Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Posts tagged ‘Swarthmore College’

Forty-Sixth Annual Swarthmore College English-Scottish Ball

The Swarthmore College Folk Dance Club held their annual ball on February 6, 2016, in Tarble-in-Clothier on the College Campus. Participants included alums from around the country, community members, staff, faculty and students. Susie Petrov and Calum Pasqua provided the music.

Swat alum and students

Swarthmore Alums & Students

A bagpiper performed for the grand march as dancers promenaded around the hall. The musicians played twenty-one dances, including Scottish set dances, contra and waltz. Tables of goodies and teas provided refreshments half way through the evening.

In case you might think that Scottish dancing might be a series of simple steps, here is a partial list of the directions for one of the reels:

1-8  1M casts to 2nd place, crosses & turns 2L RH to end in the send place pop side, 1L casts, crosses & turns 2M LH to end in the 2nd place pop side. 
9-16 1s lead down & cast up round 3s, 2s+1s dance 1/2 R &L (E2s end 2nd place opposite sides) to 1, 2x, 3.
17-24  1s+2s set & petronella turn moving anti-clockwise to next position to right, 1s+22s prat to 2,1X, 3.

Despite the intricacy of the steps, I enjoyed the dancing. Previously, I had only taken two Scottish dance lessons, but those with experience very kindly led novices, like me, through the steps.  Laughing at mistakes is part of the fun, and of course, dancers can “improvise” to cover any missteps.

Highlights from the ball in the video:

 

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Scale: The “Big Chair” and the Metaphor

What’s the big deal about a chair? Well, actually, because this chair is big, about four times as large as a normal chair, and a work of art that has taken on a life of its own. Jake Beckman, a student at Swarthmore College, conceived and built the original chair, which found a place among the other normal-sized Adirondack chairs that dot the stretch of lawn in front of the main hall on campus. The iconic chair even appeared on the Colbert Report.

Several years ago the original chair fell apart and was quietly removed from the lawn. However, the campus community, becoming attached to the Big Chair, clamored to bring the chair back. Jake agreed to return to rebuild the structure, and the chair resumed its place with the others.

I guess I wasn’t the only one beginning to think metaphorically about the Big Chair. Some unnamed inventives would come by during the night leaving the chairs in different arrangements, such as the Big Chair leading a line of the other chairs or the Big Chair in the middle of a circle. One morning the Big Chair stood upright while a semicircle of normal chairs tipped down in front of the Big Chair.

Now I was thinking hard. The chairs assumed the metaphor for power dynamics .  .  . and not just at Swarthmore! I thought about “Big Chair” people, folks that tell us what to do or think: politicians, pundits, advertisers, bosses, CEOs, presidents, board of directors .  .  .  and I’m sure you can think of many more. Do we perceive these folks as big in influence, power, authority, wealth and get drawn into a mindset that binds us to a deferential attitude? Many normal chairs sit on the lawn–there is strength in numbers when we act collectively. And normal-sized chairs serve a real function. We wouldn’t make 25 more Big Chairs.

On reflection, perhaps we do need the Big Chair–reminding us to keep the right perspective.

Bringing Voice to Community Needs: A Collection at Swarthmore College

Collection 5.2.14This Collection was unique: a grassroots initiative with staff, faculty and students working together to offer all community members an opportunity to speak on decision-making and governance at the College.

Organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), the idea for the Collection grew from their advocacy for a child care benefit. In the previous week, SLAP and Human Resources released survey data from the dependent care survey of faculty and staff at the College. Of the 28% who responded that they used childcare, 41% of that number claimed that they were unhappy with their current child care arrangements. More than half of the respondents preferred an on-campus child care placement. In 1991 the Women’s Concerns Committee submitted a survey, and spent the next 14 years advocating for child care for faculty and staff. The question SLAP and the community had to consider: if the community supported a child care benefit, why hadn’t that benefit been implemented, especially since funding had been provided?

The Collection, facilitated Joyce Tompkins, Religious and Spiritual Life Advisor, brought together a panel to begin the discussion on decision-making processes and endowment spending at the College.

Gathering

Joyce Tompkins introducing Panelists

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Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics Professor, advocate for child care

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Peter Collings, Physics Professor

Peter recently wrote a series of articles on the endowment in The Phoenix:
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment: An open letter to the Swarthmore College community
The inequity of Swarthmore’s endowment, revisited
Why endowment policy needs community input

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Gwen Synder, Class of 2008

Gwen Synder is Director at the Philadelphia branch of Jobs with Justice.

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Anna Gonzales, Editor in Chief, The Phoenix

Brett Day, Staff from Dining Services (unfortunately Brett could not make it because of difficulty arranging for child care).

It is the hope that this Collection will be a catalyst for the College community to work toward participation and transparency, as now neither faculty, staff or students have voice when it comes to financial decision-making. Truly enlightened institutions will foster coöperation that can only come by encouraging participation in decision-making as an inclusive practice that educates students in the process of genuine democracy and brings community members together to work in partnership with each other.

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More photographs at the Daily Gazette.

Proposal to Meet Staff and Faculty’s Child Care Needs at Swarthmore College sent to the College administration in May 2014.

Evolution of a Mural at Swarthmore College

The Artist: David “Dee” Craig

IMG_5192Early in the Fall semester, Lee Smithy, Associate Professor of Sociology Peace and Conflict Studies Program, announced that David “Dee” Craig, a mural artist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, had been granted a residency by the Tri-College Creative Residencies Program.

Dee  was raised in a working class community of Belfast, and those experiences focused his art. “Fear, pain and solitude; the discrepancies and gap between the rich and poor are also emotions which Dee aims to portray.” Dee has completed art projects in his neighborhoods in Belfast, working with the Ulster Museum, and outside of Northern Ireland, including the US, Israel and Spain.

This description of his artistic style explains Dee’s approach to his work.

He uses bold hard lines to represent the strength and steadfastness that working class people ooze, while at the same time using dark colours drawn from thoughts and feelings to portray a somewhat lack of aspiration imbedded in the set in stone belief some view as ‘imprisonment’ in a level or class of life. Brighter colours are also used to represent how we can over come these obstacles to strive forward in life and adapt in a more modern society.  About Dee

As part of the residency, the College commissioned Dee to paint a mural on campus, and Lee invited community members to take part in planning meetings to discuss the theme and content of the mural. During these meetings faculty, staff and students brainstormed ideas. Lee sent the notes and suggestions to Dee. Within a few weeks, Dee sent preliminary sketches back to Lee so that we could offer feedback.

Collage Project in Kohlberg Hall

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At the first residency event, Dee and Paul Downie, mural artist who has been consultant and instructor for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and Director of the Community Arts Center in Wallingford, installed a mural in the Sociology and Anthropology wing of Kohlberg Hall. The artists composed a collage of colorful designs on a wall facing the windows overlooking Parrish Hall. What was once a rather bland entrance to the second floor, now featured a masterpiece of color.

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Opening Exhibit & Discussion

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On October 24, an exhibit in McCabe Library Atrium opened: “Murals, Memory and Transformations: The Mural Art of David “Dee” Craig in Northern Ireland. Lee interviewed Dee, followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

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Meanwhile, college staff erected a tent to serve as the studio, and in addition, assembled scaffolding along the wall.

Mural Unfolds

Over the next several weeks, Dee painted the various sections of the mural. At the early stages the brilliant colors against the white canvas were striking. I could see the beginnings of an inspiring piece. In the slides below, the mural progresses from the first sketches to the installation on the wall.

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November 18, 2013

Final Mural Resize

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Links

Northern Ireland Mural Artist Begins Creative Residency at Swarthmore College

Troubled Walls


					

The “Big Chair” and the Metaphore Bigger than its Presence

Perspectives on an Adirondack Chair

What’s the big deal about a chair? Well, actually, because this chair is big, about four times as large as a normal chair, and a work of art that has taken on a life of its own. Jake Beckman, a student at Swarthmore College, conceived and built the original chair, which found a place among the other normal-sized Adirondack chairs that dot the stretch of lawn in front of the main hall on campus. The iconic chair even appeared on the Colbert Report.

Several years ago the original chair fell apart and was quietly removed from the lawn. However, the campus community, becoming attached to the Big Chair, clamored to bring the chair back. Jake agreed to return to rebuild the structure, and the chair resumed its place with the others.

I guess I wasn’t the only one beginning to think metaphorically about the Big Chair. Some unnamed inventives would come by during the night leaving the chairs in different arrangements, such as the Big Chair leading a line of the other chairs or the Big Chair in the middle of a circle. One morning the Big Chair stood upright while a semicircle of normal chairs tipped down in front of the Big Chair.

Now I was thinking hard. The chairs assumed the metaphor for power dynamics .  .  . and not just at Swarthmore! I thought about “Big Chair” people, folks that tell us what to do or think: politicians, pundits, advertisers, bosses, CEOs, presidents, board of directors .  .  .  and I’m sure you can think of a lot more. Do we perceive these folks as big in influence, power, authority, wealth and get drawn into a mindset that binds us to a deferential attitude? Many normal chairs sit on the lawn–there is strength in numbers when we act collectively. And normal-sized chairs serve a real function. We wouldn’t make 25 more Big Chairs.

On reflection, perhaps we do need the Big Chair–reminding us to keep the right perspective.

Swarthmore Interactive Living Wage Discussion with Activist Cecilia Marquez ’11

April 5, 2012
Swarthmore College

The Struggle for a Living Wage and Workplace Justice at the University of Virginia

Cecilia Marquez ’11, PhD candidate in History at the University of Virginia and a key student leader in the struggle for a living wage for UVA employees, engaged students in an interactive discussion about the history and context of the campaign at UVA, strategies and tactics employed (including a historic hunger strike, which received widespread media attention), and the successes and shortcomings of the campaign thus far. She contextualized the struggle at UVA within a larger climate of living wage and union recognition campaigns happening at universities all over the country.

Cecilia covered specific topics in campus organizing, such as how to effectively organize with campus staff and foster student-staff solidarity, how to run an effective media campaign, how to make decisions about tactics in a campaign, and how to negotiate with college administrators.

For more information, check out the Living Wage at UVW webpage here. Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP!), which monitors wages since the College implemented increases since the Swarthmore College living wage campaign in 2005, sponsored the event.

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop. Say what?!?!” 

Thanks to Danielle Noble for written content.

Some pictures and video from the evening’s discussion.

Swarthmore College: A Showcase of Community Talent

Several years ago the College began a staff development program for several days in January. As part of that program, staff members were asked to participate in an “Employee Showcase.”  I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with the community my collection of materials on the labor history at the College since 1991. A total of nine volumes hold everything from Phoenix articles, flyers, letters, documents, photographs, surveys and petitions. Part of this collection is on Swarthmore College Living Wage and Democracy web page.

Slide show features some of the participants in the talent showcase and folks who stopped by our displays. Many thanks to Pam and Mary Ann for planning the event and appreciate the help from Mike and Dave for setting up the technology.

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Specter of Economic Injustice Haunts the Nation

During our years working on the  Swarthmore College Living Wage and Democracy Campaign we used many venues, such as panels, rallies and lectures to advance the cause of a living wage for campus workers. For some of these events we incorporated street theater as one of the methods to bring attention to low wages at the College. Around Halloween in October of 2004 the Specter of Economic Injustice began wandering about the campus and town. Signs warned that the Specter was coming:

The Specter haunted the area for several weeks, sometimes showing up at events or just floating across the landscape. Over seven feet tall, the Specter, draped in black robes, carried chains intertwined with dollar bills. Piercing red eyes glowed in the night. Usually a sign carrier accompanied the Specter to clarify the message to those who were unaware.

We also distributed flyers stating . . .

Issues of unfair workers’ compensation have haunted the Philadelphia area. Many low-wage workers have difficulty putting food on the table, and food pantries have seen a huge increase in the number as working poor who seek their help. Swarthmore students have organized around this issue for years, citing their College’s commitment to Quaker values.  They believe Swarthmore College with its billion dollar endowment cannot teach students to improve the world while practicing social injustice toward campus workers.

This Halloween would be a good time for the Specter to appear again. I’m sure the Specter would be warmly welcomed  by  Philly Occupy. But just like the ghosts in Charles Dickens‘ Christmas Carol, the Specter would be visiting the Scrooges of the world.  So who are the Scrooges? The Specter might consider those who

  • block legislation for campaign finance reform
  • oppose universal health care
  • criticize workers for standing up for fair pay and benefits
  • support unregulated corporations
  • allow the public to suffer the consequences of pollution when companies make profits
  • thwart efforts to improve education
  • advocate for tax structures that give loopholes for the rich and hardships for the poor
  • profit from war

For us mortals we have to rely on other methods to further economic justice.  The Occupy folks have made the first successful steps. Now we must take up the banner and move forward. We can join with others who share our concerns to form a broader movement, run our own candidates, pressure the politicians with the vote, disengage from corporate control and encourage those who are making a difference.

Relying on the good will of the rich and powerful to relinquish influence and wealth will only result in the continued nightmare on Main Street.

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