CSG discusses changing Chatham’s Alma Mater, motto, and more

The Chatham Student Government (CSG) convened an unusual meeting on Thursday, January 22, when the rules of governmental conduct were temporarily suspended to allow for a candid discussion about semantics.

With the coeducational transition occurring in the Fall of 2015, the government was faced with the logistical issue of whether or not to change the Chatham University motto and Alma Mater to ensure that they appropriately represent the newest members of the Chatham community.

After Jenny Schollaert, CSG Executive Vice President, read through the Alma Mater line by line, the Senate determined that it did not, in fact, use any gendered language–the only pronoun in it being a plural possessive.

“I think some people might think it’s too girly,” Skylar Wilcha, Class of 2015 President, said, but the Senate agreed that this was not sufficient ground to change it.

The motto was a different story.

The Chatham University motto, as it stands, reads “Filiae Nostrae Sicut Antarii Lapides,” which translates to, “That our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”

While the quote clearly uses gendered language, the Senate seemed fairly opposed to the idea of changing it.

Eir Rovira, a member of CSG, pointed out that the graduate students who have been at Chatham for years already have never had a problem with the University’s motto.

“If we change all of theses things,” Rovira continued, “it’s like saying Chatham has never been a college for women.”

Others suggested allaying the controversy by attaching the motto to Chatham’s new Women’s Institute.

There was also a suggestion of changing the word “daughters” to something less gender specific.

However, when Erin Smith, Executive Vice President of Communications, took a poll to see who actually knew what the school’s motto was, very few raised their hand–an indication to the CSG that the issue is not a particularly pressing one.

Also on the agenda for the meeting was a discussion regarding the future of the Chatham University tradition of Fall Serenade, as well as the viability of Chatham’s current class colors moving forward.

In regard to the issue of class colors, the CSG once again seemed to be unanimous in their opinion that there is nothing gendered about Chatham’s current class colors of pink, green, red, and yellow.

“We have to create a culture where wearing pink or yellow or green is a normal thing,” Sarah Jugovic, Executive President, said.

Wilcha agreed, pointing out that, “we’re not living in the 60’s.  Men wear pink all the time.”

Gradually the conversation shifted to the question of whether or not the Fall Serenade was, “too girly,” which prompted a strong reaction from the Senate.

“This coming from Chatham, of all places, is kind of disappointing,” said one member.

In response to a suggestion that they change the tradition to something like a barbeque, Chloe Bell, a member of CSG, “Is a barbeque man enough?” She continued, “This is silly.”

Though many in the Senate agreed that the discussion was absurd, Jugovic pointed out that she was just trying to get a “temperature” for how the Senate was feeling about the issues, saying, “We, as a government, just need to talk about it and take a unified stance on the subject moving forward.”

She then mentioned that when Vassar College transitioned to coeducation, their color simply shifted over time from pink to crimson.

This made people question the point of even discussing the matter at all, with many pointing out that even with a unified stance, there is nothing to stop the administration from changing these things in the future.

This conversation came to a sudden halt when Phoebe Armstrong, Class of 2016 President, joined in to say, “That puts no worth to the 150 years that we’ve been teaching women to be leaders,” which received an enthusiastic response from the rest of the CSG.

Though the members of the Senate all felt similarly about the issues at hand, it was determined that further discussion is necessary, and as a result, no decisions on the subject have yet been made.

4 thoughts on “CSG discusses changing Chatham’s Alma Mater, motto, and more

  1. I really hope, as an alumna, that the current students will really put some thought into the school’s heritage of women’s education, which the administration seems to be so quick to dismiss. And they will probably try to change things…but it’s really up to you all as to what kind of Chatham you are building and preserving. Don’t let them change what is held dear. I’m glad these discussions are being had.

    While I disagreed with the whole coeducation shift, I recognize that this is now a reality. In effort to preserve what is left, how about we add the bit from that Psalm 144 passage? The whole verse reads: “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”

    I would reverse it, so that the women’s heritage doesn’t get overshadowed by the new coed reality: “That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace; That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth.”

    That is my small plea as an alumna. And I also concur that there needs to be no gender stereotyping of colors.

    I only wish that there was a more intentional effort to bring the single-sex experience to at least the incoming freshman class (for both women and men). I think that would bring the atmosphere of learning that we alumnae all appreciated while we attended Chatham.

    • I second Tricia Chicka’s suggestion about the motto. Not many people at Chatham seem to know where the motto came from, and although Chatham is not a denominational, my understanding is that some of its founders were Protestant clergy who, when founding their school for women, chose a motto from a text that was familiar with them, the Judeo-Christian scriptures. The current motto comes from Psalm 144:12, which Tricia Chicka quotes above, and which refers to both daughters and sons, although only the daughters part has been used by Chatham. (I actually sang that verse many times at Geneva College, which has a tradition of psalm-singing, before I even found out it was Chatham’s motto.) I think a paraphrase of the full verse, such as the one she gives (with the order of the genders reversed), is a valid candidate for a revised motto. The text is one associated with Abrahamic faiths, but the hope that both women and men of the next generation achieve maturity and success is a universal sentiment, and expanding the quotation would make it inclusive of men while maintaining continuity with Chatham’s history.

  2. It’s comforting to hear that some women in Chatham student leadership still have some spunk, even if the administration has destroyed just about everything else.

  3. Why don’t you just start singing the SECOND verse of the Alma Mater, which involves men and references “sons.” You already have an Alma Mater that references both biological sexes. It’s an awesome, time-honored tradition. Please don’t be so ignorant to change something that doesn’t need to be changed. Just learn the song and sing the whole thing.

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