Friday, January 31, 2014

The Missing T: Trans* Inclusivity, Erasure, and the MHC Archives

Since yesterday's announcement of the new Archives exhibition, Persistence and Existence: LGB Organizations at Mount Holyoke College Through History, we who work in the Archives, both students and staff, have received multiple emails and tumblr messages inquiring about the "missing T". As curator of the exhibition, I'm writing this post to share the thinking behind the title.

Typically, most people use the phrase LGBT to speak about the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. Many organizations do this to be inclusive of a whole range of people who experience marginalization and oppression because of their sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and gender identity. However, the last of these four letters, the missing T, rarely gets the same amount of attention in activism, visibility, and support. It is inclusivity in name only. People and organizations use the acronym to convey a sense of inclusion, while continuing to exclude many transgender people in their actual work. This contributes to trans* erasure.

We specifically chose not to include the T in the exhibit title. It's a glaring exclusion, one which brings to light the glaring exclusion of trans* people in the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections. The documents present are about organizations focused around lesbian, gay and bisexual people. There is a deep silence surrounding transgender people at MHC in the Archives, one which we hope to fill with voices. We chose to not include the T to show that the Archives has not historically included trans* folks in its recesses. Instead of simply adding it into the title in a gesture of inclusivity (and not walking the walk, so to speak) we use this exhibit as a platform for demonstrating how transgender voices in the Valley have been silenced.

There are very few documents in the Archives that speak about trans* organizations on campus. This is for many reasons, namely invisibility and institutionalized transphobia. This does not mean that transgender people did not exist at Mount Holyoke from the early 1970s to 2000s. They did. It means their stories were not recorded in the way lesbian and bisexual student's stories were. It means that there is a lot of work the Archives still needs to do. We need to not only look to the past, but to our future. In the past, trans* people have not been included in archived history at MHC, as evidenced by the preponderance of documents pertaining to LGB groups and the very, very few we have related to transgender organizations.

In the future, however, the Archives is committed to preserving the stories that all Mount Holyoke students want to tell -- very specifically the missing T. We are dedicated to documenting the histories of what is happening right now on campus, including the trans* panel that occurred in the spring of 2013, the formation of the Coalition for Gender Awareness, and the fight for the admittance of trans women going on at Smith College and MHC.

We welcome and strongly encourage submissions of material. We collect images, written stories, poetry, documents, organization mission statements, zines, manifestos, posters, journals, and much more. We are in conversation with many of the queer organizations on campus currently and are actively soliciting all sorts of materials. We encourage you -- Mount Holyoke students, staff, faculty, alums, community members and friends to submit YOUR stories and those of the organizations you are a part of. We can't uncover all the histories that have been lost, but we can commit to making the Archives and the MHC community more inclusive of all identities, not just the LGB part of the acronym.

Introducing the new LITS Hall of Fame!

Something exciting is happening in the hallway between the Ask LITS board and the Information Commons! Earlier this week, our display of placards about noted Mount Holyoke College people was taken down and the walls of the hallway were repainted. The new display of Mount Holyoke Changemakers produced by the Office of Communications is up, and it's bigger and better than ever, with more of the breadth and diversity you requested.
Mount Holyoke Changemakers posters in LITS

The display highlights Mount Holyoke women in a variety of fields, such as business, theater, design, education, international development, and medicine. New additions include:
  • Barbara A. Cassani, 1982, first female CEO of a British airline company (Go) and recipient of the Veuve Clicquot businesswoman of the year award
  • Gloria Johnson-Powell, 1958, pediatrician and child psychiatrist, first African American woman to attain tenure at Harvard Medical School
  • Susan Kare, 1975, designer of original icons for the Macintosh operating system
  • Suzan-Lori Parks, 1985, playwright; Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellowship winner
  • Kavita Ramdas, 1985, senior advisor and former CEO, Global Fund for Women
  • Sadiqa Basiri Saleem, FP 2009, founder and co-founder of schools in Afghanistan, Samuel Huntington Public Service Award winner
  • Wendy Wasserstein, 1971, playwright; recipient of the Tony Award, the Dramatists Guild Award, and the Pulitzer Prize
We're very excited that the new display is here, and we hope you enjoy it too! You can learn about these graduates and many others -- far more than we can fit in our hallway -- at the College's Uncommon Women page. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Am I registered for this course? Am I still on the waitlist? But I'm in Moodle!

You may be wondering, did I get into this course? Am I on the waitlist? If I'm in Moodle for this course, I'm registered, right?

Not so fast, true believers! Here's how Moodle roster updates work:
Photo Credit: John Althouse Cohen via Compfight cc

Moodle copies information from ISIS, our student registration system, every few hours during the semester. This updates the list of course participants in Moodle regularly to match the list in ISIS. Information NEVER EVER copies from Moodle back into ISIS. If you're not registered for the correct course in ISIS, you're not registered for the course and cannot get credit for the course, no matter which Moodle courses you have access to. By the way, you can learn more about using Moodle in our Using Moodle @ MHC support hub.

But what if you're on the waitlist for a course in Moodle? What if your professor added you manually to a Moodle course? 

We give waitlist students access to the Moodle site so that they can start to do reading and study while they are waiting to see if they're in the course. And professors can add a student manually to a Moodle site. But remember, Moodle access does NOT mean you're officially registered! Check ISIS and make sure you're properly registered-- we'd hate for you to do a lot of work for the course and not be registered, but it's your responsibility to make sure all is right in ISIS-- Moodle access is NOT official registration.

You can also leave the waitlist for a course in ISIS, and once you do so your Moodle access to that course will cease. So if you're sure you're not getting into a course, removing yourself from the waitlist in ISIS reduces confusion for everybody.

The last day to add a class is February 3, so check your enrollments in ISIS early and often, and happy studying. 


Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Welcome back! We hope your semester is off to a good start. We were busy over JTerm updating and maintaing the computers around campus, planning for Spring projects and working with SAW and Facilities to bring about some changes in the MEWS.  We all had some vacation, so rest time was good too.

A few things to note from behind the IC desk:

  • More iPads for you to use, including a sweet iPad 3 with fancy retinal display, #5.
  • Lap-sized whiteboards for you to use while in the IC.
  • Free ethernet cable at the IC desk, so you can wire in to the network while in your dorm room for fast, reliable internet connection.  
  • The student peer2peer workshop calendar will be filled soon, keep you eye out for exciting training opportunities!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Homepage Widget Updated

Discover Supersearch plus Catalog Widget equals New Widget
We made an update to the LITS homepage during J-Term, replacing the Discover Search box and Catalog Widget with a single, integrated search widget. The new widget features the Discover Search as the default tab, bringing us in line with our peers at the other Five Colleges. The Discover Search includes everything in the library catalog, but users can still search the catalog directly by clicking to the Catalog tab.

The new widget is more accessible for screen readers and allows us to gather better statistics on the tabs people are clicking. Each tab has its own page, allowing us to add even more relevant information and allowing you to bookmark specific tabs more robustly. Please take a moment to click around, and send any ideas you have for improving the tabs and pages to As always, our website is a work in progress, and your input is crucial for making it great. Thanks!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hot Chocolate Walk, January 22, 4-5 pm: Rediscovering Mary Lyon’s Seminary

Being a seminary student at Mount Holyoke in the 1800s was no easy task. Rigorous examinations were required for entrance, the wake up call was at 4:30 a.m., chores were performed for an hour every day, speaking was often limited to a whisper, over 70 rules were followed to the letter, and final exams were recited to a public audience!
    Subjects including grammar, physiology, botany, natural philosophy (now known as physics), history, religion, chemistry, geology, astronomy, algebra, Euclidean geometry, and philosophy were taught as requirements, and nearly all classes necessitated memorization and recitation. Weekly compositions were written, often becoming twenty pages or more in the process, on subjects such as women’s education, virtuous behavior, or the beauty of nature. These compositions were then read aloud, much to the dismay of many students. This challenging level of academics much more closely matched the Ivy Leagues than the typical female education of the day, which focused on refined talents such as watercoloring and conversational French.
     Seminary dining hall, 1876
Breakfast at the seminary consisted of “cushion toast,” dry graham bread crumbled with molasses, until a petition was circulated by several girls to diversify the meal. After that, a typical breakfast consisted of a warm dish of either rice, hominy, toast, or potatoes. Student Nancy Everett wrote that the noon dinner “is made up of roasted beef, codfish, and the like, and always a second course of dumplings, pies, or puddings.” Supper, the evening meal, was simple: bread and butter and cake or gingerbread. Some students very much enjoyed the food provided at Mount Holyoke while others thought it too plain. No doubt they were also distressed that Mary Lyon forbade tea and coffee! Some students took matters into their own hands and began sneaking food from the pantries at night or bringing back sumptuous snacks from home. However, Emily Dickinson wrote that “One thing is certain and that is that Miss Lyon and all the teachers seem to consult our comfort and happiness in everything they do and you know that is pleasant.” Many other students wrote home to say that they enjoyed the food and were well taken care of.
    Social activity was restricted to certain periods in the daily schedule, including exercise time. A daily one-mile walk was required of all students to promote physical fitness. Mary Lyon was a firm believer in exercise as part of a well-rounded education, as well as a necessity of Christian life. She wrote, “Exercise is part of the very constitution of man. It is as certain that we must labor as any truth of the bible.” If the weather was disagreeable, the walk was shortened to ¾ mile or however far students could walk in half an hour. While a mile may not seem too long to most of us, imagine waking it on uneven or uncleared terrain in an ankle-length dress with petticoats! Student frequently took this opportunity to walk up Prospect Hill (located behind 1837 and the Mandelles). A bridge was not constructed to cross Stony Brook until 1849 for easier access to the hill. Calisthenics were also introduced into the daily regimen of the students, originally as group exercises designed to instill grace and balance. Traditional Protestants prohibited dancing, and there was much concern that the quadrille-style exercises were too scandalous. Mention exists of students quickly reforming their calisthenic positions after a lapse into more frivolous frolics, upon the approach of an instructor. Under the study of Dr. Mary Homer in 1862 (who also increased the walking requirement to two miles daily), calisthenics took on a more gymnastic exercise with added props of dumbbells and hoops. A new gym outfit was introduced, which included a flannel top and voluminous trousers underneath a skirt that was six inches from the ground.

    Although the seminary building burned down in 1896 and our lives today at Mount Holyoke may be very different, Mary Lyon’s legacy lives on. Join Professor Martha Ackmann at 4 p.m. this Wednesday in the library atrium (next to the Chihuly statue) for a tour around campus in the spirit of Mary Lyon’s daily walks. Learn fascinating facts about Mount Holyoke history to impress your friends, and then enjoy hot chocolate, cookies, and conversation in the library.