Social probation sanctioned for 23 students
by Christina Schoen '00
All twenty-three Mount Holyoke students who took over Mary Lyon Hall last week have received a one-year social probation instead of a suspension.
Dean of Students Regina Mooney made the decision last Monday after each of the students had appealed their suspension.
According to a press release sent out by the office of communications, social probation means that if the students violate the Social Honor Code again within the next year, the College will suspend them.
The probation is taking effect immediately and will last for the students' next full year at the College. After one year the probation will end and the notice of probation will be removed from the students' records.
Laura Betts '99, one of the students who was in Mary Lyon, said, "I don't think we did anything wrong so I agree with the lessening of the penalty. I think we were abiding by the honor code."
Meghan Freed '98 was also issued a suspension after The Washington Post misquoted Freed as saying she was a spokesperson for the College. The Post retracted their statement, issuing a letter of apology to Freed, and the suspension was dropped.
The 23 students appealed to the dean of students office, rather than through the council on student affairs. According to Media Relations Director Kevin McCaffrey, although students met with Mooney on an individual basis, she may have consulted with other students and administrators in the process.
The notices of suspension came in light of the students' takeover of Mary Lyon Hall from approximately 3 pm on Monday, April 21 to 9:15 pm on Tuesday, April 22.
According to the press release, "Dean Mooney chose to reduce the action of suspension to social probation in an effort to move the entire college community beyond the events of the past week and one-half in a positive manner and to indicate the seriousness of the students' disruptive act."
Also in the press release, McCaffrey said, "The interests of both the students and the college community were taken into consideration during this confidential process of appeal. Dean Mooney felt it was of paramount importance to seek, after meeting with each student involved individually, to begin a process of healing for the campus and to reassert the College's commitment to remain a place where both reasoned and passionate discussion can take place on the serious issues."
Explaining the suspensions, McCaffrey cited the Community Responsibilities and Rights section of the Honor Code. The section states that "demonstration of opinion will not take forms that are coercive or seriously disruptive. Violence against persons or property cannot be allowed, nor can the action that interferes with the rights of others or prevents the orderly practice of the processes by which the College pursues its normal objectives, be tolerated indefinitely."
At Monday's SGA meeting, Senate Chair Amanda Sapir '99, who was a part of the take-over, disagreed with the Administration's call for "healing process," arguing that more discussion and disagreement are necessary. "Why is it, when women act, we are called radical?" Sapir asked.
Working toward unity
by Christina Schoen '00
In the aftermath of the student takeover of Mary Lyon Hall, communication and trust between students and the administration were the focal points of a forum held Tuesday night.
The event was scheduled by the administration to begin the "healing process" on campus.
Students, faculty and administrators commented on the actions that have been taken during the past two weeks. Students supportive of the takeover defended their actions. "I can't convince myself that if people hadn't been in that building, we would have gotten cultural space," Rachel Merkt '97 said.
"I came here to be a strong woman and change the world, and I did," Simon Ruchti '97 said.
Concerns over need-blind admissions were raised. "This policy is disservicing every woman in this college and any woman who may be accepted by this college," Liz Harvey '97 said.
President Creighton acknowledged that concerned students and the administration "have not been able to move towards common ground on need-sensitive."
Other students supported different tactics. "We can make progress through committees, meetings, and the institutional process. I've got the feeling that I'm a traitor because I didn't participate in the takeovers, but I've spent time in committees. That's activism too," Avery Ouellette '98 said.
Creighton said, "I am a great believer in the process. Through frustrating discussion and disagreements, we can work towards progress. we have to be realistic as well as idealists in a community of respect."
Some students disagreed. "Committees don't work. The administration doesn't make time to meet with the groups. I need to have a voice and not just air time," Carmen Lopez '97 said.
Students also expressed their lack of trust in the administration. "There is a definite lack of trust between students and the administration. Students need to take more responsibility, but the administration, staff, and faculty need to take steps to meeting us in the middle," Alicia Brody '97 said.
"There are certain rights we have as students, and I don't know that the administration recognizes those rights," Anne Kelson '99 said.
"I'm afraid the administration is going to silence us and cover us up once again. The administration's job is to be accountable to the students," Sungwon Park '98 said.
Future actions for progress were also discussed. "You can't start the healing when the operation is only half done," Rima Meadow '00 said.
"We need to stop finding blame because there is much blame to share," Assistant to the President for Educational and Academic Affairs Maddie Marquez said.
Students suggested writing an honor code that applies to students, faculty, and staff. "We all should be bound by a code of honor," President Creighton said.
Students also mentioned giving students more voting power on important issues and having the administration clarify changes made in documents such as the Educational Priorities Committee draft.
Music Professor Linda Laderach suggested "some way for students to get to know the administration, where students can trust them."
In an effort to improve communication, Ombudsperson Rochelle Calhoun invited any "enthusiastic persons interested in the issues" to meet with her to work together.
Psychology Professor Beverly Daniel-Tatum facilitated the forum which was held in Hooker Auditorium. Approximately seventy people attended.
Students discuss allocation of cultural space
by Becky Mazur '00
Students discussed opposing views on whether the College should designate one center for cultural space or allocate individual space for each cultural group at a forum held on April 23.
The forum was facilitated by Ombudsperson Rochelle Calhoun and began with members of the speech and debate society presenting mock arguments for and against separate space for individual cultural groups.
Melissa Devito '97, of the speech and debate society, argued for separate cultural spaces. She said cultural space offers minority groups safe space in which to seek support. Women need a place where "they don't have to explain anything," Devito said. "This society is not ideal. This campus is not idea."
Chair of the speech and debate society, Analisa Balares '98, argued against Devito. Balares asserted that there should be one cultural center to house spaces for all cultural groups. She voiced concern that all available cultural housing is away from the main part of campus. "Diversity is on the outskirts, it should be in the center of the Mount Holyoke community," Balares said.
"Just because you have cultural space does not mean that you are safe," Balares added and mentioned the recent defacing of the Japan House.
Balares also argued that separate cultural spaces could jeopardize issues of confidentiality. "If you had one LBA house, everyone who enters is potentially stigmatized. With a multicultural community house, confidentiality is helped."
Balares concluded by asking the audience on what grounds the College should designate cultural space. "Where do you draw the line? Once you've granted one organization a house, you can't stop. One center would help."
Both debaters emphasized that the positions each argued were not necessarily their own, but simply the ones they chose to present a case for.
About 50 students attended the forum and expressed their own opinions after the debaters had finished. Kim Luu '00 argued against he proposition of one cultural center. "When we have cultural space, it is not separate because it is still on campus," she said. "Each cultural group has their own identity," Luu added.
Blair McCracken '99 said she might feel uncomfortable entering a cultural house that contained only one organization. She said she would feel unwelcome by the fact that there would be very few people that she knew well.
Samira Cook '00 said "I came here because of the diversity. I know the world is not going to be black. I was comfortable [at Betty Shabazz] before I was comfortable here."
Head Resident of North Rockefeller Hall Ellie Walsh said "We need to broaden the definition of culture. Part of what we are about is redefining. The process of language is very important. You need to put things in the context of relations of power."
Tuyeni Mwampamba '00 said of the possibility that groups will get individual space "We never show the truth of our culture. We are going to have to be very responsible - we will have to take the responsibility to educate."
Srijana Das '99 said "This struggle has been going on for the last 25 years. What is the essence of Mount Holyoke women? Someone who has the courage to overcome her fear."
Letters to the Editors
Yes, the takeovers accomplished something. yes, some of the demands were met. But at what cost? Friendships ended and floormates stopped talking to each other. The campus is now deeply divided between those that supported the takeovers and those that did not. Any semblance of dialogue was ended; it became oppression by those who claim to be oppressed. Those who dared to voice a dissenting opinion were immediately labeled as homophobic, racist and classist, as if it were a single adjective.
At last night's SGA meeting the senate was told by Amanda Sapir '99 that we were the problem; we were not doing enough. Amanda Sapir told me the battle cannot be won while working within the system, but working within the system was never even tried. Where were these women all year? If the administration did not listen to us, it was because we were not talking. SGA has 19 committees that went largely unfilled this year. These are the student body's direct link to the faculty and administration. This is where the change occurs. This is where policy is made. There is no aspect of campus that SGA cannot impact and change. Does anyone else find it ironic that one of the masterminds of the building takeover, Fabiola Tafolla '97, our Vice President, was the individual responsible for filling committees?
Monday night I tried to question one of my leaders, but Amanda Sapir wasn't interested in listening. A woman who claims to be an honorable woman, a woman who claims to represent this community. Yet her actions and voice speak otherwise. She did not care what my concerns were. She did not want to listen and she was openly rude. Yet she took over a building because she claims that others do not listen to her voice. I would claim her attitude is one of the problems.
In the last week we lost more than the administration's respect, we lost each other. On the brink of the 100th anniversary of the Student Government Association, I am saddened to see women's voices silenced. The Mount Holyoke community has been wounded, and we cannot allow it to fester any longer.
The answer is not a band-aid, I agree, but we must heal. I challenge the student body to use the structure it already has before trying to invent a new one. SGA is about representing women, about having our voices heard, and about working together for the good of the Mount Holyoke community. It is about respectfully questioning each other, our student leaders, our faculty, our staff and our administration. All it requires is dialogue, patience, understanding and respect.
Katherine Gordon '99
Reprinted from a letter to President Creighton, April 24, 1997:
I have heard via media reports that you have summarily expelled a group of students who conducted a peaceful sit-in at Mary Lyon Hall to protest the College's plan to discontinue Mount Holyoke's "need blind" admissions policy.
A child of a single parent of modest means, I was able to attend Mount Holyoke (and graduate with honors) through a generous package of grants and loans. I am still (13 years later) paying off my undergraduate loans, on top of law school loans. Every month when I write that check, I remember with gratitude Mount Holyoke's support and faith in my potential. Therefore, with all due respect, I too, oppose a change in Mount Holyoke's need blind admissions policy.
As an attorney, I write to express my grave concerns over the way you have responded to student protest. I understand the administration's concern for order, but it appears that your draconian decision to suspend the students without due process is not in keeping with Mount Holyoke's history of community tolerance and open exchange of strongly held ideas.
Today, I write to you, I stand together with my fellow Mount Holyoke alumnae and the current students, upholding a proud tradition of peaceful protest. While I was a student at Mount Holyoke (1980-1984), students engaged in several protests against the college's investments in South Africa. I reported on the sit-ins for the student newspaper, hence I was not a participant. I learned what it meant for an individual to take a stand, as a matter of conscience.
Before I arrived at Mount Holyoke, I had lived a very sheltered life. I had not heard much about the political situation in South Africa or about the role of U.S. corporations and financial institutions in supporting the apartheid regime. While my Politics 101 course introduced me to these issues, it was the experience of reporting on the protests that made the concerns real for me. The student protesters spoke the truth, criticizing an administration that spoke of empowerment of women but financially supported a repressive, racist regime.
The protests presented an opportunity, which the administration had the foresight to recognize, to encourage community-wide discussion and rigorous thinking about personal and organizational responsibility. The administration did not embrace the protests, but neither did the president respond with repression. The then President Elizabeth Kennan expressed respect for their considered opinion, and thus provided an example to all of us of the responsible exercise of the considerable power of her office. This example of conscientious leadership made a strong impression on me as I began to prepare for a career challenging powerful institutions on behalf of the indigent and powerless in our society.
As I stated previously, I am still paying substantial student loans. Moreover, I am employed as a legal services attorney, a position which provides financial compensation substantially lower than industry standard. Nevertheless, each spring I send a contribution to Mount Holyoke. The check is not large by Mount Holyoke's standards, but it represents more than a token portion of my discretionary income. I have not yet written my check for this year, and will await the resolution of this situation before doing so. I hope that I do not have to divert my annual contribution to a legal defense fund for the students.
Lisa M. Otero '84