Smicks for Choice denied official club status, again

With the Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision announced over the summer, women’s reproductive health continues to be at the forefront of people’s minds. This does not exclude the students of Saint Mary’s College.

Juniors Nicole Stutesman and Madison Mata are the new co-presidents of the student-run nonprofit Smicks for Choice.

Stutesman described Smicks for Choice as “a nonprofit organization, student-led and student-run for students… an organization that gives students reproductive health education, resources and information on advocacy.”

The nonprofit originally began in 2019 and was denied club status at that time based on the fact that they didn’t align with the College’s mission and need to affirm their Catholic identity.

In 2022, with Smicks for Choice’s new executive board and with new members on the administrative board of the College, the group once again applied for club status.  

When Stutesman was asked about the importance of the group at this time she said, “Right now, we see a gap in conversation, we see a gap in diversity, and we see a gap in representation… so that’s where we fit in, we want to fill the gap and make sure that Saint Mary’s isn’t just performative.”

In an email, Mata described Smicks for Choice as “a club that supports and empowers students”.

She continued, “we are here to provide information that a student might otherwise not receive. We want to be a place, a safe haven for people to turn to when they need help and access that seems so far out of reach”.

When discussing the purpose of the organization Mata said, “We are here to allow for students to know their options and know that they are not alone. That they have a community, and they have people on their side no matter their decision.”

She added that “there is not one right way, and there is no wrong way, but when you feel silenced and like your college does not support you, that’s what we are here for.”

This time, when Smicks for Choice applied for club status, instead of being dismissed or denied immediately like back in 2019, their request was passed along to the Saint Mary’s administration to be deliberated.

Stutesman and Mata participated in multiple meetings with the Saint Mary’s administration where they discussed the group and how it would fit into the school’s mission. In addition to their meetings, Stutesman and Mata also created a public petition for students to sign in support of their group becoming a club.

As of Sunday night, the petition has received 282 signatures, roughly 20% of the Saint Mary’s student body.

Despite the success of the petition, vice president for mission Julianne Wallace stated, “The petition reinforced the passion behind the issue and showed to us our student body is engaged. But ultimately, the decision to not approve the club was made outside of the petition.”

Wallace commented via email on the Smicks for Choice group, saying the final decision on its club status was a matter of adhering to the school’s Catholic identity.

“Saint Mary’s College encourages education and discussion around women’s reproduction and sexual health both inside the classroom and in broader discussions throughout our campus community,” she said. “However, when discerning the application for Smicks for Choice, our Catholic identity necessitates we affirm a limit about what can be done in the College’s name and with the College’s resources, therefore the club cannot be officially recognized by the College.”

Wallace also said that a great deal of research, thoughtful discussion with students and discernment by college administrators led to this decision.

“Ultimately the final decision was made by… vice president for enrollment and engagement Lori Johnson [and myself],” she said.

Stutesman discussed the club’s extensive social media presence and the importance of it as a way of connecting to students.

“I think it’s really important to provide support and to put a face to the name, like thinking you’re talking to Instagram about something that can be really traumatizing and really hard to talk about, that’s not really helpful,” she said. “I think it’s really important to know that there are real humans behind the screen that want to help you and are here for you, and we’ll provide you resources no matter what your situation is.”

When asked if the student body’s opinion had an influence on the decision Wallace said that the student voice is a vital part of campus life, and administrators encourage students on campus to speak up on the issues that matter to them.

“Throughout this process, Smicks for Choice has been in dialogue and conversation with the administration, and we value the passionate voices of the club leadership,” Wallace continued. “The college is committed to responding to the voices of all students, both in this case and beyond, with thoughtful, well-researched responses that seek to continue dialogue and learning.”

Stutesman said that her time as a freshman and her desire for a club like Smicks for Choice at Saint Mary’s influenced her proactivity in pushing for the club’s official status.

“I know when I was a freshman and we had our club fairs, I was walking around hopeful, there wasn’t much for me. If we at Saint Mary’s College can do as much as help one scared freshman or student in a bad situation, that makes it all worth it,” she said. “Right now, as a nonprofit organization, off-campus, Saint Mary’s name isn’t attached to it, so we can’t promote on campus, which makes it hard for people to find us, and it makes it hard for us to reach people and give resources.”

For her final thoughts on the topic, Mata said she would stress that Smicks for Choice wants to advocate for women to have a choice to advocate.

“It’s important to remember choice does not mean to get an abortion, it means it is your choice to advocate for yourself, to make an informed and educated decision that is best based on you as an individual,” Mata said. “Choice does not mean that you absolutely have to follow a singular path but that there is in fact more than one way to follow. It means you have the right to your bodily autonomy.”

Contact Meghan Lange at


Long live the Queen

The Queen was a Bada**! I know that’s a controversial statement. Let’s face it, Lilibet wasn’t perfect but considering all the things this petite (standing at 5’3”) woman accomplished in her life, how can you disagree? She may have been small in stature but not in will and honor. 

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was the longest reigning monarch in English history. Her reign went from February 6, 1952, till her death last Thursday, Sept. 8. Elizabeth reigned for a total of 70 years and 127 days. Her reign consisted of many firsts and trailblazing moments, both in general and for women. To name a few, Queen Elizabeth II was the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress, the first British monarch to go to mainland China, the first British monarch to break protocol to honor the lives of the victims of 9/11 and she even helped get an act passed in the U.K. to alter the line of succession.  

When Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 after the death of her father King George VI, she was only 25 years old. Before she officially ascended however, Elizabeth was still setting precedents. When Elizabeth, still a princess, turned 18 in 1944, WWII had been going on for five years already. Elizabeth, feeling the need to support her country, enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), which was the women’s branch of the British Army. Elizabeth began her time in ATS as a second subaltern and was later promoted to Junior Commander, which was equivalent to a Captain. She started out training as a mechanic and later became qualified in a driving and vehicle maintenance course. A newspaper at the time dubbed her “Princess Auto Mechanic,” as noted by The National World War II Museum. Following her service, the Princess gave a speech on her twenty-first birthday in which she dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth, according to the official site of the British Royal Family. Her Majesty the Queen said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Who among us, at the age of twenty one, could or even would dedicate their life to the service of their country, putting the country and its needs above their own? 

The Queen has always been up to date on the latest technology trends. She gave the first televised Christmas address in 1957, and even allowed her coronation ceremony to be televised for the world to watch. It was the first televised ceremony of its kind with 27 million people in the U.K., out of the 36 million population, watching the broadcast and 11 million who listened to it on the radio. Elizabeth was also the first monarch to tweet. On October 24, 2014, she tweeted, “It is a pleasure to open the Information Age exhibition today at the @ScienceMuseum and I hope people will enjoy visiting. Elizabeth R.” 

Queen Elizabeth II was never one to shy away from her people, so it should come as no surprise to you that she was the first member of the Royal Family to take part in a ‘Royal Walkabout.’ While on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand with Prince Phillip in 1970, Queen Elizabeth II broke centuries of tradition when she walked right up to the crowds of people to meet them in person, rather than wave at them from a safe distance. She walked through the streets of Sydney, Australia greeting the many onlookers. Since her original stroll in 1970, ‘the Walkabout’ has become a regular habit for the British Royal family from Prince Charles and Princess Diana to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

This was not the only time the Queen has broken centuries of protocol, however. On September 13, 2001, just two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II broke protocol once again and “ordered the daily ceremonial parade to break a 600-year tradition to show solidarity with America in its time of great loss.” The Queen ordered the Coldstream guards to play the Star-Spangled Banner. This was the first and only time in U.K. history that this command has been made.  

Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II experienced many firsts and many Royal tours. In 1986, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British sovereign to enter mainland China. According to a New York Times article from October 13, 1986,“The [Queen’s] visit comes not two years after the two countries agreed on the future of the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and during a time of increasing British-Chinese trade”. Not since King George III sent an Embassy to China in 1792, has a monarch tried to contact the eastern power.

Years later, in May of 2011, Queen Elizabeth II would be the first British Monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland in 100 years. Queen Elizabeth’s visit, during which she expressed her “sincere thoughts and deep sympathy” for the victims of the troubled Anglo-Irish past, was celebrated as the beginning of a new era of friendship between the Irish Republic and Britain.

Another Royal visit in July of 1991 would help her secure yet another first. During a 13-day visit to the United States in 1991, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to address a joint session of Congress more than 200 years after the United States won its independence from the British Empire. The Queen also “touched on the “special relationship” between Britain and the U.S., noting that her country hoped to be a part of “a unified Europe that would work in harmony with the United States.”

In the fight for women’s rights Queen Elizabeth II was always a fearless advocate and in 2013 she had a chance to prove that once again. In 2013, “the Succession to the Crown Act amended the provisions in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement to end the system of male primogeniture, under which a younger son can displace an elder daughter in the line of succession,” as noted by the official British Royal Family site. While it’s true that the Queen did not directly vote on this amendment, it is widely known that without Queen Elizabeth’s cooperation and support, the legislation might have failed.

Throughout her 70 plus years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II remained reliable and steadfast, proving to be England’s literal ‘stiff upper lip.’ When Queen Elizabeth II rose to power, Britain was in a time of instability and uncertainty. Before her father became King George VI, his brother King Edward VIII first abdicated the throne leaving it to his shy, reluctant and unprepared younger brother who would become King George VI. Britain didn’t truly regain its stability until Elizabeth sat on the throne. Some have said that even with all her accomplishments, Queen Elizabeth II’s greatest accomplishment is the period of strength and balance that Britain enjoyed during her reign.  

To end with one last first, Queen Elizabeth II is the first and only British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. A Platinum Jubilee celebrates the 70th year a monarch spends on the throne. On June 2, 2022, the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 1952 until her death last Thursday. 

From being dubbed “Princess Auto Mechanic” for her time in the war, to supporting the Crown Act of 2013 which opens doors for future female royals, Queen Elizabeth II has always pushed her own boundaries and those of others, fighting for the betterment of the world, making her a legend and a bada**. 

Long Live the Queen. 

You can contact Meghan at

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


College begins new convocation tradition

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in print on Aug. 19.

As both new and returning students arrive on Saint Mary’s campus this week, they will take part in several long-standing tri-campus traditions. Namely, the first walk down the Avenue, first-year movie night, the first-year BelleFest — which includes music, games and raffles — and DomerFest, where the first-years of the tri-campus meet and bond. 

Starting this year, Saint Mary’s students will also have another Welcome Weekend tradition. Over the summer, College President Katie Conboy sent an email to the Saint Mary’s community introducing fall Convocation. 

“This event is an opportunity to cheer in (literally!) our new transfer and first year students and to pin each other with your very own class pin,” Conboy said in the email to students.

Fall Convocation will occur annually on the Sunday afternoon before classes begin. The ceremony will recognize award recipients and gather students together before the start of the semester. The event replaces the spring Convocation. 

Executive director of retention strategies Mona Bowe noted the importance of gathering the Saint Mary’s community at the beginning of the new academic year.

“The idea came from the opportunity to have one single event where we could bring all of our students and our faculty and staff together before the academic year started,” Bowe said. 

Bowe acknowledged that fall Convocation would also provide the opportunity to connect new students with the rest of the campus. 

“We do a lot of events to bring the first-year students and the transfers together, but we didn’t have a single event where we could bring the community together. So we’re building community and we’re welcoming the new class,” Bowe said. 

The inaugural Convocation will take place Sunday in O’Laughlin Auditorium from 4:30 to 6 p.m. All are invited to join and cheer on their fellow Belles.

During the event, the recipients of the 2022 Saint Catherine Medal and the Spes Unica and Maria Pieta awards will be recognized. 

The Saint Catherine Medal is awarded to a rising junior or senior who has demonstrated high standards of personal excellence in scholarship, leadership, faith and service — the values of Kappa Gamma Pi, the national Catholic college graduate honor society that sponsors this award. Saint Catherine has long served as an inspiration for individuals who aspire to obtain knowledge and to stand their ground against the constraints placed upon them, thus inspiring the award. 

The other two awards, the Spes Unica and Maria Pieta awards, both recognize Saint Mary’s faculty members. 

The Spes Unica Award recognizes a faculty member who has performed eminent service to the College. Contributions can be in the area of teaching, scholarship, creative activity or service in higher level courses.   

The Maria Pieta Award was established in 1976 in honor of Sister Maria Pieta, who taught and served as an administrator at Saint Mary’s College. “The award recognizes the quality of teaching done in courses for freshman and sophomores”, Bowe said.

For the event, students are asked to wear a certain color based on their class year. Seniors and alumni are asked to wear the color blue, with juniors wearing yellow, sophomores wearing purple and first-years wearing red. In addition, any faculty or staff attending Convocation are encouraged to wear Saint Mary’s spirit wear.

As an added incentive to attend Convocation, all Saint Mary’s students who participate will receive a voucher to exchange for an exclusive T-shirt at this year’s Belles Bash.

Meghan Lange

Contact Meghan at


Saint Mary’s welcomes class of 2026 to campus

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in print on Aug. 19.

This semester the Saint Mary’s community will welcome about 400 first-year and 18 transfer students to campus. When classes begin next week, the College will host a total of 1,308 undergraduate students and 105 graduate students. 

There will be a 5% increase in first-year students from 2021, which had 380 students and 14 transfer students.

Saint Mary’s received a total of 2,254 first year applications, with nearly 7% applying as Early Decision. 

Director of admission Sarah Gallagher Dvorak conveyed her pride for her alma mater.

“As an alumna of Saint Mary’s, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as the Director of Admission and to watch the exciting trajectory of the College,” Gallagher Dvorak said. 

Gallagher Dvorak also expressed excitement about the incoming first-year class.

“I am thrilled to welcome such a talented class to campus this fall and to watch them grow and develop these next four years,” she said. “There’s no better time for them to start their journeys at Saint Mary’s. Under the leadership of President Katie Conboy, we have established a Strategic Plan and have renewed our commitment to ‘meeting the needs of the times’ — expanding the boundaries of who we are and imagining in fresh ways who we can be. There is such tremendous momentum and growth at the College, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

The incoming first-year class possessed an average GPA of 3.85, which remains the same as last year’s class average.

The class of 2026 includes students from 28 of 50 states, with 37% living in state and 63% living out of state. There are also four international students coming from Kenya, Canada, Nigeria and Tanzania. 

 “They come from as far away as Kenya and Nigeria, as far north as Canada, as far west as California, as far south as Texas, all up and down the east coast and all over the Midwest,” Gallagher Dvorak said. 

In addition, Gallagher Dvorak discussed the range of talent of this year’s incoming class.

“They are made up of community volunteers, athletes, leaders, entrepreneurs and founders of their own businesses, creatives, artists and world travelers,” she said. “We have someone ranked twenty-third in the world as an Irish dance soloist and another who is ranked seventh in the nation. We have a junior firefighter and an accomplished ballet dancer. Incredibly impressive!”

Overall, 66% of the class of 2026 were involved in some type of sport in high school and 27% were captains of their teams. 

Additionally, 21% of the class are musicians, 15% were involved in theater, 8% are dancers and 7% were involved in art clubs in high school. 

22% of the class of 2026 are students of color and 26% are first-generation college students. In addition, 29% of students have a legacy connection, meaning that at least one of their close family members went to Saint Mary’s College. 

Gallagher Dvorak spoke on the importance of diversity in Saint Mary’s classrooms.

“All students benefit from the ability to learn from peers who may not think exactly the same and who come from different experiences, cultures and backgrounds,” she said. “Our classrooms are enriched by the diversity of thought our students bring into class discussions. Exposure to diversity is something that benefits all Saint Mary’s students as it forces them to expand their intellectual and personal understanding of the world.”

Gallagher Dvorak finished by discussing her hopes for the incoming class of first-years and transfer students. 

“I wish for our incoming students that they enter this next chapter at Saint Mary’s with an open and curious mind, a willingness to venture outside their comfort zones and that nine months from now, they’ll be looking back on a year filled with personal and intellectual growth, new friends and experiences and lots of fun,” she said.

Meghan Lange

Contact Meghan at