The independent student newspaper of Goucher College

Author

Olivia Baud

Olivia Baud has 14 articles published.

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Olivia Baud, a Senior at Goucher double-majoring in Spanish and International Relations, joined Quindecim in the spring of 2017 as a writer and now serves as Quindecim's Co-Editor-in-Chief. The interviews she conducted for a competition called National History Day led her to develop a passion for journalism, both in written, visual, and audio format. When she is not working on her next story, you will likely find her in the apiary tending to the honeybees, at the gym planning her next climbing project, or at her computer stressing over email etiquette.

Club Council and Individual Clubs Are Facing Deficits

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Photo Credit: Olivia Baud

Goucher’s Club Council budget is currently facing an estimated $13,000 deficit with $200 left to allocate to clubs for the Spring semester, and ten or more clubs are facing deficits of their own ranging from $5 to upwards of thousands of dollars, according to Club Council officers.

In an interview, Club Council Treasurer Ridwan Lawal, ‘20, said that clubs known by Club Council to be facing deficits are aware of their situation.

While the college has not published an official statement about these deficits at the time of publication, club leaders have been aware of a substantial decrease in Club Council funds since the end of the Fall 2018 semester when they petitioned for Spring 2019 funds (aka Spring Budgeting) and received only as much as half of the money asked “due to the lack of Funds that the Council has,” as stated in the response emails from the Club Council Administrator John Nobriga, ‘19.

Understanding the Club Council Budget

Club Council receives funding from the yearly Student Activity Fee, which was $188 per student as a part of tuition costs this academic year. Its yearly budget also includes takebacks from the previous academic year. Takebacks is the operation by which any money that was allocated by Club Council to specific clubs and was not used by those clubs is then put back into Club Council’s general account. “Usually around October we know exactly how much Club Council has to distribute,” Aisha Rivers, Director of Student Engagement said in an interview. Club Council usually begins allocating funds to clubs before it gets the precise number of how much it has to spend for the year, going off of an estimate based on the previous year’s takebacks.

Petitioning is the process whereby Club Council allocates funds from its general account to specific clubs. Clubs petition for a certain amount of money, then Club Council votes on whether to approve all, a portion, or none of the amount. The final decision is signed off by the Club Council Administrator.

The Club Council Treasurer brings the approved petitions to their weekly meetings with the Director of Student Engagement and fills out transfer forms to record the amounts that Club Council is transferring into individual club accounts. “I’ll sign off on [them] trusting that Club Council understands what money they have and what money they don’t have,” Rivers said. “If anything goes weird then I’ll follow up on it or we’ll investigate it and figure out if something is not right and get back to the student club.”

Clubs also submit payment forms to Club Council to make their transactions and/or to receive money for transactions. These forms, which may be check requests, contracts, reimbursements, etc. are also signed by a club’s Treasurer, the Club Council Treasurer, and the Director of Student Engagement.

The Club Council treasurer brings all of the signed forms to the Controller’s Office. Credit card statements from the GSG (Goucher Student Government) credit cards, which are often used by clubs to make Club Council approved transactions, are also received by the Controller’s Office independently of Club Council. The Controller then inputs the information from all of the paperwork into its Excel sheets and its online accounting system, keeping track of amounts spent by clubs and the amounts remaining in their accounts.

The Deficits- An Interconnected Problem

“Club Council started this year with a deficit of $13,000,” Goucher’s Controller Alex Antkowiak said in a Feb 19th email interview. “This caused no alarm as the portfolio of all GSG [Goucher Student Government] accounts was larger than the deficit and estimated takebacks again exceeded the deficit.” Club council usually runs into a deficit every academic year which is then balanced out by student organization fund surpluses.

However, in October of 2018 (according to 2018 Club Council Treasurer Brett Rapkin-Citrenbaum, ‘20) Club Council and the Controller’s Office became aware of inconsistencies in their accounting.

Club Council was “under the impression that [the starting value given to them by the Controller’s Office] was including the amount that we had already given to clubs,” Rapkin-Citrenbaum said, which was not the case. Consequently, Club Council thought it had more money to spend than was actually in their account.

“The two separate numbers that we have don’t help,” Lawal said in an interview held with him and Rivers. Since the Controller’s Office and Club Council’s financial records varied not only with regards to the Club Council budget but also individual club account budgets, the origins and the extent of the deficit were unknown. “Which is a big reason why we have to go back one or two years now,” Rivers said.

The heart of the discrepancies in financial records lies in twofold miscommunication and mismanagement. To begin, miscommunication and mismanagement occurred between and by the Controller’s Office and Club Council. There are differences in the type of data collected and recorded by Club Council versus the type of data collected and recorded by the Controller’s Office. “We have data that says somebody made a check request, somebody took money out of their club account, but we don’t have data that says a club went negative at this time.” Lawal said in a separate interview. “We just have to look back at when all of these transactions happened and figure out when clubs actually went into their deficit, and it’s been the hardest thing to find.” “Sometimes we scanned [a form] and didn’t upload it, or we just forgot to scan it,” Nobriga said. Rapkin-Citrenbaum said in the Fall that “[s]ome stuff fell through the cracks essentially.”

On their end, the Controller’s Office is responsible for collecting and recording the forms that Club Council sends to them in addition to credit card statements. Rapkin-Citrenbaum said that “[t]here was a lot of miscommunication and confusing information about what transfer forms had been submitted, and there’s a problem with transfer forms being submitted twice. Account numbers between GSG, SET, and Club council are similar so sometimes there’s some confusion.”

Additionally, the systems used to record financial information and the amount of experience using and understanding them differs across Club Council and the Controller’s Office. The Controller’s Office uses a software that aggregates all of the financial information from clubs and Club Council, and it is accustomed to working with complex data and making financial calculations. Club Council, on the other hand, keeps track of club account information by scanning forms and uploading them to Google Drive and has a much more basic understanding of the kinds of calculations made in the Controller’s Office. “We also have this new online platform on Inside Goucher of where we can see the clubs, like, sort of live, like what’s in their accounts,” John said. What’s more, the Controller’s office organizes information according to calendar years while Club Council organizes information according to academic years.

“We’re all in agreement that we need a better system of tracking and communication,” Rivers said.

Miscommunication and mismanagement also occurred between Club Council and clubs themselves. This both contributed to the deficits and the sudden drop of Club Council funding at the end of the Fall 2018 semester. According to Rapkin-Citrenbaum, retroactive payments were made for costs that Club Council had not anticipated: GSG’s credit card was billed for a yearly subscription that Fashion Club had forgotten about and hadn’t petitioned to renew funds for, and reimbursements had to be made to an instructor that Salsa Club had brought in to teach lessons before submitting paperwork. Club Council collectively agreed to match conference fundraising amounts without a cap, so when Model United Nations raised $2,500, much more than expected, Club Council was obliged to meet that amount.

“There’s not a lot of strong treasurers that keep track of their club finances. They may be spending an amount that they believe they have but they don’t,” John Nobriga, ‘19, said in an interview. “We have to look back into past years ‘cause it might have been a situation where the clubs for a while have been in deficit and they just kept that deficit in there and everytime they use club council funds it’s still a deficit that’s never balanced out,” said Lawal.

Until the sources of these clubs’ deficits are identified and their accounts balanced– i.e. until both Club Council and the Controller’s Office are sure of how much money these clubs received and how much they spent– takebacks cannot occur. Club Council is planning to make takebacks a semesterly rather than yearly process, but has had to delay the change this semester. Club Council is therefore left with $200 left to spend from the previous semester.

The Office of Student Engagement saw staff and student leadership changes in the Fall and Spring which has complicated the process of investigating the deficit. “Aisha became the director of Student Engagement, which had been Stacy [Cooper Patterson]’s job. Stacy couldn’t really hold our hand the whole time, and Aisha was adjusting to her new job,” Rapkin-Citrenbaum said. “I’m still trying to learn and understand how decisions are being made,” Rivers said. Lawal also took over as Club Council Treasurer in the Spring and had to adjust to his new role while catching up on the financial developments. “I just want to get to the bottom of [these deficits],” said Lawal. “We’ve finally gotten over the pettiness.” “There’s a lot of new [changes], so we’re excited, but we’re also scared,” Nobriga said.

Club Council Changes Moving Forward

While Club Council and the Controller’s Office are still trying to match up records and some club accounts are still facing deficits, “GSG’s [2019] treasurer[, Ridwan Lawal, ‘20,] and Student Life Staff (Aisha Rivers) are currently investigating the matter,” said Antkowiak.

“The bottom line is we need better and improved communication and tracking,” said Rivers. “We’re trying to create the most specific guidelines for treasurers just to make these things avoidable in the future,” said Lawal. Rivers, Lawal, and Nobriga all hope to use Club Council’s current situation as a learning experience for how to better advise clubs in the future on how to track and budget finances, diversify sources of funding, and, in Rivers’ words, “really [think] purposefully and intentionally about the programs that they’re putting on in the college community. Even though this part is challenging and tedious, I am excited to see good things manifesting out of it,” she said.

In the meantime, Lawal says that “If [clubs] have money in their Club Council [aka general] account, they should use it […] if they don’t [know whether their financial information is accurate or not], the first thing to do is ask how much is in their account […] whether it’s accurate or not it’s what we have, which means, again, just ask. And if there’s a situation where we would prefer them not to [use their Club Council funds] it we’ll let them know.”

Until the deficit is determined, club accounts are balanced, and takebacks occur, Club Council’s budget moving forward is still a big unknown.

Updates forthcoming.

Correction:

March 14th, 2019.

A previous version erroneously reported that Model UN had raised $25,000 for a conference. The number was adjusted to $2,500.

President Position Profile Released

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The introduction to the President Position Profile.

Around 5pm on February 25th, a President Position Profile was released to the public on Goucher College’s website. This comes as the latest development in a presidential search process conducted by the Presidential Search Committee, which has been advised by outside search firm Isaacson, Miller.

The profile will be used to recruit candidates in the next phase of the process, which will remain confidential. As Rebecca Swartz, Partner at Isaacson, Miller, stated in a February 15th email interview with The Quindecim, “[it] provides a picture of Goucher and the current institutional moment; and most importantly, it outlines the challenges and opportunities that the next President must lead Goucher in tackling.”

To determine what characteristics, challenges, and opportunities to highlight, several listening sessions were held. The first student listening session was held on December 9, initiated and facilitated by GSG Co-Presidents Samuel Anderson and Noah Block, both ‘21, with student representatives Marissa de La Viez ‘19 and Josiah Meekins ‘19 present. Two listening sessions were held over January Term on January 22nd, one exclusively with Goucher Student Government officers and representatives and the other with students. A final student listening session was held on January 31st at the start of the Spring semester.

Additionally, according to Swartz, listening sessions “[were] held with staff, faculty, students, alumnae/I, the Board of Trustees, and senior leadership.” An online survey was made available to the Goucher community from December 18th to February 8th.

More detailed background information may be found on the Goucher Presidential Search page as well as in four previous Quindecim articles: “Presidential Search Enters Confidential Phase,”Student Representatives of Presidential Search Committee Conduct Listening Session,” “Presidential Search Committee Formed,” and “President Bowen Announces Departure.”

 

Presidential Search Committee Formed

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On Tuesday, November 27th, Board of Trustees Chair Ruth Shapiro Lenrow (‘74) announced to students, faculty, and staff through an Office of Communications email blast that a Presidential Search Committee had been formed. The committee will ultimately be responsible for selecting Goucher’s next president.

Led by trustees Miriam Katowitz (’73) and Lisa Stromberg (’83), the committee is comprised of two students, Marissa de La Viez (‘19) and Josiah Meekins (19), two staff members, three faculty members, and 11 trustees, three of whom are members of the Alumnae & Alumni of Goucher College (AAGC).

“As I’ve been sharing with many recently, the process for selecting a new President is exclusively the Board’s responsibility, with assistance and input from the campus community,” Dean Brian Coker commented over email.

De La Viez and Meekins will be representing the student body as the committee selects a search firm and eventually reviews applicants. “The presidential search committee co-chairs (both Board of Trustees members) and the current Board chair considered graduating seniors who have been involved on campus to serve as student representatives on the committee,” Coker explained. “They then chose a few students to be interviewed, and my office assisted in coordinating the interviews. Once the interviews were complete, the committee co-chairs and the Board chair then selected two of the students who had interviewed to serve as the student representatives.”

“It was totally out of the blue and I felt so honored!” De La Viez said over an email. “I hope that we find somebody who is able to connect with the students, someone personable, someone who is capable of empathy and understanding different perspectives. I also think it would be important to have someone who works on enhancing Goucher with the assets we already have rather than just bringing in a bunch of shiny new things to grab attention.”

Meekins was equally as shocked to be selected to the committee, though he wishes that there were more opportunities for student input in the presidential search process. “Even though I’m honored and happy to be in this position […] two students can’t speak for the whole student body,” he explained in an interview. “Being an African American male on this search committee is exciting because I experience Goucher in different ways than other people experience the Goucher community. Goucher needs diversity in choosing the next President.” When asked what qualities he would be looking for in candidates, Meekins said transparency, leadership, and compassion were his top priorities. “We don’t want any miscommunication between the President and the student community. We want a president who listens to students and faculty […] I’d like to see a candidate put in place that’s going to, not just be a president, but embody what the Goucher community is about […] but also see it grow.”

“I am grateful to these incredibly dedicated community members for sharing their time and insight. We feel confident that the committee will embody a wide array of viewpoints and perspectives as we search to find the next leader of Goucher College,” Shapiro Lenrow stated in her email announcement.

As reported previously in The Quindecim, Shapiro Lenrow had announced on October 19th that President José Bowen would be stepping down as President on June 30, 2019. Her announcement was followed by an open meeting held by Coker (livestream video for which is available on The Quindecim’s Facebook page) in which he described the typical hiring process for colleges and universities: 1) the selection of a search firm as an applicant “recruiter” 2) the chosen firm’s creation of a position profile based on a listening campaign (potentially including a survey for students) and collected data 3) a preliminary round of interviews 4) the final interviews and 5) the final selection.

The committee plans on creating a more comprehensive timeline in the upcoming weeks and has planned to provide an update to the Goucher community prior to winter break.

BY OLIVIA BAUD AND NEVE LEVINSON

Goucher Transitions Students to Outlook

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Office365 online. Screenshot provided by Bill Leimbach.

Since 2017, Goucher has been transitioning the campus community to Microsoft’s increasingly popular software system: Office365.

New undergraduates and graduates in the spring of 2018 were the first students to take advantage of this software. Since then, new incoming students in the fall of 2018 have also been provided with Office365, which includes the email service Outlook among other traditional programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.

As a result of this transition, some students (those using Office365’s Outlook) have a different email address format than that of their peers (those using Gmail): Firstname.Lastname@goucher.edu for Outlook users as opposed to filas00#@mail.goucher.edu (first two letters of first name, first three letters of last name, and a 3-digit number starting with 00) for Gmail users.

Bill Leimbach, Vice President for Technology and Planning at Goucher, explained in an email, “colleges and universities have been implementing Office365 for their entire campus communities because of Office365’s improved functionality, improved security protection, and because of the use of Office365 in corporations and businesses.” Goucher decided to jump on the bandwagon.

In the summer of 2017, Goucher’s Information Technology began that transition with administration, faculty, and staff, whom had always used a different mailing system than students. At the time, they emailed with Microsoft Exchange, a program which ran on a dedicated server – a physical, on-campus computer used to store the program’s data. Office365, on the other hand, ran on a cloud server, meaning that it did not require the same hardware and offered more opportunities for increased, secure data storage.

Office365 also promised more opportunities for collaboration between campus bodies. The more Goucher members are transitioned to the same software, the easier it will be to share information, feedback, and comments. “As long as I’ve been here, Goucher has provided Microsoft Office for free to students,” Leimbach said in an interview. Yet sending Word, Excel, or Powerpoint files with or to Gmail accounts instead of sharing documents directly through the same system complicates that kind of exchange. Adopting the same mailing system across campus could eliminate the tedium of sending separate files and avoid potential problems accessing them.

The gradual transition to Office365 means that now, instead of software use differing between students and administration, faculty, and staff, the student body itself has been split into those who have been introduced to the new system and those who remain on Gmail. Many students do not know that some of their peers’ email addresses are formatted differently, leading to some confusion and uncertainty about unreceived emails. Additionally, documents, spreadsheets, and other files on Google can no longer be shared reliably and indiscriminately between all students – those using Office365 must have a separate Gmail account to be able to access, edit, and comment on Google files.

“The pro [about transitioning Goucher to Office365] is you get everybody using the same thing,” Leimbach said. “The con is change.” Goucher students may need to rough it out a few years before communication is completely patched up. When asked whether administration is considering offering Office365 beyond first year students, he responded, “We’re looking into that. We’re asking ourselves, ‘Should we or shouldn’t we? And how could that be done?’” While ideally all students would have been transitioned simultaneously, Leimbach and his team had to consider how old emails from students using Gmail would be moved to Outlook. “We had programs to do that for us,” he said of transitioning administration, faculty, and staff email history to Outlook. Since they had been using Microsoft software to begin with, the task had been easier to accomplish.

In the meantime, those with Outlook may want to consider using or creating a separate Gmail account to collaborate with Gmail-using students. Another option may be for those without Office365 to collaborate on Microsoft files instead of relying on Google’s services. Most importantly, students should keep these mailing system differences in mind when communicating with their professors and peers in order to avoid missed emails or problems working jointly on documents.

Underlying Issues Identified as Student Organizers Engage With Administration

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Student organizers and administrators discuss student demands during a Sept. 12th meeting. Pictured around the table from left to right: Maya Williams (Radical Student Union representative), Skyler O’Neil, Isabelle Turner, Interim Associate Dean of Students Nicole Johnson, Isabella Favazza, Dean of Students Brian Coker, President José Bowen, Vice President for Advancement Trishana Bowden, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Stephanie Coldren, Interim Provost Scott Sibley, Zoë Gilmore, Vice President for Finance and Administration Lyn Lochte, Faculty Chair Micah Webster, Oonagh Kligman, Noah Block (GSG representative), Associate Dean of Students for Community Life Stacy Cooper Patterson, and James Williams.

On August 15th, an email was sent out by the Office of Communications to Goucher students in which President José Bowen formally announced the results of a Program Prioritization Process (PPP). The email included important links to a list of future program changes and an FAQ page. While this newspaper had announced that a program prioritization process was taking place on May 18th of this year, for many students it was the first time that they had heard of Goucher’s plans for Academic Revitalization. In our Sep. 14th issue, The Quindecim reported on the town hall meeting that had occurred on Aug. 27th in response to these changes.

The town hall meeting was met with a huge turnout of more than fifty students in the small dining hall space, and within 24 hours The Quindecim‘s live video of the event had garnered more than 400 views from students, alumnae, and professors alike. “I’m impressed and very proud to have seen such a high turnout,” said Isabelle Turner, ’20, a student sitting on the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees. “I’m not surprised, though, because when it comes down to it, I think students care deeply about this place. “It implies a sort of camaraderie that – at Goucher – is rarely expressed overtly.”

Turner and several other students had been meeting and organizing a coordinated, student response to the PPP before the fall 2018 semester had even started. Aidan De Ricco, ’20, and Oonagh Kligman, ’20, both Residential Assistants (RA’s), had been sharing their feelings with one another about the announcement between trainings and talked about organizing a student led protest. “It affected me personally, it affected a lot of other students, and I wanted to be informed,” said De Ricco.

De Ricco and Kligman quickly connected with other concerned students on campus who felt a need to organize: Zoë Gilmore, ’21, India Fleming-Klink, ‘21, James Williams, ’19, Isabella Favazza, ’19, and Turner. After exchanging information through Facebook, they gathered in person and discussed the possibility of protesting Convocation. After feedback from other students they realized that such a move might alienate others affected by the PPP announcement, and that they needed to establish a space for wider student dialogue. Two meeting dates were set up to maximize availability: Sat., Aug. 25th and Sun., Aug. 26th. They were advertised on the Facebook class pages.

Both meetings saw more than 20 attendees, foreshadowing what would be an even more well-attended town hall meeting that Monday called upon by the student organizers. Those who showed over the weekend, including representatives of Goucher Student Government such as Samuel Anderson, ‘21, were asked to introduce themselves, then the opportunity was opened for emotional expression. The goal, organizers explained, was twofold: 1) to offer a space for healing and the practice of mutual care and 2) to offer a space for people to release their reactive energy ahead of the town hall so that they would subsequently ask clear, informed questions.

While the two-hour-long town hall meeting shifted tensely between measured, informative exchange and frustrated, accusatory outbursts, both student organizers and administrators saw its value. “We got to hear each other and what our needs are, and now we need to [address them],” President José Bowen said. “Needs are important, and if those needs are not being met, we need to work on that.”

Turner, impressed with the way in which Faculty Chair Micah Webster and Internal Review Team member Michael Curry addressed the crowd, saw their dialogue as a model for future conversations between administrators and students. “I think it was both moving and effective to speak to students with the respect and empathy and emotional intelligence that they did. They did a wonderful job of achieving the relational transparency we so need between student body and administration.”

Relational transparency was a key theme that came up throughout student organizing and the town hall meeting. Students expressed mistrust of the administration’s motives, feeling that information was being withheld from them for the sake of Goucher’s institutional reputation and survival. They felt left out of the changes happening at Goucher, particularly when it came to decision-making processes. Many wondered if the PPP had been necessary. “I think we needed the story of this process to be told to us completely and honestly,” Turner said.

Unfortunately, the question of how to tell a story becomes complicated when a college is responding to the needs and interests of multiple stakeholders. In an interview, Bowen said that “there is no financial crisis, but there will be if we don’t prepare.“ He added, “the Board [of Trustees] did mandate that we needed to have this year’s budget closer to balanced.” In a 2013 article, The New York Times states that “colleges have been on a borrowing spree […] nearly doubling the amount of debt they’ve taken on in the last decade to fix aging campuses, keep up with competitors and lure students with lavish amenities.” Consequently, as stated in a report published by the American Association of University Professors, “an administration contending with serious financial problems is likely to resist the wide circulation of budget figures. If bad news is lurking in the numbers, the institution’s situation might get worse if information becomes widely known and affects enrollment decisions and alumni giving.” “Nobody wants to air our dirty laundry,” said Bowen.

Reflecting a nationwide trend, Goucher has had to find creative ways of saving money while still aiming for gradual growth, Bowen explained. Facing increasing cost and a smaller pool of college-bound 18 year olds, administration identified four longer-term options: raising tuition, lowering financial aid, adding students, or subtracting services and programs. Since the board had pledged not to raise tuition above inflation, the first option was ruled out. The second option was not possible given Goucher’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and its need to attract more students. The third had already been attempted but had hit a maximum. The fourth option was left. As a result, the PPP was initiated.

Photo credit: Informational sheet shared by President José Bowen.

In making these budgetary calculations within the context of a competitive system of higher education, the Board of Trustees had played its role — ensuring intergenerational equity at Goucher and the institution’s long-term well-being. However, summarized by Bowen, “as a trustee, my focus is ten years from now [but] as a student my focus is now.” As Goucher announces and begins the process of phasing out majors, it must consider a number of different parties — students, prospective students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumnae — all of whom are invested in Goucher and an integral part of the community but whose immediate interests can be at odds.

With the PPP, students felt that their own needs and interests had been overlooked, sowing distrust and bitterness about the administration’s motives and their plans for the future. With the town hall meeting, student organizers attempted to bring student needs back to the forefront of administrative discussions. On their end, recognizing student blowback, administrators sought to repair a broken relationship.

Both parties agreed that the town hall meeting had limitations in achieving these objectives. Turner pointed to the often lengthy responses of panel members. Student organizers were unable to get to all of the questions that they had crafted for the panel. Those questions sought to uncover information that students felt had been withheld or obscured from them. “Relationships are harder to build in a town hall,” Bowen admitted. “It doesn’t allow for more in depth conversations. This has to be ongoing.” Student organizers, recognizing the necessity of more long-term and engaged conversation, concluded the town hall by demanding a follow-up meeting on Sep. 12th.

The Sep. 12th meeting was a pivotal moment in what has become an ongoing dialogue between student organizers and administrators to resolve student grievances. While the town hall had established an important precedent to conversation, the Sep. 12th meeting, held between seven student organizers and nine administrators, faculty, and staff members, unearthed a larger, systemic issue: the lack of an effective feedback structure between campus bodies. As a result, the PPP had come with significant miscommunication.

“More transparency at the beginning of the process would have been better,” Bowen admitted in the meeting, “but if person hears costs have to be cut, will there be more certainty or more fear?” “Goucher students can lean into uncertainty if they feel included,” Turner responded. All attendees, however, were unsure of exactly what that process of inclusion should look like. “In some ways, we thought having a student on the committee would resolve this issue,” Bowen said. Yet in a separate interview, Turner had claimed, “I have never been invited to speak to student morale at Trustees meetings.” Typically, GSG is relied upon to represent students and communicate information back to them, but over the years it has suffered a decline in student involvement and buy-in. “Students don’t get involved in these things because they don’t see anything coming from it,” said Webster.

Current GSG leadership recognizes their past shortcomings and hopes to make significant changes in the future by calling on students to rebuild and rebrand their structure. In the meantime, student organizers continue to seek to represent students as best as they can and push forward changes: better advertising of faculty meetings, better advertising of and more opportunities for student input in the Revitalization Process, and full disclosure of Goucher’s history in relation to slavery. Many more demands — outlined in a petition which garnered 481 student signatories — still need to be addressed. As Dean of Students Brian Coker put it, “higher ed is built on process.” This process may very well determine Goucher’s future.

Famous Ojibway Songwriter Speaks to Goucher

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Jody Gaskin fills the Hyman Forum with captivating melodies. Photo Credit: Olivia Baud

On November 16th and 17th, Goucher welcomed world-renown indigenous songwriter, Jody Gaskin. Adam Geller, ’18, who is known for his flute playing and drum circles on campus, applied for a social justice grant a couple of weeks before the event. Having gotten to know Gaskin by traveling the Powwow trail selling tea, he knew that he would be the perfect guest artist to familiarize Goucher students with native music and history.

On the night of the 16th, Gaskin performed a Native American rock concert in Merrick. He began with some storytelling followed by a couple of songs about his tribe and native history, and ended the evening with a hoop dance, using hoops to make shapes representing different animals. “I’ve been singin’ on a drum since I was in diapers,” he said in an informal interview, “and I’ve been dancing since I could walk.” Inspired by his mom, who was a “big rocker” and listened to a lot of Motown, Gaskin began playing the guitar at 14 and began writing songs off-the-batt. At 15, his mom bought him his first, acoustic guitar. Today, Gaskin has won numerous awards for his work as well as performed to a variety of audiences around the world.

For Gaskin, songwriting is about “telling a story, not just meaningless stories.” He explained that social justice songs were big in the 80’s but not so much today. On the 17th, during his roundtable discussion, he demonstrated just what good storytelling was about. “1,000 to 15,000 years, ago, a young boy was given a vision to leave,” he began. He recounted the origin story of his people, the Ojibway (often misnamed the Chippewa), explaining how their migration throughout the continent was at first shaped by the foresight of a boy given a prophecy by megis shells rising out of the water. The boy warned his people of a threat coming from the East and spoke of “a place where food grows on the water”: the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, where wild-rice grew in abundance. This area eventually became the capital of the Ojibway nation. Gaskin then interwove the origin story with a historical overview of Indian-White relations, explaining how colonists like Samuel D. Champlain “sent soldiers [to the Great Lakes region] to break s**t.” In 1763, a group of frontiersmen in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the Paxton Boys, shot Indians on-sight and hacked them to death in what became known as the Conestoga Massacre. “There’s a historic trauma that comes with that,” Gaskin said.

Native Americans’ feelings of anger and frustration are exacerbated by the fact that the US government continues to pose a threat to their existence and ways of life. “Life in the res sucked, sucked, still to this day!” Gaskin said. “They’ve got a bottomless bag of dope and a bottomless bag of booze.” Despite numerous instances of benevolence on the part of native peoples towards whites, their contributions to the US via military service, economic participation, etc., and a number of treaties signed with the US government, natives to this day must fight for basic rights. The events at Standing Rock are just one example. While officially recognized native groups retain reservation rights, mineral rights must be bought separately. Any oil or mineral company can drill beneath their lands unless they purchase those rights. What’s more, the US government has driven deep divides between groups through an uneven allocation of funds according to blood-ties. While some nations, like the Seminoles (who own every Hard Rock Cafe around the world) have been incredibly successful, others are struggling to make ends meet.

Gaskin’s event took place shortly before Thanksgiving, a holiday that tends to perpetuate a false narrative of Indian-White relations. His performance on the 16th, followed by his roundtable discussion on the 17th were a reminder that, while spending time with family is important, it is equally important maintain awareness about the persisting discrimination towards the Native American peoples. Just as easily as a story can be told, a story can be unwritten.

Faculty Insider: Dr. Gillian Starkey, Center for Psychology

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Dr. Gillian Starkey, who came on as Assistant Professor of Human Neuroscience for the Center for Psychology fall of 2016, seems to have fit right into the campus culture. Photo Credit: Olivia Baud

For new professors at Goucher, an adjustment period is not unusual — Goucher has its own unique and eclectic atmosphere that differentiates it from other colleges and universities. Yet Dr. Gillian Starkey, who came on as Assistant Professor of Human Neuroscience for the Center for Psychology fall of 2016, seems to have fit right into the campus culture. She is already highly regarded as a kind, patient, and inspiring mentor. At the request of several curious students, I sat down with her for an interview to learn more about her journey coming here and the work she engages in now.

Having graduated from Bryn Mawr with a Bachelor’s in Psychology with a concentration in Neural and Behavioral Sciences (’08), Dr. Starkey has experienced liberal arts education firsthand. Yet, to her, Goucher students have different priorities than students from many other, similar colleges. “I’ve only been here for three semesters and this stood out to me right away: Goucher students are much more interested in making a difference,” she told me. This was the kind of community she sought to be a part of when applying for her position. Students seemed less competitive, less centered on grades, and to have, in her words, “much more of a social justice orientation.” Moreover, faculty strove to foster students’ curiosity by seeking innovative approaches to learning. “When I was here for my interview, I asked a lot of faculty about the kind of classes that they taught. Some fell into traditional canon of psychology classes, but they had different names, and they used different, more creative methods of teaching,” she said.

Dr. Starkey’s interest in education predated her studies in neuroscience. It wasn’t until becoming an undergraduate student, however, that she began to consider teaching herself. One of her biology professors, a neuroscientist and philosopher, was a big influence. “He had us debating about the nature of consciousness on the first day of class,” she remarked. Her facial expression and body gestures recalled the astonishment she had felt at his impactful lessons. “I was just hooked.” After receiving her PhD in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience from Vanderbilt, she decided to go into teaching.

This semester, she is teaching both an Educational Neuroscience seminar and an Introduction to Psychology course. The Center tried to keep the Introduction to Psychology class small, capping it at around 22-24 students instead of 80-100 (as was the case in previous years), so Dr. Starkey has had more of an opportunity to integrate activities and experiments in her classes. She uses them as a tool for emphasizing student experience, connecting complex topics with real world issues. “Science can zoom in so closely to the level of a neuron and students can feel removed from that,” she explained to me. “For my classes, I really…I try to give things a context.”

Like the undergraduate professor who inspired her, Dr. Starkey tries to relay her passion  for neuroscience to her students. “There are so many mysterious things about the brain. It’s just always exciting. I feel like every week I just learn something new that just blows my mind,” she said. For her, it’s not just an exciting field, either. It is also a practical one. Neuroscience relates to many social justice issues, including educational inequity. “I always had an awareness about issues of privilege related to access to education,” she said. Both of her parents worked in Head Start schools where they developed math curricula. “Hearing them talk about that at home I think is what clued me in that my educational experience was a little bit different [than that of the kids they taught].” As a result, she often refers back to a key question in her coursework: how can educational neuroscience help explain the disadvantages and threats that children face as their brains develop, and how they should be addressed?

This is a question that she has also sought to answer through research, focusing primarily on the neural basis for children’s math development. Educational neuroscience often involves examining brain imagery through EEG — caps with electrodes worn by participants. Dr. Starkey has been conducting EEG research for 10 years, beginning with undergraduate school and continuing throughout her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Luckily, Goucher provides her a nice EEG setup which has allowed her to build on that research. She has thus had the opportunity to work with both undergraduates and elementary school children, who are tasked to play number-related computer games while their brain activity is recorded.

What she and her research partners have found is that pedagogical practices in education aren’t really capitalizing on brain development. “Many kids are starting school at 8 am or starting second languages in middle school that aren’t in line with findings in neuroscience,” she told me. In examining the development of math skills in elementary school children, “We found that basic number skills, just like the most fundamental things… a lot of kids cannot do. That goes on to severely impact them as they go onto higher level math.” She gave me an example with addition. Kids who continue to depend on their fingers to add numbers together throughout elementary school tend to struggle with more complex math problems down the road. “You’re building on fluency,” she explained. In light of these findings, her goal is to develop some training programs in math for kids who are coming from backgrounds in which their exposure to math was limited due to school resources or learning differences.

When she is not researching or teaching, Dr. Starkey enjoys spending time in the outdoors, whether it be by jogging, hiking, or even skiing. As a cook and food enthusiast, she takes advantage of the underrated food scene in Baltimore. She also “love love love[s] to read,” setting the goal for herself on any break from school to “read a book that has nothing to do with neuroscience.” After all, as she imparted to me, “neural connections that you don’t continue to use you will lose over time. But older brains can still pick up information.” It’s never too late to learn something new!

This Month In Goucher History

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View from Catherine Hooper Hall on the original campus. Photo credit: Goucher College Digital Archives

 

101 years ago, Goucher students met to discuss article ideas for the first November issue of the Goucher College Weekly – the very beginnings of yours truly, The Quindecim. In some ways, the topics they chose to write about reflected the same fall spirit we have today. Halloween was as much a cause for celebration then as it is now. Parties held at Goucher included bobbing for apples, dancing, “orchestral selections”, and refreshments. Yet, students at the time did not parade their costumes down Van Meter or scavenge through Heubeck. In fact, Van Meter and Heubeck Hall would not come to being until several decades later, when Goucher moved to its present location. Instead, the all-female student body celebrated Halloween in places like Vingolf Hall, part of an original campus located on 23rd and St. Paul Street, Baltimore. Examining one of The Q‘s earliest issues, I invite you to discover a universe both familiar and strange by traveling back to a Goucher of the past.

A politically charged environment defined November of 1916 as the U.S. held its 33rd presidential election. While women had not yet obtained suffrage in the country (the 19th Amendment would not be ratified until 1920), Goucher students expressed a strong civic spirit. A very successful campaign rally was organized in the college gymnasium, Catherine Hooper Hall, where anyone could hear “remnants of campaign songs and powerful yells of ‘Wilson, Wilson!’ and ‘Hughes, Hughes!’”. Goucher women impersonated the two main political candidates, Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic, presidential incumbent, and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican nominee, arguing their case and explaining their platform. Apparently, a few students supporting the Socialist and Prohibition nominees (Newspaper editor, Allan L Benson and ex-Governor of Louisiana, J. Frank Hanley, respectively) “united forces [and] loudly proclaimed the merits of both candidates, yelling with admirable impartiality, ‘Ice-cream, soda-water, ginger-ale, pop; Benson, Benson always on top;’ followed by, ‘Wipe out the booze hop, every one.’”

Women’s suffrage parade in Baltimore. Photo credit: Goucher College Digital Archives

Prohibition in particular shaped political discussions on campus. “About sixty undergraduates and ten members of the faculty” marched in a Prohibition parade that was held in Baltimore on November 4th. The Prohibition Party had been the first to accept women into its fold and had been used as a platform to both advance restrictions on the sale of alcohol and to advocate for women’s rights. In many ways, the two objectives overlapped- women of the early 20th century were largely confined to the home where the consequences of drunkenness were often experienced. It was with this intersection in mind that Dr. Hogue addressed Goucher women in the chapel, urging them to fight for prohibition. According to the results of a straw vote, 460 Goucher students supported prohibition and 46 were against it. Interestingly, in the same vote, 416 students claimed to support suffrage while 90 claimed to be opposed.

While Goucher women seemed preoccupied with domestic politics for the most part, one former student pointed to an important international political context. While the US would not officially join the Allies until 1917, WWI had long been underway in Europe. Hilda C Rodway, presumably a British student who had attended Goucher, hinted at this in a letter addressed to her friends and peers. “I am fully occupied at a military hospital in Liverpool… It certainly makes one realize what war is when one is surrounded all day with its awful results.”

It appears that, because war was still a whole ocean away, students remained blissfully ignorant of its devastation. Or at least, they avoided mentioning it in any article published in the November issue of 1916. Instead, the everyday topics covered by the rest of the articles in the issue communicated a sense of normality. One student wrote in complaint of the continuous reminders to comply with college rules, “We are so tired of listening to ‘Be good’ lectures!” A mysterious public service announcement on one page stated, “Goucher College Book Store. If you do not see what you want, ask William.” Finally, the issue ended with three separate sports features describing an apparently noteworthy defeat of the Senior class in a tennis match against the Junior class. Were it not for the corset ads interspersed between the articles, you could almost imagine yourself back in 2017.

Staying In-Style With Aubin

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Photo Credit: Aubin Niragira

Who: Aubin Niragira, ’20, from Jersey City, NY

Q: What are you wearing today, Aubin?

A: I’m wearing this sweater that’s not thick enough. And then these pants are from my dad, from like the 90s. It’s a little bit big on me but close enough. I actually waited quite some time to be able to wear his clothes. You can tell when clothes are pretty old and I kind of like that, but [my dad] prefers that I wear new clothes.

Q: Do you thrift?

A: Sometimes… it’s not as cheap as what you would think it would be because it’s become a trend, so now it’s more expensive. The other day I went to [a thrift store] in New York called L Train Vintage. I was expecting it to be cheap, but it was extremely expensive, so I got absolutely nothing.

Q: How have you been been dressing for these fluctuating temperatures?

A: I try to start the day off with more layers than I need. I try to stack up on layers and then slowly take them off. But I don’t always do that. Like I didn’t today. I do have this denim jacket that I could honestly wear every single day. It works with most things, and even if it’s hot out it still works. It’s pretty versatile.

Q: What inspires your fashion?

A: I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram. I feel like Instagram is somewhat about showing off, you know? Also just the way people pair things together is something I see on Instagram.

Q: Do you use Instagram to capture your own style?

A: It used to be about just picking up on fashion but now I’m using it to show off my style. It’s kind of stressful, actually, because then I hold myself up to a high standard – but I’m trying to do that less. I follow some random, really upscale brands like Versace. Like I could never buy their stuff, but the silhouette of things and the way that they pair things could apply to regular streetwear.

Q: If you could describe your style in one word, what would it be?

A: I would say, like lately, it would be pretty… simple or minimalistic, ’cause I’ve been wearing a lot of black and white. Which is different to what I used to wear because I used to wear a lot of bright colors. I didn’t notice that I was making the change until recently when I looked in my closet and thought I was just really good at matching, but then realized that I just had black and white clothes.

Q: Tell me about that fur coat that you wore at Gala last year.

A: I got it my Sophomore year of high school. It was actually just a joke at first. I went thrift shopping with my friends and it was around the time that Macklemore’s song came out. Then it ended up being very warm. I actually had kind of a scare ’cause I was smoking a cig and some ash got on it and it’s very flammable, but it ended up being fine. It’s not real fur – I got that question a lot.

A Study Abroad Experience In-Waiting

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“I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.

I imagine many of us come to Goucher because of the study abroad requirement. At least, that was the case for me. My senior year of high school was a period of uncertainty– it involved quite a bit of waiting and wondering what the future held. Yet the one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to learn more about the world by studying abroad. Today, I find myself in yet another period of uncertainty, but this time, curiously enough, the variable is the study abroad experience itself.
Before coming to Goucher, I envisioned study abroad as a mystical experience where every day would feel like a wonderful dream. I would forge ties with people who spoke a completely different language, learn about a completely different country like the back of my hand, and come back home with lots of pictures and warm and fuzzy memories. Now I find myself only a few months away from beginning my program in Seville, Spain, with a changed vision. The feeling of enchantment is still there, but I am much more apprehensive of the challenges I will likely face.
I had assumed that when the time came that I received the study abroad acceptance letter I would feel prepared. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is, I feel far from prepared. While I manage to express my ideas in Spanish more or less coherently in class, I think back to times when I have interacted with native speakers and have lost my language ability completely. This may partially be due to the fact that, as a bilingual constantly struggling to maintain my French accent, I am painfully aware of differences in language fluency. I worry that when I travel to Spain and meet my host family I will choke up. I question whether all of the vocabulary packed away in my mind will decide to reveal itself in the moments I need it most. Say it does, will I have the energy to recognize and use it 24/7?
I had also assumed that having grown up in both France and the US I would feel prepared for the cultural immersion of studying abroad. In my ignorance, I had thought to myself, Since Spain and France are both European countries, won’t it kind of be the same? After learning more about Spanish culture through my classes, through research, and by quizzing Goucher alumnae of the program, I realized that there would actually be multiple adjustments in my lifestyle, French or not. For one, while we do eat late lunches in France, they apparently are not nearly as large as the almuerzos of Spain. Second, the french eat late dinners and can go to bed quite late by American standards, but I may be expected to stay out till five in the morning in Sevilla and catch up on some z’s during the siestas.
Granted, these are all anxieties that may be founded on generalizations, and some cultural adjustments may end up becoming blessings. For example, I love to sleep (what college student doesn’t?), so I may come to appreciate afternoon naps. Apprehensions aside, I am anticipating an enjoyable study abroad experience overall. I am looking forward to engaging in interesting classes and with different people. I’m eager to explore the beautiful, historical city of Sevilla. I’m excited to learn whole new perspectives; I’m particularly curious to know what Spaniards think of American politics. As a foodie, I’m very excited to taste authentic tapas, cola de toro, and torrija.
My expectation, then, is not that my semester in Spain will be unpleasantly difficult, but rather that it may be more challenging than what I had originally thought. While new challenges can be intimidating, I am choosing to embrace this one because ultimately, I believe it will be worth it. The road ahead may be uncertain, but when I return I will have an even better story to tell – this I can be sure of!

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