Barbara Walters teaches class on the art of interviews

Do your homework! Walters stressed the importance of being prepared. Credit: Dana Maxson

Do your homework! Walters stressed the importance of being prepared. Credit: Dana Maxson

On Wed., May 6, celebrity alumna and seasoned journalist Barbara Walters (‘53) taught an hour-long Master Class in the Canon Theater at Sarah Lawrence College. The Master Class, entitled “The Art of the Interview”, was attended by an intimate group of about 40 students concentrating in writing, journalism, and digital media. The small bunch of students were hand-selected by faculty to participate in this one-of-a-kind event. 

The Master Class was conceived to honor Mrs. Walters’ generous $15 million donation for the future Barbara Walters Campus Center made earlier this year. Additionally, the event honored the legacy of Walters. She was the first female co-anchor of a network evening news program and single-handedly broke the glass ceiling for women in broadcast journalism. 

Dean of the College Jerrilynn Dodds expanded upon how the Master Class came together: “The Master Class is an idea that Karen Lawrence and Barbara Walters have discussed for some time [...] We [the community] wanted for her to come so we could express our thanks for her extraordinary gift to the college—the largest gift the college has received,” she explained, “and we knew that [Walters] also wanted to connect with the students to whom she is so committed, and who are part of her legacy. That is the reason the Master Class was a natural event for this day.”

As the title would suggest, the Master Class focused on Walters’ famed interviewing style, and afforded those in attendance the opportunity to ask Walters questions about how she developed her craft as a journalist and receive advice on how to improve their own interviewing skills. Prior to the class, those invited were asked to submit their questions for Walters for review and compilation. Walters cleverly played off of this methodology of the class’s proceedings to impart her first lesson: “never give [the subject] your questions in advance!” 

Despite breaking one of Walters’ interview rules before the Master Class even began, the event continued smoothly as starstruck students nervously approached the SLC legend to ask their questions. The first round of questions specifically dealt with interview techniques, and breaking the barrier between interviewer and subject. Walters advised students to start slow, easing the subject into a sense of comfort before going for the jugular. “Ask the benign questions first,” Walters instructed. “I always save the toughest questions for last.” More importantly, Walters stressed the importance of being prepared: “Homework, homework, homework is key,” she said.

For those just starting out in the journalism/media world, Walters gave encouragement to start at the bottom and work up from there. “I’ve always said get your foot in the door, that may be old-fashioned advice now. Get there before everybody, and stay there after everybody has left,” she said emphasizing the role of hard work and dedication in shaping a journalism career. “Everybody wants the glamour of being on camera, but you have to pay your dues first.” 

Walters certainly did pay her own dues. Before she became an evening news anchor for ABC in 1976, Walters worked as a secretary and then as an assistant to the publicity director of WRCA-TV Tex McCary before landing a writing gig on The Today Show in 1961. From there, Walters lunged at every opportunity she could get. At first stuck covering women’s interest assignments only, Walters eventually proved herself and landed the responsibility of accompanying First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to India and Pakistan, earning her increased respect at the network.

The last of the prepared questions asked Walters about what she wants her impact on future journalists to be: “I want you to never be afraid,” she answered. Walters cited her experience at SLC as being fundamental in her development as a journalist. “The ability to learn how to think [...] and how to frame a question as well as not being afraid to ask it is what I learned from Sarah Lawrence,” she explained. Then, in a candid moment, Walters got up out of her chair and sang the classic SLC chant about her old dormitory in Titsworth: “My girl’s from Titsworth, she’s really down to earth, you get your money’s worth from progressive education!”

After the impromptu musical number, the floor was opened up for spontaneous questions from the audience and the conversation shifted to more contemporary issues facing the journalism field today. In the social media age, it is harder than ever to keep a reader, listener, or viewer’s attention and relate complicated news stories in a way that is simple and makes sense. “You have to give people some idea of what the situation is first, then ask the hard questions,” Walters advised the audience about reporting on tough issues. “You’re not telling the whole story. You can’t tell the whole story. You’re capturing the essence of it.”

Walters noted a recent shift away from hard-hitting news on broadcast programs to more fluffy, lighthearted, “fun” news. In one of the most poignant moments of the class, one audience member asked Walters about how she thinks women should navigate a journalism world where women are expected to be pleasant and mellow, to which Walters responded: “I just think women should do their job. Don’t be pleasant. Don’t be fun. Be a journalist.”

Following the Master Class, there was a reception at the Marshall Field music building. Guests walked through the doors and under a banner announcing a new tradition at SLC: from now on, May 6 will be Barbara Walters Day in honor of the school’s most famous alumna and her $15 million gift. In an extra show of gratitude, Anna Nemetz (‘17), Carrigan O’Brien (‘17), and Amaris Smith (‘17) sang for the crowd, followed by a short thank you video put together by SLC alumni featuring SLC students. Finally, Karen Lawrence took the podium to personally thank Walters and unveil the new plaque that will adorn the future Barbara Walters Campus Center. It was smiles all around as the room leapt to roarous applause in honor of SLC’s most distinguished and honored community member of all time.

by Wade Wallerstein '17

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 Residence Life Director McPhee Replaces McLaughlin

Myra mcphee, who joined the sarah lawrence community this semester, replaces previous residence life director Carolyn O'laughlin. photo courtesy myra mcphee.

Myra mcphee, who joined the sarah lawrence community this semester, replaces previous residence life director Carolyn O'laughlin. photo courtesy myra mcphee.

This semester, Sarah Lawrence said goodbye to Residence Life Director Carolyn O’Laughlin and said hello to SLC’s newest staff member and the woman who will be filling her shoes, Myra McPhee.

McPhee comes to SLC from a position at the United States Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas, where she worked to promote the U.S. Department of State’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative pushed by President Obama,which claims to expand study abroad opportunities for international students. “Technically, my boss was John Kerry,” McPhee quipped. Before that, McPhee worked in the residence life departments at Michigan State University and Loyola University in Baltimore.

At the time of the interview and the writing of this article, McPhee had only officially worked on campus for three days. Adjusting well to her new position, McPhee discussed her role, and the positive changes that she wishes to see in the Residence Life program here at SLC.

In essence, it is the Residence Life Director’s job to ensure positive relationships between individuals in the college community—specifically, smooth transitions for freshmen into campus life as well as training and managing the Resident Advisors. Traditionally, there has been low turnout to residence life programming and a general sense of isolation felt by students towards the community. McPhee wants to change all of that by working closely with RA’s to develop more meaningful programming that appeals to students’ specific needs.

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Education Specialist Myra McPhee with COB officials. Photo State Dept.

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission and Education Specialist Myra McPhee with COB officials. Photo State Dept.

The RA program is an important one; not only does it help students connect and engage with the community, but it also helps RA’s to develop personal and professional skills. Aislinn Garner (’15) has high hopes for positive change to the program under McPhee: “With the new director, I'd like to see them look into giving raises or more appreciation to the staff, potentially,” she began. “RAs work really hard, sometimes to the detriment of our own social lives or academics. Often students don't realize how little we are paid compared to other institutions, and especially considering the amount of work involved with the position. I also hope the school works on being more open with what an RA can and cannot do at Sarah Lawrence, because people seem a bit confused sometimes, even after an RA has explained their role.”

There has been a lot of talk among the student body that there will be a crackdown on RA’s, and that RA’s will be required to write tickets to students who violate SLC’s code of conduct. Some RA’s even expressed concern that writing tickets will impede their ability to advise, because advisees will see them as disciplinarians instead of resources for help. McPhee dispelled those rumors, explaining that this will not be the case. She said, "The RA role will expand to support the RAs documenting incidents that disrupt the SLC community.  RAs will be empowered to ensure their communities are healthy, positive and flourishing.  There are no plans for RAs to write tickets."

RA’s will never be required to write tickets. Instead, they will be expected to adopt an expanded role in dealing with community conflict when it arises. This could be as simple as an in-depth conversation with a student who is having a negative impact on the community, and then reporting that that conversation occurred to their supervising Graduate Hall Director. While this will mean more responsibility and accountability for RA’s, it is certainly far off from the police state that the rumor mill spread around campus.

Though nothing has been set in stone, and all of these proposed alterations to the roles of RA’s are just talk at this point, many of the RA’s support the idea of an expanded role in enforcing policies to keep campus safe. David Tierney (’17), for example, is excited about the changes: “We're not going to be like security, we're not going to be doing rounds, we're not going to be actively seeking out offenses,” he explained. “If we stumble across some sort of offense, it means that it's affecting the community, or that it is disruptive enough to be noticeable. Being able to document will gives us a tool to make sure that everyone is being respectful of others in the community. I think in a lot of ways, it will ultimately make it easier for us to do our jobs, to facilitate community development.”

McPhee worked at big schools in the past, and completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Carolina, which culturally is a very sports-centric school. She knew coming in to her new job as Resident Life Director at SLC that the needs of students here are very different than the needs of students that she was accustomed to previously.

One of McPhee’s biggest focuses has always been on the success of RA’s. She wants to make sure that RA’s are more than adequately equipped to tackle life after college. RA’s not only have to manage their own time and deal with their own personal issues that crop up as they navigate social and academic life at SLC, but also deal with the issues of the students under their supervision. McPhee wants to make sure that they have all the tools that they need to thrive while at SLC, and afterwards as well.

For now, McPhee is still getting used to life at SLC—she will not be able to develop effective programming until she figures out exactly what makes the community tick. Stop by her office in Student Affairs to introduce yourself and give her a warm welcome to SLC.

by Wade Wallerstein ‘17

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.

AVI Revamps Menus to Include Increased Sustainable Eating Options

This cold cade at the Pub offers ready-made vegan food. W. Wallerstein

This cold cade at the Pub offers ready-made vegan food. W. Wallerstein

Over the past few years, sustainable eating lifestyles have become increasingly popular across the nation. On the forefront of this trend stand Sarah Lawrence students, who represent a sizeable sub-community of vegan and gluten-free eaters on campus. These lifestyles are celebrated and institutionalized, the prime example being the sustainable living cooperative Warren Green house. 

In the past there has been a conception generated by vegan and gluten-free students that meal plans do not provide adequate options for complete nutrition. Vegan Hannah Rothpearl (’17) is just one dissatisfied customer: “I chose to go off meal plan mainly because I was afraid of not finding enough vegan options.” AVI Foodsystems has responded to increasing requests for more sustainable, vegan, and gluten-free options by implementing strategic menu changes and by planning larger structural changes to SLC Fresh for the future.

SLC Fresh Resident Director Lydia Becker has been working closely with Executive Chef Dan Tokarek to meet a rising demand for diverse eating choices based on personal dietary restrictions among students. Both were new to SLC this year and have spent the last semester familiarizing themselves with the community in order to properly meet its dietary needs. “It took Dan and I some weeks to get a really good feel for what students are really asking for. Sometimes, what students [are] asking for is not what we are hearing right away,” Becker said. 

The biggest way that they are tackling these issues is through simplification of dishes to appeal to the widest group of dining hall visitors. Tokarek explained, “When I say simplify, I mean no more than ten ingredients per dish. By doing that, we’re minimizing cross contamination with wheat and animal products.” 

Visitors to the Bates Dining Hall will notice that at each station there is always at least one vegetarian, if not vegan, option and also at least one gluten-free option. Many students have gleefully taken advantage of the gluten-free and vegan baked goods which now occupy the pastry cabinet at each meal. At the pub, there is an entire cooler dedicated to vegan and vegetarian options, in addition to the newly added Pho Bar which is entirely vegetarian and can be vegan depending on what ingredients are chosen. Hill 2 Go has an entire room with retail products that include vegan and gluten-free options.

Still, Becker and Tokarek admitted that the program has ways to go. Many of the changes that the AVI staff want to see are barred by mechanical restrictions—for example, there can be no vegan fried items at the pub because there is only one fryer. Installing a second fryer for vegan items would requires the addition of a second gas line and coordination with maintenance as well as the fire department and the City of Bronxville. Vegan dishes consist heavily of produce, which is hard to come by in the winter on the East Coast. Availability and distribution of fresh food that is up to AVI standards represents one of the dining team’s biggest challenges. Training food service staff to adequately prepare vegan and gluten-free options is another roadblock to progress.

Though happening slowly, these changes are coming and Becker insists that eventually students will see their options increase: “The set up is not great to be completely gluten-free or vegan, but we’re finding unique ways to do that.” One of the ways that they plan to do this is by working with more local vendors to have fresh products delivered to campus. SLC Fresh works with New York bake shops to get any vegan or gluten-free products that cannot be made in-house in the pastry cabinet.

Tokarek offered a broad vision for what sustainable dining options could look like down the road at SLC. These include expanded retail locations, such as Hill 2 Go, on campus, and perhaps even an entirely vegetarian deli. ”I want to see entire rooms of only vegan and vegetarian options,” Tokarek said. On the short term, students can expect to see fresh produce options increase as the weather grows warmer and the availability of those products increases. A proposed all-vegetarian dinner (tentatively titled ‘VegFest’) is in the works for later in the semester.

For now, vegan and gluten-free eaters will have the best chance of finding the widest diversity of options at Bates dining hall, which has the best mechanical set-up for providing it. “My favorite vegan item is our hummus,” Becker added. “We fry all of our chips in a specially dedicated vegan fryer. We have great guacamole right now too which is 100% vegan.” Tokarek has an affinity for tofu and seitan, and he takes great care in preparing flavorful dishes using those protein-rich ingredients.

The community has responded positively to menu changes by not responding at all. “No news is good news,” Tokarek said. “Students are much more likely to give feedback when they don’t like something than when they’re satisfied.” The best way that SLC students on meal plan with dietary restrictions can see changes made is by providing feedback to AVI, be it via e-mail, comment cards, or surveys. According to Becker, feedback thus far has included almost no complaints, just requests for additions. Food service staff has been able to make over half of all of the requested additions to dining options happen.

You can follow @SLCFresh on Instagram for daily updates on new dishes and dining hall events, and submit your own feedback to AVI via their online feedback form here 

By Wade Wallerstein ’17

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.

Larry Hoffman Discusses the Role of Public Safety Officers in regards to Emergency Procedures

Yonkers police have been working with SLC to keep the campus safe from harassers.  J. McFarland '16.

Yonkers police have been working with SLC to keep the campus safe from harassers. J. McFarland '16.

To keep SLC community members safe, the Yonkers police department  has placed two empty police cars on Kimball road. Some doubt the effectiveness of these cars, saying that they put SLC students in danger by giving them a false sense of security. Students may, in an emergency, look to these cars for help when, in fact, no help is there. 

Sarah Lawrence students are in contact with Public Safety every day. Whether in the back of a shuttle, in the Hill House lobby late at night, or at the scene of a party, the security team is there to both help students out when in trouble and uphold the rules of the school—even if that means delivering a ticket. At a school where students live where they work, Public Safety makes sure that the boundary between personal and professional is never crossed in an unsafe or illegal way. Not all situations, however, are manageable by Public Safety, so local emergency medical responders or law enforcement (depending on the type of situation) must step in.

The line between security’s duty and the police department’s jurisdiction can be blurry at times. “I feel like I would use 911 only if I were in immediate danger or something,” said Betsy Applebaum (’17). “For most other situations, I would call them first, and if security thought a problem was serious enough then I would call 911.” 

Sam Oshins (’17) shared a similar view, saying, “If there is an event on campus in which the student is in immediate and extreme danger, then calling the police is always the correct response.”  

To answer tricky questions of jurisdiction, it is helpful to understand what rights and abilities police officers and emergency medical respondents have that Campus Security does not. “SLC security officers do not have police or peace officer powers,” answered SLC’s Director of Public Safety and Security Larry Hoffman, “They therefore do not possess any ‘arrest or detaining powers’ beyond that of an ordinary citizen.” 

In New York, private security personnel have the right to make a citizen’s arrest. SLC’s security officers share that right: “Once a citizen’s arrest is made, the local police would need to be called as soon as possible,” Hoffman said. 

Some situations can be too dangerous for students or security officers to handle alone. A recent event in the Campbell Sports Center sparked conversation regarding potentially dangerous persons on campus.

Hoffman confirmed that, in the case of an immediate threat to student safety, “Security officers must take action if an individual is an immediate threat/danger to others or themselves. This usually involves calling the authorities via 911. They would keep the individual and others safe until emergency personnel arrive. ” 

The answer to whether students should call Public Safety or 911 for help is both: “In an emergency situation we encourage all members of the college community to call 911 and public safety (914-395-2222). As soon as public safety is notified of an emergency on campus, we will station a patrol vehicle at Kimball Avenue and Glen Washington Road to meet responding emergency personnel in order to bring them directly to the site of the emergency,” Hoffman explained. “In situations in which [security is] not notified, emergency personnel waste precious time looking for the on campus location. In addition, since security personnel have AED’s and medical kits in their vehicles, it is critical that our specially trained officers get to the scene of a medical emergency as soon as possible.” 

Though campus security aims to keep us safe, Wyatt Rocheleau (’16) feels safe for different reasons: “Compared to where I live I definitely feel safer on campus than back home, but I wouldn’t say I feel safer here because of campus security,” he admitted, “more I feel safer because of the intermediate community surrounding our school. Being in Bronxville, I can’t see myself running into anything crazy other than maybe a car driving by on Kimball yelling something at me.”

Though the community surrounding SLC is relatively safe, Public Safety prepares for any emergency situation. Despite any misconceptions that SLC students may have, campus security can do a lot, and, especially in the case of a medical emergency, can be the first responders: “Security officers have saved lives by administering CPR and shocking people back to live,” Hoffman said.

Sophomore class president Bennett Dougherty (‘17) is a big supporter of campus security, and supported this partnership with law enforcement.

“I love campus security,” Dougherty said. “I know that the two empty cop cars have raised concern among certain students, but honestly I think they’re good because they’re speeding traps that make drivers reduce their speed.” In the presence of these security precautions, there has been concern as to whether SLC community members are prepared to handle true emergencies. 

In fact, “Students are trained for emergencies by various means,” Hoffman countered. “They receive both public safety and fire safety training during orientation. Regular fire drills are conducted throughout the year. The college emails students emergency protocols at the beginning of each academic year. RA’s also speak about emergency procedures with their advisees.”

The relationship between campus security and students, either as a whole or individuals, can seem tense at times; however, officers have been encouraged to approach students this year in a more friendly manner. 

Each August, all security officers receive training on Public safety procedures. Though training on smooth interactions with students has always been included in the curriculum, recent student feedback stressing the importance of Security’s approach brought about new changes. Security personnel now use sentences like, “How are you doing today?” before advancing to, “Is that a beer?” 

Potentially antagonistic relationships between Public Safety personnel and students exists, though their goal remains, “to serve and protect the members of the college community in the best way possible.”

by Wade Wallerstein '17 and Julia Schur '15
Editor-in Chief and Managing Editor and

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.