Math for Social Justice Brings Numbers to Life

Mathematics professor David Kung has implemented a service project in his Survey of Mathematics class meant to promote activism in the community through the use of mathematics.

“There’s a lot of activism on campus, and I wanted to harness that energy and get people to learn some mathematics while trying to be activists,” said Kung. Kung’s survey project coincides with his specific survey class, which is entitled Math for Social Justice.

Kung hopes that this project will help the students in his class do three things, be less intimidated by math, utilize math to achieve social change, and learn to be more active in their communities. “I hope they are more critical consumers of mathematics and the media, and I hope they are able to use mathematics to promote social justice,” said Kung.

Before students began the project, Professor Kung shared a proposal that he had created several years ago that would give the students some ideas and give them an idea of what steps they should be taken when implementing a project of this nature.

Students had to complete several steps before they could officially begin working on their project. “Each student had to propose a project. Thirty-two projects were proposed, we’re only doing eight. [Students had] to explain an issue, say how they wanted to address issue, explore mathematics, needed to understand the issue, and talk about the impact that project would have,” said Kung.

One of the groups in the class has built their project around the idea of senior Shane Hall. According to sophomore Monica Powell, a member of this group, the premise of the project is to “get solar energy panels on the dorms which would save a bunch of money in a short time.” Senior Katie Ryan, also a member of this group, says that Shane Hall was inspired by the Sustainability Committee.

This group has been attending Student Government Association (SGA) meetings, discussing their plans with people in the university, and looking at other universities who have implemented similar projects. “We went to an SGA meeting and listened to the sustainability fellows, and they are the ones who convinced us that it would be more realistic to get solar panels on the dorm rather than the ARC (Athletics and Recreations Center), which was the original idea,” said Powell.

Thus far, the group has had hardly any problems with the project. “The hardest part about this is coordinating our ideas with the College’s agenda; right now the school is cutting back on funding and doesn’t really want to hear about new projects,” said Ryan.

Overall the problem with most groups seems to be remembering to add a math component to their project. “A lot of us keep forgetting that there’s a math component for the project. He [Professor Kung] keeps gently reminding us that we need math,” said Powell.

Kung’s hope that these projects will help promote activism among his students seems to be taking effect. “I really just want to do something that helps the St. Mary’s community,” said Powell, “Personally, I probably won’t be around to see this [the project] put into effect, but I like that I helped get the ball rolling.”

A Sample MFSJ Problem:
A hospital administrator claimed that over the past year, 90% of the patients who have spent a night in the hospital checked out within a week.  The nurses were incredulous – they knew that at any time, 80% of the patients had been in the hospital for longer than a year! How is this possible?  (Similar statistics hold for the homeless, people on welfare, and those without health insurance.)
-Submitted by Dave Kung

Campus Turns Out the Lights to Celebrate Earth Hour

Students turned off their lights and met in the circle between the dorms for a cookout during Earth Hour. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)
Students turned off their lights and met in the circle between the dorms for a cookout during Earth Hour. (Photo by Brendan Larrabee)

On March 28, lights went out across the globe at 8:30 p.m. local time.  Starting with New Zealand, countries around the world began to turn off their lights as part of Earth Hour 2009.  Las Vegas, Nevada, went dark, as did Times Square in New York City.

As the official Flagship Campus of Maryland for Earth Hour 2009, St. Mary’s was no different.  Starting at 8:30, Eastern Time, the lights in many of the residence halls, townhouses, suites and apartments went out one by one. With a variety of activities occurring across campus, there was no just sitting in the dark.  Students could chose between hide and seek and flashlight tag at Calvert, a block party at Prince George, Caroline, and Dorchester, s’mores and glow sticks at Queen Anne, and a bonfire at Waring Commons.

Earth Hour, started in Sydney in 2007 in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, is a global movement in which people turn off their lights at the appointed hour to “vote Earth.” Turning off the lights symbolizes supporting finding solutions to climate change and demonstrates concern for the planet.

The students at the College were among the millions of people who participated.  Earth Hour 2008 saw 36 million people and 200 million cities across the globe turning off the lights.  The results of Earth Hour 2009 will be presented at the 2009 Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Faculty Works Together to Offer Asian Studies Major

Starting fall 2009, St. Mary’s students will have the option to major in Asian Studies.  The program, which originally just offered a minor, is now offering the first cross-disciplinary major at the college.

The process for creating the major began in 2006, when the cross-disciplinary area was under review.  “The reviewers suggested we would be a very strong major based on the diversity and the strength of the faculty research,” said Holly Blumner, the current coordinator for Asian Studies.

Eleven members of the faculty worked together to come up with the core requirements.  Requirements for the major will include a year of Asian languages, ASIA200, and twenty-four semester hours in at least three different disciplines.

“I think one of the strengths of our major is that students chose from at least three disciplines,” said Blumner.  “That allows for a lot of freedom.”  Students can take courses cross listed with philosophy, history, literature and a variety of other subjects.

Other areas with cross-disciplinary minors may follow in suit.  “We are pioneering,” said Blumner.  “Most cross-disciplines will be looking at us to see how we do.”

Spring Showcase A Success

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On Friday March 27, St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s first Spring Showcase was held in the Athletics and Recreational Center. Sponsored by Triple S Effect, Dance Club, and the Black Student Union, the showcase featured a select few performances from the Dance Club, poetry from the newly formed Spoken Word group, a captivating step performance from the school’s step team Triple S Effect and music from FiveOne, a visiting band. Before the Showcase began, there were vendors selling merchandise and jewelry, as well as a club fair in the arena.  The three-and-a-half hour show was a success, as there was not only a huge turnout both for the showcase but also the black and white party sponsored by Raices Hispañas held directly after the show in Daugherty Palmer Commons.

Students Brave Snow, Police at Protest

Students protest coal energy use in front of the Capitol Power Plant, which supplies steam and cooled water to Congress. (Photo Submitted by Megan Kile)
Students protest coal energy use in front of the Capitol Power Plant, which supplies steam and cooled water to Congress. (Photo Submitted by Megan Kile)

Over a dozen St. Mary’s students passionate about the environment protested the use of coal energy in what has been called, “The biggest act of civil disobedience against global warming in American history”.

The protest against the Capitol Power Plant, which occurred Monday, March 2, was attended by over a hundred organizing groups, and led by Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network. According to Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) Co-President junior Elizabeth Brunner, over 3,000 people were in attendance, around 15 of whom were St. Mary’s students. Notable figures such as environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. and head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies James Hansen were also in attendance.

Brunner said that the protest of this particular coal plant was a symbolic action against the national and international use of coal energy, a practice on which many environmental groups such as SEAC wish to put a moratorium.

According to Brunner, the Capitol Power Plant was specifically chosen because it provides steam and cooled water to Congress and because of its high visibility.

The burning of coal, according to Brunner, taints water and air, destroys the natural habitats of hundreds of species, and causes acid rain. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Burning coal is a leading source of global warming pollution.” However, coal is still a major source of energy in the U.S. because of the large infrastructure built around it and the economic interests surrounding it.

“No one wants to be the politician to put a moratorium on coal,” said SEAC Co-president junior Bethany Wetherill. “It is vastly unpopular because of the amount of workers in coal mines and because of the perceived costs of the switch to clean energy.”

With this knowledge, St. Mary’s students braved the frigid cold and quickly mounting snow. Morale, however, remained high. Brunner said, “It was one of the more positive events I’ve ever been to. It was uplifting.”

Other attendees echoed a similar sentiment. “It was really amazing to see all these people of different ages, races, and economic statuses coming together to speak out about the problem of global climate change in a powerful, nonviolent way,” said first-year Megan Kile. “It was that kind of energy; the idea that we were going to be doing something amazing, maybe even world-changing.”

Even law enforcement, which many feared would be hostile to the protest and attempt to arrest protesters, seemed to be in high spirits. Brunner said, “They were smiling, they were laughing, they were sort of cheering along with the chant and slogans…No one was arrested at all.”

The Capitol Coal Plant protest was by many accounts a complete success; protesters were able to block the plant’s entrances for a large portion of the day, effectively closing down the plant. More important, however, was the visibility and message the protest sent. Brunner said, “It was high profile, gained thousands of media hits, [and] sent a very clear message throughout the world and to Congress that there are thousands of people who care very deeply about this issue.”

According to Wetherill, there had been some speculation that a resolution would soon go through Congress to switch the plant over from coal to natural gas, a change that Brunner said “has its own problems.” However, no formal action has been taken by Congress other than non-binding calls from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid for the plant to make the switch.

This, however, does not mean that this protest was not the first step, “one of many” according to Wetherill, towards raising awareness of coal with the eventual goal of a full moratorium, which the protesters feel will lead to a cleaner environment.

82 St. Mary’s Students Get Eco-Active at Power Shift

SEAC Co-President Shane Hall, a senior, meets House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on lobby day. (Photo Submitted by Megan Kile)
SEAC Co-President Shane Hall, a senior, meets House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on lobby day. (Photo Submitted by Megan Kile)

On Feb. 27, over 11,000 people, most between the ages of 18 and 24, congregated in D.C. for the largest conference on energy and climate change in the nation’s history.  Power Shift 2009, run by the Energy Action Coalition, was held at the DC Convention Center from Friday, Feb. 27 to Monday, March 2.

The College registered 82 students, the tenth largest number from any school in the country.  The majority were from the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC).

The St. Mary’s students arrived in a charter bus and some school vans on Friday in time for the keynote speakers, who were followed by a concert featuring Santogold.

Over the next three days, students were able to attend a symposium, workshops, listen to more keynote speakers, attend a concert by the Roots, march to the White House, protest at a coal plant, attend a rally on the West Lawn, and lobby their Congressmen.

The conference officially opened on Friday with several speakers, including Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Congressman Ed Markey.  One of the many speakers of the weekend was Van Jones, an environmental and human rights activist.

“He was my favorite speaker by far,” said first-year Elena Gross.  “What he said made so much sense.  That was the biggest thing about the weekend — tying the environment into other issues and showing how all these issues intersect.”

While Power Shift 2009 was primarily an environmental conference, a constant theme of the weekend was the interconnectedness of the issues of the world.

“We’re all working for the same thing,” said Gross.  “What happens if we have a healthy planet but we still have so many problems within our societies?  Then we as a people die.  They’re in a very large sense the same issue.”

Many of the workshops combined environmental activism with other issues. Sophomore Aaron French attended one called “Hip-hop and eco-equity.” “It was three MC’s talking about how they’ve incorporated their music and their work, their poetry into the environmental activism they’ve been doing,” he said.

The workshops and panels covered a wide variety of topics.  From holding corporate businesses responsible for their actions to learning about organization and leadership from the grassroots level up, students had the opportunity to choose to learn about what interested them most.

“I went to a really awesome workshop on Sunday about agrobusinesses,” said sophomore Rachel Buffington.  “I’m already really into food….but it really inspired me to organize a program here.”
Many of the workshops were student led, several by students from the College.

Although students were able to attend two workshops on Sunday, the rest of the day was filled with training for the lobbying that would occur Monday, which many St. Mary’s students stayed for.

Lobby day trainers ran the students through scenarios where they prepared their presentations for their Congressmen and helped students learn how to keep the politicians on topic.

Students woke up on Monday to a city covered in several inches of snow and a message from the organizers that lobby day would still occur.  Thousands of students converged in the Capital to attend their scheduled meetings.

St. Mary’s students had a meeting with House Majority Leader and Board of Trustees member Steny Hoyer himself, and were taken in the tunnels under the Capital to a room that fit 75 people.  At least 100 were crammed inside.

“The outcome wasn’t negative, but it wasn’t as positive as I think everyone had hoped for.  I don’t think he’s against us at all.  He’s very dedicated to the environmental movement, he’s just doing it from a politician’s standpoint,” said Gross.  While Hoyer listened to the students’ points, he kept trying to steer the topic away to other issues.  Students spoke up angrily when he insisted that they were not the public and not representative of his constituents, prompting him to call one girl ‘defensive.’

“I don’t think he did understand that we are the public,” said Gross.  “There were over a hundred people in that room talking to him.  We represent what the people want.  I think there was a lot of miscommunication between the lobbyers and Steny that I think will be fixed over time especially with him being on the board here and with Danny [Ruthenberg-Marshall] as the student trustee.”

Power Shift 2009 wasn’t just filled with organized activities.  On Saturday night, after the Roots concert and a long day of panels and workshops, students gathered on the front steps of the D.C. Convention Center.

“I was standing around, and a person said we should go to the White House,” said French.  “Someone got a bullhorn and shouted….fifty people just started walking, so we ran back and yelled at everybody, and more people started coming, just hundreds and hundreds of people.  At first we started on the sidewalk,” he said, but soon, “people were dancing in the streets, photographers were running everywhere taking pictures.  We probably took up a solid two to four blocks.”

The students ended up at the back of the White House.  “There was one cop when we walked up,” said French, but soon, “There were about thirty cops there.  It was all peaceful.”  In the end, the group of about a thousand, “hung out and partied outside the white house for like forty-five minutes.”

The march was representative of the spirit of the weekend — everyone worked together and took small steps towards a larger goal while having fun.

Everyone was helpful.  “Especially if you didn’t know something, they took the time to explain it to you, to explain what you could do to help.  They were genuinely interested in what you had to say,” said Gross.

Students could just set down their bags and find them again at the end of the day.  One student lost a reusable water bottle and had it returned to her by a group who found it the day before.

“It was really cool at Power Shift to see 12,000 people of this generation who really cared about something.  And that was just 12,000 people who represented larger groups,” said Gross. “There were intercity people, there were a good amount of women and men, different races, different religions.  There was a place for everyone at Power Shift.”

Singer: Sci-Fi Is Not So Far Away

P.W. Singer speaks “about a revolution in warfare.” (Photo by Matt Molek)
P.W. Singer speaks “about a revolution in warfare.” (Photo by Matt Molek)

P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War, delivered a talk to a packed St. Mary’s Hall explaining how the increase of robotics in warfare may bring war closer and closer to our doorsteps.

The talk, which took place on Wednesday, Feb. 25, was presented by the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Patuxent Partnership, and the Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium. It combined an examination of the robotics used in warfare today with the implications that the use of those robotics bring.

Singer discussed the use of robots in every area from Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams in Iraq to unmanned drones that fly over foreign airspace but that are controlled by pilots in the United States or other countries.

Michael Cain, a political science professor and the director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, said that the importance of the topic of robotics and warfare was evident in the talk. “It was one of the most interesting [lectures] I’ve heard here,” he said. “The topic is one that we haven’t really thought about…[and] he forced us all to think about it.”

Senior Barry Adkins agreed. “Yeah, I found the topic very interesting. I found an interest in sci-fi technological innovations, and this showed the real-life play-out of all of those things.” Adkins’ Sociology of War and Peace class was cancelled for the day so that students could attend the lecture.

Singer likened the changes in robotics developing now to other major advances in warfare such as the machine gun or the atomic bomb. “I’m not talking about a robots’ revolution,” he said. “I’m talking about a revolution in warfare.”

According to Singer, “The very meaning of the term ‘going to war’ is changing within our lifetime.” He said that unmanned technology such as planes can eliminate the culling power of suicide attacks, leading to the development of “al-Qaeda 2.0” or possibly a next-generation version of terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh or the Unabomber. According to Singer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) levels are higher in drone pilots who go to war for 12 hours and return to their families than the levels are for other pilots because of the chilling distance between the pilots and their targets and weaponry.

“It’s like a video game,” Singer said of the mechanism for killing used by drone pilots.

This point struck first-year Eleanor Sullivan as especially unnerving. “It’s kind of scary removing soldiers from the immediacy of war, from the visceral aspect, because it makes killing so much easier,” said Sullivan.

But as the human aspect is removed from war, war is also becoming more and more a part of our everyday lives. Singer mentioned the effects of sites such as YouTube that can bring war into our homes via our computers. According to Singer, there are over 7,000 video clips of war online right now, which can be a positive thing in that it connects the public to the gruesome reality of the war sites to which soldiers are sent, but it can be a negative thing in that it can also be viewed as a form of entertainment by others. “These clips are just the highlight reel of war,” he said.

According to Singer, the robotics revolution will also raise a series of legal and ethical questions that society will have to handle. Will a new legal crime of “unmanned slaughter” arise for the drone killing of the wrong person? Also, “robots don’t get upset when their buddy gets killed,” Singer said. “They don’t commit crimes of rage and revenge.” However, he continued, robots by themselves are unable to distinguish between an elderly woman and a tank.

“It made me wonder how robots are going to be used in the future,” said Sullivan. “You win a war by terrorizing a population, so it’s not like robots are going to be fighting each other, they’ll be fighting humans.”

As science-fiction becomes reality, as it did when the atomic bomb came into existence after inspiration from H.G. Wells, these questions and more will have to be answered, and Singer said that “we don’t have the excuse that [society at the onset of the atomic age] have…it’s happening in labs all around us.”

Overall, response to the lecture was positive, both from audience members and from Singer himself. “I think it went great, [with] a nice mix of students and people from the community,” Singer said. He also liked the variety of subjects raised in the questions asked, ranging from ethics to the details of the technology to the degree to which science fiction influenced modern technologies.

Physics professor and Natural Science and Mathematics Colloquium Director Charles Adler was also pleased with the way the lecture went. “I did not know most of the things he was talking about,” he said. “The lecture was scary and thought-provoking, and…he was a good speaker.” All in all, said Adler, “what I envision as an ideal colloquium.”

Polar Bear Splash Leaves Students Cold, Wounded

Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)
Students and staff charge into the frigid waters of the St. Mary’s River at this year’s Polar Bear Splash. (Photo by Brendan O’Hara)

On Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009, over 150 students and faculty members  participated in St. Mary’s third annual Polar Bear Splash. Over 200 other students and onlookers cheered on their friends as they prepared to make the plunge.

The College’s Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) passed out waivers in order to protect themselves from any liability if injuries should occur before participants in the event were allowed to jump in. The result saw four students hospitalized, and numerous others in need of serious medical attention.

The Polar Bear Splash was started by SEAC in January of 2007 with hopes of raising awareness about global climate change and its effects. Each year since then, the event has attracted a growing number of students as well as media and has been successful. This year, in addition to raising awareness about climate change and green initiatives like the Green Power Referendum, SEAC also raised some green in order to fund their trip to Power Shift 2009, a nation-wide youth meeting in Washington D.C. committed to solving the climate crisis.

“Today is ridiculously windy, but it’s worth it,” senior Marjorie Foley said just moments before she took the plunge. “They’re doing a fundraiser!”
While Foley was being subtle about just how cold it was, even before she ran into the 38 degree water, Patrick Gilbert complained that it was “colder than a witch’s tit” outside. “Everything about it is cold,” he continued, “but we’re raising awareness about Global warming.”

Sustainability fellow, alumna, and participant in past Polar Bear Splashes, Rachel Clement feels that one of the great things about the Polar Bear Splash is that “it gives students an opportunity to make a strong statement to the campus, surrounding community, and the local, regional, and national media that we know and care about stopping climate change, and are willing to jump into a freezing river for the cause.”

“I’ve always wanted to do it,” a soaking senior Kait Gruber remarked just moments after the polar bear splash ended. “We’re really affecting the planet a lot more than we think, and it really is important to raise awareness about global warming.” Seconds after this statement, Kait had to limp away because she discovered the bottom of her feet were severely cut and bleeding profusely.

Countless participants of the splash this year were injured as a result of the oyster shells, rocks, bottle glass and other debris that polluted the sand outside of the new river center. Leading member of SEAC and senior, Shane Hall feels “terrible for all those people who came out to have a fun time showing their commitment to stopping climate change who were injured” especially because of the fact that in previous years the splash has incurred only a few injuries.“Because of how safe the former two splashes were, even for people who refused to wear shoes, we did not anticipate the amount of injuries that occurred.”

“While SEAC repeatedly communicated to the school community that participants should bring a towel and wear shoes, unfortunately many people did not heed this warning,” Hall added. “The other problem is many people interpreted “shoes” to mean flip-flops, which come off easily when you sprint in the water.”

“I was running barefoot – stupid, I know,” recalled sophomore Jamie Phillips about his experience in the polar bear splash a week later,  “but I know people who were wearing shoes that still got cut up from the ankle up.” Phillips was outraged as he was “sent away by the Health Center when [he] requested crutches and a brief check-up.”

Because the local hospital had already opened a case for the other students, the health center did not want to “get involved,” said Phillips. “I had to buy my own medical prescriptions out of pocket,” he laments about the situation.

Even though he was one of the few who actually received medical care, Phillips was unable to walk from Thursday night to Monday evening. As a result, he missed nearly a week of classes, and remains still with a limp, a wound to remember deep within his feet, and a hole in his pocket. Jamie is not alone, however, as many students are still feeling the effects of the Polar Bear Splash of 2009.

“I’m still healing,” Gruber said about her injuries from that day.

“We should have done more,” said  Hall on behalf of SEAC, but he also contended that while greater safety measures are a must, “I’m positive the hardy, dedicated students of St. Mary’s will be ready to splash again next winter.”

However, some students, including Phillips feel as though it we might just be better leaving the splashing to the Polar Bears. Phillips said, “It’s not well-publicized or dynamic enough of an event for me to want to go down and get injured on a cold February day.”

Academic Budgets Cut

Students, faculty and staff gather to consider different budget options at the budget forum. (Rowan Copley)
Students, faculty and staff gather to consider different budget options at the budget forum. (Rowan Copley)

The College’s academic departments saw 15 percent of their yearly discretionary budget slashed earlier this spring, according to Provost Larry Vote and numerous department chairs.

Maryland Higher Education Student Advisory Council Representative Lauren Payne said the budget cuts were “unfortunate given that we are an Honors College and academics should be our first priority.” But, she added, “I know that St. Mary’s is not the only institution of higher education that is feeling the impact of these economic times”

Vice President for Business and Finance Tom Botzman said the cuts were necessitated by a budget shortfall of approximately 2.3 million dollars. Shrinking interest earnings and endowment funds, coupled with growing energy, food, travel, benefits and minimum wage costs caused the deficit. Also, the State of Maryland rescinded 125,000 dollars of funds from St. Mary’s, with an additional 232,000 dollars of cuts pending approval by the Board of Public Works.

The 2.3 million dollar discrepancy was partially offset by leaving vacant staff positions open and filling the College to capacity, but Botzman said, “We still needed about 750,000 dollars to close this fiscal year’s budget.” This burden was proportionally spread between each Vice President’s office and the Dean of Students, according to Botzman.

The Office of the Provost, Vote said, “had a target number to meet and 15 percent of each unit’s operating budget potentially allowed us to meet the target with the least amount of impact and most equity across the campus.”

Many academic departments were able to absorb the budget cuts without suffering extensive obstruction to their day-to-day operations.

“I don’t think it really affected us that much. My big concern is really on the teaching side. Since that budget was already allotted, it only had a small effect on us,” Michael Cain, the Political Science Department Chair, said.

Charles Adler, Chair of the Physics Department, added, “We were able to give the requested amount back without too much change in the department’s operation.”

English Department Chair Ruth Feingold said that the cuts would have “little to no” impact on English students. But, she added that, “Morale might be lower across the board.”

Still, the Biology Department – whose budget hovers above 100,000 dollars – “didn’t have as much money left in the kitty as we needed to pay back,” according to Department Chair Rachel Myerowitz.
“I was really scared, I thought I might jump out of a window because I didn’t know how we could give the money back,” she added.

Myerowitz credited Vote for being “flexible.” The department eventually was able to return 5,000 dollars after being asked for 16,000.

Biology students will see the department ordering fewer supplies, sharing reagents and traveling less this spring. “We won’t replace broken glassware. There’s a piece of equipment that is down, so we’ll try to catch the moment where it’s functional instead of replacing the software,” Myerowitz said.

Other departments are responding similarly; many are delaying new technology purchases, prioritizing the travel plans of professors and inviting fewer speakers to campus. Dave Kung, Chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Departments, said he had to “postpone plans to build a network for Computer Science students.”

Overall, Vote said, “We have tried to minimize the effect on students. People will be asked to be more observant of waste and use of equipment. Some replacement purchases will be postponed, some materials may be in shorter supply, social events will be less expensive.”

While the College has attempted to shield students from feeling the effects of the budget rescission by cutting from various pools of funds, there are consequences, according to History Department Chair Tom Barrett. He noted the benefits of on-campus speakers. Also, Barrett said, “It would have been nice to be able to use some of that money to hire students to help us with research. That’s a direct value for students, in many different ways.”

The Chairs of both Mathematics and Political Science also anticipated possible consequences for their student-workers. Kung asked his department’s teaching assistants if they would be willing to work for credit instead of an hourly wage. Additionally, Cain said that Political Science students might not be able to conduct paid research as late into the semester as in previous years.

Many Department Chairs noted their relative unease over fiscal year 2010, which begins on July 1, 2009. “We’re very concerned about FY2010. We don’t know what’s going to happen there,” Barrett said.
While no academic budget cuts have been planned for the next fiscal year, Vote said, “The [economic] environment is unstable.  We will need to be ready for further action should it be called for.”

To address the College’s budget issues, Kung hosted an all-campus forum that was attended by about 50 students, faculty members and staff last Friday.

“I think there is a real benefit in getting the people on the ground – the students, the staff, the housekeepers – involved in finding solutions to budget cuts. They’re the people who see how the money is spent and might generate great ideas. Having this sort of forum generates a shared sense of sacrifice,” he said.

Senior Stephanie Hartwick attended the forum. She said, “Everyone needs to realize that every light they leave on, every load of clothes they dry, every paper towel they use drains money away from the livelihoods of the teachers and the staff we depend on.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall Chosen to be 2010-2011’s Student Trustee

Student Trustt-in-Training Designee Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall
Student Trustt-in-Training Designee Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall

This Friday, Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall was chosen as the new Student Trustee-in-Training Designee. He will take over for current student trustee-in-training Debbie Travers in May and eventually become student trustee for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Ruthenberg-Marshall, along with his new position of student trustee-in-training designee, is also currently President of SafeRide and an active member of SEAC, the outdoors club, and the rock climbing club.

“I look forward to seeing how Danny will add his own personal touch to a unique and special position in the campus community,” said Jeremy Pevner, the current Student Trustee.  “I know that he will represent the student body to the Board well.”

Other finalists for the position, such as sophomore Sophia Traven, also spoke highly of both Ruthenberg-Marshall and other applicants. Shortly before the decision was made, Traven said, “I believe [the Board] won’t be able to choose wrong.”

The position of Student Trustee, according to Pevner, is a “way of pulling together students with the right set of administrators, and sometimes the trustees as well, to manage the lines of communication.” Officially, the Student Trustee is an ex-officio member of the SGA executive board, and has such duties as reporting back to the SGA senate on the executive board’s actions and authoring and cosponsoring legislation. The Student Trustee also sits on multiple SGA and administrative committees, such as the Enrollment and Student Affairs and Strategic Planning committees. What makes the position of the Student Trustee unique, however, is his or her work with the Board of Trustees; at every quarterly meeting, Pevner has had the duty of informing the board of current events on campus and opinions on issues currently facing the College. According to Pevner, in his time as Student Trustee, he had to express student opinion on such issues as the River Center and tuition increases. Pevner said simply, “You have to be the representative of the students.”

The process of selection for the next Student Trustee began last semester, when applications were sent to students asking them about issues such as what constitutes a campus role model, how they would improve the quality of life for St. Mary’s students, and what the role of Student Trustee should entail. Some students, such as sophomore finalist Hillary Powell, were also recommended for the position by professors and staff; all applicants, however, had to submit three letters of recommendation. The seven applicants then presented their case at a candidate forum held two weeks ago. Feedback from students was then used to narrow the selection pool down to three Sophomore finalists: Ruthenberg-Marshall, Traven, and Powell. A committee of consisting of Pevner, Travers, sophomore class president Charles Onwuche, and two other students chosen by Onwuche made the final decision.

According to Ruthenberg-Marshall, he will have two main priorities as Student Trustee: listen to student opinions, and fight for the student’s perspective.

“I would love it if I could know all 2,000 people on this campus, and I really feel like I can get people’s opinions and express them very well,” he said.  Because of this strong focus on representing the students, Rutherberg-Marshall plans on getting student opinion before bringing any concrete plans forward to the Board of Trustees.

Ruthenberg-Marshall also expressed the fact that he is not afraid to push for the student perspective, even if student views are unpopular with the Board of Trustees. “I don’t like taking no for an answer,” he said. “I will stand up…and explain to [the Board] that this is what the students want, this is what the students need, and this is what we should be doing.”

Although enthusiastic to take on the role of Student Trustee, Ruthenberg-Marshall still has a year as Student Trustee-in-Training, during which he will, according to Pevner, sit on committees such as Building and Grounds, begin to take on increasing responsibilities, and learn more about the workings of the Board of Trustees and the SGA. By May of 2010 Ruthenberg-Marshall will inherit the full position from Travers, a position that in the grand scheme is quite unique.

“The fact that we have this [position] is really special,” Pevner said. “A lot of schools don’t have this kind of representation for their students.”