Peacekeeping and persecution: Professor Twesigye reflects on Uganda

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Nicole Barhorst, Transcript Correspondent

Religion can bring millions of people together, but it can also be used as a tool to divide a nation. Religion professor Emmanuel Twesigye has experienced this firsthand.

Born and raised in Uganda, Twesigye worked to spread peace and religious acceptance in opposition to the oppressive regime of Idi Amin, a military general who took over as Ugandan president in 1971. Twesigye managed to escape with his life, but not everyone was as lucky.

Note: The following interview has been condensed for space.

Q: What was growing up in Uganda like?
A: I was born a British subject because Uganda was under British rule until 1962 when Uganda became independent. We grew up singing the British anthem. So for me it was wonderful, except that now I realize we received a British education. In high school, I never had a single African teacher. Elementary school had African teachers, but high school had all English teachers … even history was British history.

Q: Can you provide your perspective on Uganda’s political upheaval while you were there?
A: That’s a painful topic. When I first came to the U.S., I was told, “Don’t talk about it. It might create political hostilities between you and the government in Uganda. Your silence will be part of your protection.” But now most of the people who were involved in the persecution there have suffered and died.

General Amin was a Muslim in Uganda’s military and was semi-illiterate. The British government promoted him to high ranks because he was a stooge of the British … President Obote inherited this military structure in which Idi Amin was the top military officer.
In Uganda there were two religious factions: the Anglicans, who ruled the country … and another group of Catholics who did not have political power.
[Obote] created one state. He wanted to unify both the Anglicans and the Catholics who had formed two separate political partie s… And so you had a government which was Anglican in structure and resented by a majority of Catholics, and you also had Muslims who were left out of the two political groups.
Then, in 1970, [Obote] declared he was going to adopt African socialism, and the British thought, “Oh, that’s dangerous. This guy’s getting out of hand.” … They went back to Idi Amin and told him, “We created you. We need you. Kick out your president and be the new president.” So Idi Amin, a Muslim, overthrew the president … but Idi Amin had another agenda [the British] didn’t know about. He had been talking to some Muslims from Libya and Saudi Arabia, and so when he took over, Gaddafi (Libyan dictator) said, “Now you better join us to form this Islamic league.” He did, even though Uganda was 85 percent Christian. The Muslims at the time were 7 percent.

Q: What was your life like when all of this was happening?
A: As an assistant chaplain at Makerere [University], I organized the bishops to protest against Idi Amin and his oppressive measures … When you are a chaplain, it’s heartbreaking for you to bury young people because of a dictator who has ordered for them to be shot. I said, “We have got to protest.” The archbishop said, “I can’t do that because they will kill him and they will kill his family.” But when this happened for over a year and he had to bury the dead he ended up saying, “It’s okay now, but you have got to go mobilize the bishops.”
It took me three months to persuade [the bishops] to consent, and then when they agreed, the archbishop asked me to write a letter which would be used as a point of discussion, and then would be sent to Idi Amin. In it, I had written all the grievances I could think about, mainly political and military oppression, killings and murders of innocent civilians by military groups, people disappearing at night.
Of course, Idi Amin was so angry, and that’s when he vowed to retaliate and kill us. I don’t know how he knew I was one of those who drafted the letter, but he sent a message to me saying if the archbishop acts on this, he will be dead and I will be dead, too.
I warned the archbishop … and he said, “Let God’s will be.” And that’s how he went and got killed that day, and they began looking for me. I went to hide in the dorms … but why I had enough time to hide was because one of my maids happened to be shopping at the corner store, and these people came there to find and arrest me. Talk about divine providence. Who was at the counter? My maid, buying bread and sugar. I will never probably do enough to reward her. She told them where the Catholic chaplain lived, and she came and told me, “They are really coming for you.”
Then I went and took a few things to go and hide. It was rough time … So now I know the price to be paid when you stand for peace and justice.

Q: Do you think you’ll ever return to Uganda?
A: We left Uganda and I refuse to go back and take my position in the cabinet of the new government because my wife said, “You have a loud mouth.” She didn’t want me running out again because this time I might not be so lucky.

Q: Where does your passion for theology stem from?
A: My father’s an Anglican minister. He’s retired now … And so it was a debate between me and him even on matters of evolution. He was a creationist. I was an evolutionist. I was supposed to go into medicine, but I ended up saying somebody has got to teach the world that God didn’t create the universe in six days.

Some people say, “Are you really a priest writing on evolution?” It became a passion, a mission, and I love it … There are students who think I’m an atheist, but I try to be a voice of reason for all.

Q: There have been some incidents at OWU over the years of students acting in racist and inappropriate ways to you. Can you tell me about this?
A: I had just come and this student left a voicemail on my answering machine actually saying I should change a test date, otherwise they would shave my nappy head.
But the chaplain had actually warned me that this place could be racist because the week before I came for the interview, someone had vandalized the shanties on the JayWalk that were protesting South African apartheid. He said, “When you come, don’t be horrified when you see things like this.” So, I had been forewarned and I am grateful he warned me.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I don’t have any plans yet. I want to teach here. I’m working on a new book on critical issues in religion and ethics, and I’m excited about that, so I still want to teach until I’m too old to teach.

WCSA discusses budget requests, approves most

WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.
WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.

“This is it! Retirement is coming,” said President Jerry Lherisson, a senior.

The final full senate meeting of the semester for the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs (WCSA) was Dec. 7, and most discussion focused on the requested budget of one club.

Vice President Emma Drongowski, a senior, began by thanking the senators for their hard work this semester, adding that they don’t get paid and often don’t get credit.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about all that we’ve accomplished this year,” said Drongowski.

She asked senators to make a list of what they accomplished this semester and include two tasks they hope to accomplish next semester.

Secretary Lee LeBoeuf, a junior, updated the full senate on the state of composting.

“The reason we stopped composting is because the place in Delaware that took our composting is no longer doing so,” LeBoeuf said.

She added that there is now wireless printing in the Welch and Hayes computer labs.

Kimberlie Goldsberry, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs and WCSA adviser, reported that revisions to OWU’s pet policy are still being considered. Feedback about the policy has been gathered from members of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and Small Living Unit (SLUs) moderators.

The feedback included a request for the pet policy to remain the same until the end of the semester or the school year.

Goldsberry noted that some change is expected for the spring semester. Changes that could eventually be made are requiring dog owners to cage their dogs whenever the dogs will be home without them and not allowing cats to roam houses when their owners aren’t home.

Goldsberry also reported the news of two babies recently born to faculty and staff members. Dr. Brandt, Associate Professor of Psychology, had a daughter born Dec. 1 and Leslie Melton, Director of Career Services, had her daughter Dec. 4.

Recently, the Administrative Policy Committee (APC) proposed revisions to WCSA’s constitution, and senators voted unanimously at the meeting to accept the revisions.

Conversation shifted to financial matters, and Treasurer Graham Littlehale, a junior, said 53 budgets for next semester have been reviewed.

Campus Programming Board (CPB ) and Faith and Justice Club requested the most money.

Littlehale explained that CPB’s funding request was for the spring’s annual Bishop Bash, which would feature a non-musical performer this year.

“Last year it was really well-attended,” Littlehale said. “A lot of the surrounding community came.”

He said the budget committee knows the performer CPB plans on bringing in and it is someone widely known, but they cannot yet say who the performer is.

Six clubs were not awarded any money they requested, though they can apply for supplemental funding in the spring. Five of the groups did not receive funds because they did not send representatives to mandatory budget training.

The budget committee denied the requested funding for the Pre-Law Club for a different reason.

Sam Schurer, a junior, said there have been issues with the group in the past because they are so closely affiliated with the Pre-Law department. He said the club’s budget was turned down last year and the problem was explained to club members.

“Here we are a year later and nothing has changed,” Schurer said.

He added that this year’s budget request was also a lot of money per student.

Lherisson, a member of Pre-Law Club, made an argument for the group and for the Moot Court trip the budget request was for, stating that some of the close affiliation with the Pre-Law department was due to the group’s adviser and that the Moot Court team performed very well when they competed last year.

A motion passed to separate out the Pre-Law Club’s budget request in order to vote on the other requests. All the other budget requests were approved.

Goldsberry suggested the Pre-Law Club receive written advice and instruction, and she urged the senators “to strike a balance” between supporting the group and its endeavors while also judiciously approving budget requests.

The budget committee will re-convene this week to further discuss the issue, taking into consideration the points made during the meeting.

WCSA constitution may be revised

WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.
WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.

As the semester winds down, senators continue to work on projects outlined at their last full senate meeting that were designed to effectively spend leftover funds.

At the Nov. 30 full senate meeting of the Wesleyan Council of Student Affairs (WCSA), vice president Emma Drongowski, a senior, said work on the projects will continue next semester.

She also briefly explained to the senate what happened at the last faculty meeting when faculty voted to not allow several students into the meeting.

Drongowski said the decision only applied to that specific meeting. At the next meeting there will be a new vote to decide if guests should be allowed in.

She said if closing the meeting off to students “becomes a trend,” there will be a discussion about other ways students can access information regarding what decisions were made.

The main topic of new business was introduced by junior Caroline Anderson, chair of the Administrative Policy Committee (APC).

APC has revised the WCSA constitution, and a bill to accept the revisions will be voted on next week by the full senate.

“We put in new sections that we felt were more appropriate for WCSA in terms of our function,” Anderson said.

Parts of the constitution were clarified and reorganized, and there was a section added about committees.

Drongowski added that “some cool charts” were also put in.

“It has changed nothing we do in practice currently,” Drongowski said.

You’re only human

It’s nearing “that time of the semester” again. The weather’s getting colder and gloomier. Stress is visible on the face of every student. Anything with caffeine in it is flying off the shelves and out of the fridges at the Thomson convenience store. Mid­-November is the beginning of the end-of-­the-­semester struggles, and the urge to give up and say “screw it” to all of your work is stronger than ever.

Well, I’m here to say, “Don’t give up.” Seriously, don’t. Don’t give up your mental health and sanity. Don’t give up on sleep and square meals. Don’t sacrifice yourself for an A instead of a B, or a B instead of a C. Don’t sacrifice valuable, limited time with your family this Thanksgiving by locking yourself in your room for a week to write an entire paper.

I’m not saying you should blow off your schoolwork. After all, tuition isn’t cheap and you’re here to learn the knowledge and skills you’ll hopefully need in your post­-grad career.

I’m saying that sometimes you need to prioritize yourself and your health over squeezing in an extra hour of studying or writing a tenth draft of your paper. Like most things in life, preparing for exams is all about balance, and personal time needs to be part of that.

Basically, don’t let your academic goals get in the way of everything else in life. You may be a college student, but you’re also a friend, a family member and a human. Remember that.

WCSA discusses where to spend rollover funds

WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.
WCSA crest. Photo courtesy of the owu website.

Elections have closed for all positions on the Wesleyan Council of Student Affairs (WCSA) except treasurer, and applications are still being accepted.

Senior Jerry Lherisson, president of WCSA, began the Nov. 16 meeting by offering his congratulations to the new position holders.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what you guys can do,” Lherisson said.

The next president will be Jessica Choate, the vice president will be Sam Schurer and the secretary will be Caroline Anderson, all juniors.

Freshmen Nick Melvin and Caroline Hamlin have been elected as the class of 2019 representatives, sophomores Kaden Thompson and Mallory Griffith as the class of 2018 representatives and juniors Andrew Stock and Jo Meyer as the class of 2017 representatives.

Elections for the full senate are this Friday.

Senior Emma Drongowski, vice president of WCSA, encouraged senators to keep working hard as winter break approaches.

“We still have three weeks in our semester and we still have time to do good work here,” Drongowski said.

The next order of business was to discuss how rollover funds would be spent.

“The funds come from pots of money that weren’t used at the end of the semester or events that were cancelled,” Drongowski said.

The executive members would like the funds to go toward three areas: safety, sustainability and residential affairs.

“We really want to spend this on things that will impact the students in the best way possible,” Drongowski said.

Safety items include adding a crosswalk on Oak Hill Avenue in the area between Welch and Smith and the “Let There Be Lights” project, which aims to add lights to dimly lit areas on campus.

Sustainability items include adding a community garden near Stuyvesant Hall and developing post-consumer composting.

Residential affairs had the most items, and these include replacing the carpet and seating in the Hamilton-Williams atrium, getting wireless printing in the Welch and Hayes Hall computer labs and purchasing swipe cards to track campus involvement and attendance.

Drongowski said all of these ideas were viable, but there was no guarantee every single idea would be accomplished.

The exact amount of rollover funds won’t be known until the end of the semester, but Drongowski said it will be “a substantial amount of money.”

Axelrod, men’s basketball open season with high hopes

By: Evan Walsh, Transcript correspondent

Nate Axelrod '18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.
Nate Axelrod ’18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.

In basketball, size matters.

Don’t tell sophomore Nate Axelrod that. Despite his small stature, last year’s National Freshman of the Year is ready to lead the Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team to another conference title.

“I’m not tall,” Axelrod said. “But you can’t let what you don’t have define you.”

Axelrod has found other ways to compensate for his size, or lack thereof. With technical precision that belies his 5’7 frame, the young man from Dublin, Ohio, has spent his life developing his skill set as a player.

“He’s constantly looking for ways to improve. Coaches and other players appreciate a blue collar work ethic,” said Matt Jeske, a senior forward and team captain.

That hard work bore fruit in a 2014-­2015 season in which he took home National Freshman of the Year, First Team all NCAC and Third Team All-­American honors. No small feat for a small man.

Still, basketball is a team game, and Axelrod knows his personal accomplishments mean nothing when it comes to the team’s success. “I get to suffer through the emotional highs and lows with my best friends, my teammates,” Axelrod said. “I need their support. Without it I never could have won those awards.”

Coach Mike Dewitt draws comparisons to former Battling Bishop and All-­American, Andy Winters, class of 2013. “Both guys are undersized, but they work hard to control the rhythm of the game by getting teammates involved,” Dewitt said.

“It’s his selflessness that separates Nate from the other players and young men I’ve coached,” Dewitt said. “He’s a leader in everything he does.”

Axelrod is an equally capable student, making the Dean’s List each semester while mentoring at-risk students for several hours each week.

Through the first three weeks of practice Axelrod is optimistic about this year’s team. All five of last years starters return this year and look to redeem themselves after last year’s loss to St. Olaf College in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

“We’re going to win the regular season conference title and the conference championship,” Axelrod said.

The No. 13 ranked team in the nation open their begin their season Saturday, Nov. 14 against conference rival, Otterbein University.

Card office does more than give student IDs: just ask Nancy Tumeo

Nancy Tumeo. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.
Nancy Tumeo. Photo courtesy of the OWU website.

Need a hug? Just go to the card office in the Hamilton­-Williams Campus Center.

Most students, faculty and staff probably know Nancy Tumeo as “the card office lady,” but Tumeo does a lot more than generate student IDs and track food points.

In nearly 20 years at Ohio Wesleyan, Tumeo has held her position in the card office and in the hearts of students. She has plenty to share about the struggles of adjusting to college, dial­-up technology and the power of 47 cents.

Q: So how long have you been working at OWU?

A: I started fall semester 1997. They hired me for three months and I’m still here. They were going to change the position, which they’ve never done. Actually, I went home that summer and my boss came and asked me to come back, and I said, “No, I don’t want to come back.” But, he begged me to come back, and so I did. And, I have to tell you, it’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs, not because of what I do but because of the students.

Q: How did you get your start in the card office?

A: There was an ad in the paper… I was in the process of buying a new house and the bank said, “You’ve got to have a job.” I saw this position and so I came in and I got hired. I really had no intentions of coming back [after the three months], and here I am going on my nineteenth year.

Q: What has kept you at OWU for so long?

A: The flexibility in my job. I have a lot of time off and can carry my medical benefits year around. But again, it comes back to the students. While I furnish reports to every department and everybody on campus, I deal mainly with the students. Everybody has to come through here to get a card, and that way I get to know all the students and get to know all the faculty and staff.

Q: What is it about interacting with students that makes you enjoy your job?

A: I’ve adopted many students. Bought hats and gloves for them in the wintertime. Approached professors to help a student. I’ve gone to see if the student was properly coded for what they’re being charged. Students talk to me. They tell me a lot, and that’s the reason I like my job.

Q: What part of your job do most students not know about?

A: Not only do I make ID cards, I control everything [students] do with that card: security, their food points—on­-campus, off­-campus—accounting, their debit money, library card, replacing the cards. Not only helping the students, but also speaking to their parents. The accounting depends on all my records for balancing accounts. Anything you use that card for has to come through here, and I control all that with this equipment… The equipment is very, very old. It’s still dial-up. The only thing I’d wish for is to have newer equipment.

Q: Are there any weird or crazy ways a student has lost their ID?

A: I have probably heard every excuse. And I think two years ago there were two girls in a race. One had replaced her card 27 times and one 28 times, and I went at them just like they were my own kids: “Do you know how much money you’ve spent on cards?” Some kids just leave their cards in their dorms and they just don’t want to go back and get them, and I yell at them like their parents because I can give them a charge card to eat on, but I can’t get them back into their dorm without a card. Lots of different excuses why they’ve lost them. Dogs chewed them up. Put them in the dryer. Just can’t find them.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?

A: Maintaining the old equipment, especially off­campus. I’m still using dial up communications and we now have seven restaurants off-­campus [where students can use food points]… When the registers go down on campus the cashiers call me. Every time the electric flickers off and on this old equipment goes down.

Q: Do you have any thoughts or advice you’d like to share with students?

A: I kind of see students blossom in their sophomore year, and I see them laid-back as freshmen. They’re scared to go get somebody to eat with them or afraid to walk up to the table to sit down with strangers. Some of them have a hard time introducing themselves with others and they’ll come in and talk to me. I’ve had so many kids come back and talk to me and thank me upon graduation. One student stood in front of me as a freshman and he just had tears in his eyes every day, and I made him come in and give me a hug me every day. And upon graduation he said, “I would never have stayed if it hadn’t been for you.” Comments like that are why I like my job so much. And I still stay in touch with some of the international students that have moved on… Their parents have invited me to many countries, but I won’t go. There’s a girl that graduated in 2010 and she’s studying to be a doctor, and I went up to Johns Hopkins [University] in Baltimore to spend the day with her. It’s just fun to stay in touch with the students and have them come back. I get many hugs. I can’t explain how wonderful it is because I’ll do a lot of little favors for kids. I know how to help them. And they’re like my own kids… They tell me lots of secrets, and I keep them. A little girl came up the other day and she was practically in tears and she wanted to buy a blue book…and she didn’t have any money, so I dug out 47 cents and said, “Go get your book.” I just ask them to do a good deed for somebody else. Now, 47 cents isn’t much money, but she needed that blue book and if I can help somebody for 47 cents and make them happy, it’s made me happy. One year school started and a father called me and he said, “My daughter’s standing in the middle of the university outside.” I asked him what building she’s facing, and he told me, and I said, “Tell her not to move.” I ran out and found her. She was lost. She didn’t know where to go. It amazes me. I always said they should have higher classmen out there with a sign: “Ask me. Are you lost?” Because the freshmen are always lost… It’s just a job that I come to every day and I just take it as everyday work. Other people may not find it so interesting or fun, but I enjoy the interaction with the students.

Q: So do think you’ll stick around in this position?

A: I hope to. I hope so.

Provost, professor and president: Louthan discusses 43 years at OWU

Professor William Louthan in Gray Chapel. Photo from the OWU website.
Professor William Louthan in Gray Chapel. Photo from the OWU website.

Many students know William Louthan as the politics and government professor with a penchant for constitutional law and judicial politics. But in his 43-­year tenure at Ohio Wesleyan, he has also served as provost for 14 years and president for one.

Louthan has much to say when it comes to how Ohio Wesleyan has changed in the last few decades, what it was like to be the Provost and then thrust into the presidency, and what “crucial ingredient” is lacking in American politics today.

The interview has been condensed for space.

Q: You’ve served many different roles on campus since you began working here in 1972. What brought you to OWU back then?

A: My Ph.D. adviser had graduated from Ohio Wesleyan back in like 1919 or something, and he wanted me to teach at his alma mater. So, he called me and encouraged me to apply for this job, which I did. I came here in June of 1972.

Q: What has kept you at OWU for over 40 years?

A: Well, it’s interesting because when I came here I had never been affiliated in any way with a small college. I was an undergraduate and graduate student at Ohio State, went to law school at Michigan [State University], and I taught at American [University] in Washington D.C. So, although I was a native of Ohio—I’m from Akron originally—I really didn’t know much about small liberal arts colleges. I had never lived in or around a small town. But, after having been here just a short period of time, I concluded that being a liberal arts educator was the best of all possible jobs.

Q: Why is that?

A: I think it has mostly to do with the possibility of teaching exclusively undergraduate students, so it’s not a matter of training students to do or be anything, but rather to take people who are between 18 and 22 years old who may or may not yet know what they want to do with their lives and contribute to giving them the kind of education that will serve them well pretty much no matter what they do. I say that and it sounds simplistic, and it’s not something that would ever have occurred to me before I got here. It’s something I sort of learned on the job.

Q: In what ways has OWU changed since 1972?

A: Obviously, the campus appearance has changed a great deal. And I’m not referring simply to the new natatorium, or the new fitness center, or the refurbishment of Merrick. When I came here there was no JayWalk, for example. Chappelear Drama Center opened its doors the first month I was here… The student population is smaller now. The faculty and staff population is smaller now. But, the things that do matter haven’t changed I think. I noticed when I came here that we had an extremely strong faculty. During the years that I was the Provost, I was convinced we had the strongest faculty of any liberal arts college of our sort. And now that I’m obviously toward the older end of the generation of faculty members, I look back on where we were and where we are now and I’m just proud to say I think that among our peers in the GLCA [Great Lakes College Association], the Ohio Five, the United States generally, you’d be very hard-pressed to find a stronger teaching faculty than we have here… We provide the best possible kind of liberal arts education, and I don’t think that’s changed…

Q: You were also Provost for a number of years. What was that like?

A: The Provost is the chief academic officer and the second ranking executive officer. The part about that job that I like and I think the reason that I aspired to do it was the academic side. I think that at a truly strong college or university…there are two things the faculty must be in control of. One of them is faculty personnel—the hiring, promotion, pay and benefits of its faculty. And the other is the substance of the curriculum. Faculty personnel policies should be developed by the faculty. Academic and curricular requirements should be developed by the faculty. Those things should be done without interference. And it’s the Provost’s job to work with the faculty to implement faculty personnel and academic policies, so that’s why I aspired to do it and that’s why I did it for 14 years—simply because I enjoyed it.

Q: Why do you no longer hold that position?

A: Fourteen years is probably long enough for anyone to do it… I was Provost from 1991 to 2005, and in ’93 to ’94 I was acting president. That was a job that I did not enjoy, but since the Provost is the second ranking executive officer…and the prior president left to go to another job, and it takes frequently a year or more to search for and hire a new president…whoever the Provost happens to be then would normally be the acting president. So, that was the way it was. I more or less had to agree to do it, and I did it. Without boring you with the details of what it takes to be a college president and what you have to do if you are a college president, I can tell you I didn’t like it much at all. I was happy to return to being Provost when that ended. But, I was still relatively young when I became Provost, and I never imagined that I would be Provost my entire career. I always expected that I would come back to teaching at some point, because that’s my first love.

Q: Did anything happen during your year as President that still stands out to you?

A: There were no major issues of crisis for the college as a whole during that year, fortunately. The reason I remember it being a very difficult and demanding year was that, while I was acting president, I was also serving as Provost. We didn’t hire someone to be acting Provost, so I was Provost and acting President at the same time. And, I was also on the search committee for the president, so it was almost like a third job…so I just think of those 12 to 15 hour days doing a lot of stuff that wasn’t very much fun. But that’s just the personal side of it… One thing that immediately comes to mind is that there was a student death that occurred on campus, which is always a tragic event, and having to deal with that student’s parents and friends and faculty and advisers…was very, very difficult. It was a suicide, so that’s part of what made it very, very difficult… The most painful thing I remember about that entire 14 months was that student’s death.

Q: How did your interest in politics and government begin?

A: You know, I think it was so long ago it is hard for me to identify a time. I can remember as early as the mid­-1950s not only being interested in elections, but thinking that I wanted to be a lawyer and go into politics myself. And, I was just fascinated by political figures and elections. I didn’t understand a lot of it then. Of course, the way you learned about it back then was much different. There were only three TV networks, black and white TV, and 15-minute to a half hour news programs, and so you weren’t saturated with political news and information as you are in the modern era… Having a law degree seemed to be one of the ways you got into politics, and so long before I had any idea what it would actually mean to be a lawyer, I aspired to get a law degree simply so that I could get involved.

Q: You specialize in judicial politics and constitutional law. Is there anything regarding those subjects that most Americans don’t know, but should?

A: Lots of things. Frequently people will ask me, “Does it ever bug you when you’re either teaching common law or talking to people about common law when people articulate strong positions on the Supreme Court decisions that you disagree with?” And my answer is always the same: it doesn’t bother me at all when people express informed opinions, no matter how different from my own personal views they may be. What bothers me is people asserting facts, history, contents of decisions inaccurately. Clearly, all Americans are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. I think one of the major problems we have in American politics and government today is that too many people, both on the political left and the political right, talk only with other people who think the same thing they do. They hear a story about what the Supreme Court has decided or what Congress has done that’s compatible with their own political ideology, so they come to believe it… But the fact is that they are ignorant, and I use the word ignorant here in a non-­pejorative way. Simply, they don’t have the knowledge. They don’t know, but they think they know…

Q: Any advice for students looking to pursue careers in politics and government?

A: I think anyone doing that today needs to develop a tolerance for ambiguity and, perhaps more than ever before, a pension for civility. The most notable, crucial ingredient American politics is lacking is civility…in our political discourse. Motivation to change the world and make it a better place is a noble objective, but without a tolerance for ambiguity and a pension for civility you’re not going to get very far, no matter how noble your objectives.

New Dean of Students here to help but not to stay

Kurt C. Holmes. Photo courtesy of
Kurt C. Holmes. Photo courtesy of

Want to give Kurt Holmes, the interim Dean of Students, an “earful” about student life over orange juice and omelets? Well, Holmes wants that too.

In the first profile of a new series focusing on administrators who have a major impact on the OWU community, Holmes gets real about why his position is only an interim one, why he left his full­-time job at the College of Wooster after 14 years and what has surprised him most about OWU.

Q: So you’re the interim Dean of Students here while our previous dean, Kimberly Goldsberry, fills another role. How did you hear about this position at OWU?

A: The connection was I’ve known Kimberly [Goldsberry] and Craig Ullom through professional circles, and I put out on ListServ that I was taking time out to do some other things, and Kimberly said, “Before you make any commitments, I have a challenge.” She had just gotten word that Craig was going to be stepping down to half­-time and she was going to be taking the interim role, so we spent about several weeks haggling because she would like to have me down here full­time, but with so many other projects I was working on I said I can’t really commit to full­time. I’m here about three days a week. I come here Wednesdays, I stay overnight Thursday, so I’m around just some extra time, that sort of thing. I guess technically it’s a three­-day-­a-­week gig.

Q: What do you do the other days of the week?

A: Well, some of it is I have a son who’s looking at colleges and doing his senior year, and I’ve been a chief student affairs officer—that’s what I was doing at Wooster—and you don’t have a whole lot of time to give to family in that respect. We all joke in the profession that someday we’re going to do some writing about all the crazy things that happen, so I’m actually trying at the very least to start some chapters and get some work done. I don’t know if I’ll pull off publishable work yet, but before my memory fades it’s probably time to make some of that into actual text.

Q: So you’re thinking of writing a book then?

A: It’s part of what I’m working on. I don’t want to commit to any publication dates or anything but I say you can make it through college on the student affairs side if you follow three rules really, and they’re not very hard: don’t drink so much, keep your hands to yourself, and your pants on. Most of the really bad problems, aside from the fact that you got to go to class and to work, avoid themselves. And I know too many cases where students didn’t do one or more of those rules.

Q: So the main reason you left your position at the College of Wooster after 14 years for a part- time, interim position here is because of family?

A: Well, there are a lot of factors. They’re in transition up there as well. They have an interim president and are going to get a new president, so the timing was right in that respect, along with some other things. You don’t get to have sabbaticals very often on the administrative side, and so if you’re going to have time to do other things you’re going to have to find ways to carve that out. I could have chosen the faculty route, but I like what I do. I like working with students, but it doesn’t come with any chance to go study or do something.

Q: Do you know when you’ll be leaving your position at OWU?

A: The agreement is I’m here through the year, and I assume that’s the plan for when they’re going to do the hiring as well. The plan is more of a presidential question.

Q: Do you know what will happen to the Dean of Students position after your term concludes?

A: No, and I think President Jones has the whole division of leadership kind of on the table with that it’s the time to make those kind of big picture assessments. You know, it’s not very often you get a senior leadership transition, so I know he’s spending a lot of time working with the president’s officers—the other VPs—figuring out what to post and what the structure should look like. My guess is it would be a huge change for them not to hire someone in a pretty traditional chief student affairs officer [position], but I think some of the questions include what the jobs look like and what the structure of working with that person is going to look like.

Q: What are your plans or goals for after you leave OWU?

A: I don’t know yet. That’s the fun part too. Honestly, in the back of my mind was that this is the time we tell students you’re going to go through four or five careers, not just jobs, in your lifetime, and I’ve been in student life my whole career. And I thought, well, it’s time to look at some other things. And, to be honest, I was doing an awful lot of administrative work and less student contact, and this role, the way it’s configured, is to do a lot of student contact. It reminds me why I like student affairs, so it might be talking me back into the same sort of work.

Q: Is it difficult to be away from your family while you’re here?

A: I have a daughter who’s at college at Allegheny [College] and I have a son who’s a senior [in high school]. They’re not around all that much anyway. But that’s part of the reason I’m home on the weekends when [my son] is doing things, so we’re able to connect there. And the commute is not too bad.

Q: What has surprised you most about OWU and its students?

A: It’s been good to see just how engaged they are in things that go on. Meaning, looking at the campus from the outside and being a student life person, I’ve always kind of said, “Really? This little narrow, pinch­point campus seems to be divided in the middle, between academic and residence life. And the surprising way that the JayWalk becomes the living room for the campus has been great to see. I have a birds-eye view [from my office] and I can see what’s going on and then duck out. In fact, I just caught lunch sitting at a table [near the JayWalk], just to watch and listen.

Q: How does student life at OWU differ from student life at Wooster?

A: Where it happens. As I said, I’m here two nights a week and so I cruise around campus trying to see what social life is like and where the energy spots are, and I was very surprised that [the Hamilton­-Williams Campus Center] gets so quiet in the evening. But again, it’s not the thoroughfare in the evening that it is during the day. That’s been an interesting observation about the rhythm of the campus and how it flows. It’s a great indication of the way all of you operate. I walked the library one night on the outside, and there’s got to be several hundred carrels, and there were probably twelve students using them. But every chair in an open space around a common seating area was packed with people. I also noticed people were actually respecting the quiet third floor rule the evening I was there. It shows how a generation of students interacts in different ways. They don’t want to hunker down in their carrel, they want to be out and about.

Q: Have you been able to see much of Delaware? What are your thoughts on the town?

A: That’s been a pleasant surprise. I haven’t been able to do much in Delaware yet, but I’ve also gotten to see the town. You think of it often as a suburb of Columbus, but it has an awful lot to offer itself.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you want students, faculty, and staff to know?

A: I don’t know. I tend to be more of an open book, so I’ve made the pitch every time I talk with students. Find me. I’m around if someone wants to give me an earful. One of the things President Jones has asked me to do is give feedback on the institution as I go, so while not officially in an outside viewer or consultant role, every couple of weeks I feed him a memo of observations. So, I have to find those by talking to people. I made the offer at student government, and one student took me up on meeting me for breakfast. If you want to catch breakfast, give a holler.

Q: What kinds of things have you put in the memos?

A: The first one really focused on the differences I saw in how opening and move in and orientation, those kinds of things, operated. But some of it is going to be about, well, the college has done some reductions in staffing and what are the implications of that? Every college is worried about retention and keeping students, and coming in with an outside eye and having been at other similar schools, [I notice] what works and what doesn’t work in making the student experience positive, which is why I want to catch up with as many students as possible this year.

It’s not as simple as “Stranger Danger”

The sexual assault ribbon. Photo courtesy of
The sexual assault ribbon. Photo courtesy of

We all know about the man in the dark alley at night. We’ve heard all about him since we were little. Heard about his hunger, his violence, his hands. He’s always a man. He’s always in an alley. It’s always at night.

Wake up.

Among female college students, nine out of ten rape and sexual assault survivors say they knew their attacker.

That “man in the dark alley” is the guy we worked with on a group project last semester. That man is the upperclassman we’re in a club with who we thought we could trust. That man is the suitemate, the adviser, the neighbor, the friend and, yes, sometimes it’s also the man in the dark alley at night.

This is a small campus, guys. We all know everyone by just a few degrees of separation, if that.

But if we’re all so familiar with each other, then why do I feel the need to run from my car to my house when I get back from the library late at night? Why don’t I feel safe going to parties at certain fraternities by myself? Why do I always feel like I’m one moment away from becoming a statistic?

This is not the life I want for myself, or for my little sister, or my friends, or anyone. Ever.

We need to start recognizing that people who have been sexually assaulted at OWU walk among us, and so do their attackers. Chances are they even knew each other beforehand and still run into each other sometimes.

We focus on the man in the dark alley because it’s an easier image to swallow. We think if we can just avoid strangers and alleys we’ll be safe, that no one who knows us would ever want to hurt us like that. This is a lie we choose to spread, and we need to stop.

But then, where exactly does the truth leave us? Are we supposed to live in constant fear of everyone we know? Never leave our rooms, just in case? No.

Instead, we should quit projecting our own perceptions of sexual assault onto survivors and stop perpetuating harmful misconceptions. Rape culture exists, and we’re part of it, but we can choose not to be.

If you have been assaulted and need help and support, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.