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College admits Class of 2021, questions of support and class structure rise

in Around Campus/Around Higher Education/News by

On March 21st, the Office of Admissions alerted the campus community to the admission of the Class of 2021 with historic numbers of applications. The admitted class also had record numbers of applications from traditionally underrepresented groups, international students, and first-in-their-family and many through community-based programs like QuestBridge. The class’s intended majors follow a trend from previous years with engineering, political science, and biology are most heavily represented. The office found that, with the high numbers of applications, admitting 960 students fit well with the college’s Visioning Process goals. The admitted Class of 2021 is larger than the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019 and approximately the same size as 2020.

Vice President of the college and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 detailed the process of balancing the goal to provide a Swarthmore education with the larger number of applicants this year.

“This is a perennial challenge as we always have many more qualified and compelling applicants than we have admission spaces available. The size and depth of this year’s applicant pool made our work more difficult as we had to turn away more students than in the past. We were able to admit more first generation to college students, and we are confident that the admitted students are prepared to take full advantage of the rigorous academic program and contribute tremendously to the Swarthmore community,” Bock said.

Bock stated that applications increased from all demographics, mentioning new promotional materials as a reason, and identified the process of how the college will finalize the Class of 2021 and the transfer population. He then noted the advances the office made to include underrepresented populations in the admitted class.

“Our Director of Access and Programming developed a communication plan geared specifically to underrepresented and low-income students highlighting what makes our community a special and supportive place … Our office has also worked closely with our colleagues in the Communications Office and other campus partners to ensure we are telling the Swarthmore story authentically and effectively to prospective students of all backgrounds,” Bock said.

Students on campus generally responded positively to the higher rates of application and admission of underrepresented groups. Ricky Choi ’20 noted how Swarthmore is a place that supports underrepresented groups, but how building that community on campus is important.

“I think a greater diversity in our student body will bring even greater attention to the issues that are unique to these international [and] first-in-family [students] and generally underrepresented groups. Our school as an institution is already highly vocal and aware of the issues that surround such groups but having greater context and personal experiences can always add weight to the existing voice,” Choi said.

Shelby Billups ’20 stated how this increase will lead to the campus becoming more supportive to underrepresented communities as the campus network will grow, and she highlighted how Swarthmore helped her reach her goals academically and connect as a minority student.

“I believe that this growth in these groups will aid in the normalization of diversity. This normalization will aid in the transition into college for many of these students for many class years to come and help to instill the overarching theme of acceptance that is so prevalent on our campus already,” Billups said. “As someone who comes from a place where there weren’t many opportunities for me to connect with people of my own background, the number opportunities at the college astounded me. From WOCKA to the BCC to the many other cultural groups on campus, I have never felt deprived of support as a minority student.”

Choi went on to discuss how the communities on campus could be strengthened through solidarity between campus cultural groups, and he explains how the Intercultural Center could change its role in relation to this goal.

“Although IC is effective in supporting international students, I think it can most definitely do more than status quo. I think one of the key problems when it comes to international student groups such as SAO, Han, and other cultural groups is that there is a lack of single cohesive voice. Whilst these groups are most certainly unique in their backgrounds and contexts, there can be a unified voice to address issues such as the myth of model minority. IC can play a critical role in facilitating the interaction between such student bodies and should increase such role in the future,” Choi said.

The Class of 2021 will bring more students to campus with new stories and new networks to work in. The college understands the class to be largely consequential in the academic realm, and students hope the incoming first-years will access the resources and support systems of community groups, and they see the potential to strengthen those groups at Swarthmore as the number of students can increase networks of support across the college.

College Begins MicroFridge Rentals

in Around Campus/News by

In a move to reduce some of the hassles and headaches of residential life, the Office of Student Engagement recently began a partnership with a microfridge rental company to offer microfridge rentals to students living on campus.

Beginning with the announcement “MOVE-IN day just got MUCH EASIER,”, the Office of Student Engagement’s page on the college website explains that the college established a partnership with MyMicroFridge, a fridge rental company, in the Fall 2016 semester that will continue into the foreseeable future. The page emphasizes that students must contact MyMicroFridge directly to set up a rental and includes a direct link to the company’s website. MyMicroFridge is a part of Campus Specialties, Inc., a company based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. The company serves a substantial number of colleges and universities on the East Coast, including Temple University, Villanova University, Bowdoin College, and three University of North Carolina campuses.

The MyMicroFridge website indicates that Swarthmore students can either rent a microfridge for $199.99 per year or purchase one for $549.00. The microfridges feature a two-door refrigerator/freezer unit and a 0.6 cubic feet, 600-watt microwave oven with touchpad controls, thus the portmanteau “microfridge.” The website also boasts that the microfridge units are Energy Star rated, supposedly meaning they use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. In documents provided by Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano, it is explained that the sustainable nature of these microfridges is dye to their use of R600a (otherwise known as isobutane) as their primary refrigerant, instead of other common compounds used like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). According to thinkglobalgreen.org, both CFCs and HFCs are dangerous to the environment because of their contributions to global warming as greenhouse gases. Alternatively, R600a is a type of compound that is naturally occurring, low-GWP, non-toxic, low-cost fluids, whose environmental effects are fully understood, according to hydrocarbons21.com, an industry platform for hydrocarbon cooling and heating experts. According to the documents provided by Coschignano, end consumers save about 15 percent in energy costs when using fridges that use R600a  as a refrigerant. It is important to note that students at the college do not directly pay for energy costs, and so would not directly see these energy savings in their tuition or room and board costs.

The company’s website states that microfridges can be ordered in advance of three separate delivery dates — all of which have currently passed — either August 12, August 25, or September 7. The website also cautions that orders received after August 10th would be subject to a $40 late fee.

Contrary to popular belief, Coschigano said that the microfridge rental program was not restricted to first year students in its initial rollout. He believed that a message was sent out to each of the class years at the college, and worked through the Office of Student Engagement to advertise the new partnership.

“I thought it was being marketed to everybody,” Coschigano said. He did stress that his office was pushing particularly hard for first years to sign up for the rental program, because a large number of upperclassmen already had purchased fridges. In addition, he did not want to send a message that his office did not want students bringing back their previously purchased fridges.

Coschigano said that thirty students have signed up for the program at the time of printing.

“We really just wanted to see if students had an interest in the program. It really was just an add-on program, just something that we thought could be useful, [could] benefit students.”

Coschigano stressed that many of the changes in student services, including the new microfridge rental program, are designed to make students’ lives more convenient. He mentioned that he would like more students to participate in the program in the future, but there is currently no specific incentive from the college to increase the number of microfridge rentals.

The student reception to the new program has been generally positive. Alex Frost ’20, a student who rented a microfridge with her roommate, said the rental process was easy.

“Basically, I just put in my dorm information, like [my] room number and dorm online, and paid online. Then, on a date, they told me the fridge was going to come, [and] someone showed up at my dorm room door and had the fridge,” she said. Frost thought the cost was reasonable, especially considering that she split the cost with her roommate.

However, not all students felt the cost of the microfridge was reasonable. Ashley Mbah ’19 thought the steep rental price was not worth it, even though she recognized that the hassle of transportation was removed.

“I feel like it might appeal to wealthier students, but I don’t think this is a great idea considering the college already has fridges in every dorm as well,” Mbah said.

Bolu Fakoya ’17, who purchased a fridge himself at Target, did not think that he would rent a microfridge if he were a first year.

“[I] experienced a storage issue over the summer because there was no way I could take [the fridge] back home with me, so I can see why some folks would go for it for the rental aspect. But not personally for me,” he said.

It remains to be seen if the number of students renting microfridges will increase in future semesters.

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