Don’t Stress, Let WAC Plan Your Next Date Night!

Zach Perrier, Contributing Writer

As Springfest planning looms over the second semester, Wooster Activities Crew (WAC) might feel like its hands are full, but before the organization turns the residential quad into a music venue, WAC finds itself running smaller events. This includes Paint Night Date Night, which was hosted in the Underground (UG) last Friday, Feb. 10.

Paint Night Date Night coupled the standard fare of the UG with a guided painting session and encouraged couples, and really anybody, to come on down and enjoy making art. WAC advisor Sarah Toby led the event, guiding the painters while they enjoyed the beverages that the UG had to offer. Toby, who graduated as an art education major, felt right at home giving helpful tips on painting and emphasized that the night was for every skill level. In her words, “If you know basic shapes, if you know colors, you can create something that’s going to look good, whether you think you have artistic talent or not.”

Evelyn McCain ’25 was also overseeing the event. McCain, a studio art major, worked with Toby to look over numerous painting ideas before settling on a final design. McCain points out the demand for weekend events like Paint Night Date Night, especially for those who are looking for a more relaxing environment on the weekends in contrast to the party atmosphere usually seen at the end of the week.

To keep the subject simple, Toby taught the basics of painting a western sunset scene complete with mesas and cacti. Although Toby guided the painting, some participants took creative liberties. Cowboy hats on cacti, rainstorms and cooler color palettes were some of the tweaks made to the original guide painting. Zoë Semersky ’23 and Judith Topham ’23 spiced up their works of art as well. Semersky painted a penguin into the western vista, adding a humorous twist. Topham took a similar tongue-in-cheek route. “I’m a geology major,” Topham said, “so I was trying to make [my painting] geologically accurate,” with an emphasis on rocks filling up the frame. Both seniors took interest in attending due to the much-needed reprieve from working on I.S. Semersky also noted, “I’ve been going to the Underground a little more recently than I have been in the last few years, especially due to COVID. So, I’m finding that it’s a pretty nice, chill place to hang out. So I knew that any event they would put on would be good.” Topham replied, “That’s a newspaper-worthy answer!”

Semersky, Topham and others attended in time for Valentine’s Day, either working side-by-side on separate easels or swapping places on one picture. Some were painting gifts for significant others. Some were there to simply relax after a stressful week of the semester; slap some paint on a canvas and just have a good time. Coloring books were also available to those who just needed a creative outlet without the stress of putting themselves in front of a canvas.

With the second semester becoming a whirlwind of commitment and workloads, last Friday in the UG felt like an oasis in a desert of homework and page number deadlines. So, be on the lookout for any other paint nights offered by WAC, even if you do not think you can paint. Toby was at least certain that anyone could pick up a brush: “And if you hate it, you can paint over it!”

Looking for more events like Paint Night? WAC is also hosting Acoustic Cozy Café on March 3 and Acapella Riff Off on March 7. Both events will be in the commons room on the second floor of Lowry. 

Improve Your Writing Skills by Writing Valentines!

“Loving Letters” occurring at the Writing Center. Image courtesy of Alex Nathanson ’24.
Alex Nathanson, Features Editor

Enticed by the opportunity for self-expression and the scent of chocolates packaged in red and pink, a like-minded community finds itself within the confines of the studio. Scissors dance in their hands and transform ordinary paper into ornaments of devotion and joy, while rainbowed pencils attempt to ground indescribable elation into delicate, tangible speech. It’s a delicate process, but one that happens here dozens of times a day. The snow on campus grounds may come and go, but the events hosted by the Writing Center are year-round! 

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 9, the Writing Center hosted their first “Loving Letters” event to provide an enjoyable and relaxing close to the week and to help students prepare for Valentine’s Day, which was greeted by a crowd that occupied nearly every available seat. The event was focused on providing students with a workshop to craft personal letters of affection to those closest in their lives. The office was flowing with an overwhelming variety of cards and pens at each table and a sprawling community of students to share and develop ideas. This event was one of many wordplay events hosted by the Writing Center, with the goal of increasing student familiarity with the Writing Center’s resources and staff, as well as helping to quash the all-too-common fear of having one’s work read by peers or other audiences. Nicky Benya, an intern at the Writing Center, shared that she hoped the event would strengthen students’ ties to the Writing Center and discover enjoyable applications of the skills they teach there. 

The primary purpose of the center is to aid in the construction of written assignments for any and all courses offered on campus, but the experience gained through these workshops helps students access a broader range of scholarly and expressive tools that can help achieve success, even in more casual endeavors. Having a better grasp of language and its applications can help with one’s own expressivity, whether it be creative or social. Touching on this, Fareeda Abu-Juam ’24, a consultant at the Writing Center, said that she enjoyed sharing and building off of ideas for people to say to their loved ones, no matter what the relationship is.

Most of the events hosted by the Writing Center revolve around Senior Independent Study – both near the beginning and the end of the process. The most frequent of these are the I.S. retreats, which focus on getting as much polished work done as possible within a predetermined time frame. With the final submission period of Senior I.S. nearly one month out, one final I.S. retreat for the 2022-2023 academic year is planned for Feb. 28, with invites being sent out through email once the time draws nearer. To increase engagement, the Writing Center hosts a themed, open-attendance event at least once or twice a semester, of which Loving Letters was one. Keep your eyes peeled for the announcement of the next event hosted by the Writing Center!

To Rebel is to Conform

David Dunn ’23

Rebellion is often associated with being young, as young people look upon the world with a fresh gaze and are quick to point out any wrong that they see. As a college student especially, it can be tempting to adopt counter-cultural practices, or to align oneself with social and activist movements. In fact, college campuses are often hotspots for activism, and it would not take much effort to recall the last time a college or university campus made the news due to student protests, activist work or some other form of rebellion. 

Being in college affords one a lot of freedom and with that freedom comes the urge to better one’s surroundings. When becoming involved with organizations or causes, whether they be social, political, religious, etc., one naturally begins to rebel against some sort of status-quo. We join these causes because we want to advance them in some way. For instance, one can volunteer with a political party to advance a mission statement tied to legislation and public policy. 

However, one thing that we students often neglect to consider is that in rebelling against how things are, we conform to some kind of idea of how they ought to be. Worryingly, however, we conform to someone else’s idea of what they should be. For instance, when I think of rebellion, counter-culture or some other such concept, my mind immediately goes towards the punk-rock movement that swept the western world in the late 20th century. Punks were often recognizable due to their clothing, jewelry, spiky accessories and piercings. Further, they often sported bright, unconventional hair styles and wore clothes depicting band symbols or [anti]political slogans. Truly, the punks of yesteryear were keen on radical independence and distancing themselves from the authority, whatever that meant to each individual person in the movement.

However, I would argue that all punks still conformed to an idea of what it meant to be punk, what it meant to go against the culture of their time. Worryingly, this conception of being punk was determined by influencers, such as bands, and was quickly jumped on by corporate entities. Quickly, the punk world became filled with ‘posers’ who did not share the same interest in individual expression. 

With all of this being said, we as students must keep in mind that to rebel is to conform, and we must be careful what we are conforming to. This is especially so when it comes to politics and social activism. While we all might be passionate about making real change in the world, which is a noble pursuit, we must be cautious that in doing so we do not conform to some ideology or institution that does not have our same interests in mind. It can be easy to forge alliances with individuals or organizations over one common goal, but quickly get swept into dogma that you weren’t sympathetic towards to begin with. What is crucial, then, is to ensure that the organizations or institutions that you support are authentic, and align with what you truly value.

Shamp Responds to Critics of Late-Night Dining

Gianna Hayes, News Editor

Last week, the Voice fielded a survey to gauge the Wooster student community’s opinions on the upgraded Late Night Dining services. The majority of respondents took issue with the limited dietary options, the quality of food and the pricing. These responses were all appreciated, and prompted a further inquiry into the management side of Late Night Dining. When reached for comment, Marjorie Shamp shared some insights to some of the challenges the Late Night staff face, as well as some hopes for further improvements in the future. 

While some speculation has arisen as to what the root of the problem with the declining food quality is, Shamp pointed to the “high volume of orders” as a source, saying that the “biggest challenge…has been adjusting to the new online ordering system.” Many students also cited this as a reason for the poor service, imploring the school to bring back the previous methods of ordering, such as the kiosks from the fall 2022 semester. Shamp also mentioned that the inclusion of meal swipes as a form of payment is leading to more orders, creating a backed up system. Unfortunately, there is not a clear solution. She cited some success from having “several students [who] have responded to the call to work as expeditors” as well as having “senior members of the management team…on hand each night to ensure that the system is working successfully.” She shared some of the tasks student workers take care of, such as “coordinating the food order tickets for the culinary staff, loading and troubleshooting the food lockers and assisting students with placing and receiving orders.” Some students disagree about this management tactic, saying they would rather just have someone take orders face to face, completely eliminating the complicated ordering system which has repeatedly crashed on especially busy nights. 

Dining has long had issues with making sure to offer a diverse choice of foods, ranging from healthy options to comfort foods, and augmenting the menu to cater to specific dietary needs. A notable improvement has been the implementation of vegan and vegetarian options, though students still have complaints with the variety, and Late Night Dining’s dietary accessibility in particular. Shamp also credited students with some positive changes in expanding the menu. After receiving “great feedback from students,” she shared how they implemented specific suggestions, such as “the double Wooster burger, the burger melt and additional modifiers to the Kitt’s grilled cheese.” However, students still lament the limited options, with little to no adjustments made for those students with dietary restrictions or students trying to stay healthy after a sports practice. Commenting on some of the issues many students had with raw pizza dough, or the pizza quality in general, Shamp said “working with fresh pizza dough this semester has also brought some challenges, but the staff is really doing a great job adjusting to the changes.” 

Shamp concluded by encouraging students to share their opinions and provide feedback to improve dining, not just with Late Night Mom’s, but all campus dining locations, saying “[our] menus are constantly under review.” If students have suggestions to expand or improve the menu, Shamp invites students to email, or to fill out the online dining survey to add their suggestions using the QR codes located around campus dining locations. 

Digging the New Digs: Woo91 Up and Running with New Studio

Woo91 will stream from iHeartRadio on weekdays and weekends. Zach Perrier ’25, Emma Place ’24, Chloe Wright ’23, Tori Dipasquale ’26, Twyla Roberts ’25, Lain Patton ’26, Alex Nathanson ’24 and Grace Pryor ’26 meet for Woo91’s weekly meeting. Image courtesy of Samuel Boudreau ’23.
Ryan Gretlein, Contributing Writer

As the Student Center is finishing renovations, some organizations across campus are finding their new homes in the building. At the heart of this is the campus radio station, Woo91, which has recently reopened in the basement of the student center. With brand new equipment and a cozy new office, students are eager to get back to DJing their favorite shows and sharing their music taste with the campus community. However, this was not easy, as the student-run organization had plenty of hurdles along the way. To find out more about these issues, Woo91’s co-general managers, Chloe Wright ’23 and Alex Padfield ’23, were interviewed about the process.

The process began around the spring of 2021, when Woo91 had to move from the old Lowry station and into an office in Luce Hall. Having to move boxes of outdated equipment along with other appliances proved difficult, and there was a dilemma of what to keep and what not to keep. Furthermore, many of these boxes could not be unpacked since the office in Luce was intended to only be a temporary base station. 

When someone walks into the new Woo91 station in the student center, they are met with a feeling of coziness and community. There is equipment laid out where it belongs and fun pictures all over the place. This curated atmosphere could not have been created in the Luce station; instead, station users would be met with an area where they could play music surrounded by unpacked boxes and unusable equipment. There was even an incident where a Wooster staff member moved their office into the Luce station, disabling swipe access and taking over the space with no warning.

The issues continued, even when Woo91 was finally allowed to move into their new office in the student center. For starters, Wooster administration contracted outside companies to move the station’s gear. From missing glass in the door to random microwaves and fridges, it seemed like there was a massive lack of communication about what equipment exactly needed to be transported. Even the station’s expensive sound-proofing foam was damaged in the move. This failure to communicate also extended to purchasing new equipment. Many necessary pieces of radio equipment, such as the primary soundboard, were purchased by Wooster administration without consultation with Woo91 student management. This caused some issues, for example, one piece of equipment that the school bought was difficult to use, and tech support for that equipment charged a fee each time support was called. 

While the move to the new office in the student center was paid for by the renovation project funds, the station itself has a relatively small student activities budget. This means that they are left with decade-old computers and a lack of flexibility, especially when having to set aside funds just for tech support. Buried emails, vague communication and administrative bureaucracy all hindered a quick and efficient move for a student organization that requires constant attention.

All of this effort was not without hope, however. When asked about encouragement through this transitional time, Wright described small wins as a source of motivation, saying, “…when we were able to get the automation up and going, we were ripping CD’s and we were recording bumpers and putting sound effects on there. That felt really hopeful, like, OK, now we’re actually moving.”

These small wins have not only helped encourage Woo91 management, but also student DJs. The sense of community and excitement to get the station back up and running has produced a sort of force that has been drawing DJs back to the station. As a result, Woo91 hopes to have a wide array of successful shows this semester. Now that the station is practically up and running, there are many ways for students to get involved. There are still slots open to host your own show, and the station regularly hosts and DJs events across campus. Students who are interested can DM Woo91 on Instagram @woo91radio or email for more information about getting involved with the station. Students can also listen in by finding Woo91 on iHeartRadio. The unique content featured on this semester’s lineup, along with the effort and dedication poured into the reopening, makes Woo91 a valuable station to listen to and get involved with.

Men’s Basketball Wins Tight Game over Rival Wittenberg

Eliot Barrengos, Contributing Writer
Men’s Basketball has notched thier fifth consecutive over rival Wit- tenberg. They look to use the momentum from this win to cement thier first-place ranking in the NCAC torunament.
Courtesy of Wooster Athletics

On the night of Feb. 4, Timken Gymnasium was rocking, and the Fighting Scots showed up. Wooster, who came into Saturday’s game leading the NCAC conference standings with a 10-2 record, entered play leading by just one game in the win column over Wabash College. The Scots bested Wittenberg University in front of an energized crowd of Wooster students, family and alumni. What looked to be a tight game initially, as the two teams traded leads through the first half, quickly became a Wooster triumph in the second half. 

Throughout the first 20 minutes of play, Wooster and Wittenberg traded blows, exchanging the lead seven times, with neither team leading by five or more points for more than 37 seconds. The Scots looked like they might escape the first half with a slim five-point lead when Wittenberg forward Levi Boettcher hit a timely three-pointer with just two seconds remaining on the clock. 

Wooster came out in the second half with something to prove, eager to down their rivals, who were sitting near the bottom of the conference standings this year. Wooster was working to maintain two separate streaks: home dominance and five straight victories over Wittenberg.

For context on how good Wooster has been at home, the last time the men’s basketball team failed to win a matchup on their own floor was Dec. 10. Wooster is 7-0 in conference games when playing on their home court and 11-2 in overall play. There is no doubt that the Scots have proved dominant when they play in front of their home fans. 

When asked what it meant to play in front of the home crowd, junior guard Elijah Meredith  responded saying, “There is no better feeling than playing at home. Playing in front of our friends and family and everyone else who supports the team is what makes playing at home so much fun. The student body has been great this season in terms of coming out to support the team and we really hope to see everyone out during our last few home games.” 

Saturday night’s win was a “blackout” in the Wooster student section and Meredith gestured multiple times throughout the game as the crowd brought the noise and energy that has fueled the Scots at home this season. “It means a lot to have a great student section. Everyone gets really pumped up for the games and having the themes allows everyone to participate in the same way. It’s one of the many reasons why playing for Wooster is such a great experience,” said Meredith. 

The Scots’ offense ground out a slim lead and was fueled by the work of senior Najee Hardaway and sophomore Jamir Billings. Billings led the way on offense with a co-season-high 20 points on Saturday, and Hardaway owned the glass with 13 rebounds. But make no mistake, the defense is the engine of this team, and as Meredith put it, “We are a team built on defense, … once we are able to consistently play to our strengths on offense, and keep playing the tough defense we play, we will be hard to beat.” Head Coach Doug Cline added that, “We just played better defense and executed better on offense than we did at Oberlin.” 

A loss for Wooster would have been a major blow to their hopes of clinching first place in the conference, with just three remaining games in the regular season schedule. In the weeks ahead they will face Hiram and Denison, before what should be a major showdown in Timken Gymnasium against Wabash on Saturday, Feb. 18. If both teams continue at their current pace, first place and a spot in the NCAC D-III Tournament will be up for grabs. Wooster will be glad to host what will undoubtedly be the biggest game of the regular season. As Coach Cline put it, “It makes a big impact on the game… Our players feed off their enthusiasm. Playing in Timken Gym is definitely a home-court advantage for us.”

Wooster Hosts Annual Special Olympics Basketball Tournament

Langston Hood, Senior Sports Writer
The College ’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee hosted the North East Ohio Special Olympics Basketball Tournament (Photo Courtesy: Langston Hood ’23).

The College of Wooster’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosted the Northeast Ohio Special Olympics Regional Basketball Tournament on Jan. 28 and 29. This tournament was a massive undertaking, as the Scot Center was teeming with athletes, supporters and coaches vying for a chance to advance to the Ohio Special Olympics State Championship Tournament. Saturday would serve as the precursor to championship on Sunday, with every team participating in the single elimination tournament. Competition was fierce across all four divisions with a regional title on the line. 

Nearly every playing surface in the Scot Center was consumed by the tournament, as there were games underway on four courts, with the skills competition absorbing a fifth. Each and every athlete was grateful to be there, and SAAC was equally as grateful. This event was one that SAAC advisor and athletic trainer, Rachel Novario, had been looking to put on for quite some time now. Just last year, all the plans were in place, but COVID-19 reared its ugly head yet again and the tournament was canceled just days before it was set to take place. When reached for comment, Novario had the following to say, “Hosting this tournament was one of the highlights of my career at Wooster. Seeing how excited the athletes were to participate in games, support their teammates and show off their medals from skills competitions made all the time spent planning the event worth it.”

The passion and pride that each team played with was evident: scenes of emotion were plentiful as players took the court alongside their friends to play the game that they loved and appreciated so greatly. Additionally, the support that each team garnered was truly a spectacle as fans from all over Northeast Ohio and beyond searched for their loved ones in the frenzied environment that quickly enthralled the lobby and hallways of the Scot Center. The Northeast Ohio region spans 22 counties, and it felt like all 22 were represented in the massive swarm that populated the courts and sidelines on Saturday. 

Saturday’s first games tipped off at 9 a.m., as all four games began almost simultaneously and action ran nearly nonstop until the last games, which tipped off at 3 p.m., came to a close. When the final whistles blew and the dust settled, the four championship matchups had been determined and the next day would see four Regional Champions named. 

Sunday’s games were all played in the Timken Gymnasium and each player had the opportunity to grace the hallowed floor that is home to a plethora of collegiate basketball history. The teams took full advantage of the opportunity as all eyes were locked on the championship floor to watch each of the four games play out one by one, with no other competitions distracting from the main floor. The final game of the day saw the Rockets win in commanding fashion much to the delight of their full cheerleading squad and loyal supporters. 

As the competition wrapped up, members of SAAC were able to reflect on the success of the event as a whole and their goals finally coming to fruition following the disappointment of last year’s cancellation. SAAC Vice President Zöe Semersky ’23, said, “We’ve been working on putting on a Special Olympics Ohio event for two years! I’m glad it came together; it was a rewarding experience.” The Special Olympics are an often overlooked organization that helps provide a lifetime of opportunities to athletes of all ages through the power of sport, and Novario echoed her desire to help this mission in whatever way possible. She went on to say, “I am so thankful for many student-athletes and community members that volunteered their time and helped to make this event a huge success. SAAC is looking forward to continuing our relationship with Special Olympics and hosting more events in the future!” 

The tournament would not have been possible without the immense help of countless volunteers, many of whom had nothing but positive things to say about the tournament. Jack Donahue ’24 said, “My favorite part of volunteering at the Special Olympics tournament was seeing how appreciative everyone was to take part in this event. There was a great spirit of competition at the tournament for those who might not otherwise get to experience this.”

Aly Brugh ’24, the student lead on the event, emphasized the impact the tournament had on her, “The Special Olympics event was an experience I’ll never forget. To see these athletes’ talent, teamwork, sportsmanship and passion for the game inspired me to be a better teammate, a better player and a better person!” 

Coco Rodriguez ’26 volunteered as a member of the health promotion team and she reported, “My favorite part of volunteering at the Special Olympics basketball tournament was being able to interact and have really nice conversations with a lot of the competitors”.

For both SAAC and Wooster Athletics, the event served as a tangible example of the impact that Wooster hopes to have on the community as a pillar of not only athletic excellence, but giving back and paying it forward. Being a contributing member of the larger community is a never-ending goal and the tournament was just one step in a much larger, more comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of those inside and outside of Wooster. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): What is it and How Can You Cope?

Image courtesy of
Zoë Jurkowski, S&E Editor

As we approach the middle of spring semester, Wooster students must face the frequently cold and gloomy weather that is winter in Ohio. For some, it might even be your first winter. Bundling up for your 8 a.m. or trying to get enough vitamin D becomes increasingly difficult as the dreary weather carries on, and daylight savings hasn’t helped. In conditions like these, it’s hard not to feel down or depressed. But what exactly causes this? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression. It can occur in any season, but is most common during late fall and winter. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and another 10-20% experience a milder form known as the “winter blues.” 

Symptoms include, but are not limited to: feelings of sadness or depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritation, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping and hopelessness. The cold weather, lack of sunlight and gray surroundings take a toll on your body, and it can be hard to realize. Rushing from class to class, focusing on assignments and extracurriculars, socializing, working and the millions of other responsibilities students have makes it even harder to recognize when you’re being affected by the seasons and your surroundings. SAD is not limited to Wooster students either. Faculty, staff and community members are all equally as prone to SAD as you are. So how exactly can you cope? 

First, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Boston University estimates that 10 million Americans are affected by SAD each year. It’s important to take your feelings seriously, and know that if you’re struggling, others are here to help. The Longbrake Student Wellness Center has a counselor on-call 24 hours a day, and accepts appointments through the number (330)-263-2319. They also offer 15-minute confidential consultations on Microsoft Teams that are available for sign up on the Wellness Center’s website.

Second, if you are able, try investing in a form of light therapy. Whether it is an alarm clock that uses light to naturally wake you up, a sun lamp or a light therapy box, providing your body with alternative ways to receive light stimulation in times where you do not receive enough could help alleviate any symptoms you are experiencing. The Wellness Center also has sun lamps available for students who need them. 

Third, finding a new hobby or spending time with friends can help. Being cooped up inside can lead to restless and irritable feelings, and it’s helpful to occupy yourself with things other than homework. Watching a new show, making some hot cocoa, learning the intricate art of origami or playing a new card game with friends can all help to make the winter more entertaining and pass by easier. 

Luckily for us at Wooster (or maybe not), the winter offers strange and scattered days of warmth and sunshine. On these days, take the opportunity to go on a walk or just spend some time outside. Even in the dullest days of winter, the campus is beautiful and offers wonderful space for a 10-15 minute walk. Just make sure to bundle up and pay attention to your surroundings, as campus is slippery this time of year! 

Finally, it’s important to note once again that if you are struggling, reach out to a professional. SAD is not something to take lightly, and if you are having a rough time, it is more than valid. Professional help and information is by far the most important resource on this list, and it comes first out of all the advice offered. Sun lamps and walks may help to alleviate symptoms, but it is still important to receive help from someone trained and knowledgeable in the matter.

College Introduces its First Electric Vehicle to the Campus Fleet

Campus’s new electric vehicle. Image courtesy of
Caroline Ward, S&E Editor

Last fall, The College of Wooster introduced a novel vehicle to the campus fleet: an electric van. Although the first of its kind on the Wooster campus, this transition had been a long time coming according to Angila Tracy, COW Facilities Operations Manager. Tracy is in charge of updating and replacing “rusty, problematic vehicles” as time and money allows, and the fleet was in need of an overhaul—according to Tracy, “the entire campus fleet consists of roughly 50 vehicles, and the campus trades technicians have been driving very outdated [vehicles] on a daily basis for many years.” The fleet was evaluated by campus mechanic Mitch Lietzke, and the most problematic vehicles were identified for potential replacement. Fifth in line for replacement was the van of an electric shop employee, Steph Porter. Trade vans like these are only driven locally on campus, and Tracy began to consider the idea of an electric vehicle. According to Tracy, “[Porter’s] van was so old that she was crawling in the passenger side of her van to get in to drive daily.”

After the van was bought, the inside was retrofitted to prepare for its trade operations. The van was fully insulated and shelving installed for Porter’s tools, ladder and general equipment. The van’s electric source of power offers real savings and efficiency benefits. “As an example, Steph filled her old van up with fuel twice a month,” Tracy says. During the pandemic, with skyrocketing gas prices, Porter was paying roughly $90 every two weeks—or $2,160 a year—just for gas to get around campus, and this didn’t even include oil changes or the normal wear and tear on a very old van like Porter’s. Tracy estimates that in total, the cost of maintaining the old van was upwards of $3,000 a year. Without the need for gas or oil changes, the new electric vehicle eliminates this cost entirely.

The vehicle update was made possible through the College’s “‘vehicle savings’ account,” established a few years ago by the Facilities Operations team and the Business Office. The budget was approved for the new electric van, and research into sustainable, cost-effective options began. “The vehicle was a little more than our approved budget,” says Tracy, “so I began thinking of creative ways to make the difference up for the cost.” In collaboration with Pallotta Ford of Wooster, Facilities Operations were able to trade two old vans for a brand new electric van, all within the budget, and a 240V electric charger was installed in the electric shop. Tracy estimates that the van will need to charge once every three weeks at the current rate of mileage. “My department also pays the fuel invoice for the campus fleet, and that has grown exponentially the last few years…I’m very excited to try this new van out and see how it fits with our campus and sustainability mission.”

Tracy says that sustainability is deeply important to the Facilities Operations team. Not only do EVs produce lower lifecycle emissions, generate 25-50% savings over filling up at pump, are three to four times more efficient than gas powered vehicles, and have lower maintenance costs than traditionally powered vehicles, but state and federal incentives are available to make them more affordable. “By 2035, a predicted 85 million electric vehicles (EVs) will hit the roads in the United States and Canada,” Tracy explains. “This van is a test for campus to see how well these vehicles fit into our environment as well as our mission to sustainability.”

Hopefully, this sustainable addition to the campus fleet is just the first of many—as for next steps, the Facilities Operations team has plans to expand the project further. Currently, the campus has one charging station at the Rubbermaid/Lowry parking lot, but the team is hoping to add more in the near future, even looking into a new car share program with electric vehicles. “Our team is very excited to begin the EV upgrades on campus,” Tracy says. “We really hope that this van works out well for our mission and the campus can explore moving more into this direction in the future.”

Scotlight: Phil Olsen

Features Editor Alex Nathanson ’24 sits down with Phil Olsen, manager of The College of Wooster’s Grounds Department, to discuss the role of the department on cam- pus. Follow the Grounds Team on Instagram and Twitter @ COWgrounds.

Q. What’s the breakdown of work like?

A. We have a total of 10 people in the department. If the call comes out to be here at 3 or 4 a.m., everybody starts plowing for two hours. Then we will have our building folks, typically four or five people, branch off somewhere around 6 to 7 o’clock to start shoveling the buildings and getting parking lots ready for full traffic. Meanwhile, me and another guy finish up the sidewalks and we have three plow trucks going to plow out campus. Usually, there’s two of us that do sidewalks, and we do them with the Ventrac tractors and we can drop salt at the same time. Once that’s done, we grab shovels and help finish shoveling. Shoveling is the most tedious and strenuous part of it as far as labor. We have to shovel for all the service houses – even the ones that are not occupied because you never know when they’re gonna need them. And the custodians do help when they can for the entrances, but we’re responsible for all the outdoor steps and entrances to every building –  both academic and domestic.

Q. How long does that process take?

A. It depends on the storm. For an average two-to-four-inch storm, we can probably get campus done in about eight hours. That’s usually with us starting at like 3 or 4 a.m. to try and get the lots plowed off because they’re going to be occupied by staff or faculty by 8 a.m. We’ll go through roughly 80 to 100 tons of salt on the sidewalks and the parking lots per season, but there have been times where we have 12 to 13 inches of snow down and we’ll go through 25 tons of salt just for that storm. We’ve had storms where we have to get an outside contractor to come in with heavier and bigger equipment to clear the sidewalks because there’s just too much for our trucks. The last estimate we were given is that there’s close to 11 miles of sidewalk on campus – including Beall Avenue, Bever Street and Wayne Avenue – which we’re responsible for. Sidewalks are obviously what is most used for traveling around campus so we try to get those cleared off as early as possible.

Q. What else are you doing in the season when there is no snow to shovel?

A. We have to basically rebuild a lot of our equipment over the winter. We have 13 or 14 backpack blowers, about the same amount of weed whackers, and all of it gets serviced in the wintertime. We also have to service somewhere between 20 and 25 golf carts each winter: oil changes, any parts that need repair, any maintenance that needs to get done – we go over. We basically tear apart every piece of equipment that we have to service it and make sure it’s ready because the growing season – as we call it – is so demanding on equipment. For example, the mowers they use on the athletic fields and the golf course have five mowing heads on them, and we have to completely disassemble them and put them back together with brand new, sharp blades and bed knives. It’s a precaution but it’s also for performance – a sharp blade cuts grass better than a dull blade. It’s actually a lot to get done in a short amount of time because the growing season always comes so quick for us. And then, if it’s nice out, we go outside and work. This week it’s supposed to be 50 degrees, so you’ll see Grounds people out pruning shrubs or blowing weeds or just getting campus ready for mulch. We also grind our own mulch – we have about 1,500 yards of ground to cover with it.

Q. When does the growing season typically start?

A. I would say most of the time by the second week of March, maybe the first week of April depending on how the spring is. By then we’re pretty much in full swing – we’re mowing and edging the grass and getting the golf course ready. There have been times where we were mulching (setting mulch) by the end of February. We basically have to hit the ground running in order to have everything ready by graduation.

Q. Are you involved with the planting of the class tree? How do you determine what species it will be and where it is located?

A. We do it! To give you the short answer, we usually just pick a shade tree because those seem to be the ones that do the best and stay around the longest. Typically, it’s been an oak because originally this campus was founded on an oak flat, so we have a ton of verdant forests and old growth oaks that are here on campus. As far as the location, there’s not a huge rhyme or reason; it’s usually just where the tree will do best. We try to keep that class tree somewhere near the oak grove or by the academic buildings, but eventually that’s gonna get pretty crowded too.

Q. Any future plans for the campus?

A. The main thing is that we have to finish landscaping Lowry this coming season. The plan would be to incorporate a nice mix of shrubs and trees to replace what we lost from the construction project. We also have to landscape the tennis courts too, which is a pretty substantial landscape going in. We have benchmarks that we try to hit on a seasonal basis. Our main focus from the middle of March until the second week of May is making sure campus is ready for graduation. Once graduation hits: keep it nice and primped up for alumni weekend. Gary and two other guys are on the golf course because golf season is in swing, mowing three to four days a week. By that point, we’re kind of in our “summer maintenance mode,” keeping the athletic fields in good shape for all the camps and all the tournaments that are happening here. And then we’re getting ready for the start of school by making sure the campus looks nice for everyone by that point. We blew leaves for six to eight weeks straight this past year, starting in October usually. We have 2,800 trees on campus and a lot of them hang onto their leaves because they’re oaks. Our work is very seasonal; we have a full docket and the docket changes by the season.

Q. Any closing thoughts?

We’re always looking for student help! We have a really dedicated and talented department that takes what they do very seriously and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I’ve had a few students come up and give thanks for keeping the sidewalk safe and that means a lot when you’re out there busting your tail early in the morning.