Experimental Film Club Makes Thought-Provoking Debut

A film poster for the 1984 German film Decoder.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

A film poster for the 1984 German film Decoder. 
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

In William Greaves’ 1968 film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, a police officer in Central Park asks the filmmaker, “What kinda picture you making?” Greaves replies, “It’s a feature length we-don’t-know.” 

The Experimental Film Club, started this year by Rob Scharlach (’19) and Oya Haznedar (’19), specializes in the “we-don’t-know” film. The group holds film screenings every Wednesday night in Heimbold 210, focusing on the avant-garde and untraditional. 

For the club’s first screening on September 21, they showed Decoder, a 1984 German film by director Mushca that portrays a young man using industrial music to subvert an oppressive government. Decoder is often difficult to follow and does not present the viewer with much cohesion. According to Scharlach, these types of films are pressing against the conventions of filmmaking. 

“I wanted to introduce the club to a more jarring, out-of-the-box film,” Scharlach explained. “Decoder is kind of an amalgamation of images and styles, and is more of a visual experience.” 

Scharlach described the club’s second screening, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, in contrast to Decoder. “Although it was experimental in nature, it was more of a cohesive film and you can actually understand what the process was in the filmmaking, and that was kind of the point of it,” he said. While Greaves’ film lacks a plot, it is centered around the audition process for a film entitled “Over the Cliff.” Greaves has one film crew recording the auditions, another filming the film crew, and a third filming the filming of the film. 

The Experimental Film Club is built around these screenings, and Scharlach feels that Sarah Lawrence College needed a place for students to be exposed to this type of filmmaking. Although the club has seen a decent turnout of 10-15 students at each screening, Scharlach insists size is not the priority. 

“I’m not really looking for a big turnout,” he admits. “I was really happy to see that a bunch of people came to the first screening and the second screening, but it’s really just a place for those with an interest in experimental film and the avant-garde to be able to see these films and to talk about it.”

While the Experimental Film Club currently is primarily focused on screening these films, Scharlach has higher hopes, saying, “What I would really like to see is it evolve to the point where we can have discussions.”

Another aspect that Scharlach hopes to include in future meetings is student work. Sarah Lawrence’s filmmaking department currently offers over 25 courses, but the only campus-wide platform for film students to show their work is the annual SLC Reelies film festival, which began last year. However, the Experimental Film Club is beginning to accept submissions from any student who has a film they want to show. 

Scharlach confirms, “I want to make it more of an open forum, rather than ‘you’re going in to sit down and watch a movie for an hour and a half.’ It’s definitely more of a community-oriented organization, rather than just me showing films that I like.”

For more information, visit the club’s Gryphonlink page, or its Facebook page at facebook.com/ExperimentalFilmClubSLC. To suggest a film for the next screening, or submit one of your own, email the club at slcEFclub@gmail.com.

Ricky Martorelli '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.

Student Senator Impeached After Weeks of Tension

The Student Senate meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17, where Alex Wah ('19) was impeached from his position. Photo credit: Genesis Rico 

The Student Senate meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17, where Alex Wah ('19) was impeached from his position. Photo credit: Genesis Rico 

At a town hall meeting last week concerning the ongoing search for Sarah Lawrence College’s eleventh president, students voiced their frustrations with representatives from the Presidential Search Committee, particularly on the lack of tangible student representation in the search process.

Three days later, the committee’s undergraduate student representative, Alex Wah (’19), was impeached from Student Senate.
    
At a packed senate meeting last Thursday where members of the body voted on his impeachment, students who took the floor argued that Wah was not fulfilling his duty as an elected representative. In an email sent to student leaders on Thursday afternoon urging them to attend the meeting, Madrikha Saturne (’19), who organized the impeachment with fellow senator Asmahan Malow (’17), explained, “Despite [Wah’s] efforts; his lies to the students body, his lack of transparency, and his inability to constructively use the tools he’s been given makes him negligent as a Senator.”
    
She also emphasized: “This meeting isn’t just about Alexander Wah. It’s about students rising up so that administration and Senators are held accountable for their actions and the lack thereof. So they know that we, as a student body, will hold all levels of this institution accountable.”
    
Noted during the senate meeting was that Wah’s impeachment from his role as senator is independent from his role on the Presidential Search Committee, though this was the subject of some level of confusion. In advance of the town hall meeting on Nov. 14, there was a petition outside the Pub to have Wah removed as student representative on the Presidential Search Committee, and his conduct in that position was discussed to some extent on Thursday evening.
    
But for the most part, the discussion focused on Wah’s role as a senator, in which he represented the student body on the Committee on Student Work. Students described Wah’s failure to make himself known to various students groups on campus and his remarks and actions during meetings they felt were insensitive and problematic. 
    
Ayanna Harrison (’17) explained at the meeting how Wah’s presence on senate affected her experience attending on behalf of the college’s Black Student Union. As this group, also called Harambee, was preparing to attend a Black Solidarity Conference in New Haven this February, they budgeted $3,600 for hotel expenses. Wah proposed cutting that budget, which he later argued he was doing with the best interest of the group in mind, but Harrison said the way in which he did so felt disrespectful of the group’s purpose and as questioning the competency of others to make decisions. 
    
“I felt highly disrespected and disregarded, and I felt personally attacked. I felt that my work wasn’t good enough,” Harrison said. “I have not gotten [an apology] from Alex, and it’s been three weeks since that meeting, and that’s hurtful.”  

Emphasized several times during the meeting was that the criticisms offered were not on Wah’s character, but on his conduct in his senate position. “The argument in question is not about Alex Wah as a person but rather his representation [of the student body] on the senate,” Saturne said. 
    
Despite this, Wah said he felt much of the criticism directed at him was ad hominem. While he said he accepts the outcome of the senate meeting, he maintained that the frustrations with him were representative of a more general frustration with the school as a whole. 
    
“This was personal,” he said. “But at a certain point you need to let people be personal.” 
    
Wah admitted to the validity of the criticism, but defended his competency. He said of both his senate tenure and his Presidential Search Committee position, “I know that the reason I’m there is because I really care.” 
    
In his defense, another representative, Ian Gonzales (’19), highlighted Wah’s initiative over his senate term. 
    
“He compared the prices in Hill to Go with those in Yonkers and showed that there was a 200% increase [in Hill to Go’s prices],” Gonzales said. “I don’t see any other senator doing that.”  
    
The impeachment came after several tense weeks in which students and administrators clashed over the inclusion of student input into the presidential search process. At the town hall meeting last Monday, students expressed their need for representation in administrative decisions that directly affect them. 
    
Topics covered over the meeting’s hour and a half included the resolution of what committee member Tom Blum called “terrible problems” regarding accessibility for disabled students, and the representation of diversity among the committee itself and in the presidential candidate pool. 
    
“Can I just ask what you’ve done specifically to diversify the applicant pool?” one student asked. “Because I would like to look at the next president of the college and see myself reflected back.”
    
Much of the meeting was devoted to an at times heated discussion between students, the Committee’s undergraduate representative and Vice President of Administration Tom Blum, regarding the safety of Sarah Lawrence’s students of color in light of recent bias incidents and the representation of marginalized voices in the presidential search. 
    
Tensions between students and Sarah Lawrence’s administration were represented in the exchange, in which Blum repeatedly expressed his own frustrations with what he referred to as an “assailant tone” from frustrated students. 
    
The most prevalent theme of the night was student representation, which many students feel has been severely lacking from the Presidential Search Committee thus far. In some effort to change this, last Friday, individuals from the administration met with several student leaders to discuss the presidential search going forward. 

Alex Wah was not present at this meeting. Despite being impeached from Student Senate, Wah remains the undergraduate student representative on the Presidential Search Committee.

Ricky Martorelli '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.

In Wake of Trump Presidency, a Call to Action

Senior class presidents Lesedi Ntsele and Sadie Zavgren at the ceremony Thursday. Photo credit: Amanda Lau

Senior class presidents Lesedi Ntsele and Sadie Zavgren at the ceremony Thursday. Photo credit: Amanda Lau

The South Lawn filled Thursday before a newly hung Black Lives Matter banner on the Performing Arts Center. In the wake of Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency, students coalesced in a call to action against the forces of marginalization and hatred that made his rise to power possible. 

At Thursday’s ceremony to raise the banner, members of the student body and the Sarah Lawrence community at large stood atop the short stone wall in front of the PAC and, overlooking the crowd of their peers, spoke on activism and resistance. Especially in the wake of recent bias related incidents on campus, their words were poignant reminders of the danger and violence inherent in Trump’s ideology.

But going beyond the implications of the presidential election, several speakers noted that for many students of color on campus, fears that came out of this week’s events are nothing new. They urged the community—particularly white students—to take the concerns of students of color seriously, and recognize that racism is far from confined to parts of the country where Trump received most of his support.

“I hear your anger over the success of President-Elect Donald Trump, I feel your pain and your fear,” said senior class president Lesedi Ntsele (’17), who organized the raising of the banner with fellow class president Sadie Zavgren (’17). Ntsele continued, “We are all afraid and we are all in pain, and I don’t want to take away from that, but I do want to say that it’s not enough to be angry about Trump and the hatred perpetuated across the country when the same people have been targeted on our campus.”

As Ntsele and Zavgren said in an email to the student body earlier this week, the banner is meant to “stand as a reminder to our commitment to the students of color on this campus and around the country [and] stand as our response to those who committed the acts of bias and to those who stood silent while members of our Sarah Lawrence community were targeted.” 

The college’s Committee on Diversity met after the ceremony Thursday, according to an email sent to the community Friday afternoon, where concerns were brought up on how the election will impact students of color, LGBTQIA students, undocumented students, and Muslim students, as well as issues such as reproductive rights and socioeconomic security. 

“We must commit to continuing the dialogue about these most serious concerns and finding ways that we can positively impact the future of this campus and our nation,” the committee wrote.

The banner, on which the words “Black Lives Matter” are written over the colors of the Pan-African Flag, will stay up until the end of the fall semester.

Ricky Martorelli ’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.

Some Pre-Med Students Concerned After Advisor Abruptly Resigns

The Pre-Health bulletin board in the Science Center. Photo credit: Janaki Chadha

The Pre-Health bulletin board in the Science Center. Photo credit: Janaki Chadha

On August 28, 2016, a day before Sarah Lawrence College’s pre-health students were poised to return to campus, they received an email from their long-time advisor Judy Levine:
    
“I regret to say that, due to irreconcilable differences, I have resigned as prehealth advisor at Sarah Lawrence College. I wish you well as you go forward. I’m sure you’ll be informed as to next steps,” Levine said. 
    
This was the first notice Sarah Lawrence’s 67 pre-health students received of their advisor’s resignation. Several days later, they were notified via email that Dean of Studies and Student Life Danny Trujillo would be assuming Levine’s responsibilities in addition to his own as Dean.
    
Concerns among pre-health students vary. Some are worried that they will not have direct access to Dean Trujillo as they would with a dedicated advisor, and that first-years will not receive important information. 

“It sucks for the freshmen who need the assistance,” said Uditi Nichani, a second-year student in the pre-health program. “And for the students who convert to pre-med, who do they go to now?”
    
Kendal Flowerdew, another pre-health student who is also a sophomore, said she thinks new students will not miss out on anything. 
    
“It’s really just an inconvenience,” she said. “Freshmen won’t have a hard time because they didn’t even know Judy.” 
    
Ellie Goldstein, a sophomore in the pre-health program, said that having a dedicated pre-health advisor is “helpful and necessary,” and that she is concerned that the Science faculty is being held responsible for too much of the advisor’s responsibilities. 
    
Levine’s responsibilities have been divided between several faculty members. Dean Trujillo has taken on some of her non-academic functions, such arranging for guest speakers within the medical field and trips to medical schools, and faculty members of the Science department have been assisting students with satisfying their course requirements.
    
However, Dean Trujillo said that this is the way pre-health advising has always worked at Sarah Lawrence.
    
“It’s a coordinated effort; one person cannot do all of that for students,” he said. “That coordination is absolutely critical.” 

According to the Dean, the Office of Community Partnerships also plays a huge role in the advising process by providing students with opportunities to work within and around the Sarah Lawrence community. The student-run Pre-Med Club has also had a role, voicing concerns to Dean Trujillo and giving faculty an idea of what students need. 
    
An information session for first-years with an interest in this program is held during interview week. Last year, Dean Trujillo hosted the meeting with Judy Levine. The only difference this year? The Dean held it by himself. 
    
Dean Trujillo said that, while he has been meeting with students one-on-one, much of the responsibilities of academic advising have always been a part of the Science faculty’s duties.  
    
“The reason for the quality [of Sarah Lawrence’s pre-health program] lies in the level of faculty engagement,” Dean Trujillo said. 
    
Colin Abernethy is a Chemistry professor who teaches many of Sarah Lawrence’s pre-health students. He said Science faculty members have always had a hand in advising pre-health students, especially in regards to the academic prerequisites required by medical schools. 
    
“That’s part of advising, just making sure that students get the right courses in an appropriate order to both have all of the prerequisites but also to be able to prepare themselves for the MCAT exam as best they can,” he said. 
     
Abernethy said MCAT preparation has become another problem, though he thinks it will be resolved quickly. The MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test, is a rigorous exam that tests students on their knowledge of scientific principles. Most students take the MCAT after they graduate, according to Professor Abernethy, but they spend years preparing for it. 
    
MCAT preparation has been handled in the past by Scott Calvin, a Sarah Lawrence Physics professor who is resigning at the end of the fall semester, according to Professor Abernethy. However, Professor Abernethy said “that will be resolved sooner rather than later.”
    
“We’ve had meetings with the Dean already, and arrangements will be made to bring someone equally qualified to campus to help students with MCAT prep,” he said. 
    
According to Dean Trujillo, he and his office are taking this opportunity to reexamine Sarah Lawrence’s MCAT prep; whether it should be a part of coursework or separate, and whether it should be an intensive workshop or a longer program.
    
“That’s the question we’re looking to answer: what is the best format for our students, because obviously [they] have a full course load. I think everyone is trying to be very, very careful not to overburden students,” Dean Trujillo said. 
    
The splitting of the Advisor’s responsibilities between two groups of people has come at a time when the pre-health program is in a state of relative flux, according to Professor Abernethy. 
“This is a time of transition for the pre-med program anyway, because a lot of medical schools have upgraded their requirements. The MCAT itself has just undergone a major revision; it’s a brand new exam,” he said. 
    
This being the case, the absence of one dedicated pre-health advisor may not disrupt the lives of Sarah Lawrence pre-health students in any significant way. However, the lack of notice regarding Judy Levine’s departure has left some students in the dark and wondering who they should go to have their questions and concerns addressed.
    
However, Kendal Flowerdew felt that the situation is not dire and that students have the advice they need. “Danny and the professors have been extremely helpful,” she said. 
    
Despite the former advisor’s absence, Dean Trujillo was certain of one thing: “The preparation that our students experience here at Sarah Lawrence for any health-related profession is excellent,” he said. 

Ricky Martorelli '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.