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 .


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

Chatham unites for annual Thanksgiving dinner

Laughter and smiles filled the AFC gym on Wednesday, November 18, as hundreds of Chatham faculty, staff, students, and community members sat around tables for the annual Thanksgiving Dinner.

The dinner is one of the many traditions that the Chatham community looks forward to around the holiday season.

The event kicked off with Hunter Milroy, President of the Class of 2016, and Sarah Jugovic, CSG Executive President, welcoming everyone to the festivities. Milroy also explained that there were a number of seniors walking around the gym selling 50/50 raffles tickets benefitting the senior class gift.

After the initial welcome, Jugovic invited President Esther Barazzone to the stage. Barazzone also welcomed attendees, as well as recognized members of the Board of Trustees and extended a special welcome to international students experiencing their first American Thanksgiving.

President Barazzone kept her speech brief — saying that she didn’t want to keep anyone from the fabulous Parkhurst food that was being held behind a large black curtain near the back of the gym.

There was a general sigh of relief when the food began to circulate — guests waited nearly an hour after the event began to actually begin filling their plates. Servers brought out large plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and sweet potatoes to each table. The dishes were served family-style.

After everyone seemed to be finished with the main meal, servers cleared the tables and brought out dozens of apple and pumpkin pies. The sweet treats brought a collective smile to the gym.

As a whole, many students felt the food to be a bit disappointing.

“I was slightly disappointed with the food, but the pie was great,” said Junior Corrin Walker.

Parkhurst did provide a vegetarian options for those students with dietary restrictions.

“I am vegetarian and lactose intolerant, so I was able to get the vegetarian plate as well as the meal everyone else was eating,” said sophomore Teri Bradford. “The vegetarian plate wasn’t warm which wasn’t great…I think that it’s awesome that they even tried.”

Bradford also saw the potential for other issues regarding dietary restrictions.

“When I was give the vegetarian plate, they didn’t tell me what it was or what was in it which could be bad if I had another allergy,” she said.

Regardless of the food, attendees were in high spirits because of the nature of the event itself.

“I loved the atmosphere and being with all of [my friends],” Walker said.

Bradford agreed.

“I thought that Thanksgiving dinner at Chatham was great,” she said. “It’s more about the friends and family than it is about the food.”

Chatham engages the community with Harvest FunFest

The sounds of Disney music and children’s laughter filled Chatham University’s quad on Saturday, October 31, as community members of all ages put on their best costumes and came together to celebrate all things spooky at Harvest FunFest.

The annual event, hosted by Chatham University, brings together students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community in a celebration of the Halloween season.  With a focus on young children, the event gives kids the opportunity to dress up, do a wide variety of Halloween themed crafts and activities — most of which are sponsored by student organizations on campus — and of course, eat all the candy they can get.

In addition to the 13 activities sponsored by student organizations, — like making slime out of clear glue and liquid starch with “This Is Me” — and two events — including cookie decorating and coloring, sponsored by Dean Zauyah Waite, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students — the free event also boasted two bouncy houses, balloon animals, face painting, and a selection of food and drinks.

According to Heather Black, Director of Student Affairs & Residence Life, the planning for the event began in early September.  

“We do a call to all student organizations,” she explained. “We give them a small budget and take care of all of the supplies.”

“I think it’s something special for a college to do something that involves the whole community,” said first-year Abigail Teibel, a member of the organization “Girl-Up,” which provided superhero masks for the kids to decorate because, “anyone can be a superhero.”

Her sentiments were widely echoed among many attendees including Black, who explained that the Chatham tradition, which is largely planned and organized by students, has grown extensively in the past three years.

“Over the years it’s become something that the community looks forward to,” she said. “And I think it’s so important for Chatham to be out there in the community.”

Community members feel the same.

“My granddaughter and grandson are having a great time,” Tom Ritson, husband of Chatham adjunct professor Margaret Ritson, said. “They just love the creative activities, and the hands-on stuff is really cool.”

Their grandson, five-year-old Beau (dressed as Wolverine) agreed, adding, “I like whenever we jumped on the bouncy house.”

His two-year-old sister Adalynn (dressed as a princess), though not very talkative, was not shy about dancing to the music.

In addition to providing family fun, the event was also a fundraiser.  Each table had a purple bucket in which community members could place donations, all of which went to a specific cause or charity, often one with which Chatham has previous connections.  In the past the funds have gone to the student emergency fund, and this year, like last year, the money is going to Relay for Life.

Community members responded to this, donating generously at the event which was, objectively, a success for everyone involved.

“We’ve become a staple in the community,” Black said about the response from neighbors of the campus. “We want to continue providing a safe space for people to gather. I think it’s so important for Chatham to be out there in the community.”

Students from all over enjoy Family & Friends Weekend

The weekend of October 23 was Chatham University’s annual Family and Friends weekend. Students were able to have friends and family come to visit their dorms and attend campus events, including the annual talent show, an exclusive premier of the film “Goosebumps,” based on the popular children’s’ book series, Breakfast and Bellini’s at the president’s house, and a trip to Kennywood Amusement Park’s Fright Night.  There were many students who had family coming from long distances, and this event allowed them to spend time with their family and friends.

Students who live far from home particularly appreciated the eventful weekend.

“It was fun. It gave me a chance to be with my family. I wish they did more events like this,” said first-year Rebekah Dunn, who is a Buffalo native.

Some students who live in the city of Pittsburgh brought local friends and family to enjoy the festivities.

“I think it’s a good idea to get other communities such as Pitt here so they can see what we experience,” said Pittsburgh native and first-year Exercise Science student Diamond Ricketts.

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sex — it’s a completely normal thing; for animals, for people, for everyone. Not only is it the thing that creates life, but it is fun, and a way for lovers to connect on a very intimate level. Sex is great, and so is the flirting that comes beforehand. But only when it is consensual from all parties.

Sexual harassment is a very widespread problem that affects high schools and colleges all over the world. As the first of many undergraduate males enter their years here at Chatham, sexual harassment has become a hot topic among students on campus. During orientation catcalling was a largely talked about issue. It was reported that some of the new first-years would lean out the windows of Rea House and shout down sexual comments to women as they passed. This issue was addressed almost immediately at the Class of 2019’s meeting where both sexual harassments such as this towards women and men were declared something that would not be tolerated.

Skip ahead to September 22, and a student, Ashley Nicholson, wrote a very controversial article, “Being a Man at Chatham Doesn’t Make You Special,” for the online magazine The Odyssey concerning the addition of men to Chatham. In this article, Nicholson specifically references the catcalling, a man in his thirties who “felt discriminated against,” and how the media has encouraged the “egos” of the new students at Chatham. Addressing the men on campus, Nicholson said in her article, “You bringing a change to Chatham does not stop at just existing as a student on campus…”

Many students, new and old, as well as alumni commented on the article.

“You know it took a lot of guts to decide to enroll at Chatham for this very reason,” Jeremiah Smith said.

“I’m so angry and sad at what my wonderful alma-mater has become,” said Susan Taska O’Dee, class of ’87.

“I honestly agree that articles like this do make men feel discriminated. Chatham students believe in equality, we believe that everyone should be equal. Giving men a hard time because they are men on our campus is not equality, but sexism,” said senior Christina Fortunato.

It has been a few months since the original incidents, and a month since the article began circulating its way through students’ news feeds and emails. For the most part, things seem to have calmed down.

“Sexual harassment has happened. I don’t know the statistics as far as before this year compared to what’s currently happened,” said Kimberlee Small, Residence Life Coordinator. “The fact that we have men here means more people are reporting it. I don’t like to say that people are overreacting but there is a heightened sense of tension.”

Dean of Students Zauyah Waite disagrees that sexual harassment is an issue at Chatham.

I have not witnessed or heard about any kinds of sexual harassment that has taken place on campus grounds,” Waite said. “However, Public Safety and Student Affairs departments, particularly Counseling Services, Residence Life and Office of the Dean of Students do respond and work with students who have previous experiences and are sexual assault victims.”

“I think they’re overreacting to the guys in general and creating problems that don’t exist,” said Emily Simons, a female first-year.

“I think that [sexual harassment] has potential for being an issue, but I haven’t seen any so far,” said Derrick Robinson, a male first-year. “I feel that others know enough about it not to sexually harass people. I think a lot of the males here are not jerks, for lack of a better word. I do think students are taking it a little too harsh. Especially the article.

“I don’t think sexual harassment is as big of a problem as I thought it was going to be,” said sophomore Maya Carey. “Also, it’s not always men who sexually assault women. I think that sexual violence is an issue that needs to be continuously talked about on college campuses. Chatham has definitely over-[gendered] the issues, but at the same time it is imperative to note that the majority of sexual harassment, physical or verbal, happens towards women.”

Carey is also a representative of the Feminist Majority Foundation at Chatham.

Chatham is a place of education, equality, and education about equality.

Chatham has consistently taken steps to ensure that we are well-informed community members,” said Waite. “From our partnership with Ever-Fi,which provides access to the educational models; Haven; and AlcoholEdu to students, faculty, and staff training on sexual assault and harassment, Chatham believes in giving its community the tools needed to successfully engage with and advocate for themselves and their fellow community members.”

Allowing men into Chatham was both a preventative action and a progressive one. By providing men with the same Chatham experience, the university is taking a few steps into educating men, as well as women, about the concepts of equality, and feminism.

Chatham alumnae and students protest going coed

On the morning of Wednesday, April 23, Chatham alumnae and a few current students took to the intersection of 5th Avenue and Woodland Road to protest the vote that could turn Chatham College for Women into a coeducational undergraduate institution.

“Ideally, we’d like them to throw [the idea] away in the trash where it belongs,” said Sarah Ford, class of 2008.

Ford wants for current Chatham students to look at the Save Chatham website and Facebook page.

“I don’t want students to be apathetic,” she said.  “There are other options other than going coed.”

The women wore the signature Chatham purple and held signs with phrases like, “Save Chatham for Women Forever,” “Rachel would weep,” and “Will work for single-gender Chatham College for Women.”  The women cheered when their messages raised supportive horn-honks from passing drivers.

For one protester who wished to remain nameless, said the protest is essentially about “being truthful.”

“I’m here because I feel like the administration hasn’t disclosed enough information or answered the questions that have been posed,” she said.

The protest began with about eight protesters on Woodland Road in front of the Mellon Building. According to Ashley Bittner, a junior in Chatham’s Environmental Science program, the protesters were just arriving when Chatham police arrived and asked the protesters to move before police were forced to arrest them.

According to Bittner, police said alumnae and students were not allowed to have protest signs on private property and that they were allowed to practice free speech, just not on Chatham’s campus.

According to Chatham Police Chief Donald Aubrecht, Pennsylvania Law states that picketers must be off the property of the institution against which they are protesting. As a former Homestead police officer, he thinks back to strikes by the workers of Homestead Steel, all of which had to occur off of Homestead Steel Works’ property.

“You don’t ever want to disrupt the operations of a business or the school,” he said.  “We always want to let [people] exercise their right to voice their opinion, but in an appropriate manner.”

Protesters were still going strong as of 11:30 am. They were even planning on staying long enough to have a candlelight vigil in support of Chatham’s single-sex education.

“I’m here because I love Chatham College for Women,” said Maureen Sampson, class of 2009.  “Single-sex education is not appropriate for everyone, but for some it changes lives, and I’m one of those women.”

President Barazzone holds meeting about the future of Chatham

On Tuesday, April 8, President Esther Barazzone, students, and staff met in the Mellon Board Room for an informal conversation about the potential changes that face the undergraduate program and the university as a whole.

In her welcome, President Barazzone emphasized her commitment to undergraduate education and to women, as well as to the graduate program, which has financially supported itself and the undergraduate program since not long after its founding.  According to Barazzone, this system is no longer possible in the current economy.

“We can’t damage one member of our family to protect another member of our family, and we’re getting dangerously close to that,” Barazzone said.

Barazzone welcomed questions, comments, and suggestions from students.

“I want to be responsive to you,” Barazzone said.  “I’m rather more interested in hearing what you’re thinking.”

One major concern, voiced by first-year Maryann Fix, was about the future of Chatham’s diversity if the College for Women ceases to exist.  Fix was “worried that the feelings of respect, being comfortable, and feeling that your identity is being accepted and loved” might be compromised if men were to be admitted into the undergraduate program.

In response, Barazzone explained that it is Chatham’s existence as a small liberal arts college (not its being a women’s college) that impacts its acceptance of all races, sexualities, and gender identities.

“Small institutions are dedicated to the development of every individual who comes,” she said.

Dean of Students Zauyah Waite agreed, adding that the value of diversity will not go away because “it’s what drives us.”

In order to preserve Chatham’s dedication to women, Barazzone has proposed a women’s institute that would conduct training and orientation for incoming faculty to ensure nondiscriminatory, gender-balanced classrooms if the college becomes coeducational.

Dean Waite also reminded students that the changes upon becoming coeducational would likely be gradual.  According to Waite, undergraduate men would be a minority at first, and the “World Ready Women” of Chatham would be responsible for welcoming them.

President Barazzone brought up the potential for “a more subtle conflict between the women who come because it’s no longer a women’s college and the women who came because it’s a women’s college.”

Senior Liz Sawyer reminded the president that a divide already exists between students who do not want Chatham to become coeducational and those who would not mind the switch.

Barazzone understands this divide, but she encourages a “respect for differences of opinion,” and a “desire to create a productive environment,” among all students.

Regardless of whether or not the undergraduate program becomes coeducational, students and staff agree that more intensive marketing programs are necessary.

“We’re a great school with great Student Affairs activities, but there are so many academic programs that people don’t know about,” first-year Tahmina Tursonzadah said.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications Bill Campbell is also concerned about Chatham’s lack of academic marketing. According to Campbell, undergraduate education is evolving to mimic graduate education’s focus on academics and career preparation, and quantitative and qualitative market research shows that the college must put forth more academic marketing to attract prospective students.

In addition, President Barazzone would like to see undergraduate academic programming undergo a restructuring no matter what the board’s final decision on coeducation will be.

She believes that academic programming in its current state is not flexible enough and that self-designed study should be encouraged.

Barazzone also has problems with the current structure of tutorial.  She believes that it should span across all four years of one’s study so that students can benefit from the process earlier in their education.

Both President Barazzone and students suggested and discussed many possibilities for academic changes and future programming, but none have been officially adopted yet.

President Barazzone proposed having a summit to discuss changes and suggestions for Chatham’s future regardless of whether or not the institution becomes coeducational because she and the Board of Trustees value student feedback.

“We’ll have another get together.  I always learn a lot, and I thank you for it,” Barazzone said.

A summit could occur in May or early next semester, but official plans have yet to be made.