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Saint Mary’s launches new payroll system for student workers

This semester, Saint Mary’s introduced a new payroll system for student employees. The new system, Oracle, replaced the Banner system which the College has been using since 1999. 

This system change comes after several student employees had issues last semester with not receiving their wages. Morgan Martin is a resident assistant and hall director assistant in Le Mans Hall and she did not receive payment for either of her jobs until late in the last semester. 

“So as paychecks were going through, I just wasn’t getting paid anything. So I contacted payroll about it.” Martin said after she spoke to payroll it was supposedly fixed but she had to wait a month until her next paycheck and when it was supposed to come, she still didn’t receive anything.

“Eventually I just went into payroll and talked to a lady and she was very nice about it and very understanding,” she said. Martin said that the payroll employee helping her just seemed to hit a button and it was fixed, a seemingly too simple fix after months of issues. 

While she did eventually get paid, this had happened to her the year before as well. “This was an issue the year before too. I didn’t get paid until March last spring,” she said. Martin joked that there must be something wrong with her and her account but this has happened to other resident assistants as well. 

Chief information officer Todd Norris explained that issues like these will become a rarity with Oracle in place.

“Oracle provides some automation and data transfer automation that allows for the process from once the time has been approved until the money arrives in your account,” he said.  

However, Norris also said that this transition was in the works before these problems arose last semester.

“The reason for making the change has to do with modernizing the campus,” he said. “While the Banner system was great in 1999 and has made many improvements over the years, it maybe didn’t keep pace with what we’d hoped and expected.” 

Norris continued to highlight features of Oracle that students can be excited to see, including a mobile app expected to be launched within the coming weeks.

“The Oracle app will allow students to be able to clock in and out from their jobs using an app on their phone instead of logging onto a computer,” Norris said. 

Oracle was chosen over other similar systems for several reasons, one being its security. “The enhanced security that Oracle provides made it our number one,” Norris said. “From my perspective, I will say as the chief information officer who is primarily tasked with information security, that the security of the Oracle network is world-class.” 

The system as a whole was also considered, as the payroll change is one of three modules that the College plans to switch to Oracle within the next few years. The recently active module is called Human Capital Management (HCM). 

June 1st will mark the launch of a finance module called ERP. Norris said that students will not engage with that as much as the recent one that involves the payroll switchover.

The final module is still up in the air as a contract has not yet been signed. The last module would be a student information system, housing things such as class schedules and times, transcripts and registration. Norris said it could be compared to what PRISM does right now. “The timeline for the student information system is still a bit up in the air as it’s a product that’s still in development by Oracle,” Norris said. 

“I am watching the product very closely for features and functionality to make sure that it does what we need to do and that improvements are worth all the bother and expense.” 

Norris said if a contract is signed, it will still be another two years before the system would go live at Saint Mary’s. He predicts registration for the fall of 2025 as the earliest possible date students here could see this new system, but more realistically it will be seen fall of 2026. 

While as of right now, they have only seen one of a few changes to come, students seem to be somewhat unsure of the new payroll system. “It seems fine I guess. It’s just harder because you can’t go in and put in the time that you worked. You have to do it right then,” Martin said. 

Martin also talked about the inconvenience of putting in a time change if you clock in late or jobs like her Hall Director’s Assistant one where she does small tasks in her free time and now has to clock in and out for small chunks of time, instead of just being to compile it all as she did with the old Banner system. 

While hesitant, Martin is excited to learn the new system. “It’s just learning something new,” she said about navigating the new system.

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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College professor retires with Christmas cheer after 28 years of service

Marc Belanger has been an integral part of the Saint Mary’s College faculty for 28 years. Along with being the chair of the global studies department and teaching multiple political science classes, he has also assisted with the Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) program and Model United Nations (MUN). At the end of this academic year, Belanger will enter retirement. 

Belanger came to Saint Mary’s looking for ways to broaden its horizons, he said.

“I think my priority from early on has been things related to trying to diversify the curriculum and make this a more welcoming place for students of color,” Belanger noted.

Belanger reflected on the culture of Saint Mary’s and if it was something he wanted his own child to be a part of.

“My son is adopted from Guatemala, and while he would obviously never come to Saint Mary’s, I remember telling people early on if he was a girl, I wasn’t sure if the college would be the most welcoming place,” he said.  “The culture has changed for there to be a lot of different ways to be a Saint Mary’s woman.”

However, Belanger said since since starting as faculty in 1995, he believes progress has been made to include students of more races and identities. 

“When I first came here, the percentage of underrepresented groups was very low, below five percent,” he said. “It has gone up a great deal over the years and with that, the culture of the college has changed.”

Belanger, along with many other faculty and students, has worked over the years to help Saint Mary’s on its journey to becoming more diverse and inclusive. He has worked with the Student Diversity Board as well as in the global and intercultural studies programs to hear what students wanted to learn. 

Some such classes included Latin American Politics and Introduction to Cultural Studies, where students learn about privilege, identity and racism, Belanger explained.

“I taught it to introduce issues that my students had either never really thought about before or, if it was a part of their life, they perhaps didn’t have any concepts, categories, language to talk about it with other kids,” he said.

This past Saturday, a group of students got together to thank him for all he has done and send him toward retirement with Christmas cheer. Organized by sophomore Liliana Lomeli, a small group of SMC students visited Belanger’s house to sing Christmas carols. 

Lomeli said she was inspired by Belanger when she first came to Saint Mary’s as an intended global studies major.

“Just taking his classes and seeing his passion not only for Saint Mary’s students but the global community [inspired me],” she explained.

Sophomore Ana Baca also participated in caroling. She said she loved the idea of giving back to Belanger.

“He’s such a great professor. He really cares for students and does so much for the Saint Mary’s community,” she said.  

Baca explained that the group sang Christmas carols such as “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night” and more.

“It was an in the moment thing, we decided on the songs like 30 minutes before we arrived,” she said. “I’m not the best singer, but it was fun.”

Baca said she remembers having Belanger as a professor for the first time.

“He just wants to get to know you. I remember I asked a question, and you could tell he really just cared about his students,” she said.  

Mackenzie Bledsoe is a senior political science major who also participated in caroling on Saturday. She was happy to celebrate “one of her favorite advisors” in this way. Bledsoe has taken several classes with Belanger.

“He always encourages us to learn more and travel the world,” he said.  

Bledsoe was advised by Belagner as part of Model UN last fall. One of her favorite memories from the trip was him guiding her to the Bean.

“It was my first time in Chicago and I didn’t know where to go. Then he walked me to the Bean, because that’s where I was trying to get, too. I really appreciated that” she explained.

When Belanger leaves at the end of the school year, students said the College will lose a community member who changed many lives.

As Lomeli phrases it, “I’m glad to call him professor, but he has also been a great mentor in my life.” 

Belanger said he wishes his students nothing but the best in the future.

“You have no idea how smart you are, how capable you are,” he said. “You are capable of things beyond your imagination.”

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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College hosts 50th annual Madrigal Dinner

This year, Saint Mary’s celebrated the 50th year of a school holiday tradition, the Madrigal Dinner. Saint Mary’s department of music holds one of the longest-running Madrigal dinners, the oldest by a women’s choir. 

Nancy Menk, director of the Madrigal Dinner described the event as “a recreation of a feast in Renaissance England.” This year’s show followed the story of a lord and lady, whose daughter marries a kitchen servant. The lady was played by Susan Baxter, who also adapted the play. Richard Baxter played the lord of the house and also directed the actors. 

Beyond the acting, there was also a choir of Madrigal singers, made up of Saint Mary’s students. One such singer is Meghan Gould, a senior music education major who has been in the Madrigal choir for four years. 

“Through the music major, we have to be a part of an ensemble. I’m in the women’s choir and the Madrigal singers are selected from the women’s choir.”

Gould said she loves the period music sung throughout the dinner.

“I think my favorite part is the singing. That style of music is really fun to learn but also spending time with the choir outside choir time really builds lifelong relationships,” she said. “To make it seem more authentic, we sing period music from the Renaissance or that at least sounds like it was written in that time.” 

Andrea Lindback is a music education major who is also a singer with the Madrigal choir. She said the traditions behind the Madrigal Dinner make it so much fun to be a part of. 

“It has morphed into something specifically just Saint Mary’s which is really notable and I think just very historic and fun.”

Lindback also talked more about a behind-the-scenes tradition involving the head of the pig that is processed around the dining hall. 

“We usually prank people with the boar’s head. Last year, we hung it up in Dr. Menk’s office and put a dress in it,” she said.

Menk also reflected on the tradition. She has one photo with some old students on top of Haggar Hall with the pig’s head. She has also found it in her bathtub, and attached to her car with plastic wrap. 

The structure of the dinner is laid out by five fanfares with entertainment scattered throughout. The first was an entrance that gave a taste of all the different forms of entertainment as well as introduced the characters of the show. 

It was followed by the Heralding of the Wassail Bowl which signals the beginning of the meal with the appetizer. This year was a winter salad of apples, celery, and nuts. 

Then came the Heralding of the Boar’s Head and feast, where the pig’s head is processed around the room. The main course of roast beef, potatoes, and green beans began. 

After was the Heralding of the Figgy Pudding, which Saint Mary’s replaced with cheesecake due to the general lack of interest in figgy pudding.

 Finally, the Heralding of the Entertainment rounded out the experience with more music, dancing, and the resolution of the show. This year, this section featured a new piece Menk had commissioned for the 50th anniversary called “The Question Carol.”

At the event, two local jugglers performed an interactive show that included teaching members of the audience, juggling overhead and ended with them juggling swords. 

There was intermittent dancing from the Royal Court Dancers who are also Saint Mary’s students. Everyone was dressed in elaborate Renaissance costumes created by Melissa Bialko, another thing Menk says “makes it feel more authentic to the Renaissance.” 

Despite the large amount of work that goes into organizing and rehearsing the Madrigal Dinner, Lindback said “it benefits the students a lot with professional experience and benefits the community. It really is enjoyable.”

She and others hope Saint Mary’s will continue its run as the longest-running college Madrigal Dinner.

The Saint Mary’s Madrigal Dinner always takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets are open for purchase to anyone.

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu

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Saint Mary’s celebrates different cultures with ‘Arts Around the World’ talent show

On Thursday night, Saint Mary’s students and community members gathered in Haggar College Center for ‘Arts Around the World’, a talent show highlighting different cultures. The show was part of the week-long celebration for International Education Week. 

Spectators saw dancing, poetry, singing, folk tales and pieces of history from cultures across the globe. Most presenters were students of Saint Mary’s modern language classes, especially Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin. 

One such presenter was Mishelle Yepez who presented an original poem in both Spanish and English about being a Latinx in the United States.

“Social media creates such beauty standards for us. You have to fit into all these white standards” Yepez said.

She also talked about feeling the need to represent especially as a first-year student and first generation college student in a prominently white institution.

The show ended with a drum performance from professor Charles Lawrence of the Modern Languages department, who has 50+ years of percussion experience. Before he began, he asked the audience to think about the beats he would be playing and how they relate to other songs heard throughout the night. The similarities seen show that all cultures are connected, especially through music. 

Assistant professor in the Modern Languages department Marelys Valencia was key in organizing the event. Having just revived the event last year, Valencia jokingly referred to last year’s show as “the first episode of the second season, and now this year is the second episode.” 

However, Valencia also voiced a bit of disappointment at the turnout and her desire for a broader scope of both talents and represented cultures.

“I would like to see more cultural manifestations, artistic expressions.” She hopes to have more instruments and group performances in the future. 

Valencia also wants to get more involvement from the tri-campus community.

“We are trying to attract more students, not only from Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I mean, there are three campuses that can all be involved.”

This is related to the desire to get more diversity in the talents and languages seen.

“We want all the talents that are out there, and that represent different cultures and languages,” she said. Valencia also wants to see more faculty from other regions involved to better represent the amount of different world cultures. 

But the performers and audience didn’t seem as disappointed.

“I loved seeing all the dances and hearing the poems and songs. It was very interesting to learn about music I wasn’t familiar with,” sophomore Ruby Meza said, who presented a Chilean movie from her Spanish Conversation class.

Yepez echoes those thoughts.

“It was a good way to encapsulate intercultural education, especially different cultures I didn’t even know about,” she said. 

Valencia says that the talent show is hosted by the Modern Language department every November during International Education. While many of this year’s participants were from College language classes, it’s not a requirement.

“We want to make visible this international presence and anyone who wants to be involved can just email me,” she said. “If you have any talent, maybe you can present a piece from Italy or China or any country.”

The eventual dream in Valencia’s eyes is to have International representation more than once a year.

“I think that it should go beyond International Education Week, she said. “Maybe we will do some sort of festival in the spring.”

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu

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Saint Mary’s french club renewed with ‘Ballet and Beignets’ event

Wednesday night, the Saint Mary’s French Club hosted “Ballet and Beignets” to kick off the club’s renewal. After finally getting the club back in action after a couple years of trying, the event was meant to draw members with beginner-level ballet and a delicious treat.

“I think when you think of France, a lot of people think of ballet” as the reason they chose ballet. Additionally, it puts everyone on an even playing field.

“I think when you think of France, a lot of people think of ballet,” French club board member Jesse Miller said, adding that the beginning-level puts everyone on an even playing field. “We wanted something chill but also hands on, and I feel like none of us are experts in ballet.”

Miller also emphasized they hoped it would be something not as intimidating for people without a French background.

Co-president of Les Belles Françaises Chloe Westrate started the event with a brief presentation about the rich French history of ballet.

“Ballet is very tied to French history,” Westrate said. “The first ballet dancers were French aristocrats.”

She also led the class through some common ballet terms such as plie and battement, which are also French terms to further show the connections between the language and dance. 

Marie Claire Ferretti, a student of both French and dance, led the class. A beginner class in every sense, Ferretti began with stretches before moving on to basic feet and hand positions. Last, she taught basic movements such as plie and even threw in a few jumps before showing how a traditional ballet class ends. 

Afterwards, participants were rewarded with beignets.

“Beignets are French doughnuts basically,” Westrate explains. “They are especially popular in Louisiana. We want to spread awareness that French is spoken in places other than France.”

With beignets being popular in Louisiana, the club is relating French culture back home to the United States, she said.

Board members talked about how the club is open to everyone, hoping to attract francophones and enthusiasts alike.

“It’s open to anyone, regardless of if you’re in French or not or even if you speak the language,” Miller said.

The club says that now that they have had their kickoff event, there will start to be more meetings, which will entail learning about French culture through other fun activities such as movies. 

While they don’t have any future events planned right now, the club says to be on the lookout next semester, especially after the success of Ballet and Beignets.

“We are hoping to do more events highlighting French culture in countries other than France too,” Westrate said. 

There is also hope to incorporate specific Saint Mary’s history into future events.

“I think it’d be cool to dive more into the French history of Saint Mary’s,” Westrate said. “The Sisters of Holy Cross who founded Saint Mary’s are a French order of nuns. All of Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame started in Le Mans, France.” 

Saint Mary’s students can find and join French Club on BelleTower and anyone can find them on Instagram @smcbellesfrancaises

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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College president and faculty discuss violence prevention and advocacy

Editor’s Note: This story contains mentions of sexual violence. A list of sexual assault reporting options and on-campus resources can be found on the Notre DameSaint Mary’s and Holy Cross websites.

On Monday night, the Saint Mary’s College community continued its ongoing discussion of sexual assault, violence prevention and advocacy with a panel of faculty for a question and answer session.

During the event, panelists included College President Katie Conboy, Liz Baumann, Iesha Miller, Sarah Granger, Kris Urschel and Phil Bambenek.

Megan Zwart, an associate professor and chair of the philosophy department, began the event with a discussion about productive dialogue. She explained this may be an emotional event for those involved but that “emotion helps us understand what matters to us.”

Zwart also emphasized that the purpose of this event and something to think about was “listening to understand rather than reply.”

Next, Kris Urschel, the director of Human Resources (HR) and Title IX coordinator at Saint Mary’s, gave a brief speech about the process of Title IX reporting.

“A big part of Title IX is the empowerment of the individual,” said said.

Urschel explained the different types of reporting, such as a formal report where an investigation and hearing are pursued. She also explained that whether an individual files a Title IX complaint at Saint Mary’s, University of Notre Dame or Holy Cross College, the Saint Mary’s Title IX office can still give help and support.

“In Title IX, we believe our students. It’s not my role to investigate, it is my job to believe students,” she noted.

Kris Urshel speaks on Title IX reporting at the College during an event on Monday night surrounding sexual assault and violence prevention.
Credit: Katelyn Waldschmidt / The Observer

After Urshel’s commentary, the panel was opened to a question and answer session, with questions from both the audience and anonymous text messages. A wide variety of questions were asked, one of the first being about health options offered for victims of assault.

Sarah Granger, the director of Health & Counseling Center at Saint Mary’s, talked about how the center offers STD testing to all students. Director of the Office of Student Involvement & Advocacy (OSIA), Liz Baumann added that the Family Justice Center is available for needs that students feel Saint Mary’s may fall short of.

The Family Justice Center is a help center for victims of most types of abuse and has a 24/7 hotline specific to St. Joesph County. They can offer assistance such as trained advocates or transportation to hospitals. 

Phil Bambenek, director of campus safety, touched on some physical aspects of student safety. He discussed tentative plans on including more card readers to help limit access to outsiders.

Additionally, he explained that while residence halls are not monitored for student privacy, entrances and exits are heavily monitored. He emphasized the importance of reporting, saying “We respond to all complaints” and “If someone calls, we go and investigate.” 

The idea that the faculty cannot offer help in circumstances that they are not aware of was brought up by multiple panelists throughout the night.

Many audience members spoke up about various issues they were concerned about, but panelists continued throughout encouraging students to report instances of harassment and abuse.

The discussion also touched on what options there are for students who are willing to come forward to help remove their abuser from their life and campus. Bambenek said that no trespassing orders are available for if the perpetrator has no reason to be on Saint Mary’s campus grounds and that the Title IX office assists student with that type of request.

The night ended with a thank you from the two clubs sponsoring the event, Belles Supporting Belles and Student Government Association (SGA).

Contact Katelyn at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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Saint Mary’s student speaks about internship at border as part of ‘I Stand with Immigrants’ initiative

This week, Saint Mary’s hosted multiple events as part of its ‘I Stand with Immigrants’ initiative, designed to commemorate immigrants who have traveled to the United States. Two events were hosted in Rice Commons on Tuesday ahead of the nationwide Day of Action for Immigrants on Wednesday.

The Office for Common Good, the Office of Inclusion and Equity and La Fuerza, a club dedicated to promoting Hispanic and Latino diversity at Saint Mary’s, sponsored the events.

La Fuerza president Jackie Junco said the club was happy to participate in the I stand with Immigrants festivities. 

“A lot of our students who come here are first-generation and coming from migrant families. I think it is important that we highlight not only the students but their families and their courage to come here and do the hard work,” Junco said.

Tuesday’s events fell on the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. Junco said the two events are related because a lot of immigrants may not have the means to survive their journey to the U.S.

“We wanted to combine this with the holiday because a lot of immigrants don’t have the means to survive their journey. I think it’s important to see this is not just to come here for no reason but it is also very dangerous and takes a lot of valor,” she said.

The first event involved decorating sugar skulls and making paper cempasúchils, a marigold flower commonly used in Day of the Dead celebrations. Sophomore Liliana Lomeli then spoke about her summer internship working as a Borderlands ambassador with the Border Community Alliance organization at the U.S. and Mexico border. 

“My purpose in life personally is I want to positively impact anyone around me,” Lomeli said. “I knew immigration, especially with my family’s history, was something I wanted to focus on.” 

Lomeli’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 14 years old. 

During her presentation, Lomeli talked about her duties as an ambassador, which included traveling into the desert to drop supplies for crossing migrants.

“We would do water drops, just leaving water in the desert for migrants who do need to cross,” she said.

Lomeli said she draws on her memory of hiking in the Sonoran Desert, one of the hottest deserts in North America, to try to connect with the struggle migrants go through during their migration. 

Lomeli then discussed Title 42, a rule that allows the U.S. to prevent migrants from seeking asylum at the border as a means of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Title 42 has virtually forced migrants who are seeking safety and security to resort to cross illegally,” she said. “We see migrants that were being dropped off in bus loads at the border with no shoes, none of the items they crossed with.”

Lomeli ended her presentation by asking everyone to think about how the struggles of immigrants do not end when they reach the U.S. 

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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Author Ashley C. Ford speaks at Saint Mary’s College

New York Times best-selling author Ashley Ford visited Saint Mary’s Thursday night for a reading of her memoir “Somebody’s Daughter,” followed by a Q&A session. In 2021, Ford published a full-length memoir about her childhood and the struggles she faced due to poverty, racism and assault. 

Ford’s visit was the first of this year’s Visiting Writers Series, sponsored by the English Department to bring in published authors for students to interact with and ask questions.

Program Director Rebecca Lehmann said they chose Ashley Ford because “she is a great model of how to write a full-length memoir, how to go from writing individual essays to writing a much longer piece.”

Ford was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “She is a nice model of somebody from a local area that’s gone on to make a bigger splash,” Lehmann said.

The Visiting Writers Series partnered with other departments on this presentation, as Ford deals with topics that span many disciplines. Lehmann led the efforts to bring Ford to Saint Mary’s with Dr. Jamie Wagman, chair of gender and women’s studies, as Ford’s work, especially “Somebody’s Daughter,” deals with her struggles with womanhood and puberty. 

Ford also writes about incarceration, as her father was in prison most of her life. Because of this, Lehmann and Wagman asked the department of justice studies to co-sponsor.

Ford started off the night by reading the second chapter of her memoir. She explained that she picked this part to read because she felt that “it gives the best idea of how the book is going to go.”

The chapter dealt with her early childhood, immediately introducing themes of neglect and abuse. Ford told readers, “If you get through here, you’ll like the rest!” 

After the reading, Ford fielded questions from the audience. Ranging from the experiences that led to her writing to her writing process itself, Ford answered all questions with a smile, not shying away from inquiries about her traumatic childhood. She talked largely about her family, as her memoir relives her neglectful and abusive childhood. 

“I love my mom, but it is complicated,” Ford said, discussing how an integral part of her writing process was realizing she wasn’t a bad person. Ford admitted that there was never a “real risk of losing anything” with her mom because they were never close. 

Ford also said that she had a family reunion a month after “Somebody’s Daughter” was published and her family was accepting of her memoir. In fact, they were more concerned with whether she was friends with Oprah.

Because of her openness about her past and willingness to answer all questions, her presentation was warmly received.

“I loved it,” said senior Lexi Kilcoin. “I love how she talked through her trauma with us. She brought the room to a state of reflection.” 

Editor’s note: Lexi Kilcoin is former Scene writer for The Observer.

The Visiting Writers Series continues in the spring with presentations from poet Sandra Simonds and poet and fiction writer Melissa Ginsburg. 

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu

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Feminists United holds rally to encourage women’s voting

Saint Mary’s Feminists United club held a rally Saturday afternoon in front of Le Mans Hall to mark one month until election day. Echoing other women’s marches around the country also held Saturday, the rally centered around speakers who addressed the importance of women getting out to vote in elections.

“We are trying to highlight voting right now with the midterm election coming up,” Feminists United treasurer and senior Libbey Detcher said. “Traditionally, college students have a really low voter turnout.”

Feminists United’s mission is to empower and give community to women. Each year, they hold events like feminist trivia, work the women’s health fair, help with Take Back the Night and sponsor voting events such as the one on Saturday to encourage women to get out and vote. 

Feminists United president and junior Madison Mata said events like the rally are especially important to learn about and provide resources to assist the voting process.

“I am from Texas and whenever I have to request my absentee ballot, I get really confused,” Mata said about her own experiences.

Detcher said women’s voices are too often quieted in society.

“I think some voices tend to be underrepresented or even stifled sometimes,” she said.

The speakers at the event were all women in government offices who shared their stories and discussed the importance of women voting.

The first to speak was Saint Mary’s alum Rachel Tomas Morgan, an at-large member of the common council in South Bend. Tomas Morgan talked about how she tried to encourage many people to run for city council seats before someone turned the question back on her and asked why she didn’t run herself.

Tomas Morgan said she originally thought she didn’t have the knowledge, qualifications or experience to run. She had asked 60 people their opinions on her running before she felt validated enough to try.

In her speech, Tomas Morgan said a man would never question himself so much before running. She encouraged women to take more active roles in reaching for positions of authority and decision making. 

“Women need to ask ‘Why not me?’” Tomas Morgan said.

The next speaker was state representative Maureen Bauer.

“We do not have a truly representative government,” she said.

Bauer noted that St. Joseph County has a general assembly made up of 77% men and that women in St. Joseph County make around 72 cents to every dollar a man makes, a typical trend across the country.

In her argument, Bauer used statistics to encourage women to fight for their rights and encouraged involvement in politics, whether it be voting or running for office themselves.

State senate candidate Melinda Fountain spoke last. Fountain detailed having faced harassment while in ROTC and more subtle snubbing as a diplomat for the U.S. Foreign Service.

Fountain voiced frustrations at the continuous discrimination she has endured because of her gender. She said she decided to make a difference in political representation, starting small by running for her township board and now running for state senate. She advised the audience at Saint Mary’s to believe in themselves regardless of what statistics may show or what others may say. 

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Saint Mary’s event highlights South Bend’s Covid-19 Struggles

Monday night, Saint Mary’s looked to highlight the struggles of the height of the Covid-19 pandemic with a program titled, “Listening to Pandemic Narratives: Selections from Covid-19 Oral Histories in the South Bend Area”. The oral program featured audio clips from interviews conducted with members of the South Bend community to get different accounts of what pandemic life was like for residents.

“No one’s collecting our stories here in South Bend,” Jamie Wagman, a history and gender studies professor said. “Julia and I had noticed that other oral historians were doing these collections but no one was documenting South Bend. So we thought, would the stories of people here be mirroring national trends?”

The program was started a year ago by Wagman and Julia Dauer, an English professor, as well as her students from the spring class ‘Doing History.’

This course focused on different historiographical methods and students put their new knowledge to use by interviewing South Bend residents about their pandemic experiences.

“We were thinking a lot about what humanities perspectives can offer in times of Covid-19 as we continue to process the events,” said Dauer. “We were also thinking about how we could better understand and record and preserve some accounts of experiences in our specific local community of the past two years.”

The unusual presentation took its shape from the audio medium. “It’s so powerful hearing people say things in their own words,” said Wagman.

Jaden Daher, research and administrative assistant, concurred, saying “You can hear the emotion in everybody’s voices of like going back to this time and having to almost relive it by retelling it.”

The presentation started with two minutes of photography from the New York Times that highlighted pandemic life, with pictures of hospitals, social distancing, the Black Lives Matter protests and other sights associated with early pandemic times. “I feel like we’ve forgotten so much of what happened,” said Daher. “This makes it all come back to the front of our mind like, ‘Oh my gosh, we did live through that.’”

The audio program began with people recounting the early days of the pandemic, with messages of realization of the horror to come. It then moved on to different people relating how they had to change their lives once the pandemic hit South Bend. A nurse talked about changes in the healthcare field and starting with the Covid unit. A teacher talked about sending children home, not knowing that they were never going to be back in that classroom, as well as the adjustment that came with virtual teaching.

The program continued with sessions called ‘Caretaking and Equity’ and ‘Sociality and Isolation’. The people in these audio clips talked about the struggle and loss of community that came with isolation. A few parents in these clips expressed concern for not only their child’s physical but also mental health. 

If you were not able to attend Monday, the program will be publicly displayed for free at the Civil Rights Heritage Center on Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m. Additionally, Saint Mary’s students and staff contributed to an exhibit at The History Museum in South Bend. ‘Fight Fear: Pandemics Past and Present’ addresses historical illnesses and the fears that came with them as we experienced Covid-19. The display is open until July 2023.

You can contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.