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Online system, travel agency among changes to off campus study

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Recently, there have been changes made to the off-campus study program that have affected students’ experiences. Some of these changes include the use of a single travel agency to book tickets for travel and a new system to calculate credit from studying abroad, the latter of which has the most impact on students, especially those seeking credit for off campus study. Pat Martin, director of the Off-Campus Study Office, estimates that over 50 percent of students have study abroad experiences for credit.

According to an e-mail from Martin, other changes include a new domestic off-campus study program, Semester in Hawaii, at the University of Hawaii. In addition to the new domestic option, students studying abroad receive a budget that covers living costs during break periods if their programs or universities do not provide them accommodations during those times.

In that e-mail, Martin also noted that starting last semester, students with a “demonstrated high level of financial need” are able to apply to the Dean’s Office emergency fund if they have uncovered costs such as visas and immunizations but are subject to the emergency fund’s rules.

All of these changes are relevant to the entire off-campus study program, which includes all international student trips, Lang Center-sponsored activities, conferences, debates, athletic competitions, and externships. However, the new changes most prominently affect students who are studying abroad for credit. Students who receive off-campus credit typically do so through end-of-semester courses that have an international field component, summer courses, and a fall or spring semester abroad.

In terms of receiving credit for studying abroad, there is a new online credit evaluation system built by ITS. Students who will study abroad next semester will use this system.

Martin explained that the previous system required that students “go from department to department” to get signatures on a piece of paper in order for their study abroad program to be approved. The new system also replaces a similar “paper-based” system that applied to students who sought credit after returning to campus.

The benefits of the new system, Martin explained, are that it allows all parties involved in the process of transferring and approving credit to see where courses are in the approval process and that students are now able to utilize the system to ask for additional courses to be approved while abroad.

In spring of 2017, a new change was added that guarantees students four credits for “successful completion of coursework that was pre-estimated for at least four Swarthmore credits” during a semester abroad. Before this change, it was possible for students to receive fewer than four credits for that work because the credits were determined by departments.

Molly Murphy ’18 detailed her study abroad experience in the summer of 2016 in Beijing through a Harvard program. Because it was a language-intensive program, she exclusively interacted with the Chinese section at Swarthmore.

“Getting credit coming back was a bit of a process because first, I had to submit all of my study materials  — like my homework, tests, and papers and my textbook and my transcript — to the department office in Chinese. Then I figured they were just going to forward it to the registrar, but they didn’t, and it was getting towards the end of semester, and [the registrar’s office] didn’t receive my transcript … so I had to order a new transcript,” she explained.

She noted that when she studied abroad, the credits were approved by various departments, and the department heads chose what courses counted and for how many credits.

“I didn’t really utilize the study abroad office,” Murphy added. “I thought that [my study abroad program] wasn’t the kind that they deal with … but I was wrong about that, because they do follow up with students going abroad over the summer, especially if they’re intending to get credit, even if it’s not formally through [Swat].”

Professor Jeremy Lefkowitz, who is the faculty advisor for students who will study abroad, says that despite the new online system, students will still have to bring back every paper from their study abroad trip, like Murphy described.

“The important part is that students still have to keep everything that they get, all the work they do. … [It] should come back,” he said.

This requirement exists because students must upload their work to the new system when they return from abroad in order to determine how much credit they have earned.

Lefkowitz also explained the previous process for receiving credit abroad and how the new system from ITS is making that easier.

“Students would have to go around and get signatures from specific departments related to the coursework they plan to do abroad. They have to get signatures before they go, and they have to get signatures when they get back to show that all the work will get credit. And now all that can be done electronically.”

Lefkowitz also said that students abroad this semester are still using the old system. The new system is currently being implemented, so students returning to campus this fall or next spring are still using the old system. The effects of the new system will be clear in fall 2018, when the students abroad during this spring semester return.

Jamie Starr ’19, who is studying in Greece next semester, is using the new online system. She explained that she has uploaded a list of all of the classes she’s interested in taking abroad as well as the syllabi.

“The study abroad office has given me an estimate of how many credits I will likely get for each class,” Starr said.

She then added that once she returns, she will have to upload the work she’s done in order to get approval for the credits by each department.

Though the new system is paperless and intended to ameliorate the process of applying and receiving credits, there are potentially some unintended consequences.

Lefkowitz expressed concern that there might be some problems because there will be less opportunity for students and professors to speak face-to-face.

“[Getting forms signed] meant that, at the very least, there’s a moment of a student and professor talking about the experience. Now, I worry that the moment is threatened,” he said.

He said that though his worry does not outweigh the benefits of a paperless and more streamlined process, his concern of an “unfortunate side effect” still remains.

“I hope that it’s not going to lead to less personal interaction between faculty and students who study abroad,” he said. “It’s not meant to lead to less interaction. It’s meant to save paper and make the process smoother. … It’s not meant to take the place of mentoring.”

However, Valerie Blakeslee ’19, who is planning on studying abroad in Milan next semester, doesn’t think that the lack of interaction is an issue. She belieces that in person communication with the professor is not crucial unless it is important to a student’s particular circumstance, such as if the student is trying to ensure that they receive four credits from studying abroad. Four credits count as “full credit,” and all students who go abroad must get full credit.

“Just recently, [the off-campus study office] finally, officially switched to the electronic system but since I was petitioning for my program, I had to know if I would receive credit in advance. So I had to use the handwritten way of doing things by going to different heads of the departments and getting them to sign off on things,” she said.

She added that the process of going to individual professors was troublesome, mainly because of the schedule conflicts between the college and the program abroad. She noted that using an electronic system probably would have been easier.

“When I had to do the paper version, I had to e-mail all the heads of those departments and have a brief meeting with them, which is kind of a hassle. But with the online system, the heads of the departments are just notified by e-mail.”

Another change that has occurred is that students can now book their travel through Key Travel, a travel agency in Philadelphia. Prior to this semester, students were given an allowance in order to arrange their own flight but did not have a travel agent.

Starr said that students are required to contact someone from the agency once they are accepted into the study abroad program and have completed parts of the study abroad application. Students give information about the dates of the program to the travel agency, which then responds with options for travel and will book the flight with the student’s approval.

Starr also noted that Swarthmore pays for the flights as long as the cost doesn’t exceed the price of a flight from Philadelphia to the final destination.

According to Lefkowitz, it can be expensive if students wait to buy plane tickets, so having the booking centralized through a travel agency can minimize the cost.

“[Booking] was pretty easy for me because I looked at specific flights beforehand,” Starr said. “But I have a few friends who had some issues because they were put on some flights where the timing didn’t work for them.”

While explaining the role of the travel agent, Lefkowitz said, “It’s probably going to save money, but we don’t know yet. There’s kind of a hope that it streamlines things and makes things easier to manage. … Pat Martin put a lot of thought and time into this, and she’s been trying to get it to be something we can do for years.”

However, at this point in the implementation of both the online system from ITS and the travel agent, it is still unclear what the consequences will be in fall 2018 and beyond.

ML: a home like no other

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

If you take a look at any of the maps posted around campus, you can generally find where you want to go. The campus is pretty easy to follow – the lower half of campus is student life, the upper half is classes, and Parrish stands in the middle. With the Science Center at the top and the Field House at the bottom, Swarthmore is an easy-to-navigate campus where you can get anywhere in seven minutes.

Nevertheless, when you put a bunch of high-achieving minds together, there are always a few oddballs here and there. It’s never as simple as it seems, and these outliers have fashioned their own distinct reputations. For instance, I’m currently writing this article in Woolman, the northernmost dorm tucked in a residential area. Woolman has a feeling of home unlike any other dorm, partly because used to be an actual home. However, my home is a 30-minute leisurely-paced walk from Woolman, at the very opposite end of campus. Yes, Mary Lyons: the dorm that doesn’t even show up on the campus map. With a reputation as the dumping ground for low lottery numbers and a place for recluses, ML doesn’t quite have the sort of glamour that a dorm like Woolman has. It’s got a fantastic community, but it’s down side is … well, let’s just say ML would be the most popular dorm if it were on campus. But what makes it worth the 15 minutes you lose by having to get up early and lug all your stuff for the day to campus? Because it’s home.

Today, I’d like to share with you the ten things that make this place home for me.

Sophomore singles. There is very little on campus that is more stressful than trying to learn the housing system after your first year. I loved my roommate, but she had gotten a GA position and was moving to Wharton. I wasn’t very close to others of my own gender, and I had no idea who would be willing to spend a whole year with me. I was missing the privacy of my own space, too nervous to room with someone of a different gender, and had no desire to bumble my way through the lottery system. ML is one of the few places that has singles open to sophomores. I was lucky enough to block with my friends, and we have become closer since living farther away from campus.

In-dorm breakfast. What’s better than waking up to the smell of breakfast in the morning? How about being able to get breakfast without stepping outside? Well, every Saturday and Sunday, the breakfast room throws open its doors and serves anyone craving a homemade meal. Between crepes, omelettes, pancakes, and the continental spread of cereal and bagels, ML Breakfast truly has a decadent selection for everyone.

Private bathrooms. Most of ML is suite-style rooming, which means private bathrooms. Private bathrooms means fewer awkward interactions between people when going about your business. Besides having to negotiate a suite-mate contract and knocking on the door to prevent accidentally walking in on someone, it’s great to have your own space.

A different party scene. Random board games! Nerf wars! Screenings of random movies/anime/whatever we want to watch at the time! Whether it’s the constant game of pool that never seems to stop or the group of friends sharing stories on the couches until 3a.m., ML truly is an alternative sanctuary for anyone who enjoys a different kind of party.

Space, and not just from campus. Rivaling the size of most doubles, ML’s third floor singles are some of the most spacious singles on campus, rivaling the size of most doubles. Leaving ML is hard because it feels like I have my own apartment sometimes. Granted, I can’t complain about the dorm’s distance from campus either. I use this to put away school work and just focus on destressing after a long day. It’s also nice to be able to sleep in on Worthstock Weekend.

The walk. This is particularly relevant in the fall and spring. On that trip to campus, you get to see the trees in all their colors. In the spring, there’s a cherry blossom tree off of Harvard Avenue that makes everything smell wonderful. In the fall, you get to see the Crum turn different colors. Every so often, there’s a really heavy fog that covers the campus and looks stunning from the bottom of campus. Plus, it’s nice to have the extra bit of exercise.

The Shuttles. If you have never experienced a ride in the van with Mr. Robert, then you’re missing out. We have a rotating cast of characters, all wonderful people, who drive us in the morning and back at night. Each driver has loads of stories and their own music preferences. The shuttles are also super helpful when it’s cold outside.

Proximity to amenities. We may not be close to the Sci Center, but we are close to the Matchbox and Sharples. It’s been easier for me to make sure I have dinner and to start a habit of going to the gym. ML also feels closer to the Ville, which has its own perks.

Amazing RAs. There’s something about this dorm’s RAs. RAs in ML tend to get together for dorm-wide events, which are just amazing. We have a game of Assassins nearly every semester. I have a habit of crashing other halls’ MMKs within ML.

ML froshlings. Now admittedly, I’ve only seen it happen once, but ML has a long, long history of developing tight-knit communities. This seems especially true for our first years. There are a handful of first years in ML that seem to find each other and bond wonderfully, each with their own personality.

It’s hard to explain why ML is such a great place to live. There’s just something that makes the place its own unique experience. I wish I could tell you more, but it’s one of those places for which you have to be to understand. So consider this an open invitation to come check the place out, poke around, and make your own.

Moving off-campus to find a new life, and a fridge full of kale

in Campus Journal/Columns/Swassip Girl by

I am always humbled and amused by how quickly my fall finals-induced hatred of Swarthmore transforms into a being-at-home-sucks-inspired love of the same. Such is our toxic love affair with this ridiculous college: can’t live with it, can’t live without it. Home has non-Sharples food and your mom, but also racist grandparents and awkward social engagements with high school boyfriends. Swat has Pub Nite and your best buds, but also pasta bar and a constant sense of academic inferiority. This mood-swing cycle of going home and coming back is emotionally draining, and it seems that the Swarthmore collective conscious believes that the only way to escape this dizzying rotation is to finally graduate into The Real World. While I still go to Swarthmore, and still go home during breaks, I’ve decided to expedite my entrance into The Real World: As of this spring, I live off campus.

Just two weeks into the semester, life off campus has made schoolwork less all-encompassing. My hundreds of pages of reading per week are necessarily tempered by weirder, adultier problems, like cooking myself dinners that include vegetables more substantial than the dehydrated ones that come in ramen packets. And cleaning up the flood of water spewed into my kitchen at one in the morning by our broken washing machine. And freaking out one night because the apartment reeked of natural gas after someone knocked the knob on our gas stove. I have to pay rent and buy toilet paper and worry about whether my severely mildewed shower curtain is a health concern.

Incredibly, the addition to my life of scary adult problems has somehow reduced my stress instead of amplified it. My new set of shit to deal with has had the effect of putting Swarthmore’s craziness into better perspective. Now, when I want to or need to, I can remove myself from Swarthmore’s clutches, cook some food (from my fridge! With my stove!), chill in my (full-sized!) bed, and cuddle with some of my neighbors’ cats (real ones!). Though I’ve always lived on the other side of the SEPTA tracks while at Swarthmore, first in Mary Lyons and then in Roberts, living outside of the college’s purview has taken the edge off of what would ordinarily be a grossly overwhelming schedule for me. The giant stress cloud that hovers endlessly over Swarthmore’s campus doesn’t make it as far as the Barn. I’m free!

But, of course, there are necessarily some trade-offs. While I’m not much farther away from campus at the Barn than when I lived Roberts, I am far less inclined to get my butt out of bed and go to class or Sharples or parties. I used to feel compelled to go out on weekends just to avoid sitting in my musty, sad dorm room. While in Roberts, I roomed in a triple with no windows besides a giant, leaky skylight. The harmless but noisy set of ghosts who I think live in the walls accounted for most of the dorm’s meager hall life. I never hung out there for long except to sleep. Now, I have my own bedroom in an apartment filled with a new barrage of wonderful domestic amenities, like a working bathtub and adjustable heat. I have blue bedroom walls and like, several avocados in the fridge. I can light candles! I have a spice rack! How am I supposed to go sit in McCabe when my not-McCabe living quarters are so cozy? The weekly choice between a rando frat party and watching a John Hughes movie in my PJs is being increasingly weighted towards the latter. If you don’t see me around my usual campus haunts, you’ll know it’s because I’ve tried and failed to come up with a reason to abandon my lodgings.

I won’t become a complete social recluse, though. Individual barn apartments throw parties now and again, though most of campus never experiences them. By virtue of the scant space and the population of hipper-than-thou occupants, Barn parties are generally smaller affairs with weirder music. Dancing happens, but only in small bursts punctuating the flow of partygoers from one bedroom to another, from someone’s kitchen down to the front porch for a cigarette. Barn parties, so far as I can tell, typically involve low-key chitchat, box wine, and a vague concern about noise levels for fear of the arrival of Real Swarthmore Police. Though you might not be able to return immediately to your bedroom when they’re done like I can (!), I’d recommend keeping your eyes open for any upcoming Barn parties if you’re one of those who is less inspired by beer pong and strobe lights, but who still wants to get drunk in a gross, run-down building surrounded by Swatties.

Maybe my new, less stressed state of being is a result of a newfound maturity, but I’m pretty sure it’s just my house. I moved off-campus for the heck of it, but little did I know dorm life had been a detriment to my mental health. Only 7% of students live off campus! Who knows how many people are wasting away in Willets wondering how they will ever escape the Swarthmore blues? When will they realize that freedom lies only a few blocks away in one of the several non-Swarthmore College housing options? I realize I’ve never actually lived on campus, so I can’t really speak to its effects on student well being, but I will stand by my assertion that a personal bathroom, a fridge full of kale, and a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle in progress on the coffee table will improve anyone’s semester.

For classes off-campus, Bi-Co preferred to Penn

in Around Campus/News by

According to data collected by the Office of the Registrar, over the past six years more Swarthmore students have been taking classes within the Bi-Co than at University of Pennsylvania.

From the fall semester of 2010 to the spring semester of 2015, an average of 42 students took classes within the Bi-Co at Bryn Mawr and Haverford per semester, whereas only an average of 32.3 took classes at UPenn. In this five year period, a total of 420 students took classes in the Tri-Co and 340 took them at Penn.

Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges have always had close relationships, stemming from their similar Quaker roots and founding principles during the 19th century. Although Swarthmore was founded under a different branch of Quakerism with the intent of being co-educational, by the late 1940’s students were allowed to take classes at each school with no extra charge. To further allow students to take advantage of this consortium the colleges agreed in 1986 to create a combined library catalogue. The result of this effort is Tripod, the online catalogue students are familiar with today.

While many Swarthmore students have been taking classes at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, the number of students from the Bi-Co taking classes at Swarthmore is far greater.

During the same period of fall 2010 to spring 2015, the amount of Bryn Mawr and Haverford students who took classes at Swarthmore was 1,207, nearly triple the amount that Swarthmore had in the Tri-Co in the same time period.

However, it is clear that these diverse numbers can be explained by differences in curriculum between the three schools. For example, Bryn Mawr offers Italian while Swarthmore does not, Swarthmore has a larger engineering program than the rest of the Tri-Co, and the linguistics program is spread between all three schools.

Daniel Eisler ’16 explained over e-mail that natural science distribution requirements led him to take an environmental studies course at Bryn Mawr this semester. “I am a special major in education and environmental studies and realized I was short two natural science credits to graduate. I was told that the environmental studies capstone here at Swat would be largely social science focused, and that to fulfill my requirement I should take the course at Bryn Mawr.”

Eisler’s experience also illustrates a current problem with taking classes off-campus. Although a free shuttle travels between the Tri-Co campuses everyday, the scheduling of these shuttles sometimes becomes a problem.

“The course meets once a week on Fridays from 10:00 to 1:00, but with transport, breakfast, and lunch it is an all day commitment. I would not realistically be able to have any other course on Friday,” wrote Eisler.

Nonetheless, Tri-Co course offerings are still widely used by Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr students alike. Despite the larger variety of courses available at Penn and the unavailability of some disciplines in the Tri-Co, fewer Swarthmore students take classes at Penn than at the Bi-Co.

From fall 2010 to spring 2015, a total of 340 Swarthmore students took classes at Penn and only 2 Penn students took courses at Swarthmore. That is 80 fewer students than those who took classes at the Bi-Co.

Mainly logistics and transportation issues can explain the lower usage of the Quaker Consortium. The only ways to get to Penn from Swarthmore’s campus are to drive or take the SEPTA line. However, during the weekdays SEPTA times very rarely correspond with Swarthmore or Penn class schedules.

Cesar Cruz Benítez ’17 described over e-mail his experiences taking Penn courses, “I took American Sign Language II in the spring of 2015 and ASL III in the fall of 2015. Unfortunately, Swarthmore does not offer an American Sign Language course anymore and does not intend to for the foreseeable future, and they are not offered in the Tri-Co either so my only option to take ASL courses is to go to UPenn.”

“It was hard because I had to miss quite a lot,” Benítez explained. “By taking it at the time that I did I missed certain group events for the different clubs that I am a part of, the sophomore planning department meetings for the departments that constitute my special major, among other lectures and campus events.”

While funding is available to subsidize the cost of transportation to Penn from the Office of the Registrar, it does not typically cover all of a student’s expenses.

“The fact of the matter remains that in order to get reimbursed one needs to have the money to shell out to pay for transportation to and from UPenn until at least halfway through the semester, the first time that reimbursements are processed, which may not be something that everyone at this school can afford to do,” wrote Benítez.

Another issue which the compensation system presents is that the compensation is capped at different amounts depending on how many times a week the class meets, but this cap sometimes prevents students from receiving complete compensation.

“The amount that one gets reimbursed for a class that meets twice a week is capped at $300, which is not enough to cover the projected amount of class days one is expected to have,” reported Benítez. “Granted UPenn is more likely to cancel classes, but it is not something that a student should depend on.”

Though there are obstacles, many students still find the Consortium to be a valuable resource, expanding course offerings beyond those available at the college.

Students living off-campus can save thousands a year

in Around Campus/News by
DSC_4940
Ian Halloway/ The Phoenix

Students who live off campus can save thousands of dollars in living expenses each year by avoiding the college’s room and board fees. Though only a handful of students choose to live off campus — according to the college’s website, around 94 percent of students live in the dorms, meaning that there are just under a hundred students living off campus — the advantages of off-campus life are not merely financial. Students also cite several other possible advantages of off-campus life, such as the ability to choose how often and with whom one socializes, along with an increased sense of independence, freedom, and maturity.

Many students who choose to live off campus do so for financial reasons. At just under $14,000, room and board at the college for this academic year often costs a great deal more than the various, if limited, off-campus options.

The cheapest option by far is the Barn, located on North Chester Road, a few minutes’ walk from the main campus. Each of the Barn’s six four-bedroom apartments, which vary from recently renovated to a state of slight disrepair, cost a little over $1,000 a month to rent. Thus, a student living with three apartment mates would pay $2,250 for nine months’ worth of rent. Even with a monthly utilities charge of around $20 — less in warmer months — Barn residents save almost $5,000 off the roughly $7,200 room cost at the college.

Savings for rent in other off-campus options are not quite as large as for those living in the Barn, but they are still significant. The Elm apartments above Hobbs Coffee, for instance, run around $550 per month per person and $50 per month per person for utilities, meaning a student living there for nine months would pay $2,000 less than a student living on campus. Savings from living in Greylock Apartments, which are air-conditioned, are similarly close to the $2000 figure, while students living in Swarthmore Apartments, also air-conditioned, save somewhere between $1,000 and $3,700 for the year.

The college’s handling of financial aid and off-campus living depends on a student’s financial aid award. Living off campus while on financial aid can be difficult according to Lekey Leidecker ’16, who lives in the Barn. She did say, however, that certain people in the Financial Aid Office, such as Associate Director Kristin Moore, were tremendously helpful and worked to ease the process for her and other students. Unless a student’s room and board are covered by their financial aid award, living off campus tends to save students money.

Besides saving on rent, another large financial advantage of off-campus living is the choice to opt out of the college’s meal plan. Students who live on campus are required to purchase one of the college’s meal plans, which differ in the number of meals and points per week but cost the same — about $6,800 — per year.

Paying for individual meals at Sharples is far cheaper than the meal plan: paying for 21 meals per week, for instance, costs just under $3,200 for an entire academic year. The discrepancy between this cost and the price of the meal plan exists because students on the meal plan contribute to the operating costs of Sharples such as electricity, service, and maintenance, said Dining Services Director Linda McDougall in a Phoenix article from the spring of 2013.

Students who choose to cook for themselves or eat outside of Sharples meanwhile — or who take advantages of friends’ unused swipes — may save even more.

The advantages of living off campus go beyond saving money, however. Christen Boas Hayes ’16, who lives with three other students in an apartment in the Ville, feels that off-campus life creates a welcome distance for her from an environment that can sometimes feel claustrophobic.

Boas Hayes enjoyed her first year of dorm life in Wharton, but found that life in Willets during her sophomore year was not ideal.

“Mostly I just felt kind of suffocated,” Boas Hayes said. “I felt like I had no privacy.” Though Boas Hayes liked the people on her hall her sophomore year, she disliked the constant passage of students through the first floor of Willets.

“I couldn’t keep my door open, things like that,” Boas Hayes said. “Here, I get to choose who I see, which I like more, and I can host my own parties and see only the people I want to see.”

Though students who choose to live off-campus forgo not only the costs of room and board but also the advantages and support of dorm life — such as a built-in hall community and an RA — Boas Hayes does not feel as though she’s missing out on much as a junior. She believes the benefits of on-campus life are crucial, however, for first-years.

“I felt like when I was first establishing a friend group my sophomore year, that was essential,” Boas-Hayes said. “Most of my friends now are people I knew when I was a freshman, and some of my best friends now were on my hall as a freshman.”

As a sophomore, though, Boas-Hayes did not feel as though her friend group expanded based on her dorm.

“It actually made it harder to have friends over — I had this tiny little room,” she said. Now that Boas-Hayes has her own apartment with a living room, she finds it much easier to host social events.

Adan Leon ’17, who lives in the Barn, echoed Boas-Hayes’ sentiments about the social advantages of living off campus.

“It provides me with a separation between school and home,” Leon said. Though he did not dislike living in the dorms — he lived in David Kemp as a first-year — Leon says he prefers the privacy of the Barn.

“I like having my own space,” he said.

Like Boas-Hayes, Leon appreciates being able to decide with whom and how often he socializes.

“I like having people I want to have around me, around me,” he said. Additionally, he feels that campus is easily accessible. “If I want to be on campus, it’s a two-minute walk. I can be as isolated as I want or as social as I want.”

Leon feels that a casual community exists in the Barn as well.

“You can hang out in each other’s apartments — it’s very casual, it’s somewhat familial, and no one really seems to care,” he said.

He also appreciates that his fellow residents in the Barn do not seem to mind loud music or late-night guests. “On campus that wouldn’t happen — you couldn’t blast music or have guests over at 3 a.m.,” he said. “You can have people over, and you’re not bothering people on your hall, which is really nice.”

Leon added that he appreciates feeling more like an adult, due to activities like taking care of his apartment and cooking for himself, than he did when living on campus.

Living off campus, however, may limit one’s participation in community life or visibility on campus, Boas-Hayes noted. One of the only features of campus life that Boas-Hayes misses is studying in on-campus locations where one tends to encounter other students, such as Parrish Parlors.

“I wouldn’t walk all the way up campus just to study, but I do miss seeing the random walk-throughs,” Boas-Hayes said. “I feel like living off campus makes me less visible to people I would like to be friendly with on campus — I like to see people in between classes, but other than that I don’t really see them at all.”

Boas-Hayes recalled being a first-year and realizing that she was very unfamiliar with upperclassmen who lived off-campus. “It makes me a little uncomfortable that I’m now one of those people,” she said.

Overall, though, for those who save thousands of dollars each year and appreciate some space from the rest of the student body, off-campus life feels worth it.

“There are just a lot more positives living off campus than living on campus,” Leon concluded.

Tasha Lewis ’12 unleashes multimedia street art swarm

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

butterflies cover

It’s a testament to a globalized society when an art project can span the globe. In an attempt to involve people from all over the world, Swarthmore alumna Tasha Lewis has unleashed a swarm of butterflies. Her project is to take her tiny creations to all corners of the globe through the use of social media.

Lewis creates thousands of magnetic, cloth butterflies through a process called cyanotype which involves using digital negatives printed onto fabric. Each butterfly sculpture is made out of recycled material and intends to invoke the light, flexible nature of butterflies that Lewis enjoys because it allows her to “combine things to create pieces with tactile depth and layers.”

But “Swarm the World” is more than just sculpture: it is also a street art project. It’s a modern-day piece combining the aspects of a globalized world, powered by the the re-tweet and re-blog and facilitated by the network of travelers. Lewis has been contacted by people from all over the globe who wish to take part in her project.

 After selecting participants, Lewis places four hundred butterflies in each package and ships them off to volunteers in various parts of the world. For four weeks, the temporary

butterfly hosts travel around and place the butterflies in various public locations. They take pictures and take them down before shipping the butterflies on to the next location. Through various social media platforms, Lewis has been able to spread word about her project and receive support.

Lewis has been enthusiastic about this project and has been astounded by the amount of support she has received. “It is exciting to me that I am getting new emails every day from people all over the world who want to participate,” she said, “I don’t know if any of my later works will use social media in the same way, but I am very excited for this to be the capstone for my magnetic butterflies.”

Although this has extended into a global art project, “Swarm the World” started small, evolving from a fixed instillation into the free moving mass it is today. “It has been a very natural evolution. Like most things in art I didn’t know what the next step was going to be until I found myself staring it in the face. Once I have that epiphany moment I throw myself into it wholeheartedly,” she said.

 Lewis started making these butterflies, during her time at Swarthmore. She presented them in shadow box displays that still reside on the second floor of Beardsley. During her time at Swarthmore, Lewis took a large breadth of studio art classes, which contributed to her artistic expression. Professor Randall Exon of the art department had Lewis in his classes since her freshman year. By her senior year, he said she was “achieving a unique set of technical skills while becoming quite sophisticated in critical and analytical skills.” Through her classes and a large amount of trial and error, Lewis has created her own form of artistic expression.

As she began to work more with the butterflies, she said, “I wanted to liberate them from behind the glass.” Once she returned home to Indianapolis, Lewis set to work liberating her work and placing displays of butterflies in public places. Lewis took the butterflies with her on a family trip and realized that her project and its purposes were enhanced by travel.

The project is unique in its breadth of involvement. As with most street art, the project hopes to interact with anyone who passes by and encourage those people to engage with the art. But she hopes to extend this premise into creating a community-wide project. “I have always been interested in engaging the people walking down the street who pass one of my butterfly installations, but this is the first project where I have sought to engage strangers through social media,” Lewis explained.

The butterflies themselves are highly representative as well. Lewis says “The butterflies for me signify nature as a whole. Perhaps more specifically the idea that plants will sprout up through cracks in the concrete and that wilderness will eventually take over abandoned buildings. I want them to invade the urban environment to remind people of that, to highlight a forgotten object, or just to change the daily routine of urban life.”

Lewis hopes to involve the Swarthmore community as well. She is currently searching for anyone who is traveling abroad next semester to take some of her butterflies with them. Lewis says she does not have many participants from Africa, Eastern Europe, or the Middle East and would love to be able to incorporate more participants from these areas.

The application is open until July 15. For more information about the project, read the participation requirements at swarmtheworld.com or email contact@swarmtheworld.com.

 

Patti Smith Performs at Bryn Mawr

in Campus Journal by

Patti Smith has had an amorphous career.  Even before she published her National Book Award-winning memoir, “Just Kids,” in 2010, it always seemed salient to ask whether the artist was more of a musician or a poet.  Now after her book’s publication we’ve had to ask whether the 66 year-old has been a writer this whole time.

Nowadays, Smith claims writing is her favorite medium, which fits well into her rock legacy.  Smith, like The Velvet Underground and Plastic Ono Band, made her mark by smelting traditional western methods of interpretive lyrical meaning to the plebeian noise of rock music.  With such literary aspirations, it’s easy to believe Smith may have been a writer amid other parts of her persona.

However it became unclear which part of her persona Smith was trying to showcase during a performance at Bryn Mawr this past Thursday. Smith had been invited to Bryn Mawr College to accept the Katharine Hepburn Medal, an award “given to women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress” and Bryn Mawr alum.

But before the evening award ceremony at the campus’s Goodheart Hall, Smith gave an afternoon “performance” in the same cathedral-like venue.  Yet performance would not be the most accurate word.  Though billed to perform a concert, Smith’s hour of stage time only saw her perform three songs, which more closely resembled ‘an afternoon with Patti Smith.’

Smith began her onstage time by asking for audience questions, promptings which allowed her to derail into anecdotes about meeting Kevin Shields in Korea and receiving the first CD copy of the new My Bloody Valentine album or her daughter’s eating of all the ceremonial cookies at Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist funeral ceremony.  Later she played two songs on her guitar, read two short passages from “Just Kids,” and closed her hour with an a cappella sing-along of “Because the Night.”

This was far from a concert.  Though, to be fair, the audience seemed content that Patti Smith was onstage in front of them and acting like Patti Smith.

Yet this was not the rocker who screeched, “I don’t need their fucking shit,” while covering “My Generation” on her seminal album “Horses.”  Sure, Smith had no problem throwing off pretensions by throwing in some swears over the course of an hour — “Don’t worry about being embarrassed,” she told the crowd, “now and then everyone looks like an asshole” — but she didn’t intend to fill Goodheart Hall with the radical punk spirit with which she’s oft associated.  Instead, the Patti Smith who stood on stage in front of hundreds of Tri-Co students was there to accept a lifetime achievement award from a top liberal arts college, and she acted like it.

Smith spent lots of time offering the audience platitudes and wisdom as if giving a commencement speech.   “I wish I’d listened more to my mom,” she said at one point.  “Your parents will just drive you crazy, but they know stuff.  They’ve already been there.”

Smith understood that the crowd had gathered not to see Patti Smith the poet, Patti Smith the musician, or Patti Smith the writer.  They’d gathered to see Patti Smith the celebrity, and so she opened herself up and gave them as much of her persona as she could fit into one hour.

She talked about growing up outside Camden, N.J., about her hungry days at the Chelsea Hotel, about the simple pleasures of hearing your favorite album after a couple of drinks; and she did so in her own Patti Smith way: disarmingly charming, bull-whip smart phrases delivered in the syntax of the street.

The audience loved her without her doing much except — of course — being herself, which is what she’d been invited to Bryn Mawr to celebrate.

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