Archive for November, 2006

Fowler-Finn named National Player of the Year

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Arden Farhi

Bears’ forward MeghanMarie Fowler-Finn was named National Player of the Year by earlier this week.

Fowler-Finn led the Bears to a 17-3 record, scoring eleven goals and adding one assist. For her career, the midfielder ranks 4th on the Bears’ all-time list with 39 goals.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized nationally,” said Fowler-Finn. “I am so proud to be a part of this amazing team and represent it as the national player of the year.”

The women’s soccer team ended its season with a 2-1 loss to Washington and Lee University in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. They finish the season ranked 11th in the nation.

The Bears defeated the eventual national champions of Wheaton College (Ill.) earlier this year 2-1.

In addition to the D3kicks honor, Fowler-Finn was named UAA conference player of the year, Academic All-America and appeared in Sports Illustrated in the Faces in the Crowd section.

Junior goalie Carrie Sear joined Fowler-Finn on the first-team all regional squad. Sear allowed just 6 goals in 20 appearances. Senior Talia Bucci earned second team honors.

Freshman Caryn Rosoff, who led the Bears in goals (12), was named freshman of the year in the UAA.

The Lady Soccer Bears graduate Fowler-Finn, Bucci and forward Sara Schroeder. “Losing the three seniors is obviously a big loss, but we still bring back a great group of players who have a lot of potential,” said Sear.

“The seniors have gotten the program to the point where we set a national championship as our goal.”

Volleyball team falls 3-2 in NCAA Championship match

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Carrie Jarka
Eitan Hochster

The ball fell neatly out of bounds after nearly being blocked by two defenders. The team jumped in celebration. This was the scene last week in the national championship match in Division III women’s volleyball. But for the second time in three years, Washington University was on the losing side of the celebration. It was the same scene in 2004 when Juniata College won their first national title and Wash. U. was trying to defend theirs.

“It is always disappointing to lose a game, especially to Juniata, who had already beat us once during the year,” said junior Haleigh Spencer. “The championship match was a great match and second place is still pretty good. However, we are a very competitive, focused team. Our goal was to win it all, so losing was very tough to take.”

While the season did not end as they had hoped, the Bears ended the year with a 38-2 record and their 18th UAA title. Ranked second all season, the Bears’ only losses were to Juniata. “We’re disappointed but not disheartened,” said head coach Rich Luenemann. “If you reflect back, Juniata beat us 3-1 earlier in the season, but we improved over the season and saw great improvement. Our team is very motivated.”

Other than the loss in the finals, there were many bright spots for the Bears throughout the year. The team graduated two first team All-Americans last season, so there were many questions entering the 2006 campaign. All queries were quickly answered, though, as the Bears jumped out to an 8-0 start before losing to Juniata in a heartbreaker on the road. The loss only encouraged the Bears as they rattled off 25 more wins before the NCAA tournament including a perfect 14-0 at home.

“We played very well throughout the entire tourney. Our 3-0 win over [University of Wisconsin at] Whitewater, the defending national champion, was a clinic in execution,” commented Luenemann. “The elite eight was the best string of matches I’ve ever seen a Bears team play.”

Several Bears players took home individual hardware this season. Senior middle hitter Whitney Smith and junior middle hitter Emilie Walk were each named to the All-Central Region and all-UAA first teams, in addition to garnering All-American honors. Junior outside hitter Haleigh Spencer earned Central Region honorable mention while taking home the conference MVP award, becoming only the 10th Bear to win the award.

Senior Amy Bommarito was named first team all-UAA and her 1,606 career digs rank third in school history.

The battle for the setter position resulted in dominant years for both sophomore Audra Janak and freshman Vicki Blood with Janak named to the All-Central Region first team, all-UAA second team, and both gaining first team All-American status. Blood was named the Central Region Freshman of the Year. Sophomore Nikki Morrison also collected first team All-Central Region, second team all-UAA, and third team All-American honors.

Rich Luenemann and his assistants were named the UAA coaching staff of the year as the Bears went unbeaten in conference play.

While the Bears are happy with their strong play in the finals, their dissatisfaction with the runner-up position reflects their goals and dominance throughout the regular season. Though the team will be graduating three important seniors, the lineup is loaded for next season behind blocking phenomenon Emilie Walk and the versatile Haleigh Spencer.

“We lose three great seniors who will be very hard to replace,” said Spencer. “Their leadership and commitment to the team was incredible, and I have a hard time imagining a season without them. However, we are returning a lot of great players and I have no doubt that everyone will step up and we will come back in that championship match.”

They will be joined by a solid line-up including Audra Janak, Vicki Blood, Ellen Bruegge and Alli Alberts as the Bears will likely be in the hunt for a National Championship yet again.

Injuries at the end of the season could plague the Bears in 2007. Juniors Ellen Bruegge and Emilie Walk have chronic back pain and UAA conference MVP Haleigh Spencer’s ailing shoulder prevented her from practicing the day of the championship. “We need to get healthy and brush up on the little things in the off season,” said Luenemann. “We need to see who can step in and fill the shoes of the seniors.”

All injuries and sadness aside, the Bears are poised for another successful season. The squad will look to avenge its championship loss.

“This was easily one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve ever had,” said Luenemann. “We had tremendous leadership from the captains and the team showed great energy, but it’s going to be a lot of fun next year too.”

International students bridging two worlds

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Sam Guzik
Jenny Shao

Although Washington University provides many programs and resources to aid international students as they acclimate to life in America, the constant deluge of cultural, social and academic pressures which international students face makes fitting in a difficult task.

International students represent about 1,300 members of the University community, slightly more than 300 of which are on the undergraduate level. This number is substantially less than that of some other universities, many of which boast a population of up to 25 percent international students.

“Washington University is a great school, but it is not entirely international-student-friendly,” said freshman Aparna Misra, who went to high school in Indonesia.

Misra explained that many American students do not understand why a foreigner would choose to study in the Midwest, far from major cities.

“People are always asking me ‘Why are you here?'” said Misra.

She feels that the lack of international presence at the University leads to the self-segregation of international students, both because of cultural differences and because American students perceive them as different.

Despite the efforts of the University to bridge the cultural gaps using pre-orientation programs, language barriers remain, making integration difficult.

“The biggest barrier is language. If you cannot understand what someone is saying, then that is a large barrier,” explained senior Mario Martinez, who came to the University from Honduras.

Although the majority of international students come from Asian countries like Korea and China, most face some difficulty adjusting to American culture, regardless of their country of origin.

“For the first six months, it is a constant negotiation between what [traditions] are most important to yourself and what you can compromise on,” said Martinez.

“Sometimes there are cultural issues,” said Kathy Steiner-Lang, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. “We try to get students involved in different types of activities so they can overcome that.”

Additionally, the Office of International Students runs a number of programs, such as the Host Family Program and the Speak English with Us program. These programs strive to integrate internationals into the St. Louis community by connecting them with local families.

The Host Family program brings together students and their host families on a one-on-one basis, once a month for meetings that can range from dinner to a trip to the theater. The Speak English with Us program allow students to practice their English skills once a week for an hour in an informal setting.

“These students may not have anyone nearby and we hope that through these programs they will be able to make connections in the community,” said Luisette Behmer, the coordinator of the Host Family Program.

“You can’t recreate your family network, but you surround yourself with friends,” said Martinez. “They become your support network.”

Many students take advantage of these programs, although participation is by application only because there is a limited number of students that can be accommodated.

“There are students who would benefit from this kind of program, but we don’t have enough volunteers,” said April Collins, a member of the Office of International Students.

At the same time, because of the difficult journeys that many international students take to get to the University, they often feel prepared for the academic aspects of college life.

“If we made it this far, it is because we are prepared,” said Martinez.

Despite the challenges life as an international student presents, it is possible for international students to become full members of the University community with the help of all the resources provided to them.

“There has to be an effort by the international students to adapt,” said Misra.

Cornerstone responds to the needs of disabled students

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Sara Rajaram

Washington University students who have learning disabilities have the possibility of receiving extra time on exams, but until recently, they may have had difficulty in receiving this accommodation on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Following a lawsuit by four medical school applicants with learning disorders, a California judge ruled on Nov. 3, 2006 that the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) must rewrite its rules for granting extended time on the MCAT in order to better accommodate the learning disabled.

At Washington University, students who are verified by Cornerstone’s Disability Resources for learning disabilities may request exam accommodations, such as extra time or a private testing room. If students are approved by Cornerstone, professors are required by University rules to provide the accommodations.

Disability Resources uses the Americans with Disabilities Act when determining which students are disabled. The Act states that a person is disabled if they have a “substantial limitation” which blocks them from doing a major life activity.

Students who are granted extra time will typically receive time and a half or double the time. Approximately 250 students are currently registered as learning disabled, and 200 of these students receive accommodations.

Disability Resources allows extra time for learning disabled students on the basis that a student with dyslexia or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder may be as competent in the subject matter that is tested as any other student but may not perform well due to the testing limits.

“Many of the students who use Cornerstone’s resources are very intellectually gifted and have very high IQs, but they are impaired in one subset of intelligence,” said Christine Street, assistant director of Disability Resources. “They may have a low reading speed, for example, so they need the extra time.”

University rules permit Cornerstone the authority to require professors to grant students with disabilities extra time.

“If documentation is submitted and approved, then the professor should not refuse to give extra time on an exam,” said Street. “Most professors are quite accommodating once they have received a letter from Cornerstone.”

In 1998, Jonathan Katz, professor of physics, was threatened with dismissal for refusing to grant eight of his students extended time on exams, even though they were approved for it by Cornerstone.

Following the hearing, Katz amended his testing rules by granting unlimited time to all of his students on all subsequent exams. He did so to avoid giving extended time to only the learning disabled, a practice which he believes provides an unfair advantage.

“Giving extra time is fundamentally dishonest. Frankly, it is institutionalized cheating,” said Katz. “I have no respect for those people; I only have contempt for the people who allow extra time and the people who take advantage of it.”

Similar to Disability Resources, the testing services of the MCAT, GRE, and LSAT require that students submit an evaluation by a mental health professional. The services define disabilities using the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

Two-thirds of those who take apply to have extra time on the MCAT are approved. Approximately 0.5 percent of test takers receive extended time on the MCAT for having a mental disability and typically receive time and half or double time.

Scores of those who take the GRE with extended time will not be flagged, but the scores of students who take the MCAT and LSAT with timing accommodations are reported to graduate schools as taken under nonstandard testing conditions.

“The AAMC flags those scores because of concerns regarding their comparability to scores achieved under standard testing conditions,” said an AAMC press release on Nov. 3, 2006.

The AAMC plans to appeal the California court’s decision because California law defines a disability more broadly than the federal definition. Thus, a rewrite of the rules to suit California law would result in a disparity with scores received by test-takers outside of California.

“If this court decision is upheld, students who take the MCAT in California and request accommodations would be held to a different standard than students in the rest of the country,” said Retha Sherrod, AAMC Director of Public Relations. “That outcome would not be fair, and it would undermine the usefulness of the MCAT.”

Campus cell phone coverage falls short

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Margy Levinson

Many students could not tell you their landline dorm numbers. With cell phone services constantly luring their customers with even bigger and better deals, it is rare not to find students walking through campus, sitting in their dorm or taking a study break to connect with those both near and far using their cell phones.

Although many rely so heavily on the use of their cell phones, students often receive sub par service from various providers.

“This is a no coverage zone [for Cingular],” said sophomore Annie Lascoe, who recently switched from Cingular to Verizon. “I got coverage on Forsyth but no coverage in Rutledge, only on my balcony.”

Others clearly have had different experiences.

“[I have] Cingular now and it’s better than Verizon was but it’s still not great,” said junior Margaux Buck, who lives off campus. “It’s fine off campus – it’s only on campus that I have issues.”

Buck noted that she does not get service anywhere close to Mallinckrodt.

All major providers, however, claim that the St. Louis area and, more specifically, the Washington University campus, should get some of the best coverage with calls bouncing from many towers.

“There’s a ton of towers we’re putting in just this year,” said Tara Traycoff, a spokesperson for Cingular. “We’re spending 50-some million dollars in the St. Louis area to build additional towers.”

Sprint is also developing new plans to improve service in St. Louis. In June 2005, they established a new network in St. Louis known as EV-DO, which was proposed to improve service.

“That has really made the St. Louis markets robust for us,” said Miles McMillan, the midwest media relations manager for Sprint Nextel. According to McMillan, these were mostly set up in large metropolitan areas.

In addition, a press release from Sprint declared that it would be putting in more than $41 million to improve service in St. Louis.

Not everyone on campus is getting the best service that all of the companies promise.

“I can’t really talk on my phone in dorms a lot. It cuts out a lot,” said sophomore Charlene Lai, who uses Verizon. “I’ve never had any problems [outside] but I’ve never gotten full service at school. When I go home there are more bars then I’ve ever had here.”

Lai’s Verizon service has been consistently poor since changing.

She intends to switch providers as soon as possible.

Lai had hoped to be able to use T-Mobile, which students claim have the best service on campus, but she still ran into problems.

“I know T-Mobile is really great on campus, but it doesn’t work at all at home. Verizon was the next best choice [at the time],” said Lai.

Lascoe, however, felt that her Verizon service was fairly effective throughout campus.

“It works wonderfully,” said Lascoe. “It works pretty much everywhere.”

Lascoe did run in to problems in changing her number when she switched away from Cingular. Saint Louis stores could only provide her with the Saint Louis area code, so her parents had to send her a new phone from their city.

Some companies, such as Sprint, try to provide support to those having difficulties.

“Sprint has an incredible tool. It’s called employees helping customers,” said McMillan. In general, he said that when customers are having problems, they provide a lot of information such as where and when the problem spots occur.

The information is then forwarded to a team of qualified people, “who specifically look at that area and get back to the person who has issued that problem.”

In the end, cell phone service for the University appears to be hit or miss.

Calls may be dropped, crackle with interference or be clear depending on whether the call is dialed from main campus or the South 40.

ResLife considers mixed-gender housing

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Laura Geggel

Male and female students may soon be able to live together in Washington University housing.

Residential Life (ResLife) sent out an online questionnaire to all undergraduates on Monday to determine if there is a need for mixed gender housing.

Mixed-gender housing would accomodate both transgender students and friends of opposite genders who wish to live together.

“We actually get more requests for mixed gender [from male and female students] than we do from transgender students,” said Rob Wild, associate director of ResLife and chair of Task Force, a group of students and faculty who brainstorm ways to improve the University housing system. “We usually get between five and ten groups each year that come forward and request mixed gender. They’re usually just friends from freshmen floors.”

ResLife does not currently have a mixed gender policy as all suites and apartments are limited to a single biological sex.

“We try to make reasonable accommodations for any student request. We certainly have had situations in the past where students came out and identified as transgender, and we’ve made accommodations for them,” said Wild.

ResLife, Student Union and Task Force are working together to make mixed-gender housing a campus reality. They approached the issue last year, but senior members in the administration thought that mixed-gender housing would be controversial and did not know if there was an immediate student need.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for students Justin Carroll said that Task Force raised an important issue regarding mixed-gender housing, but they “needed to spend more time making more students aware” before the University could consider such an option.

Task Force will share the ResLife survey results with the administration along with a report on mixed-gender housing. Depending on the results, the housing option could be determined as early as next semester.

The survey includes questions asking if students would take advantage of mixed-gender housing if it were available, if students would be supportive of mixed-gender housing and where, if such an option existed.

If mixed-gender housing were to be implemented, ResLife would set up a pilot program the first year in either the Village or Greenway.

“If it’s successful, [we would] expand it to all of our upperclassmen housing,” said Wild, adding that freshmen would not be eligible for mixed-gender housing.

Members of the Pride Alliance have worked closely with Task Force on the mixed-gender housing option.

“One of the reasons [transgender housing] gets wrapped up in the mixed-gender housing conversation is that offering a mixed-gender option would allow transgender students to have a safe housing option where they wouldn’t have to identify themselves as transgender,” said Wild.

One transgender student, who has requested anonymity, said that he felt unsure when asking ResLife to live with non-transgender men who were friends of his. “Currently ResLife will accommodate students on a case by case basis. But I didn’t know that then, so when I approached them about a mixed-gender housing situation, I had no idea what they were going to say or do. I did research to back up my feelings about it in case they said no,” said the anonymous student.

The student believes that if ResLife clarified their policies, students would reap greater benefits. They curently handle mixed-gender housing requests on a case by case basis.

“ResLife really needs to be more clear about their stance of helping students on a case by case basis. There might be more students who aren’t seeking them out, who don’t know that they can – not just for mixed-gender situations but for other housing situations as well,” said the student. Because the current system does not include mixed-gender housing, the student and his friends could not enter the housing lottery.

Instead, ResLife handled their case separately and placed them in a dorm before campus lottery results were released.

“It was very generous of them, but I do wish there were a formal policy,” said the student. “Everyone should be able to have that option as part of the lottery.”

More publicity and information, says the student, could help students take advantage of ResLife’s mixed-gender housing resources.

“A lot of transgender youth have issues with housing because they’re forced to house with folks they don’t identify with,” said Charles Janski, 2005 alum from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work. Janski manages a transgender youth group at the Health and Education for Youth and Young Adults Center in St. Louis.

Janski said that living with people identifying with another gender can be stressful, “especially for male to female youth. If they have to live with guys and they identify as a woman, that’s just as inappropriate for a woman who’s not transgender to be forced to live with a bunch of college guys.”

Mixed-gender housing is hardly a novel concept. Task Force has been interviewing peer universities with already existing mixed-gender housing programs. Case Western Reserve University in Ohio has operated co-ed suites and apartments for upperclassmen over the past eight years.

“What we find is students who live in co-ed suites or apartments are probably some of the most satisfied students in their living environment,” said Alma Sealine, associate director of Residential Life at Case Western.

There are concerns of heterosexual couples living together, but incidents in mixed gender suites tend to be rare.

“At the time of room selection, we do not ask if anybody is a couple,” said Sealine. “The students just put together their preference and if the suite is filled and everyone has said that they’ve agreed to it, then that’s all the information we ask for.”

Sealine said that some parents of prospective freshmen raise their eyebrows at Case Western information sessions, but they tend to let their children choose their own living situations.

“Mixed-gender housing isn’t just a transgender issue. It’s everybody’s issue. Students should be able to make choices about who they live with,” said the anonymous student. “If they can live off campus with whoever they choose regardless of gender, we should be able to do so on campus in a mature manner.”

Creepy crawling: exploring the campus’ tunnels

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Scott Fabricant
Eitan Hochster

The underground tunnels that crisscross campus are one of the more mysterious aspects of the University. Originally built to carry steam, power, and telecommunications lines to buildings during the World’s Fair, their time is slowly coming to an end.

The oldest of the tunnels connects the original power plant with Brookings and the other original buildings. The cramped space is constructed out of limestone, similar to most sewers. Water drips from the ceiling and thick mud cakes the floor. Most of the tunnel is pitch-black, though there are unscrewed naked bulbs scattered around. Valves stick out from the wall to poke a passerby in the stomach. The low ceilings seem designed to scalp unsuspecting victims. No rats in sight, oddly enough.

“I’ve never seen a live rat, but I’ve seen plenty of dead ones,” said Bob Nicholson, special projects engineer and University employee of 25 years.

One surprising fact about the old tunnel is the amount of graffiti peppering the walls. According to Nicholson, before construction removed much of the tunnel, it ran from the power plant all the way past Frat Row. Students could access the tunnel through a manhole cover, and would spray paint the walls during pledging or for other reasons.

Newer tunnels were constructed in the ’30s and ’60s. The newer tunnels are constructed out of concrete and are wider for easier access. Many of these tunnels are directly connected to the basements of the buildings. Some buildings, such as Duncker, are connected to the tunnels by way of a crawlspace that a small child would have trouble fitting through. Others, such as the Women’s Building, are connected by tunnels so crammed by tubes that contortionists would throw up their hands in frustration. While many students may wish to use the tunnels to commute to class during cold days, January Tunnel is the only user-friendly option.

“You wouldn’t want to have to climb a ladder to class,” said Nicholson.

In the basement of Rebstock Hall are water chillers, huge vats that make the power plant boilers look small. They circulate cold water throughout Danforth Campus. They are also so loud people can barely hear themselves speaking near them. On the wall just outside the door to the basement of Rebstock is a case for a breathing apparatus in case the fluids or gasses used in refrigeration, known as Freon, leak from the chillers. Unsettlingly, the case is empty.

Many of the old tunnels have been disrupted by construction. When new buildings are built, the steam, power and telecommunications lines are simply buried in the ground. This change has had some controversy. When something breaks, the tunnels are easier to access and fix. But tunnels are expensive to build.

“Now you’ve got to dig it up instead of walking to it. But the front-end costs for building the tunnel is a huge amount of money versus digging it. In some ways it would be easier to get to, but in some ways it would not,” said John Perkins, utility zones manager. “If you have a tunnel and you need to build a new building, then you need to construct a new tunnel to get around construction. There are pros and cons to both ways.”

With new construction, the age of underground tunnels on campus is coming to an end. No more fraternity spray paint. No more dead rats. No more horrible stench, thick mud and the inflicting of wounds from low ceilings and jutting out valves.

SU execs take charge in first 100 days

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Ben Sales
Eitan Hochster

“Wouldn’t life be easier if we didn’t have classes?” asked Senior Bobby Jones, considering how he could improve next semester as Student Union Vice President. Three months into the school year, the other SU executives agree.

“The four of us spend more time a week working on SU stuff than most people in the real world spend working on their jobs,” said SU President Paul Moinester of himself, Jones, Secretary Susan Land and Treasurer Jason Lewis. “I am amazed and proud to be working with them.”

While the executive board does have their work cut out for them, the learning curve for this year’s quartet was especially steep; coming in, the officers had only one year of Senate or Treasury experience between them. Billed as “outsiders,” the four pledged during their campaign to bring experience into SU from the Congress of the South 40, Class Councils, and the Social Programming Board, all while remaining open to students’ ideas.

As of now, the executives say, they have done well, creating resources for student groups, expanding University technology and improving environmental action on campus.

“So far we have had very good direction in accomplishing the things we wanted to accomplish when we started off this year,” said Moinester, a junior. “We did a good job in starting off quickly.”

Moinester bases his praise on, essentially, a series of meetings that have taken place over the past couple of months, where he has tried to create communication between groups in the same field.

“I have been working on putting everybody in the same room,” he said, referring to technology officials at the University. “We’re going to give them feedback about what needs to be changed.”

When talking about concrete accomplishments, however, Moinester geared his language more toward what SU is planning to do rather than what they have already done. And while Moinester pointed to Ruckus as a success, it was not his, but last year’s, administration that installed the music service.

The same holds true for SU’s environmental action this year, where, so far, there has been more talk than walk.

“The University has a desire to move forward,” said Moinester, after meeting with most of the student environmental groups. “We are looking for the potential to make the school carbon neutral. We want a larger scale picture of what the environmental issues are on campus.”

The vibe of things SU is “looking to accomplish” perpetuated itself with one notable exception. Between the work of Lewis and Land, SU has effectively morphed into an available resource for student groups. Lewis noted the increase in funds given to groups this year, and added that he has worked to create a space for student groups to work on campus.

“We are turning one of the rooms in Umrath into a computer center for groups that put out publications,” he said. “We are more proactive with the student groups.”

Lewis also saw Treasury as more efficient this year with its budgeting technique, being more communicative with groups’ leaders while giving them more funds.

“The Treasury has been a lot more open,” said Lewis. “They had a bit of a financial crisis last year, but this year Treasury has budgeted their funds better so there will be money throughout the year.”

Land, with her revamped Public Relations (PR) committee, has picked up where Lewis left off in terms of helping student groups. As secretary, she has changed PR from a do-nothing body to an organic think-tank set on creating novel ways for groups to get their messages out.

“Overall we have been doing well on establishing ourselves as a resource,” said Land. “We are kind of like a creative sounding board for marketing techniques but we can also help out with specific marketing campaigns. So far [groups] have been very responsive.”

Land, with her work on PR, has seemingly made good on one plank of her slate’s campaign platform of last April, transforming an ambitious vision of remodeling a committee into a reality that works well for the students while improving SU’s image.

The same cannot be said for Jones’s work with student groups. Last spring Jones spoke of applying his experience on the Social Programming Board to SU by, as he said in April, seeing the “campus come closer together as a unified community.” The realization of that goal, at this point, looks lacking. And while Jones has set up a meeting between several campus groups, he even seemed to retreat from his words of last spring.

“I am trying to remember what my platform was,” said Jones. “The issue of establishing new programs on campus when you work between groups seems counterproductive.”

Jones instead focused his words on the job he has done within SU, where his recruitment efforts have been more successful than in years past.

“We have a lot of new members,” he said. “We are sparking a little more interest in the younger crowd so that Student Union will have future representatives. It is good to get some freshmen and sophomores so they can make an impact on campus.”

Jones’s effectiveness in internal affairs is certainly a welcome trend, but it reflects a motif present within the SU executive that runs contrary to the mandate on which they were elected. The outsiders have, in practice, become another set of the old SU faithful, hesitant to make the changes in appearance that last year they seemed to embody, something that they are willing to admit.

“The ship was on the right path, and we wanted to keep it steady,” said Moinester, referring to last year’s SU officers. “Our predecessors did a great job so we did not have anything major to fix.”

One of those predecessors, former Speaker of the Senate Jeff Zove, echoed Moinester’s view of the consistency between this year and last, and was even critical of the lack of new ideas.

“I have not seen much change within Student Union this year,” said Zove, a senior. “It has been the continuation of similar initiatives. I like to see a leadership strive for improvement and for change and progress.”

Perhaps most shocking is how unapproachable the executives feel they are perceived to be, after running on a platform of greater openness on campus.

“It is harder than it seems,” said Moinester of keeping an approachable profile on campus. “It is not an issue of us being more popular, but I want students to come to me with more problems on campus.”

Moinester added, though, that some of the blame for SU’s lack of presence within the student body lies with the students themselves.

“We try to be as proactive as possible, but it is a matter of people following through with it,” he said. “We need to do as much as we can to be exposed, but it is also about the students being out there and willing to give feedback.”

Junior Benjy Katz, co-president of Amnesty International on campus, qualified Moinester’s claims by saying that though he has not seen much of the executives on campus, the dealings he has had with them have been satisfactory.

“Jason Lewis was pretty responsive,” he said. “I have had positive interactions with Paul Moinester so far.”

Despite their deficiency in approachability, the SU executives seemed to think that their best bet for the year’s remainder would be to stay the course, being pleased with the job they have done so far.

“There is always ambition to improve, I just do not have a concrete answer,” said Lewis of how he plans to do his job better. “I cannot think of a goal I have been going after. My goal is to make sure I am doing my job as I have so far.”

Why I’m thankful for course evaluations

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | David Song

I’m thankful for hot turkey and gravy at the dinner table, along with cranberries and cheesecake (pumpkin pie isn’t a big hit in my house). I’m thankful for Thanksgiving Day, the only day in months where I was able to sleep from three in the morning until five in the evening and not fall behind on classes. However, the thing for which I’m most thankful in this column is having filled out course evaluations.

That may sound all but entirely dorky, but I am serious. Really. When I consider middle school and high school, there wasn’t one chance to do anything like course evaluations, the closest thing being making a voluntary trip to the principal’s office – or to the teacher himself – to complain about the teaching, and even then I was certain I wouldn’t be getting much done. So, having been a student of par-for-the-course public schools, I relished filling out the course evaluations right after receiving the e-mail informing me that they were up online. (Of course, I’m not writing in a newspaper how I specifically rated my courses, so I’ll just say that every course I’m taking this semester, as well as every course taught by a professor under whom I still intend to take classes, has been at least very good and very enjoyable.)

For some classes, students are given an incentive to fill out evaluations; sometimes it’s an extra point on the final exam, or the dropping of the lowest quiz score. If I remember correctly from general chemistry lab last year, bonus points for the final exam increased proportionally to the number of students who submitted evaluations. I’m not certain, however, what incentive professors have themselves to provide these bonus points; maybe it’s something required for the large lecture classes, where there were always bonus points for submitting evaluations, or maybe it’s just a point of principle for them. But even if there is no incentive of that sort, I feel like submitting a course evaluation is rewarding in itself. On a charitable level, it ensures that for a course you’ve rated as poor there will be in the future improvements to the course and/or another, hopefully better, professor. (And remember that I have certainly not rated any of my current courses as poor.) On a more self-serving level, submitting course evaluations helps ensure that good professors – maybe to phrase it differently, good teacher – will remain to teach in the future. Last semester, on the last day of an English literature course, the class was asked to write an evaluation of the professor, who advised us to be serious about it; one of her previous students, apparently, had commented at length in the evaluation on the professor’s fashion sense. According to her – she was an assistant professor at the time, I think – these evaluations were taken seriously by the department.

Filling out course evaluations, I think, isn’t unlike voting. Realistically, you have little say in things, because your evaluation-vote can be negated by opposing evaluation-votes, and a single evaluation-vote cannot, unless in a particularly small course, tip the balance one way or another.

Nonetheless, some influence over the courses and professors is better than no influence. So – for those of you who have course evaluations yet to submit – go fill them out, and feel good for letting the system know how you think things are and how they should be. And then watch one of those funny thank-you-for-filling-out-your-course evaluations videos on YouTube.

David is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Happy complaintsgiving

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 | Dennis Sweeney

Hey! Did you see that article in Student Life the Friday before Thanksgiving break (“Editorial Board Thanksgiving,” Nov. 17, 2006)? Wasn’t it nice that they decided to focus on some positive things about life here in preparation for the holiday we celebrate in honor of all the luck we have had in life and of everything for which we should be grateful? Gosh, that StudLife. What a bunch.

I’m being sarcastic. Maybe you noticed that for each and every point of thankfulness there was a thing to be unthankful for. I may not be a math major over here, but I do believe that equals out to an unwavering zero of thankfulness. Granted, that’s higher than most people achieve on an average day. But on the one day of the year that Editorial Boards decide to be openly grateful for stuff, you’d think they could do better than that. I guess it’s necessary to never let down your guard; the world sucks, right, and you can’t let people forget it. Just because it’s Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that you have to be happy with what you have.

I hate to be positive, but my take on the matter is that people are a tad too negative sometimes. Editorial Boards everywhere focus on what sucks. They would, of course, be out of a job if their motto became, “We’re satisfied because everything is pretty decent these days,” but they would also not be such whiny jerks. Nonetheless, I guess we can accept the fact that published words have to be so combative and liberal and verbally blind to any well-established good in the world, because thankfulness doesn’t sell. But that does not give normal people an excuse to be negative, nor does it give StudLife permission to qualify every positive remark they make with an assurance that they are not satisfied.

It’s clear that people aren’t satisfied. That’s what the Editorial Boards are there for. Therefore, you personally need not have an abundantly negative outlook on life. In conversation, hints need not be un-subtley dropped that you disagree with the way the country is going, or with the general thought of conservative society, or with squirrels. Maybe it’s nice that we even can say that, or that we aren’t being physically forced into all-out slavery or that they are cute and solve the nut problem. You’re only going to be unhappy if you focus on just the negative.

Student Life may have been semi-comical in their approach to their Thanksgiving article, but I don’t care. When you’re being thankful, don’t be a cynical anti-holiday punk and destroy any remnant of authenticity still left in the practice. Not every particle of life is to be devoted to progress. Like anyone must be able to do to be happy, sometimes you have to look back on the progress you’ve made and the things you’ve been given by other people who have made progress. There’s no use doing anything ever if you’re not going to enjoy it for at least two seconds along the way.

It’s a bit macrocosmic, I’d say, but I wonder how many times mankind has stepped back to say, “Wow, we sure have raised the quality of life of a huge percentage of the human population. I’d like to be grateful for that. And sure, not everyone has what they need, and life is really bad for some people, but I’m going to take this second out of my life to just be grateful that at least someone, somewhere, has been able to sleep on a warm bed at night and get up in the morning and make himself an onion and cheese omelet on a functioning stove while looking at snow that, in fact, he thinks is pretty.” Probably not often, I think.

But yes, the Editorial Boards may continue to complain and be the essence of a progressive society, etc., etc., but let’s at least look behind us every once in a while and be grateful that life sucks just a little bit less than it did before. It’s like they say: complaining is nice, but sometimes you ought to rest on your laurels for a bit, too.

Dennis is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].