The Making of a Micro-Brewery

How one family went from brewing 5 gallons to 220 gallons of beer

By Ryan Gooding

Micro-breweries often conjure up a certain mental image: dimly lit, barrels disguised as tables, un-recognizable indie music wafting down from the house speakers – an almost hipster aesthetic.

The Crooked Eye Brewery defies those stereotypes.

Set back off of the main drag in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, the Crooked Eye sits quietly tucked adjacent to Silvio’s Deli and behind the Davidian Tattoo Studio.

Above the un-marked, windowless door — that looks more like a back-door than a main entrance, sits a sign: “Crooked Eye Brewery: For What Ales You”.

The brewery is not imposing, nor is it flashy.

Pulling the door open reveals, a large, fluorescently lit, almost colorless space.  Along the wall opposite the entrance, is the bar itself – completely normal save for its bare plywood side walls and white cinderblock backsplash.

“It’s brand new,” says co-owner Paul Hogan, gesturing towards the bar, “we just expanded it a couple weeks ago . . . big improvement over what it used to be.”

Hogan stretches out his arms, as if to demonstrate the size of the previous bar.

“Couldn’t have been much more than six or eight feet long,” he clarifies.  “Only sat three.”

Now, the L-shaped bar runs for nearly 20 feet and seats 13.

Crooked EyeAcross from the bar are four stainless steel tables – the kind of tables that might easily be confused with workbenches – and dozens more matching stools.

A garage door immediately to the left of the entrance serves not only as the bar’s only window during the winter time, but also as a makeshift outdoor bar in the summer months.

The floors are concrete, and dotted with industrial, floor-level drains.  The walls are unpainted, and almost completely devoid of hanging accoutrement.

“We’re going on our third year in the space,” Hogan said one recent Wednesday evening, during a visit to Crooked Eye, “and it’s never not been a work in progress.”

I’m not surprised.  Save for the bar itself, you might easily mistake the place as a workshop.

But, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

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The Last Picture Store

Ardmore’s Viva Video is a blast from the past

By Marcelo Jauregui

Monday: Dec. 7, 2015: 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Mere seconds have passed from the official store-opening time, and a customer has already pulled up in front of the back entrance of Ardmore’s Viva Video: The Last Picture Store.

Following right behind her is a man and child. Both walk briskly. The man’s shoulder-length hair is visible from a distance. He holds his son’s hand, pulling him along towards the store.

The woman hands Miguel Gomez an encased DVD before driving away. Gomez opens up the store and walks inside with his five-and-a-half year old son, Ash. Ash stays at the store with his father Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. when he gets dropped off at Kindergarten.

Ash runs around the store yelling excitedly about the large pile of movies that were

Miguel Gomez of Viva Video

Miguel Gomez of Viva Video

dropped off overnight. Gomez plugs in an auxiliary chord into his 4th generation iPod classic. Rock music immediately erupts from speakers around the store. Gomez helps Ash bring in the returned movies onto the counter.

“Oh, this one looks pretty cool,” says Ash.

“What’s that one?”


A huge smile runs over Gomez’s face. “How did you read that? Did you sound that one out? That’s the longest words you’ve ever sounded out, Ash!”

Ash takes me on a tour around the store. The store is somewhat divided into three spaces: one facing the parking lot, one facing the counter (this would be the middle of the store), and one facing Lancaster Avenue. The first space contains the DVDs on sale; the second, new releases; the third, everything else. The movies people ordered are in shelves behind the counter. Movie posters run throughout the store. Behind the counter are rankings written up on white boards and chalkboards: “Best Reviewed New Releases,” “Last Week’s Top Rentals.”

Salsa music is now playing as Ash shows me around. The first place he takes me to is the horror section. “I never watched this one, but my favorite one is probably The Evil Dead because my name is Ash.” Ash is the name of the main character of that film. Ash then leads me to the kids’ section. “I’m here a lot,” says Ash. He pulls out a few of his favorites: Garfield, Charlie Brown, G-Force. Ash points to a Harry Potter movie, questioning why it was in the kids section. We then start to talk about Harry Potter. “I have two of the books, but I didn’t read them because I don’t like books with no pictures,” states Ash.

We walk back to the counter. Before arriving, Ash quickly turns around and says, “Oh, one more thing, there are 14,000 movies here!”

Gomez chuckles. “I didn’t know he knew how many movies we had. He is correct.”

“You told me!”

“I know Ash! You have such a good memory, much better than mine.”

Ash goes to color near the back entrance. Gomez rushes over to the phone and answers. On the other line is a representative from The Ardmore Initiative, a business development bureau that provided Gomez with a job creation grant when he opened Viva Video.

Three years later, and Gomez is still keeping the place running. He is at the store Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 10.p.m. The store is open from 11a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. When Gomez is not working, his two partners in crime, Dan and Bryan, are at the store.

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The Little Creperie That Could

A husband and wife team work to make their small shop a success

By Kelsey Peart

Nestled in the corner of a half-residential, half-commercial cul-de-sac in the town of Wayne, Crêperie Béchamel serves up delicious and healthy crêpes.

The husband-and-wife team of Patrick and Jennifer Yasaitis work hard behind the counter, pumping out dozens of crêpes for hungry customers.

The small shop situated at the top of Louella Court. is a testament to the couple’s love for cooking and baking, letting Jennifer show off her skills as a pastry chef.

Jennifer and Patrick Yasaitis

Jennifer and Patrick Yasaitis

Although, the sweet crêpes are not their only specialty. The menu is divided into selections like breakfast, savory, kid friendly, dessert and classic sweet crêpes.

Patrick, of Bucks County, met Jennifer, of Delaware County, through mutual friends, “she was a friend-of-a-friend,” he says.

Their first date was at a crêperie in Philadelphia, which was–and still is–Patrick’s favorite food.

Now residing in Chesterbrook, not far from their crêperie, he says that they opened Crêperie Béchamel because “there weren’t a lot of places in the area where we could eat crepes the way we wanted.”

Jennifer had grown up and lived in Wayne so it feels “close to home. It’s our neighborhood.”

The crêperie has been open for three-and-a- half years, but “it hasn’t changed too, too much,” says Patrick. “You know, we are just trying to make things a little bit better. You get a little busier every day, every month. We have a lot of regulars we see a lot of the time, which is great. We improve as we can.”

 Saturday busyness

On Saturdays, Crêperie Béchamel is packed. The tables are full and Jennifer’s actions are visible behind a short, glass divider, all the customers watch as they share gossip, catch up and chat.

Jennifer works methodically, pouring batter onto the crêpe pans. She pours a large dollop in the center, spreads it evenly and waits. Flips the crêpe with a thin, long spatula and waits.

In the back, less visible, Patrick cooks the ingredients that will be folded into the crêpes. From the veggies to the meats, he prepares the gooey fillings and delivers them in silver bowls to Jennifer.

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Yes, We Can!

Canning food at home makes comeback

By Kelsey Peart                                                                                                        

Mina Harker, ‘15, is finishing up her degree this semester but something she has found during her time at Bryn Mawr will stay with her after she leaves.

Harker discovered her love for canning while juggling a knack for gardening and a tight, student budget.

Canning“There’s something magical about opening a can up in the winter and reliving memories from the summer,” she says, motioning towards her kitchen cabinet that houses her various canned creations.

The Wall Street Journal credits “the worst recession in decades and a trend towards healthier foods” as the main influences towards self-sustainability. Canning is the next logical step for an avid gardener.

Reasons to can include cost-efficiency, better taste, year-round organic produce availability, and the pure joy that comes with “a mini-time capsule,” as Harker describes it.

Although there is not a lot of hard data available about canning, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence: canning-related cookbooks and workshops are popping up all over the country.

There is one solid statistic that is telling. Ball Corporation, a name synonymous with the Mason jar, has seen a 60 percent rise in stocks over the past three years,due mostly to an increase in sales.

2014 has been one of the most successful years for Ball Corp. According to its annual report, it has seen a 5.5% increase in net sales from 2013, every year’s sales proving to be better than the last.

Sales up

Ad Age reveals that Ball Corp.’s sales were mostly flat throughout the ’90s, so this rise in popularity is attributed to the millennials. Ball Corp. has begun targeting the younger generations as a result.

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Say Goodbye to the SAT

SAT scores are no longer required at Bryn Mawr College

By Aliya Chaudhry                                                                                                               

Standardized test scores have long been considered to be an integral part of the college application.  Now, more and more colleges are dropping the requirement, with the number of test-optional colleges growing to over 850, according to

Bryn Mawr College went test-optional in 2014, making the class of 2019 the first set of applicants who were not required to send in test scores for either the SAT or the ACT.

SATFour years ago, Bryn Mawr conducted research looking at 10 years of standardized test score submissions along with GPAs, curriculum and how students were judged. The research showed that, “standardized test scores did not give us as much information saying that this was the best indicator of a student’s success,” according to Peaches Valdes, dean of undergraduate admissions at Bryn Mawr College.

The results of Bryn Mawr’s research matched those of a research study conducted by Bill Hiss, a former dean of admissions at Bates College, who found that going test-optional was beneficial for colleges and universities and that transcripts were actually the best indicators of academic success.

Valdes said, “We had institutional data and we had national data and therefore then we launched with going test-optional.”

Standardized tests, particularly the SAT, have been criticized for a number of reasons, including the belief that they test outdated or irrelevant information and are not a reliable indicator of academic ability. In addition, it has been pointed out that minority students and student from lower-income backgrounds perform worse on the SAT than others. Students criticized standardized tests for evaluating test-taking abilities instead of knowledge, ability or skill.

Briana Grenert, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College said that the SAT is, “not going to test how smart we are but how well we can take the test – that’s all it is.”

She said, “When our scores improved it was when we stopped paying attention to the content and just focused on the form.”

Mary Sweeney, another sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, stated that she believes the preparation involved in taking standardized tests is “overall a waste of time because it just teaches you how to take a test which is not a really important skill.”

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The Play’s the Thing

It’s crunch time for the student directors of “Next to Normal.”

By Alison Robins

When Kristian Sumner walks into Old Rhoads Dining Hall Thursday night, her job is to turn the empty room into a black-box theater. As co-director, Summer must transform the defunct dining hall into a make-shift three-level set fit for simulated sex, drugs and rock and roll for the next two hours.

With the Bi-Co musical theater group Greasepaint’s production of “Next to Keep CalmNormal” opening December 11th, there is no time to waste getting ready.

“Can someone call Amy?” Damon Motz-Storey, a senior at Haverford College and the other co-director of the production asks. It is 8:15 p.m., and rehearsal should have already started.

A voice breaks from the one of the actors who are present, running lines and practicing notes in the back of the room. “I called her, she’s on her way.”

Amy Xu, who plays the daughter, Natalie, is not the only one missing.

Brian Wang, who plays her brother Gabriel, walks in right on time. He immediately begins to do 100 jumping jacks because he was late by 10 minutes the day before.

As soon as Xu walks in, Motz-Storey turns to Sumner. “She owes us 50 jumping jacks.”

Sumner nods. “Yo, Amy! Jumping jacks…” She looks at Xu, standing still, and Wang, jumping quickly and perfunctory. “Brother and sister jumping jacks, go!”

“With a cast this small, we can’t start if someone’s not here,” explains Motz-Storey. There are six actors. “We could already be six minutes into the act if they weren’t late.”

* * * *

The cast prepared for what would be their first full run-through of “Next to Normal,” a rock musical about a nuclear family gone wrong with a bi-polar matriarch, a pacifying father, a genius daughter, and a son long dead.

“Well, we’ve done it before,” Sumner says about tonight being the first time the whole show would be run through in one go. Continue reading

The Cellist

Her love of the cello began at age five

By Elisabeth Kamaka

There it was, one of the largest and most intimidating stringed instruments in the music classroom, nearly as big as she was. And she would be playing it.

Others tried to discourage her from playing such a large instrument, but she would not listen.

Five-year old Sarah Lew’s small hands could barely reach the strings as she struggled to play her first note. As she brought down her bow to touch the strings of the cello, its distinct calm and solemn tone suddenly filled the entire classroom. And it was from that moment, little Sarah Lew made up her mind: she was going to be a cellist.

Lew, 19, is now a sophomore at Bryn Mawr College. She is majoring in chemistry and interested in pursuing forensic chemistry or neurological research. Life is different for the Houston, Texas native trying to adjust to the fast-paced East Coast academic life.  But rather than leave her cello to collect dust at home, Lew brought her cello to Bryn Mawr, where she performs with the Bi-Co Haverford-Bryn Mawr College Orchestra.

Although she has studied general music and choir, and plays the piano and flute, Lew considers herself a cellist. “I’ve dabbled in pretty much every string instrument but the only one I can consistently say I do well playing is the cello,” she explains. Lew usually practices in blocks of 30 minutes to an hour but doesn’t like to put pressure on herself about practicing. She says during school “when things get really bad” she has a hard time keeping up with her cello practice. “If I’m going to practice, I’m going to put everything into it and if I’m stressed out already, then I don’t want to stress myself out more.”

The Bryn Mawr Haverford College Orchestra

The Bryn Mawr Haverford College Orchestra

Lew is currently one of the personnel managers for the Bi-Co Haverford-Bryn Mawr College orchestra. Her responsibilities include managing the orchestra’s attendance book, and communicating with members who are absent. Lew says that one of the challenges of being a personnel manager is remembering everyone in an orchestra with 75 members. Although she says that she now knows most of the members in the strings section, “I made a super big mistake…and asked a random oboist about a clarinet player.” This valuable work experience allows Lew to learn the everyday workings of running an orchestra, and provides much-needed support to Heidi Jacob, the orchestra conductor. Lew plans to continue playing her cello in the future but she does not know if she will “join a professional group.” However, Lew said that she may be interested in teaching music in the future, even as a part-time job. Continue reading

Honoring the code


By Emilia Otte                      

Recent cheating scandals have caused some of the most prestigious colleges in the United States to take steps toward implementing an honor code.

At Harvard University, 125 students were suspected of collaborating on a take-home final exam in May of 2012, according to the New York Times.

Eight months later, multiple allegations of cheating on exams spread across ColumbiaUniversity and its sister school, BarnardCollege.

In response to these widely publicized events, Harvard faculty voted last May to instate the first honor code in the history of the university. The code outlines expectations of academic integrity among students. According to The Spectator, The Columbia College Student Council also voted unanimously for the introduction of both an honor pledge and an honor code on campus.

However, students and professors alike remain skeptical: Will a written code of values really be enough to keep students honest?

* * *

For students at Bryn Mawr and HaverfordColleges, two small liberal arts colleges located in Bryn Mawr and Haverford, PA, respectively, the honor code is a fixture in their daily lives. Dating back to the 1890s, the honor code is one of these schools’ oldest traditions. It calls for integrity in both academic and social settings.

Haverford_logoProspective students coming onto either campus for the first time might be surprised to see iPhones lying across tables with no owner in sight, bikes left outside without locks, and laundry left unattended. This is proof that the honor code extends beyond the classroom and into the greater community.

In a survey done of 295 Bryn Mawr and Haverford students, 72% said that having an honor code enhances their college experience “a lot”.

Victoria Tamura, a first-year at Bryn Mawr, said of the honor code: “It made me feel like the place was a lot more welcoming. I guess it affected my view on the community.”

She continued, “I liked the fact that we were trusted. I like the flexibility that the honor code gives students here.”

Students who participated in the survey cited a variety of positive things about the honor code. Many students appreciate the ability to self-schedule their final exams, the feelings of trust and safety the code promotes in the community, and the freedom to make decisions “like adults”.

“The thing I like best about the Honor Code is actually the social part,” said Veronica Benson-Moore, a Bryn Mawr sophomore. “I feel more comfortable knowing that people are more likely to accept my expression of my feelings as well as more likely to tell me if I’ve offended them.”

Francesca Felder, a sophomore at Haverford, believes that the honor code fosters a unique trust between students and professors. “Professors can take students at their word and not be suspicious that students are cheating or trying to manipulate them,” she said, “Students can trust that a professor will believe what they say.”

Haverford sophomore Samuel Walter agrees. “I enjoy the trust it creates between students and teachers,” he said. “I also find that it encourages learning for learning’s sake rather than fostering cut throat competition over grades.”

Although most students have a basic knowledge of its contents, only 22% of Bryn Mawr students have read the code cover-to-cover, according to the survey, which was emailed to Haverford and Bryn Mawr students in December.

So how do Bryn Mawr students know if they are following the rules?

“Oh, that’s such a scary question,” said Claire Craig, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr, when asked whether she follows the honor code. “I guess I do. I hope I do. I try to.”Bryn Mawr logo

Rather than struggle through the pages of mundane procedures and antiquated language, many students choose to adhere to their own, simpler, variation of the code.

“I adhere to the verbal honor code that I’ve heard; as in don’t cheat, don’t steal things- that stuff,” said Bryn Mawr sophomore Lauren Sauers.

“I take part in the supportive community here, and I’ve never stolen anything, or cheated since I’ve been here,” said Rosemary Ryden Cohen, a Haverford first-year.

Students at Haverford are far more likely to have read their honor code, as the school requires all first-years to be familiar with it. Out of the 61 Haverford students who completed the survey, two-thirds had read the full text of the honor code, and all of them had read at least parts of it.

* * *

In general, the words “respect”, “responsibility”, “trust” and “freedom” seem to highlight students’ understanding of the honor code at both colleges.

Courtney Bria Ahmed, a first-year at Haverford, explained that the honor code “didn’t just set forth rules, it set forth hopes and expectations.”

Josh Nadel, a senior at Haverford, said that he has read the honor code and “abides by the spirit of the Honor Code- the concepts of trust, concern, and respect for the community.”

While students feel drawn to the “spirit” of the honor code, the “letter” of the code sometimes falls by the wayside. If the violation is serious enough, students are called to account for their actions before the honor board- a panel of students and faculty members that review the case and determine the proper penalty.

According to Melanie Bahti, president of the Bryn Mawr honor board, Bryn Mawr’s honor board hears roughly five to eight cases per semester. Haverford sees about the same number- an average of 13 or 14 cases per year. The academic violations span all class years, course levels, and departments. The overwhelming majority of cases deal with plagiarism. Punishments include receiving a failing grade on the assignment in question, having to go to the WritingCenter to learn proper citation methods, or writing a letter to the community. The punishments are directed toward reintegrating offenders into the community rather than forcing them out.

The number of students that stand before the honor board represents a tiny percentage of the Haverford and Bryn Mawr communities. In the online survey, however, 13% of students admitted to violating the honor code themselves, and 27% of students have witnessed a violation by one of their peers.

“You see minor infringements of the social honor code…especially at parties,” said Bryn Mawr senior Anna Kalinsky. “[Stuff] gets broken, people swipe in strangers.”

Other common problems include stealing food, laundry detergent, or dishes from the dining hall, looking up answers or taking extra time on a take-home exam, collaborating with friends on a solo homework assignment, discussing grades and tests openly, and breaking confidentiality.

“Somebody ate my birthday cake and left the dirty fork in the sink,” recalled Alexandra Krusinski, a junior at Bryn Mawr.

* * *

Out of 107 students who claim to have witnessed violations of the honor code, only seven brought the issue to the attention of the Honor Code committee. Thirty-five percent preferred to confront the offender themselves, and a whopping 62% took no action at all.

While the honor code encourages constructive dialogue, the reality is that many students feel extremely uncomfortable at the idea of confronting their peers.

“I’m really bad at confrontation in general,” explained Amala Someshwar, a Bryn Mawr first-year who chose not to report the violation she witnessed.

Responders to the online survey also expressed concern that taking action would be ‘making too big a deal’ out of minor incidents, while others feel that the result of the confrontation is not worth the anxiety that goes along with speaking up.

Haverford sophomore Francesca Felder admitted to feeling “rather unequipped to confront people. There was recently an experience where a friend of mine was hurt by something someone said, and decided not to confront him about it because ‘it won’t make a difference’.”

She continued: “I wish there was more conversation about exactly how to confront people and what to expect from it.”

James Truitt, another sophomore at Haverford, agreed that the code could be confusing when it comes to the issue of confrontation.

“There’s a lot of questions in my head about confrontation- at what point should  I confront someone about something, and at what point should I let it go? Most times, with any confrontation, I don’t want to go through the hassle of confronting them about it. Is that a violation of the code?” he asked. “When does confrontation become an attempt to impose my value-system on others?”

Even those who readily confront their peers are reluctant to bring their case to the honor board, preferring instead to give the offending party the benefit of the doubt.

“I didn’t think they were thinking coherently,” said Alexa Gjonca, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr, about students she caught stealing.

“I know people who have, like, talked to the honor board, but I feel like… most of the time, people aren’t consciously violating the code…they don’t know all the rules or they’re just really not aware of what they’re doing in a given moment,” said Ava Hawkinson, another Bryn Mawr sophomore.

She feels that confrontation is a better course of action. “Usually when you remind someone [that they are violating the honor code] they’ll just be like ‘oh, let me modify my behavior.’ That’s the optimal situation.”

 * * *

Honor codes have a long and proud history. They originated in an era when knights in shining armor and samurai went to battle for their countries. In those times, a code of ethics was something to be followed at the expense of all else, and honor was a principle worth dying for.

In the context of a 21st century college campus, is such a code still relevant?

Celeste Ledesma, a sophomore at Bryn Mawr, believes so. “The honor code is necessary, because at this point in our college education, we don’t know any differently.”

Eighty-six percent of respondents on the online survey agreed that the honor code is a vital factor in keeping the community honest.

A few students presented a different and compelling argument: that, rather than adjusting their actions to fit the code, students who already held themselves to certain standards chose a college with similar values.

In fact, 75% of Haverford respondents and 46% of Bryn Mawr respondents online said that the honor code influenced their decision to apply to the school.

“I wanted a trusting and safe environment and I liked the degree of independence and responsibility the honor code awards,” said Ariel Dineen, a Haverford sophomore.

“I saw it as a marker of a school that cared about good values,” said Adam Stambor, a first-year at Haverford. “A group of students who all feel the honor code is important…I believed would make a good group of people- moral and ethical and honest.”

Therefore, does the code influence good decision-making, or does it simply bring honest people together?

“Is it ‘necessary’? No, probably not,” said Christopher Hedad, a sophomore at Haverford. “At Haverford and Bryn Mawr, where an Honor Code exists, I’d like to think that even if the text of the Honor Code went away, the values would still persist.”

Either way, Hedad points out, there is “something special” about having an honor code. The vast majority of Bryn Mawr and Haverford students feel that it is a positive force in their lives, and a far better solution than having the administration crack down.

A few small changes could go a long way toward making the code more effective. Clarifying some of the more confusing aspects of the code, such as rules about confrontation, discussion of grades, and collaboration, would help more students understand what actions are acceptable. Shortening the code, or reorganizing it into bullet points, might inspire more students to read the document, particularly at Bryn Mawr, where the code is a formidable 12 pages in length.

* * *

Even without these modifications, 95% of the students surveyed believe that the honor code has at least some effect on student behavior, and 41% believe it has a great deal of impact.

“We see the honor code as a privilege and a responsibility, and are willing to do the work necessary to protect its benefits,” commented one Bryn Mawr senior on the online survey.

Said Bryn Mawr sophomore Teresa Wang: “I think the honor code is an idea that’s embedded in the entire community. It’s how the Bryn Mawr and Haverford students ought to live throughout their entire college life and even carry…into society once they graduate.”

Perhaps Haverford junior Kelsey Owyang best summed up how Bryn Mawr and Haverford students feel about their code and its effect on the school community.

“Yes, it could be strengthened and more comprehensive; yes, it has problems”, she said, “But on a fundamental level I think it affects our behavior a lot — the atmosphere here is unlike any other learning environment-or living environment-I’ve experienced.”


This story was a class project for ART264W students at Bryn Mawr College and it involved numerous face-to-face interviews plus an online survey of students at both colleges.  Additional reporting was done by Emilia Otte, who also wrote the story.


Flying the flag


By Kelli Breeden

It was a run-of-the-mill September afternoon and two seniors were finishing decorating their dorm rooms at the Radnor Hall residence at BrynMawrCollege. They turned to the small hallway alcove that gave way to their singles. A short time later, they stepped away to reveal a three-by-five foot Confederate flag occupying the stretch of wall between their doors and masking tape labeled “Mason-Dixon Line” separating themselves from the rest of the hall.

These students said they intended to make a statement of hometown pride, both having been born and raised in the Deep South. This would go unquestioned in a Southern university, but at Bryn Mawr, women’s liberal arts school outside Philadelphia, it would turn out to be a grievous mistake.

confederate-flag_663655This decision, over the next few weeks, would completely alter their place in the college and reveal schisms within a school that prides itself on being an inclusive and cohesive community. What started as the independent self-expression of two students became a platform for larger racial issues.

Remarkably, this whirlwind of events occurred in the span of two weeks. Emotions ran hot and blood boiled, but just a month after the events, campus had returned to normal. The students involved declined requests for comments, after being publicly named by local and national news.

All the quotations were gathered from campus meetings and events where the two women spoke to the community at large and other students spoke about their thoughts surrounding the incident. When asked about it today, students shake their heads and say they don’t really understand how it all happened so quickly and intensely.

Day One: A Flag Unfurled

The flag was put up, the line was put down, and the two students continued their day as usual.

Decoration in dorms on Bryn Mawr’s campus is the norm. Each year, dorm leadership teams get together to decorate halls before the rest of the study body arrives. Competitions are held to see which students can decorate their room the best, the winner receiving prizes such as a Kindle or a high number in the room lottery for the following year.

This leads to eclectic styles: a winner from 2013 collected gnome figurines and potted plants, filling her room with the little guys and countless artistic papers from postcards to full sized posters. One student papered a wall with maps of Philadelphia.

Ironically, while there are dorm rules that govern such items as type of adhesive used to hold décor in place, there are no rules censoring the content of what is put up.

This is considered a great thing at Bryn Mawr: walking down the halls, one can see anything from naked women to marijuana posters to Marxist iconography. This idea of self-expression is important here, where culturally taboo topics, such as gender identity and sexually, are encouraged and openly discussed.


Day Two: Side Looks and Murmurs

A college campus loves its gossip. Whispers around the dorm began, many recalling a rumor from last spring that a Confederate flag would be seen in Radnor Hall. Many felt that this large flag was too ostentatious and inflammatory, and spoke with Radnor’s dorm leadership team about taking action.

The issue that concerned most students was with the ties this flag has to racial issues throughout American history. The Confederate flag you see flown across the south today was in fact the battle flag of the troops lead by General Robert E. Lee as part of the army of the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. Americans remember this war in different ways: for some, it was a war over the continuation of slavery while others see it as a battle for states’ rights.

Regardless, the flag was re-appropriated in the 20th century in Alabama and Georgia to protest the desegregation of schools following Brown vs. Board of Education in 1956. From there it became a common symbol of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s and 60s.

What to do about the appearance of this flag? People turned to the dorm leadership team.

Dorm leadership teams, or DLTs, are comprised of several members, including dorm presidents, hall advisors, customs (orientation) leaders, peer mentors and community diversity assistants. These women are selected by their peers and trained to assist in conflicts that may arise through students from many different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic classes, etc. living together. They are supported by graduate students of the School of Social Work and Social Research, as well as the Residential Life Office.

Day Three: The First Step

One of Radnor’s dorm presidents felt compelled to act after so many complaints from Radnor residents and growing awareness around the rest of campus. She held a private meeting with the two women, explaining the connotations associated with the flag and asked that they remove it. The students refused.

To them, the flag had “a stronger connection to home than the other messages” as one of the students explained in Q&A meetings following these events.

The discrepancy seen here was that while the ties to racial discrimination are apparent, so are seemingly benign associations of the flag with Southern heritage and culture. In WWII, regiments made of men mostly from the South used the flag as their unofficial banner. Today, it can be seen on t-shirts, flip flops, bumper stickers and more.

 Day Four: “No Offense Meant”

While refusing to remove the flag, the women recognized the hurt fellow students were feeling. Thus, by midmorning, the flag in the hallway of Radnor featured an index card sign saying that it was a symbol of Southern pride and no racial insensitivity was meant by it.

Concerned members of the dorm leadership team sought a meeting with a member of the Residential Life Office “basically to find out what resources we had available to us in dealing with this issue” said a senior and Radnor resident. There weren’t any.

“We were told to handle this as best as we could,” the senior said.

However, at the same time, students of color approached representatives of the PensbyMulticulturalCenter to express their concerns over the public display of the flag.

This was another topic of debate. The two women were part of what is known at Bryn Mawr as a ‘hall group’ –a handful of rooms set aside for a group to select together so they can live with her friends.

These are often organized around the building’s unusual structures, which usually allow some separation of the group from the rest of the dorm. In this case, the girls did have a small inset of the hallway to themselves. They “thought it was a private space”, explained one of the students. However, it remained in clear view of the rest of the hallway, regardless of what section of wall it was on.

 Day Five: Dorm Issue Goes Campus-wide

Another meeting was called between the dorm leadership team and the residents displaying the flag, officially asking that the flag be removed.

Recognizing the mounting opposition, the students agreed and moved the flag to one of their rooms.

If the DLT and two students thought this would resolve the issue, their hopes were dashed. While the flag was no longer in a public space, it was in plain view of the main campus green through the window.

What was considered a potential misunderstanding was now interpreted as a “blatant show of disrespect,” according to an anonymous student at a later Q&A session.

Other students throughout campus felt that the two women in question were purposely trying to create issues by first refusing to take down the flag, then by putting up a sign that could be construed as telling everyone to ignore their hurt feelings over the display of this symbol. Finally, when forced to take down the flag by dorm leadership, placing it in clear view of the not just their dorm but the entire school and any visitor walking through campus.

The two students later said they were “unaware of the impact” their actions would create. “I was not exposed to a lot of American history. I only knew what was around me, conversations [about the flag] were not being had in that light where I grew up and was not aware of how it effects people now” explained one of the students in a public forum. However, this ignorance was not considered enough by many students at the college, many calling for the women to be removed from Radnor Hall and not even be allowed to walk at graduation in May.

It was claimed that this is a violation of the Bryn Mawr Honor Code that states that one must have “continued commitment not only to our own environment, but to that of our sisters and brothers, result[ing] in the enrichment of our atmosphere, the strengthening of our foundation, and the constant reaffirmation of our community.”

This passage points towards an expectation for adherence to social responsibility – that when one’s ignorance leads her to harm others in her community, immediate and reconciliatory action ought to take place.

While these two students had so far done everything that had been officially asked of them, many doubted their sincerity and true beliefs.

Day Seven: Radnor Community Deliberates

A dorm-wide discussion with almost all Radnor residents took place; discussing reactions and what ought to be done about the situation.

No conclusion was reached. Outrage mounted amongst the students.

“The residents showed a blatant disregard for the feelings of fear and violation expressed by first years, students from the south, white students, and by students of color” said a group of 31 Radnor students in a letter to the public.

Day Eight: Bigger Than Two Students and A Flag

A meeting was arranged through the Bryn Mawr-Haverford-Swarthmore chapter of the NAACP to discuss and organize a demonstration in protest of the indifference the administration of Bryn Mawr to this issue.

While Bryn Mawr administrators considered it primarily a social issue and encouraged the dorm leadership to handle it themselves in an expression of self-governance, most students felt their reluctance to step in revealed a larger and systemic issue of failing to protect the rights and feelings of students of color.

Over 150 students and faculty attended the meeting, as well as key administrators, including Kim Cassidy, President of Bryn Mawr.

These women sought to “transform the campus-wide pain of a negative situation regarding the hanging of the Confederate flag into a positive, larger discussion about systemic race relation that our institution faces” wrote a member of the NAACP in response to this meeting.

Meanwhile, the blinds to the window revealing the flag were closed.

 Day Nine: Protest and National Attention

That afternoon, several hundred students and faculty of all colors gathered together in solidarity for those suffering from the racial issues not addressed by Bryn Mawr’s administration.

Everyone wore black and linked arms to show their support. Signs declared sayings such as “Administrators silence speak volumes”, “Ignorance is not an excuse” and “Your privilege > my safety”. Hashtags such as #IfIWere, #BecauseIAm, #BMCBanter, and #RaceAtBMC were used in social media to support the demonstration and the call for change.

This demonstration brought outside attention. Local and national news outlets took note of the story.

Cassidy was supportive of the demonstration, saying in an email to the Bryn Mawr community that she “believe[s] our diversity is a strength and a mark of excellence and I am deeply committed to working together with you to create a campus climate that is experienced as safe and supportive by all community members.“

While she stated that both the issues experienced on campus and the rights of the two students involved needed to be considered, she was confident a reasonable decision could be made and Bryn Mawr could move forward through better diversity education.

This statement seemed to be saying that this was all a misunderstanding by the two students involved, and the school, while letting the student body resolve the issue, was deeply committed to the support and proper representation of the students of color at Bryn Mawr.

The flag was removed following the demonstration.

Gone but Not Forgotten

While the initial concern over the display of the Confederate flag had been rectified, many felt that the students in question were not forced to face the consequences of their actions. Many wanted these women to be examples for a stronger presence of a zero tolerance policy for racial bias and insensitivity.

In a signed letter, representatives of the Radnor community asked for the removal of the two women not just from Radnor Hall, but the campus residential community as a whole. “While we are unwilling to live in an environment with those students, we cannot, in good conscience, impose this threat on members of the greater Bryn Mawr community,” the letter said.

Bryn Mawr strongly supports the idea of self-governance. So, when a statement, such as the letter by Radnor residents, gives a clear issue and solution, and is backed by the majority of the residents at the residence hall, it is generally honored.

The two students were relocated to an off-campus apartment leased by the college.

Repercussions also found their way into the two students’ extracurricular lives.

As members of multiple athletic teams, their right to continue participation was called into question. Ultimately, it was decided that the students be allowed to keep their places on the roster. However, one of the students was removed from her leadership position as the secretary of SAAC, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.

The events surrounding what began as a harmless, if misguided, display of hometown pride became a conduit for larger issues.

Two students raised in the South and ignorant of the racial implications of the Confederate Flag found themselves as symbols for the larger culture of passive oppression through a refusal by administrations to act quickly and decisively in instances of personal insensitivity and bias.

This led to their removal from campus, loss of leadership positions, and quasi-ostracism from the community at large.

Are these just consequences for the ignorant actions of two college students? Or are they an over-zealous response channeled by frustration at not being able to address racism on a larger systemic basis?

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.