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
wwallerstein@gm.slc.edu

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 Against the Rebrand Call For More Input Post Protest

Some cardboard picket signs used to protest at the board of trustees meeting    Photo credit: Jomana Abdallah 

Some cardboard picket signs used to protest at the board of trustees meeting 
Photo credit: Jomana Abdallah 

More cardboard picket signs used to protest at the board of trustees meeting    Photo credit: Jomana Abdallah 

More cardboard picket signs used to protest at the board of trustees meeting 
Photo credit: Jomana Abdallah 

In early February, a group called Students Against the Rebrand stormed into a Board of Trustees meeting in Heimbold with a document outlining their various concerns with the current state of the College. The list of demands drafted by the small group of students leading the protest covered the alleged “neoliberalization of SLC [and] shift in institutional values and priorities,” as written in a letter posted by the group on their website and directed at the student body. Through this document, which is split into topics that include admissions policies, athletics, the gender ratio, labor relations, sexual assault and diversity, these students aim to reverse the trend they say has been developing at the College over the last few years.

According to member and Senior Class President Emily Rogers (‘15), the group largely came out of concerns about the College's response to workers unionizing on campus and its subsequent relationship with the law firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King (BSK), which has been seen as problematic by both students and faculty who say the firm has been part of "anti-union" activities in the past. “There had been a lot of pushback against BSK, but we really saw a very lacking response from the administration. So I think that is what convinced a lot of people, definitely myself, that the old methods have failed,” said Rogers. “We had to try something different, and that's what we did.”

While the response from the Board was “largely positive” and steps have been taken to create a student affairs committee within the Board of Trustees, Rogers added that the group as a whole “has been unable to secure a meeting with [College President Lawrence], or any of the trustees, and no one from senior staff has responded to any of us.”

On the protest itself, President Lawrence said that while it was obviously a surprise at the time, she was aware of many pre-existing student opinions regarding the issues brought up. Dean Al Green said he thinks the group used too broad a brush in painting the school, adding, "The issues are of concern. But I also think that some of the issues are actually being addressed," mainly pointing to the work that has been done on the prevention of sexual violence.

President Lawrence explained that while she takes the points brought up seriously, her main concern is, “how we [can] do better in hearing voices, helping students feel like they have a voice, and in doing something with the structures so we're improving how that works, both with the board and with us on senior staff.” She continued, “The larger reaction is that it's clear that at least some students, and we weren't totally sure who this group was, feel that, despite the mechanisms set up in senate, on the Board, where there are four student representatives, that somehow other students don't feel like their voices are heard.”

Many of the students who are part of the group are and have been involved in channels for student engagement and input, whether it be through senate, committees, or campus activism groups. Despite this level of involvement, many of these members still do not feel like they have enough information, and one of the main issues the group has been advocating for is increased transparency within the administration.

On this subject, President Lawrence responded, “I don't know exactly what that means because we feel that on senior staff, we go to the Senate a lot of the time to go into detail about what's happening in Finance, what's happening in the President's office, what's happening in Admissions, what's happening in Athletics. So I don't know what more transparency means.” Still, she said she is open to expanding student access to the administration.

Another major point brought up in the document, which goes along with the call for increased transparency, is a demand to reveal how much the college is spending on contracted firms (one of which is the law firm, BSK) which is not information currently available to the college community. When speaking about this, Rogers pointed to periods in the history of the college when financial data that is now confidential had been open to the entire student body, particularly during efforts to grow the college under President Charles DeCarlo in 1976.

President Lawrence emphasized that SLC does not have a large staff and maintained that this makes reaching out to contracted firms necessary. However, on the subject of BSK, President Lawrence said the College had no intention to be perceived as anti-union. “We hired a law firm with a lot of experience in this area because the College doesn't have that experience. We have not had unions before on campus,” she said. "But there's absolutely no intention of intimidating the workers and, in fact, we're going to do what we can to have and plan to have negotiations.” When asked if she thought the document was at all limited in its understanding of the financial realities of the school, the president answered with a straightforward, “Yeah.”

But the group does not buy the excuse of tough financial times. “Show us the data,” Rogers said. Fellow member Faith McGlothlin ('15) added, “There are certain financial realities that this school has to face all the time...but part of what came up in a lot of our discussions is considering the money that we do have, and then thinking, what are we focusing on? What are we privileging more than other issues?” Member Kelly Gilbert ('15) continued on this note, saying, “If you can't afford to give people a raise, but you can afford to retain a law firm that's notorious for union-busting, and they cost at least tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds of thousands of dollars...you would rather do that than just treat people fairly? That doesn't make sense to me, and if you're argument is about economic competitiveness, you're doing it wrong.”

In terms of other parts of the document, Dean Green pointed out aspects of it he felt were inaccurate: for example, demands that call for balancing spending on men's and women's sports, which, if not done, would be an NCAA violation. “These are requirements,” he said, “It's one of those things that students just assumed that we were not [doing], but by law, we have to.” Dean of Enrollment Kevin McKenna said he feels this points less to the document itself and more to the issue of “what's wrong with our manner of communication, and the way that we communicate to students that led to that misperception.”

All three administrators still maintain that there has not been a “rebrand”, or a shift in institutional values. “What makes a good student experience doesn't stand still completely, but that's different from changing the values of the college,” said President Lawrence. But Students Against the Rebrand do not seem to be backing down from their assertion that, in recent years, a broad set of changes have indeed taken place.

The initiative has gained support from the student body since the protest. Despite this, there have been various criticisms from fellow students, mostly on the subject of diversity. While race-related issues were included in the list of demands, some felt that they were not adequately explored or taken seriously. Rogers agreed that this part of the document should be expanded upon, but added that, while asked, “a lot of people who are currently working on [issues regarding race on campus] did not want to be a part of this group." She said it became an issue of, “How do you both signify that you agree with their efforts, without stealing words from them.” Rogers also pointed out blatant false information about the protest immediately following it, particularly the rumor that there were no students of color involved.

The present focus of the group is receiving input from a wider range of students, since the current document is limited to the contributions of the relatively small group who initially formed the list of demands and organized the protest. On both the criticism and the direction the initiative will take from here, Gilbert said, "I do think we could have done better [in terms of the action]...and I really want to make it a more inclusive movement.” McGlothlin continued, “While the scope [of the list of demands] is rather broad, it is not meant to be all-encompassing at all.” The group acknowledges that it is not a complete representation of the community and welcomes any feedback from interested students, emphasizing that its list of demands is a living document.  

by Janaki Chadha ‘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.

Sarah Lawrence Mourns Film Professor Gilberto Perez

Beloved Film Professor Gilberto Perez (1943-2015), died at age 71.  Courtesy Sarah Lawrence College

Beloved Film Professor Gilberto Perez (1943-2015), died at age 71. 
Courtesy Sarah Lawrence College

Gilberto Perez, beloved Sarah Lawrence professor and scholar, whose knowledge of and passion for film was unrivaled, and whose office door was always open to his students, died of a heart attack on January 5, 2015. He was 71 years-old. He is survived by his wife, Diane Stevenson, his brother, Jorge Guillermo, two nephews, Bernardo and Nicolas Guillermo, a niece, Juliana Guillermo, and his students. We called him Gil.

Gil dedicated most of his adult life to teaching and writing about film, and his work in the field was eloquent and illuminative. It was, however, for theoretical physics that he left his home in Havana, Cuba to attend college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While there, he quickly established himself as the resident cinephile on campus. He founded and presided over a film society on campus and he began to write critical film reviews for the campus newspaper. Around this time, Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution brought an end to the Batista administration’s authoritative rule of the Cuban government. In part because of the political upheaval and its consequences, and also, of course, because he would be busy at MIT, Princeton, Harvard, the University of Missouri, and finally here with us, it would be decades before Gil returned home. 

Perez was always up for a conversation. Here, he is pictured talking with designer and donnee David Netto ‘92. Courtesy Sarah Lawrence College

Perez was always up for a conversation. Here, he is pictured talking with designer and donnee David Netto ‘92.
Courtesy Sarah Lawrence College

It was not until he had graduated from MIT and had begun to pursue a degree in Princeton’s graduate program in theoretical physics that Gil’s academic career took an unexpected turn. The theoretical physics program into which he was accepted was, in those days, the most prestigious in the country. Yet, as he had at MIT, Gil somehow found the time to further express his passion for the cinema while working towards meeting the rigorous demands of a master’s degree in physics from an Ivy League institution. This caught the attention of Princeton’s then-head of the English Department, and, in 1966, the first year Princeton introduced film history into its curriculum, Gil, the aspiring theoretical physicist, was hired to teach. Nearly twenty years later, still teaching film, Gil found himself here at SLC. “You don’t know what life has in store for you,”  Gil once said to me, beaming from his office in Heimbold. He looked happy to be here. 

Although Gil spent most of his life in the United States, he remained, until his death, a Cuban at heart. The love he had for his country and its culture was profound and never left him. He loved to show Agnes Varda’s great photodocumentary Salut Les Cubains! in class and, when he did, his face would light up at the sound of Benny More’s tenor voice on the soundtrack. In Havana, Gil had been employed from the age of thirteen as a cartoonist for a local newspaper, and he never lost the guileful, subtly mischievous sense of humor that landed him that job. He loved to smoke those narrow Cuban cigarillos, the ones that came in a pack and smelled sticky and sweet. Gil also loved to speak Spanish; when he encountered students who were fluent in the language, he often conducted his conferences with them in his native tongue. I am told that during those sessions, all traces of his stutter, which in English was pronounced, left his voice.

And what a voice it was. Gil did speak with a stutter, but his rich, resonant voice, and what he said with it, was never anything less than captivating. And the stutter was never really a speech impediment, anyway. Rather, it was the verbal manifestation of the careful way he went about articulating himself. Gil was a man who always said exactly what he meant to. 
We have that to thank for Gil’s magnum opus, The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium. Widely considered to be one of the most important texts in film academia ever written, the work is a strikingly lucid, unpretentious testament to its author’s lifelong fascination with movies and their ability to move us. He was also working on a follow-up, entitled The Rhetoric of Film, with which my class with Gil shared its name. For all that he achieved in his remarkable life, Gil was a man who still had much more to give. 

Perez poses for a picture among a group of his admiring students. Courtesy Isabella Pinheiro ‘16

Perez poses for a picture among a group of his admiring students.
Courtesy Isabella Pinheiro ‘16

His untimely and unexpected death has left the Sarah Lawrence community in a state of shock. For those of us who knew Gil, his passing is a tremendous loss. Much will be written about his contributions to film theory and his prodigious intelligence, and rightfully so. He possessed an uncommonly versatile intellect that he used to build as sterling an academic career as there ever was or will be. But to the Sarah Lawrence community, Gil’s irreplaceable value was of an even rarer kind. He was, perhaps, the most cherished of all dons, and in many ways, represented everything a good don should be. He took a genuine interest in each and every one of his students. He set an example simply by showing up and bringing his searching, insatiable curiosity with him every time our class met. He made us all, in his gentle, unfussy way, want to work a little harder, and dream a little bigger. 

Gil was someone whose company I enjoyed immensely. He was someone I wanted to impress. My friends and I used to joke around about inviting Gil out to dinner or to the movies, but we were only half kidding. The night he gave me permission to skip a class to go see a film premiere at the New York Film Festival, and then ended up sitting right behind me, remains one of my most special memories. Just as the lights started to dim, I felt a nudge and turned around to see Gil, looking as at home as I’d ever seen him, directing a warm smile my way.

He was the kind of guy with whom I could imagine discussing not just movies, but more intimate matters of the heart, like what made us happiest, or what it felt like the first time we fell in love. I wish we had. I am sure he would have listened, just as I am sure he would have had stories of his own to share. In the last year of his life, in class, in conversation, or at the cinema, he was as eager as ever to learn, and of course, to teach. For Gil, teaching was less about arriving at the answers and more about searching for the right questions. Blessed with passionate humility and a quiet tenderness, he touched the lives of countless friends, faculty, and students since arriving at Sarah Lawrence in 1983. 

Farewell, Gil. If only we had more time, we’d tell you how much you meant to us. Better yet, we’d show you. “Don’t worry,” I imagine you’d say. “That you can still do.”

by Anthony Verone ’17
acohen1@gm.slc.edu

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.

Bookstore rethinks policies under fire from frustrated students

Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

The Sarah Lawrence bookstore gets a lot of flack from the students and sometimes it’s actually warranted. When they have books in stock, they overcharge for them, and when they’re back ordered, the books aren’t expected to come in for multiple weeks. This creates a problem, as students then have to start classes without the books they need for completing their assignments.

However it’s not entirely the bookstore’s fault.  There is a decent sized problem surrounding the student body’s consumption of literature. There are students who despite not being in a class, or who get bumped from a class, decide to pursue their interest in the subject by buying the books in the bookstore anyways, leaving none or not enough books for those in the class .  Now, the students in the class have to belatedly order from Amazon or elsewhere, and wait until they arrive.  In the meantime, they now have to find alternative methods to get their hands on the readings. 

In addition to the problem of books bought by students not enrolled in a class, is the fact that the bookstore charges prices often too expensive for students.  While Rent-A-Book seeks to remedy this it isn’t effective: a single margin note in a rented book decreases the number of books available to rent out.  The bookstore also takes longer than online sellers to receive books, why is this? 

SLC Bookstore Store Manager Jorge Arteaga explains that part of the problem the bookstore faces in getting books for students is that they start by ordering a certain number of used copies and, once the school year begins, they order new editions of the books.  But, sometimes, the books that are harder to find, or even out of print, take longer to come in, which creates a back up. 

“The difference between Amazon and us is that Amazon has smaller book holders or smaller companies that hold on to books longer. We have to go directly to the distributors and publishers”, said Arteaga.  

Arteaga continues to explain that, occasionally, the distributors that the SLC bookstore goes through get backed up, as we are not the only school ordering books this time of year.  Arteaga stresses the importance of the “Save the Sale Initiative”; a step the bookstore took to try to help students get books faster by putting a slip of paper on the bookshelves, which allows students to order out-of-stock books on the spot, so when the books arrive, they have a reserved copy.  

“We really want to help the students as much as possible and get them to shop in the store,” Arteaga said.  

The issue seems to be a perfect storm of bookstore/eager-to-learn students/book warehouses.  Arteaga agrees that students purchasing books for classes they are not in is a large part of the problem.  Luckily, Arteaga shared some ideas that the bookstore is mulling over to solve this problem.  One such thought is a clerking system, in which students show a book clerk a list of courses they are in and the clerk goes to the back room and retrieves the books.  Then, after the beginning of the semester, students would be free to purchase whichever books they want, despite their course load.  Another idea is to have students’ courses connected to their OneCards so when the bookstore swipes a student’s OneCard, they can see which classes the student is in, and ensure that students are only purchasing books that correspond with their courses.  Again, this wouldn’t be for the entire semester – just until all students have what they need for their classes.  

Arteaga disclosed, that the overall number of students using the bookstore has declined greatly this past school year.  Many students are relying on Amazon for their books, as the prices are notably lower and it makes for a less stressful experience.  

 “I rely on Amazon unless I need a book for the very next day.  I also would use the bookstore more if it was open more and was better stocked” said Valerie Veldez, ’17. 

Even though these issues are not necessarily the bookstore’s fault, other more efficient services are emerging and the bookstore needs to compete with these, or throw in the towel and stick to sweatshirts, snacks, and assorted school-spirit items.  

by Sarah Simon '16
ssimon@gm.slc.edu

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.

Club Update: Workers' Justice reminds us to appreciate employees

Citizen Drunk, a self-described liberal arts drunk metal group, performs in the Bates basement led by frontman and official club officer of chaos, Nachi Conde-Farley '14

Q: Have you thanked a Sarah Lawrence worker today? 

A: If you are like the vast majority of Sarah Lawrence students, no, you probably have not. In fact, most Sarah Lawrence students do not even know a single worker’s name, even though these are the people that make this school run day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year.

But who are our workers? They are the people who clean the library everyday, the people who plant the gorgeous flowers at Westlands once spring arrives, the people who drive around keeping the campus safe. Our workers process all the campus mail; they cook us our food; they stock our textbooks in the bookstore.

Whether employed by the college or through third-party contractors, our workers are just as much a part of our community as students, faculty, and administration. Unfortunately for our workers, the Sarah Lawrence community at large does little to acknowledge their constant hard work and sacrifice. Even worse, often while simply doing their jobs—the toiling and mundanity of which likely far exceeds our own imagination here at such a college as Sarah Lawrence—students actively harass and demean our workers. For example, while breaking up illicit on-campus parties, our night-shift security guards have commented on a repeated pattern of facing hostile, demeaning, and disrespectful students, many of whom are intoxicated.

Fortunately, Sarah Lawrence Workers Justice is a student organization dedicated to improving these relations. Workers Justice was founded 5 years ago. It arose out of a successful union campaign that brought our AVI workers better wages and a respectable benefits package. Nachi Conde-Farley ‘14, the current club chair, said WJ’s mission is “to be there for our fellow community members, to give a voice to all working people on our campus, and to ensure that everyone has a safe and respectable place to work at Sarah Lawrence.” Kelly Gilbert ‘15, an officer of the organization, said the main goal for the rest of the spring semester is to focus on fostering student support by holding events on campus that raise awareness of workers issues on campus.

Workers Justice will be hosted an information booth at the Pub during the day on Thursday and Friday March 6th and 7th,. Members were there to answer any questions the SLC community had. They are also conducting an ongoing fundraiser so that the AVI workers can purchase new speakers to listen to music while working.   

On Friday, March 7 at 10PM, WJ hosted a live music event in the Bates Basement featuring four bands: Child Bride (described as “Yonkers Hardcore”), Field Observations (“Sludge”), AUDIOMUFF (“Boston Noise”), and Citizen Drunk (“Liberal Arts Drunk Metal). Conde-Farley described the event as being “basically a punk show…it’s a place where we can party but also celebrate the contributions of workers on this campus.”

Finally, WJ would also like to encourage each member of the Sarah Lawrence community to take a little time out of their day, once in a while, to thank a worker for their work and maybe even get to know their name—greet every worker you come across with a smile.

Other little things like making sure to pick up after yourself, for instance while in the library, or simply not vandalizing campus property, for instance in Hill House, can go a long way—especially if everyone is doing it (or in the case of vandalism, not doing it).

But most of all, be thankful for our workers and always keep them in mind when talking about our campus community at large.

Workers Justice meets once a week in the North Room of the Pub, usually at 7:00pm. Anyone from the SLC is welcome to join. For more information you can find them online at www.facebook.com/slc.workerjustice

by Jake Rickman '16
jrickman@gm.slc.edu

 

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.

Open Mic Night is a must-attend Sarah Lawrence tradition

photos by Ellie Brumbaum '17

The Beatles spent two years performing in clubs in Germany, playing night after night. This intense practice is what made them into a band that was able to change musical history. Every other week, Sarah Lawrence students have a chance to perform, to practice their art, in the same way the Beatles did many years ago. The open mic performances hosted by the Sarah Lawrence Activities Committee (SLAC) are where creative members of the community can come together to listen and to perform. Even the shiest of people perform their niche: poets read their work, musicians perform on their instruments, and the bravest acts sing a cappella. The talent goes on.

On Thursday, February 20, the Black Squirrel served shakes to attendees of the latest open mic night. Comedy skits, poetry, music, and an impressive sing-along rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody filled the room. The joyful community members are blessed with this time to enjoy each other’s performances, sing with one and another and find new ways to be inspired by their peers.

My favorite shifts to works are always the open mics, because of the sheer enjoyment I get from watching my peers perform. The entertainment is always full of fun, the energy of performance and crowd anticipation rejuvenating. Although shifts at the Black Squirrel are never boring, I always look forward to the open mics. The more acts the better. 

Those who have never performed in or witnessed an open mic night are missing a crucial part of the Sarah Lawrence experience. We are small, tight-knit community, which allows us to know each other and one another’s work. This enables us to watch our peers evolve as artists and make strong connections to new friends who perform. It is its own type of party, a change of pace from the everyday monotony of a college student’s schedule, and a wonderfully heart warming time. Taking a break from the busy study life of college student to perform is exhilarating. It renews a person’s faith in work, art and gives life a breath of fresh air before the weekend. The comfort and support of friends is always a heartwarming experience. People cheering for one another, singing songs together, it can only bring a smile to your face. 

Performing love songs is wonderful, comedy acts keep you laughing, and folk tunes have the nostalgic feeling of campfires. No matter what the performance, there is something special about it. Two people can even perform the same song on the same night and each performance still has potential to mean something completely different. Each week there are new acts, people performing different songs (or the same song), a different kind of energy, crowd, and theme. But there is always a sort of familiarity to the nights: people with open arms greet each other cheerfully, excited to hear what they will perform that night. Open mic nights in the Black Squirrel are consistently a fun time, where everyone has the chance to showcase their unique performance talents. Coming from a regular attendee, do not miss a change to come and enjoy one of SLAC’s Open Mic Nights.

by Justin Becker '17
DBecker@gm.slc.edu

UtopiaDanielBecker@gmail.com
www.facebook.com/justin.d.becker

 

 

Student Artist: Jasper Soloff '17 uses shadow to capture movement

Photographic work of Jasper Soloff, '17

I met with Jasper in an empty studio in Heimbold. He’s a really friendly, easy to talk to guy and was nice enough to bring a couple of his portfolios with his most recent work, which I spent a few minutes drooling over. You may have seen some of his work on Facebook or Instagram, but he is truly a genius when it comes to working with lights and shadows. I’ve always admired Jasper’s work and it was exciting to finally get to talk with him about it. 

Sasha Helinski: So Jasper, why photography? 

Jasper Soloff: I was a dancer before I came to this school and I’ve always been really interested in the way the body moves through space, so I think that’s initially what drew me to photography. I’m a very visual person and I wanted to be able to capture moments of the body moving on film that you might miss in person. I was interested in using lighting to enhance certain features specifically. I love how the human body looks and moves. 

SH: When did you start pursuing photography? 

JS: Well, I was doing iPhone photography, “iPhone-ography” before I got here, but I was mostly focused on dance. The dance training has helped me I think, because I spent so much time looking at what was wrong and what was right, visually and aesthetically. So, in a lot of ways, I feel I see a lot more than I would have, if I hadn’t been involved with dance. 

SH: That’s awesome. So what are you hopes, goals, or dreams regarding photography? 

JS: I’m not quite sure yet. I’m really interested in fashion photography and I would love to continue doing studio work, experimenting with different types of film and lighting and seeing wherever that takes me. I don’t have any specific plans yet, but I’m really excited to figure it out. 

SH: Which photography class are you taking currently? 

JS: Black and white film photography. 

SH: Is it your first time doing film photography? 

JS: (Chuckling) Yes, yes it is. 

SH: How is that whole experience? 

JS: I love it. I think film is definitely for a specific type of person. You have to be ready to give it a lot of time and patience. It’s easy to get frustrated with all the steps and technical elements; it takes so long even to produce the negatives, which is the first step. That’s been the hardest part, but I think length of the process almost brings me closer to my work because I feel like I’m making it and really having a part in its production, rather than just snapping a shot. 

SH: So, it sounds like you prefer film to digital?

JS: Yeah, definitely. I am loving it. 

SH: I know you’ve only recently begun exploring photography, but has your style changed at all throughout this process? 

JS: Yeah, I think because I am just starting out it is precisely why my style has changed a lot. When you first go into something, you have all these ideas in your head of what you want to do and what you want it to look like. But, as you continue, you figure out what works and doesn’t, you are inspired by your own work, and it changes that way. Throughout this year I have been really drawn to manipulating lighting and directing shoots, so that’s been really exciting for me.

SH: Out of all the shoots you’ve done so far, do you have a favorite?

JS: Yeah, I definitely have favorite shots. It’s funny because sometimes those favorites will change because of other people’s opinions, as much as I try not to let those affect mine. In class during critiques, I’ll go in really enthusiastic about one, and then end up leaving with a different favorite after listening to what my peers have to say. They help me look at my photographs through a different perspective. I do try to keep my own opinions as the prevalent ones, though. 

SH: How do you come up with the ideas for your shoots? 

JS: It really comes from a lighting standpoint and then I use my choreography experience to consider how the body will move in that light. Once I’m there, I really like collaborating with the model because it’s really exciting to work with someone who’s as enthusiastic as you are. I’ve many times had to adjust my ideas simply because of the way my model related with my ideas. That’s part of the process and I enjoy it. 

SH: Are you working on anything new right now?

JS: I actually just finished a project with two of my good friends. I got this really big, old gate and was able to light it in a way that I could project the shadows onto the bodies of my models. I’ve been trying to recreate patterns with light and shadows, and I was able to align the shape of the gate with my models’ spines. I find the way light can have an effect on a space to be fascinating. 

SH: What else are you pursuing this semester? 

JS: Political Science and Japanese Literature.

Jasper Soloff is a first-year student at Sarah Lawrence College. You can see more of his photography by following him on Instagram @jasperegan.

by Sasha Helinski '17
shelinski@gm.slc.edu

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