Actor, producer and screenwriter Charlie Day, a 1998 graduate of Merrimack College, will deliver the keynote address at Merrimack’s 64th undergraduate commencement ceremony.
“Charlie Day is a tremendous success story and a proud alumnus,” said Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D., president of Merrimack. “He has been very supportive of the college, and we’re sure he will both enlighten and entertain our graduating seniors and their families.”
The college will present diplomas to 520 seniors during the undergraduate ceremony, to be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 18 in the Lawler Arena. Philanthropic entrepreneur Rachael Chong will deliver the keynote at a ceremony for 175 master’s students, to be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 16 in the Athletics Complex.
Day majored in fine arts at Merrimack and participated in the OnStagers dramatic society. He co-created and stars in the FXX series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and appeared in several major films, including “Pacific Rim,” “Horrible Bosses” and “Monsters University.”
Merrimack will confer honorary doctorates on Day, on retiring trustees Patrick Maraghy and Rev. Anthony “Mickey” Genovese, and on Timothy Murphy, who is stepping down as trustee chairman but will remain on the board, during the undergraduate ceremony.
At the ceremony for graduate students, an honorary degree will be conferred on Chong, founder and CEO of Catchafire.
“Rachael Chong’s outstanding work connecting professionals with social-justice organizations is making our world a better place, and our community more cohesive, every day,” said President Hopey. “All our honorees have proven themselves both successful and highly ethical leaders in their fields, truly embodying Merrimack’s core values.”
That’s a wrap from the Mack Meeting. The crowd wasn’t quite as large or talkative as past meetings, so Hopey didn’t really have to break a sweat.
One quick note: students asked for grills to be placed in the New Hall quads, similar to those outside O’Brien and the Townhouses. It appears those will be added at some point and potentially even have some charcoal supplied for students.
Hopey ended with a parental “be safe, be smart, and have a good time” in regards to Spring Weekend, and wished graduating good luck and his congratulations.
More on the new buildings: They’ll be more sustainable. Andover and North Andover have pretty strict guidelines on sustainability, so that’s certainly a goal.
On Charlie Day: He’s an alum, and Hopey and his staff went down to visit him. Charlie was excited to come back to Merrimack, see some changes and speak at commencement. He’ll be available and around to meet people as well.
Hopey just announced another Residential Village is going to be build on campus, and groundbreaking will likely take place in August or September. Hopey won’t reveal the location of the houses, but says people will “like where they’re going to go.” The reasoning is that plans have not yet been finalized with the town.
He also hopes to build another academic facility and more student commons and, once again, reiterated his desire for a bowling alley.
Why don’t we have any 24-hour food services?
Answer: Hopey didn’t know that was the case. Neither did his Chief of Staff. But he says he will talk to Sodexo and work on changing that. Students then asked that the Warrior’s Den be the 24-hour option if one of the current dining options’ hours were to be changed.
Q: “If you take 3 classes, you pay for four. If you take 5 classes, you pay for 5.” Essentially, if you take 3 classes (12 credits) you pay for a full course load. The current overload fee sets in when you go above 19 credits. However, all classes are 4 credits, so this is a problem for any student trying to take a fifth class (20 credits).
Hopey – The school has been looking at this, and they hope to have a resolution soon. He thinks that the max you will pay for is 4 credits so students can overload at least one class without paying a fee, as was the original plan.
On Parking: “We don’t charge a lot of money for parking right now, so that is going to change.” Hopey says the school is trying to be environmentally conscious but hopes more spots could be created in coming spots. He added that they are continuing to look at priority parking (for upperclassmen or students with internships and jobs, for example), but “parking will always be difficult for us because of the land and the town community around us.”
He reiterated the immense cost of a parking garage and that he didn’t want to “charge $1,000 per spot, which we would need to do in order to pay for a garage.”
First question: I came here because of the small school feeling. Where did it go?
Answer: Hopey says being “too small in the modern world isn’t good.” He cited needing more money for things like the $48 million in financial aid given out this year. The second reason is to meet a goal of 3,000 students, which Hopey aims to use for national recognition and making student degrees worth more. Finally, he cited adding new majors that are more up-to-date and current with this generation. With less students, he feels this is harder.
“We’re not going to be 10,000 students. We won’t be a Boston College or Villanova, but we want to be a Providence or Quinnipiac, and they’re between 3,000 and 4,000 students.”
Once again, it’s all eyes on President Hopey.
Hopey takes the stage in Cascia Hall at 5 p.m. for this semester’s Mack Meeting. For those who are new to the event, the Mack Meeting usually takes place twice a year and is an open forum for students to ask questions of President Hopey about anything relating to the college. In the past, other notable members of campus staff and administration, including members of the IT team, Academic Deans and department heads, representatives from Sodexo, Student Government, and Police Services, among others, have been in attendance to better answer questions that Hopey himself may not have the most involvement in.
You’ll want to swipe in when you get here, because the first 100 students are entered for a door prize of more Mack Bucks. Let’s be honest: you want more Den food. If that’s not reason enough to come out, we don’t really know what is.
If you’d like to get reacquainted with some of the issues brought up last time, read up on our live blog from November
Some highlights: Last Mack Meeting, Hopey announced potential plans to put a dining hall in the first floor of O’Brien Hall and unveiled plans for a Deegan West Fireplace Lounge remodel. The remodel was supposed to take place over winter break, so how’s the process coming along? Past Mack Meetings have had other big announcements, such as the new Athletic Complex and Dunkin Donuts coming to campus.
Could there be a new residence hall plan in the works? How about that bowling alley Hope has wanted for so long? Those are just some of the topics that could come up tonight.
Side note: If you can’t make it but still want to have your question asked, tweet it to us @MCBeacon. You can follow us here for updates mainly, but we’ll update Twitter when we can.
Finally, there’s FREE pizza. And it’s here. Need we say more?
See you at 5.
Karamarie Joyce ‘15, Editor in Chief
Selene Cummings, a senior studying biology, is the first transgender person to be open about her gender at Merrimack. Over the past few years she has been through several changes both physically and mentally.
I sat down with her to learn more about the changes taking place in her life, and see how these changes affect her as well as the Merrimack community.
Q: When did you begin to feel that you were female and not male?
A: I first started to feel that I was more female than male after I left my first school; I was going through the same thing most people go through, which is trying to figure out who you are. For a long time I had been questioning if I even existed, it got the point where I had to re-build myself from the ground up. Part of the building process was questioning everything, including gender, I realized even from middle school I was questioning myself, thinking “If I were a girl life would be easier.” I was thinking that at the time because I was looking at this group of girls, and they all seemed to be friends and get along, and at the time I had very few friends. I always seemed to get along better with the girls. That was the first time I ever really thought about gender. Men and women are basically the same to me, they’re just people. Since that point forward I questioned my own gender, my biological gender didn’t seem to matter as much as my mental gender.
Q: Who was the first person you expressed what you were feeling to?
A: That person was Elizabeth Harvey; she is my best friend. When I came out to her she said, “Honey, I know.” We went on to talk about how she knew, and she said she had noticed when I began to grow out my hair, and how I acted much differently than most 21-year-old guys. She assured me I was completely accepted and loved.
Q: What was the next step you made after coming out to Elizabeth?
A: I came out to my mother next on Christmas Eve — poor timing, but I just couldn’t hold it in any longer. She was quiet for a moment and then very calmly said, “I will always love you.” We kept it from my father for about a month; in that time I told my sisters. Their reaction was complete indifference. They assured me if I were a guy or a girl I’d still be their sibling and they supported me. My father was a little bit more difficult. We didn’t talk for a little while after I told him because he felt like he was losing a son. He came around eventually, especially after I spoke to his mother, my grandmother, about it. As the matriarch of the family, my grandmother’s acceptance set the tone for the rest of my family to follow.
Q: What was the first step in the process of changing your gender from male to female?
A: The first step for anyone going through this is to find a therapist. I found one and the process began to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake, and that I wasn’t, for example, a cross-dresser, which is a man who likes women’s clothes, but rather it was the issue of being one gender physically and another on the inside. After going to therapy for some time I was connected with a transgender doctor who prescribed me estrogen pills to begin my transformation.
Q: What effects did the estrogen pills have on you?
A: The most notable effect was the change in my emotions; they became much more intense once I began taking the pills. That took a long time to work out — because of the intense emotions I was feeling my doctor had to slowly increase the doses she was prescribing me. Other changes which took place over time were the softening of the skin and hair, and growth of breast tissue. Scientifically, adding the estrogen to my body made my brain suppress the production of testosterone.
Q: What was your birth name?
A: My birth name was Joseph Ryan Cummings. I legally changed my name to Selene Cummings
Q: How did the school respond to your arrival?
A: They had a very positive response. Once they realized I was transgender, many of the faculty went to see Gordene Mackenzie, a teacher who has done much of her research on transgender people. My advisers were still a bit wary and so were the Residence Life faculty, but after a few meetings most people got used to me. Res Life was particularly accommodating, allowing me to room with other women, and at my suggestion, as long as my roommate knew what they were getting into. Some of the most accepting people on campus have in fact been the monks, which was my largest concern. In fact I now feel more comfortable with them than the general student body.
Q: Have you run into any harassment?
A: I have only on a few occasions. New England is very accepting of the LBGT community compared to most places in the world. The only problem I ran into on campus involved a picture of myself and a rude comment taken by a student. When the administration found out about it, the picture was removed from Twitter and the student ended up apologizing to me. The whole incident made me feel more comfortable because it made me feel that the school would protect me if I ran into any more trouble in the future.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about transitioning?
A: In many ways, you are free to act like yourself, and look like what you want to look like when you begin to transition. Learning to walk with a sway in my hips has been fun, the clothes are so much nicer, and makeup is turning into one of my hobbies. For many male to female transgenders, removing facial hair and changing our voices is very difficult and takes a lot of time. Hormones take care of that when you’re a transitioning female to male.
Q: Why did you pick Merrimack, did you think it would be accepting?
A: Honestly I wasn’t sure about Merrimack College at first. It is advertised as a Christian school, not the most accepting bunch. They also don’t advertise their social diversity or acceptance that Augustinians in particular have toward the rest of the world and other ideas. The monks ended up being one of the most accepting bunch and the ones I’ve spoken with tend to greet me when we see each other around.
Q: Why did you decide to leave your old school and attend Merrimack?
A: I left Hesser College in order to study biology. They just didn’t have the facilities to teach it and I had heard that Merrimack College had a good biology program. It was as simple as that.
Q: Are you attracted to men or women or both?
A: I’m actually pansexual. No, that doesn’t mean that I’m attracted to frying pans. It means that gender has little to no meaning to me when I’m looking at a possible partner. This includes people who don’t identify as male or female. I do have other preferences though, so it also doesn’t mean that I’m just attracted to everyone. I still find confidence in one’s self, an intellectual mind and a healthy lifestyle very appealing.
Q: Are you involved in any campus activities?
A: I spend a lot of my time in the Media Center, one of the most accepting hangouts I’ve run across is in that office. From time to time I drop in with the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), but I’m not one for being in a group or having a large friend base. I spoke in a panel the last time Merrimack hosted Social justice week and I make myself an open resource for anyone who wants to ask questions in a respectful manner.
Q: Are you in contact in any other people going through this transition? Are there support groups?
A: I do know a few people like myself. My primary physician is actually a male to female individual, which has helped a lot, as you might imagine. There is also a friend I have that doesn’t feel like they can transition because they would be rejected by their family. It makes sense to me; it’s quite frightening to put yourself in such a vulnerable position. I just try to be supportive and my friends are the same way with me.
Schuyler Watkins ‘14, Associate Editor-in-Chief
In just two short months, the Netflix original show “Orange is the New Black,” will air its second season, picking up where it left off: with Piper Chapman, an upper-middle-class, white female and her fate in an all woman’s prison.Prior to its premiere, last week the Merrimack community met the real Piper behind the survival comedy, Piper Kerman.
During a question and answer session, followed by Kerman’s lecture, students, faculty and members of the area community discovered the truth behind the “Orange is the New Black” series, Piper’s memoir with the same name, and Kerman’s experience at the Federal Correctional Facility in Danbury, Conn., which inmates who have been convicted of charges related to murder, drugs, and in Kerman’s case, money laundering.
Those who attended Kerman’s lecture in the MPR of the Sakowich Center heard more than just a tell-all of her experience in prison. She clinched the attention of the room, discussing the real issue with her situation — the dehumanizing and immoral system which throws people into American prisons daily. Supporting her statement with unimaginable numbers, Kerman explained, “200,000 women are in jail today, two-thirds of which are there for non-violent offenses.”
Kerman, an active member of the Women’s Prison Association, continued to explain her concerns with America’s prison system, including a fact that shows an 800 percent increase in incarcerated women since 1980. It became clear that Kerman’s mission for these lectures is to educate those who are unfamiliar with the prison system, as she was when she entered Danbury.
Kerman brought up her largest issues with the system, and that was race, gender, and the hierarchy of wealth in our society. She said, “My book is framed as a fish out of water story because no one expects an upper-middle-class white woman to go to prison, which is a funny thing given we invest so much in creating the institution of prison, and if they aren’t intended for upper-middle-class white women, then who are they intended for?
“I’d suggest if you were a young man of color from a poor neighborhood you would not necessarily have the opportunity to write a fish out of water memoir like mine because many people would not be at all surprised that you were in prison, and I think that is tragic and a societal flaw and issue we should look at,” she said.
Kerman said African-Americans are four times more likely to get arrested for smoking marijuana, when, “let’s face it, white people smoke just as much pot.”
Kerman’s advocacy allowed an audience unfamiliar with the justice system to open their eyes to an operation that seems moral but, she argued, lacks an ethical nature.
Asked about the one message she wishes her audience observes from her memoir, Kerman answered, “What I hope is at the end of the book, they have that different idea who is in prison, why they are there, and just that they see the people in jail as humans, and not as inmates or criminals. When you recognize the humanity of the people who are there it makes us feel differently about what happens.”
Kerman continues to advocate for prison reform and justice, expressing joy in the newest bill to pass in Massachusetts, which no longer allows pregnant women to be shackled when behind bars.
“Orange is the New Black” returns June 6 to Netflix. Kerman admitted the show is a little more farfetched than what actually happened, but is satisfied with the way things are going.“I served 13 months out of 15, I got two months off for good behavior,” she said. “I’m a little better behaved than Piper Chapman.”
CJ Flannery ‘14, Staff Writer
Two men were digging a ditch on a very hot day. One said to the other,
“Why are we down in this hole digging a ditch when our boss is
standing up there in the shade of a tree?” “I don’t know,” responded
the other. “I’ll ask him.”
So he climbed out of the hole and went to his boss. “Why are we
digging in the hot sun and you’re standing in the shade?”
“Intelligence,” the boss said. “What do you mean, ‘intelligence’?”
The boss said, “Well, I’ll show you. I’ll put my hand on this tree and
I want you to hit it with your fist as hard as you can.” The ditch
digger took a mighty swing and tried to hit the boss’ hand. The boss
removed his hand and the ditch digger hit the tree. The boss said,
The ditch digger went back to his hole. His friend asked, “What did he
say?” “He said we are down here because of intelligence.” “What’s
intelligence?” said the friend. The ditch digger put his hand on his
face and said, “Take your shovel and hit my hand.”
by Chris Mason ’14, Staff Writer
It’d be reasonable to rename the Merrimack 400 meter record the “Carly Muscaro,” as she broke the school record for the 400m dash by three seconds… and then proceeded to break it five more times throughout the course of the season. Muscaro said that breaking this record was the most special of all that she’s broken, because “It is my main event and I train so hard for it. It is a tough race both physically and mentally.”
The 400m is longer than a traditional sprint like the 100m dash, but too short to be considered a distance race, so it requires a strong degree of mental toughness.
Muscaro ran the event with such speed that she qualified for Division II Nationals in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She ran the 400m in 56.87 seconds, which was good for a 10th place finish, and missed becoming an All-American by less than half a second. While she’s proud of her finish, the Ashland, MA native looks at the trip as a learning experience moving forward.
“Going as a freshman exposes you to the atmosphere that you want to experience again someday. This pushes you to train harder and stay determined,” Muscaro said. “Nationals are forever embedded in the back of my mind. I got a sense of what it means to be a real college athlete. I can’t wait to go again. Now I have the knowledge of what it is like to be there so next time will be a bit easier.”
Track may appear as an individual sport in many of the events, but Muscaro is quick to credit her teammates for her personal achievements, as she points out, “Without them I wouldn’t be as successful as I’ve been.” Muscaro explains, “Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t really have a lot of technique. The upperclassmen helped guide me with my form and block work.”
Muscaro impressed in February’s Northeast-10 Championships at the Reggie Lewis Center finishing 3rd in her 400m with a time of 56.21 seconds. A week later she was even more remarkable in the NEICAAA Championships. The NEICAAA meet consists of all of the schools in New England, in all divisions. Muscaro finished 3rd again, against greater competition, posting her personal best (and new Merrimack record) of 55.03 seconds.
The three-time Northeast-10 Rookie of the Week has shown no signs of slowing down with the Outdoor Track season beginning. Muscaro won the 100m race against 71 other competitors at last weekend’s Tufts Snowflake Classic. She was also on the relay team that placed third in the 4×100 meter event, and the points she accrued helped Merrimack to a 4th place finish out of 24 schools in the Classic.
This won’t be enough for Muscaro though, as she’s an athlete that has no time for complacency.
“I have many goals for my track career here at Merrimack. I hope to return to nationals as an individual qualifier as many times as possible, to go to nationals with the 4×400 relay team, to break 55 seconds in the 400m, to be the NE-10 400 champion, to be the NEICAAA 400 champion, to and be captain of the team.”
But at the end of the day one objective stands out above the rest, as she summarizes, “My main goal is the become an All-American.”
Given the way she’s performed in her freshman year at Merrimack, I’d bet on Muscaro to achieve them all.
by Justin Ruano ’15, Staff Writer
When you think of some of the best teams in sports it’s usually the case for a team to have an x-factor player or a few players on the roster to really watch out for. But that is not the case when it comes to the Merrimack baseball team, as this team has the mentality of a team atmosphere more than anything.
“We do not necessarily have an X factor player,” said fourth-year coach Jim Martin. “We really try to have a team mentality. From coaches to players, whatever your role is for the day or game we expect us to execute it. We don’t have one or two guys to look for. We may have great individual accomplishments during a game or week, but what matters to us is winning. We talk about doing what it takes to win and if we win individual accomplishments will come.”
This philosophy so to speak has really helped this team do well this season going an impressive 12-7 on the year with 23 games left to go, all of which will be going up against division and conference opponents. Fortunately for them, the team has done really well this year in conference play by going 6-2 on the year so far. They will be looking to keep up this great play by having a “headlight” approach and keeping everything in front of them for the rest of these 23 games remaining.
“The Northeast-10 is such a difficult conference and has so much depth. We have so many great coaches who work really hard and so many great players,” Martin said. “We just need to have a headlight approach and worry about what is in front of us and worry about what we can see. Continue to learn from our mistakes, play hard with great energy all the time no matter who we our opponent is.”
Having a team mentality and keeping everything in front of them has led them well this year. But if you are wondering what makes this team special you won’t have to wait any further to find out why.
“I think our family atmosphere is really special. It is now my fourth year so most of the players either went through the recruiting process with me or have been with me for four years. Me and my wife have dinners at the beginning of each semester at our apartment complex, we do many hours of community service including 5k for Haiti on Homecoming, the Mack Gives Back program in fall, a breast cancer walk in Boston (Martin and the baseball team won the community service award last year in the athletic department), team dinners at Fuddruckers/Panera bread, we have done team movie night,” said Martin.
“We have a great relationship with Father Jim Wenzel who is our team chaplain. So I would say the overall team camaraderie and relationships on and off the field contributes to our winning program.”