By Miriam Torres, Staff Writer
The Enotah Echoes is publishing its first issue of the 2011-2012 academic year after a semester of intense deliberations that resulted in the formation of a campus-wide student media advisory board and new operating policies specific to the newspaper.
The Young Harris College Student Media Advisory Board acts as a visionary body for all official student publications on campus. The Board provides general oversight for the Enotah Echoes as well as the Corn Creek Review literary magazine and the Enotah yearbook. The media board is composed of seven members of the YHC community. These include the Chair of the Communication Studies Department, a member from the Office of Communications and Marketing, two full-time faculty members (appointed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs), a full-time staff member from the Student Development Division, a student who is not affiliated with an official campus media organization (appointed by the Student Government Association President), and a member from the community who has journalism and/or legal experience (appointed by the President).
“When our newspaper is set alongside the newspapers from UGA and Berry and Reinhardt, and all the colleges in Georgia, we want something we can be proud of,” said Ron Roach, the vice president for Academic Affairs. “I’m very proud that the Enotah Echoes has been an award-winning paper in the past, and we want that to continue. These policies will help us to do that.”
Faculty, staff and administration also drafted the Young Harris College Media Communications Policy for Enotah Echoes, which establishes procedures for interactions with sources on campus and standards for ethical reporting.
“I think we’ve done a good job putting those pieces together so that the staff, the faculty and the students can all feel comfortable that we can all go out now and put together a first-rate newspaper without worrying about liability because of ignorance or incompetence, or just basic lack of understanding,” YHC President Cathy Cox said.
Discussions about the creation of a media advisory board took place during the 2010-2011 academic year, but little progress was achieved. Plans were made over the summer to work on the official establishment of a board during the fall semester; however regular publication of the newspaper had been expected to continue during this process.
As a result of disagreements regarding the clarity and applicability of the Young Harris College Media Communications Policy, which outlines procedures for College interactions with all media, the Communication Studies faculty and Dean of Humanities, Ruth Looper, proposed a separate set of policies unique to Enotah Echoes. Subsequent conversations involved faculty from Communication Studies, Looper, members of the Office of Advancement, Roach and Cox. After the policies were developed, the administration made the decision to halt publication of the newspaper until a media advisory board was put in place.
“We figured out that we didn’t have all the policies and procedures in place to ensure that the students, staff members and the faculty members in the College were adequately protected in terms of professional ethics and liability,” said Roach.
The Effects Hit Home
The ensuing process and discussions were lengthy and, at times, contentious, and no formal resolution was achieved until after the fall semester concluded. The semester was fraught with uncertainty for students, faculty, staff and administrators. The staff of Enotah Echoes, who were enrolled in a course under the impression they would be consistently publishing a print edition, expressed frustration and disappointment about the timing of these decisions.
“I feel it was inappropriate that the changes taking place during the academic school year were allowed to prevent us from publishing, because the students were caught in the middle,” said Annie Hunter, managing editor of the Enotah Echoes. “We were eager to get started this fall, but instead it felt like we were on a roller coaster that wouldn’t end. And the campus seemed to not even know we were here or what was going on.”
“I especially saw the freshmen taking it hard, and seeing their disappointment was difficult for me,” said Editor-in-Chief Kathleen Layton. “It bothered me to hear other students say YHC doesn’t have a newspaper. It broke my heart a little.”
Some of last year’s returning staff expressed a sense of defeat after the fall semester. Former Staff Writer Hailey Silvey, who decided not to return to the newspaper this semester, said she gained confidence during her experience last year. A high point for her was winning two awards from the Georgia College Press Association last spring for her feature article “Campus Hauntings” in the Halloween edition.
“I was really upset about the Enotah Echoes not publishing because I love writing for the paper,” Silvey said. “It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment to see my name in print and know I had written an article that was good enough for the entire campus to get their news from. Overall, writing for the paper gave me a lot of confidence in my writing and helped me to improve as a reporter.”
New faculty member and Newspaper Advisor Theresa Crapanzano said she continually reworked the curriculum throughout the semester in an attempt to still fulfill the academic mission of the College and the promises made in the curriculum, even when publication was halted. Despite not publishing, all the students decided to remain in the course for the rest of semester. Their once-a-week classes focused on ethical issues and discussions of the role of journalism in society.
“I was amazingly proud of my students and the patience, professionalism and maturity they displayed,” Crapanzano said.
Still, she noted it was “heartbreaking” to see the increasing effects on the students as the semester waned.
“I was reading their final reflection papers at the end of the semester and I kept tearing up,” she said. “But I do think the policies and procedures that are in place now will help make newspaper publication become a more streamlined process.”
Looper said it was a trying semester for everyone participating—students, faculty, administrators and staff.
“I know it was extremely difficult for the newspaper staff and for the students involved, and I regret that, and I know the administration regrets that,” said Looper. “Everyone has worked together for a wonderful end result, however frustrating some of the process might have been. Now, the newspaper staff, with a lot of guidance and training, can interview and have the training they need.”
Looper expressed gratitude and praise to staff, faculty and students, including then-chair of the Communication Studies Department, Joy Goldsmith, who was instrumental in the semester-long discussions. She also thanked the administration “for listening.”
Back in Black
Jennifer Hallett, the new chair of the Communication Studies Department and chair of the media advisory board, said despite the “growing pains,” she’s looking forward to a great semester ahead.
“I really think it was worthwhile to take the semester off,” she said. “That’s in the past though, and the good news is: You’re back! Welcome back Enotah Echoes print edition!”
Cox noted it is crucial to foster strong communication between the newspaper and administration. She believes the new board helps establish a better communication bridge.
“From a president’s perspective, there are two important things: make sure our students have a fabulous educational experience in writing for the paper and that our campus gets well informed because they benefit and partake of that news outlet,” she said. “I have a primary responsibility to make sure that as students participate in this that students, faculty, and the college are protected as much as possible from liability.”
Roach expressed his pleasure that Enotah Echoes is resuming publication, acknowledging the important role student newspapers play on a college campus.
“A strong student newspaper is an important part of the community at a liberal arts college and it serves several roles: it’s a teaching tool and a learning tool for students who are in the program, to learn how to be journalists; it’s also a way for the student community to express itself,” Roach said.
The process also resulted in a refinement of duties and goals.
“There has been a wonderful clarification of the purpose of the newspaper and a really necessary and wonderful clarification of the different purposes of different groups on campus,” Looper said. “It is the Department of Marketing and Communications’ job to promote the College and show all of the wonderful things that we do, and it’s the job of the student newspaper to learn as journalists, to practice their interviewing, researching, writing skills, and to serve as an academic unit of the college.”
Denise Cook, director of Communications and Marketing, was part of the discussions last semester, but, when asked about her feelings on the process and the role of the newspaper, she said she does not “have a personal opinion regarding the student newspaper’s policy or the newspaper’s image.” She noted her office is “available as a resource to help student journalists” and said any faculty and staff with questions regarding YHC’s media and communications policy can contact Communications and Marketing.
The Board’s first act was to approve the Enotah Echoes mission statement early this week, paving the way for publication.
“As disappointing as last semester was, the opposite can be said for this semester,” Layton said. “I am thrilled, I am overjoyed. It was a very difficult process for all the parties involved, but I think everyone would agree this is something that will make the college be better; it will bolster academics and hopefully provide longevity for the newspaper.”
By Annie Hunter, Managing Editor
Young Harris College President Cathy Cox held a meeting Nov. 3 to inform students about the recent events concerning the threat letter found on Sept. 13, the alleged attack in the Senior Village on Oct. 19 and the arrest of YHC student Joshua Simmons.
Simmons, a junior from Cisco, pled guilty to making false statements to law enforcement and is currently being held at Towns County Jail for the next two months. Simmons admitted to planting a threat letter directed at YHC students, lying to the police, attempting to frame another student and staging an assault. Because Simmons pled guilty and has been sentenced, Cox was now able to divulge the details of the events leading up to his arrest to the student body.
“The purpose of the student debriefing meeting was to allow students to hear directly from YHC administration about the recent campus incidents and how the situations were resolved,” said Denise Cook, director of communications and marketing at YHC. “The meeting was informative and successful and provided students an opportunity to ask questions and offer feedback on how the matter was handled.”
More than 60 students attended the meeting. Campus police and staff from the offices of Student Development and Advancement also attended the meeting.
Following the detailed account of the investigation and arrest (a summary of which follows), students were allowed to ask questions and make any comments on how the matter was handled. Overall the feedback was positive, with several students praising the manner in which the investigation was handled. During the meeting Simmons’s roommate expressed gratitude towards YHC police for professionally handling the incident in the Village.
One student voiced concerns about Simmons’s role as a police cadet. Ken Henderson, chief of Police at YHC, assured her that all cadets undergo screening and that Simmons had nothing in his background to indicate he was capable of such behavior.
Another student asked about visiting Simmons. Henderson suggested calling the Towns County Jail to confirm the days and hours for visitation. Susan Rogers, vice president of Student Development at YHC, reinforced that while Simmons is not allowed on campus, students can go off campus to meet with him.
Cox concluded the meeting by stating that YHC is a family, and no student should hesitate if he or she needs to speak with someone about these events or has any general concern. Lynne Grady, director of counseling and psychological services CAPS, is available for anyone in need of counseling.
The administration, police force and Grady have been working everyday on closing this investigation since the discovery of the letter.
While commenting on the success of the investigation, Cox said it is still a tragedy as it involves a member of the YHC family.
“The campus has been put through a hell of a trauma. There’s nothing good about this story other than we closed the loop and can feel good about where we are,” said Cox, calling Simmons’s situation heartbreaking.
Following the debriefing, students expressed relief and appreciation for the meeting.
“We were kind of kept in the dark, but I understand why,” said Rebecca Fordyce, a sophomore art major from Oglethorpe. “It’s good to really know what’s going on now.”
Ashley Eschbach, a freshman history education major from Key West, Fla., echoed Fordyce’s sentiments.
“I was surprised, he didn’t seem like the type to do this,” said Eschbach. “There were so many rumors. It’s good to know what really happened.”
The Threat, Investigation and Arrest
The following account of the events since Sept. 13 was provided by Cathy Cox, president of YHC at the meeting with students.
Just before 7 a.m. on Sept. 13, Cox received a phone call to her home from Henderson informing her that a threatening letter had been discovered on Maxwell Center.
The note read “Bang. Bang. You can’t stop it. Students die today.” A housekeeper had found the note rolled up in the door handle of one of the main doors on the front of the building. Cox said emergency protocol was immediately put into place, despite not knowing the full meaning behind the cryptic message.
An hour after the housekeeper reported the note, another call came into the police station– this time from Simmons who claimed he found the note on his way back to his apartment in the Village. Simmons had been studying with friends for a math test in Duckworth Library and was walking back to his room when he said he spotted the note attached to Maxwell’s door handle. Simmons said he read the note and was so upset he returned to his apartment to pray. An hour later he called the police. This raised the first red flag for the police. Simmons was a police cadet and was known for being eager to report any trace of suspicious activity on campus. The police felt it was out of character for Simmons to wait an hour to inform law enforcement about such a serious matter.
In addition, Simmons had made plans with his math study group to meet for breakfast before their test after getting a few hours of sleep, but never showed. When members from the group called him about his whereabouts, they said he acted ‘strange.’ Simmons told his friends that he found the note and saw a man place it on the door.
An emergency faculty meeting was held that morning to gain any leads from professors who might have noticed a distressed student in their classes.
Students received text messages and emails from the E2Campus, an emergency alert system for YHC students, canceling all classes before 10 a.m. until further notice.
Cox said it was debated whether it would be appropriate to instruct students to remain in their dorms. Because the letter was vague, Cox did not want to risk telling students to remain in their residence halls if they would not be truly safe there.
A bomb-detection canine unit was brought in from Rabun County to sweep the academic buildings. Finding nothing, and with the campus heavily monitored by law enforcement including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, classes resumed at 10 a.m. All buildings remained on lockdown, however, with access only through the front doors. Residence Life staff continued to watch over the residence halls. Students were told that they may be searched by police if they were suspected of carrying a weapon or an explosive. Cox hoped that by allowing students to return to class, the campus could gain back some normalcy, as well give faculty and law enforcement the opportunity to observe student behavior.
While Simmons’s stories were changing, he was given the benefit of the doubt as he was upset. The GBI pursued him as a suspect but still followed any leads received through the YHC police and the Towns County Sheriff’s tip-line. Several students were questioned and administered a polygraph test. Simmons claimed he had nothing to do with the threat letter, citing his active involvement in religious life on campus. In an effort to clear his name, Simmons consented to the polygraph test, but did poorly. Polygraph tests can give reliable results, but cannot stand up in court as primary evidence because test subjects can manipulate body cues, leading to inaccuracies. The test results encouraged the GBI to continue to view Simmons as a suspect.
Simmons became nervous from all the attention he received from the police and began asking fellow students to send in character references to Cox and the police department.
“I don’t know why but Josh Simmons asked me to write this. He’s a really good guy. I’ve known him two weeks,” said Cox, mimicking the letters with a light-hearted laugh. Cox said in all seriousness she understood that students were trying to do the right thing and help a friend, and she did not hold anyone at fault.
Meanwhile phone calls continued to flow into the tip-line that a different student planned on killing students at YHC. When the police would follow up on these tips and track down the alleged suspect, the accused student was completely oblivious to the caller’s claims and GBI believed the other student posed no threat. This wrongly accused student had previously been questioned by the police, and Simmons was one of only a few people who knew his identity.
Police gathered more evidence implicating Simmons as a legitimate suspect by tracing text messages and emails sent from Simmons to YHC’s Information Technology department. Police found messages where Simmons inquired about where cameras and surveillance equipment were set up on campus. Simmons used a false name and created a separate email address as an alias. He even stopped by ITech personally, stating he was a friend of the fabricated student and also wanted to know about the cameras.
On the night of Oct. 19, Towns County dispatch received a 911 call from a student living in the Village that his roommate had attempted suicide. Police and EMTs responded to the call. The victim turned out to be Simmons, who said he had not tried to commit suicide but that he had been attacked by a masked man.
Simmons changed his story for a third time since the original discovery of the note, stating that the man who attacked him that night was the same masked man he saw placing the note on Maxwell. The masked man allegedly broke into the apartment, cut Simmons with a knife, wrote on him with marker and bound his hands and feet with zip-ties. The attacker waited to attack Simmons until his roommate was in the shower.
Simmons refused medical attention and would not go to the hospital. The GBI crime scene specialist concluded that no attack occurred as there was no evidence of a break-in or struggle, with Simmons lacking any defensive wounds. Simmons had also been spotted at Walmart buying markers, likely the same ones used in the alleged attack.
The College released a statement to YHC students the same night police responded to a 911 call. The statement indicated there was no credible assault and no one was believed to be in danger. Cox still kept a strong police presence to ease any concerns about campus safety.
Simmons’s father had been alerted about the attack and drove to campus out of fear for his son’s welfare. Cox said when Simmons’s father arrived they told him that the attack had been staged. Simmons was once again questioned by the police into the early hours of the morning and subsequently arrested and transported to Towns County Jail. The District Attorney was prepared to charge Simmons with several major felonies including making a terroristic threat. The DA offered Simmons a lighter sentence, with the possibility of benefitting from Georgia’s First Offender Act, if he pled guilty. This means if Simmons meets all terms of his sentence his criminal record will be expunged. Simmons must complete three years of probation after being released from prison, as well as pay fines and restitution to the College.
Simmons will also receive internal disciplinary action from YHC. The details of this action are confidential; however Cox did share that Simmons will either face suspension or expulsion in the coming days. Rogers clarified Simmons will be banned from the campus for a period of time. If he were to be suspended, he would not be allowed to re-enroll at YHC for at least a year after his release from prison. Rogers indicated it would be highly unlikely that Simmons would return after just a year’s suspension and stated he would be facing the most serious level of suspension or expulsion.
The lingering question is why? Why did Simmons plant the letter in the first place? That’s something for which Cox said she has no answer. Simmons never stated if he actually had intentions of harming students. Perhaps he tried to get out of the math test, and things got out of hand. It could have been a prank gone awry, or maybe he was hoping to find the letter and appear as a hero. Cox said she suspects Simmons is suffering from mental illness that neither his family nor friends previously noticed. His mother indicated to college officials that they are considering treatment options for him. Simmons’s mother has conveyed that he is incredibly sorry and remorseful. Cox concluded the summary of events by asking that the campus keep him in their thoughts and prayers.
By Shannon Weaver, Staff Writer
The Student Government Association committee discussed many changes at this week’s meeting. Members touched on updates with SGA members and the composter project, the SPAT fountain and meetings between Sodexo and students.
Newly elected freshman senators were sworn in by SGA President Emalyn Cork. Also, it was announced that Bekah Herum resigned as SGA treasurer. Senior Senator Victoria Neisler was sworn in as treasurer with the new senators.
SGA Senator Ashley Cross said SGA has taken the composter project off the table, because of the bear sightings around campus. Senators did not feel it was a good time to move the composter to the Village. SGA may review the idea at a later date.
Cross also said David Leopard, the new senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, has a proposal for the SPAT fountain that would involve putting a new fountain in the center and filling the surrounding area with flowers.
In further news, SGA is hoping to continue the meetings between Sodexo and students that started last year, where students could give feedback about the dining hall in addition to the comment cards offered at the front. Cork said she hoped there would be a way for students to “constructively offer ideas instead of complaining.”
By Ashleigh Scarpinato, Staff Writer
Rush Week not only marks the days for the Greek organizations on campus to meet and get to know interested students, but it is also the week where new students have the chance to see where they fit in on campus.
During Rush Week, the organizations have different Greek life activities taking place throughout the week. On Tues., Sept. 20, local Greek organizations held Preference Parties, better known as “Pref Parties,” in Goolsby Lecture Hall. Preference Parties are an opportunity for students interested in Greek Life to sit down and learn more about each sorority or fraternity. The Pref Parties held staggered meeting times throughout Tuesday night, so that students interested in more than one organization could attend each presentation.
When questioned about the reasoning behind wanting to join a sorority, one interested student explained she “want[s] to make new friends outside [her] group.”
At these interest parties, the interested students were able to talk to the sorority and fraternity members and learn about what each organization has to offer.
Greek organizations share common bonds but also have qualities that are unique to each fraternity or sorority. When asked about being in a sorority, senior Jenni Mathis, a member of local sorority Alpha Iota, said, “we are a random group of girls who fit together. We’re not cookie cutter. We’re all different.”
Greek life is not just about having fun. Before any student can rush a sorority or fraternity, they must have completed 12 credit hours at Young Harris College and have a GPA of at least 2.0 to be considered eligible to rush.
By Shannon Weaver, Staff Writer
At this week’s Student Government Association meeting, SGA members discussed the Village compost project, possible changes in summer school, plans for student feedback, and progress with the SPAT fountain.
Junior Senator Stephen Ramsay announced Village students are interested in a composter, but are primarily concerned about its location. Because the Village is right next to the woods, students and staff have pointed out that a composter could draw in more bears to the campus. SGA is looking for a solution that is safest for Young Harris College.
Student government is also investigating possible changes to the summer school program. Emalyn Cork, SGA President, noted students do not have much of a say in which courses are offered in the summer.
Cork also expressed a desire to add more student feedback options in addition to Tell Me Tuesdays, namely the forum discussed last week.
“I would like to expand the opportunity for student opinion in a different way,” she said.
Last week, it was proposed that SGA host a forum in the student center, providing snacks and beverages, to hear students’ thoughts on what student government can do for them. In the past, the forum “was like a presentation, and then afterward they gave their suggestions,” said junior Senator Allie Coker.
SGA discussed the future of the fountain traditionally maintained by SPAT, which currently sits in front of Appleby Complex and has been out of commission for several years. Options included proposals to the school, replacement and removal. Before making a decision, SGA hopes to receive feedback from former SPATs.
“I wouldn’t want to suggest something so radical that it upsets alumni,” said Cork.
By Ashleigh Scarpinato, Staff Writer
National fraternity Alpha Sigma Phi visited Young Harris College in the Wilson Lecture Hall of Goolsby Center on Wed., Sept. 7. This interest meeting was the first national fraternity interest meeting of the year and was a way to gauge the level of student interest in the organization.
Matt Mumberger, a former member of Alpha Sigma Phi, was scheduled to present the fraternity to the YHC community, but not a single student attended the presentation.
Alpha Sigma Phi, founded on Dec. 6, 1845 at Yale University, came to speak to the local Greek organizations and other YHC students who have an interest in becoming a part of a national fraternity.
Mumberger was hoping to share with the YHC community the ways that Alpha Sigma Phi had impacted his life. He remains involved with the fraternity in order to help future brothers have the experience that he had.
By Ali Neese, Staff Writer
Georgia’s two senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) came to the Young Harris College campus to host a town hall meeting on August 30. The senators discussed current issues and gave both students and the townspeople an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions.
YHC President Cathy Cox opened the assembly by greeting the students and members of the community. Rev. Dr. Tim Moore, campus minister, led the invocation and Student Government Association President Emalyn Cork led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Local elected officials from Towns and Union Counties were recognized.
The senators began by sharing a bit of their background. Chambliss and Isakson graduated from the University of Georgia in the same year, both with business degrees. Chambliss received his law degree from the University of Tennessee and Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard. Each shared stories about their political careers and their rise to the Senate before the start of the meeting.
Isakson began his address to the audience by saying that town hall meetings are “about you and us listening to you.”
Isakson spoke about the importance of living within one’s means and the U.S. government’s need to do the same, reforming Social Security, fixing Medicare and advocating for tax reform.
Isakson then turned over the floor to Chambliss, who stressed they were “here primarily to hear from you.”
Chambliss went on to say that the United States is in a lot of trouble that had been building up for years. He identified the national debt, as opposed to terrorism, as the number one security concern for the country. Chambliss said if the debt problem is not fixed, then his will be the first generation in history to leave the country in worse shape than when they received it. Chambliss reiterated they have to find a way to increase revenue in ways other than raising taxes.
His suggestions for increasing revenue included reducing tax rates, invigorating the economy and expanding the tax base of people going to work.
After the senators spoke, they opened up the floor for questions from the audience.
One question, asked by junior history major Ali Manzanares from Chatsworth, dealt with controversy over immigration. Manzanares asked the senators if immigration had impacted the country at the national level.
The senators said border security needs to be put first and then they need to figure out how to deal with the people who are in the United States illegally. The senators said it is a huge problem in Georgia that they believe that it should be dealt with “quickly and frankly.”
Both senators believe there should not be 50 different immigration laws across the country.
Another question dealt with the Pell Grant, which many YHC students benefit from, and asked if funds for the scholarship would be cut. The senators answered that the government needs to prioritize the money that is spent, investing money in education instead of the Middle East.
Many other questions were covered in this hour-long meeting, including one man making the claim that he knew of more than 20 nuclear bombs west of Mississippi, though his claims were quickly dismissed by the crowd.
After the questions had been asked and the discussion time had come to a close, the senators thanked everyone for coming and encouraged them to feel free to contact each of them.