhibited. 

The Porch itself, and not just its people, has always been like a reliable friend to me. One Sunday morning around 4 am, I was awoken by a nauseating feeling as a college student is wont to feel on a Sunday morning. My first instinct was to get some fresh air. I pushed open the door to the porch, the one with the screen peeling out of its frame, and I was immediately overtaken by the cool rush of breath from the river silvery in the cloudy early morning light, providing some much-needed comfort. I drank in that air like water. In that instance, my senses were fully present in taking in where I was and how  second by second my mind and body were being benefited and grounded by the crushing sound and sight of the trees surrounding the church swirling their leafy skirts.

It saddens me to see that those couches that had provided the setting for many memorable conversations are now gone. They have been replaced with hard, unfeeling lawn chairs. Whenever I revisit the old stomping grounds, it feels like a different place. It has been the end of an era. “Calvert Porch was a crucial element in my growth as a member of the St. Mary’s community. It made me the man I am today,” said senior Mike Harp, who was one of my Porch-compadres. “But we need to bring those couches back.”

According to our Web Editor Dillon Swensen, who took refuge in Calvert during the Great Mold Plague of ’12, the Calvert Porch “tastes of nostalgia. And hope. It gave me a home when I had none, and a sense of community when I was still a floundering freshmen. But without the couches that once dwelled there, it feels so plastic. So artificial. Like all the joy has been leeched from the world. I miss those ratchet-ass couches. Where else are we supposed to stub out our cigarettes?” It is my sincere hope, and a personal goal of mine, to take up an alumni fundraising campaign to purchase brand new couches for the Calvert Porch. Over the years, I hope that they will fray and stain into a beautiful patchwork  of life that will prove that they were used and loved to bits by many generations of students. The students will come and go; but porches, arguably, will stand the test of time.

Special Education Forum: A "St. Mary's Way" Event

By Gabrielle Collins, Vice President of Student Education Association and Class of 2014

St. Mary’s Student Education Association (SEA) and The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Best Buddies Chapter are preparing for their first collaborative event, the Special Education Forum, on Saturday, March 8, 2014. Five guest speakers, all current or past educators in St. Mary’s County Public Schools, will grace St. Mary’s College of Maryland with their presence and knowledge of various facets of Special Education. Professors, students, and families of St. Mary’s County will gather in Montgomery Hall at noon for refreshments and the chance to discuss their concepts of Special Education before attending three informational sessions.

The Best Buddies Chapter  will promote their mission of tolerance, acceptance, and friendship for everyone, and reaffirm their partnership with the College of Southern Maryland at the forum, as well as speak about, and publicize, the  “Spread the Word to End the Word” event to be held later in March.  Senior Karen Wathen, a current SMCM English major and Public Relations Manager of St. Mary’s County Special Olympics, will also attend the forum to inform the community about the determined spirit and positive morale sustained by St. Mary’s County Special Olympians throughout their annual Spring Olympic Games. If those details of the Special Education Forum do not have you hooked yet – brace yourself, there’s more. The final event will be a question and answer panel with parents of students with special learning and educational needs.

To witness and listen to the personal accounts of these parents will be a unique and invaluable experience, as no textbook or online article you could ever access will open your eyes quite like this. The forum is not the kind of event your average St. Mary’s student would want to miss. This forum allows students to learn about a new area of study from not only experts and teachers, but parents and young adults who know firsthand what it means to have a disability. Come support education for everyone and reaffirm the St. Mary’s Way in a new light.

Darya's Pop Culture Talk: Loser Keeps "Beaver"

I recently saw a picture online (possibly real, possibly not) of a sign that was presented during an Olympics hockey game, between the United States and Canada. It had a picture of two hockey players (one from each team), with Justin Bieber between them. It said: “Loser Keeps Bieber.” (Apparently we lost.) I also heard a rumor that there is a debate about whether or not Justin Bieber should be deported because of his recent behavior. But my question for the general public is: Why does any of this even matter?

Admittedly, lately Bieber has been kind of a brat, and this is putting it pretty mildly. He used to be a decent kid, as far as I could tell. He was innocent-looking and had that well-known Bieber haircut that all the middle-school boys wanted and all the middle-school girls loved, he gave good interviews, and he seemed like a kid who could potentially be a good influence on his audience. His behavior has since changed dramatically. He has apparently egged houses, spit on fans, made stupid and offensive remarks about things he knows nothing about (such as saying Anne Frank would have been a fan of his and he could have been an inspiration to her), he uses the word “Belieber,” and he has supposedly been arrested more than once. I am sure he has done more.

None of this should matter. Justin Bieber should not matter, because in several years, no one will even remember his name, let alone what he did now. Some evidence of this can be found just by looking at our generation. Our generation (middle-schoolers and high-schoolers alike) is his first audience; back in my high school, all the girls loved him. But now, however, the same people who loved him once very likely no longer care about him or anything he does (exceptions are probably kids currently in elementary and middle school, but one day they will not care either). As soon as he lost that “I’m-so-innocent” look and routine, people stopped caring and all but forgot about him. The only reason I ever think about him is when I see something in the tabloids, or something online like the picture stating that “Loser Keeps Bieber.”

Another piece of evidence that people are going to forget everything about Bieber, including his name, is that a family friend I was talking to last weekend thinks his name is Justin Beaver. Not only had he never heard Justin Bieber’s music, he called him Justin Beaver the entire time we were talking. Granted, he is probably in his forties, but even people who do not belong to our generation at least know Bieber’s name, if nothing else.

My point: Justin Bieber’s fame will not stay with him. People should not care, nor will they in the future, because the only noteworthy thing he has done up to this point is offend people. One day, people really will believe his last name is Beaver, and no one will contradict them.