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


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.

Strange side effects of the meningitis vaccine at Smith


Briana Brady ’21, contributing writer

There was an incredibly high turnout at Smith’s recent Meningitis B vaccine clinic. However, immediately after, students reported feelings of distress and reduced mental capacity to complete routine tasks. This included difficulty understanding classroom material and performing in school.

On multiple occasions, campus officials spotted students running around the Elm Street area during late hours of the night screaming, “Why?! WHY!?” at the sky. Dining staff reported observing students eating more than usual as they “foraged food for the academic hurricane to come in the weeks ahead.”

One house community reported seeing multiple seniors banging their heads against the dinner tables in an attempt to discern whether they were living in a dream or if this was truly their reality.

A Smith Student told the Sophian that she was unable to control speaking to the passenger next to her on her flight home after spring break, asking if she was going to “the happy place.” Flight attendants were alerted to her unusual behavior, and she was monitored for the remainder of the flight.

Health officials have no clear explanation for these strange side effects.

There is speculation that the pollen from the bulbs in bloom around campus had a reaction with ingredients in the vaccine, producing the unforeseen effects.

It is also possible that Smith students were reacting to their new exposure to the elements. With the unending Neilson construction and the recent extraction of a tree in Seelye Lawn, Smith students have been exposed to the elements much more than they are used to. The vaccine might have further exacerbated the disorientation they were experiencing.

As many Smith students will be off-campus when the second part of the vaccine is required, readers can depend on the Sophian report updates on any odd behavior.

Neilson construction halts because of haunting


Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

On March 19, at 8:53 p.m., the sound of Neilson construction came to an abrupt stop, and all was silent. At 9:57 p.m., Campus Police was seen arriving on the scene to escort a Smith student out of the construction zone. However, when they approached the student, she vanished.

Over the course of the next week, the student, who others started referring to as “Caroline, the Neilson Ghost,” appeared and disappeared at random intervals. Whenever she arrived, she wailed about her midterms and finals. The first night, she was heard shouting, “Done is better than good!” but then quickly changing  her mind and screaming, “But grad school!”

Whenever construction workers or campus police approach her, she becomes increasingly agitated, and declares that she “just needs a few more hours to finish her essay. [She’s] really almost done this time.” Counseling services were sent over to discuss her workload with her, but the ghostly flood of stress tears constrained  them to beat a hasty retreat.

Eventually the disruptions became too frequent for the construction to continue on schedule, and the Board of Trustees decided to have the ghost removed by magical means. However, when the magical consultants arrived to force the ghost off the property, she became enraged and began destroying the historic portions of Neilson. The consultants were then forced to flee when she knocked the back roof off of the building.

An all-campus meeting was called in John M. Greene Hall, on March 23, to come to a decision regarding  the ghost. Students were split nearly evenly between supporting and condemning the ghost.

Amelia Knox ’18 said, “I really relate to Caroline. Like, I don’t want to do my finals either, and if I could break things over it, I totally would.”

Knox was part of a casual sit-in, protesting the College’s treatment of the ghost. The group had signs that said “Knock s*** over!” and “No Poor Treatment Of Ghosts At Smith College Now Or Ever.”

Maria Smith ’21 felt differently about the ghost’s presence and said, “I .get being stressed out but really? Really? I had seven midterms yesterday and you don’t see me getting upset and pushing things over.” When asked about the potential of construction halting because of the ghost, she said, “I really hope the college decides not to stop construction. All the older students talk about missing Neilson Library, and I would like to see it someday, so that I can tell them they are wrong and that it’s not that great.”

After the all-campus meeting and sit-in, the administration announced that they are officially halting construction of Neilson until the ghost can be removed from the construction zone. There are currently plans in place to host de-stressing workshops on the edge of the construction zone, in hopes of calming the ghost down enough to continue work on the building.

President McCartney said, in an email about the decision, “At Smith, we are committed to making things happen, while also being aware of the situation around events choices, and making sure that things that ought not to happen are watched over. We, as a community, will recommit to this goal while moving forward, together.”

President McCartney Email to Students Concerning Bubonic Plague


Cassie Follman ’20, associated editor and managing editor

In light of the recent outbreak of bubonic plague on Smith College’s campus, President Kathleen McCartney sent out an email detailing when vaccinations and treatments will be available to the Smith community. The response from the community has been generally positive, at least, from those who have read it.

The first diagnoses of the bubonic plague came last week. A nameless student went to the health center bleeding from her orifices and shivering with what she assumed was stress-induced symptoms. She was told by health services to fill out the correct paperwork and come back the next day, as there were no available appointments.

The student spoke exclusively to The Sophian about the incident, “I mean, I guess I get it. Without paperwork, how could they know what was wrong with me?” The student, originally diagnosed with a sore throat was prescribed with three cough drops, but returned to the health center a week later. There, she was diagnosed with bubonic plague. The nurse who examined her left the premises immediately and has not been heard from since.

Unknown to the student (who shall remain nameless, even though her identity was leaked last night on the Smith Confessional) she infected at least 300 students in three days. The student said, “I feel bad you know, but like, I’ve gotten some wicked bad colds from people in my house, so you know, karma.”

In response to mounting concerns, President McCartney sent out an email to assure the Smith Community. “The infected students are undergoing treatment and appear to be responding well,” it said, adding, “There is no cause for concern, and all classes will continue as normal. However, Smith offices will be closed until further notice.”

The email included that experimental vaccinations will be given out to students that are, “not lazy enough” to get them. They will be given out on 1:15-2:43 a.m. on Tuesday, Monday and Wednesday.

No student or staff deaths have been reported, and the original student has returned to attending her classes. When asked by The Sophian if she felt supported by teachers and the administration after suffering such an illness, she said, “Well, two of my teachers have been awesome, but when I emailed another about getting an extension he replied, ‘You’re alive aren’t you?’”

The email from President Kathleen McCartney concluded, “I hope that the Smith community has not been too alarmed by this recent outbreak. This Smith administration is treating it with the greatest priority and attention. Please refrain from creating another petition. I have 543 sitting in my inbox currently. All is fine. But, please...I mean it about the petition.”


Bulb Show


Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

Last Friday marked the beginning of this year’s Spring Bulb Show. The annual event kicked off with a lecture, “Stories About Seeds.” Tim Johnson, the director of the Botanic Garden presented on the history and evolution of seeds. The talk focused on the “emergence of the angiosperm plant lineage” and the impact that seed saving had on humanities growth. A reception and a preview of the Bulb Show followed the lecture.

Located in the Lyman Conservatory, the show is a fragrant, beautiful display of nature. The weather is warm in the greenhouse and the scent of flowers is immediately present when one walks through the door.

Crafting the show is a six-month project, with lots of thought and care going into the final display. This year, the show was designed a little differently — there was no specific theme. Sarah Freeberg, who works at the Botanic Garden, said, “Some people have been asking what the theme is this year, so we just tell them ‘Spring!’”

The lack of theme did not slow any enthusiasm for the event. Andrea Tulenko-Catlin and Linda Tulenko, from the town of Amherst, have been coming to the bulb show for years, and have yet to tire of the beauty. Tulenko-Catlin said “I think it’s an amazing display, all the different bulbs.” Tulenko said that “it’s a breath of fresh air,” and that she looks forward to the event every year.

Margo Nutt visited the show for the first time all the way from Vermont and shared their sentiments about the show. She said, “It’s so good after a long, awful winter to just smell the earth, you know, not to mention smelling some of the flowers.”

The Bulb Show is a constant feature of Smith’s spring semester, but that does not mean the show is stagnant. When asked about the best part of the show, everyone seemed to have a different answer.

Sarah Vespa ’20, Maria Vespa ’20 and Alessandra Pagini ’20 make it a tradition to go see the bulb show every year together. Pagini said that her favorite part of the show is the unique flowers, “the ones that [are] not the same as all the other flowers; they … stick out, but … they’re just as beautiful.”

Sarah Vespa had a specific favorite. She said, “There’s this one in [the second] room that was … purple and spiky and it looked like a cactus.” The flower she referred to is the Blue Tango and is one of the tropical flowers mixed in with the local bulbs.

According to Freeberg, those flowers, especially the bromeliads, of which the Blue Tango is one, are a special treat this year. She recommended the flower family as a specific feature of the show. She said “It’s a fun game, to try and see if you can spot the bromeliads. They’re just sprinkled throughout, so see if you can spot them.”

Whether you are visiting for the taste of spring, to see new types of flowers or just to take a beautiful photo, the Bulb Show is where you need to be. The show had its full opening on March 3 and will run through the month, ending on March 18. The event is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of five dollars.

Meningitis B hits Smith

Don treeger therepublican.jpg

Kira Barrett ’18, Assistant News Editor

On Mar. 1, a long line of students waited in anticipation outside of the Carroll Room of the Campus Center. They were not waiting to hear someone speak, nor attending a club meeting. They were waiting to get the Meningitis B vaccine.

Last semester, two UMass students contracted the disease. In a statement regarding the incidents, the university explained that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory discovered that the type of bacteria that caused both students’ infections was very similar and other UMass students were at a higher risk for contracting the disease.

UMass immediately set up vaccination clinics for its students. The disease was seemingly under control after that.

However, on Feb. 25, the Smith community received an email from Leslie Jaffe, the College Physician stating that a Smith student was diagnosed with a bacterial meningitis infection and had to be rushed to the hospital. In his email, Jaffe informed the community that the student lives off campus and is receiving proper medical care. The college, along with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, promptly notified those who were in close contact with the student.

The following Thursday, the vaccination clinic opened. In a campus-wide email on Mar. 2, Jaffe wrote that the clinic had been successful. He also wrote that those who unable to make it to the clinic could either make an appointment with the Health Services or CVS pharmacies on Main Street and King Street to receive the vaccination.

Jaffe reminded students that “the vast majority of Smith students have been vaccinated against four strains of bacterial meningitis (ACWY); the fifth strain, Group B, is not currently part of the college’s required vaccine schedule due to the relatively recent availability of the vaccine.”

“We have administered more than 700 meningitis B vaccines since the CDC declared an outbreak at the University of Massachusetts last fall,” Jaffe wrote. “Including 400 administered at the Smith College Campus Center on March 1.”

A second vaccination clinic will open in the next few weeks for students to receive their second and final dose of the vaccine.

Meningitis B is a potentially deadly disease. Bexsero, a type of Meningitis B vaccine, has an official website that states that Meningitis B is “a bacterial infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.” The website also states that roughly one in 10 Meningitis B patients are at risk of dying, at times within the first 24 hours.

According to Mayo Clinic, Meningitis B symptoms include a stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, extreme headache and fever. Although  Meningitis B is not as contagious as the common cold or flu, it can still be passed on through coughing, sneezing, kissing and the sharing of drinks, utensils, cigarettes and toothbrushes.

In the meantime, students are advised to get the vaccine, practice good hygiene and avoid sharing any of the aforementioned items.