By Jordan Richied
The most common terminology ingrained in our minds over the last two years are: Covid-19, vaccines, social distancing, lockdowns and most importantly masks.
Most individuals have enshrined masks as the safety net of everyday life. On the 3rd of August, St. Mary’s enforced yet another mask mandate within all buildings due to a health order made by Contra Costa County. While it is easy to understand why St. Mary’s jumped on the bandwagon of mask mandates and vaccine policies, many would believe this was not the best decision. This controversy is extremely prevalent within the gym community on campus.
Here at St. Mary's, the recreation center is extremely popular. “The gym overall is a good experience” declared by Joey Vasquez ‘23, a junior who uses the gym four times a week. The recreation center encounters a multitude of individuals with different backgrounds and beliefs, especially when it comes to the mask policy. The two main viewpoints presented from students on the mask policy within the gym is that it is either excessive or for the betterment of everyone’s safety. Many students believe as of right now the mask mandate is imperative. “It’s important...just so that everyone is safe,” said Makenna Hicks ‘23 who is a Recreation Facility Services Assistant here at the gym. Naturally, safety is most important in living a healthy lifestyle. However, many students who utilize the gym think the mask mandate is unnecessary. “Students should have their own choice” Nick Chaub ‘22 claimed when discussing the mask policy within the gym. Based on these two responses alone, one can clearly see a division amongst the gym crowd.
Even with disunity among this coterie, many would agree that the gym is a very “germy” environment. “There’s many things being touched in the gym...by many people.” Makenna Hicks ‘23 added. Even despite this, Makenna and many of the gym recreational staff do a fantastic job of keeping up with all their policies to ensure student safety. When it comes to masks specifically, “it’s another step to take to be safe.” an anonymous worker stated when discussing the importance of it within the rec center. This does not come without its consequences though as the anonymous worker proclaimed working out with a mask “can be a little restricting.”
Even despite this, some students have seen the mask as a blessing in disguise. One such individual is Benjamin Noel ‘22, a Marketing Major who works out four times a week and was a past employee at Fitness 19 in Campbell, CA. “I sort of appreciate it...it’s a challenge I like to face.” Noel said when talking about his frequent interactions with a mask. When it comes to potential health risks besides people with asthma or breathing issues Noel said, “I don’t think it can bring additional strain.” The acclimation of the mask has become common amongst gym users, but many believe the mask mandate feels excessive and unnecessary while working out.
As mentioned prior students are filing in and out of the gym constantly. There are slow and busy times however, it does not seem to get crowded enough where mask mandates are a concern. “There’s not that many people...it goes in flows.” said Hawley Harrer ‘23, a Communication Major who plays both indoor and beach volleyball. Another important factor to keep in mind is students taking their mask off to drink water, breathe, chat with friends etc. Nick Chaub ‘22 thinks the mask mandate is contradicting itself within the gym. “It’s okay to have the mask off to sip water...working out you can’t.” Even though drinking water or catching one’s breath are short intervals of time, some students have taken advantage of this excuse through lackadaisical mask enforcement. “They’ve been a bit more lenient.” Chaub said when communicating about the staff. He pointed out that he usually goes to the gym at later hours when he notices the leniency.
I decided to conduct a study at the gym during later hours and the results I found were staggering. I visited the gym one evening and within a one hour period I encountered 65 students. Of those 65, 33 of them had their mask either pulled down or completely off. I’ve seen students working out with masks off before there but never at this amount. It was quite astonishing.
An important disclaimer to keep in mind is that this is not meant to bash the student staff who work and maintain the recreation center. They do an outstanding job with cleaning and sanitizing equipment to ensure the safety of students and staff. Words cannot describe how much they are appreciated by us gym rats. However, the mask mandate does not get the same treatment by some students. We can all agree that it is important to protect others, nevertheless some students believe safety should be in the hands of the user. Regardless of this conflict, the administration will have to do what is best for the campus. Contra Costa County did lift the mask mandate for specific in-door businesses recently on the 1st of November, and Saint Mary’s could follow suit.
By Natalie Alden
During Midterm and Finals week, office manager and event coordinator Heidi Tend, along with the CAPS office (Counseling and Psychological Services), organizes therapy dogs to provide stress relief from students, especially during hard academic times. Due to the Pandemic, It has been over a year since students have been back on campus and, according to the associate director of clinical services and operations/outreach coordinator, Cynthia Cutshall, student stress has been at an all-time high. The recurrence of the Therapy Dog events shows SMC is dedicated to providing this service, however, with students returning to campus with new stresses accumulated from the pandemic, the need for more Therapy Dog events may be necessary.
The Therapy Dog events seem to be a reoccurring event on campus because of the positive response from students. Saint Mary's student Maria Soe explains how the therapy dogs helped her wellbeing, especially as a first-year student. “The therapy dogs definitely made me feel happier because it was my first year here (since I first went to the event as a freshman), it was a good event to meet new people and made me feel more comfortable with the campus. It was nice going to an event that had nothing to do with schoolwork and it helped me unwind a bit.” Teddi Thiele-Sardina, a Senior at Saint Mary’s, echoes this point of the therapy dogs being extremely beneficial and also highlights the positivity the therapy dogs bring to campus. “I'm a dog person, I love the Therapy Dog events. They are so helpful to students. Seeing students' faces light up seeing dogs is so wonderful.”
Several students think an increase in Therapy Dog events on campus is necessary. “I think it would definitely be beneficial if we had more events because personally, I've been really stressed with school, and Covid-19 is another thing that I've been really mindful about, so having an event would help put my mind off of all that stuff for a bit,” states Maria Soe. Similarly, Aero England, a Senior at Saint Mary’s added, “Yes! I think more pet therapy sessions would be really helpful for students! I feel like seeing animals with the sweetest little faces is such a great way to make people smile!” This connection between the therapy dogs and the students seems to be strong. “I especially love seeing the dog named Joey, a little pomeranian,” states Teddi Thiele-Sardina.
The increase of these Therapy Dog events, although it might help with student mentality during the academic year, might be unlikely due to the coordinating difficulties CAPS has had booking the therapy dogs. “The organization we use for the dog therapy (Laps Loving Animals based in Napa) has not started up their program yet because of Covid-19. We are currently using volunteers, however, at the last dog therapy event SMC only had 5 dogs at the wellness fair in comparison to the previous year where we've had 8 or 9,” states Heidi Tend. Tend hopes by the new year the organization will start up again to provide more therapy dogs.
The upcoming Therapy Dog event for finals week is on December 1st at the Stress Management Fair. With the possible increase of therapy dogs and the positive feeling of students, more Therapy Dog events on campus could be a possibility.
Three students come forward about an exclusive environment that has persisted on the SMC campus, igniting the discussion on whether reporting these incidents is enough to rid our classrooms of discrimination.
By Kiera O'Hara-Heinz
Visiting Opinion Writer
Classrooms, especially those associated with the core Lasallian values, should be an environment where students can learn without fear of repercussions or exclusion. However, this has not always been the case for many students at Saint Mary’s.
A conducive learning environment must come with the inclusion of the identities different students bring to the table. Without inclusion, classroom discussions become narrow and unrepresentative of the true nature of our world. It is no secret that colleges across the country are being called to address the racial, gender, religious, sexual, and other forms of discrimination that have become normalized in the classroom.
In this pursuit, there is difficulty in finding the balance between an inclusive classroom and a classroom that protects academic speech. Protecting academic speech, however, does not mean protecting the outward declaration of discrimination against another group. The tension between the freedom of academic speech and creating a safe, inclusive environment can be tricky, even for the most experienced professors. However, every student must feel valued and seen when entering a professor’s classroom.
Recent events on campus have made us question whether there are adequate means for students to address situations where professors and other students air harmful beliefs.
The Collegian has been informed of a professor who has repeatedly violated the inclusive environment all classrooms are expected to be. Though the paper has decided not to publish this professor’s name, we wanted to bring to light the experiences of SMC students and use the professor’s behavior to explore the way Saint Mary’s deals with unsafe classroom spaces.
Ranya Stanzaino, a junior at Saint Mary’s, has felt generally accepted and appreciated in her classes at SMC; however, she notes that this is not always the case. Stanzaino recounts an incident in class during a discussion on gun ownership, where Stanzaino argued that not all Californians should have guns. The professor responded that he “hoped [Stanzaino’s] neighbors own a gun.”
Additionally, Stanzaino alleges that the same professor argued that private schooling is better than public education and was “surprised” to find out that no students in the class had attended a private school in high school. More shockingly, Stanzanio recalls when the professor said that although the concept of slavery is wrong, the writers of biblical justifications against Fredrick Douglass had “convincing arguments.”
Brent Dondalski, a Senior at SMC, distinctly remembers taking a Seminar class with the same professor. Dondalski alleges that the professor did not provide a safe and supportive environment for students. Instead, he would make inflammatory comments about the Defund the Police movement and utilize a biased form of teaching. Furthermore, Dondalski alleges that the professor “explicitly stated his support for Donald Trump on the second day in class.”
Dondalski argues that the professor selected biased content and organized their class in a problematic way. Instead of collaborating with different students to critically think about texts, two vital elements of Seminar, Dondalski felt that there was an argumentative nature to the class, especially because the professor’s personal opinions would often be prioritized. There would be lots of uncomfortable situations when students would disagree with a professor while discussing religion and politics.
Another student, who agreed to share their experiences with the professor in question with the condition of anonymity, reports they have never seen a professor be so “so outwardly bigoted.” The student recounts how when the class discussed Martin Luther’s Freedom of A Christian, the professor denounced “infidelity, bestiality, and homosexuality” as similar “sins”
The student elaborates that the professor in question also argued that children who do not come from a traditional family with defined gender roles “have something wrong with them.” The student, who identifies as queer, does not feel that the class is a place where their identity is celebrated or even welcomed and has gone through the formal filing of a Bias Incident Report on the professor.
A professor’s personal views cannot be regulated, but it is important to note that academic freedom, in this case, has led to the violation of student identities in spaces where they should be affirmed. Inflammatory comments regarding texts do not create the appropriate environment for students to learn.
The only means students have to address behaviors similar to this professor is to file a Bias Incident Report. After they have submitted their claim, the way of addressing the issue lies within the control of the Bias Incident Report Team (BIRT).
According to Evette Castillo Clark, the Dean of Students and Chair of the Bias Incident Report Team, the team's role is to review reports and refer to Community Life, Public Safety, and Human Resource offices. Reports concerning student conduct are referred to Community Life, reports involving crime or safety-related concerns are referred to Public Safety, and reports concerning employee conduct are referred to Human Resources. Castillo says that outside of BIRT and these offices, no one can gain access to the names of those involved in BIRT reports and that many BIRT reports are filed anonymously.
Castillo trusts the accountability of her colleagues in these offices saying, “when we do refer any reports of concern that they are handled appropriately, timely, and professionally.”
Sharon Sobotta, the director of the Center for Women and Gender Equity and a permanent member of SMC’s Bias Incident Report Team, says that BIRT is helpful on a campus-wide level to look at the sociopolitical environment on campus and to track trends of biases and microaggressions. This information can then be used to create targeted campus-wide education programs and inform SMC of resource needs.
According to Sobotta, a lot of education is still needed to inform the Saint Mary’s community of the BIRT reporting process. Part of this education, she says, is taking some of the fear and misconception out of BIRT. Over the years, she has sometimes heard of BIRT being used as a verb, with faculty expressing fear of being “BIRTed” for doing something they thought was academic freedom.
Sobotta hopes to remove the fear around BIRT reports and encourage individuals to view them as learning opportunities.
“It is an educational process,” Sobotta says. “So if you are the recipient of a report I think it is an opportunity to get educated and see what you can do better”.
Overall, Sobotta wants to encourage community members to be kind and empathetic.
“I always want people to think ‘what would happen if we did this in a more inclusive way’,” Sobotta says. “I cannot think of an example where making a slight modification to our speech or using a different way to explain something is going to harm us.”
BIRT is an adequate resource for students who experience discrimination within the classroom, yet there is little else a student can do when their classroom is not a safe, identity-affirming place for them. Every student interviewed remained in class with a professor who continually disrespected their identity and those of their peers, forcing us to question what else SMC and other schools can do to rid our classrooms of discrimination.
While there are few ways of improving conditions in the Pavillions, students still face discomfort
By Maria Soe
Since August 23rd, Saint Mary’s has made the effort to shift back to in-person instruction to conduct the school’s education. However, with Coronavirus still having an impact on campus safety, outdoor classes have been established to keep both students and faculty safe.
As described on the Saint Mary’s website, “Twelve Pavilion [Tents] have been constructed at the Recreation Sports Field for outdoor classes during the Covid-19 Pandemic.” To reflect the average classroom, there are five Pavilions that include TVs and microphones for professors to efficiently conduct their classes. However, there are few resources that help student’s comfort with the weather.
“It can be miserable when the weather is really cold or really hot,” says Darien Thomas ‘23, a member of the school’s sports band. “There’s nothing protecting us from the heat or the cold. Cold weather in particular can make it hard to focus on class. They do have heaters at the top of the structure, but they don’t really do anything.”
“The cold makes playing harder and the weather can damage our instruments,” another student of the sports band, James Vaughan ‘24, adds. “There have been nights where it has been freezing and windy, and that sort of weather ruins the motivation and morale of the class.”
“There isn’t much that can be done about the heat other than dressing light,” one student reports, focusing on the hot weather. “The chairs outside use a leathery material, which tends to soak up the heat. The pavilion classes are also on the stadium field, so the turfgrass makes it hotter by around ten degrees.”
“The weather has been a big influence, in my opinion,” states Yrah Macahilas ‘23, having experience from her General Physics class. “Since it's been so cold lately, it’s tough to do our work and focus. When it’s super hot outside, I also had this issue because I did not want to stand in the sun. Even though there are tents, we’re spread out so sometimes I would be standing where the sun hits.”
“It’s frustrating. I feel like there’s no one to talk to voice our complaints,” Vaughan also comments. His thoughts are shared amongst other students, as they feel trapped in these environments.
The overall opinions of students have been ones of discomfort, all wishing for better conditions. However, because of Covid-19, students feel as though they have no other option. “Until the Covid-19 situation gets better, the outdoor classes will have to do. But, in regards to comfort, there is none,” Thomas expressed. When asked what the school could do to fix these conditions, he responded that “bigger desks, more heaters, and maybe a fan for hot days” would improve his experience.
Professor Bazian effectively cannot speak at Saint Mary’s
By Benjamin Noel
This article serves as a follow-up from a previous article regarding the Muslim Student Association and guest speaker, Hatem Bazian.
The Muslim Student Association (MSA) sought approval from the school administration to vet their guest speaker, Hatem Bazian, who was set to talk on Islamophobia. This permission was denied. Haia Haidari, the MSA President, was told that bringing the speaker [Dr. Bazian], would ignite a debate on campus on the Israel-Palestine conflict. While the conflict was not the topic of Dr. Bazian’s planned talk, certain faculty were averse to giving him a platform.
Shutting down this impactful speaker takes power away from the MSA and the relevant discussion on Islamophobia. On a majority-Catholic campus, little representation exists for other religions, including Islam. So, when a prominent figure in the Muslim community is not allowed to speak on campus, Muslim students are robbed of that bit of representation and voice. Haidari voiced concerns about the school’s conversation in that it is directed to appease a certain group, and “not the wellbeing of the Muslim community at all.”
Despite the decision from the campus, the club received support from many faculty members and students. One source claims that one particular professor set the stone rolling to bar Dr. Hatem from speaking.
While it is very plausible that giving a powerful, controversial speaker like Dr. Hatem the floor may result in a debate, the question is, “so what if it does?” Is it a problem to have a debate on a college campus? Haidari questions why “a university has turned away from such an important conversation,” observing, “the responses from faculty and staff show that this is a conversation that the school needs to have. The students need to be informed about what's happening in Palestine.”
When asked what her hopes are for the future of the club and the change she hopes to see on campus, Haidari admits that she and fellow students do not hold the power. The MSA is a new club and is already dealing with such a burdensome issue. As a club, they realize they cannot surmount it on their own. “I think if we want to see actual change, those at the top need to be educated on the issues [our community faces]. If the administration doesn't recognize the issues, if they're blind to what the Muslim community wants, or doesn't hear their voice, then [their actions are] not about educating the students really.”
Though the MSA took a hit early in the semester, Haidari has high hopes for the future of the club. The MSA is focused on the health of their community on campus, because “it’s not easy to be a Muslim on a Catholic campus.” Members meet to share experiences, socialize, and eat good food. They also gather on Fridays for Jummah prayers.
“We are working to open people's eyes to the fact that there are Muslims here, and that we’re an important part of Saint Mary's.”
On October 24th, long-awaited rain was brought to California during the drought
By Kamryn Sobel
Just days before California’s historic storm, Governor Newsom declared a statewide drought emergency. However, did this storm make a dent in California’s drought problem?
Over the course of October 24th, California experienced the convergence of an atmospheric river with a bomb cyclone, causing flash floods and high winds in affected areas. During this time, parts of Northern California, including the Bay Area, were under watch for flash floods until late Sunday night and early Monday morning. In the Sierra Nevada region, the National Weather Service issued a heavy snow warning. California has experienced this type of extreme weather phenomenon before, one storm dating back to 1962 known as the “Big Blow”.
Due to atmospheric rivers occurring in mainly the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, this recent storm was said to have happened early in the season. These atmospheric rivers are described as, “narrow, elongated corridors of concentrated moisture transport associated with extratropical cyclones,” according to the Global Hydrometeorology Resource Center from NASA. With the atmospheric rivers occurring in the extratropical North Pacific Atlantic, Southeastern Pacific, and South Atlantic, it helps to contribute to the global distribution of freshwater. In the Pacific Northwest, the bomb cyclone took place, meaning that its central pressure rapidly dropped in a short amount of time.
According to Mark Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, however, even with the storm being beneficial, it was not enough to pull California out of the drought. Due to Southern California getting much of its water supply from the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which comes out of the Sierra Nevada and the California Aqueduct, drought is still a large concern for California. Additionally, fire season is still roaming, as Jackson reports “In Southern California, a good five to eight inches of rainfall can possibly end our fire season for a while,” with this storm only putting a pause to the wildfires.
With much of Northern California having been affected by wildfires over the past few years, state authorities also issued warnings for burn scar areas. One of these issues was reported in Santa Rosa for the Glass Fire area. “The National Weather Service has upgraded the Flash Flood WATCH to a Flash Flood WARNING due to current rainfall rates and the potential for debris floors in the 2020 Glass Fire burn scar area,” says Santa Rosa Fire Department. Residents were told to listen and watch for any type of unusual sounds and rushing water or mud. Santa Cruz, Kern, and El Dorado counties were also being watched in the burn scar areas by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Amongst these affected areas, the National Weather Service reported that the excessive rainfall over these counties could have caused life-threatening flash floods.
Being California’s second driest year on record and having low storage in the state’s largest reservoirs, the warmer temperatures and other climate change-related issues are said to be making the drought in the region become worse. California will need two full wet winter seasons to relieve the drought.
Old and new resources for survivors of sexual assault on the Saint Mary’s campus.
By Brent Dondalski
Both the Campus Assault Response and Education (CARE) center and the Student Coalition Against Abuse and Rape (SCAAR) are striving to educate the campus community on domestic and dating violence as well as how people can be more attuned to what makes a relationship healthy. “When someone is educated around what is healthy, they can often recognize signs when something is unhealthy,” says Megan Gallagher, the director of the CARE center.
During October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness month, certain on-campus organizations tried “to make the education conversation and awareness of [domestic violence] more wide-scale” so that everyone benefits, according to Kulia Osborne, a senior anthropology major who is the student lead for SCAAR.
At Saint Mary’s, several resources are available to survivors and any students concerned about domestic violence. “I meet one-on-one with survivors or students who want more information... I'm a confidential resource on campus,” Gallagher explained, meaning that she does not need to report information that is given to her. Additionally, she highlighted the 24/7 support line that the CARE Center operates, which can also be accessed anonymously.
The CARE center is involved in hosting multiple speaking events, fundraisers, and presentations that seek to educate the campus community. “For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, educating our community meant doing workshops on healthy relationships and providing information about Title IX, consent, etc,” Gallagher explained. Furthermore, she wants the campus to be more aware of the several resources available to students.
Each year, 8 total counseling sessions are offered to every Saint Mary’s student by the campus’ Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, according to the Saint Mary’s website. Confidentiality and mandated reporting vary depending on what resource is being used. In addition to counselors at CAPS and Megan Gallagher, Clergy in a confessional role are also confidential resources on campus according to the school’s Title IX reporting policy.
There are also nonconfidential resources related to domestic violence available on campus, such as RA’s, the Title IX office, Public Safety, and more. “I want the resources on campus to be utilized and I want people to know about them and be able to access them in case they ever need any form of support,” Osborne emphasized, saying that community support is one thing SCAAR wants to prioritize, especially in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Even if an individual chooses not to utilize on-campus resources, there are still other options available to them. “Spreading awareness about off-campus resources that can help people based on their experiences” is also an important practice according to Maya Patel, the student lead for the Center for Women and Gender Equity and vice lead of SCAAR.
Three of CARE’s core values are prevention, education, and helping others. “We are trying to emphasize safe and healthy relationships and what it means to have uncomfortable conversations,” described Patel. Part of this education is also encouraging students to take action against dating violence. “If they see something that's not right... then that person can intervene and help that individual… and we train the community to work with that individual in such a way as to not cause further harm,” Gallagher summarized. She further noted that responding in a trauma-informed way is what’ll ultimately help others in the community.
With it being many students’ first times on campus, the CARE Center and SCAAR are seeking to educate the community about proactive responses to dating violence. “Recognizing the signs of violence and having awareness of that both in our own relationships and others” is essential, Gallagher emphasized, elaborating that “anything that someone can do, if a friend or a teammate is in a potentially harmful situation, is getting that student to the resources” such as CAPS, CARE Center, or any other resource the student might need.
Domestic Violence Month is only one example of the awareness these organizations are trying to spread. “Sometimes we all just need to learn how to become better advocates. So there's a community to learn and grow in” Osborne mentioned. Building a community that is open and inclusive is an ongoing endeavor that doesn’t stop at the end of October. “We want folks to come as they are and share their experiences with us,” Patel expressed.
The CARE Center, SCAAR, and other resources, like the Center for Women and Gender Equity and CAPS, are all available to students to combat dating violence on campus and make sure students receive the education and support they need.
SMC’s Health and Wellness center offers a variety of different reproductive health services, though a lack of advertising of these services has left some students and community members unaware of these resources.
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
They are not in the bookstore. Nor the health center or Center for Women’s and Gender Equity. In fact, they are not available anywhere on campus. Masks? No, Condoms! Despite being abundant on most college campuses, Saint Mary’s has a noticeable lack of these protective coverings available. With the recent country-wide discourse around abortion following the restrictive Texas abortion law, reproductive and sexual health services have been brought under an increased amount of scrutiny and attention. At Saint Mary’s College, a lack of information has left some community members unaware of what sexual health services are available on campus.
According to Erin Perkins, a nurse practitioner at the Saint Mary’s Health and Wellness Center, the Center offers basic gynecologic and urologic care including STI testing and treatment, PAP smears, breast exams, and testicular exams. Perkins says that clinicians at SMC’s Health and Wellness Center are able to offer patients family planning counseling, contraceptive counseling, and prescriptions that can be filled off-campus at local pharmacies, as well as pregnancy testing and counseling. Students looking for reproductive health services not offered by the Health Center like contraceptive implants can get referrals to local resources.
Perkins says that students can access these resources by making an appointment online or over the phone. She offers herself as an educational resource for students seeking information on reproductive health services.
“Each individual has to decide for themselves what forms of birth control they find personally acceptable for their own body,” Perkins says. “I’m happy to help provide people with the medical information and resources they need to make this decision.”
Sharon Sobotta, the director for the Center for Women and Gender Equity (CWGE), fills a similar educational role. Sobotta says that her job is to provide education and resources to students. Part of this job, she says, may involve counseling a student through a situation like an unplanned pregnancy, or connecting them to local sexual health resources, or educating students that they can buy condoms at stores like CVS off-campus.
Despite this, Sobatta was unaware of the sexual health resources offered by the Saint Mary’s Health and Wellness Center. She thinks that many of the staff and faculty on campus are not fully aware of what resources are available on campus.
Although the Health and Wellness Center website has a women’s health information page, the website does not mention the reproductive health services that are available on campus, or recommend outside resources students can access.
Sobatta believes that community members should remain educated on the different offerings of resources on campus.
“I think that whatever we're offering in our different areas, it's important that we list that on our website and talk about it so that we can make sure that the students that are here are able to access the information,” Sobatta said.
Senior Angeline Wong was also unaware of the sexual health services offered by the Health and Wellness Center. She, like many students on campus, believed that the school offered no services around contraceptives, and was surprised to learn that the school offered resources like birth control prescriptions and referrals for things like implants and IUDs.
Wong feels that the Catholic traditions of the College contribute to a stigma around the topic of sex. This stigma, Wong says, may prevent students from seeking reproductive health services on campus, in fear of being judged or turned down. Wong also cites a lack of information on services offered at the health center, as a barrier to the sexual health of students.
“The services are there, but we don't know that they're there,” Wong says. “So if the institution does want to keep up with the services that they do offer, I think it's equally as important for them to advertise them as well.”
Because Saint Mary’s is a Catholic college, according to Sobatta, the discussions around sexual health may look different from discussions about sexual health at a university like UC Berkeley.
Wong, who works at the Center for Women and Gender Equity for a field placement requirement in her PSYCH 175 class, has experienced this first hand. Earlier this year, she was interested in giving away condoms in the center but learned that she would not be allowed to provide condoms within any department on campus including the Health Center. Instead, she could personally give them away as a student, but could not as a representative of any group on campus.
Wong feels that this policy threatens students' sexual health, “ it became something like finding loopholes to make sexual and reproductive health accessible, which doesn't sound right to me.”
According to Sobatta, although the Center for Women and Gender Equity may not be able to provide physical resources that students may seek like condoms, they can still serve as a great resource.
“ I want people to know that even if they can't get a physical resource, such as a condom, we can always talk,” Sobatta says. “You can always reach out, there are some great resources in terms of people and education.”
Sobatta notes that despite Saint Mary’s status as a Catholic college, the Center for Women and Gender Equity does not align with any particular religious or political affiliation, and instead serves as an unbiased educational resource.
“We used to get questions, and there'd be an assumption that maybe we would have a particular affiliation or be more interested in helping people have a certain perspective, but that's not true,” Sobatta says. “Our job is to meet people where they're at and to answer their questions and provide education.”
By Alexandra Babcock
Obscure changes happening on campus have not been utilized due to the lack of advertising. These improvements are important for the success of students. While much has been accomplished, students and faculty are not as aware of these changes as they should be. Senior undergraduate Biology student, Lucy Moore, was unaware that any changes have been made to the library. For a student that spends much of her free time studying, she wishes she had known of these improvements so that she could utilize the quiet personalized spaces as she finishes off her final semester.
The announcements that have been sent out thus far have been vague and sent via email. These announcements are often lost in translation, as many of the students use their school email for the majority of the interaction with the school, classes, and teachers. Unlike the UCU Pavilion that has its renovations on signs front and center, the library has not had a grand announcement of its changes.
The pandemic put a halt on renovations in the library, however, some of the renovations were finished before the school shut down, and since the school reopened there have been even more. The library has taken an interest in revamping the space to cater to the wants and needs of the students. The incentive behind library renovations is to “update and maximize the space by discovering outdated library collections that are not being utilized by the students. The idea is to create a learning common area with a research hub with the intention of a more centralized space for everyone” (Aaron Sachowitz, Academic Treasurer). The Dean of the Library as well as the Vice Provost and the Academic Treasurer have worked to improve the library as they saw fit to meet the needs and requests of the students.
They began their renovations before the pandemic lockdown by renovating the bathrooms to include an ADA student and staff bathroom as well as a gender-neutral restroom option. Lauren Macdonald, The Dean of the Library and Academic Resources, explains that renovations were done as soon as the school reopened. These renovations were based on student requests so that they may have a space better suited to help them succeed. Also, before lockdown, the library was able to replace outdated shelving units with study rooms and a work bar. These rooms created a nice seating space for the students to get their work done.
The next step in the renovations included noise-canceling technology to meet the needs of the students as the library struggled with noise carrying through the building. The modernized noise-canceling panels were placed "when you walk into the library where the atrium space is located, above the help desk, there are cool mid-century modern grey panels that add a sculpture element to the environment of the building" (Lauren MacDonald). The idea behind this addition was not only to improve the sound but also to integrate an aesthetically functional piece to increase comfort within the walls of the library.
The SDS office has also created sensory rooms on the second floor to launch a completely new reservation-based study setting for both groups and individuals. These rooms have been repainted, equipped with colored lights and sensory toys/objects as well as fun new furniture finished off with cool rugs. The goal was to create a “dark quiet space” for the students, according to MacDonald. She also shared that “creatively moved collections strategically envisioned the space within the library to meet the needs of the student body at Saint Mary’s College."
Along with these renovations that mainly catered to the undergraduate students, the third-floor hallway looking toward the parking lot on the left-hand side of graduate commons was changed. Graduate students were feeling they didn't have a dedicated space for them to do their work, and they needed a space for them to go and get their studies done. Two windows were put in that look out into the library interior to let natural light in, along with technology for presentations, comfortable furniture and seating, artwork, and more.
Knowing about these renovations is important for the faculty and students because they will be able to utilize these accommodations to better succeed in an academic environment. Although there have been some announcements that have gone out, there are students and faculty that are unaware of these changes putting these improvements into a state of obscurity.
These renovations are made to provide better student success, atmosphere, and comfort. Academic libraries are meant to develop the ways in which students find research and study as the technologies of the world change with each generation. These libraries find ways to creatively adapt to the students as the way students engage in academics is always changing and advancing. It is important when making these decisions that all those involved look at the architecture and space of the building to help provide a smooth successful integration into the students’ academic journey. How the space is utilized provides assistance for the students to help them learn and research.
As well as renovations to the library itself, on October 4th, 2021, the library changed its hours to be open later on Sunday-Thursday till 11:00 pm. The library has pushed hard for these improvements with a plan to have the staff involved sit down this Fall and strategize the rest of the developments. Eyewitnesses have confirmed these renovations and encourage students to go check out the cool new improvements to academic learning research in the library.
By Maria Soe
The Covid-19 pandemic has been vexing for students’ education. For the past year and a half, students have been restricted to an online environment, but this has recently changed with this year’s shift to in-person learning.
“As of Sept. 22, 2021, everyone 12 years and older must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, or a negative test result, before going to high-risk indoor businesses such as restaurants, bars, and gyms in Contra Costa County,” says Contra Costa Health Services on their official website. In order to allow in-person classes, Saint Mary’s must follow these regulations, which also includes wearing masks indoors, social distancing, and testing if exposed to COVID-19 or a lack of vaccination. For the most part, Saint Mary’s seems to follow these guidelines closely.
“At SMC, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks while indoors,” Dai To, the Executive Director of Wellness, announces on Saint Mary's website. Alongside this, verification of vaccination was mandatory before the school year started, as well as a COVID-19 test before moving onto campus.
According to a member of the school tennis team, students are required to show their vaccine cards at every game, and teams are kept apart to fulfill the social distance requirement. However, despite following Contra Costa’s regulations, Saint Mary’s management still has students worried and frustrated.
“My roommate had a person in her class that tested positive for COVID and didn’t know what to do,” reports a fellow student. “She called the school’s COVID response groups to ask what she should do and was on the line with one of the head coordinators, but the coordinator quit while she was on the phone because she felt too stressed out to deal with the situation.”
“If someone on the team has been exposed to COVID, they have to test off campus to prevent the school’s COVID cases from rising,” says another student, who is a player on the school’s volleyball team. In addition, Jezebel Garcia ‘23, a member of the school’s crew team, reports, “There are around two or three people that aren’t vaccinated on the team, but they’re still allowed to participate and be around everyone.”
These actions and decisions conducted by the school have gone entirely unnoticed by the student population due to the school’s lack of communication. John Duncan ‘23 expresses his thoughts about the situation, “It’s disappointing that we get more emails about the campus’ telephone services than Coronavirus-related news and cases.” Students have been left completely in the dark about the state of their school and it has caused them to become cynical, exasperated, and untrusting of the system.
Melanie Moyer '22,