Big Queer Potluck Kicks Off New Initiatives for LGBTQIA Students

On Thursday, Sept. 29 about thirty students, faculty, and staff attended the Big Queer Potluck and Open Forum for Inclusivity on campus. The potluck was the first in a planned series of events intended to embrace LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual) students, faculty, and staff at St. Mary’s. Students discussed their experiences as part of the St. Mary’s campus community, and talked about services addressing the needs of LGBTQIA students that St. Mary’s already provides or that could be added to campus.

The college has begun new initiatives to assess the needs of LGBTQIA students on campus, including the establishment of a review panel comprised of students, faculty, and staff. This review is part of an ongoing action by Student Affairs to improve campus life and community for all students. According to their website, “Student Affairs uses the standards set by the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education to conduct a comprehensive review to ensure that [St. Mary’s is] employing best practices. [These reviews] result in an action plan for ongoing improvement of our services and programs, designing new programs, staff development, strategic planning, [and] budget allocation.”

Laura Bayless, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, advocated for the new review panel of LGBTQIA services and for new staff positions to organize the review process and implement new campus programming directed towards LGBTQIA community needs.

In past years, the college had combined several Student Affairs offices to downsize and streamline the department. However, Bayless said that through this process it became clear that “we didn’t have anybody focused on LGBTQ students,” and the college wants to “give support to as many different students as possible.”

Responsibility for the review process was given largely to Clint Neill, the Assistant Director of Student Activities. According to Neill, the process is still in its early stages, where the review team and its organizers are “trying to come up with what we need to be doing.” Steps toward assessing campus needs may include climate surveys and gathering statistical data about inclusivity on campus in addition to anecdotal information about students’ and staff experience.

As part of the new initiative, Neill is hoping to have an LGBTQIA program monthly, where there are a “mixture of social programs and educational programming for the entire campus community.” These programs could potentially include “films, speakers, and workshops,” Neill said.

Senior Wesley Watkins, the Co-President of St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (S.T.A.R.S.), was hired by the college as the LGBTQ Student Services Program Assistant to assist Clint Neill and the review team. Watkins said, “my job is to assess need on campus as I see it, to provide active and passive programming of relevant issues, and to provide resources and be a resource to anyone that might be interesting in any sort of LGBTQ services.”

Although the review board has taken no specific actions yet, students have expressed an explicit desire for a “focus on the needs of transgender students,” according to Neill. Watkins said, “My particular interest, as a student, not related to my duties to the review team, is what campus policy addresses the following issues: hate crime or bias reporting, the role of Public Safety in LGBTQ student services, transgender students, and gender neutral housing and bathrooms.”

Watkins said, “I love the campus and the student body. We’ve all had our own struggles throughout college. It’s the intersection of newfound independence, fermenting ideas, and wild experiences. As student fellow, there are a lot of opportunities to encourage students to talk about their experiences and advocate for themselves amongst possibly new groups of people. I suppose I [am] most attracted to the idea that I [can] facilitate discussion and help others articulate their struggles.”

Tuition’s Effect on the Diversity of the Student Body

I sat down to write an opinion piece on St.  Mary’s tuition, and after many hours of Facebook, a few days of fall break, and (too many) re-runs of Reba, I realized I wasn’t sure what my opinion was.

I know what I pay to attend St.  Mary’s, and I have a relative idea of what other people pay depending on what state they’re from or possible scholarships that they could have received.  Obviously these can differ a great deal, and in general, there is no lack of demographic groups on campus that I think I could point to. I guess my question was: Since we have a strongly diverse student body, why do our tuition rates matter?

As a sophomore, I have only been on campus for one round of tuition increases. Last year, I remember feeling indignant when I first heard that tuition might increase at St. Mary’s. I had worked so hard to come here—I had filled out countless scholarship applications (and received a few), kept my grades high before and during college (with the exception of any math grades), and became involved in organizations and causes that I cared about. All of my hard work paid off when I received a merit-based scholarship from St.  Mary’s, which is conditional on my performance at St. Mary’s.

Yet, last year tuition rose (by 6%). Housing costs rose for all students, and student fees were increased.  It’s important to remember that while St.  Mary’s is a public school, and should be accessible to any student, St. Mary’s must have a relatively high tuition in order to offer us an education that is similar to other small private liberal arts colleges. So in terms of St. Mary’s tuition revenues, we should recognize that St.  Mary’s does try to do more for us with less than a private school budget.

However, tuition rates for all students, both instate and out of state, affect what kinds of students will be able to afford a St.  Mary’s education. If we want St.  Mary’s to be a diverse community, our tuition and our financial aid need to reflect that goal. Excessively high tuition will alienate students who may feel like they are unable to attend St. Mary’s.

In conjunction with higher tuition, the types of financial aid that are provided to students by St. Mary’s will dictate what kinds of students want to call St.  Mary’s their home. President Urgo has discussed a move towards more need-based aid for students and away from merit-based awards.

However attractive need-based aid may be for students who need it, St. Mary’s needs to provide merit-based aid, too.Merit-based aid encourages hard-working, involved students to join our college, regardless of their financial situation.

A merit-based award shows a student that their academic, extracurricular, and service efforts are valued and desired at St. Mary’s. To some students, like myself, merit-based aid makes up the difference between attending St. Mary’s or another cheaper instate school.

To maintain a student body that is as involved as it is diverse, merit-based aid needs to remain a feature at St .Mary’s. What kind of honors college would we be if we didn’t reward students for all of the hard work that they do?

To answer my own question: tuition rates matter because they will affect the make-up of our student body. We need stable, relatively affordable tuition as well as both need-based and merit-based financial aid. If we are unable to attract hardworking and diverse students to St. Mary’s, as a college we risk losing the active, crazy, intelligent, quirky, and diverse student body that makes us who we are.

Political Science Department Panel Discusses the Legacy of 9/11

Correction: Sahar Shafqat is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, not an Assistant Professor of Political Science as originally reported.

September 11, 2001 was one of those moments in history that everyone will always remember exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing. That day is frozen in time—but what happened afterwards? How did the United States respond to the terrorist attacks? Does this response affect our daily lives? What about our standing in the world?

On Monday, Sept. 12 of this year, the Political Science Department hosted the panel “Ten Years Later: Political Science Reflects on 9/11.” Assistant Professors of Political Science Matt Fehrs and Todd Eberly, along with Professor of Political Science Susan Grogan and Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, Sahar Shafqat, each discussed different impacts of the events of September 11 on politics, policy, and public opinion.

Fehrs discussed President Bush’s reaction to 9/11 and America’s subsequent foreign policy. After September 11, Fehrs said Bush chose “militaristic solutions over diplomacy” because the “U.S. would not wait to be attacked but would seek out threats and attack them.”

As a result, the United States became closer with foreign countries whose policy the U.S. may not agree with in order to better confront terrorism. However, in terms of national security, Fehrs said, “it’s not possible to defeat terrorism.” Terrorism will always exist, but it’s not necessarily a direct or constant threat to our country.

Senior Emily Gershon, a public policy and economics double major, said, “Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the discussion for me was the perspective the professors were able to provide. Growing up in an era of post 9/11 it can easily seem as if we are the first generation to have the fear of terrorism injected into our daily lives, but simply it’s a false feeling.”

Grogan spoke on civil rights in America in the wake of 9/11, and said, “the real support for civil liberties in this post-9/11 world will lie with the people.”

Eberly addressed the ramifications of 9/11 in American politics and policy, and said, “rights [became] for Americans and Americans only, Americans that were not plotting terrorist acts against the United States.” The political climate became increasingly hostile towards non-Americans, or anyone exhibiting ‘suspicious behavior.’

Relating back to Fehrs’ discussion of foreign policy, Shafqat talked about how the United States’ foreign policy influenced the policy and actions of other nations. She said, “Governments around the world are pursuing their own agendas using the language of the War on Terror.” The legacy of the tragic events of 9/11 continues to influence American political policy and thought. America’s actions in the wake of September 11 still affect our status in the world and impact our relations with other nations.

Gershon said, “attending the panel served as a reminder to think of 9/11 on a more global scale and in the greater context of time, as opposed to an isolated incident.”

SMCM Hosts Regatta

There’s something beautiful about seeing sailboats race on the Saint Mary’s River with grace, finesse, and skill. Sailing is a grand tradition at SMCM, where the sailing team frequently places nationally and has produced 150 All-Americans.  This fall, the sailing team is preparing for the start of another excellent season.

This past weekend, on Sept. 24 and 25, SMCM hosted the first major intersectional of the sailing team’s season. An intersectional is a regatta with a large number of teams participating, and it gave the Saint Mary’s team a chance to compete on home turf while SMCM showcases its campus, team, and facilities. Teams sailed FJs and 420s.

The team has competed in five regattas prior to their first intersectional and placed in the top five at four events.

Since sailing is a year-round sport where national competitions take place in the spring, the fall is spent honing important skills that will be needed for the rest of the year. Head Coach Adam Werblow said, “at this time of the year we are trying to get the basic skills up—concentrating on where the boat needs to be and how to do it.”

Director of Sailing Bill Ward says for now, “[we’re] not overly concerned with results, but more with process. People get caught up in results, in small things, and lose track of the big picture.”

Several sailors graduated last year, and at 25 sailors this year’s team “is the smallest [the College has] ever had,” said Werblow. The team is also composed of a large number of first-years and sophomores. Senior Co-Captain Gordon Lumphere said “we have a young team, but a team that has full potential, and experience beyond their years.”

Many sailors will also be switching from crew to skipper to fill roles vacated by seniors that have left the team. Werblow said these are team members that are “good sailors, but now they’ll actually be holding the tiller.  [They have] whole new roles to learn in the boat.”

For the rest of the season, Werblow says the “most [important] thing we want to do is have consistent, single-digit finishes.”

Saint Mary’s finished in second place behind Connecticut College. In sailing, the team with the lowest score wins. At the end of the regatta Connecticut College had a total of 78 points with SMCM finishing 12 points higher with a total of 90 points. Boston College finished in third, Charleston finished in fourth, and Roger WIlliams finished in fifth.

Eighteen sailing teams from the United States and Britain attended the regatta, including St. Mary’s College of Maryland, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy Kings Point, Cornell University, University of Virginia, University of Pennsylvania, Washington College, Old Dominion, Georgetown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Roger Williams University, Connecticut College, Boston College, Vermont, Boston University, University of South Florida, College of Charleston, and the British Universities Sailing Association Tour Team.

Friebele Exhibits "Art After Dark"

On Thursday, Sept. 2, Associate Professor of Art Billy Friebele exhibited his artwork at an event called “Art After Dark” at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. Friebele’s work is often participatory, and one of the pieces shown at “Art After Dark” was created with the help of St. Mary’s Students during a St. Mary’s study tour to Peru this past Summer.

In May, Friebele was one of three SMCM faculty members who led the Andean Study tour to Peru. Students could gain credits for Studio Art, Art History, Latin American Studies or International Languages and Cultures, and took part in several art projects as part of the course work for the trip.

The work that was used in Professor Friebele’s exhibition is a series and a process he calls “Walking as Drawing.” For this project, students were given a map of Cusco, Peru, and told to walk around the city while marking their path on the map. At the end of their journey, they took a picture, and gave both their mapped route and final photograph to Professor Friebele to assemble.

Katie Caffey, a senior art history major on the trip who took part in the assignment, said students “were supposed to get sort of meditatively lost, not actually lost, and experience the walking in a different way.” Students could complete the walk alone or in pairs, and had to navigate a foreign city with their map and basic knowledge they may have had from their time there. Caffey went with a friend on the trip, and said, “There was one part where we were walking, and we got so focused on walking and not really focused on where we were walking that we walked into a not so safe part of town. It was cool looking back on our path on the map, and based on certain paths and lines remember what [our] walk was.”

After students turned in their maps to Friebele, he animated their routes to create a time lapse of their paths and how they interlocked. The “walking” of the students then creates a “drawing” that covers the entire map of the city. This is one of a few “Walking as Drawing” works that Friebele has produced, and the Cusco project is one of four works that was shown at the “Art After Dark” event (animated maps of Miami, D.C., and a city in Indonesia were also shown).

With the students’ project, Friebele said he was interested in seeing “how Americans would move through a foreign city,” and get a “sense of moving around in unfamiliar territory.” The projects as a whole are exciting to Friebele because “you think you’re so free, but you’re being funneled through a larger system in a city.” The animated paths of the city maps in Friebele’s work, including the Cusco work that students participated in, show how individuals’ paths converge, cross, and cover many routes upon city maps in a way that truly defines the city. Friebele also said, “For me, there is something interesting about an art project happening in space, but no one knows you’re doing it—sort of like a secret.”