Senate Brief: Elections, Big Senate Goals

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SENATE ELECTIONS AND BYLAW CHANGES

Senate postponed Executive Committee elections indefinitely in light of their push for administration to make the Chair of Student Life an elected Senate position. The assembly passed the motion unanimously.

The Phoenix understands that since Senate met, administration has launched a pilot program allowing the Chair of Student Life to sit on Big Senate and Executive Committee meetings. However, the Chair will not be an elected position and will not be a voting member of Student Senate.

If the College had fully cooperated, the Chair of Student Life would have become an elected position on Senate’s Executive Committee, known as Exec. They would have sat alongside such positions as the Treasurer and Parliamentarian.

Student Life advises the President on policies and procedures, and discusses options to enact her directives.

To allow more time to work out the deal, the assembly voted to postpone Exec elections will be postponed until May 16 at the latest. Since the pilot program was agreed upon, elections will be held on May 9.

Administration routinely gives similar presentations to Student Life and then to Senate. Senators felt this was redundant, and said the administration uses the divide to excuse inaction on important issues. “When there’s an issue that senators want to bring forward, the administration says, ‘That’s for Student Life,’” said Samuel James DeMattio, Parliamentarian. Senators on Student Life attested to similar demurrals from administration when they mentioned the same issues during that committee’s meetings. DeMattio characterized it as “running in circles.”

Senate voted to bring the two groups closer together to increase transparency and strengthen student coalitions.

Senators also discussed what postponing Exec elections would mean to early-year club budgets. Before the first round of funding in October, clubs are funded by a “summer senate” that meets in August to allocate the first few weeks’ worth of funding. Summer senate would not be able to meet without an elected Exec, and so would not allocate that funding.

“I think that this is the mountain that we die on, because if there’s no [Exec election], there’s no funding,” DeMattio said.

DeMattio and other senators later emphasized, publicly and to the Phoenix, that this move would not hold the summer funding hostage, since the next generation of Exec will be elected on May 16 at the latest.

Paige Crandall selects the student members of the Committee on Student Life out of a pool of applicants. According to Student Life Chair Sasha Madden, Crandall fills the open seats with people from that pool. If there are multiple applicants for one position (for instance, a Sophomore Class Representative), two applicants often share both the role and the vote. Madden herself was in that position last year.

Members of the Committee nominate their fellows for the Chair and Vice Chair positions. Both positions are open to staff, but “staff and faculty aren’t ever interested in the chair position because they tend to sit back and let students get that organization and leadership experience,” Madden told the Phoenix.

The Chair of Student Life is selected by administration after an opaque and “inefficient” system, according to Sarah Almeida, the SSSF Representative to the Committee on Student Life. Almeida is also an editor on the Phoenix. The sitting Chair and Vice-Chair of the group send out an email to the entire student body inviting applications, which then are reviewed by the administration and the Chairs. “They just tell you you’re on it,” Almeida said. “It’s such an inefficient system. So many spaces get left unfilled.”

Another concern senators had with Student Life is the strong non-student presence. While students have a voting majority, three faculty members--Angela Ferriolo, Michael Cramer, and Kevin Pilkington--sit on Student Life along with two staff members, Josh Luce and Rachelle Rumph.

Making the Student Life Chair an elected position would increase accountability. Many senators voiced issues with a supposedly student-facing organization having an unelected chair and so many faculty members.

“While we certainly value their voices and input,” Madden told the Phoenix, “[faculty and staff members] oftentimes intentionally take a backseat so that student voices are prioritized.”

Survey information is controlled and divvied up between members of the Committee, according to Hannon. “No one member of student life sees all the results,” she said. Hannon continued on to say that each member of the Committee was given a section of the survey results to look over and then to present. “This wasn’t an attempt to obfuscate or keep information from students, we just wanted to make sure we had time to get to everything,” Madden told the Phoenix. Madden casts the decision to split up the survey results not as a sinister action, but a sincere attempt to facilitate discussion.

“I feel like there should be a united front of all student leaders to advocate for the change we want to see on campus,” DeMattio said.

Senators were concerned about Senate overreach. “The only drawback I see is the centralization of power,” remarked Arya Burke, Transfer Student at Large. Hannon agreed: “I’d be wary of messing with that format, because a lot of good things come out of that committee, even if it doesn’t come to Senate first.” DeMattio concurred, but argued that bringing the two groups closer wouldn’t mean Senate would take over Student Life. “We have representatives on Student Life, but that doesn’t make it a subcommittee,” he said.

The exact language of the motion was “In order to open up a dialogue with administration about the function of executive committee, we motion to postpone Senate elections indefinitely until the end of the semester.”

Penny Kapusuzoglu was going to send out election packets to the student body the day of this meeting. Now the packets will go out either when the college agrees to place the Student Life Chair sits on Exec or late April in preparation for the latest-date May 16 election.

Senate also voted to adopt the new bylaws discussed last week. They also voted to update the Senate bylaws’ preamble and purpose to reflect what they feel the Senate stands for, and to reaffirm that it is “for the students, by the students.” The preamble also now explicitly states that “[i]f the interests of the students conflict with those of the college, the first responsibility are those of the students.”

BIG SENATE GOALS

The first two Big Senate Goals groups presented their action plans for the rest of the semester.

The Sexual Violence Awareness and Advocacy group urged “getting more involved with student groups” and promoting those already-established groups. They also hope to fund transport to the Westchester Victim Assistive Services.

That group consists of senators Sophie Edwards, Tova Grenne, Ilyssa Daly, Samuel-James DeMattio, and Rosa Mykyta-Chomsky.

The Accessibility group emphasized transportation to off-campus mental and psychological services, and ensuring that the Barbara Walters Center is as accessible as possible. They have an upcoming conversation with Steve Schafer and the head architect of the Barbara Walters who has been working with Sarah Lawrence for 10 years. They discussed the new location of the LGBT+ space, moving the Spiritual Space, and making sure those spaces were, again, accessible as possible.

Accessibility also proudly announced that the Bates elevator now stops at Career Services, which was their first main goal.

That group includes senators Lauren Cuevas, Jessie Shiner, and Kelsey Copley.

The other four groups will present their plans next week.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

SSSF reminded the assembly that Mayfair is on May 5, and that all senators have to help.

Curriculum is seeking feedback on what students enjoy and don’t enjoy about the registration process. Their main goal is to simplify the process for students, but whatever change they recommend won’t happen until at least ’20-’21.

Diversity made a recommendation that the President consider offering winter-break housing more in-depth.

Student Life discussed the isolation survey results, in keeping with the President’s charge to find solutions to isolation problems on campus.

The Senior Class Co-Presidents had a “huge week this week.” They met with AVI and ensured that there will be both beer and wine at Bacchanalia. They also secured funding for their wedding event—at which they will provide a ceremony for any students who already have the proper paperwork for marriage—and their “One Cheese Pizza” event, which only cost $10. Additionally, Ian Gonzales, one of the Senior Class Co-presidents, DM’d Frank Ocean on Instagram but has not heard back.

The First Year Class President pushed for a repair service for the bikes outside the library.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Sunrise members organize walk-out for climate change

Climate change walk-out in front of Westlands. Photo Credit: Ari Datta.

Climate change walk-out in front of Westlands. Photo Credit: Ari Datta.

At the end of the Diaspora Coalition’s four day sit-in in Westlands, Sarah Lawrence students walked out of class to protest inaction against climate change. The walk-out, organized by the Sunrise Movement, occurred at schools across the world.

“The energy was really awesome,” said hub coordinator Quinn Burke, ‘21, which she added was partially due to the discussions about climate justice among students during the sit-in. “It brought tons of new people to the walk-out who got psyched and knew how to be loud.”

The walk-out started with a rally in front of Westlands, where students chanted, sang songs, and held signs with slogans like “There is no Planet B!” and “Green Deal Now!” Speaking to the crowd, Burke stressed the importance of intersectionality in the climate fight.

“Climate justice is racial justice is economic justice is social justice,” she said. “It’s about making an Earth that is just.”

Following the students’ speeches, the group called all nine of Senator Chuck Schumer’s listed offices simultaneously, chanting “Green New Deal!” into the receivers. After the rally on campus, they took vans into the city, where they joined the thousands of students from all around New York in the national climate strike.

The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led, grassroots organization, began in 2017 with the initial goal of electing politicians in favor of renewable energy into office. The groups worked with the campaigns of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, and others.

“With Sunrise, it’s the people versus the fossil fuel billionaires who have bought out our government and continue to put their profit and their interests over the survival of humanity,” Burke said.

In December, a group of Sarah Lawrence students traveled to Washington, D.C. with the Sunrise Movement to fight for climate justice. In a crowd of over 1,000 youth activists, they participated in sit-ins at the offices of Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim McGovern, demanding support for the Green New Deal, a resolution introduced earlier this year to address climate issues.

For Annemarie Manley, ‘21, this sit-in was a turning point in her involvement with Sunrise and the global movement against climate change.

“Sitting in Nancy Pelosi’s office and being right behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was insane,” Manley said. “I’ve been part of the climate movement for a while, but I had never been part of something like that, that got so many people talking.”

As a long-time environmental activist, Manley said she often feels helpless, and has “no faith in the government” to make changes. However, after the December sit-in generated so much buzz, she became more hopeful.

“It was so powerful to realize afterwards that everyone was actually talking about this thing,” she said, “even politicians.”

Sam Kurzydlo, ‘21, left the sit-in with similar feelings of agency and triumph.

“The fact that McGovern not only came out to talk to us, but announced his support for the select committee for the Green New Deal later that day, showed me how powerful young people can be in shaping the world,” they said. “In a political climate where it’s so easy to be cynical and distrustful, the fact that Sunrise has been able to accomplish so much while leading with positivity and warmth is just incredible to me.”

SLC Sunrise held its first official meeting in mid-February, which attracted around 20 people, according to Burke. Manley said the process of creating a Sunrise hub at Sarah Lawrence was rather informal, with information mostly being spread by word-of-mouth. She and Burke, along with others, are working closely with the NYC chapter of Sunrise.

“It’s become a much bigger group than I expected it to be,” Manley said. “People stepped up and continue to step up.”

Kurzydlo joined SLC Sunrise at the end of last semester, and currently works as part of the group’s graphic design team. Kurzydlo believes that politicians are not tackling the issue of climate change with enough urgency, and was impressed by the organization’s pragmatism and persistence.

“I participate in Sunrise protests because my sister is ten, and in ten years, I don’t want my sister to have to do the same thing,” Kurzydlo said. “The Green New Deal is the only piece of legislation I’ve ever seen that acknowledges the time-sensitivity and the economic, social, and political implications of the climate crisis.”

So far, the SLC group participated in three actions with Sunrise: the sit-in in December, a rally at Schumer’s D.C. office, and a following rally outside of Senator Schumer’s house in Brooklyn.

As the group continues to grow on campus, Burke hopes they can form partnerships with other student organizations, as they did with the Diaspora Coalition.

“I hope we can build a network with everyone because climate justice is an issue that affects all people, especially people who are targeted by other systemic issues,” she said. “In the depths of such catastrophe, there’s incredible potential to create something new, and I think Sarah Lawrence could be a leading force on that.”

Amali Gordon-Buxbaum ‘21


SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Meal Plan Changes, Auction

Meal plan changes for next year. Photo source: sarahlawrence.edu

Meal plan changes for next year. Photo source: sarahlawrence.edu

MEAL PLAN CHANGES ’19-’20

Senators motioned to not recommend changes to the meal plan proposed by the administration during the second presentation on the topic this semester.

Danny Trujillo and Steve Schafer endured a storm of frustration and pointed questions as they brought their second round of proposals to Senate. Even with the updates from the last plan proposed to Senate last month, the assembly was unconvinced that the changes were useful or helpful for students, and officially condemned them.

The changes, which will raise the per-semester price of every meal plan except one, aimed to provide better food security while eliminating a meal swipe to cash equivalency. While each plan now comes with meal money, the price of each meal swipe, the move from per-semester to per-week meal allotments, and the dramatic jump in price of the lowest available meal swipe turned senators against the plan.

With the exception of those on Meal Plans 1 and 2, the price for every meal swipe increased under the new changes. The increases ranged from three cents on Meal Plan 3 to $8.43 on Meal Plan 5, putting the cost of a single meal swipe on that plan to $26.56. That plan, currently the lowest option and the go-to for students who mostly cook for themselves, would phase out entirely in a few years. That will leave the lowest plan at $2,125 per semester, nearly $1,500 dollars more expensive.

“[The price of] Meal Plan One decreased substantially from a percentage standpoint,” Trujillo said, referring to the plan’s 5% decrease from $2,860 to $2,700 per semester. Every other meal plan got more expensive.

To calm fears that students wouldn’t be able to afford the new meal plans, Trujillo said that students can “have their financial aid reviewed” to meet their new need. Aliza Yousey, ex-Treasurer visiting for the evening, expressed the room’s skepticism, doubting Financial Aid will not cover an extra $1,500 in costs. “Unless there’s major restructuring happening, I don’t see how that can magically change,” she said. Trujillo restated that one of the administration’s top priorities is making sure “students can eat.”

Some senators, like Kelsey Copley, painted the meal plan as a tax for students who are self-sufficient but still want to live on campus. “This sounds like taking autonomy away from students that know what and when they need to eat,” she said.

Ultimately, Schafer and Trujillo failed to sell the necessity of the changes. “I can’t actually recommend something that doesn’t have a consistent price for a meal,” Senior Class Co-President Isoke Atiba said near the end of the meeting. She also remarked that she can’t recommend a plan that “asks the students who are the most needy” to pay the most for each meal swipe, as Meal Plan E does.

The two administrators underlined that these changes were not final, that the decision will be made soon, and that the college “can’t predict how it’s going to be, or how it’ll work.” One senator remarked that it would be nice if the college could officially state that the changes were an “experiment.”

“When will the final decision be made?” asked Ian Gonzales, the other Senior Class Co-President. “What room? Can we be there?”

“The college,” Schafer replied, and added that the decision will be made some time in the coming week.

A chorus of senators asked Schafer to be more specific, and Trujillo refined Schafer’s answer to “the administration.” Gonzales asked Trujillo if members of Senate could sit in at the meeting, and Trujillo agreed, but time expired and the conversation moved on before Trujillo could guarantee specifics.

The changes are set to expand the meal plan to breakfast and lunch each day of spring and Thanksgiving breaks, except Thanksgiving Day itself, at no extra charge. While that expansion is “subsidized by the college,” according to Paige Crandall, students will still have to use a swipe for each of those meals.

In an email sent to senators the next day, Trujillo wrote that Meal Plan 5, the lowest plan, will not be phased out over the next few years as was previously stated.

AUCTION LOGISTICS

In an update on the Senate Day of Service, Parliamentarian Samuel James DeMattio laid out the plans thus far for the live auction.

When students bid on senators, they will be “buying an experience.” Demattio encouraged senators to sell a service associated with them or their personality. Demattio himself will be selling 10 hours of his time as a personal assistant on conference papers, and Penny Kapusuzoglu, Senate Chair, will be selling an evening of drinks at the Tavern.

The 2017 Senior Class Auction, on which this event is heavily based, heavily curated the services auctioned. DeMattio suggested that those who aren’t putting something up for auction will help with the event, handing out pamphlets or serving food.

DeMattio also underscored that “the more money we can raise, the better,” and encouraged senators to “invite our friends who will bid on you and your rich friends.”

The event will be black-tie and may be billed as either a Pre-Formal Senate Party, Opulence and Luxury, or both. There will be hors d’oeuvres.

BYLAWS

Senators will have a more formal conversation this week, but they plan to revise the formal language of the Preamble to their bylaws, which they don’t feel fits the purpose of the current senate.

“According to bylaw, [our purpose is] raising money for SSSF and panning events,” DeMattio told the assembly. “When looking at our Big Senate Goals, we’re looking for a lot more.”

Senators also hope to redraft two subsections of their bylaws this coming week.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Student Life will be meeting in the coming week to discuss issues of isolation on campus and how to prepare incoming students for Sarah Lawrence social life.

Curriculum pitched a potential pre-registration period in the Spring semester to gauge interest in the Fall semester classes. The idea is not final, and would mostly be intended to help with enrollment caps. “Interviews aren’t cancelled,” Emma Thompson assured the assembly.

Diversity met with Zenzibar, the group who recently redesigned the MySLC website, and reported that they are working to help students who wish to change their name for any reason do so in an upcoming patch to the website.

The Student Activity Committee (SAC) debriefed senate on their DIII week celebrations, including a dinner for student athletes. In their meeting they discussed which teams have not already done community service and planned ways for them to do so.


Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Senate Day of Service and Big Senate Goals

Photo from Senate Day of Service last year.

Photo from Senate Day of Service last year.

SENATE DAY OF SERVICE

After a protracted conversation that ranged from haunted houses to local disaster relief, Senate decided that their Day of Service will be an auction. All of the senators who are comfortable doing so will auction off a “service.” Most of these are yet to be decided, but some ideas proposed included a baked goods basket or friendly Instagram spamming.

“It could be, I’ll comment on every single Instagram post that you have, and say, ‘Hot stuff’—I mean—‘We’re best friends” Isoke Atiba, Senior Class Co-President, corrected herself after senators erupted in laughter. “We can’t capture the hearts of Sarah Lawrence Students by what we do every day,” Atiba said. She argued that the Day of Service had to be something special.

The proceeds from the day of service will most likely go towards the Food Sharing Space, which is open Wednesdays and Saturdays to address food insecurity.

Since appearing in the Diaspora Coalition’s sit in demands, food insecurity has appeared in dialogues across Sarah Lawrence. Ian Gonzalez, Senior Class Co-President, lobbied for the Day of Service to address the issue beginning early in the conversation. His first pitch was a large, social meal for students cooked by senators. “I don’t know how many health codes that would violate,” Gonzales joked. Paige Crandall, Dean of Student Affairs, told senators that the Food Sharing Space is already planning a food drive, and that senators could team up with the initiative.

Though the conversation eventually moved towards an auction, Crandall and other senators were skeptical about its feasibility and profitability. Maddy McNeila, SSSF Senator, cited the amount of effort she and others had to put in to get the Students for Students Scholarship Fund, or SSSF, auction off the ground. “In theory, this auction is great,” McNeila told the assembly. “But we have an auction already, and it takes months of time and planning.”

McNeila doubted that attendees would bid on the talents and small services senators would offer. “I do see both points of this,” Penny Kapusuzoglu, Senate Chair, commented. “If people don’t bid, we aren’t maximizing the amount of money we donate.”

Other senators had faith in the live auction’s appeal. “I think there’s a difference between seeing a name on a piece of paper,” said Sarah Almeida, referring to the SSSF auction’s silent format, “and seeing your friend on stage. Live is different.” Almeida is the SSSF Representative to the Committee on Student Life, and is the Online Editor for the Phoenix.

Demattio quelled doubts that the auction wouldn’t break even by calling the Senior Class Gift chair of the 2017 Senate. That year’s Class Gift involved an auction similar to the one proposed, in which students auctioned off their talents. For instance, one senior known for her acting and directing acumen offered a “Night of Theater.”  Demattio said the ’17 Senior Class Gift Committee raised around a thousand dollars and only took a week of planning. He also lobbied for seniors to be more involved despite constraints of their final-year deadlines.

“Paige, I will fight you on this,” Demattio quipped.

“I’m ready,” Crandall shot back with a smile.

She took this opportunity to raise concerns that some senators be unsettled participating in a talent-sale auction. “If you do disagree with auctioning off people,” Crandall said, to a visible wave of discomfort from the assembly. “You’re auctioning off people’s services,” she corrected. Senators, however, immediately took an informal poll of who would be comfortable participating, and only a  small number of senators didn’t raise their hands.

Previously, senators wanted to design, install, and decorate sculptures containing ashtrays to combat the masses of cigarettes that accumulate along the campus’ roadside smoking spots. Some among  did cigarette pickup as their Day of Service last year. . However, the last time Mo Gallager attended last week’s Senate meeting, she nixed the idea. “Sculptures and ashtrays are not something we could possibly achieve, especially in a day,” Kapusuzoglu reminded the assembly this week.

Volunteers from Senate may also pick up cigarettes around campus before the auction, as suggested by Gonzales. The “roving teams of senators,” as Margaux Morris put it, will also tell passesrby about the event on the day. The date of this year’s Day of Service hasn’t been set, but Demattio suggested having the auction on a Thursday night during normal Senate hours, 6pm to 8pm.

BIG SENATE GOALS MISSION STATEMENTS

The assembly split into six groups in February to address its six Big Senate Goals for the rest of the semester. This week, each group pitched its mission statement.

Senators Sophie Edwards, Tova Grenne, Ilyssa Daly, Sam-James Demattio, and Rosa Mykyta-Chomsky comprise the Sexual Violence Awareness and Advocacy group. They will provide “institutional support” for survivors of sexual assault, according to their statement.

The Accessibility group consists of senators Lauren Cuevas, Jessie Shiner, and Kelsey Copley. They will opt for “smaller issues” of accessibility instead of tackling the “many accessibility issues that are not solvable in the short term.” Their goals include making sure the Bates elevator opens at Career Services and making sure that the new Barbara Walter Campus Center will be as “accessible as possible.”

Belle Edeoga, Sarah Almeida, Sam-James Demattio, and Kayla Anne Santos are on the Transparency and Student Outreach group, which is responsible for making the processes of Senate more open to the student body. They hope to make the “process of bringing concerns to Senate explicit.”

Together Ilyssa Daly, Murray Hannon, and Jessie Shiner are the Sustainability and Campus Upkeep group. Their mission statement began by invoking junior congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at a Climate Change Town Hall called fighting climate change the “civil rights movement of our generation.” The group recommended that Senate coordinate with the various existing, college-sponsored sustainability groups on campus like G.R.O.W. and the Warren Green Co-op, among others. The group expressed their support for “continue visibility, communal awareness, and repeated recognition of these groups.”

Priya Maskey, Emma Tynan, Jessie Shiner, and Sam-James Demattio are in the Mental Health group, which pitched “equitable and effective mental health services on campus.” They mentioned advocating more therapists who identify as LGBT+, opening Health and Wellness over the weekend, and expanding the six-sessions-per-semester cap on therapy.

Finally, the Faculty and Staff Training group are Emma Oppenheimer, Emma Tynan, Jesse Shiner, and Quinn Burke. They are “committed to educating the faculty and staff on SLC Senate to keep students,” among other things, safe and empowered. They hope to address the “conscious or unconscious” biases from faculty and staff, and to “eliminate systems of oppression from the college.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Bylaw committee reported changes to language in certain bylaws. They plan to changesome aspects of the election packets to make roles clearer to future potential senators and Executive teams. Publicity discussed how to be more transparent to the wider Sarah Lawrence community, which may involve livestreaming the senate meetings. That in itself might mean changing the structure and language of Senate.

Curriculum is working on a way to simplify registration in the future.

President Cristle Collins Judd came to speak to the Diversity committee about the implication of former Title IX director Al Green’s departure and to discuss filling the conspicuous absences in the diversity offices around campus.

Danny Trujillo reported that General committee discussed the registration process, curriculum and “getting a small group together to look over the timing” of registering for classes.

Student Work representatives reported conversations on making the donning process smoother for transfer and first-year students.

The Sustainability Senators were excited to announce that they were making progress in their goal to eliminate plastic straws and make utensils in Bates more cost-effective.

The Senior Class Presidents reported they have DM’d Frank Ocean to play at Bacchanalia and are waiting on an answer.

The Sophomore Class president reported that of the sophomores who took a survey on what they want Senate to focus on, 15 out of 47 ranked sexual violence awareness as their main concern.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

PRESS RELEASE: #50YearsOfShame Sit-In

CREDIT: Gillian Giles

CREDIT: Gillian Giles

#50YearsofShame: Student Activists Occupy the President’s Office at Sarah Lawrence College

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Westlands Sit-In, a 10-day occupation addressing the College’s elitism and lack of commitment to racial justice. 50 years later, we are left perplexed and frustrated with the administration's choice to invisibilize the demands for racial justice at our institution for over five decades. We, the Diaspora Coalition, along with our allies, occupied our administrative building Westlands at 7am this morning, March 11, 2019. This was in response to the College’s verbal claims to diversity with no real action, and a worsening social climate for students of color. The goal of our demands is to open up dialogue about the pains that low-income students and students of color (including international students) face daily, with concerns ranging from course offerings, administrative positions, and funding from conservative donors such as Charles Koch. The choice to present these demands came after years of exhausting one-sided “dialogue” with administration, in which we felt our struggles were not prioritized or even considered to be legitimate. We started planning in November, and this has quickly become the largest protest in Sarah Lawrence history. This was in homage to SLC occupations in 1969 and 1989 as well as movements such as #BlackOutSLC2015, and our demands are modeled after and unfortunately nearly identical to each of these protests’ demands.

Our wish is for administrators such as President Judd along with our deans to sign in agreement to attending our informative “talk-back” (Also modeled off of the 1989 occupation) and see that further meetings for negotiations are scheduled. This morning we met with President Judd for over an hour while administrative offices were hit with a phone swarm from our outside support, but Judd has still not agreed to show solidarity with us via signing the document. With over 140 students occupying, approaching our 10 th hour, we are dedicated more than ever to bringing about institutional change for our communities. Over 50 alum have signed a document in solidarity along with 21 faculty. Sarah Lawrence is associated with a history of activism, and that activism is often tokenized and used as a selling point for the school instead of being recognized as a reason for change. The Diaspora Coalition firmly rejects the reputation that SLC is the “most liberal college in the US” when students go hungry, homeless, and without access to their own history.

The primary concern of our administrators is with our request that they sign a copy of the demands. Over 140 students have signed this copy, and we merely ask they express a similar concern over these issues and a commitment to engage in negotiations with us until each point in the document is addressed. We are prepared to remain in Westlands until further notice.

Click here to see the full list of demands.

Signed,

The Diaspora Coalition

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

DEMANDS: Westlands Sit-In 50 Years of Shame

Source: 50 YEARS OF SHAME.

Source: 50 YEARS OF SHAME.

On the morning of Mon. Mar. 11, the Diaspora Coalition entered Westlands for a 24-hour occupation:

The following is a full re-print of their demands.

““Sarah Lawrence is and must be a community that welcomes and nurtures people of all races. The college rejects all forms of racism.” — Memo, dated March 1, signed by the administration.

We students of color do not believe this statement to be true… the college community has failed to meet the liberal principles it professes. If we students of color are truly part of this community, if healing is ever to take place, there must be action. - Concerned Students of Color, 1989

We, the Diaspora Coalition, are a group of students who can speak to the injustices imposed on people of color by this institution on a daily basis. The Diaspora Coalition was established this fall in order to address the pain of marginalized students as well as to advise the administration on how to best address this pain. Each of us has seen this administration repeatedly diminish the hard work of student activists who merely want a quality education and the personalized curriculum that SLC promises. We extend solidarity to all people of color in the Sarah Lawrence Community, including international students, graduate students, faculty, and staff.

In spring of 2018, Inaugural President Cristle Collins Judd held a meeting with students of color in Common Ground where we implored she respond to the demands of #BlackoutSLC2015. Our inquiries were evaded and our time wasted. This school year, we are losing our Chief Diversity Officer, Director of Diversity and Campus Engagement, and Assistant Director of Diversity and Campus Engagement. We blame the administration’s lack of tangible commitment to diversity for these losses. There has been no word from the administration on restoring the department.


On March 11, 2019, the Diaspora Coalition, along with our allied peers, will occupy Westlands, make calls to the board, and present demands that describe not only our ideal vision for the school but also what we see as the only acceptable terms by which Sarah Lawrence can remain for the students and against hate. If the College does not accept these demands, it will no longer be hailed as a progressive institution but instead remembered for its inability to truly embody its self-proclaimed progressive ideology and support all students against an international rising tide of white supremacy and fascism. Sarah Lawrence was not founded on racial or economic equality and has not implemented sufficient strategies to dismantle systematic oppression to be sustainable or safe for marginalized people in an increasingly dangerous political climate. Low-income students should not have to question if they belong at this institution. We have worked tirelessly to make our voices heard and demands met because we believe in a Sarah Lawrence that can be for the people, by the people.

The Diaspora Coalition and our allies fully intend to have a peaceful demonstration that does not result in any damage to SLC property.

Housing Accommodations and Accessibility

  1. Sarah Lawrence must commit to actualizing the value that housing is a human right.

    1. The College must provide winter housing to students at no charge. This housing must include a communal kitchen with dry goods from the food pantry available for all students.

    2. In the extreme case that housing cannot be provided to students during break due to housing probation, the school must provide a list of local low-cost, free, and/or accessible housing options for students.

  2. The College will designate housing with a minimum capacity for thirty students of color that is not contingent on the students expending any work or labor for the college. This housing option will be permanent and increase in space and size based on interest.

  3. All campus laundry rooms are to supply laundry detergent and softener on a consistent basis for all students, faculty and staff.

    Food Security and Accessibility

    1. Sarah Lawrence must commit to actualizing the value that no student go hungry.

      1. The College must commit to devising a food plan where every student has access to, at minimum, two meals a day, including weekends, school breaks, and days when the college is closed due to weather. When dining options are closed on campus, the College must provide free meals for students staying on campus, including vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, halal, and kosher options.

      2. A commitment that no student goes hungry includes graduate students and students that live off-campus. The College will design meal plans for graduate and off-campus students based on need.

      3. The College must ensure that students can share and transfer meal swipes and/or use multiple within the same dining period. It is unacceptable that there are students with leftover swipes at the end of the semester when other students are going hungry because they run out of meal options.

      4. The College will support the food sharing place and institutionalize it as a food pantry.

        1. The Food Pantry will get a permanent location in the Barbara Walters Campus Center to be opened in the Fall of 2019.

        2. Sarah Lawrence’s Food Pantry will join the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) by the Spring of 2020.

        3. The College will provide enough food for three hundred students per semester along with continuing to accept donations.

        4. The Food Pantry will expand its hours to eight hours and four days a week.

      5. The College will include students currently organizing around food security in the discussions for these developments.

    2. Kosher/Halal Kitchen

      1. Jewish students at Sarah Lawrence asked for the construction of a kosher kitchen as early as 1978. The College has yet to construct one. With the addition of another dining space in the Barbara Walters Campus Center, as well as the forthcoming vacancy of the Pub, this is an opportune moment for the college to make good on its commitment to diversity and inclusion by guaranteeing that Muslim and Jewish students may observe the dietary practices of their faiths.

Resources for First-Generation and Low-Income Students

  1. We demand the College appoint a designated staff member in the Office of Student Affairs as the administrative liaison for first-generation resources. This role should include, but not be limited to: advising the First Generation Student Union, leading orientation programs, conducting semesterly check-ins, organizing trips, answering questions, and providing information for families.

  2. We demand an increase in transparency in the office of the Dean of Studies, including how to receive a book stipend. We demand that the fund for books and the internship travel stipend be increased.

  3. We demand the College further the accessibility of the college’s website for our diverse campus community by creating language-friendly resources on our digital platforms.

  4. We demand the College provide accessible information for GED, community college transfer applicants, and other non-traditional student information on the official college website.

  5. We demand the College provide free storage to low-income and international students during the summer session between academic calendar years.

  6. We demand the College actualize the value that healthcare is a human right by providing free health insurance to students with demonstrated financial need.

  7. In addition to the expansion of the food pantry, we demand the College implement a 24/7 space in the Barbara Walters Center focused on providing food and necessities including pads, tampons, and detergent. Students should be able to obtain these items using with their meal plan or meal money.

  8. We demand a mandatory first-year orientation session about intellectual elitism and classism.

  9. We demand the removal of tuition insurance and other costs that prevent students from caring for urgent needs including their mental health and families.

  10. We demand international students be included in the provisions stipulated above.

Support for International Students

  1. We demand the College give a mandatory information session detailing the EAL/ESL resources available and how they might be accessed by students during international student pre-orientation, as well as once at the beginning of every semester. The information provided must contain a list of available tutors, their offices, and contact information. Faculty must also be given this information to disseminate to students in need.

  2. We demand the College provide free storage to international students as part of the College’s commitment to student welfare. The College must host information sessions every spring semester detailing low-cost storage options and transport available to students who prefer an off-campus alternative.

  3. While the College provides OPT and CPT training for international students, it would also be beneficial for international students to receive instruction on the American tax system. There must be mandatory information sessions for international students on how to file their taxes at the beginning of every spring semester with particular emphasis on graduating seniors. Counselling must also be made available to students who require further help.

  4. To embody its professed commitment to diverse and inclusive excellence, we demand that Sarah Lawrence College be made accessible to low-income and first-generation students from the Global South. The College will broaden its admissions global recruitment efforts to include developing countries in the Global South. The College will send recruitment teams to countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa.

  5. We demand the College meet the demonstrated need of low-income international students by expanding the funds for the International Scholarship.

  6. The F-1 visa does not allow for international students to secure employment off-campus. International students are also ineligible for work-study. Student employment must accommodate and prioritize international students when considering job applications at the beginning of the year.

Faculty

  1. Diasporic Studies

    1. Students of color should not be forced to resort to racist white professors in order to have access to their own history. It is crucial that the College offer courses taught about people of color by people of color so that students may engage in and produce meaningful work that represents them authentically.

    2. We demand there be new tenured faculty of color – at least two in African diasporic studies, one in Asian-American studies, one in Latinx diasporic studies, and one in indigenous/native peoples studies.

    3. We demand there be at least three more courses offered in African diasporic studies taught by Black professors.

    4. We demand that the College offer classes that embody intersectionality, as defined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, and address the racial diversity of the LGBTQ+ community instead of centering whiteness.

    5. The aforementioned classes must be taught by professors who are a part of the culture they are teaching about.

  2. Reject Funding or Involvement from the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch-Affiliated Organizations

    1. From 2010-2017, Sarah Lawrence accepted $89,500 from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation. Professor Sam Abrams is an alumnus of the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) at George Mason University (GMU), of which Charles Koch has served as chairman of the board for almost four decades. The IHS is linked to the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that proudly “dared go to Charlottesville in August 2017” for the infamous white supremacist demonstration that resulted in the murder of 32-year-old anti-racist protester Heather Heyer. With this company, it is unsurprising that the Koch brothers wield their corporate influence to fight against free speech and progress, as documented by activists including the group Transparent GMU and news publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post. The fact that Sarah Lawrence utilizes money from the Charles Koch Foundation, at best, demonstrates a passive condoning of the violent ideology of the Koch brothers and their efforts to maintain the institutionalization of oppression against marginalized people. Accepting such money completely violates SLC’s “progressive” values and displays a gross indifference towards the suffering of marginalized students and faculty. Sarah Lawrence must confront how the presence of Sam Abrams, an anti-queer, misogynist, and racist who actively targets queer people, women, and people of color and is an alumnus of an institute with direct ties to a neo-Confederate hate group, affects the safety and wellbeing of marginalized students. Additionally, Sarah Lawrence will forfeit donations and interactions from the Charles Koch Foundation and never hire alumni from the League of the South-aligned Institute for Human Studies in the future.

  3. Professor Samuel Abrams and Defending Progressive Education

    1. On October 16, 2018, politics professor Samuel Abrams published an op-ed entitled “Think Professors Are Liberal? Try School Administrators” in The New York Times. The article revealed the anti-Blackness, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-woman bigotry of Abrams. The article specifically targeted programs such as the Our Liberation Summit, which Abrams did not attend, facilitated by the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement. The Sarah Lawrence community deserves an administration that strives for an inclusive education that reflects the diversity of our community. Abrams’ derision of the Black Lives Matter, queer liberation, and women’s rights movements displays not only ignorance but outright hostility towards the essential efforts to dismantle white supremacy and other systems of oppression. This threatens the safety and wellbeing of marginalized people within the Sarah Lawrence community by demonstrating that our lives and identities are viewed as “opinions” that we can have a difference in dialogue about, as if we haven’t been forced to debate our very existences for our entire lives. We demand that Samuel Abrams’ position at the College be put up to tenure review to a panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color. In addition, the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students, whilst apologizing for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed. Abrams must issue a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.

    Staff

    1. The Rehiring of Title IX and Diversity Officers

      1. We demand the positions of Dean of Equity and Inclusion, Director of the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement, and Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement will be filled by three separate people of color by the beginning of the fall 2019 semester. A panel of students of color will be formed and will be instrumental in deciding who fills these positions.

    2. Mental Health Support for Students of Color

        1. We demand the College provide and support at least:

          1. One new Black therapist

          2. One new Asian therapist

          3. One new Latinx therapist

        2. We demand all students have access to unlimited therapy sessions through Health and Wellness.

        3. We demand the College provide transportation to students with weekly therapy in the Westchester area.

    3. We demand the College facilitate annual diversity training during the first two weeks of the fall semester mandatory for faculty and first-year students and available to all students and faculty. The training will be crafted in a democratic manner with the input of students and staff from the Diaspora Coalition.

    Funding

    1. Scholarships for Students of Color

      1. We demand the College fund a new scholarship program initiative specifically for students of color, with priority given to low-income and first-generation students. This program initiative must include:

        1. An endowed scholarship fund, ensuring that the funding will last for generations of students to come. This funding should come from both institutional monies and donor giving.

        2. The Office of Advancement and the Office of the President must commit to fundraising for this endowment immediately by establishing at least $30,000 by the beginning of the next academic year (fall 2019). Additionally, the students of color scholarship must be listed as a top priority for the next capital campaign. The scholarship shall be awarded to first years and stay at the same or increased amount every year until the graduation of the selected students.

        3. In addition to the scholarship, this program initiative must provide the selected students the commitment of community. This shall include mentorship through pairing with an upperclassman and a staff member from the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement.

        4. This program should:

          1. House the students together in their first year

          2. Offer a stipend of at least $500 per semester for each student

          3. Provide a free standard meal plan

          4. Plan outings and workshops throughout the academic year

      2. The College must provide full transparency to incoming students looking for information on scholarships. There is no information on the website on the process of scholarship selection nor how one can be considered. The College must add more information on the scholarship process by the next academic semester.

      3. The College must fully meet all demonstrated financial need of accepted students of color. Students of color consistently and overwhelmingly experience financial distress and fail to be accommodated by the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Student Accounts. This is part of the reason why the college’s retention rate for students of color is so low. Both offices should be obligated to provide scholarship resources for those in need of outside help.

      4. The College must guarantee work-study for all students awarded work-study funds for the year. As the funds cannot be accessed without a campus job, it is the duty of the College to provide students the opportunity to earn the money listed on their financial aid package.

    2. Permanent Funding for Identity Groups

      1. The College will provide a set budget of at least $500 per semester to:

        1. Black student unions

        2. Asian student unions

        3. Latinx student unions

        4. Indigenous student unions

        5. LGBTQ+ student unions, including QPOC

        6. Disabled student unions

        7. First-generation college student unions

        8. International student unions

      2. The student body will in no way pay for these funds.

      3. Identity groups will be allowed to request for senate funding in addition to this set budget.

    Indigenous Land Acknowledgment

    1. We demand indigenous land acknowledgement at all orientation and commencement ceremonies in addition to a permanent land acknowledgement page on both MySLC and the Sarah Lawrence website. These pages must also include a list of resources for local tribes.


We demand that the College respond to our demands with a detailed timeline of when the demands will be met.

  1. We demand that the following administrators from the College attend the student-facilitated talk-back on March 13, 2019 at 5:30pm in Miller Lecture Hall regarding this document:

    1. President: Cristle Collins Judd

    2. Vice President of Administration: Thomas Blum

    3. Vice President for Finance and Operations: Stephen Schafer

    4. Vice President for Advancement and External Affairs: Patty Goldman

    5. Chair of the Board of Trustees: Mark P. Goodman ‘83

    6. Dean of Equity and Inclusion: Al Green

    7. Dean of Students: Danny Trujillo

    8. Dean of Studies: Beverly Fox

    9. Dean of Student Affairs: Paige Crandall

    10. Dean of Enrollment: Kevin McKenna

    11. Provost and Dean of Faculty: Kanwal Singh

    12. Associate Vice President for Advancement and Principal Gifts: Ellen Reynolds

    13. Associate Dean of Studies: Polly Waldman

    14. Assistant Dean of Studies/Director of International Admission and Advising: Shirley Be

    15. Director of Financial Aid: Nick Salinas

    16. Director of Admission: Jennifer Gayles

    17. Director of Student Involvement and Leadership: Joshua Luce

    18. Director of Residence Life: Myra McPhee

    19. Director of Human Resources: Danielle Coscia

    20. Director of Donor Relations and Advancement Communications: Dorothee Ahrens

    21. Senior Director of Development: Abigail Feder Kane

    22. Senior Financial Aid Counselor and Coordinator of Student Employment: Catherine Douglas

    23. All active department heads

    24. Assistant Director of Financial Aid: Roberta Daskin

    25. Assistant Director of Admission: Seth Katz

    26. Assistant Director of Student Involvement and Leadership: Valerie Romanello

    27. Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations and Facilities: Maureen Gallagher

    28. Assistant Director of Residence Life: Erica Monnin

    29. All active members of Advisory Committee

    30. All active members of Committee on Diversity

    31. All Admissions Counselors

    1. We demand President Cristle Collins Judd release a public statement by March 30, 2019, the end of spring break, responding to the demands.

    2. We demand the College release a formal annotated response to our demands that will be presented to students in a face-to-face meeting no later than April 5, 2019, the Friday following our return from spring break.

Protection for Students  

  1. The College’s work-study employers will respect students’ right to protest during the week of the sit-in and in the future.

  2. The institution will not use the threat of expulsion, removal of positions held in student government, or any other forms of punishment in retaliation to civil disobedience.

  3. We, the Diaspora Coalition and our allies, demand that students not be penalized for participating in sit-in commencing on Monday, March 11, 2019. We expect faculty to understand that student activists attending the sit-in may not be able to attend class. We ask faculty to support the student activism happening this week, which includes the sit in, distribution of demands, and a talk-back taking place on Wednesday, March 13th at 5:30pm in Titsworth Marjorie Miller Leff Lecture Hall. It is our hope that faculty and staff value our voices outside of the classroom and support students’ right to protest without repercussion.

We invite and expect our administration, faculty, and student body to stand in solidarity with #SLC50sitin.

The following administrators will sign this document agreeing to attend the talk back on March 13th, the meeting on April 5th, and see that further negotiations are scheduled until all the demands have been processed to their fullest extent.

President: Cristle Collins Judd

Vice President of Administration: Thomas Blum

Dean of Students: Danny Trujillo

Dean of Studies: Beverly Fox

Dean of Student Affairs: Paige Crandall

Dean of Enrollment: Kevin McKenna

Provost and Dean of Faculty: Kanwal Singh

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Diversity Training, Future of Black Squirrel

Black Squirrel. Photo Credit: Sarah Lawrence College.

Black Squirrel. Photo Credit: Sarah Lawrence College.

FUTURE OF THE BLACK SQUIRREL AND STUDENT SPACES

Senate voiced its questions and strong opposition to the closing of the Black Squirrel and other student spaces to a representative from Student Affairs.

Ian Gonzalez, Senior Class President, used the floor to protest the school’s plan to close the Black Squirrel, milkshake bar and favorite student hangout. “I want this to be heard in Senate,” Gonzales opened. “Personally I’d like to work with the administration to find a reasonable solution.”

Josh Luce, Director of Student Involvement and Leadership at Student Affairs, confirmed to Senate the school’s intention to shut down the Black Squirrel. “The intention has always been for the Black Squirrel to be replaced,” Luce told Gonzales. Next year, AVI will provide similar services in the Barbara Walters Campus Center. Luce was clear to say that whatever replaces it “won’t be a milkshake bar.”

He explained that the spot’s revenue has mainly been brought in by events, and that on nights without open mics or movies don’t pay.

The Black Squirrel does not aim to recoup expenses. Instead, all the money it makes goes toward the SSSF and finances student aid. Student workers are paid out of the Student Activity Fund, which has a set amount of money per year earmarked for the Squirrel’s student wages. The school does not pay for SAF; students themselves are required to pay a certain amount towards the fund as part of their tuition. Despite the bar’s planned closure, students’ required contribution to SAF is going up by four dollars this year to $236 next year.

Along with the Black Squirrel’s intrinsic value, Gonzales also voiced his opposition to AVI “growing and growing and becoming the only food option on campus,” deeming it “not healthy.”

The closure of the Squirrel would end ten on-campus student positions—two space managers, seven milkshake baristas, and a designated ingredient buyer. Luce said that the new positions offered by the new Campus Center would offer students jobs staffing the information desk and setting up for events.

When asked why the Squirrel couldn’t find a new home in the Campus Center, Luce said that the floor plan for the Center was already locked in. “We have very limited space on campus. We barely have lounges in our residence halls,” he said.

Senators, however, reiterated their support for the Black Squirrel in its current form as a rare space on campus without “adult presence” as Treasurer Margaux Morris put it. “It seems like a really valuable space to me, and even more so with the campus center opening,” Morris continued. “It’s nice to have an open space in what will increasingly become a corner on campus.” Senators also noted the irony of discussing student isolation and then shuttering one of the most beloved student gathering places.

“I’ve had some of the best experiences in the Black Squirrel at open mics, playing pool with my friends, and having a milkshake made by someone I knew,” Gonzalez concluded.

“It’s not so much that there won’t be student jobs, it’s more that there is a late-night student hangout space that’s student run,” said Trace Bernardi, ’20, who works Wednesdays as a barista in the Black Squirrel.

Bernardi read a letter penned by the Thursday barista, Myles Lowrie-Otter, ’21, who could not be present. Lowrie-Otter noted the sense of unity that the Squirrel brings its workers and patrons. The letter also reflected on the spot’s history and the mementos stored in the bar: “Behind the counter my friends and I have found Sarah Lawrence treasures.”

Senators also clarified certain aspects of the new Campus Center’s food service, which will replace the Pub and will offer a café option open late, Luce said.

DIVERSITY TRAINING

Senators spent the first hour and a quarter of their session this week undergoing diversity training and discussing how to better facilitate productive and understanding conversations.

Real Talk Coordinator Alisha Thompson had senators write down one thing they felt could be improved in senate meetings. She listed certain “areas of improvement” on a whiteboard later in the session. They included tone policing, hiding behind senate formality, and not acknowledging privilege, among others.

Thompson also had senators discuss one time in each of their lives when they felt seen, and one time when they did not. She asked them to share the differences in emotion and reaction in those different moments.

Thompson encouraged senators to weave intersectionality into all areas of their lives, beyond even senate, “because institutionalized oppression does just that.”

COMMITTEE REPORTS

SSSF is still asking for skills or clothes to auction off during their auction this year which will raise money for their fund. During Publicity’s announcement, Senator Leia Tyebjee took the time to mention that there were unacceptable absences during both SAS and SSSF meetings, and that the heads of those respective groups have been “picking up slack.” Admissions and enrollment talked about a future collaboration with Student Life to work out a way to find proper vocabulary for student life for prospective students. General Committee discussed adding more 2- and 3-credit courses. Student Life is working on a survey of campus isolation and loneliness.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Administration Addresses Concerns Following Temporary Removal of Free Speech Board

The free speech board outside of Bates as of February 21, 2019. Photo credit: Amali Gordon-Buxbaum.

The free speech board outside of Bates as of February 21, 2019. Photo credit: Amali Gordon-Buxbaum.

Mo Gallagher, the assistant vice president for campus operations and facilities, described the first week of November as “a perfect storm.” On Nov. 2, a message featuring unverified allegations about professor Samuel J. Abrams was written on the free speech board outside of Hill House. Initially, the sign was painted over; however, due to heavy rainfall that night, campus operations physically removed the sign the following day, Gallagher said.

“We’ve never physically taken the sign down before,” she said. “It had to be removed, repainted, and then replaced.”

Multiple members of the school’s administration explained that the message about Abrams was removed because it fell outside of the boundaries of protected free speech.

“When you name an individual— it could be a faculty member, student, or staff member— when you make certain allegations about that individual’s behavior which are criminal in nature, without substantiation, that’s a form of defamation,” said Danny Trujillo, Dean of Studies and Student Life. Critiquing an institution such as the U.S. government or Sarah Lawrence College itself, however, is within students’ rights.

Trujillo suggested students refer to the “helpful resource” of the ACLU’s website to educate themselves on the definition of free speech under the Constitution.

The campus contains two free speech boards; one behind Hill House and one outside the Bates Center for Student Life. Above the Bates free speech board are plaques that read: “Express yourself. Respect your community. Hate speech is not free speech.”

The removal prompted questions and outrage from many students.

“I was disappointed by the removal,” said one student who helped to put up the postings about Abrams. “Even if it was about weather, taking it down has a lot of weight, especially when it’s a message that over 20,000 people have seen.” A video tweet of the board removal posted by the Phoenix has received over 27,000 media views.

Diversity Senator Jessie Shiner felt similarly frustrated with both the school’s decision to remove the board and the school’s response to the root of the action itself: Abrams’s op-ed.

“It’s noteworthy that people were more upset, seemingly, about the threatening of a white man’s position as a tenured faculty than they were about the threatening of two [now former] admin of color, who are some of the sole faces of color in the administration, publicly to the entire country in one of the most popular news platforms,” Shiner said.

After the Hill House board was replaced, a new message quickly appeared on the sign, stating, “SLC, admit your shame.” The student who wrote this message spoke to the Phoenix under the condition of anonymity.

“It’s interesting that the school is able to say, ‘that’s not true, that’s slander,’ without addressing the social reality,” they said. “I think the students got blamed for starting a dialogue, instead of the school taking responsibility for the fact that they couldn’t control a narrative that they’re responsible for. It’s not the students’ job to address inappropriate relationships between faculty and students.”

Following the replacement of the board, administration instated a rule that the paints used for the boards need to be checked out using ID cards. Gallagher told the Phoenix the conversation surrounding the paints came up due to “cleaning reasons.”

“Paint would get on the bricks around the board, and the plants below it, and would get tracked into Bates,” Gallagher said. “It’s not easy or cheap to clean paint off a building.”

Trujillo explained that the discussion began months before the message about Abrams was posted.

“Last year, the Committee on Student Life was trying to figure out if there was a way to protect the building, but still allow students to use the free speech board,” Trujillo said. After the message in November, the conversations essentially stopped, he continued.

“The paint check-out was not about what was posted on the boards. It was about if whoever was painting on the board could be identified, they could be held accountable,” he said, “so that the entire community doesn’t have to pay for reparation for those damages.”

Much of the student body, however, opposed this decision and the reasoning behind it.

“We could all tell that was a pretty elaborate lie,” Shiner said. “We’re adults, we’ll take responsibility, we’ll clean up our paints. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the right for free speech.”

The issue came up during multiple senate meetings. The initial decision, according to Crandall and Trujillo, stated that if students fail to clean the board, or if students cause any structural damage to the space around the board, they will be charged a $50 “Community Impact Fee.” In response, Senate discussed covering Community Impact Fees themselves, or supplying paint with Senate budget.

“I thought it was a big intimidation tactic to say ‘we’re actively taking away your material for free speech,’” Shiner said. “It creates a dynamic where if you have money to buy your own paint and to get your own resources, then you have the right to free speech. And if you don’t, then you’re either forced into either not having anonymity in your speech or you’re forced to spend money on something the school should provide.”

The removal also sparked rumors that the boards would be removed permanently. Gallagher explained that she was working with the Committee on Student Life to discuss better locations for the boards, but the two will remain up regardless.

Trujillo expressed his interest in a more open conversation with the community to “figure out what’s the best solution.”

“We focus so much on the free speech boards, which are one form of expression for different points of view,” Trujillo said. “However, they are not a context for dialogue. We haven’t really discussed what happens in the classrooms, what happens in the residence halls, what happens in the Pub and Bates.”

Shiner echoed Trujillo’s desire for more dialogue, instead of just speech. However, she advocated for this dialogue to not only happen more between students, but between the student body and administration.

“I wish it was treated with more gravity by those who it’s addressed to, because it’s frequently addressed to certain members of the administration and it never seems to receive an adequate response,” Shiner said. “If it does, it’s usually dismissive or reprimanding of the action. If you’re going to create that space for students, you need to work with it and be in dialogue with it.”

Amali Gordon-Buxbaum ‘21

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Health and Wellness and Big Senate Goals

The Sarah Lawrence Health and Wellness Center, known as “Lyles House” Photo Credit: Amali Gordon-Buxbaum

The Sarah Lawrence Health and Wellness Center, known as “Lyles House” Photo Credit: Amali Gordon-Buxbaum

HEALTH AND WELLNESS:

Student Senate invited Dina Nunziato, director of counseling and psychological services at the school’s Health and Wellness Center, to answer questions posed by senators and other students about the center’s services.

The Health and Wellness Center provides medical, counseling and psychological services to the Sarah Lawrence community. The counseling and psychological department, which receives the largest amount of visits, according to Nunziato, treats conditions such as anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and other psychological concerns. The center provides treatment not only for individuals, but for groups as well. Last semester, Nunziato said, was a “banner semester” with 20 groups running, which included groups on anxiety, family “drama,” and harm reduction.

“We really feel it’s our mission to support you all here in your academic pursuits, in your interpersonal relationships, and in your growth as a student and as a human being,” Nunziato said.

Every student has a limit of six counseling sessions per academic year, a cap required by the increasingly large number of students who use counseling services. Some senators were concerned about the negative effects the limit might have.

“I know that you don’t have the capacity for more than six sessions per student, but I think it’s really daunting to just sign up for that,” said Diversity Senator Jessie Shiner. “It’s hard because there isn’t any backup option.”

The reason for the limit is fairness, Nunziato explained, and to avoid filling up appointment slots too quickly. She also pointed out that the size of the center’s counseling staff—three full-time therapists and one part-time—is significant, given Sarah Lawrence’s population. Nunziato added that the center is currently working towards bringing on a 24 hour service.

“We know that that’s a need,” she said. She also clarified that despite the six session limit, if a student is in crisis, they can walk in, and someone will be available to assist them.

Multiple senators also addressed the issue of transportation to off-campus care. Nunziato said the she does her best to find locations within a five mile radius, but acknowledged the lack of accessible or reliable public transportation in Westchester.

“It comes down to cost,” Nunziato said. “At this point, I don’t have any money to provide taxi vouchers or Uber certificates.”

Cueva followed up with an inquiry about opening hours for SLC van drivers as a transportation option, to which Nunziato responded, “What we sometimes tell students, especially in the winter, is if it works with your schedule, you can take a van to the train station, because some of our therapists in Bronxville are close to the train station. But that’s not how vans are supposed to be used, so I don’t usually tell students.”

“But if it’s convenient, if it’s helpful, why shouldn’t you tell them?” Cueva countered.

General Committee Senator Genesis Rico proposed the idea of starting a fund for transportation services for off-campus care.

“I’d be willing to put $20 to it monthly, even if it’s not to my benefit, for anyone who needs,” Rico said.

Several senators voiced their interest in having therapy animals on campus, for which Nunziato said she was in total support and would be willing to further discuss the details with anyone interested.

In the 2017-18 academic year, Nunziato said, the Health and Wellness Center received 3,898 visits, which was a 7% increase from last year. Counseling services engaged with over 32% of the on-campus student body, and individual counseling was the highest utilized service.

COMMITTEE REPORTS:

SSSF Committee reminded students of the silent and live auctions coming up in the first week of March. Curriculum is currently looking at four proposals on topics such as students taking courses for fewer than five credits, which will be receiving input from faculty at the next meeting. Diversity discussed the necessity of diversity statements in job applications, and the school’s lack of post-tenure review. General created an ad hoc committee to determine the structure of faculty governance and continued its discussion about registration, focusing on the possibility of expanding the size of lectures. They mentioned that this semester had one of the highest bump rates. Student Life discussed a proposed policy on “coasting devices,” such as skateboards, scooters, and bikes, as well as a survey being conducted on feelings of isolation on campus, which they plan to send out before spring break. Senate also began assigning point people for their “Big Senate Goals,” which were decided on at the beginning of the semester.

Amali Gordon-Buxbaum ‘21

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Senate Day of Service and Big Senate Goals

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SENATE DAY OF SERVICE:

Senate voted to create and install sculptures that double as ashtrays around campus as their yearly Day of Service this year. It’s unclear if Student Life will approve the installations.

The details are still to be determined, but Senate’s rough outline for their Day of Service is installing beautifying standing ashtrays around campus with help from the student body. Senate would split up into several groups, each with two senators with visual arts backgrounds and one senator from the Executive Committee, to oversee and participate in each project.

The idea came from a previous discussion about the possibility of having ashtrays installed at the walkway outside the library and other smoking hotspots around campus. Last year, Senate’s Day of Service saw senators helping to pick up cigarette butts at these hotspots.

Student Life would have to approve any permanent installation on campus, Paige Crandall, Dean of Student Affairs, told senators. Crandall said that Student Life would be especially hesitant to approve standing ashtrays in any form.

Crandall told senators that the Taskforce on Smoking, a group of student smokers and faculty who either smoked or used to smoke, met while working out Smoke Free SLC policy in 2014 and 2015, and recommended to not have standing ashtrays on campus. The Taskforce’s main concern, according to Crandall, was that the ashtrays would encourage smoking.

Senators were unconvinced by that argument. “That’s the same argument as saying birth control encourages sex,” Dehlia Mitchell-Gray, Admissions Committee, said. In a more extreme example, Aliza Yousey, Treasurer, likened it to arguing that clean needle exchanges encourage heroin use. “We have to get away from that argument that [ashtrays] cause smoking,” Yousey said.

Moreover, senators thought that the student body whose representatives participated in the Smoke Free SLC group had different needs to the current student body. “We’re a different student body now. We have different needs than the student body four years ago,” Rosa Mykyta-Chomsky, Student Athletic Advisory Committee, said. “We’re changing as a school. Just because that’s what they wanted, that doesn’t mean that’s what right for us.”

Senators asked Crandall to clarify that the language in Smoke Free SLC isn’t required by state or federal law. “Legally, legislation-wise, you can’t smoke in residence halls. Everything else you see, that is [decided by the administration of] Sarah Lawrence,” Crandall said.

“Part of the reason that ashtrays didn’t work back then is that people used to smoke everywhere,” Mykyta-Chomsky said. Ashtrays would be more useful now that Smoke Free SLC concentrated smoking to certain spots on campus, senators reasoned. Morris agreed: “I think [ashtrays] would be very effective with the patterns of smoking on campus as they stand.”

Since opting not to install permanent ashtrays, Sarah Lawrence has taken other initiatives to curb cigarette litter, including giving student smokers personal ash tins. The college encouraged students to ash their cigarettes into the tins, then empty the tins when they had a chance. Despite the college’s high hopes the tins were not as ubiquitous as intended.

“Raise your hand if you still use tins,” Yousey asked senators. Three raised their hands, but only one actively used the tin for their everyday smoking.

Senate will work out the details of their Day of Service in next week’s meeting.

BIG SENATE GOALS:

This semester, Student Senate’s “Big Goals” are:

  • Sexual violence awareness and advocacy

  • Accessibility

  • Transparency and student outreach

  • Sustainability and campus upkeep

  • Mental health

  • Faculty training

This first session of the year focused on “brainstorming how to better tackle these issues this semester,” as last semester “big senate goals got away from us a little bit,” said Penny Kapusuzoğlu, Senate Chair.

Senators suggested some preliminary ideas such as posting the senate agenda on social media before meetings, posting senator bios in Bates, and tasking the incoming sustainability senator with coordinating the various sustainability groups on campus.


COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Admissions and Enrollment discussed whether visiting students should be allowed to sit in on classes, and how to better support visiting students and this families. Diversity spoke with President Judd about the changes to the Office of Diversity, which lost its two full-time staff members two weeks ago and is currently only staffed by students. The committee didn’t give any details of the conversation. Student Life discussed students’ feelings of isolation on campus, and Judd’s charge to “combat that sort of isolation in the future”. Student Activities mentioned their next big event will be their Women in Athletics Day, which will take place on February 5 in the Campbell Sports Center. The Sophomore and First-Year Class Presidents spoke with Anne Marie Damiani from Career Services about a potential internship panel open to all students.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Social Media Monitoring, SAF Increase, AVI Contract Renewal

Sarah Lawrence students are active participants on all kinds of social media platforms. Credit: Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

Sarah Lawrence students are active participants on all kinds of social media platforms. Credit: Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

STUDENT SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING

Senate agreed to form a task force to address reports of the administration retaliating against negative posts on students’ social media.

The task force will discuss making a statement to the administration and drafting new language for the student handbook. The language would warn students that administration can monitor their social media under certain circumstances, and outline what those circumstances are. The task force would also discuss going directly to the administration with suggestions and complaints.

This discussion continued from last week, when Gillian Giles brought several stories from students about facing repercussions from the school after they made posts criticizing the school on their social media accounts.

“It doesn’t seem ethical, especially if there’s no formal rule,” said Giles, the Transfer Student at Large. “It’s something that needs to be looked into, something that people need to be held accountable for. Giles brought anonymous testimonies from four students, but the discussion focused on the story of one who worked as a tour guide. During one of their tours, the student’s group ran into President Cristle Judd, who the tour guide thinks forgot their name. Later, the guide posted on social media saying so, and was called into the admissions office. The guide was suspended from their job for two weeks without pay.

Other senators brought up that several of Giles’ testimonies were about students who either had college jobs or played sports at the college. Those students often sign contracts with the college or with their team restricting the kind of posts they can make on social media, and limiting the privacy of those posts.

Senate Parliamentarian Samuel-James Demattio said, “I think there’s little we can do. It’s very realistic. In the world outside this campus you will have jobs where you will sign a contract” that forbids saying anything negative about the employer.

Giles challenged DeMattio’s point, saying that the relationship between a student and a college employer is different than a normal employer/employee relationship. “Because these people are students here, and are paying a substantial amount of money to be here, they have a right to point out when their needs are not being met.”

One of Giles’ testimonies from the previous meeting concerned a student who complained on Instagram that they were not informed that Hill House wouldn't have hot water for a few days over the summer due to renovation. That student was one of many who had the same problem. The school responded to the Instagram post, saying that they were working on a solution, then called the student in to reprimand them.

“A lot of these times, [students’ complaints] are completely valid,” Giles said. Even in a case of criticism, Giles continued, students should not fear reprimand.

Dean of Students, Danny Trujillo, said that as far as he knows, the administration doesn’t actively monitor students’ accounts in general . “I don’t monitor, I know Paige doesn’t monitor,” Trujillo said. “All the things that come to us” are students reporting other students’ posts that made them feel uncomfortable.

“Sadly, we get one of those a week,” he continued.

Paige Crandall said that while she doesn’t actively monitor students’ profiles, she does receive messages from students who feel uncomfortable about certain posts. “Ironically, right before this conversation, I had three or four postings forwarded to me.” She said that most of those posts fell under free speech. “It’s not about the school, not about the administration,” Crandall continued, “but it’s about each other.”

Senate Treasurer Aliza Yousey remarked, “I think that’s important to teach people that their online accounts aren’t private, because they’re never private.”

STUDENT ACTIVITY FUND INCREASE

A prolonged debate stalled a vote to recommend a four-dollar increase to the Student Activity Fund (SAF). The Treasurer addressed this increase in the previous week’s meeting, but only asked for a two-dollar increase, half the necessary  amount.

Senate dips into SAF to student activities, Senate, and student wages. Due to New York’s minimum wage increase, SAF will have to pay an additional $7,100 to student workers. Last week, Treasurer Aliza Yousey asked Senate to recommend a two-dollar increase to SAF, which she believed would cover the increase in student wages. However, her belief was based on faulty arithmetic and a two-dollar increase would only cover $5,200 in increased student wages.

In light of this, Yousey asked for Senate to recommend a four-dollar increase in SAF charges.

Several senators raised concerns that the SAF’s cost to students was already too high. Currently, students are each paying $232 to the SAF. That number has more than doubled since 2001, when students paid $160.

Senator Margaux Morris noted that this increase could be in response to inflation. $160 in 2001 would have as much buying power as about $225 today.

“In the Latinx community, we have the concept of la tanda,” Senator Genesis Rico said. “There’s a pool of money and whoever needs money can take it. [It’s a] no-interest loan.” Rico likened the SAF to that pool, and reminded senators of the size of the increase: “It’s two dollars! And it goes to us.”

Junior Class President Jordan Valerie Allen said students are priced out of coming to Sarah Lawrence because of “these kind of moves.” Allen continued, saying that students could use the two dollars that would be spent on the increase elsewhere. “That two dollars can be used for food, meals that the students wouldn’t be having otherwise.”

“I definitely see your point,” Yousey said. “I want to offer that the programming dollars do a lot for students.” She later conceded that SAF charges have “increased by a lot” since 2001.

The skirmish prompted an informal vote asking if senators would be comfortable increasing the SAF budget at all. The majority of senate said they would, but senators Allen and Giles said they would object to an increase of four dollars or more.

The time allotted for the discussion ended without a conclusion, but Senate still stands to recommend a two-dollar increase to SAF next year.

AVI CONTRACT RENEWAL

With AVI’s contract coming up for renewal, the Senior Class President moved to compile objections and concerns students have with the food service.

The discussion quickly moved to AVI’s lack of transparency and how they have actively “obfuscated” their services, as Senator Margaux Morris put it. Students are unaware of the different values of meal swipes at the pub—the largest of which is the dinner swipe, $8.25—and at Bates, which is worth $10.25. Additionally, students typically don’t know about the various breakfast and lunch combos at the pub which can save students money. At breakfast, for example, students can order a bagel and either coffee or tea as a combo, which would cost less than ordering those things separately. Some pub workers will charge the meal as a combo without being asked, though during rush times this is more rare.

Several senators, including upperclassmen, expressed surprised that combos existed at all. On AVI’s website about its Sarah Lawrence catering, the word “combo” never appears.

Other senators were concerned with the meal swipe system. “A big concern for me is meal swipes, and being able to share them with other people,” said Murray Hannon, New Student at Large. Hannon said that swipe-sharing groups on campus like Facebook Group SWIPE-U might be a “bandaid” to a larger issue. She said that other schools have programs to redistribute unused swipes between students, and suggested that Sarah Lawrence work with AVI to have a similar system.  

Parliamentarian Samuel-James DeMattio commented that Sarah Lawrence was an “undesirable school” for companies like AVI, who have to consider the large population of vegans, vegetarians, and people with dietary restrictions at the college.

Senator Matt Landry-McWilliams addressed the possible psychological effects of running out of the meal plan near the end of semesters, as many students do. “We talk about mental health, and we talk about this food insecurity—not being able to feed ourselves and pay for our meals, it’s affecting our mental health, and it’s affecting our culture,” Landry-McWilliams said to nods and sounds of approval.

Most first-year students have little concept of what they are agreeing to when they sign up for a meal plan. “Incoming students have to choose a meal plan before they know their housing,” Morris said. Gonzales confirmed, “If you live on campus, you have to have a meal plan, which is a thing I think shouldn’t happen.”

Paige Crandall said that five years ago, students’ meal swipes would expire at the end of every week. “It was a different place,” she said. Crandall mentioned that AVI’s service can differ greatly between contracts, and that student “feedback is very important and helpful.”

COMMITTEE REPORTS

SSSF reported that they had made the largest number of care packages this year at their last meeting. Student Work discussed a rough timeline on Cristle’s charge to “look into” donning, which should be ready by April. The Senior Class Presidents announced that there will be a Salsa Dance Club starting this semester. Senators finished the fall semester by attending a tree-topping at President Judd’s house.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Pulitzer Prize Winner to Address Seniors at Commencement

Haberman in 2018. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Haberman in 2018. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Maggie Haberman, Pulitzer Prize winner and Sarah Lawrence alumna, will speak at commencement this year.

President Cristle Collins Judd wrote in an email to the student body that she was “delighted to announce that our undergraduate commencement speaker,” and noted that Haberman graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence in 1996.

The New York Post hired Haberman after graduation, where she wrote stories on New York’s City Hall. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for her coverage of the Trump administration. She shared the Prize with coworkers at the New York Times and the Washington Post. Haberman covers the White House for the New York Times, contributes to Politico, and is a political analyst for CNN. Her career in journalism has earned her “the fear of [New York]’s politicians and the respect of her peers,” according to Politico magazine.

Haberman is mainly known for her articles in the New York Times, which cover developments in the Trump investigation, shake-ups in the administration, and contributions to long-form investigative pieces on the President. She also frequently appears on news shows and has a prolific Twitter presence.

Haberman will address seniors at Commencement on Friday, May 24.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Senate Brief: Free Speech Boards, Social Media Monitoring

The free speech board outside of Hill House. Photo credit Jerry O’Mahony

The free speech board outside of Hill House. Photo credit Jerry O’Mahony

FREE SPEECH BOARDS SAFE; SENATORS CONCERNED ABOUT CENSORSHIP

Neither free speech board will be removed by the school, despite recent controversies involving messages regarding allegations about Sam Abrams.

However, if a message printed on a board is a “slanderous defamation” or “threatens physical or emotional harm to an individual or a very specific group of people” on the campus, the school will ask the student to clean the board.

If the student refuses or fails to clean the board, the school will charge a $50 “Community Impact Fee” to pay for cleanup, according to Paige Crandall and Danny Trujillo.

The school would charge the same fee if students got paint on the bricks around the Bates board, or caused structural damage to the campus.

Since students generally check out paint from the Student Affairs desk to paint the boards, some senators were concerned that students would feel that they would be monitored and restricted, which would discourage free expression.

“If we have so much policing, we might want to change the name from ‘free speech board’ to ‘protected speech board,’” one senator remarked.

“If I wanted to paint something about something on campus that would be controversial, I would feel afraid to slide my ID across that table,” said Diversity Senator Priya Maskey.

Crandall remarked that “somebody checked out the paint, and they used the free speech board. So it’s working.” Crandall said that if someone has a message they feel is radical, “I would encourage them to try [painting it on a board] and see.”

Senators questioned her logic. “It’s presumptuous to say that it’s working,” said Senator Isoke Atiba, one of the Senior Class Co-Presidents. “It works for whoever [used the paint], but it doesn’t work for someone who has a different message.”

Crandall said the administration checked student IDs because they were concerned about cleanup. Often, said Crandall, excess paint makes a mess.

“Who’s going to pay for cleaning up? Is it senate?” Crandall’s question was met with a chorus of snaps.

Senate passed a formal recommendation that the “Office of Student Affairs release the paint for students to use at their discretion with the point that if they don’t, Senate will make [the paint] available using Senate budget.”

Senate also discussed paying for Community Impact Fees, or at least covering the cost of cleanup supplies.


SARAH LAWRENCE MONITORING STUDENT SOCIAL MEDIA

Several students reported requests from the college to take down social media posts that cast the school in a bad light, Transfer Student at Large Gillian Giles addressed.

Giles read two of five testimonials they gathered from students affected by Sarah Lawrence’s monitoring. One was from a member of a soccer team who expressed frustration about the lack of hot water during preseason, and the other was an admission student who was “called into” a superior’s office after posting about a problem with the college on personal social media.

Several senators mentioned that in both those cases, the students signed contracts preventing them from posting anything “improper” about the college. The NCAA contract grants coaches access to public social media, and often on-campus job contracts have a similar clause.

“When you sign a contract to get paid, you give up some of those rights,” Ian Gonzales said. Gonzales is the other Senior Class Co-President.

“I understand that people are being employed, but they are paying a significant amount of money to go here,” Giles said. “A significant portion of students have to have a job. So that’s a significant portion of students who can’t speak out against the college.”

Crandall and Trujillo said that there was no formal policy about monitoring student social media.

Senate expressed interest in a future recommendation in the student handbook that “student speech cannot be silenced” before they tabled the discussion for next week’s meeting.

TRANSFER STUDENT DONNING

Transfer students are “not happy” being randomly assigned to dons when they arrive at Sarah Lawrence, Giles brought up at the meeting.

“The overwhelming consensus among transfer students is that they’re dissatisfied with the transfer system at Sarah Lawrence,” Giles said.

“Many students are upset because they feel their dons don’t have the tools to help them as a transfer student,” Giles said. Additionally, transfer students don’t get FYS courses, and are assigned to random dons who are often not involved to their field of study.

Senator Margaux Morris clarified that teachers have a financial incentive to join the pool of potential transfer dons. It is unclear whether they receive extra training to be a transfer don.

Though it’s not communicated to the student, it’s an “assumption among faculty” that the student will find another don that suits the student’s academic interests.

“That’s what’s been happening,” Giles said, “but it’s an enormous amount of pressure to put on a student the first semester.”

“I fully support Gillian’s effort to work on transfer donning, because it’s not working,” Trujillo said.

Crandall said that the administration was addressing transfer students’ concerns.

STUDENT ACTIVITY FEE

Senate Treasurer Aliza Yousey brought up the possibility of increasing the Student Activity Fund (SAF) again this year.

SAF is a fee that is added to every student’s tuition. It pays for events on campus, Senate funding, and student wages. Last year it went up by six dollars. Currently, it stands at $350 a year.

Yousey commented that since the New York State minimum wage is increasing from 11 dollars an hour to 12, the school may need more funds to cover the difference. According to Yousey, every dollar increase in minimum wage equals $7100 in extra student wages.

There is not yet a solid plan to increase SAF next year.

Paige Crandall said that since the Black Squirrel will “most likely” not be employing students to make its signature milkshakes next year, the potential increase to SAF will not be as high as it could have been.

“We don’t know right now how [the Black Squirrel] going to be re-envisioned,” Crandall said. “It’s not going to be the Black Squirrel as we know it.”

All events previously held in the space, such as open mics, will be held in the Barbara Walters student center from next year onwards.

Since the Black Squirrel revenue will no longer be contributing to the Student for Students Scholarship Fund, there may be a new source of revenue to that fund, Crandall said.

The Senate made a motion to recommend a $2 increase to the SAF.

BARBARA WALTERS CAMPUS CENTER SURVEY

Senate discussed an upcoming survey asking for student opinion on aspects of the BarbaraWalters Center, including hours and functions.

Students who complete the survey will also be entered into a raffle for a $50 Amazon gift card.

Crandall remarked that the campus center is on schedule and on budget. She also announced that the amphitheater will be usable in the spring.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

Admissions and Enrollment discussed a potential survey on whether expectations about Sarah Lawrence matched up with experiences once students arrived on campus. The Diversity committee may recommend school-wide breaks for religious holidays to Kanwal Singh and President Judd. That committee also started conversations about outdated language referring to trans students’ dead names, names assigned at birth but no longer used, in official college paperwork. General committee debated the calendar changes which came out on Friday, with Spring Break being cut to one week. Sustainability committee discussed a campaign to have paper straws on campus. The Freshman Class President reported a good turnout to her meeting about gun violence. She will be starting a gun violence awareness club beginning this Spring Semester, which will involve students calling their state senators.

Jerry O’Mahony ‘19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Students press President Judd during Presidential Panel in follow-up to Abrams controversy

From left to right: Laura Sparks, the president of The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art; Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy; Thomas Isekenegbe, president of Bronx Community College; Cristle Collins Judd, president of Sarah Lawrence College

From left to right: Laura Sparks, the president of The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art; Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy; Thomas Isekenegbe, president of Bronx Community College; Cristle Collins Judd, president of Sarah Lawrence College

This Monday, Nov. 5, a panel on issues of differences in dialogue was overwhelmed by student protest in response to the school-wide controversy regarding Sam Abrams' op-ed.

The event invited presidential leadership from three colleges and academies, with an aim to have a moderated conversation about how each leader dealt with dissenting opinions at their respective institution. The guests invited were Laura Sparks, the president of The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art; Thomas Isekenegbe, president of Bronx Community College; and Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“When we planned this event months ago I suspected that one or more of the campuses represented would be facing challenging issues, but that I hadn’t necessarily expected it to be ours,” President Judd remarked, in an email sent the morning following the event.

Though the event had no official tie to the dialogue concerning the administration’s response to the Professor Abrams’ op-ed, students took it as an opportunity to question Judd directly. Among them sat Kieran Pilling, ‘21. Hours before the panel, Pilling made a Facebook post calling for students to fill the auditorium “beyond capacity” as a protest.

“Are you angry that the Sarah Lawrence College administration has stood by Samuel Abrams?” Pilling asked in his Facebook post. “A man who not only feeds into the right-wing falsehood of the ‘silencing of free speech’ but actively discredited our school in a national newspaper?”

Organization was swift; students filled the majority of the audience in both the lower and upper level of the Heimbold Donnelly Theatre.

In her introduction, President Cristle Collins Judd affirmed Abrams’ right to publish his op-ed.

“Academic freedom is a fundamental principle of Sarah Lawrence College. That means, as a member of our faculty, Professor Sam Abrams has a right, and the full support of the College, to pursue and publish his work.”

She went on to emphasize the important of vigorous and informed debate as the correct and respectable response to Abrams’ article or any similar event, as opposed to intimidation and defamation.

Judd was referring to the signs left on Abrams’ door the day his op-ed was published, among other student responses.

To start the discussion, Judd presented a video of Silveria addressing his school after a series of racist slurs were written around the campus of the Academy’s prep school.

In the video, Silveria says, “The appropriate response for horrible language and horrible ideas is a better idea. What we should have is a civil discourse and talk about these issues. That’s a better idea.”

Following Silveria’s comments, Isekenegbe spoke about dealing with a segregated student body at his school, and Sparks described the recent protests at her school, when students demanded greater diversity within the faculty and curriculum.

“My predecessor did not do a very good job of bringing those groups together,” Isekenegbe said, referring to the racial makeup of the student body: 61% Hispanic, 23% African-American, the remaining 16% a mix of white and other groups. “For me, working together and collaboration is very important. There is no way you can get work done if you can’t bring people together, and the key word for me is respect. It’s a two-way street.”

When asked about the intersection of diversity and inclusivity, Sparks said, “It takes having a diversity of identities and a diversity of life experiences in a conversation to build a kind of trust to is required to have an understanding of one another’s viewpoints.”

Some students, including Pilling, left the theater feeling disappointed by what was said, and by what was not.

“I was hoping that I could have a solid stance from Cristle on how we could go forward on the issues we currently have on campus,” Pilling told the Phoenix. He added that he felt like the panel was just “four presidents of colleges having a chat but not really having any sort of discussion.”

“I think that Cristle dismissed something that I hold very personal, which is the idea that personal is political,” Lily Cantor, 20, told the Phoenix. “When Sam Abrams is angry that the school is sponsoring events for LGBT students and for women’s rights, I’m a lesbian, I’m a woman, so he is politically attacking my personhood, and we can’t separate that.”

Sophomore Maryanne Roughton, on the other hand, left the event with hope.

“They were really encouraging active dialogue between extremely different parties,” she said. “There are conservative minds, like Sam Abrams, on this campus. If we want to have any kind of understanding and progress made, we need to include them.”

One student stood and asked the panel about what Abrams was referring to with his now-infamous phrase, “meaningful ideological alternatives.”

“If you are only in an echo chamber, we will not have served you well, because getting uncomfortable is what leads you forward into knowing what you really believe,” Judd responded.

In the end, Judd was appreciative of the critical questions students asked.

“I hope everybody who was here has some part of it that they take out with somebody and says, ‘you know, I want to think about this more’ or ‘this part troubled me’ or ‘I don’t think that was a very good answer to that,’” Judd told the Phoenix. “If we are engendering those kinds of responses, then this series is doing what we hope it will do.”

The panel was the first in a series of events within the theme of “Difference in Dialogue.” The next event in the series will be “Probing the Bounds of Free Speech,” with DeRay McKesson and Sanford Ungar on November 14th.

Amali Gordon-Buxbaum ‘2

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Students, Faculty, Administration respond following national publication of SLC Professor's op-ed

One of the signs placed on the door of Professor Samuel J. Abrams following the publication of his opinion-editorial in  the New York Times.

One of the signs placed on the door of Professor Samuel J. Abrams following the publication of his opinion-editorial in the New York Times.

On the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 16, Samuel J. Abrams, professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence, published an opinion-editorial in the New York Times entitled “Think Professors are Liberal? Try School Administrators.” Later that evening, an unknown person or persons put several signs urging resignation and apology on the professor’s office door.

The op-ed critiqued Sarah Lawrence administration for not giving students a “meaningful ideological alternative” to “overtly progressive events — programs with names like ‘Stay Healthy, Stay Woke,’ ‘Microaggressions,’ and ‘Understanding White Privilege.’” In addition, Abrams expressed being “taken aback” by the college’s sponsorship of the “Our Liberation Summit,” which he called a “politically lop-sided” event. The summit invited a panelists and presenters to the college who were interested in Social Justice Work.

Email-invitations to all of the events Abrams refers to in the piece, with the exception of “Understanding White Privilege,” went out in October and November of 2017.

Many students took to Facebook to express their frustration with Abrams’ op-ed. Among them was Andre Knight, ‘19, who used to work in the Office of Diversity and Campus Engagement.

“As a former employee of this very office I can say that the professor in question has, in my experience, NEVER attended an event of ours, begging the question of how much of these things are actual criticism,” Knight wrote.

A check-list of apologies to be made post on Abrams’ door.

A check-list of apologies to be made post on Abrams’ door.

Many of the online comments on his article also questioned what a “meaningful ideological alternative” would be to progressive ideas like white privilege or LGBTQ+ visibility. When questioned about the meaning of this phrase by the Phoenix, Abrams demurred. “People are going to read [the op-ed] with their own pre-existing biases.”

When pressed, Abrams had no suggestions on what could constitute the “alternatives.”

Suzanne Gardinier, professor of writing at Sarah Lawrence, wrote a comment on the op-ed that rebuked Abrams for writing from the minority perspective when his ideas are shared by the majority. “Sam's values run the world,” Gardinier wrote. “May the liberation that upsets him continue on its beautiful unstoppable way.”

Abrams cites a study he conducted of 900 administrators “whose work concerns the quality and character of a student’s experience on campus.” According to his study, liberal administrators outnumber their conservative counterparts by 12-to-one. In New England, the ratio is as high as 25-to-one.

“It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate — and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators,” Abrams writes.

He closes the piece by urging first-semester freshmen “not to accept unthinkingly what your campus administrators are telling you. Their ideological imbalance, coupled with their agenda-setting power, threatens the free and open exchange of ideas, which is precisely what we need to protect in higher education in these politically polarized times.”

One of the signs on Abrams’ door reads “OUR RIGHT TO EXIST IS NOT ‘IDEALOGICAL’ ASSHOLE” [sic] and was signed “A TRANSEXUAL FAG”. The one below it was a to-do list of apologies, which included the Directors of Diversity and Res life, respectively, several minority groups, and “campus (general).” Below the list of demanded apologies is a sign reading “QUIT,” and in smaller text, “go teach somewhere else, you racist asshat (maybe Charlottesville?).” Below that sign is one simply reading “QUIT,” and several pieces of paper urging Abrams to “QUIT” are spread out at the foot of the door.

Another sign posted on Abrams’ door.

Another sign posted on Abrams’ door.

The sign simply reading “QUIT” and the list of apologies were placed there sometime before 5:30 Tuesday. The other signs and the papers at the door were placed sometimes between 5:30 and 6.

The Phoenix understands that students placed letters and notes addressed to Abrams outside his door Tuesday night sometime between 8pm and 12am.

Bee Kinstle, ‘21, placed a letter of their own outside Abrams’ door. They wrote that, as a bisexual and non-binary student, the discussion of their identity that Abrams seems to call for would make them “feel unsafe on campus.”

“I am disheartened by the entire opinion piece,” Kinstle wrote. “Yes, it is important to hear multiple sides of an issue, but not if that issue deals with a person’s identity being completely devalued. Human decency isn’t a partisan issue.”

Abrams is more disappointed than anything. To Abrams, the signs and notes under his door meant that he and other teachers had “failed” those who put them there.

According to Abrams, the signs and letters were gone when he arrived Wednesday morning.

He stated that he was not against the events he cited in the op-ed. “At no point did I say we shouldn’t do this. I just said we need balance.”

Abrams said that the statistics in the op-ed were from a study he conducted and had peer-reviewed through the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in Chicago. NORC specializes in opinion survey research and is one of the largest non-partisan research institutions in the US. Abrams also submitted his study to the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

“The point was to make it as valid as possible,” Abrams said.

Abrams had previously cited his own statistics in another New York Times op-ed, this one from June of 2016, titled “There Are Conservative Professors. Just Not in These States.”

Abrams declined to release his study’s data to the Phoenix.

President Cristle Collins-Judd sent an email to students addressing Abrams’ op-ed. She took the opportunity to highlight the college’s “commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence as one of our foundational values.”

“This means intentionally building a community that fosters respect for difference through critical and compassionate engagement across all parts of the College,” the email continued. “Only then can we realize our collective potential to not only live and work in, but to shape, a culturally diverse and global society.”

Student Senate held an emergency meeting about the op-ed and the college’s response to it.

Student Affairs and the Department of Diversity and Campus Engagement have not responded to a request for comment.

Jerry O’Mahony, ‘19

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article equated “Our Liberation Summit” to the social justice retreat. The retreat happens off campus, whereas Abrams was referring to the on-campus panelist event

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

New Year Brings New Goals for Its On Us

Its On Us co-chairs Myriam Burger and Annaliese Rozos at the Its On Us bake sale outside the pub on October 9.

Its On Us co-chairs Myriam Burger and Annaliese Rozos at the Its On Us bake sale outside the pub on October 9.

Sitting barefoot and cross-legged in a cushioned chair, sophomore and club chair Annaliese Rozos begins the first It’s On Us discussion meeting of the semester. Her co-chair, sophomore Myriam Burger, sits across from her as they alternate explaining the guidelines of the meeting.

“What’s said here, stays here,” Burger says. “But what’s learned here, leaves here.”

It’s On Us is an organization created by Joe Biden and Barack Obama, dedicated to raising awareness and fighting against sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women. The group has been active at Sarah Lawrence since 2016.

“I decided to join because I felt issues of sexual violence are not discusses or handled properly, despite the school’s reputation as a progressive campus,” Rozos said. “Our goals include ensuring that survivors are trusted and supported, uplifting communities beyond Sarah Lawrence through donating and volunteering, and reshaping legislation.”

This year, however, the group is trying to be more inclusive in both their structure and audience.

“We’re doing our best this year to center on and uplift survivors of color, LGBT survivors, disabled survivors, and survivors from lower socioeconomic classes,” Rozos said.

This need for change comes from negative reactions to what happened in years past, says senior member Abbey Serafin, who previously served as the group’s vice president.

“The main problem was that it became a space where not everyone felt comfortable,” Serafin said. “Creating a safe space is the intention of any organization, but it’s especially important for one that can be so personal for a lot of people who show up.”

With this in mind, Rozos and Burger are hoping a wider range of people will assume positions of leadership in the group’s core team. In the past, the club’s leaders and membership was primarily “cisgender, heterosexual white female survivors,” according to Rozos.

“Sexual violence is one of those issues that very disproportionally affects certain communities and that was just never addressed,” Burger said, “and there are clubs on this campus that work to support and serve those communities, and we never once reached out to them.”

Serafin sees opportunities to change that in the group’s engagement with the school community.

“I think it depends a lot on who’s given room to speak,” Serafin said. “The way that the weekly meetings are structured is that there’s always a discussion that goes along with whatever event is happening.”

“Making sure that the discussion topics have a wide range of themes, planning events that highlight different people’s experiences, and just giving room for everyone to say something is really important,” she continued.

Some of the group’s structural changes include a new survivor support group led by the Health and Wellness Office, events for stress relief and self-care for survivors, and Guy Talk, a monthly event for men to discuss consent and related topics. It’s On Us is also looking to find new organizations to work with this year, as a way of expanding their influence and reaching their goals.

“We’re trying to pair with other organizations on and off campus to widen the impact of our work,” Rozos said. Some of the groups It’s On Us is looking at working with are the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and JustDetention, which is dedicated to ending sexual abuse in prisons.

In the spring, the club will shift their focus from on-campus communities to those outside of Sarah Lawrence, according to Burger.

“In previous years, there was very little outwards movement,” Burger said. “Annaliese and I both had a lot of problems with that, so this year we’re doing a lot more with donating our resources and our money, and also volunteering.”

Rozos and Burger’s efforts have already began to pay off, as they are seeing a greater turnout at events than last year.

“I really think these are issues that a lot of people on this campus care about,” Burger said. “We just really hope that it becomes a place where every student on this campus feels like they belong and feels like we’re advocating for them.”

From what she’s seen and participated in so far, Serafin is optimistic about the direction in which the group is heading.

“From the start, there was a lot of inclusive planning,” she said. “[Rozos and Burger] are working with a lot of other groups and people, and making it more of a collaborative effort.”

The group has worked with VOX (Voices for Planned Parenthood) in the past, but this year Rozos is looking to make more on-campus partnerships to help create a greater sense of inclusion.

“I’m really excited about our TRANSparency event,” Rozos said. “We’re partnering with QPoC [Queer People of Color], VOX, the Sexual Violence Awareness and Education Subcommittee, and TransAction for this event.”

The event will feature the authors and editors of the book Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, and is on Nov 14th at 6:00 PM.

Amali Gordon-Buxbaum ‘21

Seniors Sign Final Steel Beam in Barbara Walters Center

The final structural beam of the Barbara Walters Campus Center, signed by the Class of 2019. Photo Credit: Jerry O’Mahony.

The final structural beam of the Barbara Walters Campus Center, signed by the Class of 2019. Photo Credit: Jerry O’Mahony.

President Cristle Collins Judd invited seniors to sign the last steel beam in the Barbara Walters Center on Thursday. The Center will be a “new front door” to Sarah Lawrence, Judd said.

Seniors scribbled their names in an array of colors on the final steel beam to be placed in the Barbara Walters Center.

Admissions staff handed out vibrant markers for signing. “It’s an important day in our history,” said JJ Warren, a senior distributing markers.

“You’ll be the first ones in the building when that beam goes up with your names on it,” the President said in her address to attendees. “It’ll always be in the Barbara Walters Center.” The President thanked workers and donors in her address. The Center garnered $32.5 million in donations, according to Judd. “By placing your name on this beam, you become part of the legacy of Sarah Lawrence.”

Celebrating a new building’s final steel beam, or ‘topping out,’ is a tradition dating back to the 19th century. It marks the point at which the building reaches its highest height. Typically, workers paint the beam white and place a flag or tree on it. Thursday’s celebration had a white beam, but instead of any other decoration, the beam sported a large, green “SLC” on its side.

The signing opened at 12:45. After about twenty minutes, a team of construction workers dramatically lifted the beam high above attendees’ heads and into its place in the skeleton of the Center’s roof.

The signing was postponed from the 25th, Walters’ birthday, due to inclement weather. Seniors and donors were invited to a champagne reception at the President’s house after the event.

The Center is set to be finished in October of 2019. Construction began late this summer.

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

The North Lawn Swing Set is Going Down Swinging

Seniors Em Hammett and Annie Friedman on the swings for the last time. Credit: Ceylan Swenson

Seniors Em Hammett and Annie Friedman on the swings for the last time. Credit: Ceylan Swenson

At some colleges, social life revolves around grand fountains; at others, people mark their days by visits to lively, tree-lined quads. For many at Sarah Lawrence, no day was complete without a trip to the swings.

There has been a swing set outside the north side of Westlands since at least the 1960s, but finally this fixture is being dismantled due to structural deficiencies and the danger presented by the bedrock that sticks out under the structure. Maureen “Mo” Gallagher, Assistant Vice President for Facilities broke the news to the community in an email just one day before the seats were to be removed from the metal structure.

Some students reflected on their connection with the swings as they visited the spot for what would be the last time. “I think it is one of the many demonstrations of student personality on campus,” said Emily Hammett ‘18 as she sat with her friend Annie Friedman ‘18 on the swing set. “It’s one of the quirky, idiosyncratic monuments of this place and its very interactive.”

“The swings are almost the campus watering hole. I feel like everyone comes here and they just exist,” said Alex Biggs ‘18 before he left the swing set at noon the day before the swings were removed. “I came here to space out and listen to music frequently, and I feel like it’s one of the few social spaces on campus where you’re not expected to be doing anything except swinging.”

The swings have been a great source of mental relief to students. “Repetitive motion helps me chill out a lot. The pendulous motion of swinging is really relaxing,” Biggs testified.

Professors, too, noticed how the swings had become a panacea students’ myriad needs. Peggy McGrath, Administrative Assistant to the Theatre Department, has been teaching at Sarah Lawrence in the Theater Department for twenty-six years and took a photograph of the structure on its last day. “It’s always been one of the staples of the college for the students, for the faculty just a place to have fun and kind of embrace the feeling of the students as well,” she said. Professor McGrath admitted that she herself had used the swings before. “Not recently,” she clarified, “but back in the day I would come over here when you need… to get away and center and think. It’s the place to go.”

The swings were also a source of campus myths. “These are the swings where if you sat on them at midnight facing Westlands you would see Sarah Lawrence herself in the window,” confided Friedman. Though campus lore surrounding the swings may involve Jazz-age ghosts, in reality, the swing set has been the setting for more parties than hauntings. “These swings have been through a lot,” Friedman says fondly. “They’ve seen a lot of parties, a lot of post-formals, a lot of graduations on this lawn.”

Friedman expressed a further hope that a replacement swing set would be set up on Commencement Day so that she and her best friends could take their last pictures as students together at the iconic spot. Unfortunately, there will be no replacement swing set in front of Westlands in the future. It’s particularly sad for Gallagher, who personally loved the swings, but has had to put the safety of people on campus above all else.

In a written statement to the Phoenix, Gallagher said, “Playground safety requirements today are very different from those at the time of the original installation. Though I am sad to see the old, quite possibly the original swing set go away, the College will have a new swing set installed that will continue to be a vital part of our community.”

In the second part of her statement, Gallagher shared her own special memory of the swings. “The attached picture is my former SLC boss, Michael Rengers and my daughter Jaiden on the swing set together. I worked for Michael for 13 years and our families became dear friends. Someone was able to capture this moment of Jaiden & Michael swinging in opposite directions and knowing the both of them, they were probably chatting away.  Sarah Lawrence is where I met my family and made lifelong friends. What better illustration of that than this picture of these two people who I just love dearly, happy in the ‘heart’ of SLC.”

This photo hangs in the office of Maureen “Mo” Gallagher. Credit: Mo Gallagher

This photo hangs in the office of Maureen “Mo” Gallagher. Credit: Mo Gallagher

Gallagher and the Facilities team will work with playground professionals to find a spot on campus that meets playground safety regulations to become the site of a brand new swing set. The Facilities team is currently scouting the hill behind Titsworth and the area in front of Dudley Lawrence, where there is a standing barbeque, as potential locations for the replacement swing set.   

Final decisions, however, are dependent on the feedback from the playground professionals.  Any replacement site would require minimal or no bedrock that could impede the anchoring of the new swing set, and would have to be covered with a rubber floor. Student Senate is already recommending that the artificial flooring be semi-permeable to combat runoff and drainage problems should plans for the new swing set reach that stage.

Another factor to be determined is the size of the swing set. While the old structure in front of Westlands accomodated four swings, a replacement swing set may be reduced to two seats depending on location capacity and the recommendation from the playground professionals. A swing set seating only two is a possibility, but members of Student Senate stressed the importance of finding an adequate space for four seats.   

Delaney Parker ‘21 is very clear about her thoughts on a new swing set, wherever it may be. “I don’t want a smaller one because it’ll be harder [to get a seat],” Parker explained. Looking at the swings, she concluded, “I’ve had so many nice memories on these swings and I’ve only been here for seven months.” Wherever the new swings may be, they will be sure to the source of good memories for generations of SLC  students to come.

Ceylan Swenson, ‘21.

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.

Sustainability and Senate: Working Towards a Greener SLC

Sarah Lawrence's sustainability co-op, Warren Green. Photo credit: Olivia Diulus

Sarah Lawrence's sustainability co-op, Warren Green. Photo credit: Olivia Diulus

Delphine Griffith, ‘20 is the first Sustainability chair on the Student Senate. Environmentalism is and always has been a major part of the culture of SLC, so it comes as a shock that it was only relatively recently that the idea of having this type of representation was considered  for senate. According to Delphine, most of the process of creating this position was due to the effort of people like senior class co-president, Arianna Cooper, and Student Senate as a whole.

Griffith believes that “Sustainability is incredibly important, especially on a school campus because all students, most of the students are living and studying and interacting on this campus.” Despite the progress made to improve sustainability on campus, she believes that in comparison to other schools, SLC is lacking, but having a sustainability senator is a step in the right direction

For a campus that is so involved with social justice issues, Griffith believes that there needs to be more awareness, because sustainability is also a social justice issue. “Sustainability isn’t just food,” Griffith said, “it is about creating a better campus world.”

When she was a first-year , Griffith started Trash Club which focuses on recycling and handling the waste that occurred on campus. She admits that she is involved in a lot of extra-curriculars that revolve around sustainability and that “it is kind of blurry” but they aren’t distractions. Instead they fuel her goals as the sustainability senator because they are essentially all related. “It kind of feels like they are all meshing together” Griffith said.

Sustainability has no real history on this campus, according to Griffith. “There have been sustainable actions like the creation of Warren Green as a co-op, which happened ten years ago so there are obviously sustainable things happening but unlike other offices sustainability doesn’t have a real turnover.” Other offices on campus have paid positions and “real meetings” brining real progress. These issues reflect the overarching goals Griffith has as the sustainability senator: “I really want to make a change that is not only relevant but also intersectional and long-lasting,” Grifftith said.

When asked about the accomplishments that have happened since Griffith has been the sustainability senator, she willingly put together a long list. “Basically, we started Green Friday’s at Bates, where we take the waste and put it in the community garden compost. We also organized an October sustainability month where we hired different sustainability groups on campus, and we are hoping that we can do the same in the Spring for Earth day.”

While progress has already been made since her appointment to Sustainability chair,   Grifftith believes there is more to be done. Overall, she mentions that she wants to spread awareness about how to be sustainable on the SLC campus. Griffith also admits that most people do not realize that the garden in Warren Green is actually a community garden, and she hopes that during her time as a senator, she is able to spread the word about this.

Griffith also said, “Sustainability is an intersectional issue. Even though the environmental field is dominated by white people, these issues impact communities of color for the most part.” As the sustainability senator, she believes that there are  certain responsibilities she must uphold. “I want [the SLC community] to know that I really am keeping up on the forefront of my mind that making sustainability on this campus accessible and all encompassing by pointing on certain issues that affect the overall community.”

“There should be more sustainability senators, I really hope that happens” Griffith confesses. She continues by saying she wants more sustainability senators that are intersectional,diverse and willing to look at campus as a whole. A sustainability senator shouldn’t just wonder whether we need “recycling bins, to be green and vegan or need to think of small picture stuff like that” but instead would look at the bigger picture, such as people being unable to feed themselves.

Trevor Falsey '21

Sarah Lawrence Breaks Ground on Barbara Walters Campus Center

President Judd leads her fellow speakers in breaking ground. Credit: sarahlawrence.edu

President Judd leads her fellow speakers in breaking ground. Credit: sarahlawrence.edu

On Jan. 18, construction officially began on the Barbara Walters Campus Center. President Cristle Collins Judd led a special groundbreaking ceremony on Andrews Lawn, and the entire Sarah Lawrence community was invited.

Judd opened the event with a discussion of Barbara Walters’s legacy. The journalist and television personality credits SLC with teaching her how to ask questions - “and what questions she has asked,” Judd remarked, “over her illustrious career.” In much the same way, the college asked questions of itself, and what would make “a true campus center” for its community. This process has been ongoing for nearly eight years, and included a survey of the student body about its “priorities for space improvement.” Judd thanked all those who came out, for they would be “building our future for generations to come.”

She then made a few observations about the campus center itself. When completed, it will act as a “front door” to SLC, heralding a “deeper sense of engagement” within the college, and for the college within its surrounding community. The building will also create “a civic space” and “cultural anchor” in a time when society faces the “pressing need for opportunities to foster open conversation.” Judd also commended Walters for her “extraordinary foresight” and her gift of $15 million to fund the center’s construction.

Mark Goodman, chair of the board of trustees, commented on the transformations that each new building has brought about on campus. The most recent came when the Heimbold Visual Arts Center created “a real home” for artistic innovation. Several years earlier, the Alice Stone Ilchman Center established math and science as “critical to providing a truly holistic approach to the liberal arts,” and the Campbell Sports Center gave students the opportunity to “complement academic achievements with athletic ones.” Goodman said the Barbara Walters Campus Center will be a “home and point of intersection and interaction for the entire college,” something he feels it has “lacked for generations.”

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano spoke of the growing partnership between his city and SLC, and how the new campus center will add to that. He hoped that it would not be “just brick and mortar” but a “center for engagement” that will connect the two communities, where people can “gather, unite, and certainly make a difference.” Bronxville mayor Mary Marvin echoed this sentiment. She is confident that the campus center will make SLC even more of a “beacon for intellectual and cultural life,” allowing both the “young and not-so-young” to “engage more with each other.” Judd even joked that while SLC has many distinctions, there may be no other school with “two mayors” who want to claim it as their own.

Kendal Flowerdew ‘19 and Christina Tanzola MFA ’19 followed, representing the campus center steering group. Flowerdew called the center a “much-needed addition” to campus, providing spaces “we never seem to have.” Whether for large gatherings or “just hanging out with friends,” students will have a hard time imagining what they “ever did without the place.” If nothing else, it gives them somewhere to spend time together “that isn’t the library.”

Walters herself could not be present, but left Judd with some thoughts to share. She believes now is an exciting time for the college, and sends her “very warmest wishes” for a “place of study, of contemplation, and of socializing” that will be a focus for years to come.

Afterwards, Judd called all of the speakers down to the lawn. They put shovels to dirt, laying the symbolic foundation for a vision that will finally be realized in Fall 2019.

Benjamin Willems '21