Adjunct faculty aim for union

Graphic Credit: Kevin O’Keeffe | The Los Angeles Loyolan

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Adjunct faculty aim for union – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

Chiara Sulprizio, a visiting professor at LMU, adopted a baby in March. The adoption had been in the works for quite some time, but the child, Evan, arrived earlier than planned.

“My husband and I had intended to get the baby in summer,” Sulprizio said. “But as is the case with most babies, they come when they want to come.”

Evan arrived in the middle of spring break, when Sulprizio was visiting family in Reno, Nev. Coincidentally, Evan was also in Reno – serendipity Sulprizio said she couldn’t ignore.

She got the call Sunday and picked Evan up on Wednesday. Due to technicalities with the adoption, Sulprizio couldn’t leave Nevada until into the school week, cancelling her class the following Tuesday.

“And that was all the time I took off,” Sulprizio said. “One day. Just one day.”

Ordinarily, someone in Sulprizio’s situation would have colleagues informally cover for her. But Sulprizio is one of three professors in the classics and archaeology department and teaches four classes. Finding a cover for maternity leave is impossible – and as a non-tenure track professor, Sulprizio was confused as to whether she had the right to take time off.

“Admittedly, I did not demand anything,” Sulprizio said about petitioning for leave. “But even if I did, it doesn’t mean I would have gotten it. It’s not that anybody said to me, ‘No, you cannot take a leave.’ But realistically, how would that have worked?”

Sulprizio is in her third year, often the last for visiting professors at LMU. However, unlike other part-time professors, she has four classes, instead of just one or two. She is still a member of contingent faculty – the broader term used to describe those who must reapply for their positions on a semester-by-semester or year-by-year basis. And it is those contingent faculty members who are now considering unionizing.

As of 2012, 51 percent of LMU professors are employed part-time, according to Andrew Dilts, a political science professor on the tenure track. A former adjunct professor at other universities, Dilts has a strong interest in the trend of what he terms “adjunctification” – the shift towards more part-time professors versus full-time – not only at LMU, but nationally.

“In the 1970s, 70 percent of everyone who was teaching at an institute of higher education was on the tenure track,” Dilts said. “In 2011, 30 percent of instructors at institutions of higher education were on the tenure track. So it’s reversed in the course of a 40-year period.”

According to Anna Harrison, a full-time professor in the theological studies department, contingent faculty are ineligible for health care benefits and can’t buy in to a group plan. No part-time faculty are permitted to sit on committees. Additionally, according to Harrison, the academic freedom touted by University President David W. Burcham during his Convocation address this year is put in jeopardy when part-time professors lack the job security of tenure.

Teaching a course at LMU pays approximately $5,000 – limited to two classes a semester, part-time professors make just over $20,000 each academic year at maximum. Many part-time faculty take other jobs, often at other universities, to supplement their income. One such professor is Emily Hallock, a part-time political science professor both at LMU and UCLA. Because she’s teaching in two places, her students are shorted on available time in office hours.

“I simply cannot be here when I’m teaching another class,” Hallock said. “The students lose out if the person that they see and interact with is not a permanent member of the department.”

She’s also unable to devote time to research, something that affects the viability of the “teacher-scholar” model mentioned in LMU’s Strategic Plan. In the Strategic Themes section of the Plan, one of the objectives is to create “an educational environment that fosters lifelong learning for both students and faculty.” Because teachers like Hallock are taking part-time jobs elsewhere, they cannot focus on building the scholar aspect.

As a result, many adjunct faculty members are making strides towards a change. First, they created an online network for the Bellarmine College of Fine Arts (BCLA) adjunct faculty – designed to improve the work environment for adjuncts. Now comes a move towards unionization, thanks both to motivated faculty and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representatives of which have slowly begun building a presence on campus.

For their part, members of the University administration are aware of the efforts, according to Rebecca Chandler, LMU’s vice president for human resources. Because this is LMU’s first brush with potential unionization, the administration has no official position on the topic.

“We do recognize and respect that it is an individual’s legal right to participate in unionization efforts, or equally, to refrain from such activities,” Chandler told the Loyolan via email. “We respect an individual’s right to speak and/or meet with union representatives.”

Similar unionization efforts have occurred at other universities – successfully at schools like Georgetown University and George Washington University with the assistance of SEIU. While there will be obstacles along the path, including different adjunct faculty needs and the lack of a central communication system, professors passionate about the issue are ready for a shift.

“I would like to leave this place in a better state than I found it for people working off the tenure track,” Sulprizio said. “This place can afford … to do a little bit better and a little bit more for its contingent faculty.”

Trying to make a living

“My biggest mistake, had I wanted to pursue a teaching career in academia, seemed to be that I didn’t marry well,” Elizabeth Quiros-Loe said with a laugh. “Which pissed me off.”

Quiros-Loe came to LMU’s theological studies department last year on an externship from getting her graduate degree at Vanderbilt University. She taught one course to get some teaching experience. When it became clear that adjunct work wouldn’t be enough to live on, she moved to her current position as the program administrator at the Bioethics Institute.

“I was planning on continuing teaching, but this position became available,” she said. A much more secure job – year-round versus semester-by-semester, 20 hours per week – Quiros-Loe said she was grateful to be able to go to the dentist and not worry about future employment. While she could have found work elsewhere, LMU is important to her; her parents met in Malone when they were students here, and she said she felt connected to the campus.

“I want to work at one institution, and I want to work at LMU,” she said. “The only reason I’ve been able to teach here was because it’s subsidized by student loans. So the moment I get a Ph.D., I wouldn’t be able to teach here. … I did not want my Ph.D. to be my pink slip.”

The path to a union

Efforts to make working conditions better for part-time professors have been in the works at LMU for some time. Contingent faculty like Sulprizio and Quiros-Loe started the Contingent Faculty Network (CFN) last year with a web page that included resources like a guidebook for contingent faculty that with information on everything from contract renewal to where to park. According to its own website, CFN wasn’t a unionization effort in and of itself; rather, it was a more general effort to support contingent faculty.

“We just wanted to reach out to other people in our situation and not feel so isolated,” Sulprizio said.

The CFN was designed with BCLA professors in mind, and was received well by then-Dean Paul Zeleza’s office. The long-term goal of those who created the network wasn’t a union, but when Zeleza left LMU at the beginning of this year and the CFN went “by the wayside” in the transition, according to Sulprizio, things changed.

Enter SEIU, an organization that has worked in Washington, D.C. and Boston to unionize part-time faculty as part of their Adjunct Action program. They’re now in L.A. and at LMU specifically. How they came to campus isn’t quite clear – according to Jesse Yeh, an organizer for SEIU, they were invited when they spoke to over 200 adjunct faculty on campus. Yet when asked about which professors in particular formally invited SEIU on campus, Yeh hedged.

“I guess ‘formally invited’ wouldn’t be the case,” he said. “It’s that we see there’s a lot of really strong support here … to organize.”

For her part, Quiros-Loe was curious as to why SEIU was the right organization to get involved versus an organization like the American Association of University Professors. The answer: It came down to resources. “SEIU had the ability to make a local campaign and a metro-wide campaign,” she said, the latter half of which was deemed important. “We’re metro workers – we work here, we work there … so having union representation at one place isn’t quite as helpful as having it across the place where we work.”

Additionally, according to Dilts, the tenure track political science professor, SEIU has “a track record of working with existing organizations” on a city level. “They’re one of the few unions that’s seen that what’s happening with higher education has this particular quality in cities that’s different than in rural areas or in suburban areas,” Dilts said.

‘I’m not going to skimp on the students’

So where do students fit into the unionization equation? According to Hallock, the professor who teaches part-time at both LMU and UCLA, students are the most important aspect.

“I think a lot of students don’t realize that the people who are teaching them are being paid basically a tenth of what one student pays for their tuition and everything for the year,” Hallock said. “If I were a student and I was paying $50,000 to go to school, I would wonder why half of the people that were teaching me were making so very little when I was paying so very much.”

For Quiros-Loe, the whole reason for the vicious cycle is because professors care about their students. “We tend to be complicit in our own exploitation,” … she said … “because we love the students. And it’s not their fault. So we do more than what we’re paid for, going above and beyond, and we do this … because we feel committed to our students.”

“I’m not going to skimp on the students, because that would be wrong,” Hallock added. “But the result of this is that I don’t have much time for anything else.”

Deadline: December

The goal is to file for an election by the end of the semester, according to SEIU organizer Cindy Flores, which will allow for a vote to unionize. To file before the end of the semester is important, according to Quiros-Loe, because of the turnover in adjunct faculty – in other words, the part-time professors on staff now aren’t necessarily the same professors that will be on staff come January.

Still, the group seeking to organize faces some obstacles. For one, as Quiros-Loe sees it, there is a deep-seated feeling that being passed over for the opportunity to move onto the tenure track is somehow merit-based. Additionally, when it comes to attempts to organize, according to Dilts, management or administration obstruction can be one of the most difficult obstacles.

“At LMU, I have incredibly high hopes, though, that our administration will understand that this movement is coming as a response to the shared goal of the administration, faculty and students, which is to find a way to increase the quality of our educational program here and support all our members,” Dilts said.

Should a union come to pass, Chandler, LMU’s vice president for human resources, said there would be significant change. “Human resources and the administration will, for the most part, not deal directly with individual part-time faculty members,” Chandler said via email. “Part-time faculty will have the union as their ‘voice’ and exclusive representation.”

Whether or not the vote can be mobilized, for Sulprizio, the issues with part-time faculty at LMU aren’t going away.

“I don’t think this is the worst place to work as a contingent faculty member,” Sulprizio said. “But the time has come to deal with the problem.”

Burcham reacts to unanimous Trustees’ vote on abortion

Originally published by the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Trustees’ vote unanimous – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

President David W. Burcham is ready to move this university forward. LMU’s chief administrator has spent the last eight weeks dealing with what he’s described as a “debate,” a “dialogue” and a process filled with “creative tension.” He, of course, is referring to the tension over removing elective abortion coverage from faculty and staff health care plans, decided this past Monday by vote of the Board of Trustees.

Now that the Board has unanimously voted to cut the coverage – while instituting a still to-be-specified Third Party Administrator (TPA)-managed plan that would allow faculty and staff to pay an additional premium for said coverage – Burcham is preparing to face some disgruntled community members on both sides of the issue. He’ll have the opportunity to do just that in one week’s time, when he addresses the LMU community in his convocation address.

It was a tense few weeks – stressful, he acknowledges with a laugh that feels like he’s releasing his anxiety and turning the page. But it won’t be as easy as laughing things off, which is why he’s not quite feeling relief.

“I know that we need to continue to discuss what it means to be a Catholic university,” he told the Loyolan in a sit-down interview the morning after the vote. “But I think more than anything, it’s anticipation of good things to come.”

‘Somewhat opaque in how this unfolded’

Weeks before the academic year began, the issue that would come to dominate the first half of the semester came to light: LMU had dropped elective abortion coverage from one of its faculty and staff health care plans. Or, they were planning to. Or, they were considering it. It wasn’t immediately clear.

According to a letter from Burcham and Board of Trustees Chair Kathleen Aikenhead, Board of Trustees Chair Kathleen Aikenhead, University officials have inquired with both of its health care providers, Anthem and Kaiser, about dropping elective abortion coverage in the past, but it was never a possible option. This year, however, Anthem made it an option and removed coverage – according to the letter – without the University’s knowledge. Kaiser was set to allow dropping of the coverage in January of next year.

When faculty and staff learned of the change, there were questions. Why weren’t faculty and staff consulted? Was the change permanent?

“I don’t think the process was handled very well from the beginning,” Nora A. Murphy, an assistant professor of psychology, said the day after the decision. “The Board and the President were somewhat opaque in how this unfolded.”

Fast forward through weeks of debate, dialogue and a highly anticipated Board of Trustees meeting, and the coverage is cut. Is LMU experiencing debate hangover?

“I don’t view it as a hangover; I view it as an ongoing process,” Burcham said. “And I think that’s something that’s really important for the community.”

The debate is over – for now. The new question is less “how did this happen,” and more “where do we go from here?”

‘Rip the school asunder’

In the Oct. 7 edition of the New York Times, a story appeared about a reported “rift” at LMU over the debate. The Times’ article brought national attention to the issue. Reporter Ian Lovett inferred about the story was that the abortion debate “threatened to rip the school asunder.”

“I would not have used that phrase,” Burcham said of the Times article. “I think that it, in some respects, brought out a strong quality of our community, that most of the discussion debates were civil; they were conducted with civility and respect for the varying views that people had. I think that’s the sign of a strong community.”

Strong as it may be, LMU has been suddenly brought to the forefront of an international conversation about abortion and the Catholic Church after Pope Francis’ comments in his first interview last month. Yet LMU isn’t alone.

“There’s not a Jesuit university in the entire country that won’t have to confront an issue like this – or hasn’t already confronted an issue like this,” Burcham said. “I don’t think it signifies anything other than that we have had this issue to deal with and done it in the most constructive way that we could.”

Internationally, what it means to be Catholic is a conversation that is just beginning. That’s reflected on our campus, according to Burcham, as “the need for much more dialogue among all of us as to what it means to be a university, as to what it means to be a Catholic university in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions” is now a priority for us.

The line between being Catholic and being a university “gets difficult on issues that have been politicized,” Burcham said. “That’s where you have people with strong opinions on an issue that are hard at times to reconcile. It’s a challenge, and the best we can do is to understand in a very full way what it means to be Jesuit and Catholic … and be faithful to that while, at the same time, keeping in mind our diverse community.”

ASLMU President Shawn Troedson, who was an ex oficio – or non-participatory –attendee of the Board of Trustees meeting, echoed Burcham’s call for a conversation, even among students. “I’m hopeful that students will continue to talk about everything,” she said. “The good and the bad.”

This dialogue is vital under LMU’s promise of academic freedom, a huge point of contention for Burcham. It’s something he said he will “go to the mat” for, as academic freedom is not only a cornerstone of the Jesuit and Marymount traditions, but of a university.

‘A constellation of interpersonal relationships’

Burcham will offer a coda of sorts on the last eight weeks in his convocation address next week. Though he’s still developing the speech, he’s sure that moving forward and focusing on all the great parts of LMU will be major pillars.

“We’re doing amazing things in a lot of areas,” he said. “I don’t want people to lose sight of that, and I want them to feel good about that.”

Along with the general State of the University theme, Burcham will focus on a theme of Dialogue and Reconciliation – including both how to move on and exactly how important it is, in the face of conflict, to build interpersonal relationships.

“When you think about LMU, most people think about buildings and architecture and views of the ocean and the marina,” Burcham said. “But when you really think about it, LMU is a constellation of interpersonal relationships, students-to-faculty, students-to-students and so forth. As the quality of those relationships strengthens or improves, LMU strengthens and improves.”

With those strong interpersonal relationships comes the ability to have the conversation necessary for moving forward – and after all the struggle and tension over the past eight weeks, Burcham is absolutely ready to move forward.

Abortion won’t be the last major issue that LMU faces – as Murphy, the psychology professor, warns, the University now faces a potentially slippery slope. But Burcham said he’s aware and excited for the University’s next chapter.

“It’s partly because I’m an optimist,” he admitted. “But it’s mainly because I have great faith in the collective wisdom of our faculty, staff and students.”

He smiled. “I love this place.”

@SummerBreak: Inside the Social Media Reality Series Starring L.A. High School Students

Photo Credit: Maddie Cordoba

Originally published in LA Weekly. For original, please refer to: @SummerBreak: Inside the Social Media Reality Series Starring L.A. High School Students – LA Weekly.

Trevis is sweating. It’s in the 90s at Brooklyn Projects, a skate shop on Melrose with a half pipe behind the store. Though Trevis isn’t much of a skater, he’s suffering the heat to watch his two friends, Zaq and Connor, as his best friend Ray shops inside for a new shirt.

As his friends skate, Trevis tweets a photo of the two on the pipe. The photo goes out to Trevis’ almost 2,000 followers. He’s a popular Santa Monica High School graduate who was point guard of his high school basketball team and president of his student body, so it’s not unusual that he’d have a lot of followers. What is unusual is that his tweet has to get approved before it ever sees the light of day.

Connor and Zaq, drenched in sweat, get off the half pipe and prepare to leave. They sit and chat with Trevis for a bit. He tells them he tweeted a photo of them, and they eagerly go to check it out on their own phones.

They don’t go back inside to meet up with Ray yet, though. They can’t. The film crew’s not ready to shoot their exit.

Trevis, Ray, Zaq and Connor are not just regular L.A. teenagers. They are four of the principal cast members on @SummerBreak, a new summer reality TV show, though that’s technically inaccurate. There’s no TV channel airing @SummerBreak.

@SummerBreak is the first major series to unfold on a combination of online video and social media. Designed with the mobile experience in mind, the series is a collaboration between the Chernin Group — the production company run by Peter Chernin, the former No. 2 at Newscorp — and AT&T.

Executive producer Billy Parks first came up with the idea of having viewers take part in a full social experience — which made it perfect for teenagers.

“Obviously, with Millenials, this is the way they’re talking,” Parks says. “It felt really organic to who they are.” Though the production team flirted with the idea of doing a scripted series, reality felt fresher, and cast the show with high school students who just graduated or are on the cusp of graduating.

On this particular day of shooting, Trevis and Connor had gone to breakfast before joining Ray and Zaq for shopping and skating. While the guys ate and talked, an on-site production team member transcribed every word, conferring with producers after the guys moved on — and the cameras moved on with them. That morning’s conversation, apparently about the guys’ ex-girlfriend troubles, wasn’t as good as the previous night’s conversation between Connor and Zaq. After a brief discussion, producers decide that night’s episode will be of last night’s conversation, which dealt with Connor’s romantic past, present and future.

The cast members themselves are clueless as to what will appear in each day’s episode — and how much they’ll appear. Though the producers choose snippets of the kids’ lives to shoot, not every segment makes it in, and if they do, it won’t necessarily be in chronological order. That morning’s breakfast — and all the footage of the guys shopping — has yet to be used in an episode of @SummerBreak, and might never see the light of day.

Originally, episodes were set to be approximately one minute long and posted six days a week, with no episode on Saturday. The rest of the show would play out on Twitter and Instagram, where each member of the cast regularly posts updates on their lives and interacts with viewers. However, viewers clamored for more in the form of longer episodes — and they got it. Now, daily episodes are three to four minutes each Monday through Thursday, with Sunday episodes being longer anchor episodes that tell more story.

The social media aspect is still huge, though. Cast members use programs like HootSuite to post to their social media accounts, and a team hired by the producers works 20 hours a day to approve these messages. Not all the cast members are super engaged, but some — especially Ray, the son of former champion boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, and Clara, a female cast member headed to culinary school — take the time to respond to fans constantly. It’s all part of a greater theme of engagement — a word Parks and the cast use constantly.

So far, the cast has proven pretty engaging. The core cast is made up of eight L.A. kids — six who just graduated high school, two headed into their senior year. Three girls, five guys. Four Santa Monica High School students, four Pacific Palisades Charter School students. Zaq, Ray, Trevis and Kostas are from the Samohi half, while Clara, Lena, Alex and Connor are Pali kids. Nia, the original ninth cast member, is also a Pali girl, but she’s not with the show anymore.

The show follows the kids through their daily lives during a summer that is (for most) their last before moving on to college and other opportunities. In many ways, @SummerBreak is a throwback to Laguna Beach, the 2004 series that chronicled the lives of Orange County high school kids that pioneered the use of serial narrative in reality shows versus a documentary-style format.

Laguna Beach (and its successor series, The Hills) were known for manipulation behind the scenes, something Parks says the production team is eager to stay away from, pushing for an authentic feel. That’s been a detriment to the show in some ways, as the narrative wasn’t easily frameable early on. Worse even, when the first six episodes went live on June 16, the cast “lost their minds,” according to Parks.

“We had a little viewing party,” Trevis explains. “I walked in [late], and you could feel the tension. Everybody was being so real on the camera.”

That realness transformed into awkwardness off-screen. In a particularly tense example, the three parts of the love triangle from those first episodes — Zaq, Clara and Connor — were all sitting right next to each other as they watched.

Connor had a particularly bad reaction to his romantic entanglements being aired on the show. “I just wasn’t used to having my personal life being broadcast,” he says. “It was just different.”

Connor and the barely-featured Nia didn’t appear again in any major capacity until the cast’s trip to Catalina Island. That trip was an effort on producers’ part to get the kids together, both bonding them and creating more potential storylines in the face of a rapidly growing audience but a lack of substantive plot. (Typical YouTube comment on the first 12 episodes: “This show’s kinda boring.”)

After they got back from Catalina, producers laid down the law with the cast about opening up.

“If you don’t like what you see, change it,” Parks says the producers told them. “You have a luxury that no other reality cast member has ever had. The show is in your hands. But with that responsibility, doesn’t mean if you don’t like what you see, you can go sneak off camera. That’s bullshit. You have to now open yourself up more.”

The lecture affected each cast member differently. While Nia stopped being filmed (in what creators described as a “creative decision”), others like Lena and Connor opened up in new ways, the former even letting her dad’s battle with throat cancer be chronicled. Since then, the show has gained new narrative life, with Lena and Clara getting into the series’ first out-and-out fight and Alex and Kostas’ uneasy flirtation being disturbed by L.A. transplant Raina’s introduction as another love interest for Kostas. The new plotlines have sparked major interest among fans — and the kids have become much more natural, saying they forget the cameras but also, according to Parks, remaining acutely aware of being on a reality show.

One big aspect of that awareness are cast attempts to change the storylines. Lena openly voiced frustration on Twitter about her lack of screentime in Catalina, while at one point during shooting Zaq even questions a production team member about why the guys are being filmed shopping when there’s not much going on. (Since this is the same shopping trip that never made it to air, he might’ve had a point.)

This desire to control their appearance on-screen gives the show a meta level, and presents the production team with what Parks calls “Season 2 problems,” though they’re merely weeks into Season 1.

After finishing their shopping trip, Zaq, Trevis, Ray and Connor sit down to lunch at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice. The cameras are gone, and the production staff is buying, so the guys become more relaxed. After almost immediately hopping on their phones, they begin to chat about topics ranging from the early days of the show to the previous night’s episode, featuring Alex and best friend Karli driving and gossiping about guys, which Zaq bluntly dismisses as having “sucked.”

“I got frustrated. I was like, ‘Yo, what the fuck is this episode? Where am I? Where are my boys?'” Zaq complains. “There’s so much other shit they could have shown.”

“They want to see drama,” Ray says, acknowledging producers’ desire for meatier plotlines. “But that’s just the two of them in the car.”

The guys were clearly frustrated with the drama. Yet stats don’t lie: Each member of the cast has well over a thousand followers on Twitter now, as opposed to far lower numbers before the Catalina trip. The more emotionally open cast has created opportunities for more dramatically fulfilling stories.

Later, while driving back to where shooting began, not half an hour after expressing frustration with the drama, Zaq created some of his own. He gave Ray a gift — a T-shirt with his father’s name and likeness on it.

Ray clearly appreciated the thought, but quickly explained to Zaq that his family gets his dad’s merchandise for free all the time. Zaq, clearly insulted, proceeded to sulk for the rest of the ride. Ray apologized for sounding unappreciative. Zaq refused to respond as the van fell into an awkward silence. Ray looked around in stunned disbelief.

Parks was recording the interaction from the very start.

Pitched Off

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Pitched off – Los Angeles Loyolan.

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis | The Los Angeles Loyolan

Photo Credit: Liana Bandziulis | The Los Angeles Loyolan

Do you hear the people sing?

If you do, chances are one of LMU’s a cappella groups is performing nearby.

The art of making music with only your mouth, which got a spotlight in last year’s film “Pitch Perfect,” has been alive and well on LMU’s campus since 2009. That was the year that saw the founding of Notetorious, LMU’s first recognized a cappella group.

Despite being only four years old, according to Notetorious music director and junior theatre arts major Maddie Dial, the group has been well-received by the LMU community.

“We are recognized for being such a new group,” Dial said. “Usually, on other campuses, a cappella groups have been around for like, 50 years, and there are a bunch of them. It’s nice having that recognition being so young of a group.”

Notetorious isn’t singing solo anymore. In 2011, a second group was formed: the One Night Stanzas. While One Night Stanzas remains unrecognized by the University – and thus does not receive funding – and though the two groups have somewhat different musical directions, they share one thing in common: an original member in senior music major Joe Dhanens.

While Dhanens was the music director for Notetorious, a difference in creative choices led to a split.

“Notetorious was going in a musical direction that was more poppy, and I didn’t really want that direction,” Dhanens said. After a conversation with friend and sophomore music major Eric Escalante, Dhanens left Notetorious to form his own a cappella group, which would soon become TheOne Night Stanzas.

“He was in Notetorious, and then he wanted to do kind of a different direction,” Dial said, “which is interesting, because we’re all over the place in music, and they’re trying to stick to a different genre of music.”

According to Escalante, there is a perceived rivalry between the two groups because of Dhanens’ previous involvement with Notetorious. Despite what both groups’ music directors describe as “friendly competition,” both think they can coexist together.

“[Having two groups] keeps you creative. It keeps the a cappella groups working hard and motivated,” Escalante said.

“I think it’d be fun to have performances at the same time, because they do have completely different music,” Dial added.

Though several other schools only have one recognized a cappella group, including similarly sized and religiously affiliated University of San Diego, two is still a low number compared to several schools – for example, according to Yale University’s Singing Group Council webpage, the Ivy League school has 15 a cappella groups. Dhanens and Escalante said they think LMU could handle more groups.

For Dial, however, thenumber of groups isn’t as important as making sure a cappella is heard.

“I personally just love a cappella, and I think everyone should love a cappella,” she said. “So as many people are performing around is great, just to get people into the culture of a cappella.”

She continued, “We all have such a love for it, and we love performing, and we love moving people with our music.”

Kappa Sigma aims to overcome bad blood

Originally published in the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: Kappa Sigma aims to overcome bad blood – Los Angeles Loyolan.

The latest phase of Kappa Sigma’s ongoing attempt to gain recognition from LMU came to a close this month. Though the group was one of the 12 parties who petitioned for the opportunity to present on campus as part of LMU’s search for two new fraternties, Kappa Sigma was not one of the six finalists.

“Kappa Sigma was considered in this process. They just didn’t make [the] cut this year,” said Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Development and Greek Adviser Dan Faill. Members and alumni of the fraternity were frustrated and disappointed at the news

“The obvious choice would have been to allow us to come on campus,” said junior political science major Austin Wermers, the current president of Kappa Sigma at LMU. “We’re already established, we’re a large group of guys, but for some reason, LMU doesn’t even give us the chance past letting our headquarters turn a packet in.”

Comments on the online version of Loyolan Asst. News Editor Casey Kidwell’s April 19 article “University to add two new fraternities” posted by former Kappa Sigma presidents alumnus Ryan Monahan (’10) and senior political science major Ryan Burbank stated that the motivating factor behind not allowing Kappa Sigma on campus, as told to members in the past, was a lack of resources on campus. Now that the University is looking to expand, according to Wermers, Kappa Sigma members are left wondering why they aren’t being considered.

According to Wermers, Kappa Sigma’s headquarters sent the packet required of all fraternities seeking the chance to be part of the search process in on time, but the group was not selected to present themselves on campus.

“There was never a promise made, nor was there the expectation of us jumping to the top of the list,” Monahan said. “We had been given the indication … that if we tried to adhere to requests made by [Faill], we would be given a fair opportunity, which … I don’t believe occurred.”

“None of our groups received preferential treatment,” Faill said.

Kappa Sigma’s failure to progress to the next level of consideration is the latest in a string of events that have kept the fraternity off LMU’s campus – at least officially. Since being colonized in 2007 by Kappa Sigma’s national headquarters, the group has battled University officials over their lack of recognition.

“The truth is, we had guys in the beginning of our chapter that really ruffled the feathers of the University,” Wermers said.

“I think the school was unhappy with the way the chapter was founded initially, whether that is justified or not,” Monahan said. “And because of this, there have been many times that personal feelings have gotten in the way of doing what would be best for the school and its students.”

Faill alluded to the same problems during the fraternity’s inception. According to Faill, the problems date to before he arrived on campus and began work as the Greek adviser. The problems center around not violating the size cap, on which the Greek Council had previously decided, according to Faill.

“The initial comment was – from the students, mind you – that we should hold off on any more new groups until we find out what our ideal size is,” Faill said. “Rather than patiently waiting, the national organization said, ‘Well, we’re just going to go ahead and colonize you group of 40ish guys and put you through our new member process.’ So in terms of a working relationship, as a national organization to go against University wishes and, really, student body wishes, is not the best way to build a good, collaborative rapport.”

After initial tensions, including one at 2008 Delta Gamma Anchor Splash where a member got into what senior studio arts major and former president of Kappa Sigma Stephen Smith called a “hostile” disagreement with Faill, recent presidents have made the effort to improve relations with the school.

“We did better [with our relationship with the University], but it ended up fizzling out a little bit,” said Smith,. “We did a decent job of getting back to where we were, but we didn’t get much further.”

Continued tensions surfaced at the 2010 Anchor Splash synchronized swimming competition, where, according to Smith, members of Kappa Sigma were prevented from competing in the event under the registered name of Kappa Sigma and were required to re-enter with a different team name.

In order to conform to the University’s standing policies, Kappa Sigma ceased pledging first-semester freshmen.

“I had a conversation with one of their chapter advisers … probably three years ago, where he said, ‘Well, we want them to take first-semester freshmen … [but] why would a fraternity that’s … registered on the campus be an advocate for you when you’re breaking the rules?” Faill said. “That conversation was brought up in the expansion process.”

The expansion process was considered by members of Kappa Sigma to be a new opportunity for recognition. “It’s really disappointing on our end, trying to follow the school rules … only for the University to send, essentially, a one-sentence letter saying, ‘You didn’t make the cut,’” Wermers said.

Speaking about the letter he sent to the fraternities not chosen to move on, Faill said, “Of the six not chosen, five have already called me … to ask what they could improve upon. … Kappa Sigma is the only one that did not reach out.”

According to Greek Council President and junior marketing major Joe Dzida, the idea of Kappa Sigma becoming part of the University one day is possible. “I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be considered [in the future] … but they also need to show that they deserve it,” he said. “We just want to make sure that if there are new organizations coming onto campus that they reflect well on the campus.”

Echoing that sentiment while speaking about the decision of which six groups would move on in the expansion process, Faill said that the expansion committee, “which students sat on, … said they wanted groups that would respect LMU’s wishes and the policies and procedures already in place.”

For now, Kappa Sigma members are content with their position, if disappointed with the lack of finality.

“I feel like a lot of people in our chapter are okay with where we’re at,” Smith said. “But we do want a solid answer.”

Monahan said of official status, “It is … the end goal. It always has been, and … it always will be.”

“I feel like a lot of it is, ‘Oh, you guys messed up doing this,’ … and it’s frustrating,” Smith said. “We can’t change the past. We can just try to better the future, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”