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2021 and what they’ll study

in Around Campus/News by

Today and tomorrow, many future members of the class of ’21 are visiting campus for the first time since they’ve been accepted or for the first time ever. During SwatStruck they’ll have the chance to meet current students, talk to academic departments, and encounter almost every single one of the college’s incredibly numerous student groups. They’ll be trying to figure out if Swarthmore is the best school for them or, if they already know, what they’ll be in for the next four years. But while they’re doing that, the current student body will be wondering something entirely different: who are these people?

A press release published by the college on March 21st contains the primary publicly available profile of the admitted class. It provides some basic statistics on the 960 newly admitted students; 25% of them are first generation college students, 60% come from public schools, and 94% were ranked in the top decile of their high school. The press release also contains an overview of the range of nations and U.S. states the admitted students represent, as well as a description of what the class of 2021 is interested in majoring in.

“Engineering is the most popular intended major among the admitted students. Next, in order, are political science, biology, economics, computer science, English literature, mathematics, psychology, biochemistry, and physics,” the admissions department wrote.

At first glance this may seem to indicate a significant shift in the student academic distribution; engineering is not, in fact, currently the most popular student major. In fact, engineering has not been in the top five majors of any of the graduating classes of the last 10 years, suggesting that typically less than 8% of Swarthmore students graduate as engineering majors. However, reviewing the new class admission press releases of previous years indicates that engineering is almost always the most popular intended major.

This means that this years’ ranking of intended majors probably doesn’t indicate that the college is about to experience a new wave of engineering majors. Maybe many students will arrive believing they want to be engineers, but the past trends indicate most of them will have moved to different fields by graduation.

Joshua Freier ’20 was one such first year this year. He was interested in pursuing an engineering major when he applied, but has since decided he would rather major in other departments.

“I applied here thinking that Engineering would allow me to study math, science and computer science without having to specify too much, but instead I felt like I was learning less and wasting more time than if I had just taken math, science and computer science classes,” said Freier.

Freier pointed to factors that separate the engineering department from other departments, like the significantly larger than average requirement of 12 engineering courses along with 8 non-engineering prerequisites.

“I am thinking of pursuing a music and computer science double major because those are the areas I have found to be most interesting to me so far, but I am also planning on taking more classes outside of those two disciplines next year, a luxury I couldn’t do as an engineering major,” said Freier.

Jim Bock ’90, Vice President and Dean of Admissions also noted that many students, not only engineering students, end up switching from their intended majors after they take courses in a variety of departments. He also noted that this year’s distribution of intended majors was largely consistent with previous years, which is supported by the above graph.

Following historic patterns, we anticipate that once on campus many of our admitted students will explore the Swarthmore curriculum, some landing on their original intended major, and others deciding to study in-depth in new fields. The distribution of academic interests in the admitted cohort is similar to years past, and we do not yet know the range of academic interests for the enrolling cohort,” said Bock.

After engineering, the most popular majors, both this year and in previous years, are economics, political science, and biology. This is also very consistent with the majors of graduating senior classes, as these three majors are perennially the most popular majors at Swarthmore.

One new trend that is clear in both the majors of graduating seniors and intended majors of admitted students is the growth of the computer science program. The college’s increased graduation and admission of computer science majors could reflect either a national trend towards greater interest in computer science or the growing reputation of the college’s computer science program. Although there is widespread concern that emphasis on STEM subjects such as computer science could decrease interest in the humanities, the most popular humanities major, English literature, is still garnering a consistent level of admitted intended majors. Additionally, many students studying STEM subjects may opt for a second major in the humanities.

“I do know for a few years that about a third of our admitted cohort expressed a first or second choice major interest in the humanities. In addition, “undecided” remains a popular option for many of our admitted students and continues to be a popular choice for enrolling students as well,” said Bock.

The above graph actually shows a very sharp drop in the popularity of the “undecided” major starting with the class of 2019, but this is actually a feature of how the college has decided to report their admitted students intended majors than “undecided” actually becoming a less popular intended major.

“We stopped including it in the public release at some point, because “undecided” is not technically a major, and we could add another department in,” said Bock. “I include it in my first-year welcome talk because it’s fun and not everyone has their life figured out during orientation, of course, and we’re a liberal arts college after all.”

As Bock noted, although the press release for intended majors for the class of 2019 did not include the “undecided” major, at first-year orientation programming, the class of 2019 was actually told that “undecided” was their most popular intended major. The disappearance of the “undecided” major from the annual press releases simply indicates that the college has opted to paint a clearer picture of the fields admitted students are interested in than remind the world that Swarthmore students are, as always, interested in a wide variety of subjects and don’t necessarily have everything figured out. The great news for the class of 2021 is that it’s completely alright if they don’t have everything figured out!

It is wonderful that at Swarthmore students are not locked into a choice based on what they entered into their Coalition, Common, or QuestBridge application.  We look forward to welcoming another amazing Class to Swarthmore,” said Bock.

Spring at Swarthmore

in Campus Journal by

Spring is the beginning of everything. A time when we can brush off the dust from the mistakes and regrets we kept hidden all winter, and step outside and find a refreshing new take on our lives. Even here at Swarthmore, the little college bubble we all (for the most part) happily reside in, spring seems to have taken on a persona of new beginnings. When spring rolls in, with its bright flowers and warmer weather, it’s as though a whole new persona has taken over the whole of Swarthmore College. It’s certainly a persona that’s worth enjoying, even if it’s only around for a short time.

Deadlines are still speeding at us faster than we realize, and exams loom closer with every warmer day that passes, and yet, a feeling of calm and serenity seems to have recently settled over us. A new sense of, “You know what? Maybe I can do it.” A bittersweet realization that yet another year has slipped right by, each class reacting to it slightly differently.

Of course, spring at Swarthmore is also so much more than new beginnings. For first years, spring at Swarthmore comes with the scary realization that the first year is almost over. The year when you’re supposed to take time to figure out who you are and what you want, the year where pass/fail protects you, the year where everything is new and nothing is the same as before — all that is gone. And soon you’ll be a sophomore and you’ll know what to expect and the surprises will diminish and with that comes the fear that maybe, the excitement might fade. But there’s also a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of pride in the fact that no matter how many times freshman year tried to beat you up, you made it through and you’ve almost come out on the other side. Spring means a year has passed since your last high school milestones, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be alright.

For sophomores, spring carries with it some serenity with the knowledge that they made it halfway through, and they can now confidently give straight answers to the big major question. Spring means another year gone by, another year full of ups downs, but another year conquered, and perhaps that brings about some fear — because in fact, the years are passing maybe just a little too quickly and maybe the flowers aren’t as bright as you remembered last year, and maybe you need more new beginnings than spring is willing to give you. But somehow, it will work out because it did your freshman year, and because the sun is finally coming out again and because people are finally smiling and laughing a lot more than usual and something deep down promises you that it will, in fact, be okay.

For our juniors, spring must be a mix of emotions. You know how things work, how the years always seem to fly by, and yet, you’re still surprised, slightly unsettled by how another year is wrapping up. You look to the future and may see a blank canvas just like you might see a bright watercolor of your hopes and dreams, but either way, you tend to avoid looking in that direction. That direction has uncertainty and is unsettling to try and understand and plan, so instead you focus on the here and now. Spring is the time you can unwind a bit, enjoy your friends and the campus you live on, and remember to smile a little more; you’ve made it thus far, an accomplishment big enough to smile about.

 

And last, but certainly not least, our seniors. Spring for you, well, spring is something else. Spring is the start of a new person, once again, the start of a new life outside the bubble we all have grown to be so familiar with. Along with the blooming of the flowers, you wistfully smile and remember the years you were still able to be at ease with the idea that next year, you’d be back in another cramped dorm bed. But now, for the very first time, you aren’t sure where you’ll be in a year. So spring means everything to you. It means the end of so many chapters, the end of what you’ve known so well for four years, which may seem a bit sad. But spring also means the opening of doors, it means the start of a new life and the start of a new adventure, one that you have little to no clue how it’ll end. It means something new and yes, maybe a little scary, but nonetheless something exciting — for seniors, it’s a time in your lives you’re unlikely to ever forget, a time you’ll probably carry in your hearts forever.

 

So what is spring at Swarthmore? Honestly, it’s debatable, and I can’t pretend to sit here and have all the answers. What I can say is that spring is full of new and wonderful beginnings for people here at Swat, a time to find themselves again after the cold winter months and a time to enjoy the vitamin D instead of sitting hunched over a textbook in McCabe. And yes, of course, it’ll be different for each and every one of you, but it most certainly will not be a disappointment.

Impacts of OneCard changes felt on and off campus

in Around Campus/News by

Fall 2016 marked the first semester of expanded meal plans that include Swat Points for use in the Ville. For the first time in Swarthmore’s history students now have the option to use their meal plans to eat at Aria, Bamboo Bistro, Dunkin Donuts, Hobbs Coffee, Occasionally Yours, Renato Pizzeria, Vicky’s Place, and the Co-Op giving students more freedom than in previous years to choose where they eat. First year students, however, have less freedom than the rest of the student body. This restriction, decided without student input, has drawn some criticism from members of the student body. The changes have also increased business for Ville vendors, as it is easier than ever for students to access the restaurants in the borough of Swarthmore.

For students, especially first years, the OneCard has brought wider dining choices as well as some challenges. The four plans having varying proportions of meals to Points, points for use at on-campus locations, and Swat Points, points for use at off-campus locations. Some plans have more meals than points, and others with less meals but more points. First years have only two meal plan options, the SWAT Plan and the Garnet Plan. The SWAT plan has unlimited meal swipes that can be used at Sharples and Essie Mae’s, as well as 150 Points and 150 Swat Points. The Garnet Plan gives students 275 meals per semester as well as 300 Points and 200 Swat Points. Towards the end of the semester, some students began to run out of Points and Swat Points. For first year student Aditya Jayakrishnan ’20, staying on campus for Fall Break was a large factor in running out of Points.

“Thrice a week last semester, I didn’t have enough time to get to Sharples and back for lunch, … [so] I resorted to just eating at the coffee bar instead. That, coupled with the occasional trip to the Ville, and the fact that I had to stay on campus over Fall Break and use my Points in the Ville and at Essie’s meant that my Points were gone soon after Fall Break,” he said.

Jayakrishnan was on the Garnet Plan, the most point-heavy plan available to first year students. For the second semester, first years have the same two options, potentially preventing them from choosing the meal plan that would best suits their needs. The administration, represented by Dean of Students Liz Braun, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Anthony Coschignano, and Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Brown said that first years have always had the least choice in meal plans, and that the Sharples experience was important for for first years.

“We want Sharples to remain the main point of contact for first year students,” Braun said. The administration also cited budget concerns and stability as reasons for keeping first years limited to two different plans, as successfully operating Sharples hinges on being able to accurately estimate the number of students at each meal. While first years were more limited than other class years, the administration noted that there was an increase in flexibility for all class years in terms of dining options with the addition of Swat Points, as well as that the plans are blocked for the entire semester rather than weekly.

The decision for first year students to not be able to access to have all the plans in the second semester has limited students. The decision mirrors the college’s housing policy, which is that first year students are required to live on campus.

Ming Ray Xu ’20 switched from the Swat Plan to the Garnet Plan, and felt that students should be allowed more autonomy in choosing their meal plans.

“The meal plan is unnecessarily restricted, a recommendation from the college would be fine. I understand that the administration wants us to not starve at the end of the semester, but I have access to data about how many meals I eat in a semester, the OneCard system lets you see that,” he said. Students can access information about their balances, including number of remaining meals, Points, and Swat Points by going to the OneCard center on The Dash. With this information available, students, including first years, have access to the knowledge they need to select the meal plan that best suits their habits for the following semester.

In addition to giving students more options for dining, the OneCard has had effects on Ville vendors as well. The ability to use Points in the Ville makes off-campus eateries more economically accessible, and restaurants in Swarthmore have noticed a considerable uptick in business from students. Dunkin’ Donuts employee Manmeet Kaur estimates that the coffee and doughnut shop has about 130 dollars in OneCard transactions on an average weekday.

“It was pretty consistent throughout the semester … and [we have] 20 times, 30 times more students than what we used to get,” said Richardson. The expansion of the meal plan into the Ville has also increased social interaction between students and members of the Ville.

“I’m very happy with the college actually taking an interest in working with merchants, it’s a win-win for everybody […] it’s not a dollar and cents thing to me as much as it is adding to the vibrancy […] of the downtown community […] it adds to the character of the town, having more students here,” Richardson continued. The new meal plans have served as a bridge between the college community and the greater Swarthmore community and has made it easier for students to break the so-called Swat bubble. Merchants in the Ville have not only noticed the increase in students, but are also learning more about their purchase patterns.

“Our most popular items are deli [items] […] sandwiches […] prepared foods […] snacks and beverages.” She went on to say that the Co-Op “has begun to have active discussions about ways to offer a premium hot pizza at the Co-Op,” said Dawn Betts, an employee at the Co-Op. The potential for the Co-Op to expand their options shows both that the OneCard has had a considerable effect on students making purchases in the Ville as well as vendors’ interest in being a part of student life.

However, the pattern of students primarily purchasing foods that are pre-cooked or pre-prepared contrasts with the vision the administration has for New PPR. The possibility of a new plan just for students in New PPR would have less meals and more points than current meal plans since the dorm includes plans for kitchens. Braun indicated that she envisioned smaller communities within the residence hall where students would still eat communally.

The OneCard and the new meal plans have been met with popularity by both students and merchants, with the chief complaint coming from students who cannot access the full flexibility of the plans. Minor changes to the meal plans are expected from the college as more data on how, when, and where plans are used is collected from its first year of use. OneCard’s successful roll out and implementation have had clear benefits for both students and the town of Swarthmore.

Swarthmore Welcomes Class of 2020 on Campus

in Around Campus/News by

On August 23rd, Swarthmore’s newest students — the Class of 2020 — arrived on campus to start their five-day orientation program. New changes were implemented in the program, both by the administration and Orientation Committee.
At 415 students, this year’s freshman class is slightly larger than last year’s class of 407, which is in accordance with the college’s goal of gradually growing the enrollment.
“We’re halfway through a strategic plan to increase the student population a little bit,” said Jim Bock ’90, Vice President and Dean of Admissions said.
“So we’ve been adding ten, fifteen students every year to grow the college, in addition to supporting our current students.”
Efforts by the admissions committee also made the new class more diverse in terms of experience, geography, and socio-economic background. A change in admissions policy last admissions cycle that allowed applicants who are undocumented to be read as domestic applicants helped bring more such students to campus. Another goal of the admissions committee was to grow the number of international students.
“This is the third class whose international population is over 10%,” Dean Bock said. “And that’s something we’ve been working toward.”
The percentage of students who are the first generation in their family to attend college is 20% this year, the highest ever since the admissions office has started tracking statistics. One thing that has stayed constant, though, is the college’s dedication to building a well-rounded class with a wide range of interests.
During orientation, the new students were introduced to the resources at Swarthmore. Campus tours highlighted the Lang Center of Civic and Social Responsibility and Worth Health Center/CAPS, whose buildings lie outside the main portion of campus. Career Services talked to the students about externships and resume editing. The academic advising fair helped students choose their first courses, while library orientation sessions familiarized students with the shared Tri-Consortium systems. The class-wide presentations on gender and identity, alcohol and drugs, and healthy relationships were held and followed by facilitated discussions in smaller groups afterwards.
Sacha Lin ’20 was impressed by how her peers spoke about these issues.
“I was surprised at how well the speakers were able to facilitate discussions with students in such a large lecture hall. There was an actual back-and-forth, so I got to hear from a lot of different perspectives at each presentation,” she said. “It seemed like a good number of my classmates weren’t afraid to speak up. I was though, so it was really nice to have more intimate discussions afterwards with the people on my floor.”
The students also had many chances to meet their classmates.The orientation committee, co-directed by Grant Torre ’17 and Min Cheng ’18, placed extra emphasis on organizing more social gatherings than previous years . Events like the ice cream social in Wharton courtyard, Capture the Flag on Mertz field, and the Speed Friending in Upper Tarble provided many such opportunities and had high levels of engagement.  Torre explained the reasoning behind more events.
“In the past few years, there haven’t been that many options for first-year students beyond one evening activity, and we really wanted to supplement that so that there was a wide range,” he said. People were able choose what they wanted to do.”
There were also additional sessions, such as First Generation Family and Friends Welcome reception and a Questbridge Scholar dinner, to help specific groups of students to get to know each other
One of the major events of Orientation Week was the Class of 2020 photo organized on Mertz field. Andrew Barclay, the Assistant Director of Student Life, Leadership, and Engagement, said “Nearly the entire class showed up for the class picture, forming a human 2020 on Mertz field. The Committee hopes this will become a new tradition, creating an archive of pictures for the institution and helping cement the identity of each incoming class.”
The system of Orientation Leaders (OLs)was also reintroduced this year. OLs acted as the main liaisons between the orientation groups and the Orientation Committee, answering any questions the Student Academic Mentors (SAMs), Resident Assistants (RAs), Diversity Peer Advisors (DPAs), and GAs (Green Advisors) may have about the orientation schedules and events. They were also responsible for helping to facilitate the nightly discussions after each presentation, and made sure that the events organized by the committee ran smoothly.
Orientation Committee member and OL Clarisse Phillips viewed the experience positively.
“I had a great experience planning orientation,” she said. ” We all really wanted the new students to feel welcome, get to know campus and have a good time, and I think that sentiment was present every minute we spent on the project. Everyone who came early knew that’s what they were there for and put in the time and effort to make the project a success.”
Fellow Orientation Leader Zain Talukdar echoed similar thoughts, but also added a suggestion for OLs to join their orientation groups at lunch.
As for orientation next year, the administration is currently collecting feedback from the students, Orientation Committee, and Orientation Leaders to make any necessary changes to the program.

The freshman feels: academic rigor

in Op-Eds/Opinions/Uncategorized by

We are almost there, Swatties. Only three more weeks before the end of finals, before the first years reflect on how the year has flown by and the sophomores celebrate becoming real upperclassmen. Only three more weeks before the juniors grow into seniors and the seniors prepare their tears and applause for graduation.

Yet, for those of us who aren’t seniors, these three more weeks are not the end. Rather, they represent a mere bookmark in our novel of adventures, and we have yet to complete even another chapter of our lives. Rather than new beginnings, the end of these three weeks will bring some time for us to escape the Swat bubble, to gain real life experience, and to regroup before we reopen our books again next fall.

For those of us who aren’t seniors, this summer will give us a chance to rediscover ourselves, beyond just classes, homework, and coffee obsessions. And, as a student who knows this routine all too well, I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity and I think it’s important to remind everyone else to do the same.

As a first year, Swarthmore has forced me early on to recognize my identity and inner-strength. Perhaps because of it’s academic intensity, I have learned that the world has so much more to offer than papers or class readings. Professors and mentors tell us this our whole lives; however, after I survived my first real D on a quiz and was able to seek out extracurricular opportunities despite the academic stigma at Swarthmore to work 24/7, I realized that grades do not define us.

It was the tears shed over the thought that “I may not be good enough for biology” and my heart racing at night as I thought “maybe I’m not academic enough to be a true Swattie” that forced me to accept: I am destined to make a difference in the world. Going to bed by midnight, doing less than average on a paper, or choosing to spend my Saturday volunteering instead of studying for Friday’s test will NOT change my dedication, enthusiasm, and passion for changing the world. The drive that led me to Swarthmore will be the same drive that will lead me to success, regardless of a stupid letter grade or a little time devoted to my interests rather than my 500-page class readings.

Of course, it’s so easy to get caught up in the academic intensity here at Swarthmore; after all, it’s everyone’s academic motivation that makes Swarthmore so great. But, as we use the end of the year to reflect, perhaps it’s time to expose that many students are exhausted from the extreme academic stigma at Swarthmore and the only ones who have the power to change that overpowering atmosphere are ourselves.

Of 100 Swatties I interviewed, 77 revealed feeling discouraged by the academic pressures and 68 wished they devoted more time to the social justice side of Swarthmore rather than the intellectual workload. But, if that’s what we want to devote our time to, why aren’t we doing it? How are professors going to realize we don’t want 20 hours of homework a night if the only way we choose to spend our time is doing homework? How are we going to have social justice events on campus if the attendance rates remain so low? How will we ever establish Swarthmore as a campus that fights for change if we are too busy locked away in the Science Center to put the theory we are learning into action?

My goal is not to lecture the entire student body on how to enjoy college or to act as if I am suddenly the “all-knowing freshman” who has figured out their entire life … far from it. Rather, my goal is to expose an issue on campus that has affected so many of us, yet that we have all felt powerless in changing. My goal is to demonstrate that no one is alone in feeling overworked or in wanting a little less intensity or even in feeling like the famous “admissions mistake.” But we can all come together in order to prevent this feeling in the future.

Finally, while it’s important to prepare for the future, it is also important to enjoy the present. Jesus Hernandez ’19 puts it best when he states, if Swarthmore has taught him anything it’s “how to fail.” But, also “to learn from your mistakes and to grow from them.” If we are all terrified to make mistakes and let go of our academics just a little, how can we ever truly grow?

This year has been a crazy journey of self-discovery and adventures, but I suppose it would have been silly to expect anything less. We are all so lucky to be a community with so much to learn from one another. David Ding ’16 shares that he is thankful for Swarthmore because “it taught him how to be hopeful for the world of tomorrow” and Elizabeth Beruman-Gonzalez ’19 shares how thankful she is “for getting to meet a variety of people.”

What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for the new experiences we will all share next fall when we reopen the novel that is our college experience and explore the changes that we can bring to create a more involved, happy, and fulfilling campus community—a community that maintains its academic intensity, but begins to embrace the outside world and civic engagement even more.

Freshman Survey

in Around Campus/Around Higher Education/News by

What follows is a breakdown of data collected from 59 members of the Class of 2019. The Phoenix’s survey was posted to the Swarthmore 2019 class page during the month of August. While only 14% percent of the class responded, and this is by no means a representative sample of the greater class of 2019, it is an interesting lens into the self-reported social, economic, and academic characteristics of those that participated in the survey. The Phoenix did not adjust the data for self-selection bias.

Financially, first-years respondents reported coming from a diverse array of economic backgrounds. 31% of respondents declared their family income as less than $63,960 – the sticker price of attending Swarthmore this year – and about 66% of respondents have a family income of over $75,000.

61% of first-years report receiving financial aid. About 75% are content with the price of their tuition, while about 22% feel they need more aid. 73% of those who feel they need more financial aid have family incomes ranging between $75,001 and $250,000. Two respondents who were dissatisfied with their package have a family income under $40,000, and one had a family income between $250,001 and $400,000.

graph 1

A little over a quarter of respondents attended a non-parochial private school, and a similar ratio had to apply and be selected to attend their secondary school. About 66% of all respondents attended a public school. On average, first-years earned a 4.00 high school GPA, yet about 44% admit to having cheated on homework, and about 15% have cheated on tests.

First-years earned high scores on national standardized tests. Nearly all reported ACT scores of at least a 30 out of 36, and most scored at least a 2100 out of 2400 on the SAT. On average, respondents took the SAT or ACT just under three times.

graph 3

Slightly fewer than 14% of students paid for a private college admissions counselor. All but one of the eight students who hired a counselor attended public school. Half who paid for a counselor had an income between $125,001 – $250,000, while only two had incomes below $75,001.

About 58% of respondents applied to Swarthmore early decision. All respondents whose families earned over $400,000 applied to Swarthmore through the early decision application process.

Respondents interested in Greek Life also tended to come from wealthier backgrounds. 60% of those who expect to join a fraternity or sorority had family incomes over $250,000. However, about 70% of all respondents are not interested in joining Greek life.

With regard to participation in the Swarthmore social scene, a majority of respondents indicated that they intend to consume alcohol at school. 39% expect to almost never drink. Almost 63% of respondents have never used marijuana recreationally, and about 60% do not expect to at school.

graph 2

72% of respondents are single upon entering Swarthmore, but half hope to be in a committed romantic relationship at some point during their first year. About 64% have been in a committed relationship before. In terms of intimacy, 53% report having been sexually active before arriving at Swarthmore. 43% of females and 68% of males have had sex before.

Amongst the incoming class, most respondents did not indicate a religious affiliation. Less than 5% of first-year described themselves as “very religious,” while about 56%  claimed to be “not very religious.” Queer students in particular did not express religious interest, with 88% identifying as “not very religious” or not affiliated with any religion. Judaism and branches of Christianity are the most popular among students who do observe a religion.

Ultimately, if these responses are any indication, the class of 2019 represents diverse economic and social backgrounds, and appears to be ready to become fully-integrated members of the college community.

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