Spread the Word to End the Word: A Campus Coalition

A collaborative effort between student groups and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership (RCCL) is hoping to “Spread the Word to End the Word” on the River Campus this week. On Wednesday, March 4th, the student-driven coalition will ask the campus community to work towards mitigating the pejorative use of the R-word, “retard(ed),” as a starting point to facilitate acceptance and constructive dialogue featuring people-first language.

UR Special Olympics and the People First Initiative (PFI), two newly recognized student organizations, are partnering with RCCL, the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, and Transition Opportunities at UR (TOUR) to plan a number of events this coming week focused on this year’s communal principle of inclusion.

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The campaign is a national initiative sponsored by the Special Olympics organization. It recognizes the R-word as an exclusive, derogatory, and offensive term that has no place in colloquial language. While the word in question began as a clinical description, it has since come into use as a degrading pejorative for individuals with intellectual disabilities. STWTETW aims to reinforce people-first thinking that puts the person before the disability and establishes a new R-word: respect.

On Wednesday, March 4th the campaign will encourage students, staff, and faculty members to take the pledge to end the use of derisive language against the disability community.   Those who participate in the campaign are invited to sign a pledge banner, which will be located on the expression wall on the third floor of Wilson Commons throughout the week, and in Hirst Lounge on Wednesday from 11AM-2PM. STWTETW Day will also feature a whiteboard photo campaign and a “Post-Secret” style submission box in Hirst Lounge that will allow members of the campus community to share their personal stories and motivations for participating.

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In the days leading up to STWTETW Day, The People First Initiative, a student group that promotes inclusion of individuals with disabilities, is hosting an array of events as a part of Disability Awareness Week. On Monday, March 2nd, Teena Fitzroy of the Rochester Advocacy Center will host a talk in Morey 321 about her life with cerebral palsy. PFI has also organized a Career Panel for Disability-Related Fields, which will take place on Tuesday, March 3rd. Panelists include pediatric social worker Angela Huss of Golisano Children’s Hospital and music therapist Noa Elimelech. In addition, AmeriCorps Inclusion Specialist and Special Olympics gold medalist Cori Piels will be giving a presentation in Dewey 2110E on inclusion, disability, and the importance of respectful language on Tuesday, March 3rd at 8PM. All are welcome at these events.

While STETW Day has been an annual occurrence on campus, this is the first year that it has expanded to include such a wide variety of programming. RCCL assistant director Catherine Lewis is excited to see the traction the campaign gains with the passion and initiative of these new groups.

Lewis is excited to see all of the positive energy that drives student leaders to support this campaign. “When you want to make college an inclusive place, it’s not enough to just open the door,” says Lewis. She believes that both access and support for individuals with disability is the key to success.

March is also National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which calls for awareness of the strengths and achievements of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In line with New York’s recent move from the outdated “handicapped” symbol to the redesigned “access” logo, movements such as this stress people-first thinking and the primacy of personhood.

“Spread the Word to End the Word” Day is aiming to show that words and symbols matter. More importantly, it aims to prove that disability is an aspect of diversity and calls for universal respect.

For more information on the STWTETW campaign, visit their site at: http://www.r-word.org/

Sigma Chi: Sharing through Service

Guest Contributor – John Donner ‘16

The first time you see the village of Vermuja (which translates literally to “The Little Houses”), you are left speechless. Small streams of dirty water mixed with human waste trickle across the road, and trash is strewn throughout the fields. The only bathrooms in existence are those that have been built by Sigs past, and children often go to the bathroom in their own backyard. Disease spreads quickly, and infections run rampant when the kids play all day in unsanitary grounds. The problems of this village are not much different than the problems of civilizations from thousands of years ago, without the advancements of modern society that many take for granted.

Just as other basic waste disposal systems were made in the past to help fix these problems, the latrines that the Brothers of Sigma Chi construct help to mitigate the disease and poor living conditions that persist in the area. Using Peace Corps construction standards, each latrine is built to last 20 to 30 years, made with a mixture of stones, concrete rocks, cement, new wood and metal.  Over the last five years alone, the River Campus’ Gamma Pi chapter has sent over 30 brothers to the town of Don Juan in the Dominican Republic, and the program has raised over $65,000 to make construction possible.  To date, over 20 latrines have been built, in addition to a church and community center.  Work has also been done on various community homes.

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The University of Rochester Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (UR EWB) also decided to get involved in the Dominican Republic, building off of the 5-year commitment that the Gamma Pi chapter has made here. Two Brothers, past-consul Adam Hartman ’15 and Chandler Woo ’17, also members of UR EWB helped establish the connections with the group and Sigma Chi’s connections in Don Juan. This has sparked what is now a 5-year program for the Rossello Taller School community, where Brothers and engineers will design and implement a potable water system for the school. Built on solar power that will last generations, the system will be able to store up to 8,000 gallons of water. The project will use Dominican supplies and resources, stimulating the local economy.  It will be owned by the school community upon completion.

However, what Sigma Chi brings to these regions of the Dominican Republic goes further than the implementation of these projects. These service trips have established a social foothold in the community; a connection that seeks to build not only current but long-term benefits.

There is a Spanish word, compartir, which literally translates as “to share.”  In the Dominican Republic, this means to share life and community with one another. The Brothers have established a connection with the locals that falls in line with the meaning of compartir.  They have given their time and attention to the local people by actively integrating into the community and getting to know them and their culture.

Service trips are often thought of as a way of bringing value to others.  In reality, the Brothers get just as much out of it as they give. By design, the Brothers who go on these trips often gain valuable experiences, insights and connections. They grow as men, building character and growing an appreciation for those who are less fortunate. Experiences such as these build men who will leave a positive impact on the world and live a life that embodies the true values of Sigma Chi.

Going to Don Juan in the Dominican Republic is not unlike a true initiation week experience. Having no connection with anything outside of the small village where Brothers stay cultivates introspection and internal growth. The physical work hardens each individual, and the language barrier makes living with the locals a healthy challenge. Some Brothers use their free time to write, and there is even time set aside for group discussions, reflecting on their time in Don Juan and what they’ve seen or felt.

Justin Brennan ’17 reflects: “My housemother graciously gave me her bed so that I could sleep comfortably after a day of hard work. I don’t usually experience such generosity, and it really left an impact on me. This has made me want to pay this generosity forwards through genuine means rather than tossing money at organizations as we do back home.”

In developed nations people have options and choices in their lives that aren’t so readily available in third-world countries. Spending time with their host families, the Brothers grow to appreciate this privilege and what other amenities they have back in America: higher quality food and dependable facilities.  It is experiences like these that shape what impact a man will have on society later in life. Seeing these communities today can affect how people make decisions decades from now as leaders – decisions that could impact an entire country by helping to mitigate poverty.

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The missionary with whom we worked came to meet the educational, spiritual and physical needs of the region around Don Juan and has pushed for long-term solutions to poverty including the establishment of the Rosello Taller Primary School for over four hundred students. This project, working to assist communities with basic needs that we often take for granted, fits the growing vision of our Gamma Pi experiences. Sigma Chi has only just begun in the Dominican Republic, and there is active interest in and out of the Fraternity to continue to provide aid. The future is happening now – the impact is not just in the present; rather the circle of justice is widening towards progressive change.

One thing that this trip has taught our chapter is that true Sigma Chis don’t merely live their lives following the values of the Fraternity. Beyond that, they help others to live a life that embodies friendship, justice and learning. We strive to cultivate deep, reciprocal relationships, fight for what is morally and ethically right, and remain open to the opinions and ideas around us. Coming to the Dominican Republic has been a tremendous example of how anyone can lead by example to create a world where everyone follows these values.

Students’ Association stands against sexual assault

The University of Rochester Students’ Association Government is taking a stance against sexual assault by joining the “It’s On Us” campaign. The project stresses the collective responsibility of the community at large to stop sexual assault and to foster a safe and healthy culture at the University. The project urges students to work to change the current culture that allows for sexual violence.

Started as a campaign of Generation Progress and the White House, the initiative has found widespread support from college campuses across the nation, as well as collegiate organizations like The NCAA.  The “It’s On Us” campaign encourages students to take “the pledge,” which works to define sexual assault, highlight the importance of consent, and call for active intervention.

A new video released by the Students’ Association and University Communications features student leaders and administrative faculty encouraging a more active stance against sexual misconduct on campus.  On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, members of the SA Government will be tabling in Wilson Commons in order to promote the project’s launch and to raise awareness about sexual violence in all of its forms.

“It’s on us to foster a caring community of encouragement, compassion, and respect.”  That was the collaborative message relayed by students and staff alike in the video.

Efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault are not new to the River Campus.  UR Segway, a student organization, promotes a two-fold mission of providing education about sexual violence as well as support for survivors on campus.  The group sponsors the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, a march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  MOVE (Men Opposing Violence Everywhere) is dedicated to creating programming for men to talk about and stand against sexual assault.  MOVE regularly partners with College Feminists to schedule open discussions on topics regarding gender-based violence.

“Be the difference; take a stand,” urges senator Delvin Moody ’18.  The Students’ Association hopes that this campaign will galvanize the campus community to lend its support to survivors and actively work to stand against sexual violence.

For more information on the national “It’s on Us” campaign, visit: http://itsonus.org/.

What Clubs Are You In? Campus Clubs Galore

With over 250 different student organizations to choose from, it’s no wonder that UR undergrads are always so busy!  The many opportunities offered by the various clubs and sports provide the campus population an outlet to share their interests and channel their passions. Listed below are some examples of the diverse and involved undergrads that embody the quintessentially Rochester student body.

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Name: Alyssa Wolf
Major: Epidemiology
Class Year: 2015
“I’m in Blue Crew. Blue Crew is a school sports spirit organization. We go to sporting events, and we cheer a lot and scream.  We go to games for basketball, football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country.

Name: Nicholas Scacchetti
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2015
“I’m with the American Institute of Chemical Engineering here on campus. Right now, I’m heading up the ChemE car competition, where we build a small car to run in a competition that runs off a chemical reaction. We’re going to be building a hydrogen fuel cell car. We have all the parts and we’re putting it together right now.”

Name: Will Burns
Major: Business
Class Year: 2015
“I Rock Climb. I got into it when I was younger, and I wanted to continue it into college.”

Colleges against Cancer

Name: Julia Weisman
Major: Psychology and Business
Class Year: 2018
“The CAC (Colleges against Cancer) does a lot of advertising about certain types of cancer. Each month is focused on a different disease. We are focusing on lung and pediatric cancer; it was breast cancer month in October. We have lots of different events going on. We have had dinners in Douglass, and we do fun things on campus. We just like to promote awareness of the disease.”

Dance

Name: Dan Hoffman
Major: Music
Class Year: 2015
“I’m not in a club because I spend so much time dancing. That in itself is almost like an extracurricular thing, and I’m always choreographing and working with dancers in other classes. I just don’t have time for clubs.”

Name: Horacio Quezada
Major: Undeclared
Class Year: 2018
“I’m in a couple of them. One is called Salsita, which is part of a major organization called SALSA. It’s a leadership club, we learn about leadership positions. I’m also in Newman, which is the Catholic community here on campus. In Salsita, I’m the business manager.”

BPG

Name: Orkhan Abdullayev
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016 (Grad Student)
Club: BPG is the Ballet Performance Group, it is a club that is dedicated to preserving classical technique on campus, as well as allowing students to choreograph their own pieces in a variety of styles such as contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, and tap.

Name: Carola Figueroa
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2016
Club: Yes, I’m in Alpha Phi Omega, it’s a community service fraternity. I’m also in the Society of Undergraduate Biology Students. I joined APO because I love service.

Name: Evan Mclaughlin
Major: Computer Science
Class Year: 2016
“I’m in Chi Phi fraternity. I was the secretary last year which was fun. I did all the paper pushing in the background.”

Track & Field

Name: Bobbi Spiegel
Major: Health, Behavior, and Society
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity track team, and I’m on grass roots. I’m also involved in Jewish life, like Chabad and Hillel. For track, we have practice six days a week, because the NCAA mandates that we have one day off. Once we hit January 1st, we have a meet every weekend until the end of school. We actually stay past the end of school, because our meets go into late May/ early June. It’s a big dedication, since we also have weight room time. My main event is long jump. I also sprint and do triple jump.”

Name: Alex Samuelson
Major: Neuroscience and Political Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m in Delta Gamma, one of the sororities here on campus.  What we’re doing right now is supporting our philanthropy, which is Service for Sight, which supports blinded veterans who have been wounded, and also their families. We’re selling bracelets for the blinded veterans’ association, and later, we’re going to have an event, this coming Saturday, where we wrap gifts for the families of soldiers who are currently deployed.

mariachiName: Marcia Des Jardin
Major: Molecular Genetics
Class Year: 2015, 2016T5
“UR Mariachi is really cool group of people. I don’t speak Spanish at all, but I sing in Spanish. It’s a lot of fun to get out of your comfort zone, and get to know people you wouldn’t necessarily know before. You can play violin, guitar, bass, trumpet, flute, accordion – whatever you want, just come to our rehearsals on Wednesday at 4:30.”

Name: Molly Goldstein
Major: Music, BCS
Class Year: 2017
“This past weekend, the Frisbee team actually went to Montreal, and we had a tournament there. We did pretty well. We won a few games and had a lot of fun. It was a very rewarding experience with the team. It’s a nice balance between being very serious about our playing, but also having a good time on the field as well.”

Name: Hadley Brown
Major: English Language/Media Communications, Psychology
Class Year: 2015
“For U of R’s Alpha Phi organization, I’m actually the parental and alumni affairs coordinator, so I work a lot with outreach to the outside community, trying to bring them back to the school, get some school spirit, and to introduce the girls to some people they can network with after college.”

Name: Milagros Garcia
Major: Psychology, English language/Media Communications
Class Year: 2017
SALSA, the Spanish & Latino Students Association, is basically a community, you don’t have to be Hispanic of any type to join, basically, we just discuss issues that affect the Latin-American community as well as try to make ourselves known that we’re a part of campus.

Sihir

Name: Liza Gerwig
Major: BCS
Class Year: 2016
Sihir is the belly dancing group, and it’s really fun.  There’s a lot of cool, wacky people, and we do cool, fancy things, and put on nice shows.”

Name: Shelby Corning
Major: Environmental Science
Class Year: 2017
“I’m on the varsity Softball team. We went to nationals last spring for the first time in school history, which was really cool. It was a big step for the program. I’m a left fielder.”

Name: Rachel Milner
Major: Biology
Class Year: 2015
“The Strong Jugglers were formed in 1995, and we started off as a bunch of kids who went over to Strong Memorial Hospital to juggle for the patients. It’s evolved into a fine circus and performing arts organization. We like to perform on and off-campus. It’s very casual: anyone can join!”

Name: Duncan Graham
Major: Economics
Class Year: 2015
Mock Trial is a club that does what the name implies, we put on trials. There are attorneys, there are witnesses, and we compete with schools across the east coast and the south. We’re even thinking of going to California. We compete, we have attorneys, witnesses, and it’s a whole lot of fun.”

ArcheryName: Allison Colarusso
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2016
Archery right now: we shoot arrows… at targets.”

Name: Paul Gabrys
Major: Chemical Engineering
Class Year: 2014, 2015T5
Newman Community is where people who identify as Catholic want come together to grow as a community.”

 

A Spirit of Activism at Rochester

Guest Contributor–Natalie Ziegler

One of the major factors in my decision to come to Rochester was my admissions interview. I remember hearing that “a spirit of activism permeates this campus.” Even though the phrase was broad and relatively vague, it was enough to entice me.

I’d been active in social justice campaigns during high school and wanted to attend a school where I could pursue similar efforts. Plus, since so much of your time in college is spent in the company of others, I knew I wanted to attend a school where I’d find like-minded people with similar passions. I was happy to learn that Rochester is home to many students who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of others and are ready and motivated to act upon these concerns.

But it wasn’t until I arrived at Rochester and got involved that I became aware of the concrete examples of “a spirit of activism.” Luckily for me, the Rochester campus and community have countless manifestations of this ideal.

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The best example I’ve experienced thus far of a “spirit of activism,” and the one that essentially encompasses all other examples, is Rochester’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). According to the organization’s Facebook biography, SDS “is a nonpartisan student organization and activist network that seeks to create an educated community dedicated to engaging issues of social and economic justice … [it] also provides an open democratic forum to engage in discourse about topics they may not feel comfortable discussing in other spheres. SDS is not affiliated with any political party and welcomes people with political views across the spectrum.” Through this club, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with individuals of diverse backgrounds and beliefs about important issues. This semester alone, we’ve discussed and taken action on issues such as income inequality and fair wages for service workers at Rochester.

Through direct action and events such as panel discussions and lectures (often sponsored by SDS), students at Rochester have access to valuable conversations and have the chance to create change. These opportunities have been the highlights of many Rochester students’ college careers, including student activist and one of the leaders of SDS, Alsyha Alani, Class of 2015.

Alani participated very recently in peaceful protests planned by concerned students on campus regarding the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. Alani described the event, stating, “Students and members of the community mobilized to express our solidarity with Mike Brown. Coming together with my peers and allies, we chose to speak back…. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by people that, like you, are transforming their sadness and anger into meaningful and peaceful direct action.”

Alani’s words confirm the benefits of activism at Rochester: Students are able to express their views, form meaningful bonds, and unite and mobilize about issues that matter to them. President Seligman also supports such activism, stating, “We protect the rights of all in our University community to express their views. Peaceful assembly and expression of views are consistent with the school’s core value of academic freedom.”

And in a city such as Rochester, there’s good reason to unite and mobilize. As sophomore SDS member Christian Wooddell says, “2012 census numbers show nearly 28% of the population in the City of Rochester lives in poverty, and it’s easy to forget that in the luxury bubble of campus life. It is our duty as privileged students to engage in local issues and be activists for our communities.” Many students at Rochester are cognizant of the conditions in parts of the city, and their willingness to serve the community contributes to the spirit of activism on campus. In my short time here, I’ve come to be aware of and to appreciate this spirit, and I look forward to the next four years of continuing to embrace activism at Rochester through SDS and other venues.

Natalie Ziegler ’18, is a lover of literature and plans to major in English. She is also passionate about social justice, which has led her to pursue a double major in anthropology.

Via Natalie Ziegler/UROC Admissions Blog

Life as a Campus Times Editor

Guest Contributor–Jamie Rudd

When I wandered into the Campus Times office the Wednesday of my first official week of college, I had no idea how much the place would come to mean to me. A freshman straight out of Orientation, I had no way of knowing that the office would eventually feel like more of a home than my dorm room, that the staff would become some of my closest friends, or that CT would ultimately define my life at Rochester. All I knew was that I was interested in journalism, and what better way to see if I was cut out for the job than by joining the newspaper?

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A part of the University of Rochester since 1873, the Campus Times is a weekly, student-run publication. Typically 16 pages long, the paper is divided into news, opinions, features, humor, arts and entertainment, and sports. In addition to the section editors, our current 18-person staff includes photo, copy, and managing editors along with our illustrator, publisher, and editor in chief. While we editors do our fair share of writing, we are also supported by a substantial number of other student writers that volunteer their services to keep the paper going every week.

During my first semester, I wrote for several different sections and spent as many Wednesdays as I could in the office for production night—the 12-hour period when the staff comes together to lay out pages, fill them with content, and circulate them through several levels of editing before sending them to the publisher Thursday morning. Along with a number of other new freshmen, I did preliminary copy editing for the editors and headed home around 11 pm, leaving the staff to finish up the higher-level stuff.

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I enjoyed the work that I did for the CT those first few months, but I knew that what I really wanted to do was become an editor. So when the end of the semester rolled around, I ran for the position of 2014 features editor, and got it. While I knew that the position would be quite the time commitment, I admit I wasn’t quite prepared for how much it would consume my life—the constant emailing, worrying about my writers meeting their deadlines, worrying about having enough writers, struggling to get all my Thursday homework done by Tuesday, and of course, the constant sleep deprivation that comes from only getting approximately two to four hours of sleep every single Wednesday for a semester. The spring semester last year was rough to say the least.

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Thankfully, all the stressful (and at times, nearly insufferable) aspects of being a CT editor (did I mention the heartbreak of opening a newly published issue and spotting mistakes—often ones you know you fixed—all over your pages?), all the stuff that makes you question why in the world you’re putting yourself through this torture, are matched by just as many wonderful, exhilarating, and blissful moments that remind you why it’s all very much worth it.

Yes, coming up with article ideas each week and making sure they all get written can be tough. But it has made me to be so much more aware of and involved in the campus community, not to mention an expert networker and problem solver. Yes, production nights can go pretty late and sleep deprivation can make doing anything  on Thursdays pretty much impossible. But Wednesday nights are also one of the most fun parts of my week: hour upon hour spent with my friends listening to music, talking and laughing together, goofing off occasionally, and making more wonderful memories than we can count. Yes, there have been times when I’m not sure how I’ll be able to handle all the pressure. But I always have my features coeditor (and one of my closest friends) Dani right there with me to get our section through. What’s more, we got our jobs down to a science this semester and have been finishing our pages around midnight (rather than the typical 3:30 am completions last year).

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While working on the Campus Times might be the epitome of a love-hate relationship, at the end of the day, there’s a whole lot more love than anything else. It’s challenged me and made me grow in so many ways, and while it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to admit, I’m truly grateful that I walked into the office last September and decided to keep coming back.

Jamie Rudd ’17, is a sophomore studying English and Anthropology. Originally from a small town in Oregon, she is happiest when traveling, reading, writing, and listening (or making) music.  She currently a member of the Students Helping Honduras service group, secretary of the Undergraduate Anthropology Council, and features editor of the Campus Times newspaper.  

Via Jamie Rudd/URoc Admissions Blog

Medieval Merriment at the Boar’s Head Dinner

A royal procession of deans, professors, and student leaders marked the beginning of the Boar’s Head Dinner, the University of Rochester’s longest-running tradition, on Thursday, December 4th. The 80th annual River Campus feast offered students and faculty a medieval meal by transforming Douglass Dining Center into a royal court set for a feast — jesters included!

Regarded as one of the University’s biggest events for student life, this year’s upperclassman scrambled to secure a spot at the feast, with tickets selling out in just under an hour.

More than 600 attendees enjoyed the holiday dinner of turkey, roast pork, and apple stuffing as served by members of the campus a cappella groups. After Hours, the Midnight Ramblers, Roc Hakol, Vocal Point, and the YellowJackets also provided some musical entertainment, leading the captive, hungry audience in singing “The Boar’s Head Carol,” “The Gloucestershire Wassail,” “Figgy Pudding,” and “Let it Snow,” among other festive tunes. The caroling servers, dressed as lords and ladies, acted as the dinner’s medieval waitstaff.

The Strong Jugglers also offered entertainment as court jesters to the High Table, composed of deans, administrators, student leaders from the SA Government and Campus Activities Board, and a faculty member chosen as the Boar’s Head Reader.

This year, Professor of Chemistry Benjamin Hafensteiner provided his account of the Story of the Boar. Building off of the story of an Oxford student’s encounter with a wild boar, Hafensteiner’s remarks featured his own spin on the historic tale, adding in his own UR-centric references along the way.

Each year, a student organization that has positively impacted campus life receives the Boar’s Head Award. Past winners include the D’lions, ADITI, and MERT. GlobeMed, last year’s Boar’s Head recipient, had the honor of “passing on the boar” to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), an organization rooted in creating an educated community dedicated to engaging issues of social and economic justice

Through teach-ins, forums, and public panel discussions, SDS works to educate the campus on current issues, in both the global and campus communities. In the past year, the group has helped to advocate for fair wages for University workers through demonstrations, speak outs, and petitions. In May, they held a Community Field Day to bridge the gap between students of different backgrounds.

The evening wrapped up with another quintessentially Rochesterian tradition: the singing of the Genesee.  Asking all of the seniors to stand, Dean Burns honored those who will soon be wrapping up their last fall semester as undergraduate students.  A unique tradition providing merry hearts and full stomachs, the Boar’s Head Dinner is an experience that is not to be missed in your time at Rochester!

What’s Abuzz in A Cappella?

While most undergrads can get an earful of a cappella at semester shows in Strong Auditorium and the May Room, news about the plans of each group outside of their seasonal concerts sometimes goes unnoticed. Even with the fall a cappella season coming to a close, all four campus ensembles are still hard at work on fine tuning their harmonies for albums, competitions, and beyond!


After Hours, the University’s co-ed a cappella group, is starting off next semester with some “pitch perfect” plans.  On January 31st, the group will compete in the International Championship for Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), a judged event that showcases talent from campuses across the nation.  This will be the group’s fourth appearance at the show in the last five years.

Still reeling from the release of their most recent album, Duality, last spring, musical director John Queenan ’17 is excited to see what the future has in store for the group.

Duality features tracks from their award winning 2013 ICCA set. The recording project, which totaled over $15,000, was the culmination of two years of recording, mixing, and audio mastering.  Featuring modern hits from artists such as Justin Timberlake, David Guetta, Kelly Clarkson, and Imagine Dragons, the album also features an original composition from group member Alex Murray ’13.


The Midnight Ramblers recently wrapped up their latest semester show in Strong Auditorium, “The Rambling Dead.” While the zombified Ramblers took the stage for a concert experience they deemed “ever deader,” musical director Tom Downey ’14 hopes to keep the group fully awake and alive for their next project—a professionally recorded album.

This upcoming album will be the 11th in the Ramblers’ discography, which spans back to 1999.  The Ramblers are currently in the process of recording on campus, using the facilities of the Computer Studies Building, and hope to release the album at their upcoming spring concert on April 11th.  The album will feature some of the Rambler’s greatest hits from the past few years, bringing back old favorites that you won’t want to miss out on!

The Ramblers are also gearing up for their annual spring break tour.  With past years taking them to NYC, Nashville, and beyond.  They are excited to find out where their next musical adventure will take them.


The lovely ladies of Vocal Point hope to close out the semester with some holiday cheer through their annual winter show. With cookies, cocoa, and carols, the all-female ensemble will highlight the joy of the holidays despite the stress of the reading period.

Last year, the group sponsored Project EMPOWER, collaborating with a local middle school to provide musical and esteem-building workshops for the Young Women’s College Prep.  Looking to the future, Vocal Point plans to begin work on their next studio album in the spring semester.  Their last album, Daylight Again, was released in 2012.


This semester, the YellowJackets launched Project Forte, a philanthropic initiative aimed at bringing music and medicine together.  As a recipient of the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) Scholarship, Abhishek Sharma ’14 wanted to create opportunities for musicians on campus and in the local community to perform in hospitals and hospice facilities in the Greater Rochester area.

Sharma hopes to create a culture that promotes the use of music therapy in local health institutions. Music has been shown to increase quality of life for patients in medical settings by improving social and emotional well-being.  With Project Forte, the YellowJackets hope that the community is able to “note the difference” that music can make.

Last November, the YellowJackets released their 17th studio album, 50 Shades of Yellow.  Since then, they have also released a digital single, “Say Something,” a heartfelt rendition of A Great New World’s original.  Next year, the Jackets hope to release even more singles, leading up to their next album.

Debate Union: Travel & Quilted Trophies?

I sat down with sophomore Miriam Kohn, linguistics major and vice president of the U of R Debate Union. She shared with me her experience in the club so far.

 

Debate team is my primary time commitment. Some weeks, it’s probably even more than my classes!

I wandered into the debate office by accident. My high school didn’t have a debate team, so it was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. I kind of thought, “maybe I should do this in college,” but then I thought, “maybe I’m going to get way too into it,” and, surprise… that’s what happened!

Overall, it’s a very positive experience, so I stick around. I work hard at debate. I’m a hard-working person in general. I enjoy reading things like Foucault. It’s probably hyperbolic to say I spend more time on it than my classes, but I certainly do spend a lot of time on it.

None of my trophies are shiny

Miriam Debate clubI was in the novice bracket last year. I was a real novice, unlike a lot of people on the circuit who walk in [with high school experience].

There are three formats of debate; Rochester does two. With one of them, Policy, you don’t have novice eligibility if you do it in high school. The format I do primarily is British Parliamentary, or Worlds. You get a lot of people who take the novice eligibility [for Worlds], who are really not novices. They could have done four years of high school British Parliamentary.

I’ve had a fair amount of success on the circuit with my partner; we won the novice bracket of regionals, novice finals at North American championships, and we were semi-finalists at Northwest regionals. They didn’t have trophies for the novices. I wanted hardware! There was one trophy which I took home from my first tournament freshman year, at SUNY Binghamton. That was a quilted trophy; not so shiny.

Traveling debate

We travel a lot of places, primarily up and down the Northeast. That’s where a lot of the most competitive tournaments are. Nationals for USU, that’s United States Universities, are in Alaska this year. We were just up in Toronto, on Mel weekend, because the University of Toronto debating society at Hart House always hosts a big, really well respected tournament there. They actually hosted North Americans last year.  We also we went to Europe last year!

The rule is the team won’t send you anywhere it can’t afford. If you get chosen to go, then the team pays your way, The team pays your transportation, your hotel fees, and your tournament entry fees. It includes a few meals a day. That way debate’s not just an activity for those who can afford it.

It’s free to join

We have a really, really big alumni base. There are lots of lawyers and doctors; a lot of them tend to do pretty well and they help support us. We also get very generous support from the school. It used to be the students’ association, now we’re part of the athletic department. We get more money, more support, and more infrastructures. It’s free travel; you just have to make it clear that you actually care.

To be chosen to travel to the most competitive tournaments you have to put in the time. There are some that everyone gets traveled to, like the one on Halloween weekend. And there are some of them that everyone wants to go to, like Europe, and Florida. We sent some folks to Miami for the Pan-American championships, for those, you have to work harder.

Pinky and The Brain

We joke around all the time, all the time: I think “irreverent” would have to be the first adjective I’d go with to describe us.

We give each other stupid nicknames, and there are lots of running jokes. For example, two of the assistant coaches have been trying to convince my partner and myself that we should go for Halloween to this tournament we’re having as Pinky and The Brain. Apparently I’m Pinky. I mean, I would like to take over the world, but that’s a separate issue!

It’s really a very relaxed atmosphere; debate draws in a nice crowd of people. The coaches are wonderful. They work very hard to make the program accessible to everyone. They’re willing to help anyone out that cares to get help from them. That sets the tone as very welcoming.

Whether it’s trying to take over the world, or discussing the latest hot-button issues, the Debate Union is among the U of R’s strongest student organizations, with meetings on Monday and Thursday nights at 7:00.

How One Student Group is Changing the Conversation

Stigma and taboo. These are just two things that keep individuals suffering from mental illness from getting help.  “Active Minds” helps promotes mental health awareness, education, and advocacy on college campuses.

The U of R’s chapter of Active Minds hosts a variety of different events ranging from guest speakers to a variety of awareness drives throughout the year in order to encourage a dialogue about mental health between members of the campus community.  Chapter members help to facilitate these conversations as self-proclaimed “stigma fighters,” combating misconceptions and advocating for greater awareness of common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Stephanie Mejia ’15, a psychology major minoring in International Relations, and one of the club’s co-presidents, said one of her favorite events is an annual art exposition, named “HeART of Disorder.”  “We don’t just advocate for stomping out stigma; we show the community what stigma looks and feels like through various art forms,” she said.

“Prevent a Meltdown” was another program held last year that focused particularly on the student population.  Hosting an ice cream social right before finals week, one of the most stressful weeks of the semester, the student organization partnered with University Health Services in order to pair sweet treats with information about stress-reducing mechanisms.

The “Tell It to the Wall” campaign, which began at the end of October, offers the campus population an anonymous outlet to share their secrets and issues to the public.  The wall, displayed on the third floor of Wilson Commons, is composed of anonymously submitted posts, a la Post Secret.  That same week, Active Minds partnered again with UHS at the Sex and Chocolate Health Fair in order to discuss mental and sexual health.

Co-president Hayley Harnicher ’15, a psychology major with minors in mathematics and business, is thankful for the opportunities that Active Minds has provided her, from serving on the national Student Advisory Committee to the organization’s national office in Washington D.C.  Beyond this, however, she is most grateful for the clarity that the group’s mission provides.  “The best thing I have learned is that taking care of your mental health, or seeking help if needed, is not a weakness and should be commended,” she said.

The Rochester community is no stranger to the costs of overlooking mental health.  Last year, Samuel Freeling, an undergraduate student from Georgetown D.C., ended his own life.  Sam’s mother created Project S.A.M., which hosts an annual 5K Fun Run, the Spike Classic, to provide support and advocacy for those suffering from mental illnesses like depression.

Last year, the money raised by the Spike Classic was used to fund a new track at Sam’s high school, Georgetown Day High School.  This year, funds raised by the run and through their website will go to Active Minds.  The group plans to use the donation to bring the “Send Silence Packing” display to campus.

“It is important for our student group to support a cause that has directly impacted our peers and the U of R community,” said Mejia.  “It is up to us to continue the conversation and make the student body, faculty, staff, and administration aware of the cause and how we can make a difference in the future of our campus.”

If you, or someone you know, is struggling, the CARE Network exists to identify students who may be in distress. Simply fill out a CARE report or set up an appointment with University Counseling Services. Students can call 585-275-3113 to make an appointment.

Photo credit: Helga Weber/Flickr