As dusk fell Oct. 20 on the Hill, the illumination came from flickering candles, and the message was one of tolerance and respect from more than 300 Hamiltonians who gathered in a moving show of unity in the face of bigotry. The march and vigil, sponsored by the Muslim Student Association and the College’s Bias Incident Response Team, preceded the showing on campus of The Anatomy of Hate: A Dialogue for Hope, an award-winning film by director Mike Ramsdell. But the more immediate inspiration for the gathering was several recent acts of intolerance, including vandalism at the Muslim prayer room in the Chapel.
“There have been a lot of people not thinking about their actions, not really respecting other people,” Amanda Tarnate ’11 told The Spectator. “The vigil is a good way to counteract that.” Some feared that the showing of The Anatomy of Hate might also bring a confrontation with members of the Westboro Baptist Church, an independent group documented in the film and best known for picketing military funerals in the belief that war deaths are God’s retribution for homosexuality. Members of the church threatened to protest the film but did not show.
Ultimately, the gathering was not so much about a particular issue as it was about the College as a community of inclusion, Alia Rehman ’11, president of the Muslim Student Association, told The Spectator. “The march is not just to support the Muslim students; it is to show support for all religions present on campus,” she told News Editor Emily Gerston ’11. “I hope that this march will send the message that there are all different religions on this campus, and that as a community here at Hamilton, we support one another.”
The Hamilton community and the College’s Entrepreneur Club were the focus of an Oct. 20 New York Times feature, “In a Digital Age, Students Still Cling to Paper Textbooks.” Exploring what has become a chronic debate in higher education — the cost of textbooks and competition from digital books and Web-based learning — the article highlighted the club’s successful efforts to create getmytextbooks.org, a site on which students can sell or rent textbooks to other students while effectively eliminating costs associated with middlemen.
Several students, members of the club as well as users of the site, were quoted in the article that featured a photograph of club President Jason Mariasis ’12. One theme: Despite the costs, there’s still a place for conventional textbooks on campus, especially if groups like Hamilton’s can minimize the sticker shock for student buyers. “The screen won’t go blank,” Faton Begolli ’13 told the Times, speaking of the superiority of paper and ink. “There can’t be a virus. It wouldn’t be the same without books. They’ve defined ‘academia’ for a thousand years.”
Digital books still make up just 3 percent of textbook sales, according to figures by the National Association of College Stores cited by the Times, and Mariasis and the Entrepreneur Club — otherwise known as the E-Club — caught the Times’ attention despite selling only a few dozen books by mid-September. But getmybooks.org is expanding quickly to other campuses, Mariasis is bullish about the future, and the deceptively simple innovation of using the Web to market used old-school textbooks is clearly an idea whose time has come; two days after the Times feature appeared, the Student Public Interest Research Groups sponsored a national Affordable Textbooks Day of Action. “Most students are irritated, frustrated” by spiraling costs, Mariasis said at the time of the website’s launch in May.
Beyond hitting the books, Times reporter Lisa W. Foderaro threw the Hill a bouquet, describing Hamilton in the lead of her feature as “a poster-perfect liberal arts school.”
With the most diverse class in history arriving in August — 22 percent of the members of the Class of 2014 are multicultural students from the United States, 4.5 percent are international students and 15 percent are from the first generation of their families to go to college (see “By the Numbers” on page 8) — Hamilton is working not only to reflect a changing world but also to prepare students for it.
“Our students are going to be in jobs where the workforce will be international, with diverse backgrounds,” says the College’s chief diversity officer, Professor of Africana Studies Donald Carter. “It will be important for students to embrace the world’s many differences.”
Carter was appointed to the newly created post over the summer by President Joan Hinde Stewart in order to “help us build the most inclusive and welcoming community possible,” according to the president’s announcement. An anthropologist who has also taught at Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Dickinson College, Carter grew up in Oakland, Calif., where he lived “cheek and jowl” with people of many different backgrounds, and he brings to the post a body of scholarship in culture, race and “invisible populations.”
One task, Carter says, will be to broaden the context in which we think about diversity by bringing to campus representatives from different fields — the military and the corporate world, for example — that have developed successful models of inclusion. “We are not alone,” he says. “These challenges happen everywhere.”
Vivyan Adair, the Elihu Root Peace Fund Associate Professor of Women’s Studies, was among five community college alumni presented with the Outstanding Alumni Award at the 90th annual convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in Seattle. The award is presented annually to individuals who have excelled in their field and given back to the community.
Adair founded the ACCESS Project at Hamilton in 2000 and was the 2004 CASE/Carnegie Foundation New York State Teacher of the Year. Once a victim of domestic violence, she enrolled in North Seattle Community College, where she found the support she needed to begin rebuilding a life for herself and her infant daughter. Says Adair, “I often feel I was reborn at North Seattle Community College, I came alive. But it also became my family – a family in a literal sense because I was living here and spending all my time here; a family in the sense that my teachers were creating a new person.” Adair went on to earn her doctorate from the University of Washington. Her scholarly work and research focus on “examining representations of women on welfare and how they are impacted by welfare reform, education and public policy.”
Adair also testified in September to a Senate Finance Committee hearing, warning Congress that welfare reform’s mandate of “work first” in the mid-1990s made it more difficult, and in most cases impossible, for welfare recipients to get an education. “To prevent women who can do so from completing post-secondary higher education degrees is a mark of a shortsighted and fiscally irresponsible policy,” she said.
An orthopedist who has operated on the victims of landmines while his son held a flashlight, James Cobey ’65 was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for his work in helping to create the Mine Ban Treaty. It’s a treaty the United States still has not signed, he noted during a Sept. 16 address on the issue as a speaker in the Levitt Center series. His lecture, “The International Campaign to End Landmines,” began with the observation that “every human has value” — the fundamental motive behind his decades of effort to eradicate the weapons and the suffering to innocents that they cause. A member of the Physicians for Human Rights, Cobey believes that the Obama administration may be close to throwing its support behind the treaty.
This fall, students in Visiting Professor of Art Cindy Tower’s drawing course put down their pencils and picked up razor blades for what Tower calls an exercise in sustainability and community: building and decorating their own dummies out of recycled mattresses.
At the beginning of the semester, Physical Plant delivered 30 used mattresses in a dumpster to Tower, who instructed her students to attack them with razor blades and begin brainstorming ways to personalize them. It was then up to the students to figure out creative ways to interact with the dummies; Tower often brings her own dummy, Junior, on painting excursions.
“While they are learning, they’re participating in collaboration and performance art,” Tower says. “I think some of the students didn’t consider that art can cross over into other disciplines. But with this project, they’re also learning about sustainability and community.” She also notes that if students can understand what is involved in making a literally life-size work of art, the quality of their own artwork will increase. After making the dummies, the students used their experience to draw them in various still-life positions.
Laura Gilson ’12 planned to make her dummy into an old-fashioned woman. “My grandmother gave me some of her mother’s attire for the project,” she said, “but given the high level of creativity encouraged in the class, who knows what else she will turn out to be?”
Hamilton achieved an 11 percent drop in carbon emissions in fiscal year 2010 — a new low in 11 years of record-keeping, according to Steve Bellona, associate vice president for facilities and planning at Physical Plant. Over the course of the year, Hamilton emitted 18,776 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 2,305 metric tons fewer than the previous fiscal year. The reduction far surpasses the 438-ton decline initially estimated by Physical Plant.
Forty percent of the reduction was the result of lower energy use in Hamilton buildings during the year. Study abroad was responsible for another 50 percent of the decrease: Fewer Hamilton students studied abroad in fiscal 2010, thus reducing the air-travel emissions for which the College is responsible. The 11 percent reduction in 2010 is still 750 metric tons from achieving the College’s fiscal-year 2015 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent from the 2007 baseline.