Editorial: Look for Answers not Blame In Aftermath of Jacob Marberger’s Death

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The only good news that might come out of the profoundly tragic news of WC student Jacob Marberger’s suicide this weekend is that more information will come to the surface which could prevent these sad circumstances from being repeated in the future.

Like any tragedy of this proportion, the response individually and institutionally should always be, “What could have been done to prevent this from happening?” But in Jacob’s case, this takes on a special meaning given the multitude of people, departments, and social organizations who had contact with this young man in the weeks leading to his dramatic downward spiral.

Even with the little we know, it is clear that bullying, alcohol abuse, and zero tolerance policies might have played a role in Jacob Marberger’s swing from a fully engaged campus leader to an isolated and despondent outsider. Given that this transition seemingly happened only within a matter of weeks, there is much to process here.

It seems inconceivable that Washington College will not take this self-examination very seriously. While the immediate disappearance of Jacob posed an important test for college leadership, it will now be how well the school responds in the aftermath of his suicide that will determine any long-term harm to reputation or mission.

But beyond the institutional response, one can only hope that the students who had contact with Jacob will also undertake a form of self-examination. Was there enough tolerance, enough listening, enough empathy or were there quick rushes to judge and stigmatize? Those kinds of painful questions must be considered as part of any successful healing process.

The danger in this is the impulse to play a blame game rather than participate in a learning experience. Only one person decided to end Jacob’s life, and that person was Jacob himself. The eagerness to point fingers might be predictable, but it is a wasteful exercise that needs to yield quickly to a more thoughtful analysis for both the school and all who knew him.

As Carl Jung pointed out years ago, “Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” For Jacob’s sake, let that not happen here.

Spying on the McCord Building: Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Cuts the Ribbon

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Finally, with more than a few temporary setbacks, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, joined by fellow environmental groups, and a cross-section of the conservation community of the Mid-Shore, cut the ribbon on their renovated new headquarters in the old McCord Laundry Building on South Washington Street last Friday afternoon.

The new arrivals include the MSCF, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Town Creek Foundation, the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, with a few other nonprofit organizations on their the way.

An operative of the Talbot Spy was there to get peek of the new gigs.

This video is approximately one minute in length and was co-produced by the Avalon Foundation

Holy Cow: Perdue Farms Buys California Foodie Favorite Niman Ranch

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In what might be one of the most unusual corporate purchases of the year, the New York Times reported this morning that the Eastern Shore’s Perdue Farms has purchased the small, but very popular organic beef company, Niman Ranch. Niman, which produces only grass-fed beef and other meat products, has been a staple of California foodies for almost two decades.

Read the full story here.

Chestertown Spy Editorial: Find the Local Flow Madam President

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It is with delight that the greater Chestertown community welcomes Sheila Bair as the 28th president of Washington College. It must come as a tremendous relief that the last remaining glass ceiling has been broken with the appointment of Ms. Bair as the first woman to hold that position in 233 years. To be able to do so with someone as qualified and dynamic as Ms. Bair speaks volumes for the quality of the institution as it does her faith in WC’s historic mission and purpose.

As a student of Washington College, the Chestertown Spy, having watched college presidents come and go since the Daniel Gibson era of the 1960s, does have a modest observation worth sharing as President Bair prepares for her inauguration.

To start, it might be helpful to recall a few years back a poll was done of new university and college presidents after their first year in office. The study found that a high percentage of them turned out to really hate their jobs after twelve months. While that might be the experience for many in their first year of employment, regardless of the profession, it can be said that college presidents have a particularly good reason to feel this way.

For the disenchanted, it is sometimes budget issues not known during the hiring process or perhaps the sudden loss of personal privacy. Others experience the kind of fatigue normally reserved only for candidates in retail politics. And all of them seem to combat the very high, and often times unrealistic, demands of trustees, major donors, prickly faculty, and marginalized alumni. This all happens at the same time the students (and their parents) press to see more value-added results for their six-figure four-year investment. Even with a high salary and sense of professional accomplishment, those college presidents were pretty unhappy campers.

It’s hard to blame them. The stakes have become so high in higher education, even for small, rural liberal arts colleges like Washington College, that it is hard for a new college president not to feel like T.S. Eliot’s poor character Prufrock who was on track to become a “predestined failure,” as a scholar of Eliot’s work once suggested, with no roadmap to navigate these treacherous and sometimes unforgiving waters.

Of course, these men and women would have our unending sympathy if it were not the case that throughout history, at least for Washington College, there has never been a roadmap for college presidents. And it has been our observation that those who genuinely enjoy the task of setting a new, uncharted course for this institution are the ones who love their jobs the most.

From Smith to Douglass Cater, Cain to Johnny Toll, these individuals saw their tenure as a great cause rather than an assignment – they knew where they wanted to take this school. They could withstand the pettiness and folly that comes with all institutions because they saw a bigger picture in front of them. That sense of direction not only acted as a force shield against the daily irritations of leadership but created for themselves a zone of fulfillment and usefulness that results in their own personal happiness.

This phenomenon is not new and does have a name. As defined by the writer Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, it is those that have found the “flow” in their work, and thereby are “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

And part of the trick for a Washington College president is to know how this must be found locally. The intertwined relationship braiding the college, the community, and the river together yields the greatest gifts when seen collectively as the source of that flow. And by grasping the power of the region’s three greatest virtues, and the importance they play in the education of a student creates sense of pride and purpose for all.

And that zone is available for all who seek it. We wish President Bair grand tidings and heroic stamina to do so.

Senator Steve Hershey Pushes to Reopen Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center

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Nearly five years after the controversial closing of Chestertown’s Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center,  Senator Steve Hershey (R-36-Upper Shore) wants to revisit that decision.

In a statement released today, Hershey commented that, “with the heroin overdose epidemic being a huge problem on the Eastern Shore and statewide, it has become both obvious and imperative that the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center should be re-opened.” At a Board of Public Works meeting on May 13, State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the closing of the Center was “outright wrong” and that he intended to get the ball rolling to getting the Center re-opened. Hershey said, “Comptroller Franchot has always been a proponent of the Center, we met with him last year to seek his support for our advocacy efforts and he assured me that he would do whatever it takes to re-open the Center.”
When the 40-bed facility was closed by then-Governor O’Malley in 2010 to save the state $2.6 million, 94 state employees lost their jobs during an economic recession. The Center provided excellent service to Marylanders statewide with outcomes above 4 on a 5 point scale. “It was the only facility in the entire State Hospital System to offer treatment for patients with dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness. With the abrupt closing of the Center, many patients within our community were left without care,” said Hershey.

Delegate Jay Jacobs (R-36-Kent) while Mayor of Rock Hall led the opposition against the hospital closure. Now as the Delegate from Kent County, he together with Senator Hershey, has repeatedly introduced legislation mandating the re-opening of the Center. Jacobs said, “Those of us who tried to stop the closing were assured by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that the community safety net of services would help the discharged vulnerable patients live successfully in the community. I asked then and I ask now – where is this community safety net of services?”

Gary B. Fry, the Queen Anne’s County director of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services for the Health Department informed that the department offers out-patient drug treatment, but funds for these programs are scarce. There are two private providers in the area. One of them, the A.F. Whitsitt Center in Chestertown, is the only provider of inpatient treatment services within the five Upper Shore counties. The waiting list for Whitsitt tops 100 and nearly always exceeds 30 days. “There is a shameful lack of substance abuse treatment facilities on the Upper Shore, yet a perfectly capable 40-bed facility remains closed. In the midst of an overwhelming heroin overdose problem, failing to re-open an existing facility is just unacceptable,” said Hershey.

Both Senator Hershey and Delegate Jacobs emphasized that there is general agreement by the health professionals, judicial and law enforcement officials, as well as those who shape policy to deal with substance abuse that treatment is the most effective method of dealing with addiction. Hershey declared, “Re-opening the Center is at the very least a partial solution to the problem of widespread heroin addiction that brings grief to families across every economic, educational, racial and geographic boundary.” Hershey added, “Delegate Jacobs and I are committed to working with Comptroller Franchot, Governor (Larry) Hogan and Lt. Governor (Boyd) Rutherford to addressing the needs of our community and re-opening the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center.”

A Preview of WC’s New Leader: Sheila Bair’s 2009 Acceptance of JFK Profile in Courage Award

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As both Washington College and the greater Mid-Shore community start to absorb the news of Sheila Bair’s historic appointment as the first woman to lead the tenth oldest college in America, there is always a natural curiosity that sets in about a new leader’s background, values, and sense of mission in life.

Luckily for Spy readers, we were able to to locate Ms. Bair’s acceptance of the John F. Kennedy Library Profile in Courage award in 2009. It would be hard to find a more useful source to understand her accomplishments and an extraordinary sense of integrity she will be bringing to the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Spy Tip: The Art of Storytelling

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The art of storytelling is nothing less than sharing the narrative of our lives in all its real and imagined voices. From Homer’s Trojan War epics to bedside fables at night, or watermen recounting a hurricane on the Bay, storytelling has conveyed truths, adventures, and entertainment for millennia.

But in a world saturated with the frenzied blare of multi-media, the art of storytelling—aside from written literature—seems a quaint artifact found at art fairs and in historical society archives. For many, only the tales of Lake Woebegone come to mind if you ask about spoken arts.

But you wouldn’t think storytelling has lost any of its vitality if you were in Jonesborough, Tennessee, the International Storytelling Center. This year’s 43rd Festival expects at least 50,000 people. Columbia, South Carolina and Culpepper, Virginia’s Storytelling Alliance also hold  festivals each year.

Queen Anne’s County Arts Council Executive Director Belinda Cook would like the storytelling tradition to catch fire on the Eastern Shore and has a set up a partnership with Chesapeake College to offer the first Chesapeake Storytelling Festival from 7-9 pm this Friday  at the Todd Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online here or at the door and are $45. Nationally acclaimed storytellers Tim Lowry and Geraldine Buckley will be highlighted at this important first event.

“I think this could be a wonderful annual highlight for Queen Anne’s County. It’s a theme close to my heart—I was raised listening to stories my father and uncle told, and I believe we have an opportunity to really make a mark as hosting an annual event like this, ” she said. ” It’s a natural platform to also preserve our regional culture. For instance, planning for the 2016 Festival, we want to start a “Heritage of the Chesapeake” series and will kick off with storytelling by local waterman,” she adds.

Tickets are still available. Call 410-827-5867 for an update.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spying on Easton: Mid-Shore’s Food Hub Concept Becomes Chesapeake Harvest

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The major highlight at this week’s Easton Town Council was the report provided by Tracy Ward, Easton Economic Development Corporation’s director, that a food hub to be located in Easton would be named Chesapeake Harvest and has become a formal program of the EEDC.

The change in name and other strategic shifts for more outreach and consensus-building in the farming community by the EEDC to support the food aggregator for smaller producers on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately minutes in length. To watch this entire meeting, please click here to watch on TV-98 at http://streams.tv-98.com/

SpyCam: Two Die in Fatal Accident near Kent Narrow Bridge Sunday

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Maryland State Police are reporting that two were killed and another injured on Route 50 when a wrong-way driver hit a car near
the Kent Narrows bridge on Sunday evening, March 15, around 7:30 pm state police said.

Police were not releasing the victims’ names because the families had not been notified,

A SpyCam of the roadway after the accident gives you a sense of the enormous impact the accident had on the two cars involved.