The Survivor


By Samantha Love

Jackie Speier’s life changed forever one day in 1978 on the landing strip of an airport in Guyana.

In November of 1978, Speier was a staff member of Congressman Leo Ryan’s ill-fated trip to Jonestown, Guyana that inspired and initiated her life’s work. Ryan had constituents who had children who had gotten involved in the People’s Temple, a Church in San Francisco.

The Rev. Jim Jones had taken about 900 members of his congregation to Guyana in 1978-79, where they created, Jonestown, a commune in the middle of a jungle. Ryan’s mission was to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by Jones and his Peoples Temple followers, most of whom were American citizens.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier

As Speier recalled it: “People had defected and told Congressman Ryan about their experiences there and the abuse that was going on and so he wanted to go and find out first hand, and he took a number of relatives and staff members. We found out that people were being held against their will and many of them wanted to leave with us.”

When they left for the airstrip, they were not aware that a tractor-trailer armed with seven gunmen was following them, ready to ambush Ryan’s team and fleeing Church members. Speier recalled, “On the airstrip and I was loading passengers onto both planes and I heard this noise and I didn’t know it was gunfire.”

Ryan ran under the plane and she followed suit and hid behind one of the wheels, but they were both shot at point blank range. Congressman Ryan was shot 45 times. He was the first U.S. Congressman to be assassinated. Six others were killed. That same day, November 18, over 900 of the remaining members of the Peoples Temple died in Jonestown and Georgetown in a mass murder-suicide y drinking poison-laced KoolAid..

Although Speier got away with her life, she did not get away unscathed. She was shot five times on that airstrip.

Nearly dead

“The whole right side of my body was blown up. I was 28 and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is it. I’m not going to live to be 85. I’m not going to get married and have children,’”

Speier said. She “experienced firsthand what mortality was all about.” As she lay there, the image of her grandmother, who was then 86, flashed in front of her. Speier recalled thinking: “I don’t want her to have to live through my funeral.” So, she dragged her body to the side of the plane, avoiding anymore gun wounds. “I don’t know how I did it” she said. And then, “someone pushed me into the plane,” which “wasn’t going anywhere because it had bullet holes through it.” Eventually she was taken out of the plane and put on the side of the airstrip, conveniently located on top of an anthill. She quipped, “I always tell everyone, you don’t sweat the small things when you are dying.” She waited there for 22 hours without medical attention. Continue reading

Modern tales of school life

Four diverse stories about modern school life.

Aldis Gamble, whose beat is college food, writes about how Haverford and Bryn Mawr are trying to deal with food allergies.

Emilia Otte, who covers education, has two pieces: one about introducing blended learning at Bryn Mawr and a day in the life of a teacher at an all-boys private school.

Kyra Sagal, who covers art, writes about a movement to empower women called The Red Lips Project.

Building a Gluten-free world


By Aldis Gamble 

A new sight greeted students returning to Haverford College this fall during their very first meal in the Dining Center. The corner of one of the two dining rooms was walled off to create a new room. On the grey clapboards over the room’s door, large letters spelled out the words “GLUTEN FREE.”

In the beginning of August, Haverford’s Facilities Management built this new room to help Dinning Services better meet the needs of students with severe gluten allergies. According to Bernie Chung-Templeton, director of dining services at the school, students with celiac disease or similar conditions must first meet the college’s nutritionist before they are given one card access to the room.

Inside the small room, gluten free baked goods, such as sandwich breads, pastries and tortillas are stocked daily, just as their glutinous counterparts are in the main dining area. Similar rooms have existed in Bryn Mawr College Dining Halls for over a year. Chung-Templeton, who also heads food services at Bryn Mawr, first piloted the idea of a segregated gluten free room at Bryn Mawr in the 2013-2014 school year, and after finding it successful, expanded the program to Haverford.

Chung-Templeton’s efforts to accommodate students with specific dietary needs are similar to those being made in colleges and universities across the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2007, the most recent year for data is available, 3 million, or 3.9% of children under the age of 18 have a food or digestive allergy. Additionally, in the decade between 1997 and 2006 the number of children who reported having food allergies increased significantly. In the face of these statistics, many colleges and universities have started trying to make their dining halls safer for students with food allergies.

In January 2014, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), an organization that researches and advocates for those living with food allergies, launched the College Food Allergy Program. According to its website, the goal of this program is to work with numerous stakeholders create a “comprehensive program to improve the safety and quality of life for college students with food allergies.” The website explains this goal in a list of “five major components” which include developing “best practices guidelines” for universities to identify an accommodate students with allergies, and providing prospective college students and their parents with useful information to consider while applying to colleges.

Bernie Chung-Templeton

Bernie Chung-Templeton

Although College Food Allergy Program has yet to publish guidelines either for colleges or prospective students, the Resources for College Students page of FARE’s website provides an idea of what types of information may be included. A bulleted list of tips for prospective students includes such suggestions as, “Make sure the dining facilities are safe by … asking the food service director how you can verify the ingredients of each meal.” Students already in college are advised to alert their hall mates to their allergies, avoid drunkenly injecting friends with epinephrine as a joke, and wait a few hours and brush one’s teeth after eating peanuts before kissing someone with a peanut allergy.

The question of how best to accommodate students with food allergies, Chung-Templeton said, is raised at every conference for college and university food service directors she attends. Although she cannot control how students act in their dorms or social lives with regard to food allergies she does what she can to ensure that none of her staff are putting them at unnecessary risk. Continue reading

Blended Learning


By Emilia Otte

In the high-tech atmosphere of today’s universities, the chalkboard still has a place.

Even with the rise of its fiercest competitor to date, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), studies continue to show that face-to-face learning is more effective than online instruction.

However, educators are realizing that there is no reason why they can’t bring the rivaling models together for the overall good of higher education. This combination of a traditional classroom with online materials creates “blended learning”.

After blended learning had some success at large universities, administrators at Bryn Mawr College, a small liberal arts women’s college in Pennsylvania, wondered if the system could apply equally well to an institution like theirs.

In the 2011-2012 school year, Bryn Mawr received a $250,000 grant from the NGLC (Next Generation Learning Challenges). In fall of 2011, the faculty launched 18 blended introductory STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses. Students in lower-level biology, chemistry, and geology courses took online quizzes, watched online tutorials, and practiced basic math skills needed for the class. Professors did not have to reduce time spent in the classroom- and none of them did.

At the end of the semester, 93.5 percent of the students in the blended courses earned a merit grade (2.0 or better), versus 83 percent of students in traditional STEM classes. The average grades for the biology, chemistry, and geology courses were significantly higher than they had been in the past.

Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy

Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy

The next year, liberal arts colleges across the country developed blended courses on their own campuses. Macalester College used computer-based games and experiments for an introductory economics course. Oberlin College incorporated Skype sessions into one of its Spanish classes. A professor at Lafayette College “flipped” an introductory statistics class -students watched the lectures online and used class time to work through problem sets.

In total, according to the NGLC study’s official website, 25 small liberal arts colleges created over 40 blended learning courses for the 2012-2013 school year. None of the Bryn Mawr professors teaching the original 18 courses stopped using blended methods. This more than doubled the total number of blended courses offered at liberal arts colleges in a single year, and the trend continues to spread in small colleges across the United States. Continue reading

The Red Lips Project


By Kyra Sagal      

Since September, Aditi Kulkarni, 19, at Swarthmore College, has been photographing women wearing red lipstick and asking them: What makes you feel powerful?

“As a photographer, I have always been fascinated by the imagery of red lips. To me, red symbolizes power; it is a sign of strength and courage” said Kulkarni.

Thus, a project known as Dark Skin Red Lips, created by Karyn Washington, where women of color posted pictures of themselves wearing red lipstick, began. Kulkarni said, “These pictures were just one way in which women were able to fight back the beauty norms and instead revel in their own ideals.” The Dark Skin Red Lips project inspired Kulkarni to create her own project, the Red Lips Project, over the summer.

One photo on the Facebook page features Osazenoriuwa Ebose, a senior at Swarthmore College, staring assertively into the camera. Accompanying the picture, her quote says “I wear my dignity; I share my love freely. I feel fear for the future, but I do not shy from it. I feel powerful because I know my worth and the worth of others around me. I feel powerful because I respect my past. I feel powerful because I am Osazenoriuwa Osamede Ebose; there is none other like me in the world.”Red Lips

Kulkarni’s project mirrors work being done by photographers/journalists around the country who are capturing the images and words of people they encounter to try to tell larger stories about their lives.

One of the first and most influential of these is Humans of New York (HONY). In 2010, Brandon Stanton created HONY, intending to photograph 10,000 individuals and eventually plot their location and photograph on a map. Then, Stanton began collecting quotes, and the blog became something different. He says on his website, “With over eight million followers on social media, HONY now provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers in New York City.”

Yasmin Gentry, a journalist for The Quad at BostonUniversity, said, “Since HONY’s birth in the summer of 2010, Stanton has inspired others to take his lead. Photographers capture citizens in cities like Tehran, Tel Aviv, Sydney, Boston, Toronto, and Oslo.”

Just like HONY, Kuljkarni’s project is beginning to spread to other cities. Her Campus at American University, an online magazine, held a Red Lips Project event on campus November 11 after finding Kulkarni’s blog online. After reaching out to Kulkarni and expressing interest in holding an event, Her Campus asked students to wear red lipstick and “tell us what makes you feel powerful.” According to Kulkarni, the event was successful.

Alex Sanyal, 19, was one of the first subjects of Kulkarni’s photos. She said, “The Red Lips project is an inspiration, as are Aditi and Madeline – the faces behind it. They are inspiring girls across campuses all over the northeast to empower themselves and to appreciate themselves.”

The Red Lips Project is a movement of female empowerment, and it is only one of many projects focusing on people and their lives in the photos. Many photographers have been inspired by the “Humans of” projects, which photograph people in a specific area or community reveal the diverse and unique perspectives of individuals. Continue reading

All boys, all the time



By Emelia Otte

On a Monday morning in mid-November, Kate Thorburn takes her usual place in front of the class.

Her eyes scan the room, making sure everyone is on task. She raises an eyebrow at the students with their heads on their desks, and they snap to attention. She nods at the children bent over their math work. With a wave of her hand, she stops two whispering voices in mid-sentence.

After 19 years, Thorburn has perfected the art of managing a classroom without having to say a single word. Her gaze travels through the class like the chicken pox, and soon everyone is sitting up straight, silently attending to their morning exercises. It is 8:30 a.m. in a classroom just like thousands of others across America. With one exception:

Kate Thorburn is the only female in the room.

Thorburn teaches at The Haverford School, a private all-boys school in Haverford, Pa. She has never taught anywhere else. After moving from California to Pennsylvania, both she and her husband Mark began working at the school, he as a math teacher and she as an assistant in the kindergarten room. They have been there nearly 20 years. Her husband is now the Assistant Head of School, and Kate Thorburn teaches third grade.

Thorburn loves teaching in an all-boys school. “Boys…are very unique.” She says, “They have so much to say, they have so many feelings and emotions that, if given the opportunity, they shine. I’ve had boys laugh, cry, all emotions, and I think if they were in a classroom with girls, we wouldn’t see those deep emotions.”

Third grade, as Thorburn puts it, is “An awesome grade.” It is not just about learning times tables and cursive writing, but also “a huge year for growth as far as independence.” She says the best part about working with boys is watching that development from September to June.Haverford School 1

The only difficult part is saying good-bye at the end of the year. “It’s hard to see them go, but it’s the best thing.” Says Thorburn. “I always tell them, ‘Once you’re my boy, you’re always my boy.’”


Thorburn’s day begins with a brisk walk from her house to the school. On this particular Monday morning in November, the heavy rain and wind swept her inside the school building. She walked into a large, square room full of murals, where first through fifth grades start the day before heading to their classrooms.

It was 7:30 a.m., and the boys were beginning to trickle in and settle in clumps according to grade level. On the walls behind them were dinosaurs, astronauts, oceans, and paintings in the style of Picasso. The boys had painted the walls themselves, with the help of their artistic headmaster.

Shivering, Thorburn folded her umbrella and pulled up a chair alongside two other lower-school teachers. She took a deep breath and smiled. “Tomorrow,” She announced, “is a week from Thanksgiving.” The three women launched into a discussion of holiday plans.

Suddenly, one of the teachers called into the air, “You can come out now. Behave.” A small boy shot out from underneath her chair and crawled through her legs back to his classmates. “I forgot he was under there!” She laughed, and the discussion continued.

Around 8 a.m., the low background hum of voices grew to a dull roar, and Thorburn signaled to her third graders to head upstairs to the classroom. Continue reading

Finding News on Social Media

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo  in WarsawBy Kristal Sotomayor

The endlessly packed schedule of college students leaves them little time to catch up on beloved TV shows read a newspaper or watch the news. So how do they learn about the world outside their campuses?

From sharing concert pictures to videos to news articles, social media is slowly becoming a source of news.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, conducted a survey to determine the percentage of the U.S. population that got news from Facebook. The survey found that 64% of U.S. adults used Facebook and that 30 % of U.S. adults got news from Facebook, of which 22% thought it was a useful source of news and 78% saw news on Facebook for different reasons.

Another survey also conducted by Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in 2013 found that 16% of U.S. adults use Twitter. It also found that 8% of U.S. adults use Twitter to find news.

As social media use increases over time, a trend is developing among college students to use social media as a source of news and information.

“Before I had a fancy phone and I would use Twitter still but on my computer at home and I definitely used it less then… but now I can do it all of the time. It’s not that I sit and use if for an extended period of time but that throughout the day, I use it for just a few minutes a lot” says Joni Jeter, a first-year student at Bryn Mawr College.

As the username @smallspooky, Jeter uses Twitter to express herself and to learn about the world outside of Bryn Mawr. She specifically cites using Twitter to learn more about Michael Brown’s death at Ferguson, “I started following a lot of people that were there and then they would post Vines of what was happening, so there would be video and they would be reporting about what was going on. And, people took a lot of pains to be as reputable as a news source as they could be… We talk a lot like ‘Don’t trust anything you see on the internet’ like ‘Are you really getting your news from Twitter?’ but like this was one case were you really could do that.”

This trend among college students of using social media as a news source is also seen in article sharing.

Bryn Mawr College first year student Brittany Peña loves article sharing. She cites that it is the very reason she goes on Facebook. However, she does not always rely on shared articles stating, “A lot of the stuff on Facebook like the articles are opinions rather than factual data. So, it’s hard for me to trust opinions if I haven’t done the research.”

News on social media ranges from updates about a friend’s life to learning about celebrity gossip to learning about serious global events. This variety of news found on social media calls into question its reliability.

Lydia Sanchez, a Bryn Mawr College first-year student, says that “Social media is reliable to get a general story of what is going on but for details and actual events, it is false.”

Although social media and the internet can bring information at the fingertips of users, the need to verify information has increased.

Storyful is a website that acquires and verifies news from social media for other news outlets to use. In 2012, Storyful gave examples of false information that circulated the web that they debunked. YouTube videos of Aceh residents fleeing during an April 11th tsunami alert were found to be false. Also, a photo of a 2007 massacre was being circulated as the photo of a police officer that was killed at Virginia Tech in December of 2011.

Although the reliability of social media as a source of news is questionable, Jetter offers another point of view: “I don’t know how solid a source of information it [social media] is, what’s good about it, I think, is that you can see what’s relevant to people. If you just get on the New York Times or the BBC website or something, you have to sort through it on your own… but if you get on social media, people are sharing things that they thought were important so you can see what’s relevant to people you interact with, not that you shouldn’t read news that it’s relevant to them.”

Social media was created to connect people together but, as time has passed, the purpose of social media has greatly expanded. This new trend among college students of searching for, sharing, and learning news and information through the use of social media has added to its dimensions. However, as this trend escalates, the validity of information shared on social media should be considered.


English House Gazette 2014

We open the latest edition of the English House Gazette with three profiles.

Connie Friedman, who covers disabilities, has a profile of New York Daniel Gillen, who is blind and attends Haverford  College.

Kyra Sagal, whose beat is art, has a piece on Laura O’Rourke, a Bensalem-based artist and photographer.

Kelsey Rall, whose beat is Bryn Mawr traditions, has a profile of the two students who are the Tradition Mistresses at the college this year.




The World of Daniel Gillen

How a blind Haverford College student navigates his world 

By Connie Friedman

It was a chilly night – perfect for a brisk walk around the college. The pace, however, was not at all brisk. The fall leaves did not crunch beneath his feet. Instead, they were wisped aside by his guide stick. Right to left, left to right, as if mopping the ground. Daniel Gillen was methodical. He traced the earth with his cane as if it was radar, echoing back every whisper of the world. The cane was not Gillen’s only guide to the physical world. In fact, he had a heightened awareness for weather. There’s a slight chance of rain, he predicted. He knew the campus as if he existed on a contour map, relating every incline, every switch. When he walked through the cafe he made note of any shifted or misplaced furniture. Without his guidance stick, he preferred not to hold hands. Rather, he requested to be guided by the arm, as is the common practice. His fingers lightly grasped the guide’s bicep. Daniel Gillen is blind. He did not necessarily need the guidance, but he leaned on people for mere convenience – a convenience earned by his own perseverance.

Daniel Gillen in Concert

Daniel Gillen in Concert

Gillen, 19, was born into an Irish Catholic family as the oldest surviving son of Roger and Mignon Gillen. His father is a famous Irish musician who gained popularity after winning a contest on the country’s beloved Late Late Show Talent Search in 1981. While studying music in St. Louis, Gillen’s father met Mignon, a dancer at the college, and moved to New York. Gillen has lived his whole life on the Upper West Side on the 42nd floor apartment of a skyscraper. He describes his complex as a “town within a city.” His building has 452 floors filled with families of all sorts. But it is not the people that bother him. It is his lack of independence. “Living there, I always feel like I’m inside a shell. I can’t just go outside on to the street. The density and traffic flow are all very different. It’s just as dangerous as being out on a battle field,” said Gillen. Continue reading

Reconstructed Memories

The art of Louise O’Rourke 

By Kyra Sagal


Louise O’Rourke’s memories are eternalized through her artwork. In 2011, her former partner, who was from Bulgaria, hung curtains from his home country over the windows in his United States house, which carried the aroma of his life in Bulgaria. Later, O’Rourke wrapped herself in the curtains. But the smell was gone. O’Rourke knew, just as the smell faded and would never return, her relationship with her partner could never last. She would never be a part of his personal life.

From that memory, O’Rourke created a video performance with the curtains. The video begins to play: Only her hands are visible against the curtains, grasping them tightly between her fingers. There’s tension. Then she releases the curtains. The sounds of a crying child can be heard, background noise to the deliberate movement of the cream-colored curtains. They surround her; the memory surrounds her.

Smell Scent

Scenes from Laura O’Rourke’s Smell/Scent

 Through her videos, performance art, pieces, and photographic work, O’Rourke combines different mediums to present a unique view of love, life, and ultimately, memory. She said that her curtain piece “Smell/Scent” is a video that shows “a way of being a part of something that you’ll never be a part of.” This manipulation of memory drives her work.

 “I just like to think about, in memory, how things are altered and changed and not remembered correctly.” O’Rourke’s calm and friendly voice echo. Her defined cheekbones add an element of artistry to her persona. It is as if her prominent facial features hold memories of their own. Continue reading