The “Smart Drugs” Debate

Is it wrong to use Adderall and other drugs to enhance performance?

By Maggie Heffernan                                                                                          

Nicole Giannetti begins every morning in the same way: she gets up, slips on one of her many stylish pairs of ankle boots, and strides toward the Dining Center to make a 16-ounce cup of iced coffee.

Yet for Giannetti, it is not so much the taste of the beverage that she craves as the jolt of caffeine that it dependably provides her.

“I got addicted to Dunkin Donuts iced coffee over the summer,” admits the Haverford College sophomore. “It was pretty bad.”

The energy boost one gets from consuming caffeinated drinks such as coffee, Red Bull, and Monster is no new phenomenon to high school and college-aged students. Now, however, a new stimulant is entering the conversation: “smart drugs.”

So-called “smart drugs” include Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil and are typically prescribed to treat disorders such as ADHD. Students who do not have prescriptions forAdderol these drugs sometimes take them, however, in the hopes that they will be able to focus better and gain a competitive edge in the classroom. According to a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 11% of 12- to 25-year-olds use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

And recent dialogue suggests that this percentage has only gone up.

At Haverford, however, the attitude towards “smart drugs” seems to be an exception to the national trend. In an anonymous online survey of 230 self-selected Haverford students, over half of respondents stated that taking “smart drugs” to boost academic performance is “cheating.” 22% said that they were “not sure” if this constitutes cheating.

Many respondents also noted that the use of these drugs in individuals without prescriptions for them is unfair for students who have a medical need for them.

“In order to get closer to the level of attention and focus the typical student has, someone with ADHD needs to take a medication for it,” said Haverford sophomore Chelsea Richardson. “If the use of that medication becomes normalized, then the level of attention and focus of the typical student is raised above what a student with ADHD can possibly reach.” 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.


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

Are these men dumb jocks?

A survey of Haverford College athletes explores the stereotype

Haverford Cricket Team, circa 1900

Haverford Cricket Team, circa 1900


By Geoff Hartmann       

The “dumb jock.”  It’s one of the oldest stereotypes in the book.  They’re the kids who rule high school and end up as the big men on campus in college.  They’re weak in the classroom, don’t work very hard, and are only friendly to their own kind, often bullying anyone who is an outsider.

You wouldn’t expect to find many of these dumb jocks at Haverford College, one of the best academic schools in the country.  Because Haverford’s athletic teams compete on the Division 3 level, they aren’t allowed to offer any scholarships or financial aid to athletes based on their athletic performance.  As a result, all athletes must go through the same stringent admissions process as every other student.

Since athletes aren’t given any special treatment in the admissions process, you wouldn’t think that the same sorts of stereotypes about athletes would prevail at Haverford.

You would be wrong.

A survey was recently sent out to the Haverford athletic community to gauge their feelings about their experiences as student-athletes.  The poll, which garnered 46 responses, highlighted a few interesting trends in the athletic community, as did subsequent one-on-one interviews with athletes..

For starters, a surprisingly large number of athletes feel non-athletes at Haverford view them negatively.  Over one quarter of the athletes surveyed felt that non-athletes think of them as being “unintelligent” and “unfriendly.”  Additionally, nearly 20% of the athletes said that they thought non-athletes think of them as “slackers” and 10% said that they thought non-athletes consider them to be “lazy.”

When asked to choose which term best describes how they feel non-athletes view them, nearly one quarter of the athletes chose a negative term – either “unintelligent,” “lazy,” or “unfriendly.”

Though there are a large percentage of athletes who feel they are viewed negatively by fellow students, there are differing views about the extent to which it’s a problem.

“I wouldn’t say that people say I’m dumb, just because I’m a math major, but people definitely wouldn’t go out of their way to say I’m smart in the same way they might for a non-athlete,” said senior baseball player Brett Cohen.

“I think the majority of non-athletes, and I realize this is a pretty big generalization, but I feel like a majority of them would at most see an athlete as being average academically,” said senior basketball captain Louis Cipriano.  “While they might not think of athletes as stupid, they definitely don’t think of athletes in a positive way.”

So while “unintelligent” may be too strong of a word to describe how non-athletes view athletes at Haverford, it’s clear that there is a difference between how athletes and non-athletes are thought of academically.

What’s unclear is why this difference exists, even at a school like Haverford.  Not surprisingly, non-athletes aren’t eager to open up about this subject.  However, Cohen, who’s known on campus for being eager to speak about issues in the athletic community, has a few explanations for why athletes have they academic reputation that they do from the rest of the student body.

“I think a lot of non-athletes think athletes are dumb for two reasons,” said Cohen.   “First, they think a lot of athletes just take easier courses.  So while a non-athlete might take an extremely heavy course load because they have more time to devote to school, an athlete may try and choose one or two easier classes just because they don’t have as much time to dedicate to studying.  The second thing is that athletes usually have less academic kinds of conversations outside of class than non-athletes.  So, for example, when kids are in the Dining Center, a lot of times you hear athletes talking about sports or pop culture or social gossip, as opposed to ‘academic talk.’  And so people interpret this to mean that athletes are less academic and, therefore, less smart.”

Cohen brings up an interesting point in his extremely blunt take on this subject.  This idea that athletes take easier courses than non-athletes should be looked at more in-depth.  At Haverford, there are certain courses and certain professors that are known for being “easy.”  In general, a lot of the students who take these classes are athletes. 

However, the fact that these “easy” classes have a large number of athletes doesn’t mean as much as it might appear.  First, most of these “easy” classes are entry-level classes and, therefore, are larger classes.  Because athletes make up 37% of the student body, per the Haverford admissions’ website, the fact that there are a lot of athletes in large classes shouldn’t come as a surprise and doesn’t necessarily mean much.

Second, as Cohen points out, a lot of the differences in schedule difficulties has to do with the amount of time that athletes have to devote to school, an issue that we will look at further shortly.

Despite the way they feel non-athletes perceive them, athletes still view themselves as being just as intelligent as the broader student body.

“I don’t notice any difference between athletes and non-athletes when it comes to academics,” said Cipriano. Continue reading

A doctor’s life

busy_hospital_corridorDr. Onyeka Okonkwo is a long way from her home in Nigeria

By Sila Ogidi

 What day is it?


And the month?


What about the year? What year is it?

-13       `

 That is one of many simple mental status tests Dr. Onyeka Okonkwo, a 31-year-old Nigerian, performs on patients such as the 82-year-old man she attended to on her rounds yesterday at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Right before her rounds she arrives at 8:30 a.m., late to her regular morning debriefing from the overnight staff. She stands out in the crowd of white laboratory coats and blue scrubs in her green and white color-block dress and smart blazer. Her pager is attached to her left boot and her legs are shifting –she is restless and eager to begin the day.

 Four months is a short time to have many of the managerial responsibilities Dr. Okonkwo has at the teaching hospital. In addition to seeing patients, she manages the daily routines of the staff, organizes the curriculum for residents, coordinates faculty research and is currently in the process of recruiting new members of staff. She doesn’t hate it, but it is different.  She is comfortable getting to work using taxicabs, trains and buses- means of transportation that a middle class family living in Nigeria rarely use.

In a tiny, tucked away bar and restaurant near the Philadelphia Museum of Art Okonkwo orders an amaretto sour and begins to casually stroll through memory lane and how she came to find herself in this city 10 miles away from her previous home and 7,000 miles away from the country of her birth. Life happens differently in Philadelphia. Then again, few things can be said to have any similarity to living and working in New York City.

Working in New York City as a faculty member at New York University and a doctor in the Veterans Affairs Hospital, she prided herself on having become accustomed to the cramped spaces and fast-paced life that only a place such as New York City can offer.

Between the fancy restaurants and the $1,000-a-month apartments for rent, Okonkwo had no problems fitting in and even carrying on a long distance relationship with current husband, Francis Chiejine who lived in Philadelphia. Before NYU, Okonkwo had been a student at Columbia Medical School after her graduation from Howard University in Washington D.C. in 2003.

“I was so angry that the first year of medical school was pass/fail,” said Okonkwo “I really wanted to show how smart I was.” That was a statement she came to regret very quickly into her first year. It amazed her to see all the other people who graduated from their various institutions and considered themselves to be the best. She often recalls one of her peers whom she described to “simply roll out of bed and know everything.” It was people like that who showed her just how success happens differently, as she struggled countless nights to read and memorize medical books and concepts.

“I’m so surprised you’re a doctor,” she recalled her mother saying “I always thought you would end up a journalist or something.

At a co-ed college

Being biology major and classical studies minor at Howard meant that medical school was really all Okonkwo saw as the end goal after college. One of her greatest regrets in college was not knowing that she could major in anything and still go to medical school. However, if she didn’t study biology she wouldn’t have spent many days in the computer lab and in turn she wouldn’t have met her college boyfriend  — a strapping young Nigerian, Uche Nwamara who was a combined classical studies and history major. It didn’t necessarily help that her older brother also attended Howard at that time and lived in the same dorm as her and her boyfriend.

“Where were you last night?” her brother yelled, “I came looking for you at 1a.m.!”

It never occurred to Okonkwo that leaving her room to watch movies till they fell asleep in her boyfriend’s room could look suspicious to an older brother who still thought his sister innocent. The reality was that she was indeed innocent.

“Our awkwardness brought us together,” admitted Okonkwo because attending Howard University alongside her older brother was the first of many things in her life.

When she was four years old her parents talked of traveling to England for a short holiday and since nobody told her otherwise, Okonkwo assumed she was going with them. She played hide-and-seek with her three brothers and one sister while making mental notes of all the things she needed to get ready for the trip. Okonkwo had never been outside of Lagos state in Nigeria before, aside from the bi-annual trips to her local village in Delta state located in the south east of the country and only an eight-hour drive from home.  She was excited and thrilled at the chance to experience something new. Alas, with nowhere left to hide during her game, she found herself hiding behind a curtain, which got stepped on a little too hard. The iron rod supporting the curtain crashed down on her small frame and immediately medical attention was needed.

Moments later the situation is calm and her mother comes into the room to inform her of a change in plans. Continue reading

A ukulele revival

The ukulele is back as a popular instrument

By Shreepriya Poudel

Hawaii is five thousand miles away from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Yet, the soft sound of the Hawaiian ukulele echoes in the hallways of the college’s dormitories. Moving away from the usually popular guitar, violin or the piano, students today have embraced the ukulele. For a small wooden instrument developed on an island and barely a hundred years old, the ukulele is gaining popularity,fast.  And it looks like it is here to stay.

Sheena Gopal is a junior at Bryn Mawr college. She has been playing the Ukulele for two years now. After a busy day filled with homework and classes, she likes to sit on her bed, relax and strum the ukulele. She started playing this instrument after her friend taught her a few chords. She liked it so much that she decided to teach herself more.

“It is so easy to play that I have taught myself a lot of songs just through Youtube”, says Gopal. Most people find it easy to learn the simple four-stringed instrument. Unlike violins or pianos, ukuleles are inexpensive to buy index_ukuleletoo; you could buy a good one for anything from $20 to $100. Since the instrument is so easy to learn, there is no added cost for lessons. It might just become the new favorite for parents.

Hannah Nacheman, another junior, agrees that the ukulele is intuitive and easy to play. She thinks that it is a “fun” instrument and plays it whenever she needs a “break” from schoolwork. The portability of the instrument and the ease of handling are what makes it a favorite with her.  Both Nacheman and Gopal have friends who also play the instrument because of the low cost of buying one and learning to play it. “Fun, cheaper and easier than the guitar”, is how Sarina Shrestha, another student, describes it.

Nacheman occasionally goes to ukulele jam sessions on campus. This is where she gets to hang out with fellow ukulele enthusiasts and jam. For a relatively unconventional instrument, the ukuele has found many college students ready to try it. The popularity of this humble instrument might soon rival that of the guitar.

It is not just the students at Bryn Mawr who have discovered the wonders of the “Uke” as it is affectionately called. According to the National Association of Music Merchants, sales of the Ukulele in the US jumped 16% in 2010. From New York to Wisconsin, ukulele groups have sprung up all over the country.  The Central PA Ukulele club in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, meets once a month to sing and play together.

The Uke has clearly fit into a niche. It suits perfectly people who are musically inclined but do not have much time to spend learning an instrument. The ukulele has jumped into their lives like a savior. It is also popular with students who have grown to dislike more mainstream instruments and are on the lookout for something fun and exotic.

Popular artists clearly harbor similar feelings for the ukulele. It is featured prominently in the popular song “I’m yours “ by Jason Mraz, which spent 76 weeks on the billboard charts. “Hey, soul sister,” by the rock band Train was the top-selling song in the itunes store for 2010. Wikipedia quotes Pat Monahan, the songwriter, “It made my words dance. It made sense. These words were meant to dance with the Ukulele and not with the guitar.”

It may lack the glamour of an electronic guitar or a set of drums, but the ukulele has still managed to quietly slip into popular culture. Its affordability and easiness have made their mark upon youngsters today. The uke seems to possess all the traits that made the guitar so popular in the 70s. Perhaps the next band to reach the stature of the Beatles will do it with ukuleles!


Showtime in Chinatown

For chef Joseph Poon cooking is a performance art

 By Quingyi Gong

It was a chilly Friday afternoon in November, six days before Thanksgiving. The leaves of trees on the other side of Vine Street Expressway had already turned into a bright red color. The winds were blowing vehemently and

Joseph Poon

Joseph Poon

three trucks rushed out from the firehouse located at North10th and Cherry Streets, their sirens ringing piercingly before the trucks disappeared at the corner of Market East Station.

The sky was bleak and gray. It might not be an ideal day in Chinatown for tourists, except some adventurous foodies, who might be lurking somewhere in restaurants, searching for authentic Asian food.

It was almost three o’clock. Chef Joseph Poon, 67, was waiting impatiently in an upstairs room at 1010 Cherry Street, a few steps away from the firehouse. The building lay in a quiet alley, facing Jiyuan Produce Market across the street. Outside the building, the signage read: Joseph Poon Chef Kitchen.

Walk past a glass door on the first floor, and a narrow, steeping staircase with plastic covers will lead visitors to the second floor, where Poon was pacing around. The room was cluttered with tables, chairs and shelves. Near the staircase, two metal tables were put together to form a long one. On the table were some cutting boards and knives. Further inside was a kitchen. Plates and cans were closely packed and a sink was churning hot foams up to the surface.

Poon wore a white shirt and a dark green sweater, which appeared even darker due to the dim light. He wore a pair of off-white pants and black work shoes. A pair of old-fashioned, shaded eyeglasses with round frames perched on his nose. Poon looked tough and had a weather-beaten face. A little bald, deep wrinkles spread on his forehead when he talked. Now he was talking with his assistant in Hong Kong dialect, in a thundering voice that made their conversations sound like a quarrel.

Suddenly, Poon paused and turned his head towards the staircase. “You are late. I’m gonna to punish that. You can go home, because you are late.” Poon’s voice was hoarse and uncompromising.

A group of young students had just come in the room. They were from Penn. Some were juniors and some were sophomores. They were going to hold a small party at Poon’s kitchen on the night to learn cooking Chinese dishes.

Music was turned on. Here were nine diners, along with Poon and the assistant. Poon stood at one end of the table and made a short greeting speech: “Thanksgiving is almost here. Number one, I didn’t know English. And now I teach students in English. So, if you didn’t know, you can learn it, right?”

Poon spoke English with heavy accent. But he was exuberant.

“And I teach, work and learn English. I didn’t know English. I graduated from college 35 years ago. And now I lead restaurant tours, international restaurant tours. And also I volunteer——300 to 500 hours of community


Poon talked about how different American and Asian cultures are. “The funny guys in China, when they make jokes in New Jersey, no one laughing. When Americans make jokes in China, nobody laugh in China. Different cultures.”

“Good morning, America!” he yelled suddenly.

The group burst into laughter.

“See, you guys know. But Chinese don’t know what I mean by “Good morning, America”. Completely different cultures. If I say “Good morning, America” in China or Hong Kong TV, nobody laughing, because they don’t see the movie ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’.” Continue reading

The Prison Guard

Gary Freeman knows his  historic prison inside out

By David Roza

He stands before the crowd at the prison’s gated entrance, beneath high stone walls and grey cloudy skies.  His feet are spaced shoulder-width apart in black New Balance sneakers.  An Honest Tea bottle sticks out from one of the pouches on his army green cargo pants.  Keys jangle from his belt as he stuffs his hands in the pockets of his grey snow parka and he clears his throat before speaking out through the still, crisp November air from beneath a black watch cap.  “All right folks, let’s get started.”

His name is Gary Freeman, and he is a tour guide at Eastern State Penitentiary.  Before him stands a gaggle of 20 tourists here to explore the centuries-old prison, whose high walls and towers dominate the domestic landscape of Fairmount, Philadelphia.  The tourists come from all over the country.  Some are clad in Oakland Raiders caps, others in red designer jeans and Michael Kors purses.  Two are teenagers, one is a baby held in her mother’s arms.  All are here to visit prison, but not to stay, and Freeman is here to show them the way around for the 2:00 p.m. tour.

“My name is Gary, I’ve worked here forever,” He says to the crowd.  “This is a public tour, and if for any reason you want to wander off on your own, I can understand that.  Just give me a little wave.”

Stopping beneath a guard tower in one corner of the walls, the 49-year-old Freeman introduces himself and the building he serves.  “I first started working here about seven years ago.  When I started I had no idea there was a difference between jails and penitentiaries.  Does anyone know the difference?” The crowd is silent.  “Jails in the 18th century were really just holding pens for criminals, and there wasn’t any effort to try to make them into better people.  Most jails nowadays are penitentiaries.  You can get an education behind bars, job skills, they really they try to help people.  EasternState was the first penitentiary in the world.  Built in 1829, it was in

service for 142 years, during which over 80,000 inmates passed through these walls.  It’s the ultimate, ‘if these walls could talk’ kind of scenario.”

Speaking of talking, it appears that the inmates today are a little less obedient than their predecessors under the eyes of this humble prison guard.

“EasternState was founded on a policy of solitary confinement,” Freeman continues. “There really was only one rule; you weren’t allowed to make noise.”  The baby in the group makes a squeaking noise.

Gary Freeman

Gary Freeman

“No talking,” he says.  The baby coos.

“No whistling.”  The baby giggles.

“No singing.” The baby squeals.  Freeman smiles.

Freeman first visited EasternState as a teacher with his high school art students from New Jersey.  “I wasn’t happy as a schoolteacher, I felt confined in a classroom and this was a different kind of classroom.”  It’s surprising that a person who felt confined in his previous job would choose to work at a prison, but Freeman says the building itself motivated him to become a tour guide.  “I didn’t know about modern corrections or any of that stuff, I was inspired by the building.  Just the sheer size and the creepy beauty and grand scale and the amount of work and effort that went into building this place and the amount of taxpayer money they spent building it…I’m really intrigued by ‘the healing powers of God,’ you know, concepts that nowadays people might scoff at, but back then that was the cutting-edge thinking.  Trying to help people.”

Freeman points with a big, meaty hand towards the battlements on the building’s front towers.  “In a real castle, archers would hide behind them for protection, but at Eastern, everything’s fake,” says Freeman.  “If you stood on those battlements, they would come up to about your ankles.  Not good for protection.  It’s just for show, to scare people.”  The crowd chuckles.

As the tour moves into the first cellblock, one visitor named Miguel asks, “How many people died here?”

“I get that question all day every day,” Freeman says.  “The answer is roughly 1,200 inmates died.  Over 50% were because of tuberculosis, contagious diseases swept quickly.” Sickness may have run rampant through the penitentiary then, but sound seems to be the main contaminant of the museum now.  A group of loud teenagers in hoodies and sweatpants come barreling down the cellblock.  Freeman turns immediately towards them and says, respectfully but firmly, “Guys you have to go back that way, there’s a tour going on here.”  The teenagers turn back like a retreating gang of small-time crooks, their noise fading down the corridor with them as Freeman goes right back to his lecture, showing visitors through prisoner cells and the passing years of history. Continue reading

The long van ride

 Haverford’s Cross Country team goes a long way

By Katie Greifeld

It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday. Most HaverfordCollege students are sitting in class, awaiting the weekend. However, for a group of nine Haverford cross country runners, the weekend has already started.

Unlike most of their peers, they won’t be spending it studying and catching up on sleep. Instead, they’ll spend 22 of the next 40 hours crammed in a van, traveling to and from Indiana. Members from the women’s team, known as the Bees, and the men’s team, known as the Goats, are journeying to the midwest this weekend.

A handful of Goats and Bees wait outside the Haverford campus center for the van to arrive, gearing up to battle for the best seats. Sophomore Molly Allen, 19, tightly hugs a stuffed bee as the late November wind picks up, and shifts her weight from foot to foot.

The van pulls into view, carrying Goat seniors Brian Sokas, 21, and Elliot Schwartz, 21. Sokas, wearing a captain’s hat, lays down the trip’s ground rules as his teammates pile into the van.

“You will refer to me as Captain Robocop at all times, and Lampshade (Schwartz) as Commodore Lampshade,” Sokas told his shivering troops. “Also, if you touch this hat, you’re walking there.”

Once everyone is settled and buckled in, the van embarks on the 11 hour journey to Bloomington, Ind. The crew will spend the night at a 2012 Goat alumnus’ house, before driving an addition two hours to Hanover, Ind.

The event that these runners are traveling across the country to see is the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Championships. Seven runners from the Haverford men’s and women’s teams respectively will compete against the best Division III runners in the nation, a showdown that they have all been training for since June.

Excited chatter fills the van, while people pass up the mixed CDs that Sokas requested they make.

“Play my mix first!” Allen requested.

“Ugh, I don’t know how much Kesha I can stomach,” Sokas replied, choosing to instead play Bruce Springsteen.

With only nine people fit into the 12 person van, this ride will be luxurious compared to the vans departing in the afternoon. Two more full-capacity vans will depart from campus at 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., each containing a mixture of current and alumni Goats and Bees.

 * * *


For the Bees, this year’s Nationals trip is particularly important – the opportunity to run at this race did not come easily. This year, the Bees did not place high enough at Regionals, held the previous weekend, to guarantee them a spot at Nationals. Instead, the Bees had to rely on an at-large bid to secure them a place on the starting line.

It was the luck of the draw that got them here, and every member of the team knows it. It has been a long, hard season.

The Bees’ problems started in June, when top returner Fiona Hendry, class of 2016, announced that she was transferring to SyracuseUniversity. To make matters worse, the Bees’ second top runner, Katie Balmer, class of 2015, told the team that she was going abroad to Germany during the fall semester.

Including the seniors who had graduated in 2013, the Bees had lost four of their top runners, making Nationals prospects look bleak.

Despite the rocky road that got them there, the Bees were in Indiana and ready to run. The varsity squad had flown to Indiana on Thursday, to make sure that they knew every inch of the championship course.

 * * *

 It’s moments before 11 a.m. on Saturday, and the frigid Hanover air is completely still. Suddenly, the starting gun fires, and the crowd of cross country die-hards erupts as 280 sprint away from the starting line. Hundreds of

Haverford Girls Cross Country Team

Haverford Girls Cross Country Team

screaming fans decked out in their teams’ colors already line the 6,000 meter course, paying little mind to the blue-jacketed race officials trying to push them back.

Among the numbers are the Haverford Bees, spread out along the course in a pre-planned cheering strategy. The girls are wearing bumble bee costumes over thick winter jackets, necessary for the bite of the 35°F Indiana morning. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes

All is calm on the surface of this fashion show.  But is it really?

By Sila Ogidi

“Stop! Go back! I left so many things in the common room, I couldn’t carry it all by myself.”

 The Rehearsal

Despite the cold weather outside, Getrude Makurumidze, a Zimbabwean sophomore, had on a classy white blazer with a black knit maxi dress meant for summers under the sun with a good book and big sunglasses. With one hand lifting her dress just high enough for her to run, she makes her way to the Pembroke East dorm common room at Bryn Mawr College to retrieve her suitcase and large bag containing everything from shoes to fabric and woven baskets. It was Saturday and Getrude, 20, was on her way to the Bryn Mawr African and Caribbean Student’s Organization (BACaSO) Annual Fashion Show dress rehearsal.

Behind the stage and grand room of Thomas Great Hall stood rows of chairs with names taped to the seat where she began to rearrange them. First alternating, then single file.

-“Getrude what are you doing?”

-“I don’t know if I should alternate them or have them in a single file. What do you think?”


“I’ll just make it single rows.”

She stood alone backstage at 4:20p.m. for the rehearsal that should have started 20 minutes ago. There wasn’t a single sign of frustration or anxiety in her face. Her smooth skin did not wrinkle even with time against her. In the absence of her BACaSO public relations partner, she took charge of the suitcases, unpacking and sorting the clothes for each model before they arrived. No one would think the show was only two and a half hours away.

“We’re here!” yelled Rosemont College model, Vimbai, over the phone. “Where should we meet you?”

Getrude walked out the building to meet the first of her models.  Her calm demeanor is replaced with a vibrant upbeat smile and laugh that can only be mastered by someone used to putting on a show. 

Back in the hallway behind the stage more models started to arrive and Getrude amps up the take-charge attitude she had when she was alone. The set quickly turns into a lively party as models catwalk to Afro-Caribbean beats of their choice. Everyone is laughing and smiling except Getrude. She is arranging chairs around the stage and if you weren’t watching her, you’d never know she was there. She was a silent force with a desire for perfection.

-“I have to go to the train station.”

– “Ok.”

Continue reading