English House Gazette 2016

Our blog features the work of Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College students enrolled in Bryn Mawr’s Art264W News and Feature Writing class.  We open the fall season with four profiles:

Sabrina Emms writes about canning maven and blogger Marisa McClellan, who has won fame for her canning of jams and jellies from her small kitchen in Philadelphia.

Ana Gargiulo tells the tale of Andi Moritz, the Bryn Mawr student who left the school after she posted a Facebook request for a ride to a Donald Trump event that drew hundreds of angry comments from fellow students.

Audra Devoto profiles Sorelle Friedler, the Haverford professor of computer science who is researching the bias found in algorithms.

Ana Alvarez has a profile of Sandra Andino, a Penn professor and photographer who is chronicling the lives of Philadelphia Puerto Ricans of mixed African and Latino heritage.

The Magic of Canning

It all happens in Marisa McClellan’s tiny kitchen


By Sabrina Emms   

She may can in her grandmother’s kitchen but she isn’t making her grandmother’s jam. Armed with a potato masher and a worn wooden spoon, Marisa McClellan is a kitchen revolutionary.

McClellan wants to lead city folk back to their tiny kitchens, and, on those modern hearths, breathe life back into the art of canning.

Like other DIY pursuits, canning may be making a comeback. McClellan, through her blog and then her books, has had quite a bit of influence on the Philadelphia canning scene. She is using this influence to encourage adventurous, brave canning, for everyone from beginners to experts like herself.

---- Marisa McClellan

—- Marisa McClellan

In her Amazon author’s profile McClellan looks more scrap booker than rabble-rouser, in her late 30s, with shoulder-length blond hair, and a large, bright, necklace. She looks far too young for old school canning’s target demographic. On the surface, her books promise to teach people to make their own delicious seasonal jams. Her deeper mission is to demystify the production of canned goods, encouraging people to forgo store bought and make their own. She doesn’t sell her jams, jellies, preserves or chutneys,

“Urban canning”, is what McClellan calls it in her books and on her popular blog, Food in Jars. “Up until recently all canning recipes were written for people who were canning in order to have enough food to make it through the winter.” McClellan explained to Mother Nature Network an online new source. Her passion — small batch urban canning — liberates canning from its previous function. Preservation brought McClellan back to canning but her blog has taken spectacular leaps from there. Already a food writer when she started Food in Jars in 2009, McClellan paired innovative, often beautifully colored combinations, with easy instructions and charming anecdotal writing. Soon, gleaming jewel-tone jars filled her shelves and food writing flowed with the ease of a natural talent. “Writing about food felt the most natural, an abundant and juicy area,” she explained.

McClellan isn’t just about unique or intriguing flavors, she also wants to share the joy and satisfaction of canning, and to extinguish some of the fears. “Hear me now. If you stick to the high-acid foods—most jams, fruit butters, and pickles—you are not going to kill anyone,” she writes in her third book, “Naturally Sweetened Food in Jars”. McClellan tells new canners that while there are real dangers in canning, like botulism, the acidity in jams blocks the growth of the botulinum bacteria. Continue reading

A High Price for Being Pro-Trump

Just mentioning his name got this Bryn Mawr student in big trouble


By Anna V. Gargiulo

If you stepped onto the campus of Bryn Mawr College on the night of September 20, it would have seemed relatively calm and routine. However, on the Facebook site called Bryn Mawr Ride Share Group, anger and chaos was unfolding among students on campus.

“Nobody has the right to an opinion of bigotry. 0 Tolerance for fascists!

“It would be great if you didn’t invoke the honor code to justify your racism…”

“So, you want to feel safer on your way to make the world less safe for everyone else…?’

Words like “ignorant shit” and “toxic white” were used. There were several hundred comments on the Facebook group, created for the innocent purpose of letting students ask for ride shares or anything else related to transportation.

The avalanche of comments were all aimed at one first-year student: 18-year-old Andi Moritz, of Hershey, Pa.

What did Moritz say to set off such a fierce reaction?

She posted that she was a Donald Trump supporter and asked if anyone wanted to share a ride to a Trump canvassing event in nearby Springfield.

She clearly did not expect her posting would draw such outrage from her classmates. In fact, the incident caused her to leave the college two days after the event, even though she had only recently at Bryn Maw as a freshman a month before.

“My dad is a Republican, my mom is a Democrat; I’ve grown up with political conversation to be very normal,” Moritz said during a recent phone interview from her home. “Most of my friends at high school were very liberal; my boyfriend is very liberal.”

Disappointment could be heard in her voice when she remarked how it upset her that people supposedly committed to freedom of speech and liberal ideas did not respect other people’s political beliefs.

“It’s always been very normal to me to be friends with – even get married to – people who don’t agree with you in the political arena,” she said.political-correctness-at-university

What exactly did Moritz post on Facebook on that Tuesday night in September? It read:

“Do you have anything to do this Saturday…? Perhaps you wouldn’t mind campaigning for Trump? I’m headed into Springfield to do just that but I’m carpooling with a guy I don’t know. For obvious reasons, I don’t want to go alone, so would anyone be willing to go with me?”

Instantly, comments to her post started flooding in from Bryn Mawr students. Moritz shared with me the screenshots of the comments she got.  Though she did not keep an exact count, there were clearly hundreds.

The post and the comments are no longer on Facebook. Moritz deleted both after it attracted negative attention for hours.  They were a mixture of people saying she was a “white supremacist,” “fascist,” and “bigot.” Others tried to ask people to calm down. A few others defended her, saying that: “We shouldn’t be crushing people’s freedom to think how they want to.”

In an interview, Moritz expressed frustration on how, on that night, people were judging her based on her “political beliefs, without bothering to know me or what my stances on things are at all.”

People she knew posted comments defending her; those who were against her had never met her. Even her roommates who were Chinese and Hispanic – two groups Trump has talked about in disparaging ways – stood by her.

“When people started jumping on that very angry bandwagon, I started getting more and more upset,” said Moritz.

At one point, one of her dorm’s peer mentors approached her, but not to offer her support. As Moritz recalls it, the mentor told her where the people commenting against her “were coming from” and said that she had “personally attacked” people on campus by posting on Facebook that she was a Trump supporter. Continue reading

Searching the Maze of Math

A Haverford Professor’s search for bias in algorithms


By Audra Devoto

“I like this algorithm; it’s clever” Sorelle Friedler said to her Haverford College class, tilting her head back and admiring what looked to be a tangle of dots on the screen. The algorithm she was referring to could discern which two dots out of millions were closest to each other in the blink of an eye—clever indeed.

Algorithms, or computer programs designed to solve problems, are gradually becoming so sophisticated that referring to them with human qualities is not unwarranted. Now used to make decisions ranging from the advertisements we see to more sinister outcomes, such as the sentencing order a judge might hand down in court, algorithms are quietly and constantly affecting our daily lives.

Friedler is well aware of the power of algorithms. She has purposefully embedded them in her life by studying them in an academic context.

In an interview sandwiched between classes, labs, and meeting with thesis students, Friedler talked easily and with obvious ardor about her research on algorithms.

-- Sorelle Friedler

— Sorelle Friedler

After graduating from Swarthmore College, she attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, where she studied the algorithms that can be used to describe objects in motion. Then she left academia seeking a different kind of challenge: Google.

“It was a lot of fun to get to see inside the belly of the beast for a while,” she recalled almost wistfully. But she said doesn’t miss the corporate atmosphere.

“It doesn’t give the leeway necessarily to work on what you are interested in”, she said, “or to go off on a tangent that might not be related to the task at hand”.

Friedler worked in a semi-secret division of Google called simply ‘X’, on a project aiming to provide universal internet access through weather balloons. If it sounds crazy, well, that’s kind of the point.

“[X’s] goal is really to tackle moonshot problems” Friedler said. But ultimately, Friedler said, “I liked the autonomy of being a researcher in an academic environment.”

Friedler’s current work is a reflection of something that she cares about deeply: discrimination and bias. Continue reading

Studies in Black and White

A Puerto Rican photographer chronicles the ‘Negraluz’


By Ana Alvarez
For Sandra Andino, it is difficult pinpoint the exact moment she became fascinated with photography. “I remember being a child and there being hundreds of photographs at home,” she says. Her dad, “the photographer of the house” as Andino calls him, loved photography and decided to share his fascination with his daughter. By the age of seven, Andino had her own Kodak Instamatic: “I wanted to photograph everything: my classmates, things at home, etc.”

Sandra Andino

Sandra Andino

Andino, 50, is a cultural anthropologist and a Puerto Rican faculty member of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

She also specializes in black-and-white photography and is the founder of Negraluz Productions. Aside from Andino being an educator, Negraluz is her main artistic endeavor and photography project.

Negraluz’ aim is to “present and represent visual images of Latinos of African descent, heritage, and ancestry in a positive light as history makers of our community, society, and the world,” as Negraluz’ website describes its mission.

Andino chose to juxtapose the Spanish words “negra” or black and “luz” or light in order to signal that blackness can bring enlightenment and consciousness to those within the Afro-Latino community (a community that she is a part of) who are trying to reconcile with their identity:

“In Hispanic culture, there are many negative connotations when the word ‘negro’ or ‘negra’ is utilized,” said Andino. “I wanted to do sort of a play on words and juxtapose these two words to demonstrate how blackness can be an opening– a path. To me it meant that blackness is not a negative thing but something very positive that can create awareness.”

Within Puerto Rican culture, the term “black” is constantly utilized with negative Continue reading