Understand The Past, Empower The Future

The free speech board at bates. 

The free speech board at bates. 

I’ve often felt a certain anxiety towards the month of February. It is the time of year where, as an educator, I am bombarded with expectations to teach the entire inclusive history of America in just 20-something days. As a teacher of first graders, I am also tasked with teaching this history in a grade and age-appropriate way. The responsibility of cramming the “highlights” of Black History always comes with a tinge of guilt, because I know that it is not enough. Twenty eight days is never enough time to answer all the questions these tough lessons raise and respond to all the quizzical, wrinkled noses. The challenge of helping my students understand the history of people that look like them becomes overwhelming as I scramble to connect injustice as a systematic institution that extends far beyond one mean person, or one violent act.

It is my fourth year of teaching and this year I was finally able to view Black History through the lens of my students. It is through their eyes that I understand the depth of institutional racism and its impact on our smallest citizens. While reading stories, it is the blonde, blue-eyed characters —not the ones of color who most closely resemble them -- that they point out as beautiful. They marvel at the long, straight hair of their favorite Disney characters and are often frustrated that their hair texture doesn’t match. When drawing themselves, they often paint their skin and eyes as lighter and more fair to resemble what they understand as beautiful. It is the attachment of worth and value to whiteness and the absence of people of color in accessible media that create a message that tells my students people who look like them are unworthy, voiceless and less than.

I believe that to combat internalized racism, students must have a core believe that they are valuable, worthy and capable of attaining their highest goals. This February my students engaged in activities to affirm their identities and to remind them that they are special and unique, kind-hearted and compassionate.  We have read books with heroes, which look like them, who persevere in the face of adversity. As a class we engage in weekly community gatherings where students are able to “shout-out” the great achievements of their peers. We create books where students collect items from their community and write about why it is special to them. We discuss issues that face our class community and problem solve solutions as a group to reinforce that we are agents of change and together we can create the community we want to learn and live in. 

It is my hope that my students will begin to see themselves as I see them; as beautiful, inspiring and brilliant citizens who can transform their world. As an educator, it begins with giving my students opportunities to celebrate themselves and build their community (in and outside of the classroom) in a way that gives them voice beyond a twenty-eight day period. 

by Alexandria Linn ‘11

Alexandria Linn is a 2011 alum with Teach For America-Metro Atlanta. She teaches first grade at Harlem Village Academies. 

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.

Nature is the hottest trend of 2015

"Planned Green Space highlights the fact that wild places have become commodified and even commercialized." Photo by n. grieco '17

"Planned Green Space highlights the fact that wild places have become commodified and even commercialized." Photo by n. grieco '17

No planes cut the air. No phones or televisions murmur. The trees stop appearing ominous. The dogs find no need to bark. Perhaps the strangest of it all is that no one wonders what is occurring. No voices, no faces of concern. In the wild, we tend to stop our motion and empty ourselves of thought or hate or question or enjoyment. We listen to the eternity in the silence and stillness. Time stops—there is only fading light and the shapes in the sky one can peek at through the dense leaf cover. Every detail and every cell gradually becomes vivid, but ultimately is lost to the the greatness of it all, the natural world appearing friendly yet solitary.

But soon, life goes on. The universe moves again outside the forest, suburbia spreading even into the mountains. Molecules collide in the light red pollution that clouds the nighttime sky. Music roars back to life, fingers pressing keys, keys striking strings, strings playing notes, notes forming songs, the songs we have learned pressing against thought and memory. Our bodies, again entranced, move through traffic and loud sounds. This hurried constancy has been normalized, accepted, and rebirthed into what many of us are familiar with as daily life.

Wild places have become a modern fad. As so many of us have accepted an urbanized existence as the norm, jogging trails and small parks interrupting city blocks have become commonplace. Granted, this view of nature as secondary to urban sprawl does not take into account living in a metropolitan area to seek a greater quality of life; rather, it points out the apathetic experience that arises secondary to being apart from nature for long periods.

Moreover, it highlights the fact that wild places have become commodified and even

commercialized. Running a trail to gain the meditative experience of existing as one with the old-growth pine groves is no longer the reality of many people’s experiences with exercise; jogging has become a health trend, an activity used to perpetuate the idea that certain lifestyles are superior to others. The deep connection with the natural world is inevitably erased when one becomes fixated on the necessity of healthful behavior. Contemporary camping out is seen as spending a weekend by the lake accompanied by amenities such as running water and power outlets so one can use one’s laptop when it gets dark outside.

Feeling disappointed in the city and how difficult it seems to carve out meaningful moments out of so much substance is not enough. We make do with what we have access to; however, not every person starts at the same point. Those of us who have been, and are, fortunate enough to have opportunities to connect with the wild are at an advantage. We are aware of the life we can acquire from the outdoors and cherish it. Being in nature allows us to move like we want to, ignored by the rest of the world, timeless in the rhythm, expectant and fulfilled. We decide to stop being so human for a while and break. But have we simply learned to apply the same tactics we have adopted in order to counter metropolitan circularity to our time spent in solitude, apart from the very thing that elicits such a foreign reaction in so many of us?

We engage in a method of zoning out which is, ultimately, protective. We close our ears and eyes to escape the din of the city, the noise of the traffic and of the thousands of bodies moving around us, alongside us, at all times. Through the acquisition of a more robust inner solitude, we become more able to survive under such cacophony. Nevertheless, this ability can be viewed as a double-edged sword. We become enthralled in our mentalscape’s constant soundtrack, humming with the energy we absorb from our daily environment. Extended are the ways in which we turn away, tune out, shut down. One might imagine returning to human’s place of origin would counter the effects of this 21st century mental madness, but a paradox exists within: in disengaging from so many facets of the natural world, we have become attuned to viewing the wild as a temporary sanctuary, a resting place for a weekend afternoon or a day off. The briefness of these interactions cannot, and will not, suffice.

by Rachel Eager '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.

We’re Grateful, but We Still Have No Heat

Barbara Walters ’51 poses with President Karen Lawrence at last year’s commencement Ceremony on the North Lawn via  sarahlawrence.edu  

Barbara Walters ’51 poses with President Karen Lawrence at last year’s commencement Ceremony on the North Lawn
via sarahlawrence.edu 

In the midst of the Internet’s crisis over “The Dress” (for the record, I still see it as white and gold), the Sarah Lawrence community had its own social media crisis to contend with: Barbara Walters’ $15 million donation towards the brand new student center that President Karen Lawrence has been so adamant about.

One might think that this is not something to complain about—darn, $15 million is a nice chunk of change. But, in typical SLC fashion, there is always something wrong with everything. Students took to Facebook almost immediately after the e-mail announcement to denounce the allocation of the money, reasoning that it is silly to put $15 million towards the construction of a brand new building on campus when their are so many other things on campus that require financial attention.

For example, many quoted issues like the lack of attention given to handicap accessibility on campus, the abysmally poor heating in the new dorms, and the school’s ever-increasing debt—and for good reason. These are all probably much more fiscally responsible routes for the school to take.

Jake Rickman ‘16, who is studying abroad at Oxford this semester, was one of the first to critique the school’s usage of the money: “I am concerned about the long-term efficacy of such a donation, especially as it relates to the more structural issues of our college’s financial situation” he said. Specifically, that our debt rating is at a BBB- right now, and a $15 million donation could do a lot to help alleviate that situation.

But, what most students do not understand is how huge donations work. It is not up to the school to decide what to do with the money—it is up to the donator. So, even if the school wanted to (which we are pretty sure it does not), it could not reallocate the funds to, say, buy the kids in Garrison some space heaters. Furthermore, $15 million does not even cover half of the projected $35 million that it will cost the school to build the student center.

While many lament the aches and pains of their dorm lives, most are in agreement that SLC could use a community center. Ricksman added, “I look forward to the future classes of SLC having a community center in which they can hang out and get to know each other. I do think SLC is in dire need of such a place.”

There were a few posts where students wrote things that were specifically antagonistic towards Barbara Walters herself. Oliver Kinkel ‘17 was pretty vocal on Facebook for his distaste for the student body’s reaction on the date of the formal announcement: “It’s not that I think a student center is our highest priority, I don’t. I just don’t think it’s productive or appropriate to complain about a donation. Barbara Walters isn’t obligated to donate at all, let alone to a specific fund that the students feel is most beneficial,” he explained. He went on to add, “Students should be outspoken about how the school organizes its money, not what celebrity alums choose to donate it towards.”

When big names donate money, it helps convince more alumni to also donate. If the school receives more donations from alumni, it could become eligible for more federal funding (you know the smoking ban that everyone is so vehemently against? SLC will receive money from the government for going smoke-free so good luck trying to get that overthrown). Compounded, these sources of money could potentially solve a lot of the school’s problems a few years down the line. 

Do not get us wrong: we are so, so grateful for Walters’ commitment to improving the community at Sarah Lawrence, and the financial gift that she has given us. The student center is going to be amazing! Regardless, given the state of the school’s dorms, the unwillingness of the administration to increase the wages of operation workers, and the state of the school’s debt, spending money to build a fancy new building feels inappropriate, even if it is a ploy to attract more donations. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig—and the new student center feels a lot like lipstick.

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.

I’m Not You and You’re Not Me and That’s Awesome

The slc women's basketball team circa 1970's. Photo credit: Sarah Lawrence College Archives

The slc women's basketball team circa 1970's.
Photo credit: Sarah Lawrence College Archives

Sarah Lawrence College is a beautiful and strange place, much like any institution that brings together people of different backgrounds and interests. All of us students are here to get an education, a unique and individual education that we get to craft and shape throughout our time here. That is essentially why all of us were interested in attending Sarah Lawrence over other colleges and universities.

But we tend to get tunnel vision on this campus. We get absorbed in our circles of influence and the departments we care most passionately about, and our views of the school and the types of students that should be here narrow.

There is no “typical Sarah Lawrence student”, and it is a myth we need to stop perpetuating. We are not only a school of poem-writing-hipster-anticonformist-dancer-liberals, though many students do identify with some or all of those groups, and that is a fact that should be celebrated. The existence of the stereotype of a Sarah Lawrence student is hurtful and judgmental for each of us here, no matter how much we embody that stereotype; we are all different.

I’m very different than most Sarah Lawrence students, and I’ve been disappointed in the general response I’ve received from the student body about my passions. Yes, I actually enjoy learning multivariable calculus and chemistry and taking other math and science courses. Yes, I actually enjoy (even love) getting up in the dark and early morning to go run eight miles before most of campus is even awake. Yes, I actually enjoy having my schedule limited and sometimes dictated by sports conflicts, and I actually find my athletic commitments help my time management. No, I don’t want to take, for example, a poetry course, but I will gladly discuss your course and conference work with you regardless of the subject because I’m excited by your passion. Yes, I actually expect people to respect the choices I am making regarding my education, because I respect the decisions of others for their educations.

I came to Sarah Lawrence to interact and learn from people that don’t think in the same way that I do, that don’t study what I find interesting, that aren’t me. I wanted to be stretched and challenged in my education, by both the coursework and my peers; to me, that is the definition of a liberal arts education.

Participating in collegiate athletics is as much a personal choice as participating in any extracurricular activity or group or department on campus. Each has its stigmas, but none of those stereotypes accurately depicts any of the individuals involved. We all want a lot of things and we all think that our passions are the most important things in the world. Not everything can be the most important to everyone; the world doesn't work that way. People are different. It's annoying, but it's how it works. Don't put another person down just because that person doesn’t share your passion. If you listen, you’ll discover a perspective you never considered.

by Justin Heftel ‘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.

Co-Op Houses Create Community on Campus

Warren green, located on mead way, is the only co=operative living option available to sarah lawrence students. Photo by katie lee '15

Warren green, located on mead way, is the only co=operative living option available to sarah lawrence students. Photo by katie lee '15

Denmark has one of the highest reported national happiness averages in the world; it is also the world capital of communal living. Coincidence? I think not. As human beings, we are hard-wired to cooperate. Studies have shown that the same area of our brain that is ignited with a cocaine/heroin high is also ignited when we are genuinely cooperating with another person. We are social beings and we crave that kind of connection. We crave the feeling of helping one another out and being helped. Our closest mammalian relatives all live in cooperative situations where duties of child-rearing, hunting, and gathering are dispersed and shared for a more complete survival. Unfortunately, modern society and technology combined have pushed us further and further away from these roots and into the apathetic generation of “Me.” Fortunately, we can push back against these societal norms and return to the source with the onslaught of cooperative lifestyles.

An individualized and personalized education is the crux of Sarah Lawrence College. As someone who is happily completing my fourth year at this institution, I am aware of the many benefits from this. It gives us an opportunity to explore new things, think outside the box, discover in depth the things we are truly passionate about, etc. However, on the flipside, I feel that this form of education can also be very isolating. During my time here, I have heard multiple complaints in regards to the lack of community at this school. We have become so detached from one another on this campus that “Sarah Lawrence-ing” has become a tongue-in-cheek verb describing two individuals actively ignoring one another in passing. Whether it is due to the personalized education, the imbedded competition of a collegiate education, or our own apathy, one thing is for certain- it’s there.

In the midst of this darkness shines the beam of cooperative housing. Although our school’s co-op program is small (i.e. limited to one Mead Way house, Warren Green) its presence has definitely helped to re-assure the community atmosphere of a college campus. This semester has been my second semester participating in this house, and while it hasn’t been easy, I can overall say that this has been one of my favorite experiences of my college years.

For those of you unfamiliar with Warren Green or the concept of co-ops, here is the lowdown:  The house operates on a series of decisions made communally and democratically in weekly Sunday meetings. During these meetings we discuss everything from what kind of bread to buy to quiet hours to possible events we’d like to throw as a house. During the decision-making process we keep in mind the house commitment to eco-friendly living that we all made upon choosing to live in this house. These meetings are also a time for people to air out personal problems they might have with the way things are running and a time to discuss them. These meetings have been an effective means of ensuring that everyone in the house is getting equal benefits from living there. Prior to living in Warren Green, personal complaints regarding the living situation (in particular, the cleanliness of communal spaces – kitchens and bathrooms) was frequently discussed via the age-old technique of passive aggressive sticky notes. In my experience, said sticky notes have been relatively ineffective in solving any of the issues I’ve witnessed, but only furthering feelings of isolation and frustration between housemates. Meetings offer a safe space to air personal problems and find communal solutions. 

In addition to meeting monthly, we also decided as a house, that we would purchase our groceries communally, trying to buy mostly organic and local produce, have a vegan communal dinner nightly Sunday through Thursday and alternate a series of daily chores. Said chores include cooking, washing dishes, emptying the compost, cleaning the kitchen, working in the garden, etc. Although this can be hard work, many of my fellow housemates and previous dwellers of Warren Green can attest to the benefits of living in this way.

“Coming from another place on campus to a co-op was an instant upgrade in my experience as a college student because of the uniqueness that the co-op community brings to those who choose to participate,” said Justin Becker (‘17), a current resident of Warren Green. Many feel that the family- like atmosphere and the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals is hugely beneficial to their college experience. “Warren Green provides Sarah Lawrence students with an opportunity to build a small community of like-minded individuals to share meals, ideas and love with one another,” says Victoria Lepore (‘15), also a current member of Warren Green.

It is my highest hope that Warren Green can serve as a model to grow the co-operative housing and dining options available on this campus. Many other schools are turning to a co-operative model to house and feed a majority of their students. Recently there has been talk of promoting Greek Life on campus, in hopes of promoting community. However, as evidenced by the previous article published in the Phoenix on said matter, sororities and fraternities operate on a basis of hierarchy and status, and these are not factors that would contribute to a sound and functioning community. Co-operative housing, on the other hand, promotes values of equality, shared respect, and opportunity.

Unfortunately, the pendulum on this campus looks to be swinging in the opposite direction, due partly to the on-campus housing shortage and partly to lack of interest in living communally, housing has recently entertained the notion of getting rid of the interview/ application process for the house and essentially treating it like every other housing option on campus. A group of students would be randomly placed in the house without the pre-set intention of communal or sustainable living, effectively losing the one co-operative housing option this campus has. As a student who will be graduating in the near future, I fear the future of this house. SLC must retain this shred of communal identity in the face of housing adversity, and hopefully, in the future, mushroom out into a fully-functioning campus-wide co-operative living and eating opportunity for any students that display interest.

By Hillary Bernhardt ‘15

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.

Alum John Jasperse wins dance award for outstanding production, reps SLC's dance program

Since 1983, The New York Dance and Performance Awards, also known as the Bessie Awards (in honor of Bessie Schonberg, who worked in the Sarah Lawrence Dance department from 1938 until 1975) have annually honored dance performances. This year, SLC alum John Jasperse was awarded for “a feast of unpredictable kinetic imagination performed by a prodigiously skilled dancer occupying an open plaza shaped by a sequence of dazzling light and sound scapes.” Jasperse won the 2014 New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Production for his piece “Within between” at New York Live Arts.

This past summer while attending The American Dance Festival, I was lucky enough to see the premiere of Jasperese’s awarded work “Within between.” Nervously, I approached him after the show to introduce myself. Within moments of mentioning that I attended SLC he was already asking about my don (his was Robert Wagner), named the philosophy and psychology classes that still inform his dancing, and the “crazy amount of classroom hours dance thirds have that no other students understand.” Even though Jasperse is one of the more influential names in the contemporary dance world at this moment, he still took the time out his crazy day to express how profoundly important his education was at SLC.

This supported a feeling I have had for a long time that there is something special that happens in the SLC dance department each day. Every teacher cares so deeply about each student’s growth and creativity that it comes as no surprise that SLC alums continue to be relevant in dance history year after year. Jasperse is only one of many SLC alums to win a Bessie Award, and will absolutely not be the last.

At SLC, the program encourages individual style while still providing students with rigorous daily practices. Official “dance thirds” are required to take a morning technique class five days a week, a creative component, and an academic approach to the study of dance. Additionally, dancers learn about lighting and costume design through tech credits and explore performing, choreography and the creative process through the graduate students thoughtful projects and choreographers in residency. No dance third will ever tell you that early morning technique classes are easy, and no one would ever voluntarily sign up to be stuck in a leotard. However, there is something incommunicable that the program does to keep dancers moving their  exhausted bodies day after day. Perhaps it is a combination of the inevitably close bond all dance thirds share, personal mentorship that exists between each teacher and their students or just the constant flow of creativity that all make the long hours and early mornings in the PAC completely worth it.

In a recent email I sent to Jasperse to congratulate him on his award, he wrote back to me about his time at SLC. Jasperse explained that he was a dance third for all semesters except for when he studied abroad in Paris. While abroad, he was “set up to study fashion design,” but he knew as soon as he got there that “it was a last ditch effort to avoid some of the economic challenges that lay ahead as a result of choosing dance as a way to make a living.” Upon returning from Europe, he returned to his dance third, even though it  “required more hours, time, and discipline than the average Sarah Lawrence College student.” Jasperse admitted that he  struggled in his morning technique classes because he wasn’t a “typical dancer and by no means the best in the class.” However, at SLC he thrived among these obstacles because “Sarah Lawrence is a place where it was entirely possible to make the dances that [his] body could make.”

He ended his note to me beautifully:  “Dance is a vocation of sorts—it chooses you. I couldn’t have taken that kind of professional risk if I hadn’t been taught the skills of self-motivated, independent work that is a key aspect of the Sarah Lawrence curriculum.” He continued, “that being said, it is a huge gift to be able to do something that you are passionate about.  It doesn’t mean that I never fail—I do, and sometimes on a grand scale. But I believe in taking risks and it is the role of the artist to help us wake up as a culture.  Our society needs artists desperately who embrace this responsibility. Follow your passion, work hard on your work and keep asking yourself what really matters.”  

This semester, the program is lucky to have the Alvin Ailey Legacy in residency (performances are Dec. 16 and 17), many exciting choreographers from the city teaching master classes during dance meetings and the Winter Concert, in which graduate students create innovative pieces on many of the dance-thirds (performances are Dec. 12, 13, and 14). Tickets can be reserved in the PAC.

by Willa Bennett '17


*Sigh* Another midterm election? Raghunandhan examines voter apathy in America

Vasaris Balzekas '17 poses behind a Ronald Reagan mask. Photo courtesy Ellie Brumbaum '17.

Vasaris Balzekas '17 poses behind a Ronald Reagan mask. Photo courtesy Ellie Brumbaum '17.

In the eyes of a foreigner, America is downright perplexing. This was as true of Alexis de Tocqueville's U.S. of A. in the 1830s as it is of John Oliver's in 2014. I too stake claim to this tradition, albeit in more modest circumstances. It is fantastically puzzling to witness a nation - so self-professedly steeped in one of the world’s great democratic traditions - fizzle out in the event of a midterm election. So, ‘meh’ was the reaction to the midterm, and newscasters and pundits in unison put one simple question to the country as the spectre of another lacklustre Congress loomed: “does anyone care anymore?”

Here are the facts: this year, a minority of Americans, 37 percent of eligible voters (mostly white men and older voters, at that), had more of a say than anyone else in the outcome of the elections. Why? Simply because they showed up at the polling booth on election day.

This, despite the population of millennials in America exceeding that of any other age group, and the number of women outnumbering men by a whopping 7.2 million. A failure to vote left this ‘silent electorate’ at the mercy of a radically different group of voters whose priorities (and biases) could well impact critical facets of one’s life: access to birth control, health care coverage, and more.

The voter turnout was so abysmal this year that senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont plans to introduce a “Democracy Day Act” which makes election day a national holiday. This act was developed in an effort to incentivize voters to vote. In Sanders’ words, “we should not be satisfied with a ‘democracy’ in which more than 60 percent of our people don’t vote and some 80 percent of young people and low-income Americans fail to vote… We can and must do better than that.”

This is a welcome step, but the conversation does not end there. Here at Sarah Lawrence, the apathy was palpable. Though there were a few brave faces who canvassed everywhere from Bates to the Pub to Hill House encouraging fellow Americans to head to the ballot box, the interest usually generated by a campus so politically aware in its character, was sorely lacking this time around.

The sense I got was that our community was fed up with the status quo in Washington. We are not alone in this regard. Much of the country feels this way. The departing 113th Congress, in statistical terms, ranks dead last as the least popular Congress in history.

The fallout of the Citizens United Supreme Court judgement has created an opening for ‘big money’ donors and corporations. many of which have reoriented the priorities and leanings of politicians in desperate need of campaign financing, alienating vast swathes of middle-class America in the process. Add to that a seemingly unstoppable tide of income inequality, an army (or militia, depending on how you want to view it) of lobbyists in Washington who convince politicians to vote (in some cases) against the wishes of some 90% of the population, and the result is an understandable sense of frustration. Simply put, is it worth voting anymore?

Yes, yes, and yes. Despite the doom, gloom, and lack of interest surrounding politics in this country, there is still reason to turn up at the polling booth. In the case of Massachusetts, the same booth that elects the likes of Mitt Romney (Mr. Forty-Seven Percent) ends up electing the woman who has fought most against big money in Washington, Elizabeth Warren.

Remember, voter apathy in this country is by no means a new phenomenon. Tocqueville observed, “there are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” This didn’t stop the country from electing the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House or Daniel Patrick Moynihan to the senate.

For my part, I have travelled to a great many countries where the liberty extended to all Americans is but a distant dream that a hopeful few hold on to. I am ineligible to vote either in America (because I am not a citizen) or in my native India (because citizens abroad cannot vote), so the mere ability to turn up on election day and cast one’s ballot with ease is something I too can only dream (and write!) of.

That is not the case for most of you at Sarah Lawrence. Voting is more than a privilege. It may be optional but it must be treated like a duty. It should not be wasted. Little may come of it but use it while you can. Do not allow a minority of voters to determine the agenda of your government. This is as true for your midterm votes as it is for your student senate and your local government votes. 
As I see it, choosing not to vote is as good as opting for “taxation without representation,” which, in the words of James Otis, amounts to “tyranny.”

by Harshavardan Raghunandhan


Letter from the Editor: Welcome to Sarah Lawrence College

Hello Sarah Lawrence Students, new and old, and welcome to the website for The Phoenix: Sarah Lawrence’s official newspaper. We aim to provide you with up-to-date news and community information, serving as a sounding board for campus conversation—the public forum that SLC always hoped and dreamed for but never had.

All summer, the Phoenix editors have been working hard to make some major changes to the way that we report, edit, and publish the news. Expect to see updates every week online, as well as daily posts on Twitter and Facebook. We have added a new section to the paper—Sports. There you will find game scores, rosters, team updates, and more. Many thanks to the Campbell Sports Center for their continued help and support on this project in order to provide the most accurate and comprehensive sports coverage possible.

This current web issue is dedicated to new students at Sarah Lawrence. Whether you are a member of the class of 2018 or a transfer student looking to make a fresh start, these articles are for you. On our Home Page and in our features section, we have guides to make your transition into SLC life as easy as possible. Learn how to interview and register for classes, double check that you only pack essentials to make sure move-in day runs smoothly, see your new dorms, and find out about all of the student organizations on campus.

Moving to a new place is hard, and having to move-in to a college dorm and be on your own for the first time is even harder. We, the Phoenix staff, want to welcome you to our community with open arms and ensure that you have all of the tools and resources that you will need to be a success at our school. If our guides are not comprehensive enough for your inquiries, always feel free to contact us, your RA’s, or SLC faculty.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that we are ALWAYS looking for contributors to our publication. We need writers, photographers, artists, and web/graphic designers and would love to show off your talents! Whether you have years of journalistic experience or none-whatsoever, we can definitely teach you all that you need to know to be a valuable member of our team. Our paper is a place where young professionals can come and learn and grow together. If interested, please contact myself or shoot an e-mail to phoenix@gm.slc.edu. You can find our full staff roster here if you have more specific inquiries. Also, be sure to check out our table on Club Day, September 6th, on the North Lawn!

We, the Phoenix Staff, will always work tirelessly to bring you all the news that’s fit to print.


Wade Wallerstein

ig: boyratchet
twitter: b0yratchet



Op-ed: Not all members of the magical community are the same

Breanna Northrup '16 posed for Isabel Farrington '14 in an October shoot for  SLCSpeaks

Breanna Northrup '16 posed for Isabel Farrington '14 in an October shoot for SLCSpeaks

I have been a practicing witch for seven years. I am often met with left field questions from people. They ask if I really am a witch, or inform me that they have a “Wiccan” second cousin, even though I am not Wiccan. Normally, my response to the average witching question is to bore the poor soul with a weighty lecture on the history and practice of witchcraft. The world of magic is not some big, arcane secret and it certainly amounts to more than the content of my usual dry dissertation. To foster Sarah Lawrence’s greater understanding of magical culture, I have compiled the pecking order and brief history of a few major traditions, and what they think of each other. I hope this will facilitate an understanding of the distinctions and attitudes within the magical community.  

 The Voodoo religion is fertile ground for us to begin, because it is so rarely criticized by other traditions. Having next to nothing to do with Hollywood’s horror films of the 80s, Voodoo is a legitimate religion of West Africa that was brought over and changed by the Slave Trade in Mesoamerica. What has made this tradition so unapproachable is largely due to laziness and white guilt regarding the slave trade. Even other members of the magical community are often too recognizant of the inhumane reasons Voodoo was brought to the US to even think of criticizing it. Most Voodooists (Vodouisants) do not have much to say publically about other western occult traditions either, except for Hoodoo, a form of (African)-American folk magic. The two are frequently confused, charging Voodooists with a need to explain their differences. In America, a lot of Vodouisants also do Hoodoo, because the two traditions share a lot of practical similarities, but not everyone who believes in Voodoo is also a magician.

 Hoodoo practitioners will often look at Wiccans and Neo-wiccans interchangeably, seeing the whole mass as a bunch of “love-and-light” flower children. However, if they were to run into a Goetic magician at the bar, the average Hoodoo practitioner would mumble something like, “Damn white people, getting involved in stuff they can not handle.” For those of you who are sane enough not to know, Goetic magicians are ceremonialists who work with medieval and early-modern grimoires (magical handbooks) to commune with the oogly-booglies of the Christian underworld, also known as demons!

While Hoodoo workers seem to get along well with Traditional Witches, Traditional Witches definitely do not think too highly of many other traditions. They rarely seem to mind Traditional Wiccans (anyone closely related to the original Gardnerian or Alexandrian covens), though criticize them for being too moralistic. Interactions of Traditional Witches with Neo-wiccans are notoriously rude, and demeaning. Traditional Witches usually consider Neo-wiccans uneducated and unrealistic.

Individuals perform a handfasting ceremony at Avebury   Photo courtesy Solar

Individuals perform a handfasting ceremony at Avebury   Photo courtesy Solar

Similar to the Traditional Witches, Wiccans are known to patronize Neo-wiccans, largely because Neo-Wiccans consistently call themselves Wiccans, which undermines the thorough training and initiation that true Wicca endure. Whether it is ignorance or laziness is difficult to say, but the politically minded Wiccans will rarely voice their frustrations.

Neo-Wiccans—of course, I am generalizing here—who meet a Traditional Witch will often start screaming about Karma and the ‘Rule of Three’, not understanding how a witch could ever curse somebody. Throw them a Neo-Druid and they will be giddy as a hell. “You know, I was Morgan le Fay in a past life!” Literally, these are words that are spoken consistently. 

Gnostics tend to be a rather non-judgmental bunch. Their theology doesn’t involve itself much with the fussy rituals of ceremonialist magicians and witches, preferring instead to transcend such physical limitations. Get a Gnostic together with an Alchemist, Luciferian, Chaote, or Kabalist and they will start singing, “Hey, brothers, let’s go down!”

While this long list of terms may leave you a little lost, I hope you take away two things from this: firstly, there is not just one kind of witch, magician, or pagan. The amount of traditions I did not mention is exponentially larger than the few I did. Secondly, we are not a peace-loving, poetry-reading flock of bohemians. We have a dynamic modern culture; and it is kind of a ‘witch’ to be a part of.

by Zac Zimmerman '16

Top photo appears courtesy SLCSpeaks. Read the piece and see the full shoot here.

Shot by Isabel Farrington '14


Styled by James Neiley '14



Op-ed: Adrianne Ramsey '17 worries that SLC lacks a sense of community

comic by Thomas Ordway '17

comic by Thomas Ordway '17

First-year students were catapulted into their new life at Sarah Lawrence by participating in orientation week. Throughout orientation week, students participated in a variety of activities, experienced their first college parties in Hill House, and bonded on the North Lawn. Students were given the illusion that Sarah Lawrence was a tight community—a gimmick that did not last long. 

The Sarah Lawrence Activities Council—SLAC, for short—is supposed to organize events to build a sense of school spirit. But as the days passed, SLAC’s involvement faded, parties cooled down. Now, the North Lawn lays empty, covered with snow.

Many first-years have expressed worries about the lack of campus events and the waning sense of community. “There are plenty of people who attend SLC who are warm, welcoming, and foster a sense of community in smaller group settings,” said Faith Smith  ’17. “Then there are large chunks of people who are open and welcoming without judgment; however, I do think there are times where individuals feel a lack of community in the larger scheme of things. Sarah Lawrence would benefit from having all-campus events. Getting the masses excited for a big occasion raises morale and gets people talking to one another.”

Students complained about SLAC organizing the same events every week: a dance at the Blue Room on a Friday or Saturday night, Open Mic Night on Thursdays, and a film screening on Wednesday and Saturday nights. There are occasionally different events such as karaoke, Casino Night, and the Christmas tree lighting, but those events do not get much attention. “There are a fair amount of activities on campus thanks to SLAC, but not that many people attend the events. This may be because of a lack of interest,” says Vanessa Massel  ’17.

In traditional American universities, athletics and Greek life play big roles in creating a strong community. Sarah Lawrence is proud of their “unique and quirky” outlook and has few athletic teams and no history of Greek life. However, the school is growing a stronger athletic department since it became an NCAA Division III establishment. The school prides itself in being progressive, but simply stating that something is “not the Sarah Lawrence way” is anything but progressive. For athletics to gain popularity and Greek life to become a reality at Sarah Lawrence would simply mean that Sarah Lawrence is evolving with students’ growing interests.  

“Traditional Greek life at SLC would not necessarily work because there is not a large enough body of students. However, a club adaptation of Greek life where students could be a part of a strong group of people that believe in a particular issue and do things together such as community service and putting on school events would be great,” says Isabelle Campbell ’17. “It would not have to be ‘typical Greek life situations,’ such as parties and asshole guys. You run the risk of exclusivity, initiation, and hazing in any group of people, not just Greek life. Also, Greek life was established so that people who have similar interests can be in a group together, learn about life, and how to be a good person.”

With the continued lackluster advertising for events that are still repetitive in nature, and upward turns of the nose at the question of Greek life, Sarah Lawrence is closing itself up to change. The Sarah Lawrence slogan used to be “You are different. So are we.” If this were true, we should not stigmatize Greek life as unhealthy. By refusing to evolve, Sarah Lawrence students are being judgmental of a lifestyle that appeals to many. Not all Sarah Lawrence students are the same, and we cannot categorize all of our students as “different” if we are not willing to cater to the needs of different types.

by Adrianne Ramsey '17

CORRECTION APRIL 10, 2014: This piece was originally published in our Editorial section, and thus was assumed to be an editorial piece expressing the viewpoint of The Phoenix staff. While some members of staff do share many of the opinions expressed in the article, this piece is an op-ed and thus expresses the viewpoint of the author and quoted students. It has since been labeled as such.

Is the lecture replacing Sarah Lawrence's seminar-system standard?

The Donnelly theater in the Heimbold Visual Arts Center hosts numerous lecture classes and screenings each week.  Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

The Donnelly theater in the Heimbold Visual Arts Center hosts numerous lecture classes and screenings each week.
Photo by Ellie Brumbaum '17

Large universities such as UC Berkeley and Yale University have courses that typically range from 500 to 700 students. The humongous class size can make it nearly impossible to find a seat and cause little to no student-to-teacher interaction. Sarah Lawrence College believes in smaller, more personal classes with a 10:1 student-faculty ratio. Students are required to take a total of two full-year lecture courses or the equivalent prior to their senior year. Lecture courses are typically capped at 45 students but if demand is higher, the class size can be as high as 60 students. While in comparison to bigger universities the size of a Sarah Lawrence lecture is very small, because Sarah Lawrence is such a tiny school it is considered “a big deal.” 

 “As the lecture requirement was originally described to me by my Don, it is in part to free up space in seminars. Given that seminars cannot really function with more than 15 people and we have a growing student body, lectures help us maintain small seminars. The 4-semester lecture requirement is certainly doable,” says Ari Jones (‘14).

While Sarah Lawrence’s seminar system is not necessarily losing its touch, students have their own learning styles, which causes some of them to identify with the setup of a lecture course more than the one of a seminar course.  “I took lecture classes first and second semester because I like being in big classes with a lot of diverse people,” says Schehrezade Rahim (‘17) “I am also really scared of speaking up in class, so I wanted to learn the other side of not being in a seminar.”

Lecture courses may be growing in popularity because they do not require mandatory conference project. Because there are so many students in lectures, required one-hour group conferences (which can be likened to a seminar) are substituted for one-on-one conferences. This does not mean that there will not be any work; most Sarah Lawrence lectures have a final project or paper that is no more than ten pages. “It makes more sense that a lecture course would not have a conference project because the subject [being taught] is broad and not as focused as subjects covered in seminar. I like this because it is a lot less work and stress put on me,” says Isabelle Campbell (‘17). 

However, a professor teaching a lecture course has the right to assign a conference project. For “Trauma, Loss, and Resilience,” Adam Brown asked every student to write a 20-page conference paper to turn in at the end of the semester. Despite the amount of work, “Trauma” is one of the most popular Sarah Lawrence courses and has a current enrollment of 60 students. To those who think they have tricked the system, make sure to read the syllabus carefully before signing up for a lecture class.

Even though the number of lecture courses has increased, they are not “taking over” the Sarah Lawrence course curriculum in any way or form. Small seminar classes remain a key reason why students enrolled at Sarah Lawrence in the first place. “I have more strongly enjoyed and had more powerful academic experiences in seminars. However, I think the experience in any class depends on the teachers and students. Lectures at SLC give some teachers the opportunity to really just teach material they are experts on, and students a chance to get a broader overview or one clear perspective on a topic,” says Jones (‘14). “I think it is ridiculous for SLC students to avoid seminars their whole time at SLC because they are the cornerstone of a Sarah Lawrence education. You come here to have in-depth and personal conversations and relationships with professors, which are really only possible with the seminar-conference model.” 

There will always be students who feel uncomfortable with speaking up in class or take longer to resonate with the seminar system. But the reason Sarah Lawrence prides itself on its seminar system is because it is truly stellar, there are very few other colleges in America where students will receive the individualized attention Sarah Lawrence offers them. While some students may add a lecture course to lighten up their schedule and workload, it is important for all students to immerse themselves in the seminar system and take advantage of every opportunity the system at Sarah Lawrence has to offer them.  

by Adrianne Ramsey '17