SLC Economic Profile Part 2: A Look From the Inside

Sending out acceptance letters for the class of 2021. Photo courtesy of Sarah Lawrence College Office of Admissions.

Sending out acceptance letters for the class of 2021. Photo courtesy of Sarah Lawrence College Office of Admissions.

Earlier this semester, the Phoenix published the first part of a series on socioeconomic diversity and economic outcomes at Sarah Lawrence. In our last edition, we published a piece that took a critical look at a popular interactive piece published by the UpShot, which featured socioeconomic diversity findings about schools all over the country. The numbers were based on a study conducted at UC Berkeley. A closer look at SLC’s ranking produced a few notable takeaways: first, that for all intents and purposes, SLC ranks well for economic diversity—that is, among elite colleges. The trouble comes when we look at the post-grad numbers. The Berkeley study paints a grim tale for SLC grads, citing alarmingly low rates of socioeconomic mobility. At age 34, SLC students had among the lowest median individual incomes with a 3.4 percent mobility rate. In fact, the school comes in dead last in the overall mobility index. That’s a problem.
 
We've given you the numbers. They’re alarming. It begs the question that SLC students ask perhaps far too often: what is the administration doing about this? The Phoenix sat down with Deans Kevin McKenna and Danny Trujillo to find out. 

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Why doesn’t the school have need-blind admissions?
Dean Kevin McKenna (KM): If there’s a short answer, it’s because we have to be careful about not exceeding the financial aid budget—and that’s true of any school that has to consider finances in any capacity. We consider it in the very last stage of the admissions process.
 
What is the admissions process like, with regards to knowledge of the student’s financial situation?
KM: If you’re going to have the limitation be need-blind, the admission staff should look only at the merits of the student. That’s why the counselors conduct a first and second read without access to any financial information. In that sense, though we are not need blind, we try to be as sensitive as possible and do as close to a need blind process as we can—meaning that it is only in the final step of the admission process that finances are considered at all.
 
We do have to pull down tentative admits for two reasons: the first is that we would risk being seriously overenrolled. One of the criteria for pulling down a tentative is if the student is already borderline in the lower academic standing. The other reason is ethical. We want to minimize the number of “empty admits.” We don’t feel it’s ethical to release decisions that students can’t afford to come here. People make their decisions based on where they actually can afford. Our philosophy is affordability for every student who is admitted.
 
Yet the school can’t guarantee full demonstrated need to admitted students?
KM: I would love for SLC to meet full demonstrated need, and most students do have it met. It’s a tricky concept in and of itself, because the formula to calculate demonstrated need was developed in the mid-1990s or so. The last major revision was in the mid-2000s, pre-2008. Anyone who applies for financial aid will agree that the calculated demonstrated need and the actual felt need are often two different things. Sometimes, we have to go above and beyond for students who actually need more than the calculation might suggest. That does mean that for some people, we’re a little bit under what the “felt need” calculation suggests. It’s a limitation of our resources. We do our best to balance it.
 
If you have a pool of students based on merits, is there a point when the council sits down to consider specific diversity and socioeconomic diversity needs?
KM: It starts with the recruitment process. Over the last three years, we’ve made a real effort to include in places we haven’t recruited in before. By socioeconomic diversity, I don’t mean that we’re just attracting students in the extremes. There’s a lot of middle, lower, and upper-middle. We’ve always had a strong applicant pool in New York and Los Angeles. But there’s a lot of good cities in between, and we’ve really ramped up the number of high schools we visit and the number of traveling counselors.
 
When it comes to decision-making, I think all of the admissions counselors are aware that diversity is important. In committee, they say things like, “this is a different perspective, they would bring an underrepresented voice to campus.” It’s not just about finances—they’re looking at parent occupations, the city where they’re from, the high school that they’re coming from.
 
When it comes to the final decision, we really bring the “slated-to-be-admitted” pool into different cells. It’s very much a matrix—it’s academic profile vs. estimated family contribution. We try to make sure that is as balanced as possible.

Wealth and money is the root of many tensions on campus. There is a serious resentment for people who seem to come from high and privileged economic backgrounds, who take little effort to understand the less privileged people that they go to school with. Is that something the administration thinks about and attempts to reconcile with?
Dean Danny Trujillo (DT): It is a perception that comes, in part, indirectly through SLC’s history. It’s true that 40, 50 years ago, this was a college for the wealthy. That’s changing. In the past ten years, we’ve seen dramatic changes in the socioeconomic diversity. That’s a small window if you look at just how much has changed. Financial aid has expanded considerably.
 
But there’s still this perception that it’s an elite college—not in the way we think of ourselves as elite from an educational standpoint, but elite from a financial standpoint. Students often times, who struggle, are an invisible population because there’s no way to optically identify a student who comes from any kind of background. To go to college in this era is a hardship for families. There’s money involved. Everybody feels the pinch. Some feel it more than others, and that creates a lot of anxiety. They struggle about whether they should stay at Sarah Lawrence or not—not because they don’t love it here, but because they can see what a financial weight it is on their families. I think that creates the stress, and it taps into the underlying stress, in that it’s great to be here, but there’s a lot of riding on this.
 
*The following question references data cited in Part 1 of the SLC Economic Profile

Students that come from the bottom 40 percent have a very, very difficult time post-graduate to come into the top 40 percent post-graduate. How aware is the school of these numbers and what resources or efforts are available to assist student postgraduate? Or is the problem based off the studies that people pursue at this school?
DT: Sarah Lawrence is right in the median as far the basic life-time earnings, earnings across different points in a lifespan. The problem with studies that center around post-graduate upward mobility is that they often focus on 34 as an age of measuring success. For liberal arts institutions, that’s problematic, because the nature of the degree is that it has low returns in the short term.
 
But if we talk about over the lifespan, consider two things when comparing liberal arts to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). 1.) Professional satisfaction—if you look at students around career satisfaction, it’s the highest-earning professions that the satisfaction is lower particularly as age increases. 2.) The economic peak for liberal arts grads statistically happens after 35, because the nature of the degree usually results in a career trajectory full of dynamic experiences. You’re changing, shifting, you’re adjusting to social and political changes in this world. These individuals change in a changing world so they don’t experience the economic or personal satisfactory benefits until they’re older.
 
It’s difficult to tell a student that you’ll be fine, in 25 years.
DT: That’s part of the pathway. If I hadn’t gone the path that I did, I wouldn’t be here.
 
Graduation is coming up. People feel the stress of how difficult it is to actually do what you want—knowing these things, that the odds might be stacked up against them. Those first years after graduation—those initial years of struggle—what role can the school play to help out?
DT: In the past 2 years, we’ve restructured our staffing of Career Services to address this very issue. There’s a great deal of sharing of information and opportunities, and a staff that works specifically with alumni. One part of our re-organization was to create a relationship with employers. We now have someone here to really actively sell the appreciation of a Sarah Lawrence education all across the country. Our alumni work very closely with advancement and employers and internships to create opportunities for our students. Recent graduates are encouraged to contact Career Services for development needs.

In short: socioeconomic diversity  read the fine print. There’s misleading frames when it comes to collegiate reviews, especially when it comes to liberal arts schools, where there is a longer-term payoff. As the deans suggested, the way to combat your fears is to contact Career Services. They are only a door knock, phone call, or email away. 

Kate Bakhtiyarova ‘19

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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.

Broadway Star and SLC Alumna Donates Free Tickets to Students  

Actress and slc alumna Tovah feldshuh. photo courtesy of the new york times. 

Actress and slc alumna Tovah feldshuh. photo courtesy of the new york times. 

If you’re searching for free ways to experience the magic of Broadway, look no further than our own office of Student Involvement. Critically acclaimed actress Tovah Feldshuh, a Sarah Lawrence alumna, has created the Tovah Feldshuh Broadway Ticket Fund, which allows easy and free access for the Sarah Lawrence community to travel and see performances in New York City. According to the Sarah Lawrence website, Feldshuh created the fund in honor of her parents with the purpose of giving students an opportunity to attend “live professional theatre, including Broadway, off-Broadway, opera, and ballet.” 

Just this past semester, students were given tickets to see two major Broadway shows. The first show was “Waitress,” based on the film of the same name, the creation of singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles and playwright Jesse Nelson. The second was the theater adaptation of the five-time Oscar-nominated film “Amélie,” starring Tony nominee Phillipa Soo.

Joanne Vrignaud, a visiting graduate student from the Sorbonne and a French language teaching assistant, was one of the students who saw “Waitress.” She recalled the opportunity as an “amazing experience.” The musical follows a woman whose passion for baking offers an escape from an abusive marriage. “They even had the smell of pie! I still have the ticket; I’m going to hang it somewhere,” Vrignaud continued. This being her first time seeing a Broadway production, Vrignaud recognized the importance of such a fund, and remarked that “donations like this do a great deal for the SLC community.” As a foreign student, Vrignaud said she was desperate to check off seeing a Broadway show from her New York City bucket list, and felt the trip gave her a unique opportunity to achieve this dream. “We live so close the city, but I don’t think we get to experience it as much as other universities,” she said. “The Tovah Feldshuh fund gives us a great opportunity to get there and actually experience the ‘New York’ lifestyle.”

Like Vrignaud, many of us would like to experience professional productions, but find it hard to come up with the funds to do so. Including the price of the Metro North and subway tickets, a trip to see Broadway headliners such as “Waitress” or “Amélie” would cost you upwards of $150 – not to mention the hassle of organizing train times. However, the Tovah Feldshuh Broadway Ticket Fund makes this process easy— and more importantly, free. The Fund not only provides you with a ticket for the show, but a shuttle from Andrews Parking Lot that takes you there and back, saving you a long walk to Bronxville or Fleetwood and the stress of travelling through Grand Central. 

On the Notable Alumni page, Feldshuh credits Sarah Lawrence College for teaching her to respect the artistic process, and more importantly, to dare. Since her graduation, she has starred in numerous films, television shows, and theatre productions, making a name for herself as an actress, singer, and playwright.  Feldshuh’s accolades include four Tony nominations, four Drama Desk awards, a Lucille Lortell award for her portrayal of Golda Meir in the play “Golda’s Balcony,” as well as two Emmy nominations for her work as Helena on the miniseries “Holocaust” and as defense attorney Danielle Melnick on “Law and Order.” With over 30 years on Broadway and on screens big and small, it is not hard to imagine why she would want to donate to the place that taught her to cherish “results [as a reflection] of the journey taken.”

Details on shows and dates are periodically sent out by Student Involvement. The next show is “Anastasia” on Tuesday, May 9. As Vrignaud put it, “Just do it! There’s no excuse not to!”

Christian Lutz (‘18)

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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.

JJ Warren: The Aspiring Pastor Brings Faith onto Campus

JJ Warren giving a sermon. photo courtesy of jj warren.

JJ Warren giving a sermon. photo courtesy of jj warren.

Considering that the Princeton Review ranked Sarah Lawrence College second on a list of least religious schools, the clergy is not the first line of careers you would assume for its students. That is until you meet JJ Warren (’19), who can be frequently seen sporting a wooden cross and praying over his meals at Bates or the Pub.
 
“[Sarah Lawrence] is a place where people haven't necessarily had experience with religion before, and if they do, it is mostly negative. So it is a neat experience, because I get to be part of people experiencing, sometimes, faith for the first time,” Warren said.
 
The Spiritual Life Director, co-Chair of Christian Union and co-Chair of Interfaith Union is on the path to becoming a pastor of the Methodist Church. This vocation, however, was only recently realized. Until the summer before his senior year of high school, Warren was set on becoming an actor. “I, for a long time, didn't want to be a pastor, I wanted to be an actor, and I only applied to schools for acting. Sarah Lawrence was the only school that I applied to that wasn't a BFA program,” Warren explained. “The summer before my senior year, I already had done my interviews for colleges and I already had my list so I wasn't going to change that.”
 
But his career in acting shifted after a talk with his camp pastor at Camp Casowasco, a Christian youth camp. “When I was sitting at the lake with this pastor I just had this feeling like ‘this is what you are here for. You are here to take care of people’s souls and hearts.’ Since then it has been something I have been called to,” Warren, who lives in Penn Yan, New York, affirmed. Warren has since given sermons at several United Methodist Churches. 
 
Warren admitted to being, at times, uncomfortable expressing his faith at Sarah Lawrence College. “I have this shirt that is just really cheesy Christian that says, ‘Today’s weather, God reigns and the son shines.’ I was going to wear it today, but I thought people would look at me and be like ‘that is imperialistic Christianity that you are forcing upon us,’” said Warren.
 
But Warren does not let any negative interactions on campus stop him from providing spiritual lessons. For Christian Union, Warren has headed a seven part discussion series on “The Seven Big Questions”: does life have a purpose, is there a God, why does God allow pain and suffering, is Christianity too narrow, is Jesus really God, is the bible reliable, can I know God personally? No matter where a person is at in their spiritual journey, Warren argued, “everyone thinks about these questions. Asking questions is the Sarah Lawrence nature.”
 
Warren also extends himself beyond Christianity by working with Interfaith Union and taking classes in other religions, such as a class on the Koran. “We say that Sarah Lawrence is liberal, and we are to a certain extent, but we also sometimes don't accept what we don't like ... But to be able to come together and say that we all practice our beliefs differently, [that] we can come together for our campus and be here for each other is really special and really unique.”
 
Warren believes that interfaith dialogue can create solidarity within this Trump administration: “Interfaith as a way of expressing no matter what happens in our country, no matter what happens in the world, that we are all united by our humanity, by our belief in something more than us.” After the presidential election, Warren and other Interfaith Union members worked overnight to plan a prayer vigil, which resulted in a packed house in the North Room, Pub. “I think that shows while our campus climate tends to silence religious conversation and expression of faith, the people on our campus, like all people, are searching and asking these questions,” Warren expressed.
 
Warren who grew up in a religious household with six siblings, not only advocates for interfaith on campus, but also off campus. Warren has attended synagogue several times with Hillel members, and those Hillel members have accompanied him to church. “I don't think I would experience that anywhere besides Sarah Lawrence,” Warren said. “So in a way Sarah Lawrence is so difficult for religious people, but at the same time, it is so wonderful, because it encourages us to unite together. We question here so we can experience those and express those questions.”
 
Seemingly incompatible with his religious work and hopes for the clergy, Warren identifies as gay. “I do identify as gay and I do identify as a follower of Christ. I connect to God through Jesus and I think the message of the [religious texts] and the entire biblical canon is love and inclusion of those the world has rejected,“ Warren said. “Jesus came for the poorest of the poor and yet he said ‘I am the king of the world.’ That’s where I put my sexuality.” Warren attributes much of the church’s general oppression of the LGBTQIA community to misinterpretation of scripture, because the oppressed are those the church should love the most. “I think for me I am able to live as a follower of Christ and as a gay man, because they are one of the same, because I am valued by God,” stated Warren, who will be pursuing religious studies at Oxford next year.
 
Warren has a long road toward becoming a pastor. To be fully ordained, he must attend a three-year seminary for a Masters of Divinity degree, learn Hebrew, Greek and other faiths, and work in a hospital as a clergyman. He must also undergo a psychological screening and interviews with clergy and church laypeople. While he has many years of study ahead of him, Warren stated that he has learned one of his most valuable lessons in religion at Sarah Lawrence. “I feel like here, especially at Sarah Lawrence, because it is such a small school, I don't look at religions as ideas or structures anymore, but as people.”
 
Andrea Cantor ('17) 
 

 

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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 are Still Reeling Over the Reelies

THE TROPHY PRESENTER THOMAS SPETA (LEFT)) AS HIS DRAG SHOW PERSONA MOLLY POPPINS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS SPETA.

THE TROPHY PRESENTER THOMAS SPETA (LEFT)) AS HIS DRAG SHOW PERSONA MOLLY POPPINS. PHOTO COURTESY OF THOMAS SPETA.

This past weekend marked the second annual Reelies awards show and film festival. The event was started last year after the Reels on Wheels club reimagined the Sarah Lawrence College film festival that had existed in previous years. Nick Ransom (’17), who was involved in the original creation of the Reelies in 2016, said that the awards show started with the idea to do a faux-Oscars night. They wanted trophies, a red carpet, and formal attire.

When they first started the event, they had no idea how it was going to turn out, or if it would be popular at all. Ransom was pleasantly surprised. He said that last year they had “plans for what probably should have been forty people. But then everyone and their mother showed up. It became this big success on campus. They talk about it on the tours now.” Ransom said that he and other members of the club have been thrilled with the popularity of the event so far.

The Reelies were just as well attended this year as they were in 2016. Tickets sold out, and the Donnelly Theater in Heimbold was filled. People from the waitlist were turned away.

Najah Diop (’17), who was also involved in the organization of the event, said that she felt overall, the Reelies went well this year. “We had a couple of sound issues but I think this year was definitely a step in the right direction.” Diop added that since this is only the second year of the Reelies, they are still working to improve the event.

Ransom said that his overall goal for the Reelies is for the event to serve as motivation for people in the film department. “I hope people say to themselves, ‘I want to win a Reelie next year, so I am going to work extra hard on my film. I’m going to do as many cinematography gigs as I can because I want to get nominated. I want to win a trophy.’” Ransom admits that he bought the trophies on the Internet for about $4, and there is also no prize money awarded to the winners. Ransom said, “It’s all bragging rights.”

There were fourteen categories for awards including: best actor, best sound, and best picture. Ransom explained the two-tier system used to pick the winners. After gathering all of submissions, the Reels on Wheels team take each film and “put it into everything that it could possibly win, and then we watch everything and then we give everything a score, a one through five. Then we crunch the numbers and give everybody an average. From those averages, we pick the top five and those are the nominations. We then send those nominations to professionals in the industry that were referred to us by faculty members.” From there, the industry professionals pick the winners.

Diop, who won the Senior Achievement award, said the recognition was an honor. “A lot of it I owe to my film peers. Without them, I wouldn't have had the space to create the work that I wanted to do,” she said. “All that I do is for the love of the craft (and occasionally for a conference). But mainly because I love film, and I love helping those around me.”

In addition to the awards ceremony at night, the club held screenings of the student films during the day. “It is important because students here, in general, don’t get a lot of opportunities to showcase their work to their peers unless their peers are directly in their class,” said Amanda Wall (’20), who helped organize the event. Wall said that these film screenings provide a way for students work to get shown. Wall also said that she thinks sharing work this way helps build community.
 
There was some controversy around the event. On social media, people made comments about the lack of diversity among the nominees. This was referenced throughout the awards show by the host of the event, Julius Powell (’18), and by a few other presenters as well. Annie Willis (’19), a member of the Reels on Wheels team said, “It’s a reflection, not of just the Sarah Lawrence film program, but directing and film in general. There is a lack of people of color, lack of women, or any minority. And we want to show more of that,” she said. 

Duncan Richards (‘19) said that after winning a Reelie, outside of feeling gratitude and excitement, “I also was glad to just be included. I was thankful that my hard work was just as rewarded as my cisgender (more specifically white male) counterparts in the film department,” Richards said. “That said, the Reelies should seek to a better job including and supporting POC, Trans, and Queer stories.”
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Later in the week, Diop reflected on the Reelies as a whole. “There is some room for improvements,” she said. “At its core its an event that celebrates the spirit of collaboration.” 

Nora Thomas (‘19)
 

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SLC Phoenix

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

The Philosophy of Gwenda-lin Grewal

From her upcoming book on beauty and truth, entitled, good looks. photo courtesy of gwenda-lin grewal.

From her upcoming book on beauty and truth, entitled, good looks. photo courtesy of gwenda-lin grewal.

Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal’s desk, nestled in the corner of a large office at the top of Swinford, appears to be that of any other philosophy professor; it has stacks of paper, a copy of Sophocles’ Antigone, and a white bust of someone with an important and thoughtful looking face, reminiscent of busts of Plato and Socrates. However, as she and her friend Dr. Michael Davis like to say, everything is not as it seems. The bust is not of a philosopher but of an equally profound thinker — Beethoven. 

“I like going to the symphony, to museums,” she said. “New York is one of my favorite places on Earth, besides Rome, because of all of its grandeur. That, and the fact that you can come here, thirty minutes north, where it’s like a paradise of trees.”

Dr. Grewal has known this “paradise of trees” before. She came to Sarah Lawrence College from Anaheim, California, as an undergraduate, and immersed herself in Ancient Greek and Latin with her professors Sam Siegel and Michael Davis. Coming from a family of mathematicians, she studied math and physics from a philosophical perspective with Dan King. She graduated in 2006, pursed her Ph.D. in Classics and Philosophy at Tulane University, and studied at Yale on an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship. She taught for the first time here at Sarah Lawrence during her graduate school days. 

“I came back here for a year during grad school and taught with Michael Davis,” she said. “It was a course on Plato’s Euthydemus, a shorter dialogue that we translated together; we used the translation together in the class. It was the first time I had ever taught—totally terrifying,” 

An ardent admirer of the Classics, Dr. Grewal has translated dozens (if not hundreds) of texts from Ancient Greek and Latin, starting from when she was an undergraduate student. 

“I translated a handful of [Plato’s] dialogues when I was a student here,” Dr. Grewal said. “I would handwrite everything, so I have notebooks of handwritten translations that I did of these dialogues and some of Aristotle’s work.” 

Since she taught at the University of Dallas after her time at Yale, Dr. Grewal has spent almost every summer in Rome, teaching Latin alongside the monuments of Ancient Roman life and culture. 

Students may be familiar with Dr. Grewal from her class, Philosophy and Fashion, the title of which drew attention during interview week. She characterized her relationship with fashion as lighthearted and longstanding. 

“When I was in grad school, I started an ironic clothing business,” she said. “It was about taking things that didn’t look expensive and making them look expensive. I made gloves out of underwear and I wore them to expensive fashion shows. People would think they were made out of fine lace, when actually I just got them from Target.” 

Dr. Grewal is still involved in the world of fashion, collaborating on art installations and attending fashion shows from time to time. However, most of her involvement with fashion has been from a philosophical standpoint. Since her postdoctoral work at Yale, she has inquired into the connection between “having good looks and being good at looking,” which led to her Philosophy and Fashion class and to a forthcoming book on the subject. 

“I’m lucky, because what I get to do for my work is what I think about all the time,” she said.

Not much has changed about Sarah Lawrence since her undergraduate days here, including her relationships with her old professors. “It’s actually not weird,” she said, to work alongside her old teachers as their peer. Despite the decade or so that’s passed since she was a student here, Dr. Grewal’s feelings for the place remain unchanged. 

“I loved Sarah Lawrence; it was, academically, the best thing for me,” she said. “I only have love for this place.” 

Ricky Martorelli ‘19

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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.

SLC Economic Profile Part 1: A Look at the Numbers

Sarah Lawrence College: home of the wealthy wearing rags for fashion, and an ever-present omniscient elephant in the room labeled “SOCIAL CLASS.” Each attendee of SLC is guaranteed to be asked a handful of questions in their lifetime—among them, isn’t that an all girl’s school? Is that in the city? And, of course, isn’t that the most expensive school in the country?
 
To which we as a collective might respond—not anymore, not quite, and was—it was the most expensive school in the country. Columbia and NYU have beat us out, by now. Yet the point remains. A conversation about SLC is a conversation that inevitably revolves around income, yet inside the bubble of school life this is a point rarely discussed. There is no easy or correct way to gauge the consequences of this muteness—whether transparency about family income should be acknowledged as a means of recognizing privilege is a debate that foremost, requires a look at the numbers.
 
So let’s look at the numbers.
 
In January, TheUpShot of The New York Times published an alarming headline: “Some Colleges Have More Students from the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.” The article is chock-full of color infographics and provides an analysis of a study, conducted by a handful of professors at UC Berkeley, which looked at “how well or how poorly colleges have built an economically diverse student body.” Method-wise, the data is taken from the anonymized tax returns from the families of about 30 million students born between 1980 and 1991.
 
The study, which can be read in full at www.equality-of-opportunity.org, concluded a number of shocking finds—among them, the title of the piece; that 38 colleges had “more students from the top 1 percent than the bottom 60 percent.” Sarah Lawrence falls far from the top 40, ranking at #143. For the record, Washington University at St. Louis ranks #1, with a whopping 27.1 percent of its student body coming from the top 1 percent ($630k+), compared to a measly 6.1 percent from the bottom 60 percent (<$65k). In comparison, 7.3 percent of the Sarah Lawrence student body comes from the top one percent, and 24.5 percent comes from the bottom 60 percent. Those numbers add up to 31.8 percent of the student body—and of the remaining, about 60 percent of students come from the top 20 percent.
 
These numbers might appear discouraging nonetheless—but, in the realm of elite colleges, Sarah Lawrence ranks well for economic diversity. It is in the top 10 for enrolling the highest percentage of low- and middle-income students, at 13.1 percent of its student body coming from the bottom 40 percent. In the 2016-2017 school year, 17 percent of students on campus have a Pell Grant, which is a need-based federal grant for low-income students (compared to 14 percent in 2006-2007).
 
Unsurprisingly, however, Sarah Lawrence students as a whole come from among from the highest family incomes, relative to other New York schools. Yet among 71 other highly selective private colleges, SLC ranks #35—making its average family income of $137,000, well, pretty average. Relatively speaking.  Figure 1 offers a more detailed look at how student income at SLC compares to incomes at peer institutions. 

Fig. 1 shows economic access of SLC students compared to those of peer institutions 1.) in the Skyline (athletic conference) 2.) in New York and 3.) among other highly selective private colleges. Source: TheUpShot

That being said, it’s important to note that despite a high average family income, a majority of students at SLC are on some type of financial aid—71 percent in the current school year, to be exact. Those numbers are a significant increase from ten years ago, when only 58 percent of students were on financial aid. For a school that does not have need-blind admissions (meaning that a student’s financial situation is a factor in the admissions decisions), a 13 percent increase in aid demonstrates an increased effort on the part of the administration to increase socioeconomic diversity in the school.
 
But what do these efforts manifest into after receiving an SLC degree? In the study, the most surprising reveal comes from the “outcomes” section of the study, which quantifies how SLC students perform after graduation. For almost categories—median individual income at 34, average income percentile, share of those who end up in the top income percent, and the average income of a poor and rich student—Sarah Lawrence students rank among the lowest. See Fig. 2 for a visual reference.
 

Fig. 2 shows how SLC students fare later in life compared to students of peer institutions. Source: TheUpShot

Fig. 2 shows how SLC students fare later in life compared to students of peer institutions. Source: TheUpShot


So, what does all of this build up to? The fact of the matter is that according to the UC Berkeley study, Sarah Lawrence has one of the lowest mobility rates—that is, the ability for students coming from the bottom 40 percent to end up in the top 40 percent post-grad. A mere eight and a half percent of students from the bottom 40 percent succeed in climbing the income ranks. That puts Sarah Lawrence at an atrocious 3.4 percent mobility rate. Of 71 highly selective private colleges examined in the study, Sarah Lawrence comes in dead last in overall mobility index. In different terms, that means that on average, only 1.2 percent of SLC students coming from a poor family become rich adults later in life. Beyond that, it appears that no matter what economic background they come from, SLC students are economically worse-off compared to their peers post-graduation.
 
Now, let’s turn our attention away from the infographics, and shine the limelight back onto you: our readers. Fellow SLC students, whose fates have been allegedly calculated by researchers in California, what are we to make of these discouraging findings? In part three of this series, the Sarah Lawrence Phoenix will publish a survey of student reactions. If you have a reaction, please write to us, and send your feelings to ybakhtiyarova@gm.slc.edu. Your letter can contain anything. Maybe you are re-evaluating your post-grad plans upon learning the numbers. Maybe this isn’t shocking to you at all. Maybe you think it’s about time we start talking about class in this school—or maybe, there’s another side to the story that we aren’t looking at. We look forward to reading your thoughts.
 
Kate Bakhtiyarova ‘19

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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.

Joe and Ann Lauinger: A Love of Literature, SLC, and Each Other

Professors joe and ann lauinger at slc. photo credit: victoria mycue

Professors joe and ann lauinger at slc. photo credit: victoria mycue

Sarah Lawrence College’s faculty has several married couples. One couple, English professors Joe and Ann Lauinger, sat down to discuss what it is like being married and working not only at the same institution, but also in the same field:

How long have you two been working here?
Ann: I usually duck the answer to that. I’ve been here for more than 40 years.
Joe: I’ve been here for almost 30, so it’s about 70 human years between us. Together we make a very old man.
 
How did you meet?
Joe: We met in London. Ann and I both went to the University of Pennsylvania, and we won a scholarship—I won a scholarship a year before her—to study in England. This fellowship has a banquet every year, and I had been there for a while, I had been there for a year, and she had just won it, and I met her at the banquet, and we’ve never been parted.
 
So you both went to the same college?

Joe: Both went to the same college, but didn’t know each other there.
Ann: We figured out that we were actually in one class together. It was a lecture, a Chaucer lecture, that had about 90 students in it, and we did take it the same semester. Then we also discovered that we did have some mutual connections, but we didn’t know it at the time we were there. I had a friend who was friends with someone that Joe was friends with. That was the extent of it.
 
How much later did you start working at Sarah Lawrence?
Joe: Well, we studied at Oxford, then we came back to graduate school, and we got our degrees, and Ann started teaching here, and I was teaching at another college, and I guess it was about 15 years after you were teaching here that I started teaching here.
 
At first, was it really nice to be together or were you scared that it would be a little weird?
Ann: Well, we wondered if it would be difficult, but we figured that it wouldn’t, because it wasn’t like we were starting out, either in our marriage or our careers. It might have been different if it had happened at the very beginning of our lives.
Joe: It was just nice to carpool, take care of the kid more easily. 
Ann: It was just wonderful for Joe to get to be here, because it’s a much better opportunity for him.
Joe: Oh, I love it here. This is the kind of teaching that I love, and Ann was used to it.
Ann: Right, I was already complaining about it. He was grateful.
 
What is the carpool like? Do you still drive together everyday to and from?
Ann: I guess three days out of the four our schedule permits it.
Joe: We try to do it. If there’s a committee meeting or something like that where one of us is going to be very late and one of us is going to be very early, that’s when we don’t. But we try to do it, because I don’t mind driving and Ann would rather not.
Ann: I don’t like it.
Joe: She’s a Manhattan girl.

You both work in literature. Is there ever any friendly competition or do you work in very different areas of literature?
Ann: We have some overlap, because we both teach Shakespeare.
 
But the overlap is good?
Joe: It’s great. We actually teach Shakespeare from two different points of view. We try to make sure Shakespeare is taught pretty much every year, and I take a much more performance-based approach to it, you know, and Ann’s more historical and poetical. Although, I do historical stuff. We both went to Princeton for graduate school, which really does try to root you in the historical approach to literature. We both have essentially the same way to think about literature critically. But as I’ve become more and more interested in theater and theater history and playwriting, the idea of performance as meaning itself is something that I really focus on. So Shakespeare and then all the other playwrights that I do from Aeschylus on to Beckett, whereas Ann takes a more literary approach.
.
 Interesting. So there’s never any disagreements about an analysis?
Ann: Yeah, we disagree, sure, but we don’t come to blows.
 
Do you ever feel like you’re getting too much Sarah Lawrence?
Ann: Yes. It’s easy to feel that, even when you’re only one person. Don’t you feel like you’re getting too much Sarah Lawrence sometimes?
Joe: We try not to bring it home. We try not to talk about students too much.

That’s what you do to escape too much Sarah Lawrence—just talk about other topics when you’re home?
Ann: We just do, because we have a life
Joe: We talk about why we don’t like “Catastrophe.” It’s a sitcom.
Ann: Is it on Netflix? Amazon, it’s an Amazon series.
Joe: Or what the dancing is like in La La Land as opposed to any swingtime, any Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and all that.
 
And what do you think? La La Land doesn’t live up to that?
Joe: No. It’s a very charming movie, but it does that it on purpose: it’s very amateurish about the dancing on purpose to make them normal people as opposed to Astaire and Rogers.”
 
Do you think this has worked so well for you because you’re a certain type of couple, like an academic couple, or would any couple in this environment be able to be fine working in the same place with their spouse?
Joe: This is a very nice environment. You don’t have to worry about competition and rank and all those other things that might... But our son is an academic, and our daughter is an academic, and they teach at the same institution. They’re in different programs, but they get along fine, too. And they’re in a large university, so it’s different.
Ann: It is the dream for academic couples to be employed at the same place. They very much want that.
Joe: Or extremely nearby.
Ann: Or closeby, because you want to have a life. If somebody gets a job in San Diego and somebody gets a job in Boston, that’s not happy. So there are a fair amount of these doubling-up things. If somebody gets a good situation at a big place, they’ll try to see if there’s a possible hire for somebody else. So I think if you ask most academics like us, they would say, ‘Yeah, it’s a good thing.’

Victoria Mycue '20

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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.

SLC Alum Brings Free Classes to Bronx and Westchester Area

Some of the earliest members of We Read Together; (left to right) Victoria Lepore, Benjamin Lambright, Amelia England, Mary Beehm, Jeremiah Driver. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Lambright.

Some of the earliest members of We Read Together; (left to right) Victoria Lepore, Benjamin Lambright, Amelia England, Mary Beehm, Jeremiah Driver. Photo courtesy of Benjamin Lambright.

When Benjamin Lambright (MFA ’15) began tutoring children and teenagers, it was just his way of putting himself through graduate school. But when the growing need for more affordable and effective educational programming in the Bronx and Westchester area became apparent to him, Lambright started seeing beyond his bills. With that understanding, he created We Read Together, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that provides free classes and low cost tutoring.
 
What started Lambright’s career in education was a Sarah Lawrence Career Services email that listed The Institute of Reading Development (IRD) as needing tutors. Lambright cites the job as putting him on the path of discovering his passion for teaching, but he didn’t agree with the methods of the organization.
 
The institute had universities lend their names and spaces to the program, he explained, but not their resources. They also underpaid the teachers: “It was $400 a class for a student and they paid $600 to a teacher. There were 30 high school kids [in each class]. I just didn't like the idea. Most of the parents also thought I was a Fordham professor and not a grad student.”
 
IRD prohibited teachers from tutoring students on the side, but after hearing some of the pleas from the families, Lambright was unable to resist. Lambright started tutoring for a lower charge and from there, he said, “demand kept growing.”
 
To continue his side business, Lambright would reserve Science Center room 204 for tutoring sessions. “I did it for six months straight,” said Lambright, whose favorite Sarah Lawrence professors are a tie between David Ryan and David Hollander. 
 
After finding out that several of his students were struggling to travel to Sarah Lawrence and to make payments, he reevaluated the trajectory of his business: “I found out that the parents of two of my best students, Andy and Grace, were borrowing money to send them to me [at IRD] and I thought, how can I do this cheaper?”
 
This was the inception of We Read Together. Lambright set up a Go Fund Me page and raised the $1,000 goal in ten days. “I took that $1,000 for initial fees and insurance and then we became We Read Together officially June 1, 2015,” Lambright said, adding that learning tax code was the most challenging part of the process.
 
Since then Lambright has been working with public libraries, particularly Clason’s Point Library and Parkchester Library, and setting up free classes for the public. “We fill the rooms pretty regularly. 20 kids and usually in the 30 range with parents in the room too,” said Lambright who hopes to partner with Sarah Lawrence’s Early Childhood Center in the future.
 
The mission of We Read Together is to be interactive. “The methods are really simple, but effective. We want absolutely everything we do to be fun.” He continued to explain the challenges of having a large non-English demographic: “Children of parents who are learning English, just push the kids harder, but then you just get a child who is really resistant to reading. So we provide fun and enjoyable ways to go about this. I don't see this as, let me give you some parenting advice, but, let me show you how to give your kid 45 high fives reading this book.”
 
In addition to the free classes, We Read Together has tutoring services to keep the organization afloat. Unlike his past job at IRD, Lambright makes sure that his employees are paid a livable wage. “I create everything in a modular and self-sustaining way. We pay our tutors 20 bucks an hour and make a profit margin of 3-4 bucks. It is not an empire, but it is livable.” Lambright hires many Sarah Lawrence students as tutors, because as he said, “It is a very well-read campus, half the people I hire are better read than I am,” he said. “There are no shortage of people who want to make a difference [at SLC], but there is a shortage of people who have transportation.”
 
In keeping with the self-sustainable mentality, Lambright is launching a new program, Food For Thought, in Summer 2017. “When school gets out, kids not only lose their best source of intellectual stimulation, but also nutrition,” Lambright explained. The program that will meet 12 times over a six-week period provides both educational programming and free meals.
 
Lambright realizes a grant would be the easier route in creating programs, but he is adamant about self-sustainability. This way he can easily pass the programs onto someone else when he decides to branch out We Read Together to other regions. “I don't want to keep going back to the well,” he said.
 
We Read Together’s volunteers have also designed an original board game, coloring books and worksheets that are given away for free. The organization is always looking for new volunteers. 
 
If you would like to make a donation to We Read Together, please go to: http://wereadtogether.org/support-us/ 

Andrea Cantor ’17

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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.

Professor Profile: Jo Ann Beard Discusses Writing and Pups

Jo Ann Beard at the Mount Vernon Animal Shelter. Photo credit: Ann King

Jo Ann Beard at the Mount Vernon Animal Shelter. Photo credit: Ann King

Holding a tea-filled mug with a printed image of a dog on it, professor Jo Ann Beard unraveled the details behind her double life as a teacher and a writer: “[For three days of the week,] I come in, I get my cup of tea, I teach my class, I do conferences back to back." she said. “[And then] I leave here, I go to the faculty house or the hotel. I lie on the bed and stare at the ceiling for a while, then I get up and I drive to Gino’s pizza. I get two slices and a bottle of beer, some M&M’s.”

When Beard isn’t busy teaching at Sarah Lawrence, she lives in upstate New York. "[At home], I get up in the morning and I read the New York Times everyday and then I wander to my studio to write," she explained, adding, "And I stare out at the big field with binoculars and I watch what the animals are doing.”

Beard’s professional and personal life appear to be very separate, but they are linked by one common bond – her obsession with dogs. Beard has always had dogs in her life. Currently, she has a red nose Pit Bull named Autumn, an 11-year-old, deaf, foster dog from the Mount Vernon Shelter, and Jet, an adopted, black mutt.

“Dogs are even a big part of my Sarah Lawrence life because when I come to Sarah Lawrence, I usually have a block of hours from time to time while I’m down here in Bronxville and for the past ten years or so, I used that time to work with dogs in local shelters, the Yonkers Animal Shelter and the Mount Vernon Animal Shelter,” Beard said.

While working at the dog shelters, Beard met a local dog trainer. Shortly after bonding over their love for dogs, they created a local Pit Bull rescue organization called “Best Bullies.” The duo looks for dogs that would suffer within the shelter environment or be otherwise overlooked. Their rescue mission is to provide medical care and training for the dogs. More information can be found at bestbullies.org.

Not only does Beard devote a lot of time to helping dogs, but she also writes nonfiction pieces about them. She’s written about her previous pets, rescue dogs and the wolves at Yellowstone National Park.

In addition to being inspired by animals, she gets her writing ideas from her own life experiences. “If you pay attention, even the most dull life is glittering in its own way,” Beard said.

Beard’s published work includes In Zanesville, a novel about the struggles of becoming a teenager. Originally, the story was supposed to be a memoir, but Beard decided to face her fear of writing fiction. “I just didn’t feel like putting my family and friends through the trials and tribulations of having to be written about, so I began changing their names and their identities and once I did that, they stopped being the people I remembered and became new characters who behaved in new ways,” Beard explained.

While Beard self-identifies as a nonfiction writer, some people have called her a fiction writer because of this novel. “I still am startled when people remind me that I’ve written fiction. They say things like ‘you’re a fiction writer’ and I go ‘no, I’m nonfiction’ then I go ‘oh right, there was that book,’” she said.

Beard has also written The Boys of my Youth, a collection of essays that she mostly wrote as a graduate student. She did not initially intend to write the essays for the book, but years later Beard realized she had a ton of essays that could be compiled together.

Among her other published work in literary journals and magazines, her favorite essay that she is the most proud of is her piece on Cheri Tremble, a patient dying of breast cancer. Even though she never met the subject of the story, she was able to talk with her friends and family members to gain insight into Tremble’s life story.

“Even though it sounds very depressing to other people, I found it really fascinating and moving and interesting to think of somebody facing their own death with such clear-eyed determination and focus,” Beard said.

Due to Beard’s success, she visited several schools to talk about her experience as a writer. In 1999, she became a guest teacher at SLC and loved the school so much that she got a permanent position. She currently teaches graduate and undergraduate writing workshops, mostly consisting of nonfiction courses.

“I love nonfiction and teaching it gives me an excuse to have to read it, to have to stay up in that world of what’s happening in nonfiction writing,” Beard said.

Not only is Beard ecstatic about nonfiction, but she’s passionate about teaching it. “I feel like sometimes I walk into class with the same thing in my mind, like I really want to understand this piece and the only way we are going to understand it is for all of us to talk about it and to begin in one place and end in some place completely different. To do that you really do need to have ten or twelve voices chiming in and I really love that process,” Beard explained.

Although Beard keeps her students busy, she realizes that there is the need for a balance between work and play. “I understand that writing is really hard and so I say to them ‘no assignment, go relax and think’ which is also a part of writing but it’s the part that’s harder to find time for,” Beard said.

SLC’s dog-loving, nonfiction-enthusiast teacher is also a feminist and a vegetarian. “I didn’t want to eat a chicken, I wanted to know a chicken,” she said. While students are able to have open discourse with Beard, Autumn and Jet will never know how much of an impact they have on this woman.

Alexa Di Luca '19

 

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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.

History of these Halls: The Teahaus

The Teahaus as it stands today. Photo credit: Andrea Cantor '17

The Teahaus as it stands today. Photo credit: Andrea Cantor '17

Before Sarah Lawrence College opened its doors to its first class of women, before the College acquired surrounding houses, before the first three dormitories were erected, there existed only the Lawrence estate upon which William Van Duzer Lawrence built a mansion and an accompanying gazebo. Today, we call these Westlands and the Teahaus.

After the gazebo era and before the “Teahaus” era, the house lived a number of lives, most of which is unknown to current students.

A few years after the college’s establishment, the gazebo became known as the “Senior House”—as students could not smoke in the dormitories, the gazebo became a gathering place where seniors could sit and smoke cigarettes.

Soon the structure was given each of its four walls, and in 1934 smoking privileges were extended to the dormitories, leaving the room largely under-utilized until 1935, when the Alumnae office relocated to the house and redecorated with a new color scheme: the "blue and rust" colors that remain today.

By the 1940s, the office relocated again elsewhere, and the structure became known as the “Community House” since various organizations on campus held meetings there. Two recorded examples of such use occurred in 1946.

One group of students worked through the Save the Children Federation to package and send food, clothing and school supplies to students attending the Lycee Saint Germain, a school in Paris. According to the Sarah Lawrence Alumnae Magazine from spring of 1946, many of the students at that school were in "dire need"—during World War II the school "was used as Nazi headquarters and was left in considerable disorder."

In the same year, a “Field Work” course was held in the Community House in which students, for the first time, sponsored a group of boys from a nearby youth shelter, Children’s Village. The group threw the boys a Thanksgiving party and a Christmas party, where they gave the boys gifts, and among other charitable activities, repainted part of their cottage at the shelter.

In 1953, history professor Charles Trinkus turned the Community House into his office. In the early 1960s, however, architect Philip Johnson, who designed what is now known as the "New Dorms," attempted to have the Community House torn down. Apparently it took away from what would appear an ideal “quadrangle” after the addition of the new dormitories.

Students took to protesting, and one petition by Wendy Gibson ('63) made a number of points, and a succinct plead: "We consider it a beautiful little house which adds much to the campus. It is, among other things, a Sarah Lawrence tradition. It makes a nice dividing line between the old buildings and the new dorms. We expect, also, that tearing it down would involve spending Money. Isn't this what the administration is trying desperately to avoid? We understand that the argument against the 'community house' is that it detracts from the architect's conception of an 'even quadrangle.' It is our contention that the layout, with or without the community house, resembles a quadrangle in only the haziest sense. Let's not try to fit the campus into a mold that does not exist."

The house was nearing a state of deterioration from disuse when, in the 1980s, Rebecca Reynolds ('87) spearheaded a project to revamp the site and transform it into the “Communitea House.” That remains its official name today even as students know it simply as the “Teahaus.” 

All of the profits made by the Teahaus are directed to the Students for Students Scholarship Fund (SSSF). The Teahaus is the cozy space on campus where students study, drink hot beverages and eat pastries made by student workers– the oasis with a long history. 

Victoria Mycue ‘20

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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.

What is C.A.T.S.? Inside SLC's Independent Arts Collective

A poster for C.A.T.S., an independent arts collectice on campus. Photo courtesy of Shy Adelman

A poster for C.A.T.S., an independent arts collectice on campus. Photo courtesy of Shy Adelman

 Voices bounce off the high ceilings and bright walls of room 106 on Oct. 3, demanding the attention of any passerby shuffling through the dark outer basement of Heimbold. A box of half-eaten donuts lies on the table, the leftover evidence of someone’s recent return from the city. Six students sit on one side of a long rectangular table, spitballing ideas for the theme of their next show. These students are part of Creative Arts Thinking Space, also known as C.A.T.S.

According to their mission statement, C.A.T.S. is a “student-run collective supporting and engaging the creative arts community at Sarah Lawrence College.” Past show themes have included “Everything Must Go,” the last show of the 2014-15 school year where work could be bought, sold, or traded; “Kiss Me Thru the Screen,” a showcase of art representing love in the digital age; and “SLC Anon,” where all work was anonymous and willing artists were then revealed in a zine visitors took home. After roughly 30 minutes of open discussion, the next show’s theme is decided upon: “What’s in Your Backpack?”

Started in 2009 by a group of students, including Simran “Simi” Johnston and Zoe Alexander Fisher, who co-founded the Brooklyn gallery 99¢ Plus, C.A.T.S. has existed independently of SLC administration every year since then. Although there has always been a core group of students who organize the events—namely, those who participate regularly in meetings and shows—anyone can become involved to whatever extent interests them. 

According to Shy Adelman (’18), who has been involved since her freshman year, C.A.T.S. tries not to emphasize membership, but instead strives to be a space where all people feel included and involved. Gabby Johnson (’18) believes this objective is better reached through the group’s being an independent collective. 

“I think [C.A.T.S.] works better being less attached to administration,” Johnson said. “It was started by students who just wanted to do it and thought it was necessary to have something like C.A.T.S. So I feel like it being something that the students continue because they want it for themselves as opposed to administration pushing it on students to continue is good.”

Inclusivity, and the need for more inclusiveness this year, was a main talking point at the Monday night meeting. Luca Casson-Milstein (’19) suggested pushing the C.A.T.S. social media presence to a wider audience, while Adelman discussed the circulation of more posters with Johnson. 

“We weren’t inclusive enough last year, and so pretty much this year we’re trying to make it much more of a welcoming environment,” Casson-Milstein said. “Not that we had any intention last year of making it seem closed, but this year we want to make sure everyone knows that no matter what, you can submit whatever and you’re part of C.A.T.S. because it’s not a club.”

While most C.A.T.S. participants can agree that administrative involvement is not the right choice for the group, it also means there is no club funding involved and students are on their own for any extra costs. According to Adelman, however, this has not been a problem with setting up shows. Equipment can be rented from the A.V. desk and promoting events online is cost-free. In the past, shows have exhibited projects of varied media, including projected images and short films on portable televisions. 

Any student can submit work to display at a C.A.T.S. show by emailing catssubmissions@gmail.com or through the C.A.T.S. Gryphonlink portal. If a student wishes to remain anonymous, work can also be submitted through Tumblr at slccats.tumblr.com/submit. To become involved in organizing shows, any student can participate: meetings occur every first Monday of the month at 9 p.m., in either the Heimbold Atrium or basement room 106.

Gloria Cowdin '19

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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 Improve Health of School Through Peer Health Education

Photos and bios of 2016-2017 Peer Health Educators. Photo Credit: andrea Cantor '17

Photos and bios of 2016-2017 Peer Health Educators. Photo Credit: andrea Cantor '17

Every fall for the past three years, a new group of Sarah Lawrence College students have gone through a nine-week training program to become Peer Health Educators. In the spring, after becoming certified, these students take on health related projects to improve the wellbeing of the community. Though the certification comes from an outside organization, BACCHUS, the Peer Health Educator program is unique to Sarah Lawrence. 

Gabriella Edwards (’20) is in the middle of this training program. Edwards studies pre-health at Sarah Lawrence, and thought the Peer Health Educator Program could help her with her career goals. She said she has already found the program valuable and it has taught her new ways to support and connect with her peers. The program goes beyond what health and wellness could do previously, Edwards added, and allows students to be involved in a new way.  

Anica Mulzac, a psychologist, and Sheryl Last, a nurse, who both work in the Health and Wellness Center,  currently facilitate the program. Mulzac said that they took on the project, “because there is only so much that we can do as staff. Students will only tell us so much, and we only have so much access to them. We can’t be in the dorm with them and find out what is going on. Students can help us be in tuned and be more informed about the needs and issues on campus.”

Last year, the Peer Health Educators addressed the issue of the arrangement of food, water, and alcohol at formal. The Peer Health Educators (PHEs) worked with student life to strategically re-design the tent so that students would be more likely to eat before having a drink, and have water in-between drinks at the dance. This student initiative succeeded, and no students went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning at the event. Last reflected, “The PHEs identified a need, they implemented a plan, and there was a positive outcome. That is really our goal.”

The Peer Health Educators also worked on a project last year that promoted night safety, and helped organize the different health fairs that health and wellness puts on every few months.

Last said that these programs have been successful because, “peers are more likely to listen to their peers then they are to listen to us. We might be giving them the exact same information but coming from peers, it can be received better.” Last feels that getting students involved in health initiatives on campus has definitely had a positive impact. 

Kendal Flowerdew (’19) is also currently in the training program. “We started learning about how to be effective communicators, and how to help students make their own decisions about healthy living as opposed to forcing these ideas on them,” she explained.  Flowerdew feels that this program can effectively help improve the Sarah Lawrence community. 

This semester, the Peer Health Educators already have several projects underway. In addition to organizing an upcoming health fair on February 14, they have been conducting a survey on student satisfaction of AVI with the hopes of making improvements to food services on campus. 

The Peer Health Educators are also creating a Sarah Lawrence spirit week. Mulzac said that spirit week should make students, “feel more connected to each other, feel more pride, and feel more connected to the school.” The Peer Health Educators want to work to increase positivity and community at Sarah Lawrence, and feel that initiatives such as spirit week could help to accomplish that. 

The Peer Health Educators set up an email, phe@sarahlawrence.edu, for students to get in contact with their peers in the program. Last said that they created the email for students who need support. She feels that this resource is great for students who want to be connected with one of the PHEs to have a one-on-one mentoring session. The Peer Health Educators are not trained to be counselors but are certified to have listening, problem solving, brainstorming, and conflict resolution skills. The PHEs can also help connect other students to additional supports available on campus. Last said that ultimately, she wanted to emphasize peer-to-peer support within the program.

Lesedi Ntsele (’17) was involved in the Peer Health Educator Program last year. Ntsele said that the program helped her give better peer support, “I feel like I have these tools to still be a friend to people but also I have a way to help them find the resources that they need or to act as a resource for them.” She said that often times in college, it is hard to know where to get help for yourself, and it can be equally difficult to support your friends. She said that the Peer Health Educator Program is helping with this issue. 

Last said that the overall goal of the program is to improve student life on campus, and improve retention. She explained, “If needs are being met, and students are happier, they are more likely to stay and continue their education here and succeed.”

Nora Tomas '19

 

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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.

History of these Halls: The Yoko Ono

rock pine station, commonly referred to as The yoko ono. photo credit: andrea cantor '17 

rock pine station, commonly referred to as The yoko ono. photo credit: andrea cantor '17 

“I’ll meet you at the Yoko,” one SLC student calls to another across the Pub. The other knows exactly where to go: to the multi-tiered structure of wooden platforms, two sets of slim steel stairs, and a boulder that sits on Westlands lawn between the Pub and the Performing Arts Center.

Practically all SLC students also know this structure by the appellation “Yoko Ono,” or “Yoko” for short, but what many may not know is the sculpture’s original name, “Rock Pine Station.”

The piece is an art installation—the only piece left from a 1985 art exhibition on campus called "Builtworks/Installations," curated by then visual arts faculty member and artist, Marcia Hafif. The exhibition showcased five artists whose works were to involve some aspect of construction, one of these artists being George Trakas, a self-described environmental sculptor and the artist of “Rock Pine Station.”

Trakas, like the other four artists, had been an established artist in the New York area for at least a decade when Hafif invited him to participate in the exhibition. His previous works had mostly been site-specific installations as well, and such projects, for him, generally involve meticulous study of an area from the outset. In preparation for his SLC installation, Trakas reportedly spent time walking through the entirety of the campus.

According to the exhibition catalogue, Trakas specifically studied the trees on the east end of campus, the “place where the sun falls on a grass mound to the west of Bates,” and the area of land between the fence and the sidewalk on Kimball Avenue before finally finding the boulder on Westlands lawn where he would eventually build his sculpture. He reportedly intended for his piece to bring “paths, stone, pine, and passersby together.”

Though the sculpture is certainly an art piece, there was never an accompanying museum-esque “Please do not touch the artwork” sign. Rather, according to the exhibition catalogue, Trakas created the piece with the intent in mind to “engage the viewer physically and psychologically.” 

In his interview with Hafif for the exhibition catalogue, Trakas said, “If you see stairs, the first thing that you’re going to think is I can walk up those stairs. If the stairs are really narrow and they’re a little beyond the base of a tree, you realize that you would be able to use the tree as a support. There’s a whole process of identity there.” 

Though Trakas was referencing another one of his installations, he used a similar psychology to design Rock Pine Station to induce a temptation for interaction from the viewer. As students to this day eat, work, and talk while sitting atop the structure, it seems Trakas' psychological aim for his piece indeed holds.

As for the name of the sculpture, “the Yoko Ono,” this wouldn’t be its first nickname designated to “Rock Pine Station.” SLC students apparently have a habit of renaming the sculpture, as within a year after the exhibition it was nicknamed “Restless Desolation” according to the winter 1986 edition of Sarah Lawrence College Magazine. In the 1990s it was nicknamed, “the Structure” according to a 1997 letter from the Student Senate.

It is not clear when the sculpture was nicknamed “the Yoko Ono,” nor is it clear why. SLC admissions staff member Pauline Stanfiel, MA ‘17, said there are quite a few rumors as to the origin of this nickname. Though Yoko Ono did study at the college, she attended in 1953, long before the sculpture’s construction, which demystifies the rumor that she played some part in its assembly during her attendance.

Stanfiel said, “The rumor that I heard was that she did a photoshoot on it, as in she stood on it and someone took pictures.” Though these rumors for the sculpture’s fairly recent nickname are merely speculative, we do have legitimate, though somewhat forgotten, information on the origins of the structure and creator itself. 

Regardless of students’ knowledge of the sculpture’s given name, “Rock Pine Station,” or its artist, George Trakas, SLC admissions counselor Elizabeth Benedict said she thinks students still appreciate the piece and what it stands for at the college: “I think it’s a really cool embodiment of how Sarah Lawrence values the arts.”

Victoria Mycue ‘20

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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.

"De-Stressing with Pets" Program Back for its Fourth Year

Students playing with one of the dogs on the North Lawn last September. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Schaffler.

Students playing with one of the dogs on the North Lawn last September. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Schaffler.

At Sarah Lawrence College, conference week is the equivalent of writing endless analytical papers, consuming large quantities of caffeine - and, playing with the staff’s beloved pouches. Three years ago, nurse practitioner Cynthia Schaffler and registered nurse Sheryl Last created the “De-Stressing with Pets” program, which occurs about four times a year on the North Lawn of the SLC campus. 

The nurses said they were inspired to create the program based on resources their own college kids had access to. For example, Last’s daughter was able to spend time with service dogs through a program at Lafayette College, Schaffler explained.

“I think it just started spontaneously,” Schaffler said. “At the time, I know my dogs had died and I had just gotten two puppies, and Sheryl [had] a very friendly, great dog who [was] missing her kids and we said I wonder if we could just do that with our own dogs.”

The process of starting the program was very easy, though they did have to schedule it around the weather forecast and their work hours at the clinic.

“We looked around to see if we needed any special permission and the campus doesn’t really have a lot of rules,” Schaffler added, “so we figured that since we were staff and we were bringing dogs that we knew, we would just try it, and our medical director was really supportive.”

The first time that the nurses arranged the event, thirty to forty students showed up.

“We did it in the spring thinking around conference week that people needed a break and it was just an opportunity to get out of the library for a little while and have some puppy love,” Last said.

The initiative received an immense amount of positive feedback.

“It’s funny because within a couple of days, people were calling asking ‘When are you going to do that again?’” Schaffler said.

For the past three years, Last, enthusiastic owner of seven-year-old Cockapoo Reggie, and Schaffler, proud owner of two three-year-old Pomeranians Leo and Gus, have brought their dogs to the events regularly. A few other faculty members and friends of the SLC community have also attended with their dogs.

“Dogs in general provide so much love and affection towards people and it just makes you feel good,” Last pointed out.

While dogs may appear to have a mystifying effect on people’s emotions, there are specific scientific reasons behind the calming elements within the interaction.

According to animalsmart.org, “Playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol.”

The hormones that are released can lead to some major health benefits.

“Studies have shown that pet ownership seems to decrease coronary-disease risk factors involving blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, among other things,” Marlene Cimons wrote for the Washington Post.

In addition to the scientific reasons behind de-stressing with pets, the nurses explained what they believe are the best health benefits of interacting with their dogs.

“[At the event, the students] started socializing and interacting with one another and talking about their dogs at home. So not even was it great from a standpoint of them playing with our dogs, but they were socializing with each other,” Last said.

While many are thrilled with the program, some students wish that they could have the opportunity to bond with other animals, such as cats.

“It is called ‘de-stress with pets,’ so that’s a more inclusive term than just dogs. Don’t forget about us cat people - we need to de-stress, too. This is a great campus. There are so many squirrels and chipmunks here. They’ll have so much fun,” Katy Greskovich (’19) said jokingly.

Last and Schaffler have already gotten requests from students about including different types of animals in the de-stressing sessions. While the nurses are open to the idea, they also had concerns about the practicality of it.

“We would almost have to do it indoors somewhere, like find a place like the Black Squirrel and set up a room and see if some [...] shelter was willing to bring some cats that maybe just needed some socializing,” Schaffler explained. “But again it’s hard to supervise because we are always worried about the animal’s and the student’s safety. So you get a little limited.”

Besides one unfortunate instance of Reggie peeing on a student’s backpack, the “De-Stressing with Pets” events have been a success at providing student with the opportunity to bond with the dogs and to get outside and enjoy the weather.

Alexa Di Luca '19

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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.

Meet the Couple who Funded the Gilbert/OSilas Renovations

Si and Vicki Ford on their visit to Sarah Lawrence. Photo credit: JinRun Han

Si and Vicki Ford on their visit to Sarah Lawrence. Photo credit: JinRun Han

Vicki Ford slowly takes in her surroundings: the brand new green and gray carpeting, the radiant mustard-colored walls of the common room and the crisp white color of the hallways. She makes her way into one of the dorms and gasps as she steps foot in an open room, seeing the newly refurbished residence hall, OSilas, for the first time. 
 
Trustee and alumna Vicki Ford (BA ‘60 and MA ‘87) and her husband Si Ford began working on this renovation gift to the college about two years ago. Since being closed for a year due to construction, the hall has officially reopened its doors to students for the 2016 fall semester. 

The hall, formerly known as “Gilbert,” now entitled “OSilas,” is a combination of Vicki and Si Ford’s given names, Olivia and Silas, respectively. But it was a name they did not create. In the early 1990s when electronic mail was first becoming popular, there was a computer glitch that conjoined their names. Amused by their new couple name that was, as Vicki Ford stated, “made up by a machine,” they began adopting it as a kind of brand, using the name for their family foundation and a few other philanthropic projects.

As a trustee, Vicki Ford serves as the liaison between the board and the Physical Facilities Committee. After a survey of the campus’ infrastructure, the committee produced a written and detailed evaluation. According to Vicki Ford, “there was 30 years of delayed maintenance throughout the entire campus.” 

Having lived in Gilbert during her freshman and sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence, Vicki Ford decided to focus the first round of renovation efforts on her former residence hall through a large donation from her and her husband. The couple worked with Ellen Reynolds, the Associate Vice President of Advancement, to execute the renovation. Reynolds noted Vicki Ford’s nostalgic appreciation of the past and her optimism towards preserving it, but added, “We walked through [Gilbert]—it definitely needed a lot of work.”

However, as Vicki Ford said, when Gilbert was built in 1927, it was very “forethinking.” Abby Lester, College Archivist, relayed the history of the residence hall. The building was named after Frank B. Gilbert, one of the college’s original trustees, who served from 1926 until his passing in 1927.  As a former Deputy Commissioner of Education of the State of New York and a lawyer, Gilbert played a crucial role in gaining the provisional charter for Sarah Lawrence College’s founding in 1926. According to Reynolds, like Gilbert, Vicki Ford has also played a crucial role in the development of the college. 

“She is one of the most extraordinary philanthropists I’ve ever worked with, and she is one of the most dedicated alums to this college,” Reynolds said.

The Fords have been important donors to many Sarah Lawrence projects.  They have contributed funds to beautifying Sarah Lawrence, the Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB), and “Ahead of the Curve”, which is the $200 million campaign for Sarah Lawrence. According to Reynolds, most of Vicki Ford’s philanthropy work strives to build and strengthen communities.

Reynolds said, “[She is] changing communities in all the ways that I think would make this college proud and also make the college a richer place because of what she has done.”

Vicki Ford said her mother, also a Sarah Lawrence graduate (‘36), was a major influence in her attending the school.

“She thought that the way they taught around a round table and did the seminar system was the best way to learn information,” Vicki said. “She said that the curiosity that a human being can have and the confidence to ask questions and to frame your own direction was the most important thing that could happen. So that’s what she wanted for me.”

Vicki said she had a similar college experience as her mother, and it's for that reason she's continuously donated to and worked with the college for most of her life. Vicki Ford hopes that the renovations to OSilas will only amplify Sarah Lawrence’s exceptionality.

“I think people, if they really are happy living in a place that is up to code, up to standards, that’s attractive, it’s going to make their experience of being in college nicer, and they’re going to feel more at ease about being here,” Vicki Ford said. Reynolds agreed with Vicki Ford’s assessment, saying, “[Vicki] wants [the students] to have all the resources and the same culture and the intimate and transformational experience she had when she was a student.”

While touring OSilas, Vicki Ford talked to one of the residents, Sarah Noonan (‘19), who relayed her first year experience in Westlands: “There were two or three times when we found cockroaches in our room.” But she affirmed, “It’s really nice [in OSilas], and since it’s brand new, it’s probably not going to have that issue.”

One of the most noticeable changes to OSilas is the common room. “It’s all so new, so everything is just really nice," Noonan said. "The living room area is amazing [...] there’s a massive flat screen TV. I haven’t done anything with it yet, but I’ve already got plans.”

Developing the common area was a significant focus for Vicki Ford. She found that room to be exceptionally crucial during her residence in Gilbert. A few decades after she graduated, however, the room was transformed into faculty offices, and walls were erected that divided the room. Vicki decided to have the walls torn down and the room turned back into a living room.

“I think that the most important thing for our group when we were living there, way back when, was having a common meeting place where everyone could come,” Vicki Ford said. 

Although the basement, which will have new laundry facilities, is still under construction, it will be finished later this year. Otherwise, OSilas’ plumbing, study rooms, tiles, walls, and carpeting have all been redone. Vicki said she hopes that this OSilas Gift inspires other alumni donations so that the school can continue its facility repairs.  

“I think that’s what’s most exciting, that you can take an old shell and you can make it come to life,” Vicki Ford said, sitting in her old dorm living room that she has now made anew.

Victoria Mcyue '20

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SLC Phoenix

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

In Time for the General, Reflections from a Clinton and Trump Supporter

 The First Presidential debate. Photo credit: David Goldman/Associated Press, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

 The First Presidential debate. Photo credit: David Goldman/Associated Press, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times

September, 2015—The primary election is on the cusp of taking off. The candidates for the Democratic party nomination were set to take the stage for their first debate in just weeks. The GOP was a free-for-all circus, overflowing with nominee hopefuls. 

On Sarah Lawrence campus, there was one person who had captured the hearts of nearly every politically conscious person on campus: Senator Bernie Sanders. The future was uncertain.

Fast forward a year. September 26, 2016—two candidates take the stage for the first general election debate about a month shy of voting day. She is clad in a red pantsuit, he in a shiny blue tie—a role reversal of sorts. Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Republican candidate Donald J. Trump.

At home, Bernie Sanders watched in his living room.

At Sarah Lawrence, every room with a TV filled to capacity. Every room sounding cheers at the quick wit of HRC, and groans at the interruptions of Trump. Either way—it was a room filled with the converted, or those on the fence. A year ago, a cheer for Hillary was singular and strange. A cheer for Trump was unheard.

Unheard, yet not unheard of. In a poll conducted by The Phoenix a year ago, about fifteen percent of students self-identified as being moderate or conservative on the spectrum of political ideology. Many of those students, however, expressed hesitance in being cited in print for fear of being singled out. Even express mentions of support for Clinton were few and far between. After all—there was still a year left until the election. There was still time to make a choice.

Now, for most, the choice has been made—though admittedly, many may feel that the choice has been made for them.

But what about the students who had their mind made up before the nominating conventions even began?

Lili McFarlane, ’18, has been #withher since the start.

James Hobayan, ’20, initially favored Jeb Bush, but soon changed his mind when the GOP primary began to unravel. He is voting for Donald Trump.

McFarlane is a student of politics. She’s been working with the HRC campaign since the end of last school year.

Hobayan is a first-year studying theatre—that being said, he comes from a military family that is heavily involved in politics. His parents are Democrats, but they respect his differing views. Coming into this college, Hobayan was aware that politically, he would be an outlier. He’s already come across difficulty in freely expressing his opinions.

“I was expecting that,” he said. “It’s a big reason I almost didn’t come to Sarah Lawrence.”

McFarlane, however, has known this experience first-hand for far longer. “During the primary being a Clinton supporter was pretty alienating,” she said. “People would assume that as a college student I supported Bernie, and having to interrupt someone to explain that I wasn't the typical college voter and/or that young people did support Clinton was frustrating.”

McFarlane wasn’t alone in her experiences, either. “What was saddest to me, were the other Clinton supporters that I knew on campus, who would only talk about it if no one else was in earshot,” she said.

Now that Clinton has clinched the nomination, however, things have begun to change for McFarlane. “This fall, now that the primaries are over, I feel like my position is a bit more respected. I even saw someone else with a Hillary sticker on their laptop. That was huge.”

As for Hobayan—he’s not “here to preach.” But he is open about being a Trump supporter. When he first made his position clear to his classmates in his high school, a lot of people accused him of being a racist and a bigot. Others, however, respected his decision—not because it was a vote for Trump, but because it was a vote against Clinton.

The same is true on the flip-side, too. “Since the primary has ended, the majority of Bernie supporters that I see are quietly supporting Clinton, and it's mainly from an anti-Trump perspective,” said McFarlane. She does have a number of friends who previously supported Sanders but are now strongly backing Hillary. These students, however, seem to be in the minority, according to McFarlane.

The “anti” vote rather than the “for” vote seems to be an emerging trend in voter thought. Many are left unsure as to who to vote for, whether to vote third-party, or whether to vote at all.

To those who are on the fence—particularly liberals—McFarlane offers this: “Clinton may not be your ideal candidate, but she will certainly work with ‘the revolution’ more than Trump and his administration would.”

A more general plea, however, comes from Hobayan: “It’s a sacred right given to the American people,” he said. “Everyone needs to vote.”

Editor’s note: If you are voting third-party or choosing not to vote and are interested in offering your views to The Phoenix, please send a letter to ybakhtiyarova@gm.slc.edu.

Kate Bakhtiyarova '19

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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.

Support Animals Are Continuing to Arrive at SLC

Student Alex Biggs' two therapy cats. Photo courtesy of Alex Biggs

Student Alex Biggs' two therapy cats. Photo courtesy of Alex Biggs

In recent years, students at Sarah Lawrence may have begun to see a variety of animals on campus, such as cats and at least one hedgehog, with their fellow students. SLC students have begun to bring emotional support animals, also known as therapy animals, to live with them in school residences.

“It’s only been in the last couple of years that the idea of therapy animals on campus has come to light,” said Polly Waldman, Director of Disability Services. An official policy for therapy animals has only existed for the past year or so.

Therapy animals and service animals are not synonymous. Therapy animals are a much broader category and can be any species, so long as they are “an animal that provides therapeutic support or relieves a symptom of a documented disability,” said Waldman. Service animals, however, are limited to specially trained dogs (and in some cases miniature horses).

At SLC, therapy animals are restricted to an individual student’s room and no other buildings, and can only be taken outside with either a leash or a cage. The restriction are in place because of concerns about other students’ allergies and safety (since therapy animals do not have the same extensive training as service animals), although one of the requirements for students applying for therapy animals is that they be able to care for and control the animal and keep it on a leash outside of their own rooms.

Any school has the option to set its own rules regarding support animals that are not officially defined as service animals, beyond the legal requirement to allow them in a student’s own residence unit. Schools can allow support animals throughout campus as a general rule (including in buildings other than a student’s own dorm room), and they can also set rules on a case-by-case basis.

SLC’s restrictions about emotional support animals can sometimes cause difficulty for students. In one case, student Alex Biggs, who has two therapy cats and is considering getting a service dog, described an incident in the Tea Haus.

“I had Murphy (the cat who monitors my blood pressure) with me on a leash as protocol dictated and got fined,” Biggs explained. “They're really finagley about what specifically you can and can't do while not being specific about what is and isn't okay.” Students can experience days when bringing a support animal to class would make attending class more accessible for them, as Biggs describe having also experienced, but policy at Sarah Lawrence does not currently make that an option.

Therapy animals are often for “invisible disabilities,” or less-visible ones such as psychiatric disabilities, autism, and epilepsy, Waldman said. “A therapy animal is indispensable… they help in so many ways I didn’t even think of until I got them,” Biggs explained. They continued, “One of my cats helps alleviate my anxiety and can hear it when my blood pressure drops so he can actually sense when I'm about to have a seizure. This, of course, is important because if I don't know that they're coming then I can't do anything to keep me from passing out and hurting myself.”

Support animals can help people in a variety of situations. Biggs said, “I highly recommend an ESA for people with anxiety or generally have a hard time with priorities because it weirdly evens you out. Speaking from experience and speaking from watching someone with pretty severe depression and OCD absolutely blossom with a therapy animal.”

Fellow student Clare Szigethy, in discussing her plans to have a service dog with her on campus, described the benefits it will provide for her as “a freedom from fear.” Specifically, the dog would help with “going out in crowds” and “feeling safe if I have a panic attack in public, among other things.” Support animals can ease significant barriers to participation in the world, and specifically in life at SLC.

For a student to have a therapy animal, they must complete an Emotional Support Animal request form for Disability Services, and submit a form completed by a professional (such as a therapist or psychiatrist) specifically stating what services the animal would provide for the student. Waldman, for the Office of Disability Services, then decides whether to approve the request. If a student’s request is approved, Residence Life is informed and begins to figure out suitable accommodation for the student and their support animal on campus.

To have a service animal, as long as the student has a documented disability, the school must allow the service animal according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The process outside of interaction with the school administration is more complicated, however, for getting a service animal.

Szigethy said that for part of the process, “I had to get the clinician that worked with me for this spec condition to fill out a little paperwork, I submitted the paperwork as well as another person’s letter… about how it would help and the dog would be a good fit for me.”

Because service dog training can cost approximately $25,000, obtaining one also requires waiting for sufficient donations to be given to the organization providing the dog. The potential service dog owner can choose whether or not to participate in fundraising for the dog; doing so speeds up the process.

Under the Fair Housing Act, schools are required to allow both therapy and service animals in residence halls. Although graduate students have previously brought their service animals on campus at SLC, there has not yet been a service dog living with a student in on-campus housing.

While students with service animals can be asked two questions – “is this animal required because of a disability” and “what work or task has this animal been trained to perform” – if the reason is not self-evident, Waldman suggests that first people ask themselves a question: “why ask?” a student has a support animal, it can be assumed that they have a reason to have that animal with them. Additionally, because of the important role support animals play for their owners’ wellbeing, no one should assume they are entitled to time or interaction with another’s support animal.

Biggs explained, “Sometimes I'm a little uncomfortable with people just randomly messaging me like 'Can I hang out with your cat?' It's like, no? Who are you? It's one thing if I already offered but why would you just invite yourself to my house to come play with my cats? It's like, you wouldn't just show up at your disabled friend's place to take their meds.” According to Biggs, it can be disrespectful of a support animal’s owner to expect time with that animal as a source of entertainment, and distracting a support animal can compromise its ability to do its job.

For any who are interested in seeing more about support animals, one of Biggs’ cats, Murphy Tate Cheddar, has his own Facebook page. It was created by Biggs because, they explained, “A) I love having excuses to take pictures of my cats, B) I wanted to kind of create a motivational page that was dedicated to disabled people and, C) I wanted to sort of raise awareness about therapy animals in my own way [because if] people know other people who have them then there's less of a stigma, you know?”

Growing numbers of support animals on campus have the potential to make SLC a more welcoming and accessible place for those who need them.

J.M. Stewart '18

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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.

Reflections Post Campus Lockdown

An SLC public safety vehicle near the Mobil gas station in Yonkers. Photo credit: Ellie Brumbaum

An SLC public safety vehicle near the Mobil gas station in Yonkers. Photo credit: Ellie Brumbaum

The Sarah Lawrence community is accustomed to enjoying a certain amount of privacy and security. Students often take advantage of the campus’s convenient location to go into the city and into surrounding neighborhoods, and they can always come back to the safety of their campus. But rarely do elements of surrounding communities enter SLC’s bubble in any noticeable way. 

During the early evening of February 20th, however, a small group of unexpected intruders from a nearby Yonkers neighborhood infiltrated the peaceful campus. Campus safety personnel collaborated with Yonkers police to apprehend the uninvited visitors and a lockdown went into effect. Stuck inside their dorms and in various campus buildings with little information about the situation, students’ imaginations ran wild with speculation. 

When College Public Safety officers noticed increased police presence near the campus, a brief email was sent out to all students alerting them of the danger. The initial email/alert text instructing students to remain indoors contained little information, only warning that “Police are actively searching our area for criminals at large.” 

For most students, it started as a normal Saturday night. David Miller (‘16) and Annalissa Plumb (‘16) were at the Performing Arts Center watching plays when the lockdown was announced. 

“The first thing I thought was that it was a school-shooter situation,” said Miller. Though the student production of Pericles continued uninterrupted, the rumor-mill was churning. “Nobody was exactly sure what was happening...there were some people whispering in the audience.” 

Plumb was in a neighboring theatre watching Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them. “It actually added some excitement to the whole thing,” she said. “The actors were actually not phased at all by what was happening.” 

The red lights of squad cars, the sounds of police sirens and helicopters whirring overhead stirred up commotion within the dorms. Sofia Seidel (‘17) was leaving Hill House when she received the campus safety text instructing students to stay inside. 

“You could hear people having lockdown parties and making food. Nobody seemed too concerned…[My boyfriend’s] roommate thought there was a murderer and he was roaming the hallways looking for his next victim,” said Seidel, describing the scene. 

Another email sent after the campus lockdown ended, including more details about the incident. Local news outlets later reported that there had been a stabbing involving a group of teenagers from nearby neighborhoods. Two victims, both 17 years old, were sent to the hospital with stab wounds. Four male suspects fled the scene by car. Their vehicle was pulled over by police near the Mobil gas station on Kimball Avenue, after which the suspects fled by foot. Though three of the suspects were apprehended, the fourth “stabber,” fled towards Sarah Lawrence campus, leading police to search the area. 

Larry Hoffman, head of Campus Security and Public Safety, described the protocol for rare occurrences like the February 20th lockdown, saying, “Our Public Safety department was in constant communication with the police. Our officers gave the Yonkers Police officers access to locked areas of the campus and assisted them in searching for the suspects.” 

“As with all major incidents, we always do a ‘post mortem’ to look at what could be learned from the incident. This is still underway,” Hoffman commented. “Most people I spoke to about the lockdown said they really appreciated public safety’s efforts that night to keep them safe. They thanked me for having the campus go into lockdown and said they felt very safe with the large police and Public safety presence on campus.” 

Campus security guards who were on duty during the lockdown declined to comment.

Within the hour of the lockdown ending, social media was awash with tweets, yaks, and Facebook statuses about “the stabbers.” A threatening image of ‘the stabbers’ was collectively formed via social media and word of mouth: a dangerous knife-wielding adult male wearing a hoodie or a ski mask. Many students remain unaware that the perpetrators were, in reality, young men, likely more afraid than anyone on campus–not hardened criminals. 

Komozi Woodard, history professor at Sarah Lawrence, makes a connection between the strange occurrence and the unique geographical location of the SLC campus–situated between the affluent suburban town of Bronxville and the city of Yonkers, with its tumultuous history of social and racial strife, higher poverty rates and higher crime rates. 

“It’s a tale of two cities…You always have that town and gown conflict,” said Woodard. Woodard reminds us that the problems that plagued Yonkers are not too far in the past, saying, “White racists used to come up Mead Way here and throw rocks and bottles at inter-racial couples. This was happening as late as the nineties.” 

While students reveled in fantasies of stabbers and soaked in the excitement of danger, few seemed concerned with the realities faced by their neighboring communities.

Martin Blondet '16

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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.

America, the Beautiful: Notes From a Trump Rally

Crowds filling the Long Island Trump rally last week. Photo credit: Kate Bakhtiyarova

Crowds filling the Long Island Trump rally last week. Photo credit: Kate Bakhtiyarova

LONG ISLAND, NY—Coca-Cola, Billy Joel, and cops bearing submachine guns: all the things that make America great. If there’s anything about this hyper-patriotic combination that makes you nervous, don’t worry—you’re probably just not a real American. Luckily for all of us, doomed-and-damned-hipsters-drinking-rice-water-in-our-Tudor-minicastles, all hope is not lost. Hope is here, in all his leathery tangerine glory, right at the foot of our New York doorsteps. The one, the only.

The Donald.

That’s right. On Thurs. Apr. 6, Donald J. Trump graces the humble 16,000-person post-war suburb of Bethpage with his demagogue greatness. Over 10,000 people fill the 160,000 square foot floor of Grumman Studios; among them, about a dozen SLC students studying political science. A fascinating study it is—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. If you found yourself with other things to do that night, read on.

Let’s set the scene. 

Before even officially entering the venue, attendees of the rally are greeted with what looks like an animal pen for dissenters. Seeing that Trump’s rallies are privately funded by him, all protestors are asked or forced to keep their pesky free speech where nobody will hear it. Protests to DUMP TRUMP are effectively blocked from view by a surrounding cavalry containing presumably every single member of the Nassau County police force. 

Not pictured: horses, and rally attendees in passing yelling “SOCIALISTS!” as if the word itself is some kind of character insult. 

It is really the long walk to the entrance that begins to offer some foreshadowing for the populist paradise that awaits. On my particular trek, I am charmed with surrounding yells by young men to f*** Hillary, f*** Bernie, those f****ing liars, among other elegant vulgarities.  On the issue side of things, one attendee walking behind me is terse in justifying his support: 

Economically, Trump would save us.

Fair enough. Moving on.

Bags are carefully checked, so unfortunately it is at the TSA security scanner that I am forced to part ways with my Pub hand-fruit™ apple. I mourn the loss of my $2.25 nutrition as I enter the rally, staring into the face of death-by-annihilation as I walk by:

I rest my case.

Inside, it hits me: this is America, the beautiful. The sea of red dots promising to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, the stretchers rescuing those poor souls who faint from heat exhaustion in the pit, the high fashion of Ed Hardy bedazzled USA apparel—all of this, existing unapologetically as the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” play so loudly I can hear my heart beat in my head. 

Pretty f***ing weird, right? a man in an army-green jacket asks me as he passes by. So it is—my attempts at remaining incognito are evidently failing miserably. You can take the immigrant liberal out of Sarah Lawrence, but you can’t take the Sarah Lawrence out of the immigrant liberal. My suspicions are later confirmed when an undercover reporter from the Netherlands asks me what I am doing there. Apparently I, and the group of SLC students standing alongside me, do not look at all like the average Trump supporter. She is right, of course—to say the least, half of our group are people of color, who account for maybe a little less than half of the total POC population at the rally, by the way. That begs the question: what exactly does an average Trump supporter look like?

For all intents and purposes, an average supporter looks and acts like a normal human being. Statistically, they are white, lower-middle-class and uneducated, but I cannot stress enough that if you’ve ever been to a typical high school suburban football game, you have seen exactly what these people look like. Yes. You talk to them and you laugh with them. Picture this bona fide American setting and there you have the atmosphere of this event. Substitute the anger and intensity of sports rivalry for xenophobia and hate and it makes sense: it’s mob mentality, or populism—call it what you want. So comes the patriotism, the harassment, the mindless mechanical chanting. BUILD A WALL, by the way, sounds terrifyingly like KILL THEM ALL when enough people are shouting it. 

The crowd slightly parts to make way for a person being carried out on a stretcher, and it is in this moment, as the familiar upbeat tune of “Uptown Girl” makes its second wave around, that I step back to process the recursive nightmare unfolding before me. 

It is a disaster. 

It is reality.

To call the gathering a mob of thousands of angry people is not enough. It is the American political system turning on its head. The house of cards is collapsing, and Trump is not collapsing it on his own—rather, he is leading the way on a bridge to change while his followers set fire to the path behind him. As the French would say—après moi, le deluge: after me, comes the flood.

The average Trump voter is not the only Trump voter. An education and a moral compass are not mutually exclusive with a vote for Trump. From the conservative’s perspective, the choices are limited. Although the GOP convention may very well produce an entirely different nominee for the general election, as of now voters are suffocating between two men. Between sensationalist rhetoric and a proven record of being one of the most hated men in Washington, a vote for Trump over Cruz is understandable.

At the end of the day, Trump has expressed to the public a stance on seven issues at most, and his constant flip-flopping and denial of words that come directly out of his mouth calls into question just how set those stances are. Cruz, on the other hand, is deliberate and allegiant to an agenda that pushes the fate of the GOP to its right-winged extremes. Cruz is a lawyer; Trump is an entertainer. Cruz is, in his own words, not here to attend the party, but to get you home safe. Trump is, on the other hand, dancing on tables and inviting everybody else to jump up with him. 

Congress is in a stalemate and people are suffering. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with Trump’s masterful ability to invoke the mythology of American Providence and exceptionalism, to many he is that last measure. Or so it seems. One need only to look up at the hypnotized crowd staring lovingly while he delivers a sermon-like speech about the dangers of aliens, to see the severity of this trust. They feel, for the first time in a long time, understood. They are ready and willing to bow down and pledge their allegiance with baseball caps and a vision: make America great again.

Kate Bakhtiyarova '19

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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.

Last Things With Pianist Caleb Jaster

Music student Caleb Jaster performing. Photo credit: Vanilla Kalai Anandam

Music student Caleb Jaster performing. Photo credit: Vanilla Kalai Anandam

Someone once told me we are not last things. After everything is said and done and we are gone, the earth will be left with little company. Stones will remain. Stones and water— these are last things. Stones, water, dust, and vibrations. Vibrations survive everywhere— under our bare feet on cold ground, on the tips of our fingers, in body and in mind, in our ringing ears. They pulse in words and grandfather clocks, reverberating in the very air we breathe. Such a tension hung in the Saturday evening air of a room hosting two harpsichords, a full house— uncommon at most Marshall Field music recitals— and one single Ibach grand piano. 

The word vibration is defined as a mechanical phenomenon whereby oscillations, repetitive variations, occur about an equilibrium point. An equilibrium is defined as a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced; such is the bestowed power of vibrations which in turn create sound waves, music. Vibrations may survive everywhere but they thrive because of their various frequencies. A philosopher notes that “the word ‘war’ carries a whole different vibration than the word ‘peace’. The careful selection of words, helps to elevate our consciousness and resonate in higher frequencies.” But what happens when the vibrations of our words cannot reach an equilibrium point— when they cannot balance opposing forces?

English composer Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold once said, “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.” He walks through an audience of family, friends, and teachers, from near and far, to a swelling applause. A subtle nervous gulp, the first note of Alberto Ginastera’s Danza de la Moza Donosa, op. 2 no. 2 and within seconds, the room is at equilibrium, at ease. The polished gold pedals become continuations of his feet, the piano now an appendage of himself, as the tempo picks up with Beethoven’s “Tempest” from Piano Sonata no. 17, Op. 31. Heads nod along around me, in sync with the pianist, senior Caleb Jaster’s bobbing head. His eyes are closed. 

Halfway through the six-piece programme, his confidence is apparent as his head bobs ahead of the music in anticipation; practice has familiarized the notes to physical recognition. French composer and pianist Erik Satie reminds that, “the musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest.” Jaster (’16) is not burdened by ill-conceived notions of the pursuit of perfection or of “authentic performance”, a fortunate result of his unconventional training.          

Taught by his jazz pianist father in their New Hampshire home for four years, it wasn’t long before seven-year-old Caleb sought more structure and difficulty. He began studying with a day camp instructor, Noelle Beaudin, and enrolled in her newly founded summer camp, the Lake Winni Overnight Music Camp, the only non-competitive summer music and recreational camp for musicians ages ten to eighteen. Jaster now serves as a head counselor on the Sandwich, New Hampshire grounds. A program at the University of New Hampshire during high school gave him “a glimpse into the more advanced sort of typical conservatory world,” which facilitated for him an interest in music history, but, he says, not much else. 

He chose to attend Sarah Lawrence College to “get the conservatory setting [he] wanted without being part of the machine of classical music which [he] hates so much”–pursuing a study of the social sciences while maintaining the intensive music third with Professors Carsten Schmidt and Sung Rai Sohn. Jaster’s father is an alumnus of the College as well. Summing up his philosophy, he said he believes “music is meant to be played live and it’s always up to the performer to take his or her interpretation of a piece and perform that”. 

French exchange student musician Claire Quiry, who accompanied him on two pieces during his senior recital, played with tremendous passion and technique on the piano and the harpsichord, notes running parallel, playfully weaving in and out. Jaster’16 also speaks highly of his experiences playing with dedicated musicians and friends, in and out of chamber groups. His senior recital came to a resounding finale with Antonín Dvorák’s Lento Maestoso and Poco Adagio from the Piano Trio no. 4, Op. 90 “Dumky” with a reunion of his last chamber music recital trio. His accompaniment, cellist Baylie Petit’19 and violinist Elise LeBihan’19 represent the future of the talent the music department cultivates. 

The cello comes in at the top of the piece, Baylie Petit’s command and performance stunning while LeBihan’s violin blackens any peripheral distractions— the strings proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The last chance to see the trio reunited once more will be at the Wall to Wall Chamber Music concert at the end of the spring semester. Although we must bid goodbye to many talented musicians who will have their senior recitals in the upcoming weeks from April 3rd to May 7th, there is no cause for concern as to the future of Marshall Field’s results. Just imagine the rousing successes Petit’s and LeBihan’s senior recitals will be in 2019.

Vanilla Kalai Anandam '19

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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.