Disappearing Act: The AFAM Class I Signed up for was Canceled, and Here’s Why

By Sofia McLaren

Last semester I decided to enroll in AFAM 375, Harlem Renaissance, however, before I could enroll the class was taken down and no longer being offered. The cancellation of classes was a phenomenon I had not experienced before signing up for a class in the African American studies program. I don’t think I even knew it was a possibility, but it seems that the resources in the program can’t always support the classes that professors would like to teach. I immediately mentioned it to Professor Renee Simms, a professor in the African American studies program as well as the English department. Professor Renee Simms explained to me that this kind of thing happened, that they had to delete a specific section of 101 as well because they didn’t have the resources to make it happen. I had other friends who were planning on taking the section of 101 and were also unable to do that. I was irritated, not only because this had happened to a class I wanted to take, but that it had happened in the African American Studies program specifically.

“The identity based programs continue to be the smallest programs on campus and because they are small they don’t get the title of department on the University campus.”

Why was it that I was only hearing about this happening in AFAM? I spoke with Professor Simms about the resources in the program and how the allocated resources are similar to the Gender and Queer Studies program (GQS) as well as Latino Studies. In these identity based programs there tends to be a greater need for and use of adjunct professors which changes the allocation of funds in the program and is an indication that these programs are in need of growth. The identity based programs continue to be the smallest programs on campus and because they are small they don’t get the title of department on the University campus.

“I discussed it with friends and no one else had experienced this in their prospective major departments.”

The deletion of classes was a new thing to me, but I couldn’t believe that I was only hearing about it in the African American Studies department. I discussed it with friends and no one else had experienced this in their prospective major departments. African American studies has had a rollercoaster of a ride at University of Puget Sound (UPS), being part of the curriculum in the 1970s and then being nonexistent from about 1978-1999. However, in the 1990s Dr. Nancy Bristow was hired in the history department and Dr. Hans Ostrom was hired in the English department, both saw the importance of African American Studies and it was approved as an area of study in 1994-1995. The minor first appeared in the bulletin in 1999. Although this was a victory for the field of study, the problem that remains today can be seen with professors housed in other departments helping to round out the African American Studies department or the other way around. An example of this today is Professor Renee Simms, who was hired in 2011, although she is listed as an associate professor in the African American Studies program, she is also a contributing faculty to the English department and works with the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching (CWLT), meaning less classes that can be taught in African American Studies. She was originally interviewed to be part of the english department and ended up being hired for the AFAM program and has enjoyed the focus she has been able to allocate to the black diaspora.

Professors have a set salary and that means that they are expected to teach 3 classes a semester, however, there are so many other things going on in the African American studies program, therefore, not all the professors have the opportunity to teach 3 classes within the program, or 3 classes at all. The program is dedicated to actively involving the community and contributing to the University in meaningful ways that they greatly enhance the University in other ways, besides teaching classes. Professor Simms is an example of this, she works in the CWLT as a faculty advisor, which gives her a course release. Course releases can be given for being a faculty advisor in a specific area, grants for research, directing projects, and various other reasons. Due to Professor Simms’ course release she teaches a 3:2 year, meaning she teaches 3 classes during the fall semester and only 2 during the spring semester. The course releases exist to give professors an opportunity to allocate time in other areas besides their classes, showing their dedication to bettering the University in multiple ways.

“The AFAM professors allocate great amounts of extra time to the University, investing in the future of this campus and the students that are enrolled here. It is time for the university to fully invest in the program.”

Dr. Dexter Gordon is another professor in the department with immense responsibilities and projects. He was hired in 2002 as the director and has remained the director of the African American Studies Program, director of the Race and Pedagogy Institute, and a professor in Communications Studies. These roles all take time and dedication and make it difficult for Professor Gordon to teach as many classes as other professors, therefore, he is given course releases for this extended service. The program has managed to stay grounded and in 2015 became designated as a major. The AFAM professors allocate great amounts of extra time to the University, investing in the future of this campus and the students that are enrolled here. It is time for the university to fully invest in the program. The investment in the community that the AFAM program works so hard on is one of the many reasons that the program is valuable. Community involvement is pivotal for getting ideas circulated and giving the University the right recognition. For the amount of investment the AFAM program puts into the University it is time to see the University investing in them.

“The lack of classes is exactly how programs disappear and the AFAM program needs to stay, it is a vital connection for this campus to the community.”

The designation of African American Studies as a major was a huge victory because it was, and still is the only major offered in African American Studies in the state of Washington. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to major in an area of study that I care about, however, I want to know why there is such a struggle to offer enough classes. The battle has become the ability to offer enough classes in the program so that students can achieve the major. Two years after the major was designated, the University hired Dr. LaToya Brackett, a 3-year visiting professor who has now interviewed for a tenure track position and been hired. This interview for a tenure track position came after years of proposals to the university, years of extra work. While these are great accomplishments, the fact remains that the department continues to cancel courses because they do not have the resources to teach them. The lack of classes is exactly how programs disappear and the AFAM program needs to stay, it is a vital connection for this campus to the community. As a community we can not let the program become invisible and slowly disappear, it is our job to make sure the program continues to get stronger.

Upon further questioning, I discovered that the professor who was going to teach the Harlem Renaissance course this semester was Dr. Juli McGruder who retired from the Occupational Therapy Program here at UPS. Dr. Juli McGruder would have been an adjunct professor and that costs more money for the program which is partly why the class was designated to be cancelled. Dr. McGruder did not study African American studies, however she has been very active within the program because, as Professor Simms said, she is “an independent scholar and has a love for Black literature and arts.” The decision for the teaching of the class by an adjunct professor was made by Juli Christoph, the Associate Dean, who also made the decision to cancel the class. According to Juli Christoph there are “usually quite a few (50-100) course additions, deletions, and corrections that happen in the month leading up to registration.”

“The interest and dedication in the program needs to continue to grow because that is the only way to ensure its permanence. The University needs to do their part in helping the AFAM program grow and continue to thrive on this campus, that does not include continuing a pattern of cancellation.”

Although they had found a professor to teach the class, they weren’t able to have a professor from the program teach the class. This shows that even with hiring a visiting professor, now a tenure track professor, the program is still in need of professors and needs to continue to grow in its capacity. In the words of Dr. Gordon, “The future of African American Studies depends, as it always has done, on the work of scholars, students, and communities of interest.” It is important that as a University community we recognize the areas of the institution that need support and relevance on a larger scale than is being offered now. The interest and dedication in the program needs to continue to grow because that is the only way to ensure its permanence. The University needs to do their part in helping the AFAM program grow and continue to thrive on this campus, that does not include continuing a pattern of cancellation. We as students also need to continue to advocate for the program and share the amazing experiences we’ve been given by being a part of the program and by taking the classes taught by incredibly engaging professors.

Angela Weaver: Fine and Performing Arts Librarian

By Sofia McLaren

Angela Weaver is the Fine and Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Puget Sound (UPS) who was hired at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic school year. On campus, she is in charge of library services for African American Studies, Art and Art History, Classics, Music, and Theatre Arts. She is also the only African American Librarian on the UPS campus making her arrival here very significant. I had the privilege of interviewing Angela Weaver about her life before UPS and while at UPS so far, as well as the things she enjoys outside of her professional environment.

When I asked Angela if she had always wanted to be a librarian she laughed and told me that, when she began her academic journey, she didn’t know that she was going to be a librarian. She went to undergrad at Duke University in North Carolina and majored in Psychology with a minor in English, thinking that she would become a psychologist. However, during her four years at Duke she worked in the library. When she graduated, she was still working in the library and decided to go to library school, but actually ended up going to graduate school at the University of California in San Diego for play writing, another passion of hers. However, with a practical mindset she knew as soon as she graduated that she would go to library school instead of struggling to make a living through playwriting. Library school at Rutgers University in New Jersey would allow her to combine her love for libraries and drama by becoming a drama librarian. New Jersey was a strategic move on her part, allowing her to intern in New York City, “Theatre central.” Her dream job in the beginning was becoming an archivist for the New York Public Library (NYPL) for the performing arts, where she interned during library school. During the highlight of her internship at NYPL, she had the opportunity to process an archival collection belonging to a playwright and screenwriter who wrote for the Marx brothers movies and also testified during the House Un-American Activities trials.

Despite her idea of being an archivist, she ended up becoming a research librarian and working for different universities, always with a concentration in the performing arts. The first university that Angela worked for was the University of Mississippi in Oxford Mississippi, “where there is nothing else except for the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner’s House,” according to Angela. Preceding her time at UPS, she was the head of the drama and art libraries at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle starting in 2004. The commute from Tacoma to Seattle was a “nightmare” compared to what it had been when she lived in Federal Way. Luckily, she was able to give up the long commute by coming to UPS. She heard about the job at UPS because the head of the UPS Library, Jane Carlin, sent her an email asking if she knew any grad students who were graduating and would be interested in the job. Angela responded saying, “I don’t know any grad students, but me! I live in Tacoma, this would be great.” She wasn’t looking for a job, but this one came right to her, and she couldn’t pass up the offer. Her commute went from 2 and a half hours a day to about 20 minutes a day, she told me, laughing. 

I asked Angela about the differences that she has noticed from working at a larger, public institution and now working at a smaller, liberal arts university. One of the first things that stood out to her was that, despite the fact that she was the head of two different department libraries and in the buildings that housed others working for the department, she, “still had met more people here at UPS than at UW,” within a week of arriving on campus. After a week of being at UPS, she had met all of the Classics professors who were on campus for the fall semester, a number of the music faculty, at least two of the African American Studies (AFAM) professors, as well as faculty in the Art department. Angela was shocked that within a month she had met a significant amount of faculty, as well as students, and she had not simply met students once, but had been able to recognize them in multiple different settings. She remarked about how, at UW, there were so many students, “even the ones in drama that [she] saw more often, [she] could remember their faces but didn’t remember their names because there were so many and [she] didn’t really get to talk to them.” She talked to me about how she admires the level of engagement here. It’s, “better because it’s so much smaller and [the librarians] are so much more involved with the classes.” 

With the level of engagement being different, there have had to be some adjustments from how Angela was used to doing things at UW; she teaches a lot more classes at UPS and is more involved on a class level. While working at UW, she was used to only teaching about two to three classes each year, and at UPS she teaches about 15 or 16 per semester. She has really enjoyed working with students individually on their projects and getting to delve deeper into topics that students are excited about. 

Angela has also been pleasantly surprised at how much she has enjoyed working with the Music department. Having no training as a music librarian and not being a musician herself, she was slightly nervous about having to work with the Music department and the prospect of disappointing them since she had no background in music. In the interview she said with a smile, “I like music, but I’ve never studied music.” However, she followed that up by saying that working with the music classes has been really fun, and that the students have had some really unique and interesting projects. Angela has particularly enjoyed working with the newly hired ethnomusicologist, Dr. Ameera Nimjee and her classes such as World Music and Women in Music. Recently, Angela helped teach a podcasting class, showing them how to create podcasts that incorporate the research they had done. Another professor, Dr. Gwynne Brown, focused on American Spiritual Music, which Angela also had a lot of fun with. She talked about what a welcome surprise it was to go in and discover the creativity surrounding projects, stating that, “they [the students] have really interesting topics and that it’s not just Beethoven, Bach, or Brahms, but music that [she] actually know[s] something about and enjoy[s].” Many of the projects touched on other interests of hers, such as playwriting, because some students were tasked with writing their own plays and pieces of music instead of just writing a paper.

Angela has gotten involved in other ways on campus, besides her role in the library. She reached out to Ellen Peters, the Associate Provost for Institutional Research and Uchenna Baker, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, to talk about student retention on campus after having read the report that UPS sent out. Angela was disheartened that there were so many students who don’t feel like they belonged at UPS, and Angela said, “being a student of color who went to a private, predominantly white university, I kind of understood how they feel,” even though her own experience had been much different because she had found a sense of belonging at Duke. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that sent us all off campus, Angela got involved with a group called the Student of Color Community Initiative (SOCCI), a task force trying to establish first-year housing for students of color. Unfortunately she was only able to attend one meeting before Spring Break and the switch to online school, but she is hoping they will reconvene in the summer or fall to think about their next steps. Angela was really grateful for the opportunity to work with undergraduate students Christina Mills ‘22, Becca Lumbantobing ‘21, Mara Henderson ‘20, and Colin Noble ‘19 on this initiative that they had worked so hard to create. She raved about the, “incredible 20 plus page report,” that they had written to go along with the initiative they created.

As I continued to talk with Angela about her time at UPS, I was interested in discovering how accepted Angela has felt on the UPS campus and in the library being the first and only African American librarian at UPS. She responded saying that, “librarianship is a pretty liberal profession full of mostly women,” so she has felt accepted. However, she did tell me that, “the profession as a whole has a problem attracting librarians from underrepresented groups,” something of which I was completely unaware. As a result, Angela herself has been involved in programs and leadership institutes for librarians from underrepresented groups and is currently mentoring a grad student who is a member of an underrepresented group as part of a program. She laughed and told me that, “librarianship as a whole has been trying to improve its diversity because it knows it has a problem.” Therefore, she explained that everywhere she has gone as a librarian it’s been a similar situation, with one or two African American librarians. She noted that, when she arrived on campus at UW there was one African American librarian, but when she left there were several more who had been added to the team. Again, she emphasized that it is always that way in libraries, assuring me that, “UPS is not unique in that way.” Angela Weaver is well practiced in the art of, “coming in and being like, ok I’m here!” She also told me that, surprisingly, the University of Mississippi was the place she has been with the most diversity. 

Closing out the interview, I asked Angela about some of her favorite things and favorite pastimes. When I asked about her favorite play, she said, “it changes all the time,” and instead listed her favorite playwrights: Suzan-Lori Parks, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane, Jose Rivera, and Lynn Nottage. She also shared with me that she used to run a group called Women of Color, Women of Words, as well as head a website as a graduate student project while at Rutgers. Angela graduated from graduate school in 1996, right as the internet was just starting. She had a class on creating websites, and she decided to create a website dedicated to female playwrights of color. The website included, “different biographical information about the playwrights, their plays, where to find them, how to purchase copies, which anthologies had their works, and critical resources around the different plays.” The website is no longer active, but while it was still up and running, many professors had reached out about how helpful the site had been while teaching their students because there hadn’t been as many resources as there are now when it came to learning about diverse women playwrights. The e-group that she started still exists on yahoo, but is not very active today, however during its active time even Lynn Nottage, one of Angela’s favorite playwrights, had joined the group.  

Now, Angela Weaver is working from home like many of us, but she is still busy teaching classes and attending meetings. However, she is also passing the time by listening to lots of Prince and doing Christmas crafts because she starts early and has a theme for each year. She jokingly told me that she, “will be finished with Christmas this year by the end of summer.” She makes Putz houses, which used to be very popular in the 50’s, and her theme for Christmas this year is vintage, while last year’s theme was Marie Antoinette, and a past year was 1960’s modern Christmas. The Putz houses are made from paper and cardboard, and she has made about 4 so far using 50’s architecture. Angela is a wonderfully creative and intelligent woman and an extremely valuable member of the UPS community. We are very grateful she has felt welcome by and happy with the interactions she’s had and the projects she’s been a part of while at UPS. 

Letter of Truth

By Sofia McLaren

This is a letter to my 6-year-old self. As a 5-year-old my house was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and my family remained in New Orleans for another year so that I could finish Kindergarten. This letter informally addresses what went on during that time for my white family and attempts to point out to my younger self the inequities that occurred during that time and connect them to the current pandemic that we are experiencing. This is relevant because New Orleans, specifically the black community in New Orleans, is being targeted by the corona virus due to different circumstances. I am hoping that by reading this letter to my younger self, you are able to ask questions similar to the ones I raise and remember past experiences through a new lens. Hopefully, you feel inspired and want to read more pieces that we as a class have created.

Dear Sofia,

I know you are feeling as if your world will never be the same; this is not a unique feeling, and the fact is that you will return to “normal” much sooner than many others around you. You have lost the stability that you knew so well. But remember the day that Hurricane Katrina hit. You were safe, far from the path of destruction, unable to imagine what it would be like to be the people on top of the roofs of their houses. You simply stared at the television, like you did with your parents every morning, before the hurricane hit your house, wondering what destruction would be announced next. Asking, “Why isn’t someone helping people off their roofs? How did they end up there in the first place?” The idea that these people had been abandoned in an unfathomable position was impossible to you… you did not know better.

“Evacuation was not what you wanted, but it was something you were given, not a punishment.”

I am telling you, from 14 years later, that now we do know better. It was our privilege to be able to evacuate, to drive away from the city of New Orleans on the side of the freeway that was supposed to lead into the city. You are safe, you are protected, you are cared for. You may have lost your sense of childhood safety, but many others lost the lives of the ones they loved, evacuation was not a given. As you played “Evacuation” with your best friend, using a dollhouse, you were unaware of what a privilege that was. To you, evacuation meant leaving behind possessions you thought you should have, you piled the car with toys and clothes only to be told that you were allowed one bag. One bag? How could you fit your life into one bag? You are five and you need your dolls, your dress up clothes, and your doctor kit. Evacuation was not what you wanted, but it was something you were given, not a punishment. You understood what had to be done, your gentle voice speaking to the dolls saying, “you can’t take that sweetie, there’s not enough room, only one bag.” But understanding did not mean accepting, and it did not mean considering that other people may not be doing the same thing. All you knew was that the traffic was horrible, there was no empty space on the road in sight, so that must have meant everyone was leaving too, right? Wrong.

“The hurricane was not the same for everyone.” 

The luxury of leaving, which we had, was not the reality for many. Some people did not have the means or the support to leave the city, so they stayed in the convention center, they had no choice when it came to staying in the city. You did not know what to ask then, you did not recognize who was getting left behind, but you will later. You will know to ask who is being left behind and what is being done. You will ask why were there no relief efforts in the neighborhoods being hit the hardest, why were people being overlooked and why did they all look the same? Why are their neighborhoods still completely in shambles 14 years later? Why was the federal response so lacking? People weren’t jumping to their aid, it would take months for help to come. The Lower 9th Ward, the area right by some of the levees was hit hard; to this day there are concrete steps leading nowhere, in place of a home that used to be. The hurricane was not the same for everyone.

Today, yet again African Americans are being forgotten, the same thing is happening and you are seeing it. The convention center is open once again for emergency needs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and will be used as a temporary hospital. Patterns have formed, the convention center is open again, the black community is targeted again, there is yet again not enough federal response in a city that needs more help and oppression continues. You’re seeing the numbers of Covid-19 cases rise faster in New Orleans, it wasn’t a specified population until more and more African American people came to the hospitals with symptoms of the virus. You may not know why or what questions to ask as a 6-year-old, but it is clear to you now, as a 19-year-old what needs to be addressed. Why are there certain communities with more cases?

“They are so called “essential” workers, but they are not thought of as essential unless we are in a crisis.”

Many African Americans in the community are working the lower income jobs that have them interacting with more people and places. For example, they work in grocery stores, drive buses, and clean facilities; in those jobs they do not have the option of working from home, as their job is to serve the local community. They are so-called “essential” workers, but they are not thought of as essential unless we are in a crisis. You have learned to ask, why are they essential now? Why are they ignored regularly? Why are they the main people working the service jobs?  Jobs aren’t the only reason the African American population is at risk for the virus; black people are also less likely to be insured which may make them more hesitant to go to the hospital, get tested, and get treatment. Insurance is not the only problem with healthcare, because there are many inequalities and biases that affect the black community that have been prevalent in New Orleans for a long time. During times of crisis the oppressive tendencies of our communities surface, but they tend to disappear after the danger is past. It is our job to make them known and to notice them. We have to make known the crisis occurring within the current pandemic, and understand that the people in New Orleans have no choice when it comes to working their frontline jobs.

“Everyone may be experiencing the same crisis, but it is not the same caliber of crisis for everyone.”

Today, the new coronavirus is taking thousands of lives daily, but the lives being taken are not equal, the virus is not affecting everyone in the same way. Everyone may be experiencing the same crisis, but it is not the same caliber of crisis for everyone. You do not know what questions to ask, but 14 years later you do. You may finally know what to ask as a 19-year-old, but that doesn’t mean you have answers. You do not know why oppression continues and why people choose to ignore the reality of the world’s oppressive nature. It is because of this class that you know to ask these questions, to see the inequities and see the problems that lie behind crises and everyday scenarios. Where is the extra relief for the city now during the coronavirus outbreak?

My five year old friend, questioning is the key, observing the world through a critical lens that acknowledges your view is not the view of every person, your perspective is unique to you and cannot be taken for granted or used as the umbrella perspective for all those around you. As you mourn the loss of the world you have known, acknowledge the loss that has been more damaging than you can imagine. You are living in and out of friends’ homes and apartments, battling lice, dealing with robberies, and coming to terms with saying goodbye to the place and people you call home, but many have not been as lucky as you. You are white, you go to a private school, you have a web of friends to support you, and you have a family whose stability remains. The tears that you and your family have shed over the robbery, the mucking out of your house, and the blown-off roof of your church are valid, but the tears shed by others whose reality has gone unnoticed must be recognized. Recognize the oppression during the hurricane you have gone through and recognize the oppression that has resurfaced 14 years later in the wake of a new crisis.


Slightly Older Sofia

I am hoping that by reading this letter to my younger self, you yourself are asking these questions and remembering past experiences through a new lens. Hopefully, you are feeling inspired and want to read more pieces that we as a class have created. We have another publication coming out dedicated to our work in this class that focuses on reporting different happenings on the UPS campus. Our goal was to document and report on events and happenings on campus this year. This class has given each of us different tools to continue with our education and use in the real world. This next showcase publication will bring home everything that we have learned and value about this class. I myself have come out of this class with a new perspective on life and the inner workings of the world, as a class we have confronted some difficult topics that have helped us become better and more observant human beings.

Regard the Mountain: Remembering Logger Crew

By Monica Schweitz, class of 2020

This article is dedicated to all senior athletes whose last season was cut short by the covid-19 pandemic.

“Regard the mountain.”

These are the words that my coach, Aaron Benson, would say whenever we rowed past Mt. Rainer during a particularly glorious sunrise on American Lake. Whether we were warming up, cooling down, or merely on a thirty-second pause between sprints, he never failed to remind us to stop, to breathe, to appreciate the beauty of the moment we have been given, and to be grateful.

It would be impossible for me to sum up in one little article all the ways that crew has fundamentally changed my life. So, I won’t attempt that. Instead, I want to take this space to acknowledge and be grateful for my experience. The purpose of this article, then, is to pause and simply recognize, appreciate, and celebrate Logger Women’s Crew. In other words, to regard the mountain.

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Logger women at Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships (WIRA) 2019

Crew isn’t one of those sports that gets a lot of attention around campus, and though that has never necessarily bothered me, it has always confused me. Logger Women’s Crew has entailed getting up at 4:20 AM and pushing through twelve to fifteen kilometers of water before the sun comes up. Add afternoon lifting, workouts on the ergometer, and something called academics and the result is, in a word, exhausting. And in another word, badass. Rowing at our university is not something you do on a whim. Maybe you start on a whim freshman year, like I and so many others did, but you stick with it because, in the midst of the grueling practices, bloody hands, frozen backsplash, and burning legs and lungs, you realize that you have fallen in love with the sport and found your best friends.

“And when the coxswain makes my favorite call in her trademark growl-whisper, “it’s time to go,” you need to trust every woman in your boat to, with composure and relentless power, find that extra gear and just go.”

As a freshman coming from a competitive dance background, the concept of a team sport was totally lost on me. In rowing, you need your teammates to be at their best in order to achieve group success. You can (and should) be as competitive as you want with your teammates on the erg, but as soon as you get into the boat together, your fate is linked. Her success is your success, and your failure is hers. And when the coxswain makes my favorite call in her trademark growl-whisper, “it’s time to go,” you need to trust every woman in your boat to, with composure and relentless power, find that extra gear and just go. That’s why (and this is one of my favorite things about this sport) there is very little personal glory in rowing. You win together or not at all.

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WIRA 2019

This is not to say every day is a win. Sometimes, as with all things, there are external factors that negatively affect performance. During a rough practice, when everything seems to be going wrong, my coach always reminds us: just put your blade in the water and pull. You can’t control the speed of your opponent, you can’t control the weather or the wind, and you can’t really control the other women in your boat. The only things always in your control are your attitude and effort—getting the blade of the oar in the water and pulling on it hard. So, during one of those less-than-beautiful practices, when for some reason your lineup just isn’t clicking, you are
being stomped on by the other boat, and the head wind makes it feel like you are pulling through wet cement, we remember: put your blade in the water and pull. And it always helps.

This advice has never been more applicable to general life than it is right now. Speaking for myself, what is happening right now with covid-19 is one hell of a bad practice, like, the worst practice ever. For my teammates and I, the routine that gave us structure and stability and the pursuits that gave us purpose and identity have been taken away overnight and without warning. And none of it was in our control. Personally, the only way I’ve found to cope with the sudden loss of crew is to take it one day at a time and focus on what I can control: how I treat others and how I treat myself. If my teammates have taught me anything, it is that you need to treat yourself with grace in order to access your grit. No one ever achieved peak performance by berating themselves. Likewise, I’ve learned that riding out this crisis will only be possible if I remember to control what I can and be kind to myself about what I can’t, as hard as that may be.

“There’s really no feeling like it. The pure adrenaline of going toe-to-toe with another boat all the way down the course, daring each other to be better, to find the limit and break it, the feeling of all eight blades slinging through the water in perfect harmony, and hearing my coxswain growl my fellow seniors’ names, reminding me who I’m pushing through hell for”

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As incredibly difficult as the loss of crew is and will be for some time, the bonds of friendship, camaraderie, and trust that my senior teammates and I have built with each other is not something that goes away when you take away racing. We have compelled each other to be better versions of ourselves every day for the past four years. We have won, lost, and suffered together and that has made our friendships incredibly strong and resilient in the face of challenges. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the last 500 meters of a 2k race, when everything in your body is telling you to stop, that you can’t breathe, that it hurts too much, and you must be dying. And just when it gets to be too much, the coxswain calls the sprint. There’s really no feeling like it. The pure adrenaline of going toe-to-toe with another boat all the way down the course, daring each other to be better, to find the limit and break it, the feeling of all eight blades slinging through the water in perfect harmony, and hearing my coxswain growl my fellow seniors’ names, reminding me who I’m pushing through hell for: Elena. Emily. Hannah. Jill. Katia. Katie. Leslie. Phoebe. Sarah. Monica. Louisa. And then steadily breaking through the other boat and taking the lead. There’s no greater feeling than that.

Except maybe when you cross the finish line and finally get to rest.

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Crossing the finish line after a 2k at WIRA 2018

Slim Pickings: Why Student Athletes Need Priority Registration

By George Jackson IV

An Essay from Logger Athletics

Student athletes are required to commit a significant amount of time preparing for and participating in University sponsored athletic events. Practice schedules both during the competition season and the off-season pose significant scheduling and time-management challenges for student-athletes. Priority registration would permit student athletes greater flexibility in scheduling courses as well as making it easier to schedule some courses during their non-competition semesters.

Course selection at the University of Puget Sound (UPS) can be incredibly tough. We boast small class sizes, but for all the students we have, there are only so many spots in any given course. Depending on what you are studying, you may encounter a situation where there are too many students and not enough classes for you to take within a given major. 

All UPS students have experienced the frustration of not getting a class they wanted or missing out on a preferred professor for a statistics class. MyPugetSound, the online site for registration, triggers a lot of trepidation and stress amongst UPS undergrads during registration week. However, for an in-season student athlete, course registration proves to be almost as hard as a calculus final.

It is time for UPS to follow Division III schools like Ramapo College or William Paterson University and provide its student athletes with priority course registration.

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Four years competing as a varsity athlete at the NCAA level has allowed me to gain an understanding for the hours of work it takes to become a better athlete. In one year of track and field I have gained an appreciation for the work that has to be done both in the weight room and on the track to run faster. Playing three years of basketball, the process of a 25 game season is more difficult than people think. From weightlifting to shooting baskets on your own, to recovering can take a toll on you over two semesters.

Basketball specifically, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday start with mandatory weight-room workouts from 6:30 am to 8 a.m. While this does not cast aside all 8 a.m. classes, they certainly are not encouraged as you have to leave team lift early and run across campus, still sweating when you get to class. Participating and paying attention is much more difficult when you are slightly out of breath. So, the ideal time for class is 10 to 12, you are still expected to shoot extra shots and complete homework for your classes in what ends up being an extremely condensed amount of unscheduled time. In addition, on days in which we have an away game, we are generally leaving for the opposing team’s gym at 12 noon on Friday. This means you are not going to your 12 o’clock class about three times in a semester. This may not sound like much, but there are professors who do not excuse absences for sports. Such professors have been known to say something along the lines of: “You are at the school for academics not athletics.” I have heard something to this effect from a professor at least one time per semester for eight semesters. This is true that we attend school for the academics, but some student athletes may not choose to attend UPS if they did not play a sport.

Now, let’s talk about Tuesdays and Thursdays. While we do not have morning lift, we generally have practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. My freshman year of basketball I had class from 3:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. You can see how this can be an issue, however leaving class early is not an option. We do come to college for academics and athletics but there seems to be a miscommunication between the professors and the athletics department because as stated above some professors remind us that their classes come first. And your coach knows you will be late to practice, but once again asks why your professor will not let you leave early. Then because you were late to practice for no fault of your own, you may not be able to suit up and play in one of the games that weekend. In the Northwest Conference, games are normally played on Friday and Saturday nights with the occasional Tuesday night game. If you are late to a practice on Thursday, the night before the game, you may not be able to play because you missed a large portion of the game plan being installed for the next day. While basketball is obviously not the only sport on campus, similar time constraints exist in other sports as well. A fellow Logger student athlete confided in me that he faced a similar situation where a professor of his told him that “athletics hold no merit in my class.” Student athletes are being penalized in both academic spaces and athletic spaces for what seems to be an institutional issue that we individually have no power in.

There are only certain times where student athletes, basketball specifically, can take classes. I have run into this sort of scheduling nightmare every semester because I did not get into the class I needed during my regular registration time. Oftentimes, late registration appointments will not allow you to enroll in a class that you would have liked. I will email multiple professors asking them to overload the number of students in their class. Asking for and receiving this overload request greatly benefits my schedule as a student athlete. Sometimes I will receive a coveted add code, while other times I just get a hard no. I understand that professors and classrooms only have so much space, and I also realize that sometimes it is impossible to give an add code. Some professors and departments are quite accommodating, while others are somewhat callous to the issue. I have heard responses from departments such as “Well, academics come before athletics,” or, “You should quit basketball for the pursuit of academia.”

It does not work that way.

There is a counter argument that the situation of student athletes is similar to a non-athlete student who has a job. I would argue that it is significantly different. First, depending on the job, you may be able to make your work schedule fit your class schedule, and may be able to choose what shifts to pick up and which ones to drop–this is especially possible if you work on campus. Basketball players do not have a choice of which practices to go to, which games to attend, or trips we will or will not go on. Second, a college sport is already a full-time job, with in-season time spent devoted to the sport regularly exceeding 30 hours per week. For the UPS students that have a legitimate 30+ hour work week in addition to the standard four-course workload, the reality is they are not also traveling and missing classes. Working students and student-athletes are different.

Additionally, student-athletes are not being paid. What about those of us that need jobs in addition to school and sports? My roommate does. He works in technology services at UPS. While this is not a full time job, it is an additional time commitment that he has to consider.  It is mainly time constraints that make creating a schedule so much more difficult. Additionally, if you are not an upperclassmen the time your registration opens means you may have lost out on certain classes already. I understand that all students have difficulty picking classes. However, there is a difference between difficult and the borderline impossible situation athletes face. In fact, many majors are completely off limits to student-athletes. For instance, I have never met another college basketball player majoring in Exercise Science or Biology because the time commitments are simply too much.

Athletes not only have slim choice in classes but we also have other hurdles like studying abroad or majoring in STEM which require labs. As a Division III university student athletes are playing without scholarships, meaning we pay to play a sport at UPS. We play for the love of the sport or the thrill of competition or both and it is hard to continue to play when we worry that it is hindering our ability to fully engage in our academic lives. Do you ever watch a college football game on TV and wonder why so many of the players major in the exact same things? The reason athletes tend to be in the same programs is because the majors like “Parks and Recreation” or “Sports Management” favor their schedules more than majors they are more interested in. Athletes are too often stuck with the dilemma of taking a required class yet still remaining fully committed to their sport.

I’m not trying to complain or sound bitter because there are many, perks and benefits to being a college athlete. Nonetheless, at an institution that is as competitive as UPS, picking classes is simply unfair. UPS is extremely challenging academically, why make it even harder when you have to consistently settle for the classes that are either less interesting or passed over because of an unpopular professor. I think it is time that Puget Sound offers student-athletes the option of priority registration.