Smith team “A-Super-NOVA” wins Best of Group at DataFest

IMG_2571.JPG

Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

From March 23 to 25, the Integrated Sciences Building at UMass was full of ambitious computer science, data science and statistics students competing at the fifth annual Five College DataFest.

A regular event that students look forward to, this year the event was bigger than ever with 186 students participating. It was also the largest DataFest in the country.

DataFest is a competition between students from Smith, Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, Hampshire and Amherst. They work in teams of five over the course of 25 hours to analyze data provided by a business sponsor.

Smith College has always been one of the biggest participants, which held true this March. 49 students from Smith formed 10 teams to compete, twice as many students as last year.

As Smith’s Statistical and Data Sciences (SDS) department continues to grow, it makes sense that more Smith students were interested in DataFest this year. The number of students majoring in SDS is constantly increasing and a new club, Smithies in SDS, was just approved by the Student Government Association.

The SDS faculty at Smith are also the driving force behind the Five College DataFest’s success. Though the event was hosted at UMass, it was organized by two Smith professors in the SDS department, Ben Baumer and Miles Ott.

The rest of the department also contributed to organizing the event and were there all weekend answering students’ questions, arranging transportation and keeping the whole event running smoothly.

At the end of the weekend, there is a presentation for each group to showcase what they found over the weekend. There are multiple prizes that can be won, but the main prize is “Best in Show” and results in the winning college bringing home the trophy for the year.

Smith students won “Best in Show” three times in the past, with Amherst winning once. This year, UMass Amherst had its first victory and their team “Regression Toward the Team” took home the trophy.

Smith students also did very well in this year’s competition and the team “A-Super-NOVA,” which comprised of Audrey Bertin ’21, Riley Boeth ’18, Emma Livingston ’20, Clara Rosenberg ’20 and Kara VanAllen ’20, won one of the Best in Group prizes.

Although none of the other Smith teams took home a prize, DataFest was, as always, a wonderful opportunity to learn new things, stretch one’s skills and learn to implement the things students have spent their college career cultivating.

Proposed changes to dining services brings debate to campus

Cassie Follman ’20

Associate Editor

Following a live discussion during which students voiced their concerns, the Student Government Association (SGA) proposed changes that will possibly be made to the dining hall system next year.

The changes to dining services include longer dining hours, more weekend and brunch options and some closures. The closures are due to the shifts in hours and availability of dining staff workers. The changes proposed were originally the following: later dining hours in Tyler Monday through Friday and later dining hours in Cushing/Emerson Friday through Sunday, more weekend breakfast/lunch in Tyler and Cushing/Emerson, more vegan options in Tyler and a stir fry and omelet bar at Tyler. Due to the shifts in hours, Hubbard and Wilson will be closed for dinner, with less dining hours at those deemed less-used locations.

SGA hosted a live event talk back session to discuss the changes and hear from various students and groups on campus about their concerns for the proposed changes. The biggest concerns were for the closures at Wilson and Hubbard, which were heard by the SGA. To be confirmed by both the disabilities services and the Dining Union, changes were made to the original proposal. A revised version of the proposal was then sent to the student body.

The official changes proposed by students and then endorsed by the SGA are the following: late dining hours at Cushing/Emerson Friday through Sunday and at Tyler Monday through Friday and Wilson and Hubbard would have at least three dinners a week.

The proposal, while endorsed by the SGA and approved by the student body, still needs to pass the Dining Union to be officially implemented next year.

Cape Town’s water crisis sheds light on importance of water preservation

   Cape Town is set to run out of water in June.

    According to USA Today, Cape Town has imposed a limit of 13.2 gallons of water per day. Members of the Cape Town community have severely cut back on showering, washing and flushing toilets to try to prolong the water source, but with 3.7 million people living in the metropolitan area, every drop counts.

Smith College sets representation goals for Neilson construction team

 Smith College sets representation goals for Neilson construction team

Last Thursday, the Study of Women and Gender and Engineering Departments hosted a forum on diversity in the construction force. At the “Only 3% Are Women?! A Forum on Diversifying the Construction Workforce” talk on Feb. 15, panelists and representatives of the administration discussed the necessity of a more diverse representation of women and people of color in the construction industry.

Local judge sued in sexual discrimination lawsuit

 Photo Courtesy of masslife.com || Local Judge Thomas H. Estes is subject of a federal sexual harassment complaint.

Photo Courtesy of masslife.com ||Local Judge Thomas H. Estes is subject of a federal sexual harassment complaint.

Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

Tammy Cagle, who used to work as a drug court clinician for the Behavioral Health Network (BHN) in Springfield, Mass., filed a federal lawsuit on Jan. 22 against Judge Thomas H. Estes, former first justice at Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown.

She is suing both Estes and Behavioral Health Network for sex discrimination and a hostile work environment. Her lawyers have filed claims regarding “violations of federal and state anti-discrimination laws, including Judge Estes’, BHN’s and the Trial Court’s violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

She alleges that Estes coerced her into oral sex, made repeated advances on her and was the cause of her eventual removal from her position at BHN.

She initially entered into a consensual relationship with Estes, but when she expressed discomfort with continuing, according to her lawsuit, “Judge Estes threatened [her] that things would be worse for her if someone found out about their sexual relationship.”

Allegedly, he then forced her into a sexual relationship with him in his office, and when she began to withdraw, acted cold and dismissive toward her and eventually intervened to have her put on administrative leave.

Attorney David Hoose of Northampton, who is representing Estes, denies the claims, saying that Cagle’s dismissal was unrelated and that the relationship was initiated by Cagle herself.

The lawsuit is the follow up from a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination complaint that resulted in Estes being placed on administrative leave in August 2017. The complaint was replaced with the lawsuit in January when no further progress on the case was made.

Jennie L. Caissie, a representative on the Governor’s Council from Oxford said, “That he would do this in a courthouse, as a judge — the abuse of power, it violates all the codes of conduct. … It is very disturbing.”

Estes has been on administrative assignment since that original complaint, and therefore has not presided over any cases. He still, however, collects his annual salary of $172,194.

Councilor Mary Hurley of East Longmeadow said, “He’s not doing any work. … He’s sitting in an office being paid to do nothing, which I think is horrendous.”

Despite her frustration, the Governor’s Council does not make decisions on active judges. They only have the power to deliberate on nominated judges before they are appointed to the courts.

There is very little precedent when it comes to removing a judge for misconduct. Hurley said, “The fact of the matter is the chief administrative justice for district court does not have the authority to remove a judge.”

The initial lawsuit was filed in the Boston District Court and then was sent to the federal court in Springfield. Currently the next step will be taken by the Supreme Judicial Court who has the power to recommend suspension or removal. Their advice will go to state Legislature, who will make the final decision.

Hurley believes that the current procedures for handling these cases needs to be updated, and that “The taxpayers deserve better.”

To make this process less lengthy, State Senator Anne Gobi of Spencer filed legislation last year designed to hold judges more accountable. If passed, it would “establish a commission to study judicial accountability in the commonwealth.” Both Caissie and Hurley said they support the bill.

The bill, S. 870, has been referred to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary where its has remained in stasis since last October.

As of now, it is uncertain how the case will resolve, but the lawsuit does bring questions on how the commonwealth of Massachusetts handles the enforcement of sexual discrimination laws in regards to those in positions of judicial power.

New Academic Freedom Statement sent to Board of Trustees for approval

Cassie Follman ’20 News Editor

This week, an ad hoc committee comprised of Smith faculty produced a new Student Academic Freedom statement. Smith faculty then voted in approval of sending the statement to the Board of Trustees for final approval. If approved by the board, the statement will be implemented and sent out to the Smith community. The Sophian requested to send a reporter to the vote but was denied.

Government Professor Alice Hearst was a member on the committee and shared her thoughts on the statement with The Sophian. Professor Hearst explained that the, “current statement ran together academic freedom and first amendment too much,” and that the new one, “separates academic freedom and First Amendment freedom.” According to the committee, there was a desire to define more clearly what academic freedom entailed, and clarify that no one, students or faculty, can “refuse to accommodate.”

Professor Hearst concluded that faculty and students need to be, “aware that what you say will reflect on [the] institution and strive to be accurate.” She emphasized that faculty and staff in particular need to consider this in light of the new statement.

Professor Marc Lendler, while not on the committee, voted in favor with other Smith faculty in favor of the new statement, also spoke with The Sophian. “Smith’s Academic Freedom code was written in 1992 and some on the faculty felt it should be revisited in light of the current debates,” Lendler, who teaches “Free Speech in America,” said.

“I think the proposed new statement strengthens the protections of academic freedom of the older statement in some ways,” Lendler said. “For instance, it states that faculty are ‘free to determine the relevant content and manner of learning’ for their classes, subject to professional standards and that they will be free from ‘censorship, discipline, or intimidation’ in doing so.”

He added, that, “The new statement properly includes students under the umbrella of academic freedom, and protects the right of student groups (as well as other community members) to invite speakers of their own choosing. … The most important point it makes is that when speakers are invited, ‘Others may not abridge the speaker’s freedom of expression.’ I hope the Smith community can come through this with a greater appreciation of why views that might be disturbing or heretical to some members of the community should be tolerated.”

Lendler also told The Sophian about a survey conducted for an honors thesis last year of Smith students. The survey reflected national surveys of a sharp decline in support for free thought and expression on college campuses in the past 15 years. There is demonstrated belief that the statement could help “reverse” this thinking.

 “I want to acknowledge that this new code contains gray areas which will be subject to future interpretations, as any code would be,” Lendler said. “Those interpretations might be different than mine.” Despite this, he still fully supported the new statement, “But I think this statement provides a good framework for resolving future controversies, and I hope the Trustees approve it.”

Lendler expressed some dismay that The Sophian was not permitted to cover the vote. “It is disappointing that The Sophian was not permitted to send a reporter to cover the debate at the last faculty meeting. The new statement applies to students as well as faculty, and it would have been beneficial for students to have seen a report on the debates.”

It has been decided that a separate statement concerning inclusion, diversity and equity will be issued separately. “Some in the faculty, including myself, felt those two subjects should be dealt with in separate statements,” Lendler said.  

Professor Hearst told The Sophian that the committee will work on this new statement concerning equity with, “new Vice President of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity David T. Carreon Bradley, students and faculty.”

It is not known when the new statement concerning equity will be presented to the Smith community.