English House Gazette 2015

Welcome to the English House Gazette, the news blog with content reported and written by students in Bryn Mawr’s ART264W News & Feature Writing class, which draws students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr.. We’ll begin with four stories focused on life at the two colleges.

Chloe Bellamio writes this year’s class project, a look at what Haverford and Bryn Mawr students thinks about their schools’ system of grading. An important part of the culture is not to speak publicly about grades. Does it work?

In the week before finals, Canaday Library opens its doors for 24 hours a day for Bryn Mawr students to study. Alison Robins spent a day and a night at Canaday and emerged with a funny and, at times, surreal story of life inside the library’s walls.

It isn’t easy being a female college in today’s co-ed world.  How does Bryn Mawr do it? The school this year had a record number of freshmen. Aliya Chaudhry explains how the school manages to swim against the tide.

Bryn Mawr has a large contingent of international students.  Being so far away from home — and the culture they grew up in — draws some of these students to religion. Fiona Redmond offers the tales of how four students from around the globe cope.

Even though her topic was procrastination, Phoung Nguyen turned her story in before the deadline. She writes a funny and insightful story on the fine art of waiting until later as practiced by college students.

Grading Our Grading System

Students admit to mixed feelings about how grades are handled 

By Chloé Bellamio 

As the second week of December comes to a close, the students of Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College seem to get busier by the minute. Holed up in the libraries or in their dorm rooms, they are hunched over heavy textbooks and squinting at their computer screens, learning various formulas and writing multiple papers.

Finals week is upon the 2,500 students of Bryn Mawr and Haverford, dragging along its fair share of stress and worry.

GRade AIt would be natural to assume that grades, and their anticipation, play a large role in this stress and worry, even though both colleges they do not emphasize grades and discourage their students against discussing them too much.  This is done in the name of creating a less stressful learning environment.

To test this theory, we conducted dozens of interviews with Bryn Mawr and Haverford students and also conducted an email survey of all students with the goal of getting a clear picture on what students’ think about the present system.

We got replies to the survey from 118 Bryn Mawr students and 332 Haverford students. This sample, representing about 10% of Bryn Mawr’s enrollment and 25% of Haverford’s, offers a good notion of the students’ thoughts on grades.

Here are our major findings:

  • Most Bryn Mawr and Haverford students do not think there is too much emphasis on grades and too much open competition over grades, but they think the competition is mostly internally driven.
  • If most Bryn Mawr and Haverford students come from competitive high schools, their high school experience mostly did not influence their choice to attend Bryn Mawr of Haverford. When it did, it was more because their high school encouraged them to look at top-level colleges than to escape grade competition.
  • While most students agree with the emphasis the colleges put on grades, for some students, the lack of insistence on grades make it more difficult to know where they stand academically compared to others.
  • Students from both colleges strongly dislike the fact that the 4.0 scale does not allow for an intermediate grade between 3.3 and 3.7, and want a 3.5 inserted.
  • While students have a lot of thoughts about the systems in place at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, they are not inclined to make many changes, if any.

The emphasis of both colleges on grades appears to be at the heart of the students’ perspectives on grades.

When asked to quantify the emphasis of their colleges about grades, 68% of Bryn Mawr respondents indicated it is “about right,” against 27% arguing there is too much emphasis on grades and 11% too little.

The results for Haverford indicate a slightly different view: 59% of the respondents believe grades are talked about enough, whereas 41% wish grades were more discussed.

Internal pressure

For Meredith Scheiring, a Bryn Mawr College junior, the perceived emphasis on grades depends on the individual.

“If grades are something that is important to you, you’ll see it influences more, she said.“I think there is a lot of pressure to do well, but I don’t think it equates to grades. I really don’t see people comparing numbers or letters per say… There is a level of competition and high expectation […] but I don’t see it specifically with grades.”GRade B

Bryn Mawr College senior Amy Callahan agrees that the emphasis put on grades by the college instills more of an

“internal competition” rather than setting up people to be “super-competitive with one another.” She added that it “creates a really intense energy, so [students] almost don’t need to be competing against other people”.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

No more PBR?

Beer consumption is declining on college campuses

By Ryan Gooding       

In many ways, Dan Hopkins, 21, fits neatly into the stereotypical vision of a college-aged male: tall, slender, sandy blonde hair, a snappy sweater to go over his slim-fit khakis.  But in one regard, Hopkins breaks with the mold: he’s not a fan of beer.

“Beer is nasty,” said the senior at Haverford College on Sunday afternoon in his on-campus apartment.  “I think it’s just an acquired taste that I’ve yet to acquire.”

In the early 1990s, Hopkins would have been something of a standout.  According to data collected by Gallup’s Consumption Habits poll between the years of 1992 and 1994, nearly 71% of 18-29 year olds preferred beer over wine and liquor.

Today, however, Hopkins is far from alone. By 2014, the same annual survey found that preference for beer amongst young people plummeted 30 percentage points, making beer less popular than wine and spirits amongst young people for the first time since Gallup began collecting alcoholic preference data in 1992.

At Haverford, the story is no different.

Beer TapsThough no internal data exists demonstrating a reciprocal decline in the popularity of beer at the elite liberal arts college, talking with Hopkins, his peers, and campus administrators quickly reveals that, for a variety of reasons, the trend is alive and well locally.

Quality Over Quantity?

“It’s easier to lose interest in beer when you’re only exposed to the s—– stuff,” says Hopkins, as he prepares his late-morning Sunday breakfast. “Especially if you’re younger at

Haverford, most of the beer that you’re exposed to is of a very low quality.  That’s going to effect how you think about wanting beer.”

Parties at Haverford exhibit no shortage of beer.  The problem is not supply, says Hopkins, it’s quality.

High-quality, craft beers – despite an wealth of local and affordable craft breweries – are far from abundant on Haverford’s social scene.  Instead low-cost alternatives such as Natural Light, Natural Ice, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the like are vastly over-represented.

“I think that most people’s experience with alcohol at Haverford has at least something to do with Natty Light,” Hopkins explains, referring to Natural Light, one of the cheapest and therefore most readily available beers at Haverford parties.

“Natty Light is like dirty water,” Hopkins continued.  “If I only had natty light for my entire college career, I would hate beer too.”

“In fact,” he checks himself, smiling as he does, “that’s kind of why I do.”

Though, to pin beer’s waning popularity at Haverford solely on a shortage of high quality beer would be misguided.  Quality is merely one piece of a larger, more troubling puzzle.

The Demise of the Casual Beer Continue reading

The Master of Mead

Bill Ristow’s home brewing has led him to an ancient drink

By Ryan Gooding

“It’s really just a storage unit,” begins Bill Ristow.

He walks down a narrow, brightly lit, but sparsely decorated hallway beneath the Haverford Gable Apartments, just across the train tracks from Haverford College, the school he currently attends.  His stride is long, relaxed, almost bouncy – just what you’d expect from the lanky collegiate cross country and track runner – yet he moves forward with an authoritative presence.

Dangling precariously from his right hand, swaying back and forth as he walks, is a wine tasting glass.

ill Ristow samples some of his mead

Bill Ristow samples some of his mead.

At the far end of the hallway, Ristow pauses in front of a stark-white door, save for a black number “7” neatly painted at eye level.  He asks me to hold the tasting glass as he rifles through his pockets, presumably looking for the key.

“This is part of what I like so much about home brewing,” Ristow continues, finally producing the key from his back pocket.  “At least when it comes to wines and mead, you don’t need crazy infrastructure.”

He pauses again, this time as he struggles to force the key into the lock.  “I mean, you can do it in a kitchen, or a living room, or in our case, a tiny storage unit,” he concludes.

The deadbolt clicks back and the door swings open, revealing a drab, sparsely cluttered storage space that can’t measure much more than five feet across by 12 feet deep.  The right half of the unit is almost completely unoccupied, save for the half-dozen jugs and bottles containing his most recent experiments.  Dominating most of the left half is a stack of white boxes.

“Sorry it’s not visually stunning.”

Ristow steps inside and gestures silently to the boxes.  He approaches the stack; reaches into a box labeled “Orange Clove Mead” in beautiful, handwritten cursive; and from it, produces an unlabeled wine bottle. For a moment he stands motionless, staring proudly down at the bottle in his hands.  Several long seconds pass before Ristow looks up again, smiling.

“Want to try some?”

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