Urgo hosts second crab feast

Correction: This years Crab Feast was the second held at President Urgo’s house, not the second annual Crab Feast as originally reported.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the annual Crab Feast was held at College President Joseph Urgo’s house for the second year in order to benefit the senior class.

Despite the rain that poured for most of the afternoon, the feast carried on with many happy students either expertly picking apart the Maryland Blue Crabs or helping out friends by coaching them in a popular Maryland pastime.

Although 90 tickets were bought at $25 apiece, roughly 150 people attended the event, according Class of 2012 President Stephon Dingle. He said, “there was a big turnout. A lot of people brought friends.”

To block out the rain, white tents were erected around the two separate sitting areas, as well as over the main line where attendees were able to pick up a dozen crabs, drinks, sides, vinegar and Old Bay seasoning. Holiday string lights lined the tents, and guests, as well as Urgo, commented on the festive look of the event.

Dingle stated there were 95 dozen crabs purchased for the event, which roughly equates to 17 or 18 bushels. He also mentioned that the amount of money raised for the senior class has not been totaled as of yet. An unverified source, though, said that it was only $200. This would not help the Class of 2012, which is already low on cash.

While the seating was limited and difficult to find during the big rush from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., many students decided to bag their crabs and take them home. Those who stayed, though, were able to watch the sun slowly set over Urgo’s dock, which sits on the St. Mary’s River across from the school, as they enjoyed the company of other students and staff members.

“I thought it was really nice,” said senior Jackie Reymann, who also proudly declared that she accomplished eating all twelve of her crabs by herself. “I like that it is at Jurgo’s. It was nice to sit down and be with friends while eating crabs.”

In order to accommodate for the number of people coming to and from the event throughout the night, there was a shuttle that conveniently carried attendees from Daughtery-Palmer Commons on-campus to the front steps of Urgo’s home.

President Urgo was also pleased to host the event at his house for the second year in a row. “We love it,” he said. “After last year, we looked forward to it.”

Urgo also stated that it was great to be able to see the senior class and have them all get together, as well as saying that it was the “first of many interactions” with the seniors for the rest of the school year.

Urgo Asks Governor for Additional Grant to Aid Affordability

President Joseph Urgo and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Molly Mahoney Matthews, are asking Governor O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly for an additional $5 million a year to improve affordability and increase access to St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

The College receives a block grant each year from the State of Maryland, currently in the amount of $17.5 million dollars. According to Vice President of Business and Finance, Tom Botzman, the block grant began as a deal with the state for a steady funding stream. Though the College tried to get the block grant tied to the cost of higher education, the original legislation tied the grant only to the rate of inflation.

“No one could have predicted what would happen to the cost of higher education,” said Urgo. According to the National Center for Education Statistics website, the cost of college nearly doubled in the last 15 years. “If our block grant was tied to the cost of higher education, we would be fine. [The additional $5 million] is really an adjustment to make up for the rising cost of high education,” said Urgo.

Conversations about the College’s proposed increase began during the last spring when Urgo testified in a legislative session before the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate Budget Committees: “The main issue I discussed with legislators was affordability.” Urgo told legislators, “there is a small percentage of people who want to do [liberal arts] work and when we lose one we lose a potential leader. We need those leaders.”

Following Urgo’s testimony, “the Budget Committee Chairs asked, ‘what can we do?’ Which is really a testimony to [Urgo’s] leadership. He made this a keynote issue,” according to Botzman.

The College’s response came in the form of a 20 page report due out on Sept. 1, pending the approval of the Governor’s office. A spokeswoman for the Governor said the report is currently being reviewed and could not comment on the Governor’s reaction or intentions until later in the budget process.

For the proposed increase to move forward, O’Malley must include the additional money in the budget he submits to the General Assembly in January.

Urgo and Matthews scheduled a meeting with O’Malley for Tuesday, Aug. 30 to discuss the report and increased funding. According to the Governor’s Office, O’Malley rescheduled the meeting to tour St. Mary’s County inspecting damage from Hurricane Irene.

The proposal is still in the early stages, according to Botzman, and it is too soon to tell if the proposal will be warmly received by the Governor and General Assembly. “We will know more after the special legislative session [on redistricting] in October,” said Botzman.

If the College receives the $5 million increase, the total block grant will increase to $23.5 million for next fiscal year. According to Urgo, the College would spend $2 million on reducing tuition, $2 million on increasing financial aid and $1 million on expanding the DeSousa Brent Scholarship to a four year program.

“We have one of the highest graduation rates in the state and one of the highest graduation rates for non-majority students,” said Urgo. He added St. Mary’s also has a nearly equal graduation rate between majority and non-majority students, a struggle for most colleges and universities. “The college is a success story for the state. Twenty years after the original deal, we are asking the state to recommit to the College.”

Urgo added that the University of Maryland system, of which St. Mary’s is not a part despite being a state-funded college, received money from the state in the last few years to help keep tuition low. St. Mary’s did not receive that money. “We are asking for the money we did not get,” said Urgo. With the additional money, Botzman said St. Mary’s could roll back the tuition increases from the last few years, bringing St. Mary’s tuition more inline with the University of Maryland system.

If the College does not receive the $5 million increase, Urgo said rolling back tuition increases would be difficult. Without the increase, the College will rely primarily on private fundraising to keep tuition from increasing.

The College is in the initial stage of a long-term fundraising effort to increase revenue to the College’s scholarship funds. The Office of Advancement is currently assessing the current donor base’s capacity, according to Urgo. Once assessed, Advancement will spend several years “quietly” soliciting donations before going public around 2015 with the fundraising campaign.

“The increased grant is really aimed at making St. Mary’s more affordable for all Maryland residents, strengthening the way we support students and improving the necessary supports all students need to succeed,” said Botzman.

The report from the College of the Governor and Budget Committee Report Chairs was not released in time for publication; visit thepointnews.com for the latest information.

Orientation Sobriety Pledge – Give it a Shot!

By now, President Joesph Urgo’s all-student email (as well as all-staff and all-faculty email) has either been read or deleted by the campus. For those of you who may have chosen the latter option before reading it, let me briefly summarize it here. Essentially, Urgo has implemented a policy for the entire St. Mary’s community to remain alcohol-free, or “dry,” for the first four days of the 2011-2012 school year. To be clear, those first four days are orientation days, and the majority of the student population won’t even be returning until Aug. 29 anyway, which is why the email asks “first-year students, orientation leaders, and residence life staff to pledge to abstain from all substance use” during that time.

I’ll be back on campus helping to work on the orientation issue of The Point News, and I’d like to issue my total support of this policy. Though I’m under 21, and therefore I legally would be obligated to not consume alcohol regardless of the policy, I fully believe the premise behind its creation as sound and wise.

Urgo has offered a couple of reasons for policy: it’s a continuation of our college’s attempts at safe alcohol consumption. Orientation is a time for adjustment and thus a time to be alert and sober, and new friendships and identities are being cultivated which, if they are to be true, inherently calls for sobriety.

We’ve all gone through orientation, and while some of us might have preferred to have been in a drunken stupor, I think it’s extremely important to be aware of the difficulties that the first few days of college entails. A student is away from every place that is familiar, everyone they love, and essentially, everything they know. Four days of adjustment should be spent with a clear head and with sound judgment.

Additionally, with our President’s signature on the Amethyst Initiative, St. Mary’s has already offered its explicit expectation of safe alcohol consumption, and if there’s any way to describe drinking during orientation,it would not be “safe alcohol consumption.” If we expect our students to be able to responsibly drink, we must first teach them that drinking does not always mean binge-drinking, vomiting, and repeating.

Presumably, first-year students come to college with tenfold more freedom than they had in high school, and with new freedom comes new expectations of what college is like. If students come believing that their first few days are going to be spend at wild parties and with massive hangovers, they’re going to go to wild parties and get massive hangovers. If students come expecting to have four days of orientation, hopefully the adjustment will be easier, the expectations will be lower, the pressure will be off.

Finally, I’m convinced that this policy will make orientation safer; friends who have known each other for a while are able to discern when someone has maybe had a little too much, or even if someone needs medical attention. But for people who’ve known each other for less than a week it is far more difficult to know when to intervene.

I’m hoping that most of the community will not only take the pledge but also follow through, and while I know that 100 percent participation is always impossible, I think St. Mary’s is willing and able to seize this opportunity and take its mission to heart.

 

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 education..as 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.

 

Pub Opening Delayed, Food Still Available

In an email to campus last week, President Joseph Urgo informed students and faculty that the opening of the campus pub, scheduled for tomorrow, would be delayed.

Urgo said that it came to the attention of administration that Bon Appetit, the provider of food and alcohol for the pub, did not have the necessary liquor license to serve beer and wine as was initially planned. Urgo added that this “wasn’t for any lack of will”, but was an unfortunate oversight and something that Bon Appetit would have to work out.

According to Botzman, Bon Appetit had a liquor license in the past, and have managed pubs on other campuses including Urgo’s own Hamilton College. He added that the discussion concerning the specifics of procuring an actual liquor license started in February, and that, “they had assured us that they would be able to get a license in time.” He further stated that administration was not informed of the fact that a liquor license would not be procured in time for the pub’s opening until late  Mar. 25.

Botzman said, “Part of it was that they were still working on getting the license…had we known there was a snag we would have liked to have had time to adjust.”

District Manager for Bon Appetit Dave Connelly said procuring the license, “turned out to be much more of an administrative and legal challenge than we’d anticipated.” According to Connelly, Bon Appetit first attempted to get their own liquor license, but after weighing the difficulties of that option decided to attempt to serve alcohol through a sister company. The logistics of this option, however, were similarly convoluted.

Connelly said, “It was only a week ago that it became clear to me that [getting the liquor license] wasn’t going to work out.” He added, “It’s certainly our doing, not the College,” and that although Bon Appetit was still working on getting the license they would likely not have it until next semester.

The pub is currently open, and is offering late-night food and non-alcoholic drinks. Botzman in an email to the campus community, said that there may be one-day pub events that include beer and wine in the near future; according to Connelly, one-day alcohol permits are much easier to procure than permanent licenses.

Botzman said, “We were really excited about this, and I hope we will continue to be excited about it. It just won’t happen as smoothly and as easily as we’d hoped.”

 

Talk of Honor Code Begins

Despite being an honors college, St. Mary’s lacks something many colleges in the United States take for granted: an honor code.

Honor codes deal primarily with academic integrity and in turn the consequences of academic dishonesty, such as cheating and plagiarism. According to President Joseph Urgo, they are common at many small colleges.

“The motivation [of the honor code] is to put more trust in students and give them greater say in academic experience.”

According to Robert Paul, Chair of the Faculty Senate and Associate Professor of Biology, most cases of academic dishonesty are currently handled as a matter between the student and his or her professor.

These “in-course penalties”, as outlined in the “To the Point” student handbook, may be a final grade of “F” for either the assignment in question or the entire course. In the most flagrant cases of academic dishonesty, or in cases of appeal, students are brought before the academic judicial board, a body consisting of four faculty and three students which finds the student not responsible or responsible for misconduct based on a preponderance of evidence; an appropriate censure is then handed down by the Provost.

Although these policies have been present in the student handbook and its faculty equivalent for years, Paul said that it puts both discretion and enforcement more in the hands of faculty than students. “It places faculty in policeman’s role to take care of [academic dishonesty], and that’s not a good role.”

The major difference between this policy and the proposed honor code is that the latter would be written by, maintained, and enforced primarily by the student body instead of faculty. Urgo said this would show that “students value academic integrity highly and students want a share in preserving it.”

Paul said, “the honor code is not something faculty can impose on students,” but added that the faculty senate would support an effort to implement the honor code.

Urgo said that the honor code would also come with other benefits, primarily the ability to have unproctored exams (i.e. exams where professors and/or teacher’s assistants would not have to be present) and a review process of the policy every few years.

Urgo further added that at many colleges students also receive a session during an orientation explaining the honor code, though the specifics of this policy have yet to be implemented in anything the college has currently developed.

Despite these changes, however, Urgo said, “I don’t see it changing in a fundamental way the academic experience… just making us more aware of academic values.”

Although no one is against the tenets of an honor code, Student Trustee Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall said that some students have noted that an honor code is somewhat unnecessary. He added, “I don’t think there’d be any discernible difference in what we do…we already have an unwritten, unspoken honor code.”

Student Parliamentarian Joshua Santangelo said he had heard some of the same concerns, and added, “some people said that one thing that makes [what we have now] so special is that it’s unspoken.”
Santangelo said that the Student Government Association (SGA) has no cemented position as of yet.

“There hasn’t been too much staunch support so far [either way]. It’s kind of been dead even.” He also said that the SGA’s future actions would likely be an attempt to gauge student interest in the honor code and, at some point, pass something either in support of or against it.

What Should I Bring Up to the Trustees?

This weekend the Board of Trustees will hold their first quarterly meeting for the 2010-2011 academic year. It’s an exciting time in the St. Mary’s governing world, as it will be the first meeting with President Urgo and our new Chairperson, Molly Mahoney, who was profiled in the last edition of the Point News.

However, ensuring that the student voice is heard is more important than these two high profile additions. That means I need to hear from all of you on what I should talk to the Board about.

There are many things happening around campus these days that the Board is working with or should hear about. The Anne Arundel work is underway, with preliminary archeological digs prior to demolition. Margaret Brent is on schedule to be moved to the Campus Center parking lot this coming summer. Lesley Urgo is spearheading a drive to make our whole campus an Arboretum.

There’s construction outside of Goodpaster and Schaefer Halls. The meadows around campus are being reviewed to better optimize their locations. Tuition rises will be coming up soon, and our food service contract is expiring. The Strategic Planning Committee is continually meeting to hammer out our long-term goals and where we want to take this school. There’s talk of a pub on campus.

What do you all want me to tell the Board? What is important in your life as a student here? What needs to be improved upon, or changed entirely? If you’re not sure whether or not something would come under the Board’s authority, tell me what it is, and if you should talk to someone else about it, I’ll point you in the right direction. St. Mary’s is our home, and even though it was severely flooded last week, we still live here.

We can’t let this institution’s future be shaped without our input, because even when we become alumni, important things such as being able to take out sailboats will still be relevant in our lives.
So before heading off to fall break, send me an email at druthenbergmarshall@smcm.edu with your thoughts and concerns. I’ll make sure the Trustees listen to what we have to say and act on it.

This school is for the students. Without us, the school loses its purpose for existence. Thus, we should have a huge say in what we do. Thanks for helping me out on this! See you on the Path!