California Fires Cause Unprecedented Destruction and Loss of Life

Wildfires have been active in California since mid-July and have been responsible for the destruction of thousands of acres of land, including property and homes. The death toll from the recently contained Camp Fire has been reported at 85 people, according to a news release by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 24, 2018. However, other fires have contributed to a total number of 97 civilians and 6 firefighters who have lost their lives. The 2018 wildfire season is reported to have had 7,579 fires burning over 1,667,855 acres of land, a record-breaking season for California.

The new batch of wildfires began spreading in November after winds picked up the previously remaining fires, which have now threatened thousands of homes, hospitals and shelters holding displaced residents. Many Californians have been urged to stay indoors whenever possible and to wear air masks in areas where the oxygen quality has been compromised due to the pollutant chemicals given off by the wildfires. California residents have been posting selfies on social media with their air masks to show off the tragedies that continue to take place.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Barry Muchnick provided comments in response to any possible environmental factors that could be causing the fires to spread more rapidly by noting that human activity could contribute towards the “intensity and destructive potential of fire across the landscape.” He added that “commercial and residential development in high-risk fire zones also changes fire management strategies, reducing practices like controlled burns that could mitigate fire intensity or spread.”

Organizations such as the EPA have rushed forward to aid those combating the wildfires and provide support to those affected. Muchnick mentioned the likelihood that legislative changes made by the current administration could influence the quality or quantity of aid provided by environmental agencies during the wildfires after citing a recent report released by the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

 

He noted that “climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States,” and that the wildfires “are a case study in the impacts of a changing climate. Without an appropriate response from the administration, climate change will disrupt our infrastructure, jeopardize lives (especially for already marginalized communities), and cripple the economy.” However, Muchnick is grateful that “leaders at the state and local levels are taking climate seriously despite setbacks at the federal level,” which is a hopeful step for agencies who continue to provide aid to residents that have been affected by the wildfires.

 

Beautiful sunsets are a common indulgence at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), although the smoke of wildfires raging in California has polluted the sunsets in areas as far as New York City according to reports by CNN and the New York Post. When asked about the possibility of SMCM being contaminated by pollutants or air quality changes caused by the smoke, Muchnick replied by saying the most likely consequence from the smoke could enhance sunsets, adding that there “might be more spectacular sunsets as light refracts off of smoke particles in the upper atmosphere.” Muchnick also noted the “possible air quality dangers” that are attributed to “particulates from the California fires to the east coast.”

Infamous Drug Lord, El Chapo’s Trial Underway in New York City

On Nov. 5 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, kingpin of the infamous Sinaloa Drug Cartel, pleaded “not guilty” to 17 counts of drug trafficking, money laundering, murder and kidnapping.

El Chapo was extradited from Mexico to America in January of last year after escaping Mexican detention facilities twice according to ABC News. The American government is now trying Guzman, who is estimated to have earned up to $14 billion from illegal activities, in the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.

Guzman’s trial is under intense security, not only because American officials fear retribution from the Sinaloa Cartel, but also due to the terrorist threat that this kind of highly publicized trial attracts. The Los Angeles Times reports that whenever the police transport El Chapo to trial, officials shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and at the courthouse itself security is even more extensive. The National Guard patrols the halls scanning for explosives or biological weapons, while snipers ring the buildings around the courthouse. Police also pack the court, and even attorneys have to remove their shoes when going through security.

The trial is also highly secretive, which the prosecutor describes as “necessary,” since El Chapo has escaped twice and is allegedly responsible for the deaths of thousands in Mexico and America. According to The New York Times, the state frequently sends private letters to the judge trying the case and often bars the court from sketching witnesses. The defense claims that the secretive nature of the trial makes it difficult for them to mount a proactive defense.

Guzman’s strategy is to downplay his role in the Sinaloa Cartel, claiming that he was just a lieutenant, while shifting the leadership to his partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia. Ismael’s brother, Jesus Zambada García, a lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel who is also on trial, is a witness for the state, giving the American public a unique view into the inner workings of the cartel and has provided damning testimony against El Chapo.

Jesus alleged that the cartel gave “a few million [dollars]” to the President-elect of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, while he was the mayor of Mexico City. NBC News also reports that Zambada Garcia alleged he personally gave the former leader of Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency, Genaro Garcia Luna, $3 million and when officials were closing in on El Chapo the cartel gave a high ranking official $250,000 to call it off.

In addition to the corruption surrounding the Sinaloa Cartel and the Mexican government Garcia also described the intense violence surrounding El Chapo. Garcia recalls a meeting between Guzman and his competitor Rodolfo Fuentes; when the session ended Fuentes did not shake El Chapo’s hand. For that slight El Chapo ordered his death.

In another instance, Arellano Felíx, a rival of El Chapo, was shot in the back of the neck during a botched arrest attempt. Garcia alleged that El Chapo was paying the police who killed Felix. Even the police were not exempt from the cartels’ wrath. Zambada recalls that a “corrupt police commander” claimed that he would finish off Guzman and Ismael Zambada Garcia, so the cartel killed him.

El Chapo’s trial, which has already revealed several bombshells will likely last a very long time. The sensitive nature of the case for the Mexican government ensures that America will not release many details of the case to the public, however, what is clear is that El Chapo will likely live the rest of his life imprisoned in America.

Scotland Moves to Include Queer Education into Curriculum

Scottish Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney, announced that Scotland would become the first country in the world to mandate the teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBT) issues into their standard curriculum. The move comes after years of campaigning by Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), a group that had been pushing for better recognition and inclusion for LGBT students in schools across Scotland.

State schools will now be required to teach their students about the history of equality movements, as well as including discussions about identity and sexuality, to promote a safe environment for all. There will be no exceptions to the policy, drawing anger from many anti-gay religious groups.

In his speech to fellow ministers, Swinney lauded the Scottish government’s record of LGBT rights, reminding his colleagues that there was still more to be done, stating “We must recognize that there is more to do. We rightly abhor homophobia, bi-phobia and trans-phobia whenever it occurs, but exclusion, isolation, under-representation and silence are more subtle forms of discrimination. They can be equally damaging to children and young people’s health and well-being and have no place in our education system.” He also commended TIE co-founders Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson.

TIE was founded in 2015, and describe themselves as “a Scottish campaign group which has one aim: to combat homophobia, bi-phobia and trans-phobia in schools with LGBT inclusive education.” The organization also focuses on the role of education as a catalyst for change and acceptance, stating “We believe that LGBT history, role models and issues affecting LGBT young people should be taught and recognized within all schools.”

Shortly after their founding, TIE moved to petition the Scottish Parliament to take up their cause in early 2016, but lacked the support needed. Later in 2016 the Scottish National Party accepted the resolution, supporting the campaign, where it was adopted by all major parties during the Scottish Parliament elections. Soon after the government formed a working group, with TIE heading the research, to form an outline for implementation of their goals. In June of 2017 Scotland’s largest teaching union also voted in favor of the movement, and the inclusion of same-sex families as part of Scotland’s standard curriculum, effectively adopting TIE’s principles. Just a few short weeks ago, the Scottish government moved to accept the recommendations of the working group in full, a major shift in policy, and a win for gay-rights groups.

The movement sprung up after the founders, and many others, saw a need to combat the prejudices experienced by many Scottish students who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans. Much of the statistics cited by TIE painted a dire picture, highlighting the high rates of discrimination faced by pupils. For example, they found that 90% of LGBT people had experienced homophobia, bi-phobia or trans-phobia at school, with 64% reporting being bullied specifically on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Even more alarmingly, they found that 27% of LGBT people had attempted suicide as a result of this bullying, with 15% trying more than once to end their lives. On the side of the teachers, 80% felt they were not adequately trained on how to tackle these issues, and 87% reporting hearing homophobia, bi-phobia or trans-phobic language in their schools.

The incorporation of LGBT education, history, and identity comes 18 years after Scotland officially repealed Section 28, an infamous law known for its notably homophobic sentiments. The law stated that a local authority “Shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “Promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

The law was introduced by former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government. According to Independent, Thatcher herself had a history of homophobia statements, once stating at a Conservative Party conference that “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay,” going on to say “All of those children are being cheated out of a sound start in life. Yes, cheated.”

In 2000, when the House of Lords was debating the repeal of Section 28, the Conservative government was divided on the issue, with the Lord Strathclyde stating that

The government has done the right thing in dropping it.”, reported BBC. Then shadow Education Secretary, and current British Prime Minister, Theresa May spoke on the defeat calling it “a victory for common sense,” as she urged the British government not to bring the issue back up.

As Scotland moves to fully incorporate the guidance provided by TIE and the working group, campaigners across the country celebrated. TIE co-founder Daly stated that the incorporation of their policy sent a “a strong and clear message to LGBT young people that they are valued here in Scotland,” citing the day as “a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment,” according to Reuters.

Russian-Ukrainian Conflict Intensifies, as Fears of Escalation Mount

On Nov. 25, the Russian Coast Guard opened fire on three Ukrainian ships attempting to sail through the Kerch Strait, a small passage between Russia and Ukraine, wounding crew members and seizing the vessels, in what has constituted a major escalation in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The incident comes on the heels of continued spats of aggression at the hands of Russia, all stemming from the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko acted quickly, appealing to Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, to impose martial law, a power he was granted on the condition that he did not attempt to postpone the upcoming elections. Ukraine is now operating under martial law in the 10 provinces of the border regions, allowing the government, and by extension the Ukrainian military sweeping powers. It is unclear how long martial law will last, with the New York Times reporting that a different version of the law stipulated 60 days, whereas only 30 days were approved by the Verkhovna Rada.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded by accusing Poroshenko of playing up the event, claiming that he is utilizing this event as an opportunity to boost his poor chances in the elections set to be held next March. According to Kyiv Post, Poroshenko trails behind many other candidates, coming in fourth among the contestants, with only 9.8% of those polled saying they would vote for him. The Russian state claimed they were simply following protocol, citing the need for Ukranian vessels to request permission in advance, adding that the Ukrainian boats had trespassed into Russian territory.

Poroshenko has appealed to NATO, urging them to send ships to the area to help restore order. NATO responded by expressing support for Ukraine, with the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, delivering a press conference where he voiced the allies support for “Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.” He went on to say that “we call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports” and that they “allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.” Stoltenberg further expressed the international consensus regarding the conflict, stating “Russia must end its support to militant groups and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory,” ending by saying, “We call for calm and restraint.”

The situation in the surrounding regions has been tenuous, as relations have been fraught with animosity on the part of Ukrainians since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, where Russian troops seized control, establishing two federal subjects; the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. This seizure was legitimized by the Russian state as allowable, because the majority of the population in Crimea was composed of ethnic Russians, who voted in favor of a referendum to join Russia.

Ukraine’s recent history has been marked by periods of unrest, including the 2014 revolution, which resulted in removing President Yanukovych from power, though even after he fled the country to Russia, he claimed he was still the legitimate president. During this time there was also widespread unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine, marked by massive protests from pro-Russian separatist factions who called for the unification of parts of Ukraine and Russia. The highest concentrations of these protests, and of ethnic Russians, was in Crimea and the Donetsk oblast.

Soon after the revolution and pro-unification protests, Russian troops invaded Crimea, occupying key areas with armed gunmen. Though we now know they were Russian troops, it was unclear at the time, as they purposefully lacked insignia bearing the usual Russian identifying factors. They quickly stormed military bases, airports, and other significant areas in their takeover. The Crimean Supreme Council was seized, with Russian forces disbanding the Council of Ministers and appointing a new pro-Russian Prime Minister for the area. This new Supreme Council declared Crimea’s sovereignty and right to self-determination, as they hastened to a referendum. This referendum passed, unifying Russia and Crimea, acting as an enormous assault upon international standards and the Ukrainian government’s sovereignty.

In order to better understand the situation unfolding and the possible reasoning behind this escalation, The Point News reached out to Russian History Professor, Jeffrey Eden, Ph.D. He began by noting that increasing control over the Sea of Azov has been a long-term goal for Russia, explaining that Russia’s seizure has occurred in incremental measures, all the while gauging international responses. He noted that though “the endgame is uncertain; it could be anything from holding Ukrainian ports perennially ‘hostage’ for financial or political purposes, or as the Ukrainian president warns–annexing more Ukrainian territory.”

Eden also articulated the positive effect this crisis may have for the Ukrainian president, noting that “he’s keen to show himself as the country’s courageous defender,” citing the claims that some are concerned he would utilize martial law to postpone the elections. In terms of the conflict’s impact on Russia, Eden posited the possibility of this crisis acting as a distraction from domestic issues Putin may be facing, such as the newly announced plan to raise the national pension age by five years, an action that sparked protest and further crackdowns.

Eden stated that “this crisis may well bolster support for Putin in the short-term,” explaining that “his most popular tune is about how Russia is encircled by hawks and vultures, invariably the U.S. and its allies.”

Only time will tell with the situation still unfolding, as Putin attends the G8 summit, and reports of Ukrainian soldiers digging trenches surface.

Polish Independence Day March Causes Controversy

On Nov. 11 over 200,000 people gathered in Warsaw to celebrate Poland’s 100th year of
independence. However, the day was marred in controversy involving nationalists, far-right organizers and senior politicians.

Independence Day in Poland has historically attracted a notable large group of nationalists, activists and right-wing protesters in Warsaw. After 2017’s celebration was both nationally and internationally condemned for xenophobic signage and chants, Poland’s mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, banned the right-wing nationalists from marching during the 2018 celebration. Citing past incidents, Gronkiewicz-Waltz forbade the marchers on account of “aggressive nationalism” and security concerns. The act began the controversy over Independence Day which, in the weeks leading to the event, marked days of negotiations between politicians and right-wing organizers.

Only a few hours after Gronkiewicz-Waltz forbid the right-wing nationalists from marching, Polish President Andrzej Duda announced that the Polish government would participate in a march at the same time and along the same route which the nationalists had intended to take.

The situation was further complicated when, only hours after the mayor’s original ban, the Supreme Court overturned Gronkiewicz-Waltz’ decision, leaving both the Polish state and the historically extremist nationalist groups marching on the same parade route on the same day.

This decision set off intense negotiations between the two groups, which came to a stand-still when the nationalists and right-wing organizers were refused the right to carry signs. However, top politicians and organizers met again on Friday, Nov. 9, two days before the celebrations, in an attempt to come to an ultimate agreement.

At the end of negotiations, Michal Dworczyk, the head of Prime Minister Morawiecki’s chancellery, released a tweet saying negotiation were at an end and that “Poland won. On Nov. 11 there will be a great communal march to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Independence!” The decision placed high members of the State, including the President, marching in the same parade with historically inflammatory right-wing groups through the center of Poland.

The ultimate event took place on Nov. 11 and saw over 200,000 people attend, the largest ever recorded turn-out rate. Duda began the event, called the March of Independence, by addressing both sides as they stood side-by-side in the center of Warsaw. “I want us to walk under our white-and-red banners together and in an air of joy,” he said, “to give honour to those who fought for Poland, and to be glad that it is free, sovereign and independent.” He then lead both groups in a rendition of the national anthem, resulting in both members of the Polish army singing and chanting side-by-side with members of the National-Radical Camp.

Despite the controversial negotiations and past, the march went on. Marchers with the state came first, bearing the red-and-white colors of Poland on flags overhead. Separated by a barrier of military police, the right-wing protestors and nationalists followed closely behind. Counter Protestors bearing flags that read “Constitution” and a large amount of police to keep the order were also present. Flares, racist chants and white power symbols were reported by attendees, while others recounted sections burning the flag of the European Union.

Despite the large number of protesters and extremists, however, the majority of marchers during the event were ordinary citizens celebrating the country’s 100th anniversary of restoration to Independence.

Marvel Legend Stan Lee Dead at 95

Stan Lee, co-creator of numerous Marvel characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther and Iron Man, died on Monday, Nov. 11 at the age of 95.

Lee, who has been dubbed the “godfather of Marvel Comics” by fans and the industry, was rushed to Cedars Sinai Medical Center from his home in Los Angeles, Calif. Monday morning. He died later that night. The writer, producer, cameo star and superhero creator had been having health issues since early 2018, when he experienced pneumonia and an irregular heartbeat.

Lee leaves his daughter, Joan Celia Lee, as his sole heir. However, in the months leading to his death, Lee’s estate has been in a fierce dispute. At the time of his death, Lee is estimated to have had a net worth of over $50 million, but relations with money have been strained in the past.

After his wife Joan’s death in 2017, Lee participated in a lawsuit against former business manager Jerry Olivarez, a former business associate of his daughter J.C.’s and the co-founder of Hands of Respect, accusing him and others of stealing over $4 million from Lee. He also sued the company he co-founded, POW! Entertainment, for $1 billion dollars, claiming several members of the company had conspired to steal his identity.

Other complications came in the form of elder abuse allegations in February when Lee accused co-workers Keya Morgan, Jerardo Olivarez and Kirk Schenck of conspiring to seize his assets through the use of his daughter. Despite complications, however, it appears that Joan Celia Lee stands to inherit her father’s substantial fortune.

Lee was born on Dec. 28, 1922 as Stanley Martin Lieber in New York, N.Y., where he spent his childhood. His career in the comic book industry began in 1939 as an assistant at Timely Comics, a company which would eventually become the beloved Marvel Comics. He released his first successful comic book, “The Fantastic Four,” in 1961 with artist and co-creator Jack Kirby. Shortening his birth name to Stan Lee, he would soon go on to create several of the most iconic superhero characters in any comic universe, including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk. His characters were known for their humanity and flaws, a concept which revolutionized an industry in which superheroes had previously been inhuman and close to perfection. “The Fantastic Four” changed the comic book industry by launching it into what is now considered its golden age, inspiring a decade-long feud between the two leading comic book companies, DC and Marvel.

Lee has created several of the mainstream comic book characters which have blown up into blockbuster hits. Among these were “Black Panther,” whose film grossed $631 million dollars in the United States, breaking numerous records while tackling race barriers in the film industry.

Following his death, fans and coworkers of Lee have reached out to note the impact he made on their lives. Among them was Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, which purchased Marvel for $4 billion in 2009. Iger said in a statement “Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created. A superhero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

What’s A Wick Dudley?

By Dan Belson and Graham Bos

His name is scrawled on nearly every desk in most of the classrooms in Calvert and Kent Hall. It sticks out beyond the rest of the graffiti, it’s scratched deep in with deep, dark letters. “WICK DUDLEY IS MY HEROin” says one in Calvert 004, others say just “WICK,” but most say it ominously: “WICK DUDLEY”

Wick Dudley was a Public Policy major who graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) in 2012. He was a Sailing team captain, Environmental club president, class treasurer, and earned All-Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference (ESIAC) Second Team honors, according to SMCM Athletics.

In a telephone interview with The Point News, Dudley explained that members of the Sailing team “started writing my name on the desks in the basement of Calvert Hall, and eventually it took a life of its own and spread to the desks in Kent.” According to Dudley, after a while people whom he “didn’t even know” began writing his name on desks.

As his name gained more and more of a presence, Dudley was “pretty mad when it took off,” stating that “I’m not much of a vandal myself.” Sometimes, people “would bring it up at parties, even off campus. I’d be like ‘Hi, I’m Wick,’ and they’d say ‘I didn’t even know you were real,’” Dudley laughed.

Even after graduating, the desks have still affected him. “Sometimes I get a friend request on Facebook, or people just message me with a picture of my name on a desk.” TPN has spotted desks in Calvert, Kent, and Montgomery Halls still sporting his name.

Dudley recently graduated from law school, and is currently clerking for a judge in Cecil County, Maryland. Dudley is still connected to the College, and attends Sailing alumni events. Dudley also ran in the 2018 Republican primary for the Maryland House of Delegates in Maryland’s 36th district, which covers the northern portion of the Eastern Shore.

 

Union Contract Negotiations Wrapping Up, Wages Next

The College staff’s union, AFSCME Local 3980, is wrapping up on negotiating the details of their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with the College, and is expecting to complete the contract on Dec. 5. The MOU, which outlines certain benefits and policies that affect the College’s union employees, will be in effect for the next three years once it is ratified.

Although the details of the contract will not be revealed until negotiations are complete and ratified, union officials explained that they have “made progress” with some of their proposals, and feel confident that the College’s administration can work together with the union to make their initiatives function properly.

The employee grievance system has been “improved and streamlined,” and has added provisions to alleviate conflicts of interest within the grievance system. Union officials explained the rationale for this change is simply “if I file a grievance against my supervisor, that means that my supervisor won’t be the one checking the grievance.”

The union also made progress in regards to establishing a union office, which would be used “for union business, small meetings, files, etc.” Union officials also expressed that there was progress with an Employee Assistance Program, which would provide College staff with assistance for personal issues that may affect work performance.

The union has included provisions that give the union representation at the Staff Senate, albeit without voting power, to advise the Staff Senate on union issues.

The union is also discussing certain appendix proposals, such as a skills development program for staff, as well as an anti-bullying policy adapted from the State of Maryland’s own anti-bullying policy for government employees, which prevents supervisors from retaliating against employees for non work related issues. Union officials feel “very confident that Human Resources and the union can get [the proposals] to work.”

However, many proposals regarding Public Safety (PS) staff were either rejected or not brought up for discussion. The PS staff proposed a number of policies that would help them become closer to a sworn police force, as most public higher education institutions in Maryland, including University of Maryland, Salisbury University and Frostburg University, have a sworn police staff. The union was “disappointed” to see these proposals rejected, as the PS staff has “worked hard on [the proposals] for almost a year.”

The College does not comment on union negotiations as they are happening, stating that this policy “allows those representing the union and the College of work unencumbered by other[s] toward a beneficial mutual agreement.”

Many local businesses, politicians, students, and faculty have signed the union’s letter to President Tuajuanda C. Jordan, PhD, asking the College to fairly consider both sides of the negotiation. Signers include the owners of St. James Deli and Spirits, St. Inigoes General Store, Ridge Market, Cook’s Liquors and Deli, Buzzy’s Country Store, and newly-elected Delegate Brian Crosby, among many others. 200 St. Mary’s College of Maryland students also signed the letter of support. See the full letter of support here.

This week, the union and the College will negotiate wages for staff, and plans to wrap things up on Dec. 7. The MOU will then need to be ratified by employees and the Board of Trustees before anything takes effect. The union also plans on holding a forum showing what agreements were made, and where proposals fell through.

The union encourages interested students to follow their social media pages on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date on union issues.

SMCM Plans Redesigned Core Curriculum

St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) is currently in the process of reworking and rethinking its core curriculum in order to best meet the needs of its students. A group of 13 faculty members and one student member make up the Core Design Workgroup, tasked with redesigning the core curriculum.

The discussion about redesigning the core curriculum started over a year ago, beginning with the Board of Trustees and SMCM’s administration. The faculty took over the effort soon after. They began by assessing whether the current core curriculum does what the faculty would like it to do.

Professor of Mathematics Dave Kung, the chair of the Core Design Workgroup, said this process involved “feedback from faculty, from students, from alums and even from students who chose not to come to St. Mary’s.” They also examined the curricula at other institutions, especially institutions we are similar to.

The redesigned core curriculum consists of three major components:First Year Honors Experience, Honors Pathways and Professional Literacy.

The First Year Honors Experience restructures the current CORE 101 course all first-years take into two 3-credit Honors Seminars (meant to be taken in conjunction with the Professional Literacy courses). The first Honors Seminar will focus on writing skills and the second Honors Seminar will focus on public speaking and quantitative literacy.

The Honors Pathways will replace the current pathway of taking a class in each discipline: Arts, Cultural Perspectives, Humanistic Foundations, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences. The new pathway is called the “Integrated Inquiry Pathway” and will involve taking several different courses in different disciplines about a related topic.

Kung said the Integrated Inquiries system allows students to “get those breadth requirements all in the context of some issue that they care about.” This will differ from the current breadth requirement system because “instead of doing those separately where they may have nothing to do with each other, a student coming in would take four classes that are all surrounding the theme of climate, or four classes that are all about global public health or four classes that are all about identity,” Kung stated.

The classes will pull from different disciplines to create a well-rounded pathway, although students can still choose to fulfill this requirement with The Exploring the Liberal Arts Honors Pathway, similar to the current pathway.

Professional literacy will help students with developing their professional skills and will involve two 1-credit classes in a student’s first year, CORE 103 and 104. These two courses will focus on “strengths articulation, résumé development, immersion experiences and interviewing skills.” A third course, CORE 202, is a 2-credit class “in which students continue self-exploration, begin to explore group dynamics, and practice effective teamwork skills.” This course involves a small “out-of-class experience” which acts as a preparation for an internship or research experience.

Kung stated the importance of this addition of professional literacy, saying “there’s a big equity issue there, kids from well-off families have support for résumé writing and support frankly for entering the workforce.” These professional literacy courses aim to give students the same opportunities in their first year in order to develop their professional lives.

The revised core curriculum also includes an Honors College Promise which guarantees an internship or research experience to all students, provided they complete the Professional Literacy aspect of the core curriculum. This would replace the current Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World (ELAW) requirement. Kung said the idea is to change ELAW to be an experience that students want, rather than a requirement they need to fulfill, “we want to change that into an enticement because these are things that you should want to do, and the College is willing to step up and say ‘we will guarantee this.’”

The language requirement is proposed to change so every student takes at least a 102-level course of a language. Students will also have a Senior Capstone where they can still complete an SMP or have a project that serves as a culminating experience for all students. “We want to make sure that everybody has a chance to stand up in front of their peers and talk about something that they did that finalized their major,” Kung stated.

Lastly, the committee also wants the College to place more emphasis on Study Abroad opportunities, including Study Tours and Semester abroad programs.

Joseph Perriello, ‘21, is a SGA senator and serves as the student representative on the Core Design Workgroup, a position he was appointed to by the SGA. His role is to protect the interests of current and future students by ensuring the redesigned curriculum will benefit both groups.

Perriello has helped facilitate student focus groups to get feedback from current students. The feedback was mostly positive, however, “there were some concerns brought up about how the new curriculum will take away resources from electives.” Perriello stated that the committee has been working hard to ensure the revised curriculum “remains a resource neutral curriculum,” so faculty members will still be able to teach elective courses.

The current version of the revised curriculum has gotten positive feedback from most of the faculty members, with 80-85% supporting it in the most recent vote. Next, the workgroup will focus on considering resources required to implement the changes. The goal of the workgroup is to have parts of the core curriculum in place for the Fall of 2019, with a full roll-out in future years. The faculty will vote on the core curriculum at an upcoming meeting either Dec. 3 or later in January, and the workgroup would spend this upcoming semester writing a new catalogue for the curriculum.

Admissions Enrollment Increases, New Program “Hometown ‘Hawks” Unveiled

The most recent report from the Office of Enrollment Management revealed an increase of 54 newly enrolled students (new first-year students and transfer students combined) following an enrollment decline in recent years that began in 2010. Following the successful enrollment of Fall 2018 students, the Office of Admission unveiled a new initiative through an AllStudents email, called “Hometown ‘Hawks.”

This year was also the first time since 2010 that the number of all students (returning and newly enrolled) has increased from the previous year. However, there was a 5% decrease in the retention of students. The Office of Admission is working to reach a 90% retention rate of students, outlined in their strategic plan.

Vice President for Enrollment Management David Hautanen has been at SMCM since July 2017, after visiting and observing “an amazing location, absolutely beautiful, stunning, on the water, great facilities, really smart students, accomplished faculty, and one that really presented an opportunity to grow an institution.”

Director of Admission Kendra Lawrence joined SMCM in August after working at various schools, both public and private. Lawrence enjoyed her experiences at smaller institutions because she felt she excelled more in those environments. Lawrence said she was drawn to SMCM because “[she] appreciated when [she] came here that people seemed to have a sense of pride and seemed to really care about the place.”

Despite the increase in enrolled students, Lawrence emphasized that, “at the end of that day, we need students to help us tell our story.” Hometown ‘Hawks was created to involve students with admissions, by getting SMCM students to spread the message about the College to prospective students and encourage them to apply.. “The recruitment [process] cannot rest with this one office, we have students from all over the state of Maryland, we can’t be everywhere all the time,” said Lawrence.

As outlined in the AllStudents email, SMCM students can get involved either formally or informally. Informally, SMCM students can always be representing the College to prospective students when they are home. This benefits both current and future students, as Lawrence stated, “you guys lived the experience every single day so if you can communicate that when you go home and talk to the next generation that’s coming in, that helps us and it helps you as well.”

Hautanen recommends that all students “go out to their home communities with the goal of encouraging at least one student to apply […] that would be doing your part as a member of this community to help build this community for the future value of yourself.”

The Office of Admission is offering formal training to students who signed up for the Hometown ‘Hawks program on Dec. 5 . Those students will return to their high schools or community colleges over winter break to represent SMCM and recruit students to apply.

Hautanen says the institution is growing, and that means “we have additional resources to make the student experience even better […], we’re looking to grow in-state, we’re looking to grow out-of-state, we’re looking at growing internationally, we’re looking at achieving our diversity goals,” as part of their comprehensive enrollment model.  Already this fall semester, the Office of Admission has completed more than 600 recruitment visits.