Pres. Urgo Officially Inaugurated

Two Saturdays ago marked the inauguration of President Joseph Urgo with a ceremony which combined the usual pomp and circumstance with a unique combination of laughter, celebration, and fiscal modesty.

According to Board of Trustees Chair Molly Mahoney Matthews, the inauguration was about two things: in relation to the College as a whole, asserting the “value of a liberal arts part of the University of Maryland system,” and, in relation to Urgo, “celebrating what has already been a great fit for the College.” She added that she felt Urgo’s eight months prior to the inauguration provided an excellent track record and that Urgo has surpassed her already high expectations.

Urgo, who was highly involved with planning the event, said, “we want to recommit to residential liberal arts education.” He also emphasized he wanted, especially through other events surrounding the inauguration, to foster a community “where students have a tremendous obligation to contribute to the College and help maintain its standard.”

The event started around 3:30 p.m. with a processional and took place on the Townhouse Greens. According to Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes, students could be heard whispering “There he is!” as Urgo walked passed students viewing from outside their homes.

The installation ceremony began with remarks from Senior Alexandra Todak, Vice President of the Class of 2011. She, along with President of the Class of 2014 First-year Shelby Perkins, acted as “book-ends” to the experience. Grimes said, “I really liked starting and ending with students. That was [Urgo’s] idea.”

After Todak’s opening remarks were remarks from the Co-chairs of the inauguration committee and College trustees Peg Duchesne and Tom Daugherty. Both co-chairs noted how this inauguration, both in timing and theme, was tied to Maryland Day and the “many firsts” which occurred in St. Mary’s City, especially in regards to inclusion and civil rights.

Comments by Duchesne and Daugherty were followed by the reading of “At the Bend in the River,” written by Professor Emeritus and former Poet Laureate of Maryland Michael Glaser, and a performance by the Gospel Choir.

Glaser’s poem, written for the inauguration and read at inauguration for the first time, read in part: “Here on St. Mary’s shore, we are ready to renew the dream,/ the imagined and still unimagined promise of this place,/ the stirring of our hearts’ desires, the sweet crescendo/ of transforming fires soaring like the Seahawk/ in bold and joyous flight, singing on the wind/ ‘new life, new life.’”

The ceremony then continued with remarks from Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Israel Patoka, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives (representing the office of Governor Martin O’ Malley), and President of St. Mary’s County Commissioners Jack Russell. Hoyer noted how happy he was that Urgo’s presidency had been received so positively, and said, “[Urgo’s] been here but a short time…but [everyone] is saying ‘Well done!’” Russell, in a comical anecdote referencing both Urgo’s down-to-Earth demeanor and a quintessential Maryland past-time, noted how his first time meeting Urgo was at a picnic while they were both eating hard crabs.

Following these greetings, Matthews took the stage to formally charge Urgo with six responsibilities entrusted to him by the Board of Trustees, including “to serve St. Mary’s to the best of your abilities” and “to face the challenges of the future while upholding the fundamental  values that underpin this institution.”

Urgo then took the stage to deliver his inaugural address, sharing his allotted time with mentors from his past and people who inform his present, in order to address the notion that “none of us is self-made.”

First to speak was George Montinero, Professor Emeritus of the English Department and Adjunct Professor of Portugese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University. Montiero spoke about his experiences advising the pre-doctorate Urgo. He reminisced, for example, about their first meeting: “I had an odd feeling about this…perfunctory meeting.” He added, “he had not come to my office…to be himself interviewed. I realized later that he was interviewing me.”

As a testament to his character, Montiero also talked about how Urgo handled a group of hecklers in the class on William Faulkner the future President had been teaching at the time. Montiero said, “he stood his ground with no sense of rancor or impatience.”

Referring to Urgo, Montiero said, “we need champions in the liberal arts…we need teachers who believe in civilization, in civilized people, and in civility itself.” He concluded, “Urgo, this man of civility; he has time [to teach]. So listen up!”

Next to speak was Cecelia Tichi, a professor of American Studies at Vanderbilt University. According to Urgo, she “became a mentor and guide [at my stay in Vanderbilt], and for reasons I am not certain I know, took an interest in me, saw me through difficult early career times, and continued as confidant through the next decade of career decisions.”

Tichi remarked primarily on the need for liberal arts educations and students from the liberal arts. She said, “many ask ‘What can you do with a liberal arts education?’ The question [really] is, ‘what are people with liberal arts degrees doing?’” Her answer: “everything.”

Tichi also commented on Urgo’s civility, noting his ability to mediate within Vanderbilt University’s notoriously uncivil English department.

Perhaps the most unorthodox choice of “speakers” is someone who didn’t speak much at all: Urgo’s son, George Urgo. Instead of giving a speech as Montiero and Tichi had, the blues guitarist and singer gave a blaring rendition of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready”, which was received with cheering and clapping by the audience.

The piece’s lyrics acted as a segue into Urgo’s own speech. He started, “to borrow from the cadences of our students, ‘I do, I do believe, I do believe I am ready to be the president of St. Mary’s College’ – and yes, I hope you are ready for me!” He added, “In the past nine months there has gestated in me a love for this college and a passion for its mission. And now I am ready to talk to you about it.”

Urgo continued his speech by using the line “and now we’re going to talk about love” from Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! to make the point that, “understanding, unlike regurgitation, demands emotional investment, and more, requires interpersonal, collaborative creativity.” He noted that he wished to make this model of emotional investment and personal interaction, “the core value of what we do here…in learning, in teaching, in research and creativity, in daily work and in the responsibilities we share.”

Urgo focused a great deal on the notion of inclusiveness and  “an elite education that is not elitist.” “My goal is to make the academic rigor of an elite residential liberal arts education available to all members of the coming generation who possess the will and the capacity to meet its challenge. At St. Mary’s College we do not make class distinctions for education deemed as ‘appropriate’ to the wealthy as apart from that ‘appropriate’ to the general population.”

Urgo also talked about how member of the College community could in large part sustain this possibility by creating sustainable systems which “[consider] future generations to be our partners, not our creditors”, as well as by taking on the charge of Faulkner’s “old virtues” of love, passion, and sacrifice in the face of the “important things [that need] to be done.”

“Learning to love what you do is a signal achievement of a lifetime. Finding the important thing that needs to be done, and investing yourself in that significance, sacrificing for it, and loving where it leads—this is the essence of a liberal arts education.”

Urgo concluded, “I ask you, gathered here today: Are you ready? Because I am ready–ready for the future of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.”

This speech, followed by a standing ovation and chants of Urgo’s campus nickname, “Jurgo”, was followed by  the response by Matthews and the final installation of Urgo as President, after which occurred the performance of Stephen Paulus’ “The Road Home” and the premiere performance of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, arranged by Professor of Music David Froom and written by Professor of English Jennifer Cognard-Black.

The ceremony concluded with words of thanks by Perkins and the forming of a “gauntlet” on either side of the recessional as a surprise welcoming gesture by the student body for Urgo.

Duchesne said, especially considering the amount of time the committee and others put into the inauguration, she was very pleased with how things worked out. She also emphasized the inauguration was conducted in as cost-effective a way as possible.

“We tried every which way to keep costs down. Each and every decision we made we thought [about] if we could do it in a more reasonable way.” She noted, for example, that instead of giving out more expensive gift bag to attendees they instead received a packet of seeds for Black-eyed Susans from the St. Mary’s Arboretum.

In an email to the campus community, Urgo stated that the inauguration cost about half the price of what many of the College’s peer institutions have paid for their recent inaugurations.

Duchesne also said that she felt the inauguration reflected very well on the College and that it demonstrated that, “we do it, we do it right, but we have fun while we’re doing it.”

Grimes echoed the sentiment, and said she was very pleased to hear people having a good time and laughing at points during the ceremony. She also said that many veteran representatives from other colleges commented on the fact that this was the first inauguration which they had actually had fun at, and added, “alumni said [the inauguration] made them remember why they went to St. Mary’s.”

The formal inauguration was the culmination of a collection of activities throughout the weekend, including an academic symposium which focused on the past 40 years, and future 40 years of the College (see adjacent); the ribbon-cutting for the St. Mary’s Arboretum Association (see page three), Maryland Day (see page three), and student entertainment both Friday and Saturday night (see page six).

These events, with the exception of Maryland Day (which this year purposefully coincided with the inauguration and is held annually in Historic St. Mary’s City), were coordinated by an inaugural committee created by Grimes shortly after Urgo started this past summer. The committee which was headed by Duchesne and Daugherty. The committee also included staff, students, alumni, and faculty, as well as Urgo himself.


Trustees Discuss Finances, Future

Concerns over a tuition increase, budgeting, and the availability of scholarships dominated the conversation at the Board of Trustees’ second quarterly meeting of the academic year.

Held on Dec. 4 in the Glendening Annex, the meeting’s planned location in Washington DC was changed in an effort to save money, said senior Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall.

Molly Mahoney Matthews, Board Chair, opened the meeting by emphasizing the Board’s responsibility to maintain the “quality liberal arts education” provided by St. Mary’s, despite this being a “time of financial challenges” for the school, the state, and the nation.

President Joseph Urgo’s report similarly expressed concerns over the rising prices for education, both at St. Mary’s and around the country. He pointed out that “St. Mary’s is situated better than many” with its ability to control its own budget while receiving state support, and the effect this has is on keeping “our price lower than our peers without sacrificing the quality of the educational program.”

He added that there are ways the College is attempting to maintain this quality more sustainably, including an increased effort to raise funds from the private sector and, more specifically, alumni.
“We require investment by those…who find in our mission and accomplishments an endeavor worthy of their intellectual and financial support,” he said, adding that this support is merited through “the strength of our [educational, administrative, and fiscally responsible] operations.”

Maureen Silva, Vice President for Development, has been working to cultivate alumni and other donor relations “so that [in the future] private funds can be relied upon for College operations” in addition to state support, said Urgo.

“If those whom we’ve educated do not conclude that we merit their support, the argument cannot in good conscience be made to the state or to anyone else,” he added.
Ruthenberg-Marshall’s report as the Student Trustee echoed such financial concerns.

Despite knowing “the financial realities of [running] the College,” Ruthenberg-Marshall asked that the Board take student concerns into account when determining the tuition increase. He reported that students frequently approach him worried about how tuition increases might affect their ability to attend St. Mary’s.

“Traditionally, the second quarterly meeting would be when we vote on tuition changes,” he explained, but the vote was postponed until the next meeting. This was done to avoid raising tuition more than is necessary, since more must be learned about the College’s finances and its block grant from the state.

However, Ruthenberg-Marshall pointed out that some sort of tuition increase is inevitable.

Neil Irwin, ’00, Chair of the Committee for Enrollment and Student Affairs, discussed that the students who struggle the most when paying for college tend to be middle-income students who are ineligible for government grants, despite not coming from affluent families.

He also pointed out that rising costs could lead to losing top-tier students to institutions that are more expensive on paper but cost less due to larger financial aid packages.

Irwin referenced a presentation Wes Jordan, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, gave to the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee previously on the rising costs of tuition.

Jordan pointed out that since the 2001-2002 academic year, tuition increased 85 percent for in-state students and 105 percent for out-of-state students.

The financial aid budget also increased in that time (from $1.8 million to $5.4 million), but the student population grew by 23 percent Cindy Broyles, ’79, Chair of the Development Committee, asked the trustees to consider a philanthropic commitment to St. Mary’s in order to “support retention of top students.”

She brought up the importance of giving regular contributions rather than occasional large gifts. Many grants that the College could apply take into account the percentage of Trustees who have made monetary contributions.

Last year, 83 percent of Trustees donated money, though Broyles set a challenge to meet 100 percent participation this year. At this point in the academic year, 43 percent of Trustees have made some sort of monetary contribution to the College.

Broyles also reported that an alumni phone-a-thon led to 54 percent of alumni contacted making commitments to the College, though more information was needed to see how alumni were selected to be contacted.

Alumni contributions during the phone-a-thon rose by 18% from last year, a good increase, said Broyles, since alumni contributions are also measured when the College applies for grants.

Despite the focus on tightened finances and fundraising, Matthews reported that the Board of Trustees approved a salary increase for tenure track assistant professors during their Executive Session earlier in the day.

The increase was necessary for faculty retention, said Matthews, considering that these professors’ salaries fell below the average salary of tenure-track professors at the College’s peer institutions. On the other hand, salaries for tenured professors at St. Mary’s are above the average of tenured faculty salaries at peer institutions.

According to Ruthenberg-Marshall, the raises will only add an additional $100,000 to the College’s budget.

At the meeting, the Board also approved to have Aaron Williams, Director of the Peace Corps, come to St. Mary’s as the Commencement Speaker for 2011. Robert Paul, Faculty Senate President, also reported that the faculty approved to recommend to Larry Vote, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, that St. Mary’s join the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) Consortium.

The continued relationship would ensure that St. Mary’s has five to ten slots available at CMRS, the College’s only Signature study abroad program in the United Kingdom.
The next General Session for the Board of Trustees will be held Feb. 26, 2011 at 10 a.m. in the Glendening Annex; it will be open to the public.

Presidential Forum Covers Lots of Ground

On November 9, President Urgo held another of his regular presidential forums.

While only a few students appeared at the forum, the topics discussed could potentially change how they interact with campus.

The forum was broken up into five sections: “Summer on Campus”, “North Campus Food”, “The Arboretum”, “Should St. Mary’s Have a Written Honor Code?”, and “The St. Mary’s Budget”.

In the “Summer on Campus” section, the forum discussed how to facilitate more community involvement over the summer. It was reported that there would be another River Series this coming summer. Major details about what might happen in the next summer were unclear, but faculty involved in the planning of summer activities are currently creating focus groups to see what students and faculty want.

In the “North Campus Food” section, faculty and students at the forum discussed the notion of having a campus pub. One of the main goals is figuring out the best way to give students more access to food at North Campus. For example, people have been looking into potential hours and staffing as well as trying to figure out where the space could be in LQ or DPC.

One of the major problems the forum felt needed to be addressed was public opinion; they explained that people in the community feared another Green Door. However it was stressed that this project was mostly to provide a food option in north campus and that alcohol hours would be limited while food hours would be extended.

Lesley Urgo led the discussion on the St. Mary’s Arboretum. She clarified to the forum that the goal was to build off of what St. Mary’s was already doing. She explained her excitement in having an arboretum that is distinct to southern Maryland, and explained how it could help students get more involved with their campus and environment.

“We look forward to a couple of workshops hopefully every semester, we have lecturers as well as hands on training sessions. We also want to invite people who are already doing good work to campus.”

Next were discussions on whether or not there should be a formal Honor Code. The discussion focused on what an Honor code would mean and why the school should or should not have one. Student Trustee senior Danny Ruthenburg-Marshall opined that a written Honor Code was redundant.

“We have an honor code, it’s not written down, but it exists,” said Marshall. “Students follow it, the community follows it, and I think adding an actual written Honor Code won’t change the dynamic at all.”

The forum finished with an explanation of the Budget. Some people stayed behind to chat while others left. If students want to speak to President Urgo, they should go to his Open Hour every Tuesday from 1:00-2:00p.m. or go to the next forum.

Board Meeting Marks Several Firsts

There was a lot of love for President Joe Urgo at this year’s first Board of Trustees general session. The meeting, held on the Saturday during fall break, was Molly Mahoney Matthews’s first as the Chair of the Board of Trustees and also marked the first held with President Joe Urgo at the head of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“We have a new beginning with Dr. Urgo at the helm of the institution, and with Molly chairing the board,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless.

The Board of Trustees is comprised of people selected by the Board itself and appointed by the Governor to shape and implement governing policies for the College.

The Trustees, who work on a volunteer basis, meet in committees to shape these policies and then meet in general session in order to vote and implement any changes.

Revisions to the College’s mission, the operating budget, and to other monetary matters were all approved at this past meeting.

Matthews called the Board to order with a speech claiming that the Board’s commitment to students, faculty, and staff has been “stronger in the previous few months than ever” and that a new President heading the institution is the mark of a new era.

She thanked Tom Botzman, Vice President for Business & Finance, for handling the effects of having “finances constrained” due to the economic downturn but also addressed that the pay freeze is having an impact on employee morale.

Urgo’s address to the Board introduced “four guiding principles” for discussions held throughout the year, asking that the Board renew the College’s mission, “reaffirm the foundations” by constantly asking what is best for students, “ensure the public trust” by maintaining a community with “core principles of access, inclusiveness, meritocracy, and sustainability,” and “sustain the monument school” by becoming “a monument to the highest standards of public endeavor and educational practices.”

Many reports to the Board, including Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall’s, ‘11, and Alumni Council Chair Paul Schultheis’s, ‘98, addressed excitement towards President Urgo’s start at St. Mary’s, with Faculty Senate President Bob Paul saying that “we [the faculty] like Joe Urgo a lot.”

Despite the pay freeze Board Chair Matthews addressed earlier, Paul mentioned that the faculty “believe they are being heard at all levels” and that they are confident “in their ability to effect change.”

Ruthenberg-Marshall, in his first report to the Board as the Student Trustee, reported on many student concerns such as the Bike Shop’s loss of funding, with 90% of students responding to him that they were upset with the possibility of its services no longer being available.

He also addressed the restrictions placed on academic work due to the slow internet service on campus, but acknowledged that discussions on the issue will only be likely to effect significant change in the coming years.

Neil Irwin, ‘00, reported for the Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee and announced that Aaron Williams, the current Director of the Peace Corps, has been selected as the Commencement speaker for 2011.

Williams will still need to be confirmed, but he was one of the people suggested by the Class of 2011 last spring.

With a new President at the school and with Matthews being the new Chair for the Board, there are likely to be changes in the Board’s vision for the College. Dean Bayless pointed out the increased focus on fundraising consistently mentioned throughout the meeting as evidence of this new direction. However, Ruthenberg-Marshall claims that, despite the new Chair, there seem to have been few changes to how the Board operates.

Only four students attended the open General Session, including the Student Trustee, which is not unusual according to Dean. “In the 13 Board meetings I have attended, I don’t recall a student just attending because it is an interesting open meeting,” said Bayless, acknowledging that the students present are usually the Student Trustee, Student-trustee-in-training and a Point News reporter, with the President of the Student Government Association occasionally attending.

Students are allowed to attend the General Sessions, which are open to the public, and while the public is not allowed to participate in the discussions within the meeting itself, many Trustees are open to speaking with students before and after the session is adjourned.

Despite the lack of students attending such meetings, both Bayless and Ruthenberg-Marshall believe that the Board is in tune with student concerns. Ruthenberg-Marshall believes that the position of the “student member does contribute to that” understanding, but he also thinks it is a “product of how in tune [the] administration is” with student opinions.

Bayless hopes that student awareness of the Board’s work will increase, with Matthews and Irwin scheduled to appear at one of the Neighborhood Chats she and President Urgo will hold throughout the year.

However, she believes that Ruthenberg-Marshall “is doing a good job of being visible as the Student Trustee, which helps students know more about the work of the Board.”

The next General Session will be held Saturday, Dec. 4 in Washington, D.C., though the time and location are to be determined. The next session held on campus will be Saturday, Feb. 26th in the Glendenning Annex.

Inside a Trustee Meeting

When I woke up on Saturday morning, my first thought was to turn off that annoying alarm clock. Then I sat there for a minute while my brain woke up, and I remembered why my alarm went off so early. I quickly got ready and headed to the Board meeting.

The buffet breakfast prior to the meeting was excellent, though I didn’t indulge much as I was trying not to get my suit dirty. It’s a different mentality from most days, when I simply walk around, sometimes lacking shoes, and don’t really worry about what happens.

But that day, I needed to look my best in order to make the Trustees listen without reservations. Had to represent ya’ll well.

When Molly Mahoney Matthews, the new Board Chair who was profiled in an earlier Point News, banged her gavel (which she did slightly less vigorously than our own SGA Vice President), everyone took a seat and the meeting began.

Following an appeal from Mahoney Matthews to the Board on behalf of student scholarships, we heard the report of the President. It was his first Board report, much as it was mine, though he looked significantly more comfortable in the role. His remarks were, as always, eloquent.

Next was the Faculty Senate President report, which Professor Bob Paul gave in his usual thorough fashion. I always feel quite enlightened as to faculty happenings after listening to him.

During his report, a Trustee got up and slipped me a note, which made me feel like we were in class listening to a professor, instead of in a Board meeting listening to a professor.

The Trustee was wondering where the Student Trustee-in-Training was. For those of you who don’t know, Maurielle Stewart is in France, studying abroad for the semester.

As Paul concluded his report, Mahoney Matthews gave me the floor for the report of the Student Trustee. With butterflies in my stomach, I talked about the great job students think President Urgo is doing, the support I’ve found behind Gender Neutral housing, the sustainable initiatives on campus, how the bike shop lost its funding, why the internet is too slow, and of course, I talked all about our very own mold problem.

The Trustees were receptive on all counts, and I’m working on many of these points with the Administration and Trustees.

Following my report, we heard the reports of all the Committee Chairs and from the heads of affiliated organizations, such as the Alumni Council and Historic St. Mary’s Commission.

After the meeting concluded, I stayed behind to discuss a number of aforementioned issues with Trustees and administrators before I took my leave to watch women’s tennis put up a valiant fight, men’s tennis defeat an undefeated team, and women’s soccer shut down York.

Now, I have two months to make some headway into these areas of concern before bringing a new report before the Board at the next meeting in December. As always, let me know what I can do for you, and I’ll see what I can make happen!

See you on the Path!

News in Brief: Campus Pub Receives State Approval

With legal approval from the state Attorney General, the campus pub has gotten one step closer to becoming a reality.

The pub is the idea of President Joseph Urgo and based on the pub at Hamilton College, his prior institution. Last week, after extensive research by the state’s Attorney General, Urgo said they had found “nothing in the state that prohibits [a pub on campus]” and that Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes is currently in talks with the state liquor board about licensing. He added that, much like at Hamilton College, the most likely supplier of both food and alcohol for the pub would be Bon Appetit.

Possible locations for the pub are also still being scoped out. According to Urgo, there has been a lot of interest in putting one in north campus, but he would prefer it to be centralized so as to keep it college-only. He suggested that Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC) was a viable option, and that there is already a small kitchen in DPC that could be converted.

Grimes said that students interested in voicing their opinions on the campus pub should come to the next President’s Forum on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 4p.m. However, she also noted that “the October Forum won’t be the only opportunity to discuss this issue, so students shouldn’t worry that they only have one chance to provide feedback. There will be many opportunities for input as we move through this process.”

Students Pay to Get Crabs at Joseph Urgo’s House

Students were invited to chow down on jumbo crabs at Joseph and Lesley Urgo’s home for the Class of 2011 Crab Feast. (Photo By Ryan Gugerty)
Students were invited to chow down on jumbo crabs at Joseph and Lesley Urgo’s home for the Class of 2011 Crab Feast. (Photo By Ryan Gugerty)
This year, the annual Senior Crab Feast was held at the college President’s house for the first time. Although the tickets were more expensive than in previous years (a five dollar increase to $30 to accommodate the difference in price for jumbo crabs), the event was so well attended that students taking shuttles to Joseph and Lesley Urgo’s home were at one point asked to help bring more chairs to the event.

Urgo, who had previously expressed an interest in holding college functions at his home, was approached by Kelly Schroeder and the Class of 2011 about hosting the Senior Crab Feast. The event seemed to be a financial success for the senior class, though a member of the executive board of the Class of 2011 was unavailable to confirm.

Urgo said, “We do think it went well…with everyone enjoying the crabs, the evening, and the view of campus from the river.”

When asked about whether this was his first time picking Maryland blue crabs, Urgo responded that he had never picked a crab before coming to St. Mary’s. However, he felt “well-taught in the art of crab feasting” since he had been taught by County Commissioner Jack Russell and trustee Mike P. O’Brien at several events over the summer.

Ken Benjes, a Hawk Radio DJ from the Class of 2011, was asked by the senior class president, Colleen O’Neil, to provide music for the event. “People seemed to enjoy everything and the music,” said Benjes, who also added that several songs by Lady Gaga were included per Urgo’s request.

With crab feasts leaving a notoriously large mess by the end of the evening, a lot of help was needed to get the Urgos’ lawn clean again. Urgo specifically wanted “to thank those who helped with the clean-up at the end of the evening, and those who staffed the event for the College.” Urgo was even spotted helping as well. “He helped clean up, which was really cool,” said Benjes.

Dr. Urgo expressed that he and Ms. Urgo “had a great time that evening talking to students and other guests” and that they would “be happy to [host the crab feast] again with next year’s class.” With the success of the event and the Urgos’ hospitality, this hopefully indicates a new St. Mary’s tradition.


To the St. Mary’s College Campus Community: as your president, I am considering signing on with other presidents around the country to the Amethyst Initiative. The initiative asks that we reopen a national discussion on the drinking age.

From their web site, “Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people continues despite the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and there is a culture of dangerous binge drinking on many campuses. The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.”

I share a number of concerns with presidents and chancellors who wish to reopen the debate on the drinking age. I am concerned that we, as professionals responsible for the education of young adults, have created an atmosphere where students who choose to consume alcohol often do so in ways dangerous to their health.

They do so not because they are ignorant of health issues, but because they seek to avoid criminal charges they would incur if they were “caught” in a commercial establishment or in a public space consuming alcohol. As a result, we have conditions in place where binge drinking, tragically, is one logical response to an atmosphere the professionals have created.

The current policy creates an equally tragic situation where the decision to drink or not to drink is one that defines the social scene. Because purchase and consumption is illegal for most students, it cannot be casual and incidental to a social occasion, but must be planned and schemed as one would a criminal activity.

A social divide ensues between those who have chosen to drink and those who have chosen not to do so – as a result, having a glass of wine or beer is not a casual affair but an intense activity, not dissimilar to the way an alcoholic might encounter the disease.

Not all students care about alcohol consumption, but enough do to make it a major issue on college campuses. We are educating young adults, providing them opportunities and challenges that we claim, with confidence, will serve them throughout their lives and careers.

The Amethyst Initiative asks that we reconsider how the current drinking age sets up a distinctive atmosphere in which students learn about alcohol consumption as a part of their socialization as adults. It also places a prohibition on adult modeling of socially responsible consumption of alcohol to 18-20 year olds—in fact, makes it a criminal activity.

Current policy drives young adult drinking underground, implicitly defining it as an illicit activity, encouraging the kind of drinking associated with diseased behavior.

I agree with the signers to the initiative in that I think it is time to reopen this discussion. As I consider signing the Amethyst Initiative, I want the campus community to understand my reasoning, and to hear those who have contrary opinions.

Should Urgo Sign the Amethyst Initiative?

It’s no secret that drinking is prevalent on campus. Just wander around Lewis Quad, the Crescents, or the Greens on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and you will be overwhelmed by the number of students currently drinking, drunk, or otherwise intoxicated headed to parties, or perhaps on their way to the hospital for treatment of alcohol poisoning.

This phenomenon is not unique to St. Mary’s, however, as the same (or worse) is true at campuses around the country, whether the parties are on campus, off campus, or sponsored by fraternities. Binge drinking, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “downing more than five drinks in a row”, is rampant on college campuses and shows no signs of slowing down, despite efforts to educate students on drinking problems.

Under current United States law it is not legal in any state to consume alcohol before the age of 21, although we are considered independent adults capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries, and enlisting in the military at 18. This is in my opinion a very big contradiction.

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks that the current drinking age is in need of examination, as the Amethyst Initiative, launched in 2008, “calls upon elected officials to support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year old drinking age”.

The initiative, founded by liberal arts colleges, has 135 members including University of Massachusetts, Goucher College, University of Wisconsin, Towson University, University of Maryland College Park, Virginia Tech, and the University System of Maryland, and can be signed by any college or university president or chancellor.

Former President Maggie O’Brien refused to sign the initiative, but times have changed and now it is up to President Urgo to decide whether or not the college should sign on to the initiative. Given that President Urgo has already proposed opening a pub on campus, it seems that he would be amenable to the idea of signing the initiative.

However, as signing indicates that the college as an institution is acknowledging that the current drinking age is not working and is in need of reevaluation, which is quite a powerful statement as states who refuse to adhere to the minimum drinking age of 21 get 10 percent of their federal highway funding cut under the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

Personally, I am in support of President Urgo signing the Amethyst Initiative, as I believe the current drinking age to be outdated and ineffective. Fake IDs are everywhere, just ask a student or any of the off campus bars or liquor stores.

Underage students drink frequently on campus even if they had a legal student buy the alcohol for them. Not that I am condemning drinking underage, I’ve done it responsibly and lived in Germany where the legal drinking age is 18 and noticed that students were less inclined to binge drinking. Simply, the current drinking age is not working on college campuses and institutions should work on its reform.

Restructuring of Admin. Reflects New Openness

This summer, and in his first few weeks of the school year in office, President Joseph Urgo has already implemented many subtle changes to the way administration deal their business, and restructured the administrative duties of multiple offices.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the creation of the President’s council, which consists of the Dean of Faculty, the Vice President for Development, the Vice President for Business and Finance, the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, the Dean of Students, the Faculty Senate President, and the Assistant Vice President for Trustee Relations. This council reports directly to Urgo, and has been tasked with such duties as staffing the faculty senate and providing recommendations as to the college’s future direction.

This new administrative structure is a far departure from that under former President Jane Margaret O’Brien, who has a reporting structure in which all deans and vice presidents (save for the Vice President of Business and Finance) would report to the Provost, who in turn would report to O’Brien.

Perhaps the most striking change that has occurred as a result of these administrative changes is the discontinuation of the term Provost itself, to be replaced by the title Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. Urgo stated in an all-faculty email sent during the summer that, “The [discontinuation of the title] is more in keeping with the reporting structure we have in place now, and indicates my desire to work closely with student affairs, admissions, and all other campus constituencies.” He further stated that it was more in keeping with what he saw as the purpose of a college like St. Mary’s, and said, “At a small school, I’m more used to [the deans] all reporting to the President.”

Larry Vote, who has taken on the new title, said, “it is a symbolic change in that…the President has decided to accept more direct responsibility.” He further stated that he would retain many of his current duties outside of this reporting hierarchy, such as oversight of academic programs, as well as new duties such as working with the Athletic department (formerly under Vice President of Planning and Facilities Chip Jackson) and continuing education/life-long learning. He stated special interest in taking over the athletic side of things, saying that he felt it would better align academic aspirations with athletic aspirations and would exemplify the NCAA model of the “Scholar-athlete”.

Vote is not the only member of the administration to have experienced a shuffling of responsibilities, which have in turn taken the burden off administrators such as Vote and Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman who had to do multiple jobs during the transitional period between O’Brien’s and Urgo’s presidencies. There are now, for example, separate personnel for trustee relations and development, duties that were both taken over by Botzman in the transition.

The office of trustee relations specifically is a “function we haven’t had [at St. Mary’s] for a while…it had always been an additional responsibility”, according to former assistant Vice President for Life-Long Learning and new Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes. She further said that, “having someone that is focused on [trustee relations] lets us brainstorm how students can get involved with trustees [and] how we can expand the relationship with trustees.” Beyond just this focus, Grimes also is in charge of managing Urgo’s commitments to students and making sure that the lines of communication between him and students remain open. She emphasized the desire her and Urgo have to hear from the campus community, and mentioned the ability to contact Urgo directly and anonymously through the web site (

Other notable changes include the movement of Public Safety management to Dean of Students Laura Bayless, management of the Waterfront to Jackson, and management of the Department of New Media to the new Vice President of Development Maureen Silva. Silva, who arrived at the college this summer, said, “to be embraced by the community has been quite gratifying…I am incredibly happy to be here.”

Although many of these changes seem mostly inconsequential to the average student, the sum total of these changes will mean a more streamlined and effective administration. Jackson said, “[It] all has to do with aligning different departments in ways that provide the most efficiency and effectiveness.” Botzman pointed out that, ultimately, a more streamlined and effective administration means less tuition increase from year to year, and an all-around more affordable collegiate experience.

He also said that, “[it] was not so much about budget, but about building a team and hopefully being more efficient.”

Many administrators were very optimistic about the changes taking place under Urgo. Botzman said, “I was doing three jobs, and now I’m only doing one; I’m ecstatic!” He added, “We can do a better job about what we need to do.” Vote said, “I think with this President, who is very proactively student-concerned, [these changes] should be a good thing.

Silva echoed these sentiments, and said, “There’s tremendous opportunity for success here…there is fabulous work being done.”