Equestrian's Knott to go to Nationals

Senior member of the St. Mary’s Equestrian Team, Mallory Knott, will be competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Competition on May 3 to 6. Knott is only the second rider in the history of the team to compete at the National competition.

“I am very excited to be going to Nationals to represent our team. I’m thankful that I’ve had such a great coach who has been willing to help me prepare for it and also great team members who have been very supportive throughout the competitions that have brought me to this point,” said Knott. She has been a member of the Equestrian Club for four years, but joined the team her sophomore year. “The team is very proud of her, and if you see her make sure to congratulate her and wish her good luck,” said Club and Team President, senior Anna Weaver.

Knott placed second in IHSA Regionals and moved onto Zones. From there, she placed second and earned a spot to Nationals. At Nationals she will be competing in the Walk-Trot-Canter Equestrian Class. Since she won Zones, she has been training extra hard to prepare for Nationals. “I’ve been training by going to extra lessons at the barn where we ride and having individual lessons with my coach.  I also have a horse that is nearby and I ride her often to get in as much riding time as I can.  The individual lessons have been very beneficial since my coach has been able to point out the little things that I need to work on more, which I can then try to correct when I ride on my own horse and in the other extra lessons,” said Knott.

She began riding when she was nine years old in preparation for a trail riding vacation. “We never went to the ranch but I fell in love with riding and it quickly became a big part of my life and it was a deciding factor in where I went to college,” said Knott. Nationals will be her last riding event in the IHSA competition circuit, and will be the culmination of her riding career as a member of the St. Mary’s College Equestrian Team.

From the Chief’s Desk: Expressing Our Ideas

I’m going to preface this Opinion piece by saying that in less than two weeks I will be a St. Mary’s College Graduate and thus am feeling quite nostalgic. With that being said I will begin my very last From The Chief’s Desk (not that I’ve done many this year).

I wrote earlier in the year about how even with the tuition increases and the fact that St. Mary’s has become one of the most expensive–if not the most expensive–public college in America, it is still a school worth attending. I wholeheartedly maintain my position, possibly something easy to do considering I will not continue to pay the ever increasing tuition. However, after four years I still believe that St. Mary’s is one hell of a place to live, grow, and get an education. My greatest fear as I leave is that the ever growing cost is going to kill the wonderful atmosphere that draws most of us to the college in the first place.

One of the aspects of St. Mary’s that makes it a great place to spend 4 years is the sense of community that permeates the entire campus. It seems that this year more than any has been one where the campus community has really banded together to share ideas and build an identity of community activism. Though St. Mary’s has always been a place of great community, this year our community has extended past the pursuit of knowledge and we have taken on more human issues.

The Living Wage Campaign, is a prime example of how the St. Mary’s Community has banned together to look out for one another. In previous years, students have shown that they are a forced to be reckoned with, but this year we were not only a force to be reckoned but a force of knowledge. The Living Wage Forums were a prime example of how St. Mary’s students and professors came together to protect an under-represented section of our community. The interesting aspects of the Forum were not just that a majority of the campus came out and participated in one way or another, but that the levels of activism were done tastefully and showed a very highly level of thought and education. They showed us that activism does not have to be something radical to be effective, sometimes the simple exchanging and discussion of ideas can make people in positions of authority stop and take notice.

This type of ideology is indicative of what St. Mary’s stands for, or at least what I like to believe it stands for. This campus is one where student activism initiatives are encouraged and where a lot of times we are acting on behalf of the community as a whole. What St. Mary’s teaches its students is that activism does not have to be radical, it does not have to alienate people who tend to hang on the fringes of activist situations. These students are able to get involved because there is a feeling of inclusion and civic minded education built into what we learn here.

I am sure that there are some students who disagree, who feel that at times the campus is protesting just to protest, and while I have not personally been in agreement with every bit of activism that has taken place in the last four years, I do believe that they have all generated an invaluable level of campus dialogue.

I am also sure that I there are parents or perspective parents that will read this and be worried that their children are being ingrained with some sort of radical dribble, or even parents that think because we are a college we have the luxury of being radically minded; however, what St. Mary’s teaches is not so much a sense of radical mindedness but a sense of civic responsibility. What sets us a part from other colleges is that we have classes like Professor David Kung’s Survey of Mathematics which focuses on Social Justice and that a number of our graduates go on to volunteer for programs like The Peace Corps.

After spending four years here I feel prepared to leave the college and make my mark in the world as a leader and activist. Perhaps I will not ever participate in protests or marches, but St. Mary’s has taught me that through knowledge and caring you can make a difference in m

Grad Fair Helps Prep Seniors for Graduation

On Thursday, March 29, from 3:30 to 6:30 the annual Grad Fair was held at the Michael P. O’Brian Athletics and Recreation Center (MPOBARC).

The event was was set up on the basketball courts and all of the vendors set up tables on the perimeter of the space. This allowed seniors to move about the vendors in an organized fashion. At the center of the court, tables were set up so that seniors could sit down and chat with friends, fill out important paper work, and enjoy the refreshements that were provided.

Senior Ryan Canter thought that the way the event was organized made it incredibly easy for seniors to get what they needed. “I thought the way it was organized was helpful. It gave you an easy view of what you needed to do for graduation. The food was delicious and everyone was nice and helpful, the music was a great touch.”

The vendors who were present at the event were Balfour (selling class rings and graduation announcements), The Alumni Association, The Career Development Center, The Campus Store, The Financial Aid Office, The Registrar, and The Student Activities Office. In an attempt to make certain that seniors visited all of these stations, they were given a raffle ticket that had to be signed by each vendor in order to be entered in the drawings.

Overall, the event, which allowed seniors to order their cap and gown, buy alumni memorabila, get resume and cover letter help, and prepare for graduation, appeared to be made as helpful as possible.  “I’ve only been here 5 minutes and I’ve already gotten a lot of help,” said senior Jay Massey.

Leslie Urgo Advocates for a Beautiful Campus with the Arboretum Society

This past month, the St. Mary’s Arboretum Association sent a campus-wide email asking students, faculty, and staff what they would like to see in terms of Arboretum projects in the future.

The Association decided to conduct this survey because they want the entire campus to have a say in the types of projects they will be taking on in the future. “We want the arboretum to be responsive to everyone in the campus community, students, staff, faculty, alumni, and neighbors—everyone! We thought that now, just as we’re getting seriously under way, would be the best time to see what kinds of new plantings the community was interested in,” said Professor of Biology William Williams. The questionnaire generated 29 returns, seven from faculty, five from staff, 15 from students, one from Historic St. Mary’s City, and one from an unidentified source.

The questions asked were generated by the collections and acquisitions committee of the Arboretum. This subcommittee consisted of Williams, Professor of Biology; Holly Gorton, Curator of the National Arboretum Herb Garden; and Christine Moore, a St. Mary’s alumna. According to Williams, the groups created a draft of the questionnaire which they then sent to be approved by the Arboretum Committee as a whole.

Leslie Urgo, a volunteer and committee member of Arboretum, stated that a majority of the responses received from the questionnaire were positive; however, one response that was received from an unknown responder suggested that the committee “spend the goddamn money on scholarships for smart people…” A student also suggested that the Arboretum was a waste of funds for the school. “These are separate pools of money [scholarship funds vs. Arboretum funds]. All we are trying to do is spend that [Arboretum fund] money as smart and as inclusive for students, faculty, and staff as possible,” said Urgo in response to these criticisms.

As for the suggestions that were received, many of them are initiatives that are either already on campus or planned by the society in the upcoming year. Some of these suggestions were to plant hybridized American chestnut trees which is planned for Fall 2012, plant edibles for students to “snag,” i.e. apple trees, which is in process this Spring. While all of the suggestions were helpful and appreciated, according to L. Urgo not all of them were practical given the practices of the Arboretum. She stated that the Arboretum wants to show the beauty of the St. Mary’s campus without using invasive plant species and while still being cognizant of the river. “We have to be really good stewards of this Earth…we won’t plant anything that requires pesticides or spraying,” said L. Urgo.

With the creation and expansion of the Arboretum, L. Urgo is glad to have the help of the grounds-keeping staff and their expertise. “To me it’s very exciting. One thing I love about this is our grounds department and power plant. They are kind of our unsung heroes in all of this,” said L. Urgo. Not only have these staff members been planting and up-keeping the current projects, they have also attended events held by the Arboretum.

For students who wish to get involved in the workings of the Arboretum, the committee is always looking to sponsor student projects like they have with senior Jessica Ditillo’s healing garden and the Eco House project being set up this spring. There will be committee seats for students opening up this upcoming fall and those interested should contact Leslie Urgo.

Upcoming Events held by the society are as follows: March 28 there will be a planting in front of Alumni House, April 4 edible plants will be planted in the Daugherty Palmer Commons area, and May 3 there will be a native plant workshop held in the library.

Forum Educates on the Experiences of English Language Learners in Schools

On Saturday, March 3, the Student Education Association (SEA) and senior Lauren Martin hosted the SEA Spring Forum called “The Evolving Education of English Language Learners.” Faculty from St. Mary’s College, along with other educational professionals from outside the College, visited to discuss their various experiences with English Language Learners (ELLs).

Katy Arnett, Associate Professor of Educational Studies, gave the opening speech for the forum in French. Most people in the audience did not speak French, so this gave them the experience of what it is really like to be an ELL. ELLs are students in English-speaking schools whose first language is not English. Some have some experience with English before starting school, while others may have none at all.

Six speakers came to the forum to discuss different topics related to ELLs. Students and faculty participating in the forum were able to choose three different speakers to listen to during the three breakout sessions. The sessions were separated by 15 minute breaks, during which participants could eat snacks and discuss what they had learned.

Assistant Professor of English Brian O’Sullivan delivered a lecture called “The Complexities of English,” during which he explained how difficult English can be to learn because of all its grammar and spelling complexities. We are “free and irregular in how we form words,” said O’Sullivan. English words are often spelled based on the language they originate from. Since words can originate from such different languages as French, Latin, and German, they can widely differ in spelling.

“There is so much memorization involved in learning English,” said O’Sullivan as he discussed the different ways words can be spelled. An example he gave was the different sounds the letters “ough” can make in different words like tough, though, and through.

In addition to learning English, ELLs also have to learn how to properly write an essay in a way that is accepted by English speakers. The American way of formatting a paper is to start with a thesis or argument, and then end with a conclusion. According to the French, if the thesis is presented at the beginning, there seems to be no reason to keep reading past the thesis. And for Asian writers, it is most common to start with a proverb instead of the essay writer’s individual logic.

Joanna Bartow, Associate Professor of Spanish, delivered a breakout session called “Experiencing Submersion.” For the first 15 minutes of her session, she communicated with participants purely in Spanish, whether or not they had any Spanish proficiency. Bartow asked students to read and interpret a short article written in Spanish and answer questions about the article in Spanish.

“The whole point was to do everything in Spanish,” said Bartow. “How did you feel?” Participants said they felt bored, frustrated, confused, lost, and stupid. “It’s tiring to speak Spanish all day even when you’re a Spanish major… What happens when a child is in this situation for the entire school day?”

Students in a classroom who do not understand the primary language being spoken may become bored, leading them to daydream or even misbehave. They are sometimes disruptive just because they do not understand what is going on and feel frustrated. This leads some teachers to believe these students are troublemakers and not give them the patience they may need to effectively learn English.

Associate Professor of Educational Studies Angela Johnson, along with Flavio, an ELL from Mexico, delivered the breakout session called “Family Experiences of ELLs.”

Flavio introduced the session by talking about his experience as a student starting school in the United States without any prior knowledge of English. “I was really nervous… People were saying ‘hi’ but I didn’t know what they were saying so I just said ‘yeah.'” His teacher gave him flash-cards to learn English, but with no knowledge of how to interpret English spelling, the flash-cards were not very helpful.

After a few years, Flavio was able to become proficient in spoken English, but he still had trouble writing essays and understanding other academic assignments. “His teachers have a really hard time believing that he doesn’t have academic proficiency,” said Johnson. Flavio’s teachers wrongly assumed that because he could talk well, he could also easily do everything else involved with school.

Having non-native students in the classroom brings in interesting and unique experiences. “Teaching kids from all over the world made me into a much more interesting person,” said Johnson.

The forum’s closing panel discussion was hosted by senior Lauren Martin and involved Katy Arnett, Montgomery County ESOL teacher Katie Siguenza, and St. Mary’s County Physical Education teacher Sabra Szczyglowski.

“Only about 13 to 15 percent of teachers have had any professional development in working with ELLs,” said Arnett. “SMCM is the only school in the state requiring ESLAC [English as a Second Language Across the Curriculum].”

Szczyglowski talked about the difficulties that come with having an ELL in the classroom without the proper training in how to work with them. “You don’t realize what you don’t have until you need it,” she said.

“At my school, we have 21 different countries represented, and 19 languages,” said Siguenza. “They have to produce in two years the same as a proficient student [would in English].”

After Martin finished leading the panel, students and faculty in the audience participated in a question and answer session with the panel members. Students seemed to enjoy the forum and left with a much better understanding of the experiences of ELLs in public schools across the country.

Community Campaigns for Staff Living Wages

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the Living Wage Campaign hosted a Living Wage Forum to discuss the campaign with faculty, students, and staff.

The forum was held in Schaefer Hall 109, and by 4:15 the hall was packed and chairs were filled. The key speakers were Caroline Selle ’12, Kevin Paul ’12, Associate Professor of Mathematics David Kung, and Associate Professor of Philosophy Sybol Anderson.

Selle and Paul began the forum by discussing what exactly living wage is and how it differs from how minimum wage is defined. “[Living Wage] differs from minimum wage because minimum wage is determined by politics and living wage is determined by how much it costs to live, [which includes] housing, food, etc.” said Paul.

They also presented testimonies from staff members who have faced economic hardships because they lack the financial stability. Selle stated that many staff members have had to take on a second job and many qualify for food stamps. The testimonies ranged from stories of taking in an extra boarder to forgoing needed prescriptions because they were unaffordable. “As you can see from these testimonies, there are a lot of people in this community who are suffering,” said Paul.

After the presentation of staff testimonies, Selle and Paul went on to dispel some rumors about what implementing a living wage at the College would mean for students in terms of tuition. What was stressed by both parties is that a living wage does not necessarily mean a tuition raise, and that students should not feel as though they are powerless to help this cause. “Big decisions that have been made on this campus have come from student initiative,” said Paul, who also incited last year’s Chick-Fil-A debate as a time when student activism created campus change.

When Kung took the floor, he began by setting up a scenario for his portion of the forum. He presented the monthly budget for a single mother living in St. Mary’s County who makes the average staff salary of $24, 500 per year and has an eight-year-old daughter. Kung went through the budget step by step using major monthly expenditures like health insurance, rent, childcare, vehicle expenses, and food. Kung did real research to generate the numbers he used, and he looked on websites like Craigslist in order to calculate expenses such as rent. “…I kept trying to do this [budget] and I kept running out of money,” he said. One thing that Kung made a note of while he was presenting was that his fictional child was eligible for reduced school lunches. He said he found it interesting that the state would pay for his fictional child to have lunch but would not pay him a high enough salary so that he could provide that lunch.

After he covered the “essential” bills, Kung’s budget left him with only twenty dollars for the remainder of the month. According to Kung, this twenty dollars still needs to cover clothing, home goods, car repairs, computer, Internet, cable, field trips, credit card debt, and retirement. “All I have left to spend on these things is $20.00 a month…this is what a living wage isn’t to me, this is not a living wage a single parent can live on…I think we have enough in our budget to offer a living wage to our staff on campus,” said Kung.

The next section of the forum was held by Anderson who discussed the moral questions associated with the implementation of a living wage at St. Mary’s. “I was asked to call our attention to the moral question [of the living wage] because there is a moral question,” said Anderson. When she examined this issue, Anderson came up with an argument for the implementation of the living wage, as well as an argument against the implementation of a living wage.

For both, she cited the St. Mary’s mission statement. “Our commitment to social responsibility and civic-mindedness,” was what Anderson cited as an argument for the implementation of a living wage. However, on a similar token, Anderson also used the St. Mary’s mission statement to argue against the living wage. Not implementing a living wage shows “fiscal responsibility.”

“We see institutions balancing budgets by firing people. To keep fiscal integrity some of the lowest paid staff members will be let go,” said Anderson. When she completed her presentation, Anderson opened up the forum for discussion.

The discussion generated many different points of view, but it appeared as though a majority of the people in attendance were for implementing a living wage. One of the largest points of contention appeared to be the salaries of certain campus Vice Presidents being above average of those with similar positions at St. Mary’s peer institutions.

However, not all in attendance were in favor of asking those who make the most to cut their salaries. Associate Professor of English Kate Chandler suggested cutting faculty salaries so that the college could pay staff a living wage. “…We never said anything about faculty, about cutting faculty salary. I can tell you what I make and it’s not that much, but it’s more than a living wage. I think we need to ask ourselves [faculty, to take a pay cut] not just the administration. I’m just not comfortable with that,” she said.

When the discussion turned to the possibility of raising tuition, Hortensia “Tensia” Montoya ’12 stated that she feels as though students have already been asked to give enough. “Every year that students take a tuition increase, we take a hit for this. I don’t think it’s right to think solely about a tuition increase,” said Montoya.

The steps that are being proposed by the Living Wage Campaign are ones that will either raise the living wage at the College to either $29,000 a year, which means $200,000 would be needed to make it possible, or raise it to $35,000, which would require $500,000. Kung stated that if tuition were to be increased by 1% there would be enough funds to cover this across the board, though this is simply one suggestion.

If you are interested in learning more about the Living Wage Campaign, meetings are held every Monday at 8pm. If you are interested in seeing the college budget, it has been posted on the portal following the St. Mary’s Day discussion.

News-in-Briefs: Gass Accepts Assistant IT Vice President Position

On Monday Feb. 20 it was announced via email that Dr. Michael Gass accepted the position of Assistant Vice President of Information Technology.

According to an email sent by Vice President of Business and Finance, Tom  Botzman, Gass will serve as “Chief Information Officer and will oversee the help desk, academic computing, web application support, administrative computing, and user support with technology.” Gass has served as Interm Director of Campus Technology Support Services and Chief Information Officer since August 2011. Previoulsy, Gass served at Central Washington University.

As Gass takes his position he states that he believes that one of the largest technological problems on campus is slow internet and not having wireless throughout the campus. “ We’re going to work on negotiating with the vendor and speed up the internet three-fold by the next fall, and then five-fold by the fall after that. There is also a committee that will be formed that will to get better wireless internet, for the residence halls as well. In addition, prior to when I started as Interim Director six months ago, the Help Desk was outsourced, but people were unhappy with that so I cancelled that contract and returned the Help Desk to campus. I plan on staffing the Help Desk with both students and staff,” he said.

Another major undertaking that Gass will take on as he settles into his new position is to do simpler tasks like fine tune Blackboard and start a “Wiki-an online self help of information so people can easily learn how to do certain things,” he said.

News in Brief: Senior Class Discusses Gala, Class Gift

On Feb. 9, the class of 2012 held a class meeting to discuss some of the upcoming changes and events that will be taking place as graduation approaches. Two of the many concerns faced by the senior class are the issue of what the senior class gift to the school will be and the change of Gala venue.

There were several different suggestions on what the senior class gift should be to the school. Two of the suggestions that seemed to carry some weight were having either a welcome sign or a gateway at the entrance to the school. According to what was said at the meeting, the idea of having a more aesthetically pleasing entrance way has been on the table as a possible class gift for sometime and the senior class would like to take it on and make it a reality.

Associate Vice President for Planning and Facilities Charles “Chip” Jackson was present at the meeting to disscuss the logitics of such a gift. “We’ve talked for many years about ways to announce the arrival of [St. Mary’s]…this is an idea, of announcing you’ve arrived at St. Mary’s,” said Jackson. Besides a gate or a walkway, the senior class also discussed donating banners to the school that could be kept up all year round. Though all of these ideas could be potential gifts, there are still things that have to be considered before making a decision. The challenges of such a project would be the archealogical aspect and the time it would take to build some of the suggestions.

For the most part there seemed to be a positive reaction towards the gift ideas; however, some students wanted to have a gift that would serve to help many people on campus. “Just making an aesthetic change doesn’t seem to be a huge legacy for 2012,” said senior Jessica Ditillo. Instead she suggested another idea of setting up a living wage fund or setting up a fund for staff paid below living wage until the state freeze is lifted. Though this was an idea, again, there were logistical aspects to consider.

While the class gift was a major issue, it was not the only one that needed to be addressed. For the first time in several years, Senior Gala will not be held at the Broome Howard; instead this year’s Gala will be held at Woodlawn. The Gala’s location has been changed for financial reasons and the new location will have no extra costs to seniors. The executive board is not yet sure what the cost of tickets will be but they should not be more than they have been in previous years.

For more information about the class of 2012, visit the class website for upcoming dates and important dates.

SEAC Attends Keystone Pipleine Protest at White House

This October St. Mary’s Environmental Action Commission (SEAC) attended a rally in protest of the building of the Keystone pipeline. The specific rally involved 10,000 people encircling the White House. “The original goal of the action’s organizers was 3,000 so we surpassed it by more than three times. We brought about 20 people from St. Mary’s, most of whom were involved with SEAC and the Maryland Student Climate Coalition. We attended a rally in Lafayette Park, where Bill McKibben, Mark Rufalo, and others addressed the crowd,” said SEAC President, Caroline Selle.

This rally was only one of several that have taken place throughout the year, and students from St. Mary’s have gotten involved in several different ways.  Selle became involved after hearing about the effects of the pipeline while working for an environmental organization in D.C. “I didn’t know what they were and started to do a lot of research. It turns out that they’re pretty horrible and with climate change and the risk of oil spills, pose a big danger to public health,” said Selle. Since then Selle, alongside other members of the St. Mary’s community, have been working towards convincing the Obama administration to put a halt towards the building.

At the October rally, the protesters finally made some headway. Obama announced that the project would be re-reviewed. “I’d like to see more pressure put on Obama to make decisions in reaction to environmental justice issues rather than corporate interests. I think the pipeline protests were a big step in the right direction but not a complete victory, and there’s still a lot more to do,” said Selle. If you would like to know more about the pipeline you can go to tarsandaction.org.

President Urgo Plans Forum on Racial Issues Next Semester

On November 21 a campus wide e-mail was sent out from President Urgo discussing an incident that occurred in the beginning of the semester. The incident involved the false accusation of an African-American student on campus by a Caucasian student and has lead to a discussion on race relations around campus. In response to this incident President Urgo stated in his e-mail that “Plans are underway for a president’s forum next semester, to discuss the state of racial and ethnic exchange on campus—as well as differences rooted in sexuality and disability.”

The forum will take place next semester and is currently being headed by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Laura Bayless, and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Beth Rushing. According to President Urgo, Bayless and Rushing are currently, “putting together a planning committee of students, faculty, and staff [to head the forum].” While the forum will not be taking place this semester , it appears as though the forum will take place in either January or February of  2012 to coincide with the start of the Spring semester.

Though it may seem that the incident that occurred at the beginning of the semester prompted the forum, in reality it is a conversation that President Urgo believes the campus should have had some time ago. “It’s [a talk about diversity] has been thought about before. The legislation that started the school charges us with providing academic excellence for all and promoting cultural diversity. We are overdue [in] having talks about culture, race, and ethnicity on campus,” said Urgo. Not only is it his belief that these discussions have been overdue but also the belief of members of the campus community. “Students, staff members, and faculty are calling for it. I know it’s been talked about by BSU, Lenny Howard, and faculty with interest in this area,” said Urgo.

President Urgo believes that by having a more open form of discussion about cultural diversity and race on campus, all students will once again begin to feel part of the St. Mary’s community. “Some students report not feeling as at home on campus and some don’t see the big deal. Some students have never had to deal with that [feelings of discomfort], and others think about it all the time. Those are the two groups that need to talk to one another,” said Urgo.