Interim Dean Selected, Ready to Bridge Gap

On Feb. 24, President Urgo sent out an all-campus email informing the College community that Laura Bayless would be stepping down from her positions as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the end of the academic year. Five days later, however, Urgo sent another email explaining that Bayless had left her position and would be on leave the rest of the semester.

Then, on March 19 President Urgo sent an all-campus email informing the Campus community that Roberto Ifill would serve as interim Dean of Students for the academic year 2012 –2013.

Officially, Ifill will begin his tenure as interim dean in July, but he has already begun preparing for his new position. “[I’ve] been getting familiar with people…[and] meeting with the senior staff,” said Ifill.

This is not the first time that  Ifill has been in an administrative position, particularly one focusing on student life. Throughout most of his career, he has worked in higher education, serving many different roles such as analyst, arbiter, and planner. For the early part of his career, he was, “involved in academic advising,” as well as student life issues ranging from roommate conflicts, parking, mental health, and transitioning to post-graduate independence. He also served as Dean of First Year Students and Assistant Dean of the College at Williams College.

He served as an Assistant to the President of Macalester College as Chief Diversity Officer with a specialty in multiculturalism. He was instrumental in coordinating and implementing campus responses to highly charged incidences and subsequent campus shutdowns. One such incident involved racist graffiti displayed outside a student’s room.

While at Connecticut College, Ifill served as Dean of Planning, Associate Dean of the College, and Assistant to the President. He entered Connecticut College with the intention of developing a strategic plan but ended up developing an evaluation and self-report for the college’s accreditation requirement. While developing this report, Ifill said, “I worked with student life,” on many of accreditation metrics related to students.

It wasn’t until Ifill began working for the Mellon Foundation did he learn about St. Mary’s. The foundation works with liberal arts colleges around the country and  Ifill said he was intrigued by the reputation and success of the college. Upon further investigation, Ifill said his first thoughts of St. Mary’s were, “This is a wonderful kind of institution…with great management.” Since 2008, Ifill has served as a visiting professor of economics.

Although he only has a year as Dean,  Ifill sees this as a great opportunity for himself and the college. Ifill said this transition allows the student life division to find out, “who do we [student affairs] want to be…[and provide] a wonderful year long transition…making it a great job” for the next Dean of Students.

Ifill described himself as a “bridge” making “…a real connection between student affairs and the rest of college.” Ifill said President Urgo is “very supportive,” and “excited” about his year-long tenure and that he wants, “people in these offices to feel connected to the educational objectives [and opportunities] of the college.”

Ifill provided three goals for his time in office: “providing a good transition”; “connections [and] integrations”; and multiculturalism. He said “thriving on diversity” allows the College to form community. Referring to his passion for music, he said, “harmony depends on diversity…without diversity, harmony would just be a single chord.”

On promoting diversity,  Ifill said, “Let’s amplify [diversity]” by employing more campus programming (such as St. Mary’s Here and Now), early warning systems and peer counseling to help prevent at-risk students from “slipping through the cracks”; and student leadership initiatives such as those put forward by De Sousa Brent scholars.

Ifill anticipates his biggest challenge being, “to make sure I’m in real, regular contact with everyone,” while also making sure the student voice is heard effectively. He anticipates his biggest success being that, “all the finalists will really want to come here.”

The Individual Mandate and a Precarious Balancing Act

On March 23, 2010, Congress passed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” Two years later, the Obama administration is sweating out the Supreme Court’s consideration of the law. While some thought the Supreme Court may kick the can down the road by ruling on a technicality based on the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, it seems based on the three days of oral arguments that the justices plan to issue a substantive ruling.

The biggest thorn of constitutionality comes from the, “individual mandate,” provision which requires all individuals to obtain minimal essential health insurance coverage or pay a ,“penalty,” unless exempted by religious beliefs or financial hardship. This provision is important in controlling costs as the theory of insurance relies on large numbers or pools of people to spread the risk and costs. What better way to increase the pool than making it a legal obligation? One of the reason single-payer public health insurance is advantageous is it would put all Americans in one risk pool instead of the costly fragmented numerous insurance pools dominating the country now.

So then how should the Supreme Court rule on the individual mandate? Both the plantiffs and the government have good arguments for the constitutionality of the mandate. The plantiffs argue that while Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the statutory individual mandate requires consumers to enter the private market and purchase a private good, more a regulation of individual behavior than interstate commerce.

Furthermore, state regulations and inability of interstate insurance competition forces individuals to purchase insurance from a few, large, in-state insurance providers. This reality reinforces the idea that Congress is not regulating interstate commerce in this instance since consumers can’t purchase insurance across state lines. A dangerous precedent of government mandates into individual behavior could take root if this provision is found constitutional.

However, the government gave its two-cents as well. Solicitor General Verrilli argued that health insurance and health care are two inseparable and indistinguishable markets. All citizens consume health care at some point and those without health insurance tend to make expensive hospital visits. Those hospital visit costs are passed along to insurance holders through higher premiums.

There is also the normative argument that health insurance is a good consistent with the theory of government correction of market imperfections and should therefore be removed as a private commodity. While health insurance may not be a pure public good in that it’s non-rival and excludable, goods tend to be publically provided if private market provision leads to excessive inefficiency. It can be reasonably argued that private health insurance creates a significant market imperfection through its external marginal costs of waste, subsequent deadweight loss of uninsured individuals, and wasteful healthcare spending. If the justices assume this position, then it becomes more acceptable to allow Congress to force individuals to purchase or consume a public good over a private good.

But, the reality of the health insurance market is it is a private commodity for some and a public good for others and therefore it becomes difficult to rely on an argument of this nature.

So which argument is more salient? I believe both arguments have their merits and I’m truly unsure which one is stronger. I personally believe in health insurance as a publically provided good and thus have a hard time rejecting the government’s argument but also I accept the plaintiff’s argument too on Constitutional limits.

The Supreme Court should take this opportunity to clean up the mess of 14th Amendment and Commerce Clause precedents. In the 1870s, the Court ruled that the 14th Amendment does not apply to private businesses (agents of the states). Thus, in the 1960s, Congress and the Court used the Commerce Clause to enforce civil rights legislation instead of the 14th Amendment. By reversing the precedents of the 1870s over the 14th Amendment, the Court could return the Commerce Clause to its proper use without perverting civil rights. A new precedent of the 14th Amendment would allow for an individual mandate to stand on firm Constitutional ground and provide the benefits of expanded coverage to society.

Given the history of haphazard jurisprudence emanating from the Supreme Court, this outcome is very unlikely and the fate of the individual mandate hangs in the balance.

The Economic Depression of "The Hunger Games"

I haven’t read “The Hunger Games” nor the other two books in the series. But like most Americans, I substituted reading the novel with watching the movie. The movie was a great film filled with rich character development, consuming plot points, romance, and heart-wrenching violence. I assume the books are just as enthralling, if not more so. Although I have not read the next two books nor read the Wikipedia entries on them, I can assume with 95 percent certainty that their will be no more tributes, no more reapings, no more rankings, and no more games because of one scary thing: severe economic depression.

The President and senior government officials of Panem must have slept through ECON 101 back in their heyday at District 13 University (or maybe they were too busy rebelling). Minus The Capitol, Districts 1 through 12 have to suffer through the awfulness of pre-industrial agrarian economies. Many economists estimate that the GDP per capita of Districts 1 through 12 is a measly one loaf of bread, a two pound bag of berries, and one haunch of squirrel meat (approximately $7) whereas the GDP per capita in The Capitol is three supersonic trains and one eccentric wardrobe (approximately $36 million). Whereas The Capitol is home to approximately eight million people, all 12 districts house the other 300 million Panemians. Some welfare economists estimate the gini coefficient of Panem to be approximately .992.

The economic structure of Panem creates a net loss of human capital each year as some of the countries brightest and innovative entrepreneurs are forced to kill each other. Even human capital superstars like Katniss Everdeen are used inefficiently as her labor specialization lies far away from coal-mining, the main economic activity of her district (12). The Capitol has removed virtually all capital and labor incentives and has suspended all investment and capital flows to the outlying 12 districts. In District 12, for example, The Capitol has forced a labor intensive coal-mining operation where historical economic records note that before the rebellion District 12 grew at an average rate of six percent thanks to its capital intensive economy. The few Capitol scholars who say more than “punishment for the rebellion” when asked about District growth rates said District 12 is one of its more promising cases, growing at -26 percent every year.

Eventually, the inefficient allocation of resources to labor-intensive operations will skyrocket costs so the high the CBO estimates that Panem’s unemployment rate will increase from 35 percent to 62 percent. Real wages have been so depressed for years that consumption and savings levels are at historic Panem lows. Because the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is approximately one, the citizens of Districts 1 through 12 have fallen into the “poverty trap.” With such low levels of consumption and savings, and subsequently output, the tax base will shrink incredibly. This shrinkage will force The Capitol to dramatically increase marginal tax rates for its citizens from zero percent to 91 percent, a level not seen since the Kennedy administration, which will eventually cause severe contractions of capital, investment, and labor because of the low-value of work and the high level of leisure. The inevitable substitution effect will eventually cause The Capitol to resemble something like a Hooverville.

Because of the massive income inequality and severe economic control, Panem will plunge into depression and no more hunger games will occur. Many political theorists expect the social unrest caused by the death of Rue and Thresh as well as by the civil disobedience of Katniss and Peeta’s simultaneous nightlock berry suicide attempt to accelerate the inevitable Great Depression of Panem. Political theorist Michael Doyle argues that only with liberal democracies can economic opportunity flourish. Citizens of Panem may want to Occupy The Capitol with copies of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Otherwise, the Great Depression of Panem will end the Hunger Games as we know it and Lionsgate Films will be out of $300 million in box office sales.

Seahawks' Defense Suffocates Hood

On Wednesday, January 25th, the St. Mary’s men’s basketball team defeated Hood College in an 18-point defensive battle. With a score of 64 to 46, the Seahawks  dominated in Cole Arena with 25 defensive rebounds, 13 turnovers, 10 steals, and 8 blocks (a season high).

Sophomore forward Christian MacAuley and junior guard Chris Hutchinson led the Seahawk offensive with MacAuley scoring 16 points with 9 rebounds and Hutchinson scoring 13 points including going 2-of-2 on 3-pt. shots.

The Seahawks never trailed at any point throughout the game with the closest instance being a game-tying shot by Hood at 17:03 in the first half. Sophomore guard Brendan McFall anchored the Seahawk’s defense by leading the team in defensive stats with 5 defensive rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 5 turnovers.

Overall this season, the Seahawks are 14-5 (.737) with a conference record of 8-2 (.800). The victory over Hood College marks the third consecutive win by the Seahawks. Junior captain and forward Jeff Haus said, “We have been fortunate enough to win a good amount of games this season and intend on winning a whole bunch more by the time it’s all over.”

As a captain, Haus understands the pressure on his team to succeed. “[I] need to be able to ‘rally the troops’ and get everyone working towards common goal,” said Haus. Over the past two seasons, the Seahawks are 2-time CAC champions and have advanced to the NCAA’s “Sweet Sixteen” and “Elite Eight” tournament rounds respectively.

“We want to be perfect, and perfection in our eyes only comes when we win a championship.  If we continue to play together, play hard, and have fun, we see no reason why we can’t make a legit run in the post-season,” said Haus.

The Seahawks’ defense has certainly been stifling this year. With an average of 70.9 points allowed per game, the 2011 – 2012 Seahawks’ defense is on pace to allow only 1773.7 points on the season (the lowest amount in the past five seasons). Furthermore, the team’s average defensive stats (defensive rebounds, steals, blocks, and turnovers) per game total is 54.6, its second highest in the past five seasons.

“Coach Harney has done a great job with this program thus far, and I believe St. Mary’s will have a competitive team for years to come,” said Haus.

Mold Forces Students to Move Out of Dorms

UPDATE WEDNESDAY, OCT. 19 9:23 p.m.: In an email to students, Goldwater and Jackson report that test conducted yesterday show the third floors of Prince George and Caroline Halls are not safe for students. Students residing in those halls will be required to move as well. 159 students in addition to the 191 students already being moved must leave.

The email also asks residents of four-person townhouses willing to take on an additional person in exchange for compensation should contact Goldwater (

CORRECTION TUESDAY, OCT. 18 8:28 p.m.: Shuttles will be available until 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday, not 2 p.m. as originally reported.

UPDATE TUESDAY, OCT. 18 6:38 p.m.: Students being moved off-campus will be staying at [Removed for safety concerns] in California, MD, according to Kelly Schroeder, Assistant Dean of Students. Schroeder and the Student Activities office has been tasked with coordinating transportation for the 100+ students who will be moving to the two hotels.

Students may move as soon as Wednesday Oct, 19. and all students must leave the first and second floors of Caroline and Prince George dorms by Friday Oct. 21.  “Students may return on Saturday to pack belongings. Impacting student’s academic schedule as little as possible is important for us,” she said. Schroeder also said the college is planning for students to be dislocated for 4-6 weeks.

“We will be running continuous service between campus and the hotels Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to midnight and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” said Schroeder. She added that students using personal cars will be compensated for gas.

The transportation will include campus vans and a coach bus. The use of campus vans will impact clubs ability to use the vans including SafeRide. During the period of dislocation, SafeRide will run with only one van.

President Urgo informed parents via email today of the situation saying, “We now have no choice but to relocate students in order to protect their health and well-being. […] I sincerely regret the inconvenience students will experience.” The email also included a link to a new page of the Residence Life website where future updates will be posted. Schroeder said those answering phones are being given detailed information and have been told to direct calls regarding the mold and move out to one of the key contact people.

CORRECTION TUESDAY, OCT. 18 3:22 p.m.: Students will not be housed at the Days Inn as previously reported. The College has yet to release the name or names of hotels where students will be housed.

UPDATE: On Monday, Oct. 17, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater and Associate Vice President of Facilities, Charles Jackson, informed students in both the first and second floors of the Caroline and Prince George dorms they will be moving out in the next few days while two mold remediation teams work to remove the mold. “We don’t have an exact time frame but we are making arrangements for a month,” said Goldwater.

Samples returned after last week’s cleaning still show elevated levels of mold. “That cleaning was not as effective as it should have been. All of the experts are slightly baffled,” said Jackson. The decision to move students out was made today after consulting with an Occupational Physician who told the college that while an emergency evacuation is not required, the college should move students out sooner rather than later, according to Jackson.

Students will be moved into all vacancies on-campus including converting some doubles into triples and study rooms into quads. The remainder of students will be housed off-campus at the Days Inn. Of the 191 students being moved, approximately 110 will be moved to the off-campus hotel, according to Jackson.

Goldwater said Residence Life will work to accommodate all requests emailed to Goldwater but by tomorrow afternoon they will begin randomly assigning students to all available housing. Students with cars on-campus will get priority in the Days Inn, though Goldwater said there will be a shuttle service available.

Goldwater and Jackson could not answer questions about compensation. They will be meeting with President Urgo and Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman tomorrow to discuss proper compensation for hardship and gas.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 8:00 p.m., students residing in Caroline Hall and Prince George’s Hall met with Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations Derek Thornton, and Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky to discuss the lingering mold problems in those residence halls.

Last year, students in the Townhouse Greens and Townhouse Crescents also experienced mold problems in their homes. The pervasiveness of the mold “…has been mystifying to us,” said Goldwater. The mold problems in Caroline, especially in the left hall on the first floor, prompted the school to hire an environmental consultant. Upon further inspection, the consultant found the metal grids above the ceiling tiles (between the first and second floors) are rusted indicating moisture above the ceiling tiles.

“We had to get a handle on this,” said Goldwater. Goldwater and Thornton mentioned that Dorchester and Queen Anne’s Halls were checked by the consultant and not much rust was found there. Thornton said that pursuant to the environmental consultant’s recommendations, the school was hiring a building envelope contractor to analyze air and water filtration issues within Caroline and Prince George’s Halls.

“We needed to take a second look [at the mold and] we think it’s important to get it right for [the students],” said Thornton.

Thornton said the envelope contractor will look for drainage, cracks in concrete slabs (which may allow water infiltration), and what moisture is causing the rust. “[We] need to do air cleaning with air scrubbers … they exchange the air,” said Thornton when discussing courses of action to clean the mold.

Additionally, the environmental consultant recommended: 1. re-clean areas where mold counts have been elevated; 2. vacuum the upper side of the ceiling tiles and use air scrubbers; 3. install an air exchange system in the halls; and 4. obtain additional training on mold remediation, response, and foundational moisture issues.

Goldwater said some of the issues stem from “foundation problems” and that likely “it’s been brewing up there for a while.” She said the identification of these severe mold issues has arisen from the hurricane and increased student awareness of mold.

Based on the recommendations of the consultant, Goldwater said all affected rooms will need to be re-cleaned. Contract cleaners will be cleaning all walls, floors, and furniture and will vacuum the space above the ceiling tiles. In order for this to happen, affected students were required to have their rooms packed up and emptied by the night of Friday, Oct. 7.

The school hired Precision Movers to assist with the packing and transporting of students’ belongings to and from the school’s storage space off of Mattapany Road. Physical Plant provided boxes to all affected students to assist with their packing. Students who could not leave campus for fall break were provided temporary housing.

Goldwater and Thornton said cleaning, air scrubbing, and air testing should be completed by Monday, Oct. 10 allowing students to return to their rooms on Tuesday late afternoon or evening. The results of the air sample testing will be shared with affected students on Wednesday, Oct. 12, or Thursday, Oct. 13 (whenever the results arrive).

Additionally, a new air exchange system, new one inch pipe insulation (in place of the current half inch insulation), and foundation repairs (around Caroline, Dorchester, and Queen Anne’s Halls) are projected to be completed throughout the year.

“I don’t know how to say I’m sorry more ways than to say I’m sorry,” said Goldwater when expressing her apologies to students over the inconvenience and existence of persistent mold issues.

The Environmental Hazards Services Laboratories conducted the air sampling of affected dormitory rooms and found the penicillium and aspergillus species of mold. Linda Wallace, Director of Health Services and a registered nurse, said while most molds are not harmful to human health, “…the problem comes when you get an overgrowth.”

Although, “[the mold species] don’t pose a severe health risk” nor are life-threatening, mold can create health issues for individuals with respiratory problems (such as asthma and allergies) or who are immune-system-compromised said Wallace and confirmed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Wallace said mold-sensitive individuals may experience itchy, watery eyes, nasal congestion, runny nose, and in asthma prone individuals, wheezing and cough. If skin contact with some mold species occurs, rashes, hives, or lesions may develop.

Wallace re-assuredly mentioned that these symptoms and side-effects should be minimal (and possibly absent) in a healthy population. She also said there very few, if any, long term health effects of mold, except for possible acute respiratory syndromes in extremely susceptible individuals.

“Making sure [the students] put the vent fan on … reducing moisture … [and] general good housekeeping,” were some tips Wallace provided to help students prevent mold growth. If students exhibit side-effects of mold, Wallace suggested anti-histamines, nasal decongestants, and nasal saline washes as medical remedies to discomfort and ill-health.

Wallace also cautioned students with allergies should be especially careful with foodstuffs and leaving food out and unsealed as it can easily and quickly grow mold. “If it’s green and fuzzy, don’t eat it,” said Wallace.

Some students of Caroline first left hallway were upset and displeased with the entire situation. Sophomore Sami Keyani and residence of Caroline first left hallway said, “[my] reaction to the mold was disgust … [though] the real reaction was [to] the school’s response.”

Keyani said the school was “slow” and that he, his roommate, and many of his hall-mates sent in maintenance requests related to mold within the first few days of moving in. “This should have been [done] on day 5 instead of day 30 … we are very upset [and] my whole hallway is sick,” Keyani said.

Sophomore Michael Pyle and residents of Caroline first left hallway said he was upset and disappointed “about the slow reaction of the school.” Pyle felt the school “tried to act like [the mold] wasn’t a problem.”

“I’m just curious how they’re allocating resources that they can’t help students in one hall … we complained [and] identified the problem,” Pyle said.

As compensation for the mold problems, affected students are being given 15 credits towards housing Keyani said. “Again, I think [the school] handled it very poorly … [and] I don’t think [the 15 credits are] nearly enough,” Keyani said.

In Defense of The St. Mary's Way

Last semester the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Honor Society found an old document in the annals of the school website called the St. Mary’s Way. I don’t remember being handed The St. Mary’s Way when I first came to the College. If I was, it probably was another paper that, I’m sure, ended up in my Orientation folder amidst a large handbook, tips about College life, and a calendar of events. After reading over it once, I doubt I paid much more attention to it then.

So when the discussions regarding The Way came up last year, I wondered what the big deal was, and what this long-forgotten document of mine actually said about what our College holds dear. While a committee “first” discussed it on Feb. 25, The Point News didn’t cover the story until mid-April. By then, ODK had begun discussions of its revisions and President Urgo had voiced his concern about overall civility among faculty, staff, and students.

Although the document is 15 years old, it espouses time-honored campus values of environmentalism, service, diversity, acceptance, honesty and responsibility. Its informal and self-regulating nature reflects the general behavioral ethos of the St. Mary’s community.

It is with these values written that all members of the St. Mary’s community may strengthen their bonds of fellowship and look to what I hope will become a beacon of campus pride, integrity, and guidance.

With two simple words in the introduction, “I accept,” it creates a community standard that students and faculty should recognize. Not only are these recommendations for a happier lifestyle; they’re expectations we should be meeting when we meet people on the path by the pond, spend time with friends on the weekends or at The Pub, or are in class engaging with a professor.

Organizations from the U.S. Senate to The Washington Post have a code of conduct or a mission statement or some other written document that defines the organization. The St. Mary’s Way is paramount because it defines how we as individuals of community become better selves and how we as community unite and profess our values.

Without a document like this, we would be at a loss. The only thing that would group all of us together would be the regulations in To The Point and The Golden Rule, which seem to me to be a little to impersonal for such a close-knit group.

These values are a bedrock for our campus, serving as a lighthouse when we stray from the good of our humanity. While we may not be perfect, we have created a snapshot of our more perfect selves in the St. Mary’s Way.

By excluding the St. Mary’s Way from an incentive structure of rewards and punishment (such as that found in an official honor code or code of conduct), we exemplify the St. Mary’s ideal that intrinsic motivation towards positive fulfillment produces a more genuine self than a system of extrinsic motivation.

Arguing against the St. Mary’s Way seems, to me, a way of saying that changing campus character, and embodying our own set of values, isn’t possible.

As President of Omicron Delta Kappa, I look forward to the continued discussion of campus civility and how we define ourselves.

Dr. Urgo’s desire to rewrite the St. Mary’s Way every few years (starting with this year) with a committee of students from all different walks of campus life builds upon the diversity embraced in the original document and allows our generation of students to tweak and amend the document in order to more properly reflect the image of ourselves.

With a student body rewrite of the St. Mary’s Way, we (ODK) hope the St. Mary’s Way moves  from an ODK event (last year) to a St. Mary’s tradition.

Hillel Lecturer Nancy Matus: Jewish Heritage Through Her Storytelling

On Wednesday, April 6, Nancy Matus spoke to the Hillel Club and members of the public in Schaefer 111. Matus, a retired dermatologist from Easton, PA, is now a Maryland resident and is promoting her debut novel Free like a Bird.

Free like a Bird features Yosef Matsevitsky, a Jew, as the story’s protagonist and Ivan, a gentile, Yosef’s friend and later antagonist. Matus described the book as a coming of age tale filled with adventure elements.

The book’s setting is 1913 Ukraine. Seven-year-old Josef learns of his father’s plan to immigrate to America from Ukraine in hopes of finding a better life. The story follows Yosef and his family over ten years as they struggle to reunite with the father amidst war, revolution, and anti-Semitism.

The story’s climax occurs when the Bolshevik Revolution forces Josef to return home from Kiev to confront Ivan’s betrayal. The story is a fictionalized memoir, based on real events which occurred during Matus’ father-in-law’s childhood.

Matus used her father-in-law’s memoirs and stories to create the characters and situations of the novel. She said she wrote the book in honor of her father-in-law and to educate her grandchildren and great-grandchildren about their Jewish heritage.

Junior Karina Mandell said writing to teach Jewish heritage helps people “understand the context of some of the scenarios. I’m sure it helped her writing and gave it more authenticity. It might have even helped her step outside her culture/familiarity and see how things used to be from a historian’s perspective.” When describing her initial reactions to the author and her book, Junior Gabrielle Cantor said, “I was impressed and curious [about] the amount of detail… [and I] was also impressed by all the different events that she summarized, which occur to this young boy.”

Although her use of a fictional narrative allowed for more literary creativity, Mandell thought “her use of narrative took away from the authenticity of Josef.” Matus played a cassette tape of her father-in-law speaking about his bar mitzvah, which Mandell said, “had much more gore” than the account in the novel.

Matus said one of the difficulties of writing the book was the inability to travel to the cities in the novel to experience the culture and atmosphere. Most of the towns and buildings described in the story were destroyed over the course of both world wars.

Junior Ariel Webster thought that “having gone there [Matus] might have acquired a feel for the landscape at least. At the same time I don’t think it would have added all that much if she had.”

Cantor said, “I have heard many stories similar to this one, but every one is unique and this story is no exception.”


“Seahawk Sprint” Regatta Tests Crew’s Endurance

On Saturday, April 9, the St. Mary’s crew team held its “Seahawk Sprint” down at the waterfront on a cloudy and chilly afternoon.

The Seahawk Sprint is the second regatta the team participated in this spring semester and the seventh regatta the team has participated in during the 2010-2011 school year.

St. Mary’s captured three first place races during the Seahawk Sprint which included the Novice Men’s 4, the Varsity Men’s 4, and the Varsity Women’s 8 races.

Crew is a sport of rowing whereby either four- or eight-rower boats are directed by the coxswain and race over a certain distance in hopes of completing that distance with the shortest time.

Describing her role as a rower, senior Melina Vamvas said she “sits 8 seat, which is the stroke [seat]” and “is only affecting the boat in a positive way.”

Junior Molly Dougherty, a coxswain, said “as a coxswain you’re a motivator…no issues are left off the water.”

Dougherty added that she makes sure everything is taken care of, addresses problems, and makes people comfortable.

However, she said she must “draw the line” between the role of conciliator versus motivator.

This past school year, the St. Mary’s crew team obtained many accolades during their regattas.

At the Wye Island Regatta, the Women’s and Men’s Mixed 8 and Mixed Double teams claimed first place in their four respective races.

At the Occoquan Challenge, the Varsity Women’s 8 team finished second.

Crew Coach Kristin Conlin said she gets her players to succeed through “repetition and focus” and that crew is “not about brute force but pursuing the sport intelligently.”

Conlin added she feels rewarded “when I know the workouts or technical drills positively affect the rowers.”

But the crew team has not always been the perennial contender it is today. Its status as a club sport means it lacks the funding and administrative support varsity sports are given.

Until 2007, the crew team had no paid coach. Conlin started part-time coaching in 2007, saying she “wanted to give back to the team” and the team would “die” without a permanent member, i.e. a coach.

Vamvas said before a coach was present the team was more of a casual group of rowers with much less determination and dedication.

“Coaches made it a team and not just a group of people” said Vamvas.

While club status offers the crew team fewer restrictions and more leeway, it also denies it school funding, out-of-school practices, and official recruiting.

Dougherty said “we work really hard and there is a lot of dedication and talent on this team… [but] it’s not recognized by the school.”

Conlin echoed Dougherty’s sentiment, and said “what the team needs is not just support from the College in words, they need some type of standing influence to make sure we’re able to progress.”

Although the crew team has faced some obstacles over the years, progress is still being made.

“Ten years ago the team could not have imagined [this] caliber of athletes and coxswains,” Conlin said.

Vamvas commented that “[the crew team] turned into a varsity team without being a varsity team.”

With only one race left for the year, Vamvas provided some reflective thoughts on her experiences on crew.

“I’ll miss having 60 best friends every year,” Vamvas said, and advised for rising and future teammates to “have fun” and “have a good row and a good time.”

Vamvas is one of three seniors currently on the team, and one of two seniors who has been on the team for four years.

Dougherty also discussed the socializing aspects of being part of the crew team.

She talked of eating meals together as team, living together with teammates, and generally having primary friends from the crew team.

“It’s a bunch of friends with a bunch of interests of a wide variety” Dougherty said. “We are a boat.”

Said Conlin, “crew has become more of an institution rather a small facet to their larger self.”


Street Talks Poetry and Environmentalism

On Thursday, March 3, Laura-Gray Street, a visitor to artist house, spoke to St. Mary’s students and faculty with poetry about love, family, and the environment in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC).

Professing her love of St. Mary’s pond and shoreline management, Street told students that her use of “scattervision”  when writing poetry was augmented by the St. Mary’s atmosphere.

She began her reading with poems titled “Meet Me at the Speed of Light,” “Vertigo,” “First Lessons of Bee Keeping,” and “Ring Necks.”

“Meet me” entwined the science of genes and natural processes with the search for knowledge and the meaning of soul.

“Vertigo” carried undertones of parenting and its successes; “First Lessons” dealt with the tantric nature of change and youth/growing-up; and “Ring Necks” focused on using the poetry of “other.”

Street’s poetry masterfully mixed scientific fact with artistic exploration. Junior Gursharan Kaur Bawa said her poetry was “really intriguing…[by] mixing science with art.”

Street mentioned that her poetry is driven by, among other things, the examination of human & industrial waste problems versus the beauty and preservation of nature.

Senior Anina Tardif-Douglin said her most pervasive theme was “definitely nature…kind of a fear of the diminishment of nature,” and that “she uses such scientific language and…she makes it sound evocative.”

Street continued her reading with a story of how she hates using syntactic expletives in her poetry but worked hard to write a poem using them as the central poetic device.

She also spoke of her writings of dark poetry which focused on social ills. She wrote on topics such as animal cruelty, war, and childhood delinquency.

Street then read a poem satirizing the existence of a tank stuck in a river for nearly 20 years. She later commented that her love for the environment, being the most foundational theme of her writing, is why she wrote this and many of her other poems.

Senior Sasha Todak said “her poetry reveals environmental issues that become accessible to any person.”

Street concluded her reading with two “ekphrastic poems”: “On Michael Stringer’s Microphotograph: Crain Fly,” and “Goya’s Dog.”

‘Crain fly’ focused on the beauty and complexity of all species, even the smallest and ‘Goya’s Dog’ was more personal with tales of Street’s parents, her family dog, and the power of symmetry in the universe.

Todak said, “It wasn’t just a poetry reading, it was a literary and scientific performance.”


Comedian Serves Up Laughs

On Friday, Feb. 25, comedian Jen Kober provided a healthy helping of humor to St. Mary’s students and staff.

Standing on the St. Mary’s Hall stage, Programs Board Comedian Chair Francis Rodezno gave his usual introduction for Kober, who has been featured on comedy specials for Comedy Central and Showtime.

Kober began her routine by commenting on students’ hometowns. One student mentioned he was from Massachusetts to which Kober said there was “a Dunkin Donuts on every corner.”

She then made jokes about playing video games, particularly her experiences with playing Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Xbox Kinect. After the stories on video games, Kober talked about the stereotypes of Wal-Mart shoppers.

Kober even quipped that her jokes offend these shoppers because one shopper said, “my momma was killed by falling prices!”

Kober then moved into her childhood eating habits, particularly her affinity for cheese. She joked about how she would have to eat all 72 pieces of cheese at once and then convince her mother that she didn’t buy any cheese.

Kober’s signature phrase, “skinny b***h,” was used throughout the night as she as engaged in playful banter with two female students and described her roommate as one too.

First-year Emma Hiner was one of the people Kober referred to as a ‘skinny b***h.’

Hiner said “I thought she was hilarious” and that she “felt right at home with the comment.”

In addition to female audience members, Kober engaged the audience with a few racial stereotypes and her unique Louisiana perspective and attitude.

She then spoke of her travels through Lancaster, PA and the traffic problems caused by Amish horses and buggies.

Kober also talked about the experiences of living with her recently divorced brother, who did a lot of “singing.”

She also joked about her love of Law and Order, using fruit punch and Kool-Aid as drink mixers, and buying a New Orleans house right before Hurricane Katrina.

Sophomore Alex Walls said Kober was “really good, [and] really funny…I think we should bring her back.”

Kober concluded her stand-up with a story about her Las Vegas show, where a female audience member she referred to as a ‘skinny b***h’ pulled a pocket-knife on her in the parking lot.

Senior Jes Harvey, Director of Programs Board, said “I love her; she’s amazing…by far one of our favorites.” Harvey also said she was “wearing my ‘skinny b***h’ hat to show support” for Kober.

Kober’s last line was how she’d prefer overweight people to be described as “hard to kidnap.”