David Finegold named new university president

-UPDATE- 03/03/2016, 9:25 p.m.

Chatham students, faculty, and staff, as well as the board of trustees and presidential search committee, filled the chapel on Thursday, March 3, in anticipation of the announcement of who the next university president would be. It was announced that Dr. David Finegold would be Chatham University’s next president.

Since President Esther Barazzone announced her retirement last June, the Presidential Search Committee — made up of trustee, alumnae, and two students — went on the hunt for a worthy candidate.

After nine months, the Presidential Search committee unanimously recommended Finegold, and the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to elect him as the university’s 19th president.

Finegold was introduced as having over 30 years of experience in higher education including impressive statistics showing how he increased funds and faculty size at other institutions. During his speech to the community, he made several points about his beliefs and where he plans to take Chatham in the future.

Finegold began by commending Chatham’s environment and innovative history of providing resources to women. He addressed the gender inequality in the world and the opportunity Chatham has as a newly coeducational university to educate male students on the value of gender equality.

Finegold also addressed his work with American Honors, a program that is dedicated to making higher education available to all students. Finegold is the Chief Academic Officer of this program and plans to use these values to also make Chatham as accessible as possible to all.

Before wrapping up, Finegold brought up ideas such as reforms in undergraduate and graduate education, improving retention, enhancing Chatham’s schools and amenities such as the arboretum, and getting alumnae and Chatham stakeholders more involved with students. He said he wants Chatham to be the “go to” for those who are “eco-minded” and those who want to learn to be global leaders. Finally he spoke about wanting to support and expand the Women’s Institute and bring more women leaders to campus.

Finegold said his goal is not for radical change, but to follow through and give attention to things that have already been implemented while also working with Chatham’s limited resources.

Finegold was eager to hear from the Chatham community and encouraged the audience to look out for town halls, forums, invitations to Greg House, and possibly a chance to do yoga with his wife, Sue.

-ORIGINAL COPY- 03/03/2016, 12:24 p.m.

In an all campus update meeting on Thursday, March 3, Dr. David Finegold was announced to be Chatham University’s 19th president. His presidency will begin on July 1, 2016.

Finegold, who has worked in higher education for over 30 years, cited continuing Chatham’s tradition of working towards gender equity and engaging alumni as some of his goals for his presidency.

This appointment comes exactly nine months after current president Esther Barazzone announced her retirement on June 3, 2015. She has served as president of the university for nearly 25 years.

Chatham skimps on Black History Month for 2016

As February comes to a close, Chatham students can’t help but notice the lack of events celebrating Black History Month.

The month stems from “Negro History Week” that took place in the second week of February, to include the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass. It was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a black historian, and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Black community’s in 1940’s West Virginia began celebrating the full month, but it wasn’t until after the events of the 1960’s that the association was asked to officially make it a full celebratory month. In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from Negro History week to Black History Month.*

Forty years later as Black History Month for 2016 rolls around again, students on Chatham’s campus have begun to question where the celebratory events are. Last school year, Step Afrika! was brought to the campus and there were tickets available to students for the annual Steel City Step Show, a celebration put on by Pitt to recognize historically black Greek letter organizations in Pittsburgh. The year before that, Zapology, a reggae singer, came. Even in the 90’s, legendary leaders such as Coretta Scott King came and spoke in the chapel.

This year has seen a campaign for #blacklivesmatter where students, faculty, and staff were able to give a quote and a photograph that would be put on a poster, online, and around campus. The campaign was also accompanied by the “All Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter” discussion being held Monday the 29th.

Chatham’s campaign is in response to the Hashtag movement started in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. The movement picked up again in the summer of 2015 as it became more of a political statement.

Some students of color on campus are concerned that the campaign is turning the hashtag into a fad, and is silencing the work and meaning behind the statement.

Odera Igwe, a black sophomore student, believes that the #blacklivesmatter campaign on campus was started “too late and with extreme hesitance” and lacked education about the movement’s origins.

“Yes, this movement is still happening. However, because of the hesitation, there was no ‘hype.’ It was just thrown together.” Said Igwe. “I still appreciate that it was done, whether it was in honor of black history month or not, but I believe that there should have been a more timely response to [Black Lives Matter] just like anything else that happens in the world and [off] campus. I think because it was so nonchalantly put together, [fewer] people cared, and that is the opposite of what we want.”

Last Week, the Black Student Union (BSU) put on “BSU Week.” It was kicked off with a dinner in Anderson, consisted of deep conversations about privilege and the experience at Chatham for black students, and concluded with the traditional BSU showcase. BSU collaborated with Pyramid Pittsburgh for the final event, which is described as an artistic celebration showcasing black creativity, history, nowstory, pride, peace, and love. All the events were open to the community and had diverse audiences.

However, at the Real Talk about privilege earlier that week, one white student even commented on the limited attendance of Chatham students, especially the students who make up the Predominately White Institution (PWI) that Chatham is.

When asked about the presence of Black History Month on Chatham’s campus, BSU president Lauren Brown said, “For all the years that I’ve been here, if BSU was not around, nothing would be done to celebrate African American History Month.” She went on to say that she can’t recall any dinners, performances, or events put together around Black History Month.

“There’s always something for Hispanic heritage month. They have the churros. Or [for] the Chinese New Year they had a nice lunch at Anderson, as well as [for] Mardi Gras.” Brown continued, “When it comes to African American History Month, if there were no black students here to really mobilize [and] throw any type of event, [there would not be an event] and that really makes me feel some type of way. I feel like there’s a lack of support for African Americans here on Chatham’s campus.”

Brown says she received a message from a friend who was given the opportunity to ask Chatham’s own president, Esther Barazzone, how she was supporting African Americans and other minorities. Brown called the president’s answer a “shame.”

“All she could say [was] ‘oh there’s a black student union, they do a really great job of throwing events’ and that was it. [President Barazzone] had nothing to say outside of that.”

It was also stated in the Real Talk that if the BSU hadn’t approached the dining hall about having the Black History dinner, the meal and the decorations hanging in Anderson that highlight people in black history would have been non-exist. For celebratory months such as Hispanic Heritage Month and Pacific Islander Month, it was mentioned that Student Affairs and Student Activities pulled together funds “without student input or involvement” leaving no excuses for lack of recognition for Black History Month.

Though Black History Month happens once a year, the support of students of color is expected to happen year round. In a time where there are debates on equity, white privilege, police brutality, and how much the lives of black people are valued, Chatham’s support of black students, or lack thereof, is telling.

For students who want to get more involved, BSU holds monthly Real Talks that are open to every race, ethnicity, and nationality. Lauren Brown, BSU president, says the goal is to help “kill curiosities” about black people and culture.

For more information about the Black Student Union and what can be done to show support, please email BSU president Lauren Brown at LBrown1@Chatham.edu .


*Credit given to Daryl Michael Scott for ASALH at www.asalh for black history information.

Off the Beaten Page: “My Name is Lucy Barton” brings all types of love to the table

What happens when a simple procedure suddenly opens up a well of information you never wanted to confront? Just that happens in Elizabeth Strout’s newest novel, “My Name is Lucy Barton,” where a woman enters the hospital for a simple appendectomy and upon the arrival of her mother, must recognize some of the traumatic experiences that occurred in the past. The novel is written in a style similar to Strout’s other pieces, especially “Olive Kitteridge,” in the way that the narrator is likable and relatable, but at the same time is a mythical being of love and compassion.

The narrator and namesake, Lucy Barton, is a kind and gentle woman who essentially loves every person she meets. A married mother of two, she embodies the characteristics of the traditional nurturing role in a novel. She aches for her children after her procedure goes awry and she falls ill. Though she yearns for her husband, she knows he must hold down the fort and work. It is a very believable portrayal of motherhood and Lucy’s connection with her own mother, though more strained, is also a very raw and realistic adaptation of the relationship between mother and daughter.

Lucy appears to be very collected and self-motivated as a mother should be; but her complicated connection with her mother exposes her weaknesses. A victim of her mother’s abuse throughout childhood, an alcoholic father, and rampant poverty, Lucy is forced to confront those issues from her past in order to become a stronger woman in the future. In addition to these shocking revelations that the reader learns about Lucy’s past, we get a glimpse of the heartache and scandal that the people that Lucy grew up with are facing, due to her mother’s tendency to gossip.

Lucy is also a writer, making Strout’s use of flowery, eloquent language especially fitting. Lucy’s tangents and inquiries on the things happening around her are gorgeous despite them being menial.  Her heart is so full of love and compassion for others that it makes it difficult to believe that her mother is unable of producing those feelings for anything in her life. The apparent divide between them just makes Lucy’s desire to become closer to her mother even stronger. What at the start seems like it will be a very lighthearted novel turns out to be a bit grittier than expected, and we finally get to see why Lucy loves as hard as she does.

There has been speculation in the literary community that “My Name is Lucy Barton” is essentially a spinoff of “Olive Kitteridge,” only taking things from an impoverished perspective instead of the bourgeoisie. There are bits of humor throughout that lighten some of the difficult subjects, and the character of Lucy is definitely one that audiences will enjoy getting to know.

Jenny Nordberg lectures at Chatham

In partnership with several prominent Pittsburgh organizations, Chatham University’s Women’s Institute brought investigative journalist, Pulitzer Prize winning contributing author, lecturer, soon-to-be professor, and highly regarded author of groundbreaking book “The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan” Jenny Nordberg to Chatham University.

Imagine if the news of whether or not you would have a son or daughter meant more than if you would be decorating a nursery in pink or blue. If it determined not just the choice between “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl” signs at baby showers, but the status of your family. If being a girl determined everything about your life the moment you were born, from whether or not you would get an education to what sort of diet you would have.

Nordberg took the audience back to 2009, when she was in her own words heartbroken, angry, and still covering the United States’ long lasting War On Terror. The journalist, being interested in the “women’s issue,” observed American politicians’ tendency to use Afghan women as pieces in a never ending game of political chess — the “liberation” of Afghan women being a constant selling point.

Feeling troubled by the crimes being committed against women — “against my own kind, in my own time” — Nordberg convinced her editor to send her abroad.

As a reporter Nordberg spent time talking to anyone who was willing to speak with her. From victims to activists to the wealthy to the poor to the devout, trying to go outside of the categories in which Americans see Afghan women: fundamentalists and the oppressed.

While researching and attempting to challenge her own perceptions as well as western perceptions of the Middle East, Nordberg wound up speaking with Azita, one of the few Afghan women who had made her way into parliament. During a routine interview, while speaking with the parliamentary member and her daughters, she learned something surprising. Despite all appearances her youngest child was not a little boy, but a girl.

To be clear this child and children like her are not what most Americans would consider transgender, but a bacha posh. The literal translation of that term is “dressed up like a boy.”

Why would a parent do this? Not being able to produce a son is seen as a failure — something that impacts a woman’s credibility and “usefulness.”

“All you have for security as a parent is your son,” Nordberg explained to the captivated audience.

There are a number of reasons why families (with the fathers on board) chose this route for their daughters: for status, for their children to have a chance at getting an education, so that female children can travel freely either as boys or with their “brother,” and to help provide an income for a family.

However, as the author would explain, there is an expiration date on the freedom being a boy will provide. Once puberty takes away this façade, the girls who have spent years pretending to be boys must be thrust back into womanhood — womanhood that must happen without the benefit of having really gotten to be a young girl.

Through pictures and anecdotes Nordberg explained the after effect of being a bacha posh. Some never want to “turn back,” unwilling to give up their freedom. Some are able to successfully transition and, because of the confidence acquired growing up male, know their value in one of the most sex segregated places on earth.

Although this may seem unorthodox while telling this story about gender that turned into a story about oppression, the journalist who spent so much time with these women and girls wanted to make it clear that this is not something parents do lightly or cruelly.

It is simply that, “Living in a rigid society makes for creativity,” Nordberg said.

She went on to point out that the practice of “passing” for a not subjugated group of people is not something exclusive to Afghanistan.  

Nordberg was candid throughout the lecture, from her discussion of feeling protective of her subjects, to the surprise she felt when she was told by an Afghan woman that she herself was a man (because she was well educated and free to go where she wanted when she wanted).

The experience was enlightening for Nordberg, and her talk was enlightening for all those who ventured to Chapel Hill to hear her speak.

A Season to Remember: Women’s basketball ends their season

The women’s basketball season came to an end last Wednesday. The Cougars took a tough loss to Waynesburg in the second round of playoffs. Down big at the half, they came out swinging in the second, cutting down the lead down to 15. The ladies fought hard all game, but ultimately could not pull out a victory. Seniors Rachel McClain, Anna Shashura and Chelsea Kovalcsik left everything out on the court for their final game in a Chatham uniform.

This season marked a few firsts for the Women’s team. On Monday, the team won their first ever playoff game in school history.

“We were all really happy and kind of in shock that we just accomplished such an amazing thing in Chatham history,” said first year Natalie Knab. “We knew that we had been wanting to win this game since the beginning of the season and just couldn’t believe we had accomplished it. The locker room was crazy. We were all going crazy especially the seniors. Walking off the court I think we all felt like we finally had a great game as a team and individually. We all contributed to the win and we were all excited to move on to the next round of playoffs.”

In addition to this big accomplishment, the team won 11 games, the most they have won in the last five years.

“I think everyone on our team has great chemistry and we know what each other’s strengths are,” said Shashura. “We have so many talented players so we don’t have to rely on one person to pull through to get the win. We have contributors from both the starters and the bench.”

“In the past we have won maybe three games a season and that’s really hard. Just going back day after day and continuing to lose, but I think us getting through those tough years made this year even better and has set the standard for what Chatham’s women’s team will be from now on,” Shashura continued.

The team was helped all year long by the leadership of its three seniors. Through the tough loses to Thomas Moore and Grove City, the seniors held their heads high and continued to encourage their younger teammates. They had some hard fought wins as well, against some tough conference opponents. Two big road wins, against Bethany College and Geneva College, helped them for playoff seeding. Another crucial victory was a home win against PAC rival St. Vincent College.

After a tremendous season, the three seniors have passed the reigns off onto the younger players. Juniors Jesse Hinkle, Nikki Ingel, and Dana Eastman look to lead this young Cougar team next year. The Cougars will offer more experience as they return one sophomore and five first years.

After four years of play, the senior team members have some advice for returning and new players.

“I would tell them not to take the time they get to play for granted,” said McClain. “Four years seems like such a long time but goes by so quick. I would tell them the athletics program is only going up from here and use this year as a stepping stone to get better for the next few years.”

The Cougars look to build off of this incredible season. With only three seniors graduating, the team will be comprised mainly of returning players who had a big impact on this season. The Cougars look forward to taking on their rivals in the PAC conference next year.

Students question Chatham’s response to recent Oakland assaults

Within the past two weeks in Oakland near the University of Pittsburgh, there have been at least four assaults, three being sexual assaults against women one being an assault against a man. All of the suspects are men with vague descriptions.

The University of Pittsburgh sent out campus alerts after the third assault took place and has recently sent out an email to students after the fourth.

“The safety and security of all members of the Pitt community remains our highest priority, and we take these incidents very seriously. We continue to take the steps necessary to safeguard our students, faculty and staff,” read the email from Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Safety & Emergency Management of University of Pittsburgh, Ted P. Fritz.

The email continues to give students tips to stay safe in the city and on campus such as “Always keep your cell phone charged and on you”, “Trust your gut. If you are uncomfortable, leave,” and “Do not approach suspicious persons or vehicles.” There are also links to the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) and the contact information of their Title IX coordinator as well as a list of things the campus safety will do now, including more patrols and a texting function for reporting to them.

Robert DuBray, Director of Facilities Management and Public Safety, also sent out an email on Tuesday to Chatham’s community. Chatham’s email appeared to be similar to Pitt’s though not as comprehensive. The email gives a brief description of the recent crimes and tips that are very similar to the Pitt email for students traveling to Oakland, though only the Public Safety non-emergency number is given as a resource.

Leighton Meyers, a Chatham senior, says that DuBray’s email was only sent after she emailed Student Affairs and Public Safety a few days before. Meyers received a response from Chatham’s chief of police, Donald Aubrecht, saying, “Due to the fact that the alleged crimes took place on the University of Pittsburgh campus, Chief Loftus was required to alert his student body. If these alleged crimes would have taken place here at Chatham, I too would have sent out an immediate alert to the campus community.”

Meyers also received a response from Mary Utter, Assistant Dean of Students saying, “Please know that we are working coordination with Public Safety to get a message out to Chatham students.”

“It’s disheartening how there were two different contradicting responses as if the issue hadn’t been brought up at all [amongst faculty and staff],” said Meyers, “And the ‘we weren’t required to immediately release information so we won’t’ attitude in the first email acts as propaganda for the failed crime prevention meetings more than a concern at all.”

With students going to Oakland for shopping, events on nearby campuses, cross registered classes, and parties, just two miles down the road, Chatham students are asking for a better sense of security on campus and more resources.

Alex Waasdorp, a junior, expressed anger that Chatham hasn’t taken better action on the issue which she heard about on the news over the past weekend.

“The University of Pittsburgh was aware of [the attacks] because a lot of them were on the local campus and Fifth Avenue. That’s really close,” said Waasdorp, who was concerned that she was just hearing about the crimes. “It’s an injustice to our students that they can’t protect us by staying aware of these sorts of situations.”

As former CSG Class of 2018 President, Waasdorp met with the chief of police about the distance between students and Public Safety. She said officers walking around and handing out the emergency and nonemergency numbers on campus is not enough, and suggests that bigger changes may be needed because she feels the issue is treated “like a joke.” Waasdorp encourages the Chatham community, faculty, staff and students alike, to report more frequently to make safety a larger issue on campus. Beyond this, she doesn’t see a clear solution.

“I don’t have faith in our public safety, and I feel if anything, there will be a few policy changes. But that’s not what we need; we need a leadership change. We need it so that we have a leader of public safety that we can count on and [who] knows what’s going on around us. [Students need to know] that they’re not in the Chatham bubble they expect us to be in,” said Waasdorp.

She believes that sending out an email after students have “informed themselves” about issues in the surrounding areas is reactive and not “proactive in a way that would protect us.”

Since the email was sent out, there has been a promotion of the Crime Prevention Series on campus taking place in the Fickes Living Room. This month’s topic: How to be “streetwise” and safe. March’s topic will be on identity theft.

Chatham Student Government has created a Safety Committee that is chaired by junior student Maraena Testa. Students should contact Testa at MTesta@Chatham.edu for more information on how their voices can be heard about this topic.

Loose Ends follow through on hair donations

Relay For Life commenced on Friday, February 5, at noon. By midnight, Lynzy Groves and Chatham’s Relay for Life committee reached their goal of the night, $15,000. One team that fundraised tirelessly followed through on their pledge that night.

Sophomore Krista Arena, junior Fia Nicoloso, and sophomore Kaitlyn Shirey created the “Loose Ends” Relay for Life team when they decided to donate their hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. They reached their initial goal of $300 in only three days, and continued to receive support and funding in the days leading up to the event.

After raising $1,200 — four times their original goal — Loose Ends went under the blade at 7 p.m. to make good on their deal. Two donors at a time took a seat and allowed their hair to be separated into sections and put into smaller ponytails. Then loved ones, highest bidders, and friends came forward to cut one ponytail at a time. After the initial chop, cheers erupted from the watching crowd, and stylists got to work, cleaning up the new short hair looks.

Photo Credit: Teri Bradford

Photo Credit: Teri Bradford

“I’m very excited to show it off. I kind of feel like a different person,” said Arena, who cut off 11 inches of hair and has never had her hair short before. “I [felt] like I should buy some styling gel, but after [the chop] I think I’m good.”

“I love my hair,” said Nicoloso, who also cut 11 inches. “I’m not going to change it. I like the way that [the hair stylist] styled it a lot, and I think that it will grow out well. I was looking at different hairstyles to show her but then I thought: ‘people are going to do what they want to do.’ So I told her to have fun.”

“I feel great. I love it, it makes me so happy,” said Shirey, who cut off over 18 inches of hair. Her hair used to be two inches above her waist, but she now has a short Mohawk with shaved sides. When asked if she was going to do anything else to her hair, she said she had no long-term plans. “I hope that [whoever gets the hair] really likes it and I’m glad that I could contribute to their head.”

After hearing that the three young women were getting their hair cut, at least four other students joined the cause including senior Brianna Young, junior Diana Cabrera, and senior Christina Fortunato. Pantene Beautiful Lengths is a program that asks for 8 inches of hair or an $8.00 donation that goes towards making free, real-hair wigs for cancer survivors. Over 800,000 ponytails have been donated to them, resulting in over 42,000 wigs. The program received at least seven wigs from the Chatham Relay for Life Loose Ends team.

“I’m sad that [the survivors] need the wig in the first place, but hopefully this will give them more normalcy,” said Nicoloso. “When I was in 8th grade, [I knew] a five-year-old girl who was diagnosed with leukemia and getting a wig really changed her spirits. I hope my hair can do something similar for another kid.”

Chatham’s compliance with ADA guidelines questioned by students

One thing students will tell you makes Chatham great is the inclusive environment on campus. Chatham prides itself on helping make students “World Ready” and positive influences on society. One aspect of inclusivity is being Americans with Disabilities Act accommodating.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became a law in 1990. According to the ADA national website, it is “a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.”

Though Chatham includes many of its students in a variety of ways, some students argue that this community hasn’t extended its open arms to students who are differently abled.

Kit Gigliotti, a former student and employee at the Programs for Academic Access, Confidence, and Excellence (PACE) center on campus, is legally blind and maneuvers the campus with her guide dog, Scarlett. When talking about the state of the campus, Gigliotti was passionate about change.

“I’m legally blind, so while I do not personally experience all of the issues with accessibility on campus, many people do. This issue means a lot to me; even my tutorial is based on it,” said Giglioti. “Chatham’s campus is a horrific ADA nightmare, some of which is not Chatham’s fault due to the old structures. For example, Woodland Hall is the only accessible dorm on campus, so if someone has limited mobility that is where they will live. Getting from Woodland Hall to the chapel, a one minute walk, turns into a several minute long hike.”

With the multitude of stairs and limited alternative options such as ramps or lifts, people needing to get from close locations such as the Chapel parking lot to Café Rachel, would have to find an alternative route. Entering Anderson Dining Hall is also troublesome because the entrance that avoids stairs is on Woodland Road, an out of the way option if a student were in the post office or Carriage House.

“Braun is horrible, with only the first floor being accessible. While, yes, technically any classes a student is in can be moved to a location that is more easily reached, what about Chatham events? Students with mobility challenges cannot attend anything on the upper floors of Braun where there happen to be administrative offices [as well].”

Gigliotti went on to explain some of her personal endeavors with some of the resources on campus.

“In the library the supposed ‘ADA Compliant’ restroom is in the basement, which does not have a door for the stall. It only has a shower curtain. Personally, if I’m in the library and need to use the restroom, I go to Café Rachel, which is a huge pain during my workday, but that curtain makes me hugely uncomfortable. Braun/Falk/Coolidge has some accessible bathrooms on the bottom floor of the building, but I haven’t found them. So, again, I just go to Café Rachel. [This is] hugely annoying if I don’t have time to run over there before class.”

Gigliotti is asking for change, but she isn’t the first. In 2008, Chatham had a lawsuit brought against them after an investigation showed that the campus did not comply with Title III of the ADA. A settlement resolved the issue and Chatham agreed to changes in many buildings like Eddy Theater and Coolidge Hall, including amenities such as water fountains, repaving sidewalks, new exterior ramps, and braille on signage. Since then, many things have changed, making it possible — though not necessarily easy — for students to get around campus if they have mobility restriction.

Emily Packer, the undergraduate campus visit coordinator and receptionist in Berry Hall, has a first hand view of how difficult the campus is to maneuver around. When prospective students or their parents come to visit, they get a sneak preview into what their lives may be like for the next four years. Students are asked if they have any mobility constraints, and if they do, they are asked to clarify what their limitations are. They then receive a tour that fits their needs.

“If someone needs a wheelchair accessible tour and they’re already coming to us in a wheelchair, we have a specific route [that] kind of winds through campus more. It can sometimes be more time consuming because they have to go around [buildings] because students can’t necessarily [access buildings from all sides]. Our tour guides have to, when we know about it, [go] out early so that they walk the path and make sure that they are used to it.”

Packer says that Chatham only gets one or two tours like this a year. Though they don’t happen often, when they do, it isn’t without some setbacks.

“[Some tour guides] said that some of the [handicap] doors didn’t open around campus. Because they were together, they could adjust and do that.  But that’s something we try to go around and check so that they’re on and working.”

There are also limitations when having to use, often times, the only accessible entrance to a commonly used building.

“If we had a music major that was wheelchair bound or a parent of a music major, we potentially have to use the wheelchair lift in Laughlin [Music Hall]. What makes it tricky, though, is that if the Welker Room is being reserved for an event, you would have to go through that front door where the event is to get to the stairs versus using other stairs somebody who has full walking capabilities [could use]. There are other entrances with stairs that will lead you down into the basement, but if somebody was wheelchair bound, they would have to go through an event, which is a little bit unfortunate,” said Packer.

Wheelchair accessible tours aren’t the only options for students. There are also golf cart tours though these also have their own setbacks. When students came back to campus in the Fall of 2015, they were met with bollards placed on campus, seemingly to limit the amount of traffic seen on the sidewalks. However, this makes golf carts unable to travel through central campus without using the roadways on the campus’s perimeter.

“[Tour guides] learn how to follow the posts, and we can’t drive on the grass,” said Packer. “I think the golf cart tour is, to me, the least desirable tour that we offer because usually it’s [with] somebody that can walk but can’t walk necessarily a lot because either they have pain or they have heart problems so they don’t get to see quite as much. When a student comes, though, like when we [do] the wheelchair tour, it’s just different. You just have to learn how to get in and out of the buildings.”

Maya Carey, a sophomore student, does not have a mobility restriction, but is frustrated with the difficulties in moving around campus, particularly within residence halls.

“Chatham only has one dorm building that has an elevator, and it’s already been broken once this [year]. There are no rooms on the first floor, so if the elevator broke people who needed to use the elevator would not be able to get up or down from their rooms.”

Woodland Hall is the only accessible residence hall on campus. This is because of the ramp and elevator that is a part of the building. However, the size of doorways and the placement of furniture within a living space also plays a significant role in whether or not a student would be able to live in a room.

“I think that the biggest thing that Chatham could improve on, though it would be very expensive, [would be] to work on the physical restrictions of our environment,” said Packer, “And it would be very difficult because of our old buildings, because of the architecture in the buildings. The newer buildings, clearly, like the new part of Buhl and the AFC are much easier to get around. I do think, and maybe making other buildings more accessible like for example Rea. Even to visit your friends on the first floor of Rea it would be pretty difficult to get to Rea to hang out, so you would always have to come to Woodland, which isn’t bad. I just think that, that would keep someone from being included.”

Unfortunately, being confined to Woodland Hall eliminates a student’s chances of being able to be a part of a Living Learning Community or take part in a Rea Coffeehouse event.

“If more students, especially with physical disabilities, come onto campus, people are going to need to make conscientious decisions about where things are located and what’s going on. To make sure that those events actually are inclusive and we’re not eliminating somebody’s attendance or experience at Chatham because of that,” said Packer.

Stephanie Alvarez Poe, the Director of Student Activities, said that, for students who need accommodations, faculty and staff will do what they can.

“If a student here were to ask for accommodations for an activity, we would do our best to make sure they were met. At this time this would be done on a case-by-case basis. If a student needs an accommodation, all they need to do is inform us of it. We make sure there is a contact area and phone number/email with all of our my.Chatham advertisements.”

However, being ADA accommodating isn’t limited to physical disabilities and mobility limitations, they also include mental and learning disabilities.

The PACE Center on campus provides a combination of academic support for students with disabilities, as well as the tutoring program, supplemental instruction (SI) program, the Writing Center, and general academic support for any student who may need it. Shannon Brenner and Cindy Kerr work as two of the four staff members working to make this possible.

“So [what students with disabilities] have to do is meet with myself,” said Kerr. “I ask what their disability is, how it impacts their academic life, how it impacts their life in general, and they are required to provide documentation from a licensed professional who can attest to that specific disability and what’s recommended for that student. For example, if a student has a learning disorder and one of the accommodations is that it’s better for her or him to have additional time for assignments. What we would do is talk to the student and say, ‘How much additional time might you need?’ and they can say maybe a day for really big assignments or on quizzes and tests, a time and a half would work for [them]. We just have a very long conversation with the student, and we put accommodations into place by notifying all their professors. We never ever disclose a student’s disability but we say they’ve met with someone at the PACE Center and these are the accommodations that are needed in the classroom and there is a whole post of accommodations that can be asked for.”

Like many departments on campus, the PACE Center has a full plate but few human resources. With two full-time staff members and two part-time staff members, the center is working hard to provide for an amazing amount of students. PACE assists undergraduate and graduate students on the Shadyside, Eden Hall, and Eastside campuses, as well as online students in various states.

“Since our enrollment levels have gone up, that means the students coming to our offices and seeking services has also gone up. We’re providing more services with the same amount of resources,” said Kerr.

“[The number of students with disabilities] is going up more than the enrollment is going up,” said Brenner. “More things are diagnosed, more students are on the autism spectrum, and that kind of stuff so it’s not proportional to the enrollment number so it’s [an] even bigger increase here. And we have a really small staff so obviously more manpower would be great. We sort of have to have everything we need to provide the accommodations [we do].”

“Working with students with disabilities it’s not a one and done process,” Kerr said. “Even though a student’s accommodations may be in place that doesn’t mean you’re done or the student is done seeking services. So they may be utilizing services on a weekly basis, on a biweekly basis so it’s a never-ending process. At the beginning of next semester it starts all over again because new classes, new professors, and sometimes even new accommodations and new diagnosis have been documented.”

Brenner and Kerr encourage Chatham’s community, students, faculty, and staff alike, to remember that not all disabilities are visible and to be supportive of all students.

“When it’s a person with a visible disability, say a student with a mobility issue or a student with a visual or hearing [impairment], the community in general and the world in general are more apt to assist them because they can see something. [For] students with non-visible disabilities, students and community members might sense that there’s something different about them but since they can’t see it, [the student] is treated differently. Our goal is to help students advocate for themselves, but then at the same time teach the community [that] just because you can’t see a disability, doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t have one. That may be why they are a little different in the classroom or that’s why they don’t take tests in class. It’s not something they want to have to do. It’s something that they need to do to have equal access to Chatham’s educational and activity programs that are on campus.”

Carey has found the non-visible impairment aspect on campus a tough situation to maneuver. She believes that Chatham isn’t as supportive as they could be.

“There’s not readily accessible technology for people who have needs [within the classroom]; like a magnifier when there’s [reading] handouts,” said Carey who experiences hearing loss. “I don’t think there’s training with professors to deal with students with hearing loss or [similar limitations]. When I’ve brought it up, it’s sort of just been pushed aside and not really addressed. I just think it’s wrong for Chatham to call itself an ADA approved campus because it’s not [accommodating] at all. Disabilities aren’t always physical. A lot of them are mental, and I can thoroughly say that I don’t think that Chatham is capable of accommodating people with mental disabilities, people who need special accommodations, or people who need counseling.”

Though there are many struggles on campus, there is a sense that the community on Chatham’s campus will help alleviate some of these problems as long as they work together. The Admissions office, for example, has found itself communicating with the PACE Center.

“[Based on] the amount of work that I’ve done with the PACE Center, I don’t work with them super regularly, but every time I need to talk to them they’re so accommodating. Cindy Kerr has come to campus on a weekend to meet a student before and I was just amazed,” said Packer. “To have somebody in another department go that extra step was really cool. And I think that’s just something about Chatham anyway. We are tight enough; we’re really close knit. The staff here really loves students, and I think the student population really cares about each other in general. I think to me that’s the thing about it. There’s going to be a large support network.”

Brenner and Kerr agree with this sentiment and have found that the support they receive is what helps their resources work as well as they do.

“I think there’s a sense of community here that’s really good. It seems to be overall that people feel very supported and feel welcomed,” said Brenner.

“Faculty [is] always willing to work with us when working with students. [When working with] staff and administration, I’ve had no problems getting what we need to accommodate a student,” said Kerr.

    These collaborations lead to fantastic results. Gigliotti reflects on the impact that the PACE Center had on her as a student.

“First and foremost, Chatham’s PACE Center is amazing. I mean the best. I’ve been to a lot of universities, all over the world, and Chatham’s PACE staff is simply top notch. During my first year orientation they provided me with all the materials I needed in braille, and they once built a tactile cell diagram for me because I couldn’t see the handouts and I was having trouble grasping what a cell looked like,” said Gigliotti.

Though there is so much support, the school still has far to go. Whether change will come when there are more students with physical disabilities on campus or before is unclear.

“[A student’s ADA experience] is definitely going to come with more challenges because of the geography and the actual landscape of our campus is hilly. We have a lot of steps so you have to be strategic about where you’re going. You’re going to have to learn so if you’re [moving] around campus, your friends would have to know where to walk with you because you’re going to [get places] differently,” said Packer, “You may always, no matter where your classroom is, enter through the same door or two. I’m wondering if it would take a student longer to get around campus, to their classes and such. I do think that Chatham is the kind of community [where] everyone would come together and make it happen. I think there’s that. But there are just some physical restrictions on our campus. We have some sidewalks that may or may not be wide enough for a wheelchair. Even along the road; the sidewalks are pretty narrow when you’re going down from Berry Hall towards Chapel Hill. You don’t even walk two people side by side sometimes. I imagine that would be difficult in a wheelchair. And if somebody were just using a walker or [forearm crutches], I feel like that would be really difficult. I think it would be easiest if somebody came in a power chair.”

When thinking of inclusivity, Gigliotti reminds everyone that supporting minorities on campus is the job of every person on campus.

“It’s kind of like asking ‘Why should Chatham be accepting of Black or LGBT students?’ Every student, faculty member, and guest on Chatham’s campus deserves to have the freedom to go to all events hosted on campus without feeling excluded — just like every other minority group,” said Giglotti.

Chatham has a new year to show support to students on campus who may have disabilities, take part in awareness months like Developmental Disability Awareness month in March, and even put forth some initiatives.

“Students pick up on who the administration values,” said Gigliotti. “Our students are going to go on to be employers and members of the wider community. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in the United States is about twice as much as the national average. As students and the future employers of the world, we have a chance to challenge stereotypes and to change this statistic. By making campus more accessible, and making students more aware how their actions affect people with disabilities, my hope is that our ‘World Ready’ students will take on these issues. Which they can’t do if they don’t know there’s a problem.”

Pittsburgh celebrates Lunar New Year

The Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) has arrived in Pittsburgh!

In Pittsburgh, the arrival of the Lunar New Year means two weeks of celebrations for the advent of the Year of the Fire Monkey, kicking off with all-day performances at the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center on Saturday, February 6, and ending on Sunday, February 21, with a parade in Squirrel Hill.

This is the first year that such events are being offered to the wider Pittsburgh community, due in part to two formal announcements from Councilman Corey O’Connor and Mayor Bill Peduto.

Councilman O’Connor issued an official statement called the Lunar New Year Proclamation, which recognizes the cultural and historical significance of the Lunar New Year to the Pittsburgh community.

Mayor Peduto issued a second proclamation to observe Chinese American Day every February 6 in Pittsburgh, in recognition of the historical and cultural contributions of Chinese Americans in Pittsburgh, especially the entrepreneurs who played an essential role in shaping the city.

Lunar New Year celebrations kicked off in Squirrel Hill and the Jewish Community Center with a performance by the Pittsburgh Chinese School Cultural Choir at 1 p.m.

Other events of the afternoon included a performance by the Steel Dragon Lion Dancers and martial arts performances by Oom Yung Doe. The OCA Cultural Youth Performance featured a variation on the Hand Drum Dance by the youngest performers of the afternoon, alongside a performance of Romance in the Palace and a solo performance of Dancing with the Wind by Rachel Sew. The Silk Elephant, a Thai restaurant in Squirrel Hill, also provided entertainment during the kick-off.  Their performance was well-received by the younger attendees.

In between performances, attendees had a wide array of smaller demonstrations outside the theater. Attendees were able to have their names written in Chinese, make origami, paper lanterns and dragon masks, and browse vendor tables throughout the afternoon.

Margarte’s Fine Imports provided samples of tea and a coupon good for the duration of the festivities. Several restaurants and eateries provided food for sale for attendees unwilling to brave the cold air. Pink Box Bakery offered a wide variety of buns appropriate for the Lunar New Year, including pork and tarot.

OCA Pittsburgh had a table, advertising their Lunar New Year banquet on Sunday, February 7, and offered discounts to students for the banquet. The cost of admission covered the 12-course Mandarin-style buffet and performances by several Asian-American groups over the course of the evening.

The afternoon’s celebrations concluded with a performance by the Pittsburgh Taiko drummers.

The final event for the Lunar New Year will be a parade in Squirrel Hill on February 21 at 11 a.m. The parade will start at the corner of Murray and Phillips and will end at Darlington.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Muddy Waters Oyster Bar review

I have always loved oysters and have always made it quite clear that, if I choose to spend the rest of my life with someone, a qualifier is that they must enjoy drinking martinis and slurping down oysters with me.

I always buy them from Whole Foods and Wholley’s to take home to my parents for the weekend. We shuck them ourselves, but it’s never the same as it is when you get them served at a restaurant with the perfectly cut lemons and shaved ice bed they are laying on. I eat oysters so often that buying an ice shaver might be a good investment.

So, when it was announced that Muddy Waters Oyster Bar was opening right in East Liberty, I was skied and knew it would be the perfect place to take my entire family for a night out on the town.

Unfortunately, I think this restaurant may have had no warm up time and got booked almost immediately after they opened. The service was some of the worst I have had in a while, but the food was delicious, which if any of you know IS THE WORST PREDICAMENT IN THE WORLD.

Muddy Waters is a small restaurant and bar with a modern take on southern rock and roll décor. I came with six adults and two kids, and it wasn’t the worst environment for kids, actually. They were the only children there, but the energy was high, and it was pretty loud so the kid’s screams and overall noise was not a worry at all.

The restaurant itself though has slow service; so if you are trying to get out in a timely manner with your whole family, then this isn’t the place for you. What seemed like the real glaring problem was the fact that all of the wait staff was red eyed, squinty, and a little out of it. I have no clue what the issue could have been…were they sick? No, but really, I get it. I have worked in the restaurant industry all throughout high school and some of college. I understand that it’s stressful and that pot can be a normal part of that lifestyle, but leave it for after hours, please, because I’ve been staring at my empty wine glass for about 30 minutes now.

Their oyster selection was on point with options from both the East Coast and the West Coast. We enjoy West Coast oysters more because they are usually saltier and smaller rather than sweet and really big. The oysters were clean and fresh and presented appropriately with all the necessary accouterments. The menu itself is fun and has something for everyone. Dishes like shrimp and grits, oyster po’boys, and gumbo will feed your craving for deep southern food.

Everything was tasty. I had the shrimp and grits that came with robust prawns with their heads still attached. The grits were creamy and cheesy and all of it came together with a sweet and salty red onion marmalade sauce. Another star was their Crab Boil Reuben which came stacked with pastrami that seemed to be flash boiled in a crab bake and topped with the usual suspects: pickles, sauerkraut, and remoulade.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the table got to eat. My sister ordered their steak and frites, but the order was never given to the chefs in the back and instead of getting her what she ordered ASAP, they said they could make her something else instead if she wanted. Let me just say, if you forget someone’s order, you don’t tell them and make them deal with it. You deal with it and get them the food that they originally ordered in ten minutes or less. You put everything else to the side to get that dish out, and then you give it to them for free and offer a free round of drinks. My sister had to leave before she got any food because the kids were getting tired and it had been about two hours already. They took off her substitute meal that she got to go, but that was it. We didn’t see our waiter for about ten minutes after the chef told my sister he never got that order. I lost my appetite because the entire situation was dealt with terribly and I regret taking my family there.

Muddy Waters has delicious food and a great location, so they will probably do well for a while at least. Don’t go there expecting good service, though. I researched more and saw that other reviewers said the same thing about the slow service.

If you wish to go there, go there with only a couple people and expect to sit for a while. Sitting at the bar may be the best bet if you want your drinks sooner than later as well. I hope that they either all have a serious conversation about fixing their management, or they purge their staff and get better equipped workers. I hope that this restaurant thrives eventually, but I will not be back until I hear that they have made some big changes.