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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 mlange03@saintmarys.edu.

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Sports

Belles shutout in season finale vs. Hope

Saint Mary’s soccer concluded its season Wednesday night with a 5-0 loss on the road against Hope. The game was scoreless for nearly the entire first half. But the Flying Dutch attack quickly came alive to earn a dominant win. For Saint Mary’s, the loss was their ninth in a row as they finished the season 0-13-3 (0-8 MIAA).

The Belles entered the game coming off of a heartbreaking 3-2 loss against Alma during which they led 2-1 before ceding consecutive goals in the game’s final minutes. The two goals scored by Saint Mary’s matched a season high and snapped a three-game scoreless streak.

Hope (9-4-2, 5-2-1 MIAA) was aggressive from the opening kickoff and never let up. The Dutch compiled sixteen shots on goal over the course of the game compared to just three for Saint Mary’s. The Dutch had several chances to score in the opening minutes. But they were stymied by stellar sophomore Belles goalie Riley Lindsey, who recorded eleven saves on the day.

Saint Mary’s spent most of the period defending in its own half of the field but had a scoring opportunity after earning a free kick in the 23rd minute. Freshman defender Abaigeal Patnode found senior forward Jillian Bowen inside the box. But Bowen’s shot attempt went just wide of the goal.

In the closing minutes of the first half, Hope broke into the scoring column for the first time. A Dutch shot attempt was saved by Lindsey but bounced back out to Hope’s Madelyn St. John, who found the back of the net for her first career goal. That seemed to open the floodgates for Hope, and they would continue to score in quick succession. Just before halftime, Hope’s Lauren Ellinger scored to double the Dutch advantage.

The Belles came out of the break looking to attack and created several scoring chances in the opening minutes. However, their inability to convert left the door open for Hope to continue building their lead. And the Dutch took full advantage. In the 53rd minute, a goal from Hope’s Natalie Hammer extended the lead to three. With the Belles on their heels, Hammer added another goal less than two minutes later to make the score 4-0.

Hope kept their foot on the gas pedal with the game seemingly in hand. Less than ten minutes later, St. John scored her second goal of the day to put Hope ahead by five. Freshman forward Hayley Flynn tallied her third assist, tying Hope’s single-game school record.

Facing a large deficit, the Belles found some of their best-attacking play in the game’s late stages. With under ten minutes to play, a pass in Dutch territory found Bowen with room to operate but was ruled offside. In the 86th minute, freshman defender Izzy Sherman received a pass near the goal after another well-executed Saint Mary’s free kick. But a save by Hope goaltender Parker Hutchinson preserved the shutout.

The defeat ended what was a disappointing season for Saint Mary’s. The team did not qualify for the MIAA Conference tournament and took a significant step back from last year’s 8-9 record.

Despite this, the outlook remains bright for the Belles. Even in losing efforts, a young Saint Mary’s team fought hard in nearly every game they played. They are primed for major improvement next season as they return a majority of their roster, which only has four seniors. With a more experienced and veteran lineup, the Belles will carry the lessons learned from this season into the next one as they look to compete for a postseason berth.

Contact Matthew Crow at mcrow@nd.edu.

Categories
Sports

Young Belles squad looks to make mark in MIAA

Saint Mary’s College soccer begins its conference play Wednesday at 4 p.m. against Trine. The team will play eight regular-season conference games, and up to three Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament games, should it qualify. The season got off to a rocky start, as the Belles went 0-5-3 in non-conference play. Head coach Farkhod Kurbonov describes one major source of the team’s struggles so far.

“We’re young, and our preseason is so short at the Division III level, that it took us some time to get used to each other and understand our roles on the team,” Kurbonov said.

With nine freshmen, three transfers and Kurbonov brand new to the program himself, the team is in the process of rebuilding. Kurbonov, who previously coached at the club, junior college, NAIA and DII levels, is tasked in his first season with laying a strong foundation to build upon in the future. Kurbonov describes his young team as excited and ambitious, saying, “I believe in the future it’s a very exciting team, but for right now we’re young and hungry.” 

After a slow start this season, the Belles are viewing the beginning of MIAA play as the start of a whole new season. Non-conference play has given the players the opportunity to get on the same page, adjust to the team culture, and for the nine freshmen, get used to the pace and intensity of college soccer. Kurbonov spoke on the progress the team has made in this area.

“Something I think we’re good at is discipline as a team and the organizational part of it… my players are starting to respond the way I would like them to respond,” Kurbonov said.  

This season, Kurbonov and the Belles are looking to improve upon last season’s performance, when the team went 1-7 and missed the playoffs. Kurbonov said this year the team’s goal is to make the playoffs and build from there.

“Long term is complete for the title and make nationals and so on, but for this season, we want to start making small steps, having a strong conference season and making the playoffs,” Kurbonov said.

The current freshmen will be very important to both the Belles’ short-term and long-term goals. The team’s success in conference play this year will largely depend upon whether or not the freshmen, especially those in the starting lineup, can quickly adjust to the demands of college athletics. In the future, they will be responsible for building a new team culture under Coach Kurbonov. With some experience under their belts, the freshmen and the team as a whole are now ready to take on the second half of their schedule. They hope that non-conference play prepared the team to play up to their potential in the games where it really counts.

Contact Sammie McCarthy at smccart9@nd.edu.