If you would like to submit an article, a letter to the editor, or have a subject that you would like me to approach next, email me at

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Being The Most Popular Kid In Class Doesn't Work Forever


I was asked to share this story from the NY Times with you guys. The source article can be found here. The article shares the name with my post title and was written by Dr. Christopher Howard, President of Hampden-Sydney College. It was published by the "NY Times inCollege In Leadership" column.

        I can recall vividly the seventh-grade student council
competition. My social studies teacher dutifully scanned the
classroom for volunteers, exhorting at least one of us to run for
office. Never shy to voice my opinion, it was not too difficult
for me to accept her charge. “Howie for Student Council”
posters joined similarly decorated signs for candidates vying
for a coveted position as a representative of the people. More
importantly, time drew nearer and nearer to the day when each
candidate was expected to give their campaign speech to students
waiting anxiously with open ears and closed minds.
        After the fifth candidate finished, it was my turn to speak.
I was passionate, energetic, and interested in helping my fellow
students; however, my talk was not terribly remarkable. But
regardless of my oratory skills, I had something every kid needed
to win an election: popularity. Like most other young people that
age, I equated popularity with leadership. Not much changed
during my successful runs for office through high school and
even college, but I eventually arrived at positions in the military,
Corporate America, non-profits, and higher education where,
by definition, making unpopular decisions represented effective
leadership. The desire to be popular had somehow become a
        As the president of Hampden-Sydney College, I am impressed
each day by young people who figuratively and literally want to
change the world. Through their work with clubs, organizations,
and even their very own 501(c)(3) corporations housed both
on and off campus, these young men work diligently for a
greater good, leading as best they know how. They support
popular causes and, not too unlike my seventh-grade student
council campaign, they remain generally well-liked by all they
encounter. But I think it is important to caution this at times
overly-confident generation, as well as the reader, that leadership
is not a popularity contest. Moreover, those of us who teach and
develop future leaders must educate these apt pupils on what is
just around the corner in their often peripatetic lives.
       Professor Ronald Heifetz of the John F. Kennedy School of
Government at Harvard University often talks about leadership
being a dangerous place. It is even more so for young people
if they transition to leadership roles unprepared mentally,
emotionally, spiritually, and even physically for the daunting
tasks at hand. As old-fashioned as it may sound, we need
to provide opportunities for emerging leaders to develop
toughness—or what Dr. Angela Duckworth from the University
of Pennsylvania calls GRIT—if they are to survive and thrive in
the 21st century.
        I am not arguing for a Dickensian grey world consisting
of ritualistic slaps on the wrist, just because. However, I am
reminding scholars and practitioners of leadership education
alike to recall that no matter how elegant an idea may be, it
often takes an individual with the courage to endure some
degree of deprivation to see it through to the end.
Perhaps the best way of achieving this goal is to intentionally
link character education to leadership development, with the
appropriate crucible experiences incorporated along the way.
Good examples include individuals like Bob McDonald, CEO
of Proctor & Gamble, and Colonel Mark Hyatt, Executive
Director of the Foundation for Character Development, who
sponsor important initiatives that assist with positive character
        The military calls it the “loneliness of command,” while
others, describing the quintessential leadership role, the
American Presidency, describe it as “the glorious burden.”
Whichever title one chooses, leadership is not a seventh-grade
student council election. We must keep this precept in mind
when developing the next generation of leaders.

Now, I don't usually just post things like this without commenting on them, and I'm certainly not going to start now. I'm not sure why the anonymous reader asked me to share this article written by Dr. Christopher Howard. It's a nice piece, though. I understand where Dr. Howard is coming from, though I was never one to run for student leadership positions. I hated the institution of "class presidents" in High School because it was always the dumb popular jocks that won. (I'm not saying all popular people are dumb, that all jocks are dumb, or that all jocks are popular, or anything of that nature. That's just kinda how it turned out at my school).

That being said, I can't help but notice that there is still a fair bit of that going on in college. Now, I'm sure the students elected to positions this year at HSC will do fine, but they weren't necessarily the ones I voted for. I did however, notice that when I asked people who they were voting for and why, a disappointingly common response was "I just think he's cool." Another: "He's my friend. I have to vote for him!" And, of course, my favorite: "Well I'm not going to vote for someone who has no chance of winning. . ."

The student leaders that end up being elected to position at Hampden-Sydney are usually fairly competent, and I have very few negative things to say about any of them. I do find it disconcerting that I hear comments like those around election times. It is that exact sort of sentiment that kept me from running for the office of President for this past year. I didn't think there was any chance of winning, and I didn't really see the point, so I stuck to my academics, instead. I'm not at school to lead, anyway.

Anyway, that's pretty much all I have to say on this article. Do you guys have anything you would like to say? Responses? Leave a comment, please, and if you have any stories of your own to share, pelase email me at!

--Your Editor.

An Apology, an Update, and "Where do we go from here?"

Greetings everyone,

As you might have surmised from the title, I have some things to say. Additionally, if you are a regular reader of mine, you've probably been waiting quite a while for this. So, to start with, I'd like to give an apology. In the comments of my last post, I promised an update to cover more angles and perspectives of the election night hate incident.

Unfortunately, I got busy. Such is life. In my defense, I am just an undergrad student, and I have been working through my capstone project, honors thesis, and several other projects. (They all turned out well so far, thanks for asking!) I feel like this excuse is not nearly strong enough, and so I feel guilty that I have waited so long to post any sort of update.

To be perfectly fair, though, there really hasn't been too much going on on campus in the same sort of dramatic scale (pertaining to this incident, I mean). There has been a very nice level of continued conversation about it, though. Everyone at the school has continued to be concerned about this sort of incident, and so we have all started working on way to prevent this sort of thing from happening ever again. I have personally started attending meetings with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (I think I have that acronym right), along with several other student and student leaders. The workshops have gone exceptionally well.

I also hear tell of several programs that may be introduced next term for incoming freshmen that revolve around promoting the idea of inclusiveness. It's starting to look like things are taking a positive turn. Of course, at the same time, there's no way to tell how this will turn out, and only time will really tell.

And finally, a look toward the future. You might wonder why I chose today to update. Well I'm currently in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a few professors and students for a conference hosted by the American Men's Studies Association. We were all presenting on different things (one of our students even spoke about the racial incident and the way rhetoric was used in the aftermath. Very good stuff!). I'm in the hotel room right now, because I wanted to avoid the madness outside (it's fairly crazy at the moment). I was thinking about the blog, and several things, and since I had nothing else to do, I thought I'd take a look here and work on this.

Now, I graduate in May. Over the past few months, I regret to say that I've become far less interested in what is going on at the school. I will be gone soon, after all, so why care? I still care, though. The future of this blog, however, may not last as long. I have a few other story ideas that I may be able to work on, and I'm going to keep the site up, just in case anyone wants to go back and look at it, but there's a strong possibility that my stories will be few and far between. Additionally, since I wont be attending the school anymore, my information will all be a bit disconnected from the source. we will see what happens.

In the end, though, I just want to thank everyone for reading and supporting me in this endeavor. As always, feel free to leave comments, and if you have a story you'd like to share, please email me at

Again, thank you!
--Your editor

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Hate on Campus after Election

Greetings readers and concerned individuals,

This article is taking some work, just because I want to get everything as straight as possible before I publish anything, but I appreciate that my blog already had a ton of hits today, without me even posting anything. I appreciate that people look here for information about incidents on campus, and can only apologize that I'm slow to respond on occasion.

That being said, I'm sure we're all aware by now of what happened on the night of Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 (Election Day). If you haven't, then in a nutshell: after it was announced the Barack Obama won the reelection for POTUS, a group of students, in a state of jilted unrest were found shouting racially charged hate at members of the Minority Student Union house. This gathering, which happened around Fraternity Circle has caused enough trouble to land HSC on the radar for several new sources. I've included a couple of them here, which give the details as they are known by more established reporters than myself:



Additionally, here is the college's official statement, posted on the Hampden-Sydney College facebook page:

Shortly after 11 PM on November 6, a group of about 40 students gathered near the Minority Student Union (MSU) house. Members of the group set off fireworks and threw bottles in response to the presidential election results. At some point, members of the group shouted racial epithets at the men at MSU threatening them with physical harm. The members of MSU notified campus security. The incident lasted less than 45 minutes, and the group was largely dispersed through the efforts of responsible students, especially fraternity officers. President Chris Howard and Dean of Students David Klein went to Fraternity Circle and spent approximately one hour meeting with students to determine what happened.

We are terribly disappointed with the students who participated in this harmful, senseless episode including those men who stood idly by and watched it happen. There is no place for bigotry or racism at Hampden-Sydney. In response to this incident, President Howard called a Town Hall meeting on the evening on November 7. Nearly 300 members of the Hampden-Sydney community gathered to address the incident and its implications for our community. We were all moved by the responses of our students, their condemnation of the incident, and their heartfelt appeals to brotherhood.

The incident on November 6 is under investigation and will be adjudicated by the Student Justice system.

Now, if you recall, this is not the first racially charged incident that has happened this year. In September I sat down with a friend who found a hate message written on the walls of a bathroom. Needless to say, I am bothered that this type of crap keeps happening at my school. What worries me more is that, even though this stuff keeps happening, I've rarely seen anything done to prevent this sort of event happening again.

This time is different, however. Since the story has made national news (even now I'm hearing reports that CNN is visiting campus tonight), HSC is doing something about it. Now, I don't want to sound terribly cynical. Normally, I would attribute the school's drive to action to the desperate attempt to keep negative publicity away from the public eye. I still believe that public relations is a cause of the action, but it is definitely not the greatest factor. No, this time it is because people are genuinely pissed off.

I wasn't there. I was safe in my room watching Supernatural, celebrating with a beer after the election of the man I voted for. I didn't even know anything had happened until I woke up the next morning to hear that one of my friends was so afraid for his life that he actually left campus the night before. I heard that  friend had been shot at with a firework and that racial hate was being directed at people that I consider brothers. It's enough to say that I was pretty pissed off. This whole mess was so crazy that my dad was ready to call the school to pitch a fit (this surprised me of course. It also surprised me that he was also relatively pissed off that the school would address racial prejudice but never really does anything about gay hate...but that's another story altogether).

I'm not the only one in outrage, though. And that brings us to the real point of this article. You can get the story about what happened from any of the news stories that are flying around, but what of actual student reaction? What I decided to do was ask a couple students what they experienced first hand that night. I've collected these experiences, along with other parts of the chronicle of this event, and I am including them here for people to read. It is important for voices to be heard, and I thank these guy for helping me out. I would also like to shout out to several alumni that I know are angry about what happened, and have said so publicly. I'm glad that they still care enough about the school that they want their voices heard.

By the way, if you are reading this, and would like to lend your experience to the article, PLEASE SEND IT TO ME! I would love to hear from more voices. send me your reaction to

This first bit is the email that was sent to the student body from Dr. Chris Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College.
Members of the Hampden-Sydney Community,

At approximately eleven minutes after midnight, the Dean of Students, other members of the College faculty and staff, and I received an email from students at the Minority Student Union (MSU) stating a large group had gathered outside their house (formerly Lambda Chi House).  The members of  group set off fireworks and threw bottles evidently in response to the presidential election results.  At some point, members of the group shouted racial epithets at the men in MSU threatening them with physical violence.  The members of MSU notified campus security.  After speaking with Chief Gee on the phone, I walked to Fraternity Circle with Dean Klein and spent approximately one hour meeting with students from MSU, Sigma Nu and Sigma Chi to determine what happened.

I am terribly disappointed with the students who participated in this harmful, senseless episode including those men who stood idly by and watched it happen.  There is no place for bigotry or racism of any kind on this campus.  Dean Klein and I will be meeting with the leaders of various fraternities and MSU today to learn more about the events of last night.  We will also work with leaders of student government, the Interfraternity Council and the Intercultural Affairs Committee to determine the appropriate course of action and to devise ways to ensure our students respect each other despite their racial differences.

I encourage every student, faculty and staff member to take time today to discuss this incident and what it means to Hampden-Sydney.  Our mission is to  produce “Good Men and Good Citizens”;  there is little doubt that some of us failed last night.

I ask those who were involved in or witnessed this incident to consider your responsibility as a Hampden-Sydney Man and contact either Alex Cartwright ( or Dean Klein (

This email was followed up with this one:

Ladies & Gentlemen –  In light of the events that transpired on our campus last night, I ask that students, faculty and staff gather tonight at 7:00pm in Snyder Hall to discuss ensuring that Hampden-Sydney College is a RESPECTFUL and INCLUSIVE Community.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the meeting myself due to prior engagements, but I am pleased to hear that it went really well. I've spent the whole day looking for reactions to the meeting, only to come back to my room to find an email from Dr. Howard, with his review of the meeting:
Dear Members of the Hampden-Sydney College Community,

Last night’s Town Hall meeting reminded me why my family and I came to this College.  One after another, almost thirty Hampden-Sydney Men stood before a group of three hundred of their peers, teachers, coaches and staff members to denounce emphatically what transpired on November 6th.  These men renewed their commitment to our student code of conduct and reaffirmed their desire to live in an inclusive and respectful community.  They expressed love for their fellow students and confidence in the Student Court.  Most importantly they pledged to put things right.  My role is to help them do just that.

First, the Dean of Students has assigned a highly-decorated member of our campus security team to investigate the incident.  I can assure the investigation will be timely, professional and thorough.  In order to ensure due process, we cannot broadcast the findings immediately as the Student Court, Interfraternity Council and Commonwealth’s Attorney will need to review the report to ensure all aspects are properly adjudicated.  Most importantly, we have learned our own students diffused the situation themselves exercising leadership and good judgment before authorities arrived on the scene.

Second, building on the tremendous outpouring of support from last night’s Town Hall meeting, I have asked the Intercultural Affairs Committee led by Dr. Rene Severin to submit a plan to me in the next few weeks on how we can better educate students on what it takes to ensure our community is one marked by inclusion and respect.  Several students approached me and my colleagues on the faculty and staff last night asking simply “what can I do to help?”. 

Third, we are ultimately an institution of higher learning and though those individuals responsible for this incident will be dealt with it should also serve as a teachable moment and it shall.

Finally, do not waiver in your belief in our fine institution.  Know there were many more people at our Town Hall Meeting than those who misbehaved on Tuesday night.  Together, we will rise to the occasion.
I'm pretty sure that Dr. Howard doesn't care for me too much (I think he's read the blog), but I know that he cares for this school and for the students as a whole. I'm really thankful for how on-the-ball he has been with reacting to this incident, so even though I have disagreed with his actions in the past, I definitely want to thank him for what he is doing now.

I would also like to talk a little bit about the Town Hall Meeting. I wish that I could've been there. Unfortunately, my independent study in theatre required me to be off-campus at the time. I have only heard great things about the meeting, however. It was drawn to my attention by an anonymous commentor on this very post that I haven't drawn enough attention to it. They had something really great to say, though:
most H-SC students are not racists. I know for a fact that there are several campus leaders (including some fraternity presidents) that are raising the accountability bar for their members in the hopes of establishing a stronger brotherhood. High minded men with high minded ideals will always be confronted by inferior individuals who will try to bring them down. I have also found that when people who are "victimized" STOP acting like victims, they are better able to achieve their objectives. In fact, when those who are "victimized" reach out in love and embrace those who seek to diminish them, then they are no longer the "victims" but are, in fact, the VICTORS! Please endeavor to present the sentiments of the majority of the students...people's livelihoods are at stake (particularly the professors who, like the student body, are the heart of the college). We need less chaos in this world...and you are in the perfect leadership position to help change people's minds...let the world see that it's not our sexuality, our race, or our creed that we are judged...but rather that we are judged by the content of our character... as Dr. King prayed for. It is just not fair to the majority of students who share in those sentiments to be cast under the bus with the small minority who chose very poorly for themselves and placed this noble institution in the line of fire. Because of your high-mindedness and great capacity to love, I know you will take all that I have written to your heart. I am praying for a peaceful resolution and for a better Hampden-Sydney College to emerge from this.
This anon was right in urging me to discuss this point. I am disappointed that I haven't been able to speak to any of these students who spoke. I have actually spoken with one student, Matthew Buchanan, Class of 2013, who was able to share his personal experiences, but I don't have anything else to say, except that the meeting was full of people who were ready to see change--full of people who are ready, willing, and hungry to see some form of positivity come out of this horrible atrocity. For those of you reading this, yes it all looks pretty bad, but keep in mind that there is a majority here at HSC that is ready to try to fix things.

Next is a first hand account of last Tuesday as experienced by Kiel Powell, Class of 2014. Kiel is a pretty outspoken Democrat, and I know that he has the ability to infuriate many people with his highly vocal opinions on things, but I also know that he is a pretty good guy. The following is his account of the night:

As a registered democrat and four year supporter of Obama, I was delighted to see CNN and ABC call the election so early on Tuesday night. For us, it was a time of jubilation and excitement. I quickly realized that several of my friends were probably celebrating down at MSU [Minority Student Union] house. James “Bluefield” Lily and I decided to head over sometime between 11:30-11:45.
We both, along with seven other Hampden-Sydney men, live at international house. Due to the position of our house, we had to pass K.A. [A fraternity] While we rejoiced in a resounding victory; the massive crowd at K.A. did their own rejoicing. Only, with their excitement and zeal came fireworks, alcohol, and a lot of hate. They screamed “f**k Obama!” “Romney!” “F**k socialists!” and many derogatory words aimed at Obama and the race he apparently represents. Bluefield and I tried to ignore the obscenities as they quickly saw us and directed their angry rhetoric in our direction. Still, we knew Obama won and nothing they said could take that away from us. As we walked in between MSU and Sigma Chi [another fraternity], the sounds of bigotry, drunken hatred, and fireworks fell a little more faint. Finally, we had reached MSU and could enjoy the company of fellow friends and Obama supporters.

However, several students sat on the front porch of Sigma Chi. As we walked down the hall and turned the corner, several students addressed the two of us. One said, “Yeah! Finally! Somebody is going to take it to those n*****s! Go kick their asses!” to which I replied, “I’m sorry, but I voted for Obama. I have friends here. Have fun being ignorant and hateful.” This caused him to reply consequently, “F**k you too a**hole! You f***ing traitor! F**k Obama! Romney 2012!.” While this was being said, we were already walking to the front door of MSU. Bluefield did not respond to the students’ hate speech and he already was at the door of MSU. I never approached the student or made hostile gestures. This student, likely a Sigma Chi brother, who did have alcohol in his hand, wanted me to attack people because of their race. This is pathetic and despicable! I have never been more offended and angry in my life.

Once inside, we embraced our fellow Obama supporters. However, not even a minute after we arrived, several members of MSU left through the back door. Bluefield and I followed suit. I believe 5-7 other MSU members, including the president and myself, approached the massive crowd gathering at KA. This crowd, this mob, was at least 50, maybe even 70 strong. I want to also make clear the following: not all members of this crowd were KA brothers (many in fact were), there were also members of Sigma Chi and Sigma Nu [yet another frat], as well as students of every college class. However, I must stress the fact that they were a mob of angry, intoxicated students.
They fired off about a dozen fireworks as we approached. None aimed directly at us. Some straight into the air, others slightly towards MSU or International House. Some were even fired towards their own bunker. Anyways, the president of MSU approached the mob slowly and calmly. He stood in defense of MSU, its members, and against the mob’s prejudice. What he did was nothing short of rave. To try and settle this problem with so many on their side; I have great respect for him. Immediately the mob formed a half circle, or a wall, behind the members of the crowd that we were trying to talk to. They looked like they were getting ready for a fight. Many members of this 50+ crowd were focused on the situation at hand. They weren’t screaming; however, they were still muttering hate speech, including “f**k these n*****s.” As a civil conversation began between the President of MSU and several representatives. After a minute or so of discussion it appeared as though their hatred would finally subside.
However, as it remained comparatively tame and quiet, a member of the crowd stood up and shot fireworks at us. The fireworks, narrowly missing myself, hit the ground ten or fifteen feet behind myself and the other seven MSU members. The fireworks, nearly hit two students and a young woman who were passing by.

I hope something is done in regards to the fact that fireworks were shot on the premises of KA, most likely by KA members. Fireworks are illegal in the state of Virginia. These fraternities involved need to be closed this weekend and long term penalties had better be pursued for their involvement! KA’s racism is well known in and out of the HSC community. If the school permits this to continue you will see very few minorities applying here and many leaving. I will not be a part of this school my senior year if it tolerates such hatred. Soon after we were shot at, a member of KA, I believe [name omitted] tried to make sure the situation did not get out of hand and he talked to the other MSU members and they headed back towards MSU.
As the other members of MSU returned to the house, I noticed Bluefield was near International House. As I proceeded to walk away, not saying a word, the mob’s attention turned towards me and I was addressed. They screamed “F**k you Kiel! You’re an a**hole! F**k off!” repeatedly until I crossed the streets and reached my house. I walked inside and called campus security twice. I assumed the campus security was busy and dealing with similar problems on campus. However, it is still unacceptable for them to not answer. In hind sight, with what happened four years ago, the police should have known this would happen. But I have great respect for everything they do on this campus. I then grabbed my car keys and moved my car with Bluefield.

When I returned inside to get Bluefield to come out with me to move my car, he and Davonte Bradley were talking about what we experienced. We all decided it would be best if we left campus, one reason being Davonte was black. We became concerned for our safety and believed that the violence and anger of the mob might come across the street to our house. For this reason we left campus for about half an hour, in hopes that maybe their aggression would calm down. The 50+ member mob, primarily composed of KA brothers, could have easily decided to follow Bluefield and I back to our house. I locked the front door and deadbolts. I did not sleep that night. I locked my dorm door.  I stayed up with my knife next to me. With how violent the crowd was, coupled with the alcohol being consumed, I expected the worst.

I have never seen hatred towards a group of people like this! This attitude, which was clearly and openly displayed for all to see, should serve as a wake-up call to all of the Hampden-Sydney community. This racism that is well known has persisted for far too long! We must stand united against such hatred so that we become the brotherhood we say we are! What I witnessed Tuesday night was something out of a civil rights documentary. I have never felt so ashamed to be a Hampden-Sydney man. The members of this mob that I bared witness to, as well as the events which took place before I arrived at MSU, should leave us contemplating the school’s true message. Are we a brotherhood or a school that has brothers that tolerate such hatred? I hope the school, administration, and the community can stand united in the course of acceptance for all Hampden-Sydney students. We cannot tolerate this hate any longer. It can and should end with us. We all have the ability to move forward to a brighter future in which all Hampden-Sydney College students are treated equally and respectfully. We must also make certain those involved pay for their transgression. This is 2012, not 1968! It’s time we make a change and act like this is the 21st century!
Hate is vicious. It is gross and disgusting and has no place at an establishment that prides itself on creating "good men" and "good citizens." Something has to be done about this sort of hatred. Also, I just got off the phone with Tanner Knox, Class of 2013, a member of Sigma Nu and an avid reader of my blog. Like me, he is greatly disturbed by these events. He also asked me if I could remind everyone (just as I should've have done, but forgot to do before I posted this the first time) that these are student reactions, and should, in no way, be considered as absolutely true evidence. No one has been proven guilty in this incident, and wont be proven so until after the investigation. Additionally, Tanner let me know that Sigma Nu as an organization does not condone the behavior of the students from Tuesday Night. I've spoken with members of Sigma Nu in the past, and I know Tanner as an honest person, so I would like to include that I don't think they were responsible for this. I don't think any of the fraternities, themselves, were responsible for the incident, anyway: Instead, the incident was caused by individuals, not organizations.

This next statement is from James "Bluefield" Lily, Class of 2014, who was with Kiel that night. Bluefield is another great guy who is active in his church, in campus activity, and is a genuinely loving and caring individual (if not a little weird at times).

My name is James Lilly. I am a Hampden-Sydney student and I support this college. I was one of the people who witnessed the disgrace that happened Tuesday night. I did try contacting Campus Security by phone, but was unable to get in touch with them (I want to make it clear that I fully believe that the police had good reason for this). I saw what I saw from my place of residency on Campus, the International House. I had previously walked with Kiel Powell to help move his Obama Sticker covered car from the street. We were concerned that it would be damaged by students. We walked to the MSU house to celebrate the announcement that Obama won, which had just been announced. I left the house within a few minutes of arriving, leaving to go to my room because I had a paper to finish and had gone shortly ahead of the group who came after me, so I was not able to see faces. On my way back to the house, I saw what appeared to be KA leaders (I don’t actually know for sure) shout to the crowd that everyone who is not a KA member needed to leave. His request appeared to have been ignored. I had just walked in my housed door when I heard a lot of commotion so I went outside to investigate. I witnessed a large gathering of people (40+ people) which started at KA (I'm not directly accusing KA) start shooting Roman candle fireworks from the roof of the KA house holding the fireworks in their hands. The fireworks were brought to the ground and were set off; some hit the KA house, others went toward the MSU house. I saw 5 or so MSU students plus Kiel Powell came out of the MSU house and walked toward the parking lot between the ex-Beta house and KA and went toward the KA group. I heard one MSU student ask them to not shoot the Fireworks toward the houses, warning of possible fire. I then witnessed the large group of people from the KA property form a half circle and ONE person started to shoot the fireworks toward the MSU group, the balls of fire going only feet from their heads and ONE or TWO students threw glass bottles at the MSU group. The whole time, a few students were shooting remarks like "kill them n*****s." I was calling the police at this point and went inside to warn my black roommate Davonte Bradley '14. A short time later Kiel came into the room and he tried to call the police 3 times. We decided that we, all Obama supporters, needed to leave campus to be safe, so we went to get McDonald's. I think the group of the people who did this acted on their own, mainly out of drunkenness, and not as a whole. I think it is wrong to say that this college is full of racists because it is not. A majority of this Campus does not support these acts. I do believe the individuals involved should be punished, but I think that this situation has been blown out of proportion.
Bluefield has an excellent point that I think it is important to remember. Just as we saw at the Town Hall Meeting that Dr. Howard talked about, this campus is not full of racists. Unfortunately, there is a group of people who are totally willing to make the whole school look bad, and they are the ones that we are having a problem with. I personally disagree with Bluefield's belief that the situation has been blown out of proportion. I believe that this is a big deal, and has been a big deal for a really long time. I think that it is incredibly important that this incident is being discussed so much. If it is "out of proportion", then I believe it has to be for a good thing. If this kind of ignorance and hate continues to go unnoticed, then we are giving off the message that it doesn't really matter.

It DOES matter. No one should ever have to experience this sort of hate, either directly or indirectly. This next piece is from Davonte Bradley, Class of 2014. I've known Davonte since his freshman year. He's a great guy and is always willing to help people out. I think he's funny, smart, and honest about his opinions.
When the election was finally called and President Obama was declared the winner, I had a very strong feeling that there would be quite the negative response around campus, and especially on Fraternity Circle in the direction of KA. Shortly after Obama's re-election was decided, I heard what sounded like three gunshots go off somewhere on the Circle. Bluefield and Kiel both went to move their cars after the "shots" were heard, but they learned that the "shots" were actually fireworks. I was still rather worried at that point, however. I heard news from Adam [Turner, another Junior] that people were getting rowdy and destructive at E dorm which made me think that something similar was bound to happen down where we were. A little later Bluefield and Kiel decided that they should go down to MSU as they knew a few friends who had in fact voted for Obama and wanted to celebrate with them. I didn't think it was a great idea, so I stayed behind in my room. Minutes later I heard Bluefield running frantically up the stairs and he entered the room looking panicked. He told me that we need to either lock the doors or leave campus. I immediately knew that something had happened down there, or something WAS going on down there that was dangerous. Bluefield informed me that there was a lot of angry drunk people outside upset about Romney's loss, and those people were firing fireworks and throwing beer bottles at people near MSU. From what he said, and what I could hear from the room, it sounded like there was a mob out there that was targeting African Americans. Kiel returned shortly after Bluefield and told me that there were racial slurs being shouted and that he was actually told to go into MSU to attack people there. That confirmed my suspicions. MSU is predominantly African American and I assumed that they would all be considered Obama sympathizers. It was then when I decided that I didn't even want to be anywhere near the campus because I felt like the campus was at the brink of utter chaos. I feared for my safety and we unanimously decided that we should leave, and we did. We didn't return for about 30 minutes or so and by that time everything had cooled down.

However, to be completely honest, that situation didn't surprise me at all. Friends of mine, myself, and a great deal of people at MSU felt like something like this was going to happen if Obama was re-elected. We all saw it coming. Actually, I thought it was going to be far worse than it was. In the case of racially charged incidents on this campus, I can't say that I'll ever be surprised about them. I think it's sad, however, that it feels like there's nothing I can do to prevent these sorts of things from happening even though I know that they WILL eventually happen at some time, some place, to some person. 
Davonte, it makes me sad that you weren't surprised, because that means, as you suggested, you were expecting it. This sort of racially charge hate (or hate of any kind, for that matter) shouldn't be something that we just expect and accept as a sort of inevitability. Instead, we should be able to feel safe at this school. We should be able to feel welcome and appreciated.

In conclusion here, I want to ask a very simple sort of question that attributes to a huge worry that I have: Why couldn't these guys reach campus security? Why wasn't campus security on the circle? If students like Davonte could predict that something like this would happen, why wasn't Campus Security worried, as well? I know that neither Kiel nor Bluefield blame Campus Security for being unreachable, but I kinda want to. What the hell? I have personally never seen Campus Security do anything. Sure, I'll see them patrol around a bit, and occasionally pull someone over, but I've never seen or heard of them dealing with these really big matters, or even being prepared to deal with them. I have tried in the past on multiple occasions to reach campus security to no avail. Incidents that happened in my first year here might've been avoided, had they answered, but no. Do you know what I want? Campus Security. We do not have Campus Security. We have a group of officers ready to serve as campus police, but we do not have a force prepared to offer any sort of support and security to this school. The guys at MSU should not have had to deal with the incident from last Tuesday. Students should not be so frightened that they have to leave campus. Hell, I should be able to walk around campus with my boyfriend without the fear that one of us will be hurt by a drunken bigot! Yes, education could help prevent some of these problems from happening, but it wont stop them all. What we really need is a force to help protect us when they do, inevitably, occur.

I know that I said I was concluding, but I do have one more thing to say that just came up. Prompted by the posting on the Hampden-Sydney College page on Facebook of the college's official statement, students, alumni, and others have shared their opinions of matters involving the event, as well as other concerns that they have. One that bothered me, specifically, is the suggestion that MSU "is apparently a place for racial segregation." MSU is not a place of segregation. In fact:
The MSU was established to educate as well as make the Hampden-Sydney community aware of different cultures and backgrounds that exist on campus. Moreover, this organization provides its members with an environment to express views and concerns that are unique to minorities. Although we are officially a club, our organization more closely resembles a fraternity. This organization is open to any and every person on campus who would either like to promote diversity on campus or be a part of a close-knit family. (Taken from the HSC Website).
MSU provides a home to anyone who finds themselves a part of a minority at Hampden-Sydney, and even opens it's arms to people who would defend and support diversity at an otherwise non-diverse college. I could, if I wanted, join MSU as a gay man, even though I'm white. I'm pretty sure there's even a white student living in the MSU house this semester. Anyway, my point is, it is not for segregational purposes.

Another thing that bothers me is this comment:

 "Why is this on Facebook? Shouldn't this be dealt with internally in private?? Poor taste putting this out there........"

NO! THIS IS EXACTLY MY POINT! This is the whole point of this blog, too! HSC tries to handle too many things internally, and cover up when this type of bad thing happens. But the school should be embarrassed. We should all be embarrassed. It was that single group of students that did the deed, but by covering things up and not exposing this type of hate--by not accepting responsibility for the wrongs done at this school--we are all individually to blame for this act of hatred. Several people on the page have also expressed their concerns about the post even being put on the Facebook group. "It might hurt our recruitment efforts" seems to be the concern for these people. ARE YOU F***ING SERIOUS!?! If this type of BS is going on at this school, recruitment efforts should be hurt. Especially if your concern is for recruitment of new students, and not for the safety of students who already attend. /sarcasm It's great to know that the school cares about the students until they get here, and then we don't! /end sarcasm.

Another point: I know that there is concern that not all sides of the story are being told. Surely MSU prompted this attack? From reports that I have heard, yes, MSU was there, celebrating Obama's victory. They were just as much within their right to do this as members of KA or others were to express their disappointment at Romney's defeat. To an extent, it is okay with MSU to have taken bragging rights, and rubbed it in the faces of Romney supporters. Even though it's immature, I hear that that is actually part of what happened. That being said, MSU was not throwing glass bottles at anyone. They were not aggressively shouting messages of hate or launching fireworks at anyone or near anything that could burn. I am saddened to see that people have begun to victim-blame MSU. The members of this mob--this riot, even--are the ones responsible for this. Even if MSU "instigated" anything with their celebration (and I don't believe that they really did), they are the victims of this event, not the perpetrators.

This discussion is still on-going, and I simply don't have time to read all of it (I am a student, after all. I have homework), so I am going to end this article here, with a quick reminder: If you would like to add anything to this article, email me at

Stay Strong, readers. There is hope for the future of Hampden-Sydney. I used to think that this school would be better served as a crater with a monument in the center, but I have grown to believe that there is a chance that this wretched wasteland of a college can grow and return out of the past and into the present.

This is Walter McCoy, Class of 2013, signing off!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The "Expression of Intolerance"


At 1:47 pm on Saturday, September 29th, I received an email addressed to [H-SC Students] with the subject line "Expression of intolerance." I hope that most of you read this email as well, but I can't help but wonder how much thought anyone put into it. I know that, as a senior, I've received a couple emails like this in the past. Unfortunately, intolerance just keeps happening. For those of you who haven't read or seen the email, I will copy it here for you:

I am sorry to report to you that last night someone left an expression of intolerance on the wall of the large bathroom in Venable. To the person(s) responsible, please know that the entire Hampden Sydney College community condemns your behavior. That is not how we choose to live here. I have removed the expression and Buildings and &Grounds personnel have been asked to clean the rest of the bathroom.
We are all diminished by this behavior. Let us strive to be better.
If anyone has information about this act, please let me know.
David Klein"

A couple of things bother me about this email. First, I'm disappointed by the action that caused this email to be sent out in the first place. That should probably go without saying. The part that bothered  me a bit more, though, is how incredibly vague the email was. Not only do I not know what the message actually was, but I don't know who it was aimed at. My immediate first thought was that it was an anti-gay message. I was ready to condemn the students (yet again) for the intolerance I've experienced since I started this school. I was shocked to find out, though, that the message was actually one of racial intolerance. For some reason, I thought that the school was actually getting past this sort of hate and immaturity.

I was even more shocked to find out that a friend of mine--an African American friend, at that--was the first to report seeing the message. As soon as I found out that he was the one who found it, I asked him if I could interview him for this article. I'm pleased to say that he agreed, so I sent him some questions, and he gave me some responses. What follows, now, is my interview with Kerrington Shields, Class of 2014.
Walter: What were you doing the night you found the "message of intolerance"?
Kerrington:  I was watching a movie with my friend in Venable basement and I went to use the bathroom and saw it sprayed on the wall in shaving cream.
W: What was your first thought when you found it? What did it say? 
K: I was upset when I found it. I like to think that this is an accepting community in which I could feel comfortable, but when I saw "F*** N******" on the wall I was disconcerted to say the least.
W: Did it surprise or shock you to find the message?
K: I'm not necessarily surprised that there are people with racist sentiments in our community, but I am surprised that somebody felt comfortable enough to do that. I don't want to walk past someone on campus and have to wonder whether or not that particular person condones such behavior. It significantly damages one's sense of community. My greatest feeling was disappointment; we are Hampden-Sydney brothers and something like this should never happen again.
W: What did you do after you found the message?
K: I didn't really know what to do at the time. It ruined my night. I went back and showed my friend a picture of it and then told him that I had to go back to my dorm. I took the expression personally even though it wasn't meant specifically for me; but that's the thing about racism and intolerance, it ignores the merits of every individual and insults them for no reason.
W: Is this the first time you have experienced this type of intolerance on campus?
K: I'd heard plenty of stories from my friends about racism on this campus, but I always tried to shut it out of my mind. What I saw written on that bathroom wall that night made it nearly impossible to do that anymore. It was the first explicitly racist encounter that I've had on this campus.
W: I've personally been on the receiving end of hate enough here at H-SC. Plenty of name calling (Fag and gay and such). Do you ever experience discrimination from classmates or from anyone on campus (even in small doses)?
K: There's nothing concrete that I'd dealt with prior to this occurrence. I received an email last year about an expression of intolerance, but I couldn't really understand the gravity of such an 'expression' until I was confronted with one.
W: How did you feel about Dean Klein's address to campus? Was it adequate in dealing with the situation?
K: I think it was adequate, however I think it would help if the email specified the type of intolerance (racial, homophobic, etc.). In fact, the email should simply say that there was a 'racist expression' or a 'homophobic expression.' I also believe that occurrences such as these should be mentioned in the newspaper every time that they occur.
W: Do you feel like the administration takes these matters seriously enough?
K: I've no idea how the administration handles this type of situation so I can't really say. I just hope that they get the word out about these kinds of things. It doesn't seem to me that many people on this campus knew anything about this incident. Problems like this don't just go away; they must be confronted.
W: I was told you took a picture of the message. Would you like the photo to appear on my blog?
K: I'll email you the picture; you can use it if you want to.
W: Do you have anything else you might like to add or say about this matter?
K: First, I'd like to thank my friends for the support that they gave me during this time; it's not something that I received a lot of in high school. This is a great community and I am proud to be a Hampden-Sydney man. As a Christian, I'd like to say to whoever did this that I forgive him and hope that he repudiates the pernicious and offensive words that he wrote on that wall. It took me two days to be able to say that; I am still in the process of moving on.

Thank you so much Kerrington, for helping me get this out there. You said a lot of really powerful things that I'd like to draw special attention to.

"Problems like this don't just go away; they must be confronted" 
"I couldn't really understand the gravity of such an 'expression' until I was confronted with one"
"that's the thing about racism and intolerance, it ignores the merits of every individual and insults them for no reason."
"It would help if the email specified the type of intolerance"
"It significantly damages one's sense of community"
"It ruined my night"

Hampden-Sydney brags about the sense of community that we build here, but it is exactly times like these that make me doubt the validity of a "Hampden-Sydney Brotherhood." I like to believe that the community we are trying to build here can work, but there are certain problems that seriously need to be corrected. As Kerrington said, we need to confront these issues. WE can't just pussy-foot around them with vague emails that say "an expression of intolerance" was found on campus. I understand that, to the majority of campus, this isn't going to seem like a big deal, but what if it was you? What if it was your night that was ruined? What if it was you who felt personally victimized by another student? If we are to be a true brotherhood, then we need to consider the position of our brothers and feel empathy for one another. When a problem like this affects one of us, or a part of us, if should affect all of us. This "expression" not only makes the express-er look bad, but it also reflects negatively on the entire campus, the entire brotherhood, and the entire idea of Hampden-Sydney College.

In closing, I'd like to just say a couple more things. Firstly, I have decided against posting the picture that Kerrington sent me. We know now what the message said, but seeing it myself made me feel pretty pissed, myself. Now maybe I'm wrong in withholding it, but I just cannot bring myself to post it right now. Secondly, to the author of the "expression of intolerance"-- You should be ashamed. Seriously. I hope that you get a chance to read this. I hope that you get a chance to see that you've hurt a brother. I hope that you get the chance to see that you've hurt a brother who is such a good person that he is willing to forgive you, even if I don't personally think you deserve it. Finally, I hope that you grow up. I hope that during your time here you might develop into a better person. I hope that you learn.

Thank you all for reading. I appreciate it, and I'm sure that Kerrington does, as well.

--Your Editor, Walter McCoy

Friday, September 7, 2012

My musings on C-Day

Dear Sweet, Beautiful, Patient, Readers,

I've had several of you ask me when I'm going to be posting my perspective of C-Day. I do realize that C-Day was on Tuesday, and it is already Friday afternoon as I type this, but the truth of the matter is this: I could not write a response so soon. Why, you might ask?

Simple: C-Day was a disaster, a clusterfuck, and a complete waste of time.

The reason I didn't write this article on Tuesday is because it would have literally been that last sentence repeated over and over again. By the end of Tuesday, September 4th, I was in a bad state. I had spent the day trying so hard to believe it was all going to be okay, only for it to collapse into awfulness.

I'm feeling a bit more collected now, though. I've had time to regain my senses, think, and review the day for what it was. That being said, I still feel about the same, but now I believe I can manage to put it into words that can be spoken in front of impressionable children or in polite society.

A quick warning: My experience is limited to what I personally did during the day, so I can't say that I speak for everyone. Of course, when have I ever spoken for everyone? Regardless, I'll break up my analysis based on the events as they happened for me.

The day started out with me waking up way too early. I had the strangest dream that I had received an important memo via email about the procedure for seniors that were walking during convo. Oh wait, that was no dream: I had received an email about 2 weeks ago. Of course, I forgot, so I rushed and showed up--I thought--about 20 minutes late. As it should so happen, though, I wasn't the only one who forgot the memo. Most of the guys I talked to had either "not received an memo" or forgot it themselves.

Convocation went well enough. It was hot, Dr. Howard opened the speeches by proclaiming that God must, in fact, be a Tiger. *holds for snickers*  I couldn't help but notice the lack of sophomores and juniors at the events, but hey, who can blame them?

Despite my complete cynicism, though, some of the speeches (particularly the student speeches) were actually pretty good. My favorite part (and please forgive my memory, but I can't recall the student the said it), was when the honor code was applied to the individual: The idea there is that each of us should never lie to ourselves, never cheat ourselves of possibilities, and never steal from....ourselves. I gotta say, I was moved, and spent the next few minutes wondering why I was still attending HSC. Have I been lying to myself? The truth is, yes. I do lie to myself, frequently, but I do it to survive. I pretend like everything is peachy and that people are capable of change, and not really worthy of the contempt I often have for them, but unfortunately, It's not all peachy, and people can be pretty damn awful.

Of course, I'm not leaving this place. Screw that. I've only got the one year left here, and then I'm off to brighter horizons!

Class Speaker
This is where the day took a nose dive straight into the heart of the shit-storm. I have to say, I did not think too strongly of Mr. Thaddeus R. Shelly III of the class of 1975. His discussion on prostitution and pimping--I mean Marketing Myself When My Product is Me-- was filled with the same type of useless drivel that I've been hearing about since my first year in high school about the interviewing process. Quite unfortunately, this was the only part of the presentation that I thought might be useful to an average human. Even that would've been fine, though, if it weren't for the 40 minutes of the presentation that were spent self-glorifying himself and insulting the audience. Naturally, since Mr. Shelly (I'll break here to mention that rule number one is that you are absolutely forbidden to call Mr. Shelly anything but Mr. Shelly unless he invites you to do so.) Since Mr. Shelly is the CEO of Lazard Wealth Management, it is only natural that he would be talking about the business world. Unfortunately, Not only is HSC not a business school, but a lot of the people around me had no intention of entering said business world. For that reason, the message was pretty much lost on me.

To make matters worse, though, I actually paid attention to his one-sided discussion. Aside from my horror at the poor images in his power point (C is for Crappy ClipArt!), I also became subject to his criticism of the capacity of any individual to succeed on his own. "None of you will ever succeed in life if you do not talk to me first." That's the message that I took away from his speech. Now, I do not personally know Mr. Shelly, and I'm sure that he is a decent human being who is only looking out for his fellow man. I'm sure he wants everyone to be able to get jobs---oh wait...what? Oh. He's thoroughly supports outsourcing his jobs? Oh....that's fine too. So even if we do come talk to you, we wont get no...that's fine. We'll manage. . .

I almost walked out of this event. it was a waste of my time and patience. From what I hear, I wasn't the only person who felt this way. Now, I don't have any pure evidence aside from trusted witness testimonials, but I hear that the Junior Class Speaker, a Mr. Joe Ehrmann, was able to get away with saying the only purpose that women serve at Hampden-Sydney College is to be subservient to the men. I really hope that this was misinterpreted, but I wouldn't be surprised if this type of misogynistic statement was endorsed by the school. It wouldn't be the first time. (Also, I have more on that topic later. That has to be an entire post itself).

Community Lunch
..was exactly like lunch on any other day of the week, with only a couple notable differences. The main difference is that, as I walked down the stairs into the commons, I was oddly reminded of Attack of the Clones: everywhere I looked, there were white-shirted clone-spawns mulling about. Despite my horror at the blatant violation of the "No white after Labor Day" law, I was able to get over the fact that every freshman was dressed the same by rationalizing it: C-Day is all about Conformity, so obviously they should all be dressed the same. We need to Celebrate (one of the "C-Themes") our most diverse class ever by making them all look alike!

The food was good, though, and I really can't complain about anything aside from the creepy freshman cultists and the over crowded room (C is for Creepy, Cults, and Crowds).

I worked really hard to get my presentation for my quest station together. Dr. Weese, though, worked even harder. I was really excited for what we had going: we were both presenting on film. Dr. Weese was looking at cinematic techniques, and I would be analyzing film as a literary text. We were all set to go and excited to see some students. And so we waited.

and waited.

and waited some more.

Eventually a group of five students showed up: friends of mine that I'd asked to come see our presentation. I'm thankful for them coming to see it, but unfortunately it didn't really improve my mood. I had stressed myself out to prepared for C-Day, and for no end.

Now, from what I hear, other booths got some attention. I attribute our failure to our location at the top of Winston. Students can't be bothered to go upstairs, anyway.

At least I managed to complete my honors proposal during all of the downtime. I just wish all of our hard work hadn't gone to waste. . .

Club Fair/ Community Dinner
Every year during Freshman Orientation there is a Pig-On-The-Point dinner where the clubs get to set up tables to promote themselves, and the community gets to enjoy a pork dinner outside. This year, because the school was afraid of the rain that never came, the event was moved indoors. SO every club at HSC was forced to cram into the cramped space upstairs in Settle Hall. Although both of my club tables received a lot of signatures, the event gave me a tremendous headache. One couldn't hear in there, especially over the raffle announcements that were being projected every five minutes or so. Also, I never got to enter the raffle. The hell is up with that? Oh well. Life (HSC) isn't always (ever) fair.

My day ended at the dinner. I had a serious need to escape back to my room. I know plenty of people took the day off to stay in their rooms, and I wish now that I had done the same.

A short note on the "C-Themes" and I'll wrap this up, I promise.

Convocation: We did, indeed, come together to celebrate achievement, but my "communal bond" to this hell hole is weaker now that ever before, and I have absolutely no desire to "Reaffirm" (or just "affirm") a "commitment to the Hampden-Sydney mission".

Calling: I have yet to hear of anyone taking any of that introspection stuff seriously. I tried--didn't work. I think the best display of students considering their "interests, skills, and passions" were those students who stayed in their rooms playing Call of Duty all day.

Career: I noticed that the Tiger tracks sessions seemed a bit more involved that the Quest Stations, so taht's a positive note. And by working on my honors proposal, I was certainly able to work on my Career as a student.

Community: I think the Freshman service projects would've been a lot better if they had bright orange shirts instead of those white things. Then they would've looked like they felt: prisoners.  I talked to ten different freshmen about that part of the day, and they all agreed to skip the projects. "Why would you skip, though? Surely you'd like to help your community, right?" The answers I got varied between "I just got here. It's not my community yet," and my favorite: "I care, but I refuse to be forced to volunteer. If I volunteer, it will be on my terms, not the institution's."

Ceremony: I must have failed to recognize the importance of formal events. Maybe sweating in my graduation robes for a non-graduation purpose was discouraging me.

Celebration: I celebrated the end of the day, does that count?

Thus ends my rant on C-Day. My personal advice: don't waste your time with this next year. Seriously. I don't think it helped. For me, in particular, it actually hurt the way I feel about this school. Plus, I didn't win an iPad (not that I really expected to.) Thanks for reading!

--Your Editor (who is finally relieved to have this all off his chest)
-Walter McCoy

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pre-C-Day Sentiments

Good Morning, Readers.

It is about midnight the morning before Hampden-Sydney C-Day. I'm writing to let you know that no matter what my sentiments after C-Day, I will be writing an honest review of the day. My current sentiments, however, are what keep me awake now. I felt that it would be best to allow the reader the advantage of knowing how I feel about "C-Day" before hand, just so you will all know my expectations going into this ordeal.

First of all, I hate the idea. I think it's rubbish. 90% of the campus doesn't even know what it is even about, and I don't think anyone has really tried very hard to explain it. So poor planning is my first expectation.

Secondly, I don't like the idea of listening to some CEO alumni preach to me about prostitution, or pimping, or whatever "Marketing Myself When My Product Is Me" is supposed to mean. If there were more options, then fine, but God forbid I listen to drivel of this kind for an hour (at least it is only supposed to be an hour.

Complaint three: despite the attempt to bring the community together, the C-Day program hypocritically separates the four classes as though we are not all brothers here at HSC (not that I believe students act like it, but still....IDEAS!). I am a senior this year and I have had three previous years of engagement with my fellow classmates to know that I really don't care to know too many more of them. The majority of the good-natured friends that I have made here are currently Juniors and Sophomores, all of whom intend to skip C-Day. If we're striving for community, can we please try to make it the whole community?

I have many other complaints, but I have to wake up early so I can walk to the complete opposite side of campus and wear a robe in front of a bunch of people who also don't want to be there. I will leave this last note, though: I am really hopeful that my opinion will be changed. C-Day has the express potential to actually be a really great event and I fully intend to go forth with a positive, optimistic attitude. If my hopes are dashed, then expect to hear as much on the next post. If those hopes, however, prove valid, then expect to read a note that expresses not my complete cynicism toward HSC life, but instead a message saying "Good Job, Chris Howard. Good Job, HSC. Kudos!"

Good Night and good reading, my friends.

--Your Editor.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

To the new Dining Hall

Hello readers.

Many of you, I'm sure, have had a chance to eat at the dining hall at least once this year.
--and by eat in the dining hall, I really mean stand in line.

Today, unfortunately, was a bit of a --pardon the phrase--clusterfuck of ill planning. Particularly during the 12:30pm  lunch period. I will optimistically assume that it was just because they were unaware of what a crowd it would be, but let's get serious: MWF lunches at that time have been overcrowded for years.

Well, anyway, rather than waiting for changes to be made without any of my input, I decided to give some feedback to the dining hall. I really hope they don't hate me for it, but if they do, then hey: that's my life.

Here's the letter I wrote. I figured some of my readers might enjoy it.
"This is my fourth year at HSC, so I've had plenty experience with the dining hall under the dark reign of Aramark. I was pleased to learn that my senior year would be ruled over by a new service, and looked forward to this prospect. My first few days back, too, before classes started, I was pleased with what I saw: Fresh, tasty food (food which actually looked like food), a clean tasteful atmosphere, and attractive presentation. 

I was a bit skeptical, though. Despite how much I enjoyed those first couple of days, I had a horrible suspicion dwelling in the pit of my stomach--I quickly realized that all of these attractive features of a dining hall came at a price: speed. In olden days, all that was required was a quick plate-bun-patty-bun-fries maneuver to get food out to the waiting students. Now, however, it seems like the food has yet to be cooked, and THEN must be plated neatly and fashionably in a paper-lined basket before it can be placed under the heat lamps for the students to grab.

Now, I appreciate that you at least appear to care about what food is being served to us students, but I find myself in a bind. I am a very busy student (it IS my senior year, after all), and I am on a tight schedule. While I was in the dining hall today, I waited ten minutes before any food even appeared at the grill station (only one of the stations plagued by this catastrophe), and when this basket of food was taken, it was a good five minutes more before another basket showed up. Since I was in a rush, I just grabbed some pizza, ate it, and left. This tiny meal is not really enough to feed me on a good day, and it has not been a good day. 

My feedback, then, is this: please do not sacrifice speed for presentation. Our HSC dining hall isn't really a restaurant and has never been the greatest food on the planet, but at least it has fed us with time to spare so that we may continue on our way. I have high hopes that service will improve as time progresses, but I felt the need to say something now, anyway. Just keep in mind that great food and great presentation mean nothing to us if we are not able to obtain the food due to long lines.

I really do appreciate everything, though, and hope that my feedback doesn't seem too negative.

Here's hoping for a great year, 
Walter McCoy, Class of 2013"

I just sent this off, so hopefully we'll see some changes soon. In the meantime, if you feel as passionately as I do about not  dying of starvation, feel free to send the dining hall some feedback about their performance! CLICK HERE to do so.

Stay Strong, readers!
--Your Editor

So, recently my blog was linked to on a Fox News article titled "Worst colleges for foodies." I'm not terribly bothered by the fact that they linked to my material without considering asking me about the article or whatever, but I am a bit perturbed at the way they paint the picture. Fox News based their ratings on the Princeton Review (without actually linking a source, mind you), which was published in August. According to Fox News, the Princeton Review ranked Hampden-Sydney the #4 worst college for food in the country. What Fox News didn't mention or point out, though, is that the Princeton Review published in August was a review of last year's dining service. While their article does point out that we changed from Aramark to Thompson Hospitality, they never once make a point to acknowledge that the review does not speak for this year's food service quality.

That being said, the article drew a LOT of attention to my blog (over 500 hits in a single day!). Unfortunately, this commotion also started on the same day where I posted an article about the recent hate crime on campus, an article which, sadly, isn't being read nearly as much as this unimportant one about food. Additionally, the publicity reflected negatively on the dining hall itself, and to the people running it. I personally feel at fault, too, for having not updated this article at all.

Anyway, the day this all started, I got a text message from Darryl Rudge, the director of Thompson Hospitality. He asked if he could speak with me about my dining experience during the year. Of course, I immediately felt guilty--the only reason he would think to contact me is if he had read my article. Well I spoke with him, and we had a good conversation about the things that I thought were really done well. I also told him that I was planning to update this entry (which I am doing now).

The point of this update, then, is really to provide an update of how I have experienced the changes in the food service. Since I wrote the last article, my main complaint (the long lines) has essentially vanished. I hardly ever end up waiting in lines anymore. Additionally, they've managed to cut the time waiting in lines without sacrificing the presentability of the food. The food is well cooked, looks great, tastes fantastic, and is something that I would gladly wait for if I even still had to wait for it. The staff is great, and I actually enjoy eating in there now (something I couldn't really say about Aramark).

Mr. Rudge also seemed really interested about what I had to say about how the service compared to the service under what I referred to as the "Dark Reign of Aramark." I told him that Aramark had a very assembly-line approach to service: the food was in "buckets", (which was really the only word I could come up with), the staff was often disinterested and unfriendly (with some exceptions, of course), and food was rarely palatable. Since Thompson Hospitality took over, I can't even imagine referring to the dining hall as "The Moans" anymore.

To conclude, I just want to make it clear that the dining service this year is actually rather fantastic, and I think Fox News is less so. Thanks for reading!!

--Your Editor.