Category Archives: Features

Something Different: A Review of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”

Photo labeled for reuse

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

BBC America’s new show “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” kicked off its first season on Oct. 22, 2016 with an hour-long pilot episode entitled “Horizons.” The new series, directed by Max Landis, boasts an amazing cast and features the hilarious duo of Samuel Barnett as the title character Dirk Gently and Elijah Wood — known for his role as Frodo in “The Lord of the Rings” — as Todd Brotzman, Dirk’s reluctant sidekick. First shown at the BBC America panel at New York Comic Con, the first episode of the TV series introduces a number of other characters of varying importance and presents the main mystery of the series, but it does not really get around to explaining a lot. The first series covers the mystery of a missing girl and the murder of the girl’s father, a prominent businessman. It also introduces a strange and mysterious disease Todd’s sister has, which seems to cause hallucinations that can actually hurt her. Other odd occurrences can be seen throughout the first episode, including a man in a gorilla mask, a strange and gruesome murder scene, a person in two places at once, a lottery ticket, and a corgi that keeps popping up.

“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” is one of the strangest TV series to date. It seems to be a mix of Sherlock and Doctor Who but only really rises to similar mix of insanity and wonderfulness in the last few episodes of the season. By contrast, the first episodes are more of a slog, partially due to the fact that the viewer understands very little. The new series is based on a series of books by Douglas Adams (author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) by the same name and yet, according to other reviewers, the only thing the TV series and the book series seem to have in common are the main character. Still, the first season ended on a high note in comparison to previous episodes. The first season had eight episodes, but the series has already been renewed for a second season which promises another ten episodes and is set to debut some time this fall. Intrigued? The series is not yet available on Netflix, but can be bought on iTunes or watched on the BBC America website until Feb. 8.

January Book Review: “After Alice”

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

If you like “Wicked” by Gregory Maguire, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, and Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll, then you should read…

“After Alice” by Gregory Maguire

This novel continues in the same vein as Maguire’s more well-known novel “Wicked”  — famous for the Broadway adaptation by the same name — in challenging preconceived notions of famous stories and looking at those stories from another perspective. In “After Alice,” this perspective is shown through the eyes of Ada Boyce, a young girl whose best friend is Alice. Alice is described as “unlovely” and is forced to wear an iron corset in order to maintain perfect lady-like posture. One day Alice’s father has a meeting with Mr. Dickens and a strange man named Mr. Winters, who is accompanied by a freed slave named Siam. In an attempt to find Alice, Ada and Siam find themselves tumbling down the same rabbit hole as Alice did; they too are exposed to the curiousness of Wonderland. All three children grow due to their experiences in Wonderland, but in rather different ways. Most know of Alice’s story, which focuses on childhood, but Ada goes through a very different transformation as a result of her time in Wonderland.

Maguire succeeds in creating a wonderful contrast to Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” While Carroll’s books focus on the wonder of childhood, Maguire’s is much more of a coming-of-age novel — of growing into oneself and one’s surroundings. By the end of the story, Ada grew from her experience in Wonderland and benefited from the disassociation from traditional Victorian British society that the trip brought. Ada sprouted her wings thanks to Wonderland; by contrast, the same world gave Alice just another way to stay in her cocoon.

Spotlight on Creativity: “The Coyote File” Unshelved

By Chloe Lindeman, Co-Editor-in-Chief

When was the last time you wrote or created something that really made you proud? For Alex Brooks (HC ’17), that moment is now — but it’s been in the works for more than four years.

This Thursday, Brooks, a political science and Russian double major, is releasing the prologue to The Coyote Files, a digital article series he started during high school. It tells the story of the US and Russia fifty years in the future through the eyes of four different characters.

The Bi-College News sat down with the political science and Russian double major to hear what the process has been like for him. Here’s what he had to say:


Did you always know it was going to be a Russia-US story?

Not really … I wanted Russian characters in the story, because this was around the same time I was visiting Russia, participating in Russian programs and stuff. Russia’s a fascinating place, and it has a fascinating history, and so why not have some of it take place in Russia? It’s also a part of the world I understand more than I understand other places … I think the big caveat on what I’m writing is, this is my perspective. I don’t know everything about Russia; this is based on what I know and my experience and what thoughts I have personally.

Did you think a lot about it while you were studying abroad in Russia?

I did. It was hard for me to talk about exactly what it was about. I was trying to actually work on it in Russia. It was a lot harder to work on it in Russia because I was thinking in Russian and my ability to write in Russian is not as good … We had grammar class, and I was just tired of grammar exercises, so I would try to see if I could write a short story to use the grammar. Honestly, the idea didn’t work that well, but at least I got to explore what I could write in Russian.

You’ve been working on this for four years. Have things changed?

I’ve changed a lot; the story’s changed a lot, too. It’s nothing like whatever I was working on at first … I overhauled the story and completely scrapped everything I was doing and started from scratch at least five different times. I’ve written lots and lots of drafts. For every overhaul, I’ve written a draft of something … I did a lot of deleting stuff like crazy, especially if I learned something new and I’d realize that this element of something that I’d think is really important is not in the story at all; it’s time to change it. Or I’d discover I’m wrong about one sort of thing. Or I’d learn something new and I’d really want to work with that. But now I think … it’s ready now.

Was there ever a time when you thought about scrapping the project and doing something totally different?

I mean, not really. It’s weird because it’s something that’s stuck over the past few years, and there are times when I’m not working on it as much. I guess there are times when I have doubts. Like serious, serious doubts. And I’m wondering whether I’m going to do anything or whether it’s a waste of time or something. That’s definitely a thing, that’s happened multiple times. But ultimately, this is something I’m passionate about. I really like writing … at this point, I have the story; I just need to put it out there.


Brooks didn’t say much about the background of the story itself since the prologue is the background. He did note that among the characters are Allison King, “the daughter, basically, of the Bill Gates of their time;” Andrei Volodin, “who runs Kremlin Corp. … [which is] an arms corporation;” and Bagha, a “cybernetic soldier.”

“I’m starting with Trump and Putin … the prologue starts in 2020, so it’s not like now, and of course it hasn’t happened, but it’s foreseeable,” said Brooks.

You can read the prologue at any time after its release tonight, Wednesday, Jan. 25, at midnight.

The Archives Are Alive: Meet Christiana Dobrzynski, Bryn Mawr College Archivist

By Emma Nelson and Isabella Nugent, Staff Writers

The archives are not dead. The history of our college and the thousands of students who have made Bryn Mawr so meaningful is not locked behind steel doors; the archives are waiting to entertain, to inform and to inspire. In March of 2016, Christiana Dobrzynski was hired as Bryn Mawr’s first full-time archivist. As she works to make the institutional history of Bryn Mawr universally accessible, Dobrzynski is also embarking on archival projects that will embrace and preserve voices from previously undocumented communities.

In the past, the Bryn Mawr College archives have primarily focused on administrative documentation. However, Dobrzynski aims to close the gap between the identities which have traditionally been represented in the archives and those which have not. In her pursuit to document a wider range of voices, Dobrzynski is currently working on an acquisition from 1968 alumna Judith Mazer. Mazer is a self-identified “Jewish lesbian of size” who is working closely with Dobrzynski to incorporate her photographs, audio recordings, drawings of lesbian erotica and other objects into the archives. Not only do these materials hold valuable insight into the feminist movement in the Bay Area and Mazer’s own activism, but they also represent queer and Jewish identities in the Bryn Mawr community. If histories such as Mazer’s are not preserved, much of Bryn Mawr’s legacy will be lost.

In this same spirit, Dobrzynski is also working on a collection of oral histories, approved by President Kim Cassidy, to accompany this year’s academic programming around the theme of “voice.” During the planning stage, Dobrzynski is reaching out to the Black Alumni Association and LGBTQIA Alumni Affinity Group at Bryn Mawr for assistance with incorporating underrepresented voices into Bryn Mawr’s history. This more holistic approach to documentation is works toward Dobrzynski’s goal of expanding the archives to reflect the wide variety of paths taken by Bryn Mawr alumnae. Many activists, especially those who identify as women, Dobrzynski explains, did not think what they were doing was important enough to be documented.

Dobrzynski is excited at the prospect of forming a more even-level relationship between the archives and the students, faculty and staff of Bryn Mawr. In order to facilitate this, she is collaborating with digital collections librarian Rachel Appel to collect and maintain the social media landscape of today’s students. This form of proactive documentation attempts to preserve a broader representation of student life and opinion. Dobrzynski hopes that these collections will become a catalyst for discussions on transparency and public access to the Bryn Mawr archives. “We keep things under lock and key,” Dobrzynski explained, “but only so it’s preserved for you.”

For Dobrzynski, student voices are critical in defining Bryn Mawr’s legacy and how that legacy is recorded. Under her work and her collaborations, students from every background will be able to see themselves documented in the history of Bryn Mawr. Additionally, Dobrzynski’s work to encourage an open and ongoing dialogue about the archives will enable others to use the archives as “a touchstone for deeper conversations.” The archives are not only alive, but they are growing.

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

Does the Tri-Co Give the Most Bang for Your Buck? A Close Look at College Costs versus Post-Graduation Income

By Isfar Munir, Contributing Writer

Student loan debt continues to be recognized as a major issue in the United States, along with the soaring growth of college tuition costs. It wasn’t always this expensive to get a degree, but despite these new costs, college enrollment continues to increase. A projected 3.9 million more people enrolled into full-time undergraduate programs in 2016 as compared with 1990, representing a jump in enrollment of a little over 55% (figured based on NCES published figures). Sure, the population of the United States has increased as well, but not at anywhere near this rate. While all of these students have indeed, managed to find a place to go, top colleges and universities have seen their acceptance rates plunge.

Some would say this is great, as a more educated workforce is a necessity for future growth. Personally, I hesitate to call it such a great thing. Let’s talk a little bit about cost.  The similarity between tuition rates, particularly among private schools, is frightening. If we account solely for tuition plus room and board, Harvard University charged roughly $60,000 last year. Most would agree that once you factor in professor quality, alumni network strength, and prestige, Harvard represents a better choice than, for instance, Santa Clara University. At least to me, it’s astounding that Santa Clara would charge more than Harvard; hell, it seems odd that Santa Clara would charge anywhere near the same price as Harvard. But sure enough, Santa Clara University costs a whopping $61,000 per year. For some people, Santa Clara University is a great choice, but I have difficulty accepting that it is a better choice for a majority of students. And if you get what you pay for, Santa Clara seems to be overvaluing its education.

Of course, sticker price is not what is typically charged. Many, perhaps even most, students attending private schools receive financial aid. Thanks to the College Scorecard rolled out by the Department of Education, we now have a better understanding of the average costs after financial aid across different institutions. These financial aid numbers probably aren’t the absolute best, but they can be helpful, and are pretty standard. The cost represents how much is charged, on average, to recipients of federal financial aid attending a given institution (note that Federal Stafford Loans are counted as aid), after all financial aid given by the school itself, the state, and the federal government is subtracted from the sticker price of the school. Harvard ends up costing a little over $14,000 on average for aid recipients. If we look at only those whose family income lies between $48,000 and $75,000, the average cost falls to just over $5,000. For the same set of people (Federal Aid Recipients), Santa Clara University charges in excess of $34,000 on average. For those that fall in the aforementioned income bracket, the average cost is slightly north of $27,000. Santa Clara University charges over twice what Harvard does for the average aid recipient. The current median income in the United States is just over $50,000 per year. For someone making closer to that amount of money, Santa Clara University charges over 5 times the Harvard rate. If we look at other highly prestigious schools with smaller endowments than Harvard, such as Johns Hopkins and Duke, the cost for those who earn close to the median income in the United States is about $15,000 and $14,000 per year respectively (the average cost at both Duke and Johns Hopkins is about $27,000).

Now for the kicker. When you pay for a college degree, you have a reasonable expectation that the degree can be parlayed into a well-paying job. College Scorecard can help us here too; it gives the median annual salary for students 10 years after they graduated. We must note that these salary figures are limited to a pool of federal aid recipients, meaning that the salary figures for very wealthy students who didn’t receive any aid aren’t reported. This is an important limitation to our numbers, but as a median, this figure is less skewed to start with, excepting students who are still in graduate school six years after they graduated (assuming they graduated on time) and well-connected persons that hit the salary jackpot. And besides, if college is the great equalizer, whether or not one received financial aid as a student shouldn’t really affect how much salary that person makes later on. The average salary incomes reported by our prestigious schools of Harvard, Duke, and Johns Hopkins are about $87,000, $77,000, and $69,000 respectively. At Santa Clara, the salary figure is just under $68,000.  While this is a perfectly respectable salary, consider how much more it cost for the average aid recipient at any of the other three schools I’ve mentioned. A John Hopkins degree can be expected to bring nearly the same income as a Santa Clara University, but costs roughly 20% less than the Santa Clara degree for the average aid recipient, and nearly 50% less for someone whose family makes roughly median income.

Santa Clara University is comparatively expensive, and I’m sure there are people perfectly willing and able to pay for it without incurring much debt at all. That being said, Harvard, Duke, and Johns Hopkins are all more likely schools of choice for America’s wealthy. And the far more selective schools are the type of schools that wealthy students are able to attend, having  had  access to the type of  education that makes them attractive to top schools. The students who attend Santa Clara University, on the other hand, are, in general, less well off than the average Harvard or Duke student. We can infer that the student who goes to Santa Clara, as such, is an aid recipient, and a member of the exact class of people that is paying the most for their Santa Clara education relative to what they would be paying if they had gotten into a better school. What’s the point I’m trying to make? Students are paying far more at Santa Clara for a lower post-graduation income than what other prestigious schools charge in exchange for a higher income post-graduation.

All right, maybe Santa Clara University is ripping students off. But are we? I’ve thrown around a lot of numbers, so I’ll tabulate them all now. In addition to the schools I’ve already discussed, I’ll throw in Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and, for good measure Swarthmore.

School Salary Cost (average, after aid) Salary to Cost Ratio Cost (average, after aid, Median Income) Salary to Cost Ratio (Median Income)
Harvard $87,200 $14,049 6.21 $5,405 16.13
Duke $76,700 $28,058 2.73 $14,207 5.40
Johns Hopkins $69,200 $26,596 2.60 $14,927 4.64
Haverford $55,600 $18,853 2.95 $15,612 3.56
Swarthmore $49,400 $24,166 2.04 $18,174 2.72
Bryn Mawr $50,400 $27,386 1.84 $15,091 3.34
Santa Clara $67,700 $34,956 1.94 $27,944 2.42

The salary and cost figures refer back to what I’ve described in the previous paragraphs. I’ve included exact numbers. I’ve also created this Salary to Cost Ratio and applied it once to the average cost for aid recipients and once  to the cost figure for those that fall in that Median Income containing bracket of $50,000-$75,000. The ratios don’t mean anything in exact terms, but are useful as relative indicators of how much income you can be expected to receive on average in comparison to the cost of these schools. Before I tackle the Tri-Co, let’s use Harvard as an example. Harvard does freakishly well on both ratios. It’s clearly a really good deal, but, then again, we probably could have guessed that from the get-go.

As for the Tri-Co schools, after their addition we add median salaries that fall below the previous low-salary king of Santa Clara University. Swarthmore is the only school with a median salary below $50,000 per year. Considering that all of the Tri-Co schools have sticker prices in excess of $60,000 per year, it would be easy to say that the Tri-Co education doesn’t seem to be worth the price of admission. However, when we throw the cost factor back into the mix, the picture changes.

Haverford ends up doing quite well in this analysis, with the lowest cost and highest salary post-graduation of the Tri-Co schools. If we look at just general aid figure alone (not the one for median income families only), Haverford even beats out the much wealthier John Hopkins by about 13% and Duke by 8% on the ratio figure. In fact, in this limited selection of schools, Haverford is second only to Harvard in ratio of net-cost to post-graduation salary. When we look at Median Income aid figures, Haverford falls below again, with Duke and Johns Hopkins, although its’ numbers remain quite respectable.

Bryn Mawr represents an odd case; it’s the worst performing school when just the average aid instead of aid to the Median Income bracket is considered, even worse than Santa Clara University. The ratio jumps significantly when we consider aid to the Median Income bracket. Bryn Mawr is providing money where it counts (unlike Santa Clara), but at the expense of what I would consider a raw deal for many. For a school of Swarthmore’s reputation, the numbers don’t outperform Santa Clara University by a massive amount (5% and 12% respectively). While Haverford is the supposed “safety school”, I would say it’s the smarter financial choice compared to Swarthmore.

Now I want to look at another factor: the growth in enrollment of undergraduate students. The number of prestigious institutions that have large endowments that generally work as a gateway into a well-paying job hasn’t significantly grown in number since 1990. Yet there is currently an insatiable demand for college degrees, which leads more students into institutions that historically don’t lead to the highest of salaries, and worse, don’t have the resources to offer the best in financial aid. These non-competitive degrees are more likely to result in debt, and these degrees lead to underemployment relative to what would be needed to manage the debt taken on to earn these degrees. This is compounded by the rapid growth in the number of college enrollees; while there are more jobs now that require college degrees, I am skeptical that there are enough to absorb all of these new college graduates. Given the supply of people with degrees, regardless of institution, the salaries these degree-demanding jobs would offer would be deflated.

Is this the only cause for the student debt crisis in America? No. Should the value of a college degree be based solely on expected income? No. But it is utter madness that an ever growing cohort of students is being charged more money for what is in all likelihood a lower salary later down the road. The cost of college degrees, at least in part, should relate to their future benefits; an education is an investment, after all. Many college degrees, both at sticker rate and actual rate, do not fairly reflect their future value. As for the Tri-Co, while the post-graduation salaries would appear to be lower, the after-cost value remains high. Liberal arts colleges still have a great deal of value where it counts.

From the print edition published Oct. 5, 2016

Professor Profile: Professor Caroline Van Sickle

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

This year the Bryn Mawr community welcomes Visiting Assistant Professor Caroline Van Sickle, a paleoanthropologist and veteran of the Rising Star Project, into the anthropology and archaeology departments here at Bryn Mawr.

Professor Van Sickle focuses on paleoanthropology, the study of human bones and the kinship lines between humans and their fossil ancestors. While identifying recent bones is relatively easy, older fossils are more difficult. Professor Van Sickle’s focus is on Neanderthals and, more specifically, how to determine sex in the fossil record, as well as the process by which male and female bodies evolved. She wrote her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Michigan on how Neanderthals gave birth, and as a result, she became very well acquainted with pelvic fossils. She then did her post-doc in feminist biology at University of Wisconsin Madison, a new program that investigates how to encourage feminist principles in biological research – for example, to see if sexism and gender biases play a role in biological research.  

In 2013, the public became aware, through a series of tweets, of the Rising Star Project, an excavation in South Africa focused on finding Homo naledi, a small bodied species of humans. Professor Van Sickle, who was working on her Ph.D. at that point, recognized the project’s value immediately. “Here was an example of public paleoanthropology, which you really rarely get, and it’s a way for the public to engage with how an excavation on a paleoanthropological site works.”  The public became even more aware of the rising star project in 2015 after it was featured in both National Geographic and The New York Times.

In February of 2014, the project released an ad on Facebook seeking early career researchers who could contribute to the project by looking at and analyzing the fossils. Professor Van Sickle jumped at the chance to take part in what would become a groundbreaking project and was chosen as one of about 60 scientists whose job it was to figure out if Homo naledi was, in fact, a new species.  

The first few days were strange and hectic. When the researchers arrived at the university campus, they were greeted with a vault with “shelves upon shelve” of fossils. “There’s this law in South Africa where hominin remains have to always be under lock and key. They had this tiny broom closet of a vault before, where they kept all of the fossils that had been found in South Africa, … and it was kind of overflowing. They had just gotten done redoing [the vault], [so that] it was the size of a classroom that would … maybe fit 20 people in it … it was lined with shelves and beautiful wooden cabinets.” Van Sickle recalled, “[They]… thought, ‘Oh, this is great, we can work on filling this up for years to come.’ Rising Star took up a whole wall – it practically filled the vault.”

The researchers spent two weeks organizing the bones, figuring out what bones they had and where exactly they went. By the end of the summer, they learned that the bones represented a total of 15 individuals – from babies to adults of a relatively great age for the species. Here was a large enough sample for paleoanthropologists to be able to ask questions: about age, social discrepancies, growth patterns and biological differences between male and female.  Now that the preliminary description of the fossils has been published, Van Sickle says, they can move on to analyzing the bones in more detail and hypothesizing about how Homo naledi lived. She believes that one of the best things that came out of the project, in addition to the discovery of an entire new hominid species, is the recruitment of new scientists. This inclusiveness helps to reverse the age-old hierarchy in which older, white males are viewed as more legitimate scientists than younger, ethnically diverse and gender-diverse researchers.

She finds Bryn Mawr students to be fantastic and smart and to ask great questions while being exceedingly enthusiastic about the material. As a professor at a liberal arts college, she is drawn to the small class sizes and the opportunity to get to know her students one-on-one. She hopes that she can stay another year before heading off to – hopefully – another teaching job that focuses on anthropology somewhere else in the wide world.

From the print edition published on Oct. 5, 2016

Experiencing 80’s Night at Erdman and Hafner Dining Halls

By Diana Pope, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Bryn Mawr College’s Erdman and Hafner Dining Halls hosted a festive 80’s night dinner filled with fried chicken, MTV music videos, and a whole array of desserts. Students couldn’t help but smile when they walked into the nostalgic and bittersweet celebration of this decade.

Ray Bevidas, manager at Erdman Dining Hall, was the mastermind beind this themed dinner.  He stated that the goal of the night was to allow students to have a good time, especially after an emotional election season. His main intention was to create a stress-free environment for the Bryn Mawr community.

Erdman and Hafner Dining Halls were filled with many decorations to commemorate the 80’s. Students could see throwback posters of popular movies such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Pretty in Pink.” There were also jukeboxes and cassette tapes along the walls as additional decorations. Bevidas said that decorating was his favorite part of planning this dinner because he grew up in the 80’s and wanted to add as much color and neon as possible.

The entrees during this night were top-notch. The most popular foods of the night included the pizza bagels and sloppy joes. Bevidas picked these choices because he wanted the food to resemble what it would feel like to be in an 80’s shopping mall. Erdman also prepared delicious Smurf’s cupcakes with blue food coloring and chocolate chips. Another favorite was were the Reese’s Pieces, symbolic of the popular 80’s movie ”E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

Along with the creative decorations and delicious food, the dining hall managers also chose to play 80’s music videos from artists such as Michael Jackson and MC Hammer. Bevidas thanked Michael Winston for “tirelessly putting together CDs of MTV music videos for this event”. He wanted to include music from multiple genres including dance, electronic and rap

Bevidas stated that Erdman Dining Hall will definitely host more themed dinners in the future. He’s looking forward to helping out with the holiday dinner for “Marvel vs. DC” and may plan another themed dinner in February. Dining hall workers felt happy after seeing the turnout for this festive night.

Election Day

By Kate Hawthorne, Staff Writer

When I got up on Nov. 8, 2016, I was exhilarated. I carefully went through my clothes and chose a perfect outfit – slipping on a warm blue sweater, shrugging into a blue leather jacket, placing a blue necklace around my throat, sliding on blue origami earrings and, finally, placing my “Chappaqua for Hillary” hat on my head. I took a deep breath before leaving my room for my first class of the day.

This would be the first time I have voted, and doing so during such a historic election meant everything to me. As the memes put it, “This will either be our first female president or our last president.” As anyone who saw my hat might have guessed, I felt strongly about who should be the next president, and it was hard not to think that the world would essentially end if the other candidate won. And, I felt – or at least hoped – the majority of the country agreed with me.

I come from Chappaqua, New York, a town known for being mostly Jewish, having great public schools and being the home to the Clintons (with the nearby town of Mount Kisco being the home of Sandra Lee and Governor Andrew Cuomo). Chappaqua is not known for much else. Still, living in the same area as the Clintons has an effect on the town: it is extremely democratic. While it is not as liberal as Bryn Mawr, I still grew up with democrats comprising the majority of my classmates.

After my first class of the day, I nearly ran from Park to Pembroke Arch, my heart fluttering at the thought of finally having a say in what happens in this country – and even more of a say than I would if I had voted using an absentee ballot from one of the most democratic areas in New York. I waited in line for the shuttle graciously provided by Bryn Mawr College, internally squirming with impatience. When the shuttle finally pulled up at the church where people were voting, I barely spared a glance at the free hot chocolate and cookies being provided by NextGen Climate.

I tore inside and was greeted by two sides of the room – one with a sizable but not unmanageable line and the other with no line. You can guess which one I was told to join. I waited, again trying not to squirm, before noticing that Pennsylvania was voting on whether to make Supreme Court Judges retire at 75. With an internal sigh of relief, I started looking into what exactly that meant in order to take my mind off the line in front of me.

Finally, I reached the front of the line and, in short order, signed in, was directed to a voting booth and voted in my first election. I grinned as I exited the voting booth, receiving my “I’ve voted” sticker – which has now been placed on a flashcard with the date and my main vote on it for posterity. I returned to wait for the shuttle, grabbing a cookie from NextGen, and smiled as the butterflies in my stomach settled a little. Now, all I had to do was get through lunch, one class, and picking up some food from Acme for the BMC Democrats’ election watch party. Everything would be fine.

Until, at 9 p.m., staring at the screen in front of me, fighting the tears that threatened to spill from my eyes, everything wasn’t.

Holidaze: A Season of Surprises

By Arianna Bernas, Opinion Editor

Thanksgiving was never a big deal to me. I always saw it as a very “American” holiday, much like Halloween. Even though my father did prepare Thanksgiving dinner and villages gave out candy on Halloween night, the trees stayed green and the air stayed hot and humid. To me, Halloween and Thanksgiving were temporary pauses within Christmas season.

Back home, the Christmas season starts in September. Restaurants start playing Christmas albums on repeat and Starbucks releases its Christmas drinks and Holiday Cards. Some families, mine included, skip Halloween altogether and put up lights and parols — Christmas lanterns — on our roofs. Shopping malls compete with one another to see who can erect the largest and most beautifully decorated Christmas trees. The air cools slightly, and families spend their free time planning Christmas feasts. Relatives fly in from all over the world to celebrate together. I may be biased in saying this, but no place does Christmas like the Philippines.

For a lot of us International Students, holidays like Thanksgiving or Halloween have always felt half-baked. Experiencing Halloween without pumpkins, or Thanksgiving without the fall leaves might have been special, but rather odd in the hot tropical sun.

Nevertheless, experiencing the holidays I never before this year paid much attention to has been interesting. It feels like there’s something new to celebrate every few weeks: from October break, to Halloween, and into Thanksgiving. It’s like receiving several small presents over time, as opposed to waiting a long time for a rather large one.

“It’s more exciting,” says Anna Landi, a first year at Bryn Mawr. Anna, a Korean-American born and raised in Thailand, had never celebrated Halloween. “It was just another day for us.” She continued, “It’s also really strange celebrating Christmas with palm trees and no snow. I never felt like I was fully experiencing that kind of Christmas.”

What’s particularly exciting about this holiday season, for us at least, is that part of it will feel completely new. Both Anna and I are spending Thanksgiving here and flying home for Christmas; she to Bangkok and I to Manila. We will both get a taste of the Thanksgiving we grew up hearing about; with the fall leaves and the week-long family and food fest. But then we get to return home to the familiarity of our own special types of Christmas. It’s a unique blend of tradition and discovery, of old and new.

At Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a tradition in my household to go around the table and pray about what you’re grateful for. In light of everything that’s happened this year, I think it’s important to remember all of the little things that help us to create a home away from home. I’m grateful for the new experiences I’ve had and the ones I look forward to experiencing. I am grateful for my friends who make this place feel more like home. I’m grateful for the Bi-Co community, for constantly teaching me something new.

What are you grateful for?



Grave Matters: Discovering Bryn Mawr’s History in the Graveyard Behind English House

By Rachel Hertzberg, Staff Writer

Bryn Mawr pulses with creation myths. Myths exist for a reasonthey offer explanation when we dont have the facts, or when we are interested in something more than just facts. There is the story of Rockefellers niece, on whose behalf John D. Rockefeller supposedly donated the money to build his namesake dorm. There is the story of Katherine Hepburn pioneering the tradition of skinny dipping in the cloisters, and the legends about the statue of Athena  in Thomas Great Hall. After a quick walk around campus, any visitor can tell that this is a place steeped in history, where the  traditions of the past continue to inform the present. The stories that students tell one another about our campus create a sense of continuity with past generations and codify our values.

Just beyond the edge of Bryn Mawrs campus, however, lies a fascinating site with few, if any, popular stories attached to it: The Harriton graveyard in Morris Woods, also known as the graveyard behind English House. At night, this graveyard can be found while stumbling over haphazard fallen logs and dry ravines, the grave markers looming shadows. On a bright autumn morning when golden light filters through the trees, the graveyard is a pleasant place to enjoy some solitude and a Halloween aesthetic. Although many students know of its location, few know about the burial grounds occupants and significance.

Around 1719, Richard Harrison, owner of the Harriton tobacco plantation (named for the Welsh town of Harriton), established a family burial ground. Harrison owned the 700 acres of farmland, and his property ended at what is now New Gulph Road. Harrison was the first person known to be buried in the graveyard, and after his death, the land was passed down to his son-in-law, Charles Thomson. Thomson was a little-known founding father,  secretary of the Continental Congress and designer of the United States seal, as well as a beekeeper, orchardist, and abolitionist. There are at least ten unmarked grave sites from the Harrison/Thomson period, including those of family members and other members of the local community. According to Quaker tradition, a stone was placed next to the spot where a body was buried, marking not the deceased, but the next available spot. This practice reflected the Quaker belief in equality and humility.

The most distinctive grave markers are those located at the back of the plot. They are Gothic-style tablets with carvings that resemble angels wings. These tablets do not belong to anyone in the Harrison or Thomson families; the Lower Merion Historical Society describes them as Strangers to the familybecause they mark the graves of a family whose surname is Cochran. Little is known about the Cochran family except that they must have had some claim to the land which allowed them to be buried there. Since the graves do have writing on them, the Cochrans were probably not Quakers.  

In the 19th century, a craze arose for grand public cemeteries, and Thomson and his wife Hannah were dug up and brought to the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, a resting place that seemed to better befit such distinguished citizens. Of course, considering the fact that  the Harriton graves were unmarked, and the transfer happened decades after the original burials, it is possible that the bodies resting under the obelisk in Laurel Hill  either are not the Thomsons, or include remains of multiple individuals. Macabre as this sounds, it reveals the obsession with death rituals that was common in the Victorian era, often referred to as a cult of mourning”. However, not all the deceased were afforded such convoluted rites. As a tobacco plantation, even a small-scale northern one, Harriton was also the home of enslaved people.

The grave markerslack of identification makes it difficult to know for sure how many slaves are buried here, but local historians believe that they would have been former house slaves, freed by Charles Thomson. It is disturbing that such a picturesque spot could be the resting place of slaves. Many people do not know that the Quakers didnt officially disavow slavery until 1758, and due to gradual emancipation laws, some people remained enslaved in Pennsylvania until the early nineteenth century. Although the Harriton slaves had no connection to Bryn Mawr College, their graves hint at the violent reality of this areas history, a reality that is often hidden behind the ideals of Quakerism and tolerance. The proximity of the graves to campus emphasizes the way that a legacy of racism has haunted Bryn Mawr throughout the colleges history.

As Charles and Hannah had no children, the property was inherited by the descendants of Hannahs brother Thomas Harrison. The 700 acres originally owned by the family were divided up and parceled out, both as inheritances and to be sold to developers. Through marriage, the property that included the graveyard came into the hands of the local Morris family, and then passed to the Vaux family. In the early twentieth century, George Vaux IX built a house for his family on his inherited land just on the border of the original property. This house remained in the family until 1958, when it was sold to Bryn Mawr College to be turned into English House. What is today Russian House was once the neighboring garage and apartment. The forested area called Morris Woods was also sold to Bryn Mawr College at this same time.

Trina Vaux, George Vaux IXs granddaughter, spent her childhood in what is today English House. She is now the current owner of the property that includes the graveyard. She recalls that students have always found their way to the cemetery.In fact, it was a popular destination and a favorite site of trysts back when her mother was a Bryn Mawr student in the 1930s. In the 1980s and 90s, Bryn Mawr students formed a coven of witches that met in the graveyard at the spring and fall equinox to read poetry. In later years the witches became an overtly feminist and political group, which did not go over well with some of the more traditional neighbors.  

Today, the graveyard offers a testament to the depth of history in this area, as well as a place for meditation and appreciating nature. After learning about the individuals who are buried there, and speaking with one of their descendants, Ive found it hard to visit without considering their stories. Knowing the history provides a more complete context for Bryn Mawr, but also a more complicated one. Those who are interested in local history might  like to visit the historic Harriton House, a fifteen-minute walk from campus.