TPN Special Investigation: Gendered Wage Gap at College

In an investigation into the issue of a gendered wage gap among tenure track faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the data show that by itself there is a significant difference in salaries for males and females.

When statistically factoring in other variables, such as differences in base salaries for different departments and years of service to St. Mary’s, gender does not have a significant effect on salary above and beyond these other factors. However, gender is correlated with the departments that make less on average and to years of service. The departments that on average make less are more likely to have more women in them, and women are less likely to have more years of service teaching.

Specifically, there is a significant negative correlation between gender and years of service. This means that if the numerical variable that was assigned for gender goes ‘up’ (in these tests, males defined as ‘1’ and females as ‘2’) years of service goes down. Being male, then, is correlated with having more years of service at St. Mary’s.

There is also a significant negative correlation between gender and salary: as the variable for gender goes ‘up,’ salary goes down.

Furthermore, there is also a trending significance (i.e., almost significant difference) between gender and department base salaries. This means that if the variable for gender goes ‘up,’ base salaries go down.

Correlation tests examine variables and whether there is any similarity to the data. For example, looking at gender and salary, as salary goes up, gender goes ‘down.’

Gender was separated into male and female and rank was divided into assistant professor, associate professor and full professor, all tenure track or tenured positions. Listings of faculty salaries and rank came from the listings of current salaries of employees at the College which can be found at the library; this and all information used in this investigation are public records or publicly available.

Department base salary was used  as a variable because different departments are paid different amounts of money, and therefore do not have the same base salary. Salaries at St. Mary’s are set according to these types of averages. A base salary is the salary that professors start with when they start in a position. National averages were used as a “baseline” to compare across departments at St. Mary’s.

Department base salaries came from The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website which records national averages of salary in different fields in higher education for 2010-2011. This variable was used to break up professors into departments and enable comparisons of salaries between departments.

For example, the national average base salary for new assistant professors in English departments is $51,786, and the base salary for new assistant professors in mathematics and statistics departments is $56,647.

Years of service at St. Mary’s came from the Academic Catalog website that lists faculty and the year they began teaching at St. Mary’s. This variable was included because of its possible influence on salary as a result of things like intermittent raises and other perks meant to retain faculty.

An independent samples t-test, a common statistical test used to test group differences, was run comparing salaries of males and females in tenure or tenure track positions at St. Mary’s. Results showed a significant difference between the average of the two groups. The mean of females’ salaries was significantly lower (a mean of $66,741) than males’ salaries (a mean of $73,970).

Though not tested for significance, there are differences in the number of males and females in ranks of assistant professor (49 percent female), associate professor (49 percent female), and full professor (39 percent female). There appears to be a gendered imbalance in the highest academic rank.

A stepwise regression with the independent variables years of service, department base salaries, and gender, with the dependent variable of salary, found that gender by itself is not a significant predictor of variance in salary above and beyond the effects of years of service and department base salaries.

Years of service and department base salary each had a significant effect on salary. Considering these two factors, gender doesn’t have a significant effect on how much an individual gets paid.

A stepwise regression, used to examine the relationship years of service, department base salaries, and gender have to overall salaries, is a test that examines gender as a variable related to salary after taking into account the effect of these other factors.

When looking at correlations between department base salary, years of service and gender, however, there are correlations between these variables. There is a very strong significant negative correlation between gender and years of service. This means that gender goes “up,” years of service goes down. There is also a significant negative correlation between gender and salary; if gender goes ‘up,’ or as you are more likely to be female, salary goes down. There is also a trending significance between gender and department base salaries; if base salaries go down, gender goes ‘up.’

Gender does not directly influence salary when taking into account the effects of these other variables. Indirectly, because of the connection between gender and years of service and the connection between gender and base salaries, gender may have an effect on salaries of individuals.

The College has also run tests analyzing the impact of gender on salary. Tom Botzman, vice president of business and finance, said in an email correspondence, “The study was conducted by the Office of Institutional Research [OIR]. The study is conducted annually using base salary as the dependent variable. Independent varialbes [sic] include academic field (department), academic rank, time in rank, and years at the College. We then run it again using a stepwise regression and add gender as a variable. Gender comes back as not significant, indicating no significant difference in salary based on gender as a predictive variable.”

This is the same test that was run for this investigation and came back with the same results. Botzman said that the OIR’s test “contains personnel information that we choose not to release as it identifies employees,” which is why that test was run separately for this investigation.

He also said that though gender is not a significant predictor in this test, this “doesn’t mean that there is not systemic difference or [that salary is] correlated with fields,” which is similar to the correlations and their possible impact on salary found in this investigation.

Looking at the base department salaries listed in The Chronicle for Higher Education, there are differences in average faculty salaries. In national averages, the departments that are paid most are the social sciences (anthropology, economics, sociology, political science), physical sciences (physics, chemistry) and biology; the lowest paid are the visual and performing arts (art, theater, music), English, and philosophy and religious studies.

At St. Mary’s the fields that have the most males are music, physics and economics, and the departments that have the smallest percentage of males are education, art, and sociology, anthropology and psychology.

Professor of history Christine Adams spoke in an interview about broader issues of salary disparity and its relation to gender. She said this issue is related to women in roles of domestic labor who then began to enter the professional workforce. She said, “domesticity [was] not valued for labor…[and this] bled into professions that were dominated by women.” In regards to investigations about gendered salary gaps, she said, “there will always be ways of explaining away any anomaly,” but, “I don’t think St. Mary’s consciously discriminates against women.”

She brought up other factors that may affect the variables that are connected to differences in salaries, such as the choice to have a child. “Some female faculty stop the tenure clock when they have children.”

Liberal arts associate and adjunct assistant professor of the liberal arts Andrew Cognard-Black, who specializes in studying gender and workplace dynamics and has researched job placement and compensation of academic personnel in higher education spoke about the broader issue of gendered salary differences in higher education. He said, “fields that tend to be dominated by women tend to have lower salaries,” and “liberal arts fields tend to make less” than vocational degrees in business, engineering, computer science, etc. because of market demand for those jobs.

Focusing specifically on the issue of gendered wage gaps among faculty at St. Mary’s, Jennifer Tickle, associate professor of psychology said, “the gender wage gap is not something the faculty have talked about much recently in light of more prominent discussions of salary freezes, furloughs, and wage comparisons to other institutions.”

If there are concerns among the faculty about differences in salary, whether based on gender or other issues, she said, “faculty members can request equity adjustment.” She added, however,  that she was “not aware of any equity adjustments that have been requested based on gender wage gaps.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Larry Vote said that faculty “process appeals directly to [the] Provost or me, vice president of academic affairs” about equity adjustments. The faculty member “must provide data…that supports an equity action.” He said there are usually six to ten requests for equity adjustment a year and that perceptions of equality come from “comparisons with peers” and are “focused more broadly on [characteristics such as] like years of service, colleagues in other departments,” rather than gender.

This investigation suggests that salary differences at St. Mary’s may not be directly related to an individual’s gender, but it does bring up other issues that indirectly relate gender to salary, such as the question of why women on average would have fewer years of service, why the fields that are dominated by women tend to pay less on average, and why there are fewer women in the higher academic ranks.

One possible explanation for the difference in tenure track and fewer years of service is the issue of childcare. Women may delay going for tenure in order to take care of or focus more on caring for children. If childcare was more available on college campuses for faculty, staff, and students, this could affect more women earning higher ranks and more years of service and therefore higher pay. This is an issue that merits further research.

Part of the issue may also be that base department salaries in higher education are set off of national averages of salaries. The article “Disciplinary Differences in Faculty Salaries,” published in  the Journal of Higher Education by Marcia Bellas, examined how gender might be related to disciplinary differences in higher education salaries. The paper concluded that the process of setting salaries by national averages do not adequately reflect labor market demand for certain positions and that the general cultural devaluation of women and work done by women may be reflected in setting salaries at individual schools, which is then reflected in the national averages. The author called for a reevaluation of the basis for setting salaries and more open discussion about faculty salaries in general, including the ability to address equity issues.

The purpose of this investigation is not to attack individuals at St. Mary’s or attempt to hurt the institution, but to create a space for discussion about the issues and variables that affect how individuals are compensated for their work.

For example, setting salaries by national averages may perpetuate gendered disparities in compensation. Another example is the lack of services such as childcare that may prevent females from being able to work at the same level as their male counterparts.

There are differences in the number of females and males in specific fields, how much individuals on average earn in those fields, the number of years that males and females serve at a college, and the number of males and females in higher ranked positions.

The purpose of this study is to question why those differences exist and what St. Mary’s, as an institution that values “diversity in all its forms, social responsibility and civic-mindedness” can do to counteract negative effects of a culture that has a tradition of devaluing work done by women.

 

Students Vote in Favor of Raising Student Fees

Voting on the issue of raising student fees ended on Saturday, April 23 at midnight with a total of 33.3 percent of the student body voting on the referendum and 78 percent of the votes in support of the referendum to raise student fees, according to an email sent out by sophomore Joshua Santangelo, Student Government Association (SGA) Parliamentarian.

Student fees will be raised $25 per student, per year in order to fund the SGA’s general operating budget which goes towards funding clubs and SGA sponsored events like on-campus films and World Carnival. This fee raise will go into effect in the fall semester of 2012.

SGA Treasurer, senior Matt Smith, said a push to vote on raising fees came from “inflation and rising prices. We really had to raise fees.” He also said he has had to work with an unbalanced budget.

According to Santangelo, another impetus for supporting raising student fees was because of the Special Carryover Fund, which is all the money that rolls over from previous year’s budgets to fund projects that are not projected in the yearly budget. The Special Carryover Fund was rapidly running low on money because of projects that came to the SGA asking for financial support.

He said, “it started getting hard to say yes because we were running out of money.”

Assistant Dean of Students Kelly Schroeder said that she has “been supplementing a lot of SGA related events out the the student activities budget.”

Student fees were raised last year, but those funds were specifically for the Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund, which is put towards environmental initiatives.

The funds from this raise in student fees will go towards supporting campus clubs, service organizations like SafeRide, the Bike Shop, and the Campus Community Farm, and events like movies, Coffeehouse, comedians and World Carnival.

For example, Schroeder said it was the goal of the SGA to “think about how we can better meet the interests [of students] in terms of band entertainment…it would be nice to have a little more flexibility to respond to students.”

Voting on the referendum was set up concurrently with SGA elections as a ‘class’ on Blackboard and students were notified through email and tabling in the Campus Center about voting.

Though some students brought up objections to raising student fees, such as comparing St. Mary’s they to other institutions, Smith explained why he felt they were necessary and what would have happened if students had voted against raising fees or if not enough students had participated in voting.

He said that part of the reason was because “we’re a rural campus” and “this is not a commuter campus.”

“There is a greater burden of the SGA to keep [the students] entertained.”

Schroeder said, “other institutions don’t have those services or institutions can pay [the money for services].”

“No student pays to go SGA events or to use student services” past student fees.

If students had not voted to raise student fees, Smith said the SGA would “probably take a little bit out of everything” and there would have been a “weaning back of activities on campus.”

Schroeder said “clubs would have had to do more of their own fundraising” which would have been complicated because all of the clubs doing fundraising would be competing for the same groups within the St. Mary’s  community.

The referendum still needs to be approved by the Board of Trustees, which has not been an issue in the past. Santangelo said, “when a worthy cause comes to the SGA, we’ll be able to to say yes.”

 

Journalist Gwen Ifill Talks Politics During Ben Bradlee Lecture

On Thursday April 14 in Auerbach Auditorium journalist Gwen Ifill spoke to a standing room only audience about her experiences in journalism, the present state of politics and media, as well as their potential future.

Ifill was introduced by Todd Eberly, Interim Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, and began her lecture by speaking about her background in journalism and her current position on The PBS Newshour.

She said that at the Newshour,  “we assume that you can decide what you think if we simply give you the information to work with.”

The current state of information and media can be overwhelming, said Ifill, and many commercial news networks are not able to or do not cover stories in depth like PBS can. She explained that when she worked in commercial news an in-depth story was given a little over a minute to be covered, while on the Newshour, there are often multi-section, weeks-long investigations and reports on topics that are not covered by other stations.

She brought up conversations with college students about the state of media and the news; she reported hearing frequently that many people get their news from sources like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. To this Ifill responded, “But guess who [Jon Stewart] watches?” and pointed to herself with a grin.

She said journalism “is less out of whack than it seems” and that many major advances have been and continue to happen in journalism. She cited the rise in the number of female news anchors and other important breakthrough candidates in politics, the subject of her recent book.

This book and the criticism that she received for it, specifically that she was too biased to moderate vice presidential debates in the 2008 election, led into the lessons that Ifill has learned and would like to impress upon others.

“I’ve learned to be a woman, a leader and to be informed.”

In response to critics, she said, “You just put your head down and you do your job and the critics will fade away.”

An important start, Ifill said, is to “learn how to write and how to challenge authority appropriately” because ultimately, “the search for truth and the search for justice are not incompatible.”

At the end of her talk, Ifill fielded questions from the audience, which she said was her favorite part of giving lectures.

One audience member asked about bias in journalism and how decisions are made about what to air or report on. Ifill said that bias mainly comes in the decision about “stories we don’t cover, rather than what we do.”

Again she lauded the benefits of non-commercial broadcasting: “we have luxuries we do not have in commercial broadcasting.”

Another audience member asked her what she thought was the future of journalism. She explained that with the large amount of media that people are exposed to, the sheer volume of consumable information leads to the need to “create an environment in which we are all more literate in what is the news,” as well as the need for “news consumers who know what news is.”

Ifill responded to a question about her opinion of punditry; she said, “I don’t mind that people engage in a debate … I just don’t want it confused with what I do.”

“I always want to be the one asking more questions.”

Audience members were impressed with Ifill’s lecture. Community member Bob Aldridge said, “I liked her differentiation between media and journalism…and her sense of humor came through” which he said was a stark contrast to her demeanor on The PBS Newshour.

Assistant Vice President of External Relations Keisha Reynolds said, “Gwen was insightful, engaging and thoughtful … [her lecture] offer[ed] an inside look at true journalism and politics that we would not have otherwise been exposed to.”

Board of Trustees member Peg Duchesne said, “she’s powerful … [and] thought provoking.” Duchesne agreed with the importance of “letting the consumer of the news program make their own choices.”

Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week, is also a senior correspondent for The PBS Newshour, a weekly program that gathers important journalists to analyze major news stories.

The lecture was presented by the Center for the Study of Democracy and was part of the Benjamin C. Bradlee Lecture in Journalism series, an endowed lecture that brings important names in journalism to speak at St. Mary’s.

 

Patricia Hill Collins: “Push Back on Behalf of Those Not in Power”

Patricia Hill Collins, a well known social theorist and author, spoke Friday April 16 in Cole Cinema on her life’s work and the her perspective on issues like social justice, education and the effect of the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and nation on society.

The event was sponsored by Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE) and the title of Hill Collins’ lecture was Cultivating a Sociological Imagination for our Time. Hill Collins described the concept of the sociological imagination as “understand[ing] ourselves in the context of our times,” an idea from sociologist C. Wright Mills.

She said our culture “encourages us to develop as individuals [by separating] from our social selves”, but that realizing society’s influence “one might move forward effectively from the here and now into the future.”

Much of the rest of the lecture reviewed Hill Collins’ experiences as an educator at a community school in Boston for black children, at the University of Cincinnati and currently at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The community school was organized and run by a diverse group of individuals who all had similar goals of providing a better education for students who were not being served well by the traditional educational system in Boston.

“There was conflict [among those running the school]…but we put our own individual agendas to the side.” There was strong focus in the school for “education as a site of empowerment.” The school empowered not only the students but the educators, helping them realize societal influence and different ways to work towards changing oppressive aspects of society.

Hill Collins said, “We have to realize our sense of safety [within our society]. If we are not constantly vigilant, it can be taken away from us.”

Hill Collins also covered her experiences at the University of Cincinnati. While there she continued to “cultivate the sociological imagination” which gave her “the space to ask new questions.”

While teaching, Hill Collins engaged her students to question their beliefs and the formation of those beliefs. She asked, “What does it mean to be anti-racist? What does it mean to commit to a social justice agenda?” She said that everyone needs to ask these types of questions of themselves to understand who they are and how they were formed by their society.

Hill Collins then opened up the lecture to discussion with the audience. Questions ranged from the issue of women’s reproductive rights, how to inspire or get others involved, and the difficulties of fighting against large, seemingly intractable problems.

She said that “reproductive rights were going to be a ground zero for women forever” and that is was important to “push back on behalf of those not in power.”

Later, she said that activists for any issue who are trying to get others involved need to “recognize how people are differentially positioned;” to recognize the value and difference in every person’s experience.

Hill Collins also had advice for actively fighting against oppression and facilitating change. She said that “visionary pragmatism” is “foundational to social change;” that is, “committing to a set of principles that is bigger than yourself” and asking, “what little piece can I chip away at?”

She concluded, “My philosophy is that I can’t possibly know everything, [but] I’m hopeful and that keeps me going.”

Faculty, staff, students and community members responded positively to Hill Collins lecture and encourage words towards effecting change.

Senior Wesley Watkins said, “I was really satisfied with how she’s able to be intellectual and pragmatic at the same time.”

Other students echoed this sentiment. Senior Sarah Shipley said, “She was just really inspirational….[she is a good example of] how to work with all types of students no matter what the system tell you how or what you should teach.”

 

Panels Look Forty Years Ahead, Forty Back

One of the opening events for President Joseph Urgo’s presidential inauguration was an academic symposium that began the afternoon of Mar. 25 in St. Mary’s Hall. This article covers the first two panels of  the symposium; the keynote address by Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, Assistant Secretary for Post-secondary Education, is covered separately.

The two panels of the symposium focused on sustainability and accessibility separately by examining the history of St. Mary’s 40 years into the past and predicting the path of the college 40 years into the future.

The first panel, “Sustainability – Living Responsibly,” was led by Kate Chandler, Associate Professor of English, Kevin Fletcher, Executive Director of Audubon International, and Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, and was moderated by senior Chelsea Howard-Foley.

Howard-Foley’s brief introduction reminded the many in the audience of faculty, staff, community members and  students to think of “the possibilities as we gaze ahead into the next 40 years.”

Chandler began by speaking first, outlining the history of the College since before the 1970s, through construction and expansion of the campus, as well as the changing site of the water tower. Her slide show displayed the College’s growth from 3 buildings South of Route 5 (Calvert Hall, St. Mary’s Hall, and the May Russell Lodge) to where it is today, including impending construction projects such as the renovation of Anne Arundel Hall. Chandler said, “We’re marching forward…it’s been very wisely chosen how we’ve grown…[but] at what cost?”

The focus was not only on sustainability in terms of environmental effects but as well as relationships and lifestyles. Chandler questioned whether the cleaning staff was overworked because of new buildings and fewer employees hired. She also asked, “Is [the] curriculum providing what our students need?”

At the end of her speaking time, Chandler said, “We do a lot of things right,” but reminded the audience that the “secondary definition of sustain is to nourish; let that be our goal.”

Fletcher then began to speak on sustainability from the perspective of an individual whose job is to help and to encourage institutions to engage in more sustainable practices. He said, “We are bounded by the limits of the natural world…[and] have come to the conclusion that we have to change some of these [unsustainable] systems.”

He covered the increase in environmentally focused building and awareness, citing certifications like Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for building projects, which though successful is not as widespread as many believe.  Fletcher said, “press coverage and awareness is disproportionate to what’s actually happening.”

He warned against expecting perfection in sustainability because of “paralysis” if that goal is not immediately reached; instead he said, “any action [toward sustainability] is good.”

Botzman finished the first panel on by addressing monetary concerns and the predicted budget for the college in the next 40 years.

He began by reviewing the College’s budget in 1971 ($14.3 million), currently ($69 million) and with an average 4% annual increase for the next 40 years, $331 million in 2051. For 2051 Botzman gave estimates of the cost for students assuming current rates and average annual increases; tuition would cost $65,437, room $29,529, and board $20,068.

These future costs reflected future inflation rates as well as the fact that “costs are rising more rapidly in the service industry.”

Botzman covered initiatives by the College that have been both sustainable and cost effective by reducing energy use, such as reducing storm water runoff, as well as predicted actions in the future. “I expect solar panels on campus and [we’ll] probably have wind power.”

He said one reason why sustainability is important is not only because of saving money, energy and being environmental stewards, but also because “a sunset over the St. Mary’s River is a billion dollar view.”

Following a short break the audience reconvened for the second panel of the academic symposium, “Access and Inclusion – Threats and Possibilities,” which was moderated by junior Brittany Davis. Wesley Jordan, Dean of Admissions; Lois Stover, Professor of Educational Studies; and Leon Henry ,’88, Director of Outreach, Big Brothers Big Sisters – Central Maryland, all spoke.

Jordan spoke on the importance of St. Mary’s being accessible because of its status as a public trust, a publicly funded institution entrusted to educate “as many students as we can.”

He suggested several avenues to ensure St. Mary’s remains diverse, open, and continues to hold high academic standards. He listed items like increasing the financial aid budget the same percentage as tuition goes up and an active admissions process and outreach.

Stover continued the panel with the question, “Why should we care about diversity anyway?” She pointed out benefits to having different types of people come together: students learn more academically when they are forced to examine views different from their own as well as being “forced to recognize our own view of the world.”

When a diverse group of people comes together their interactions are “effortful [and] mindful…when in a situation for which you have no script.”

Stover encouraged St. Mary’s to “continue to share our stories to build community.”

Henry was the final speaker of the panel before the floor was opened to questions, several of which he raised during his time speaking.

He reflected on his time as a student at St. Mary’s and how “diversity in our mind meant black and white.” He asked whether increasing diversity at schools necessarily meant  “creating a schism between haves and have-nots in minority communities.”

Furthermore, he asked if  minority students “have an obligation to demonstrate that success?” Henry added that all students need to have a “willingness to reach out to [different] experiences.”

 

Campus Community Mourns Student

On Feb. 17, St. Mary’s College was notified of the unexpected death of sophomore Sarah “Sadie” Pyles through a campus-wide email sent by President Joseph Urgo.

In a later interview, Urgo said, “It’s always a huge loss when a young person dies. We just reach out to the family and try to be as supportive as possible… if we can learn anything from this we will take all appropriate action.”

Daniel Blair, overseas Resident Assistant in Alba, said, “She will be missed. The others are doing as well as can be expected. It’s been hard on the students and me, but all of St. Mary’s, from the students to the faculty and staff, has been very supportive.”

“The college has made itself available 24/7 via any communication means possible…Beyond that, however, Sarah’s family has asked that we not discuss details.”

Dean of Students Laura Bayless, who has been in contact with Pyles’ family every day since the death, said she has been “hypersensitive to the wishes of the family.”

Bayless explained that the family has requested privacy regarding specific details in this matter, but that there was “no evidence of foul play or anything like that.”

The College sent Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Larry Vote, Director of the Signature Program in Alba Jeffrey Silberschlag, and Assistant Director of Counseling Services Kyle Bishop to Alba on Feb. 23 to provide support to the students in the Alba study abroad program.

Support is also available free on-campus at the Counseling Center.

A later email from Urgo on Feb. 25  contained a message from Pyles’ family as well as instructions if individuals wish to make donations or participate in planning the on-campus memorial service.

Pyles’ family is establishing a scholarship fund for her high school and at St. Mary’s. They have requested that instead of sending flowers, individuals can donate to the scholarship fund.

Donations can be sent to Sarah, c/o Michele Swanger, 908 Chestnut Woods Court, Baltimore, MD 21226; checks should be made out to her parents, Susan Swanger and/or Mark Pyles.

Also, condolence cards can be sent to her parents: Susan Swanger, 3631 Handel Court, Pasadena, MD 21122, or Mark Pyles, 1701 Norfolk Rd, Glen Burnie, MD 21061.

The memorial service is being coordinated by Associate Dean of Students. Joanne Goldwater, and details will be announced as they arrive. Any students wishing to assist can contact her at jagoldwater@smcm.edu.

 

Author Reflects on Treatment of Natural Resources

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, nature writer and environmental activist Rick Bass spoke about his early introductions to a common view of the natural world as a resource to be exploited for personal gain.

Bass spoke in Daughtery-Palmer Commons (DPC) as part of the VOICES series.

Bass’ soft voice drifted over the crowded hall as he began to speak on the difficulties of being an activist and the strengths of being a writer: “you have so much power when you have a pen in your hand.”

After this brief introduction Bass read his nonfiction story “Titan.” He started with a description of his older brother, Otto, who grew up to be an investment banker while Bass became an environmental activist.

This stark difference in careers and viewpoints was a concept that Bass returned to several times during his reading.

Speaking about Otto, Bass said, “there was nothing he did not see as a commodity,” which he compared to his own “hunger for closeness and a connection.”

Bass described his yearly family vacations in which his family, whose parents had lived through the Great Depression and were very frugal, traveled to a resort hotel where they shared space with “men and women no less than corporate titans.”

He spoke about his own feelings of disconnect from these individuals and their “different types of gluttony.”

As a child he was “free to inhabit the reckless lands of [his] imagination,” and had different interests than the other resort guests.

He would explore the grounds of the resort and catch a type of frog that is now almost extinct. On this fact he said, “what other bright phenomena will vanish in our lifetime?”

During one of these yearly vacations Bass heard about an event called the Jubilee, a natural, but unusual mixing of high concentrations of salt and fresh water which stuns fish and sea life causing them to subsequently float to the surface in high numbers.

A tradition in the area, Bass and his family participated in gathering up huge numbers of stunned fish with pillowcases, baskets and buckets.

During this event, “class distinctions fell away” as staff and patrons of the hotel gathered fish together for a fish fry hosted by the hotel.

Bass said that people gathering the fish were “unwilling to stop even though the feast was waiting…[and] they had taken enough, taken more than enough.”

He said there was “too much gluttony and not enough humility.”

Bass’ experience with his family vacations, the people at the hotel and the Jubilee were influential in developing his need for connection to others and the preservation of the environment.

During the question and answer session Bass gave advice to young activists. “It’s really important to have a community of activists…you can’t do it alone.”

He ended on a somber note, “I fear we are devolving as a species…[as we become] disengaged with the natural world.”

Student attendees enjoyed Bass’ lecture. Sophomore Caroline Sellers said, “It makes you think in a different perspective about nature…I see things in more of a natural way than a commercial way.”

Sophomore Jocelyn Baltz said Bass’ writing “help[ed] me appreciate landscapes I’ve never been to.”

 

Relay for Life: Students Walk for Cure

Starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26 and ending at 6 a.m. the next morning, Relay for Life gathered students, faculty, staff and community members together in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center to honor those who have fought cancer and to raise awareness and money to continue the struggle to fight a disease that touches so many lives.

Relay for Life is a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society.

A “large portion” of the over $35, 500 raised during Relay for Life at St. Mary’s College “goes to help fund cancer research and programs in the area,” said sophomore Elise Valkanas, one of Relay for Life’s event co-chairs.

Throughout the night, participants continued to walk around the track that was marked out on the floor of the Recreational Courts; laps were also varied throughout Relay for Life, such as a Survivor lap, a Three-Legged lap, and  the Egg on Spoon lap.

Groups of individuals banded together to fund-raise before the 12-hour overnight event.

Some of these groups were sports teams, clubs, or academic departments, while others were just groups of friends who came out together to show their support.

Before the official event started, these individuals raised money any way they wanted to and during the event the groups also raised money in variety of ways.

For example, early in the evening, Public Safety sponsored the event, “Jail and Bail with PS.”

Anyone at the event could pay the Public Safety fund-raising team two dollars to “arrest” someone at in the room; those who had been arrested had to wait 10 minutes to be released or pay a $1 “bail.”

Other events included the Miss Relay Pageant (with prizes to the best-dressed, prettiest male part), a Water Pong Tournament, and a Cornhole Tournament.

There were several speakers as well, such as Associate Dean of Students Joanne Goldwater, whose battle with cancer has been covered in previous issues of The Point News.

The “Psyched for Life” fund-raising team was also selling raffle tickets for 30 minute massages at different points during the night,  as well as video games, and care cards in order to raise money.

Angela Draheim, Departmental Assistant in Psychology, was part of this group. She said she “rallied up our psychology department members and members of [her] family.”

“Cancer has really touched a lot of my family” Draheim said, “[this event] is a way for us to remember them and try to promote awareness for everyone else.”

Valkanas said over 320 people registered and many more came to the event; “We’re really pleased when people who don’t know much about the event come out.”

Another team came out and sold cake and cake balls to raise money. First-year Rachel Allen said Relay for Life was a “way to support other people.”

One of her teammates, first-year Sydney Coleman added, “one the girl’s stories made me tear up little bit.”

This 12-hour overnight event, which “signif[ies] that cancer doesn’t sleep,” said Valkanas, is being planned again for next February. “Our goal is to be bigger and better each year,” Valkanas said.

According to the Relay for Life website, the event was started in 1985 when a colorectal surgeon ran and walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Since then the event has expanded and grown to include over 3.5 million participants across the country.

This Relay for Life at St. Mary’s College was the second time this event has been held, though last year, it was only a six hour event.

The R.F.L. Website said, “Relay … creates a sense of community by bringing people together in a moving and fun atmosphere, with sufficient time for cultivating relationships.

With every step you take, you are helping the American Cancer Society save lives. With your help, we aren’t just fighting one type of cancer – we’re fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community.

Each person who shares the Relay experience can take pride in knowing that they are working to create a world where this disease will no longer threaten the lives of our loved ones or claim another year of anyone’s life.”

 

College Assesses Accessibility, Encourages Awareness

During the semester Lenny Howard, Assistant Vice President for Academic Services, freqently takes a walk on campus to assess the accessibility of campus for individuals with disabilities, an issue that at first glance only seems to affect a limited number of students on campus but in reality is of major importance.

The ramps, handicap buttons, lips from roads to sidewalks, and lifts are all visible to anyone on campus, but despite these features there are still problems with entering buildings, using doors or going to class.

Howard said part of his job was, “trying to make sure everything is accessible.”

He travels around campus with students of all abilities to make sure that students can get around campus as well as to raise awareness of problems with accessibility at St. Mary’s.

For example, there are obvious issues, such as when there are no handicap buttons for doors, there are not elevators in buildings (such as Calvert Hall) or handicap buttons do not function.

There are other issues that many people do not even realize are problems because they are not glaring deficiencies.

One of these issues are the lips from roads to sidewalks for individuals in wheelchairs. These lips are located near handicap parking spots.

The issue here is that the lips usually lead directly into the handicap parking spots; if a car a parked in the handicap parking spot, then an individual in a wheelchair is unable to use the lip to get to or from the road or sidewalk.

Similarly, the gravel in parking lots around campus and especially in Public Safety’s parking lot make it very difficult for any person in a manual (not motorized) wheelchair to get through those areas.

In Montgomery Hall and other buildings around campus, doorways for classrooms and bathrooms are too narrow or the doors open in a way that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use them without help from someone else, or at all.

Emergency exits and wheelchair lifts are also issues on campus. Howard pointed out that emergency exits in the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center exit onto grass which could be problematic if it is raining.

Wheelchair lifts, like the lift in Montgomery Hall, are operated by a key and there are directions for how to use the lift once the key is present.

However, neither the location of the key nor who has possession of the key is listed anywhere.

Howard said, “I think we could do a better job of being aware of physical handicaps.”

Dr. Laraine Glidden, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, also teaches the First-Year Seminar “Ability and Disability,” in which students explore the same topics of campus accessibility that Howard does.

Glidden said that accessibility on campus has improved in recent years.

She gave the example of the construction of LEED-certified Goodpaster Hall, which “was built way after the Americans with Disabilities Act was implemented…it should be totally in compliance with it.”

In a paper written by first-year Travers O’Leary for the first-year seminar he wrote, “the buildings are compilable with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they really are not accessible nor are they accommodating….some problems around campus are simply due to negligence.”

O’Leary pointed out similar issues of narrow hallways, non-functioning elevators and handicap buttons, flowerpots and benches in front of buttons and sinks in the bathrooms with handles that are difficult to turn.

Glidden said, “Sometimes the changes one has to make are simple and cost nothing, it simply is being aware.”

“People need to get the sense that this is everybody’s responsibility as members of a community.”

Howard said that for the majority of the campus population, there are “so many things we take for granted” in regards to how people can get around on College grounds every day.

Much work has been done and is continually being done to improve the campus to make it more accessible.

Howard has a list of projects that are reported to him by students with disabilities who face difficulties, as well as other aware individuals.

Howard works closely with the Physical Plant to repair problems that he finds and that are reported to him.

Buttons have been fixed or moved and there have been many retro-fittings of ramps, lifts, elevators, and lips.

His office also helped improve the accessibility of the Health and Counseling Center.

Students who have any concerns or notice possible accessibility issues should contact Howard to see if they can be improved.

Glidden said that these issues are often overlooked by students who don’t worry as much about accessibiity, but “one group [affected by accessibility on campus] are the temporarily disabled, it could be any one of us…crutches make us much more aware.”

“We all need to take responsibility for making the community as welcoming and accessible as possible,” said Glidden.

Enviro-Ethics Lecture Pleases

On Monday Jan. 31, Andrew Terjesen lectured on magnanimity; it was a lecture proposing that human beings should take care of the environment, not because they have any obligation to or because it benefits humans to take care of it, but because they can take care of the environment and show their greatness by choosing to do so.

Terjesen was one of three philosophy candidates who spoke in the past two weeks; all are vying for an open teaching position in the philosophy department.

Terjesen’s lecture, “A Call for Magnanimity Towards the Environment,” focused on a re-evaluation of the concept of magnanimity and how it can be applied to environmental ethics; he specifically argued that care for the environment needed to be less focused on the importance of humans and benefits that can be derived from caring for the environment.

The lecture began with an introduction to debates on climate change and the uncertainty that surrounds that it. Terjesen said, “We don’t know what is going to happen…so what is our responsibility in these cases?”

He compared the problems with the relationship between interests advocating for environmental legislation and those against, such as Greenpeace versus big business, to the relationship between the environment and human beings.

In both of these cases there is one party that has much greater power to affect change; in these examples, big businesses (with more money and governmental access) and human beings.

The proposed solution in both of these cases was magnanimity. The groups who have power should recognize that they have “superiority, but [they shouldn’t] exploit it.”

Magnanimity is “about the kind of person who recognizes the position we hold could have been held by someone else” and that we personally did not accomplish the position of power that we are in.

Terjesen said that humans need to have a “sense of gratitude that you are where you are” in relation to the rest of the environment and that “morally speaking, you are a better person for not taking advantage” of that position of power.

He pointed to problems of motivating people to care about environmental issues if individuals do not see or feel effects of their actions and an individual feels that their “contribution…is not going to do anything anyway.”

In response to this and in an effort to get people to care about the environment, nature is often personified to invest interest in caring for it.

Terjesen said this anthropomorphism is only effective so far because it does not address problems with environmental systems and parts of the environment that do not feel pain or that we cannot directly see (such as soil systems or air problems).

This is why Terjesen argued for magnanimity. It is a concept that does not require us to anthropomorphize nature or to feel even connected to nature.

One simply has to realize that “the environment includes people… and you happen to be lucky enough to be the sentient one.”

The lecture was well attended by a mix of both students and faculty, all of whom had the opportunity to rate Terjesen and how well he might fit as a professor at St. Mary’s.

Junior Brendan Loughran said, “I liked that he appealed to classic examples…but also appealed to contemporary philosophers as well.”

Sybol Anderson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, she could not speak on the lecture because she is on the search committee for a new philosophy professor, though she did describe the search and hiring process.

She said the Philosophy department was searching for how the candidates interacted with students, their fit in the department, and “competence in environmental philosophy, feminist philosophy, or both.”

This lecture was the first of three candidates who spoke in the past two weeks. Barrett Emerick presented “What are Apologies and Why do They Matter?” and Selin Gursozlu spoke on “Integrity and Moral Challenge.”

Anderson said that the new Assistant Professor of Philosophy should be decided by the end of February.