Mount Holyoke News 1996-1997

April 10, 1997

Two articles

College chaplains replaced by Dean of Chapel

Creighton makes decision under Rapoport's advice, religion Professor Grayson to serve as interim Dean

by Becky Mazur '00

A decision was made to not rehire the College's three chaplains sometime this week by President Joanne Creighton, according to college officials. With the advisement of Dean of the College John Rapoport, Creighton decided to create an interim Dean of the College Chapel, and appointed religion professor John Grayson to the position. Grayson has agreed to act as Dean of the College Chapel for the 1997-98 academic year.

The decision came after the announcement that Catholic Chaplain Mary Sue Callan-Farley and Jewish Chaplain Devorah Jacobson had both accepted positions elsewhere. Grayson notified the College of his acceptance of the position late last week. Chaplains Callan-Farley, Jacobson, and Protestant Chaplain Andrea Ayvazian were notified of the decision on Tuesday.

According to the Dean of the College John Rapoport, the decision to ask Grayson to assume the position was made sometime in the last week.

Grayson, who said his appointment to the Dean of the College Chapel came as a "big surprise," has requested that his teaching responsibilities be suspended for next year so he can focus on expanding and maintaining the quality of religious and spiritual life on campus. However, Grayson is leaving the possibility open of teaching a class second semester.

In a press release from the Office of Communications dated April 9, Creighton said, "John Rapoport and I believe that the designation of a full-time, year-round position to provide leadership for the chaplaincy is the most important and immediate of [the Committee on College Life's] recommendations. Having a director or dean responsible for the spiritual and religious life will allow for stronger leadership as well as closer integration and greater synergies within the academic and curricular offerings of the College."

Last week, Callan-Farley announced that she accepted a position as director of campus ministry at Elms College, a Catholic women's college in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Jewish Chaplain Devorah Jacobson also announced last week that she has accepted a half-time position as associate chaplain at Williams College.

Wednesday's press release quoted Rapoport as saying "The current chaplains have served the College community extremely well and the [College Life] Committee was particularly impressed by the range of programs offered by the chaplains and the number of students who participate in their programs and services."

Jacobson said that she met with a large group of students after the decision was made, and that some had "expressed concern about the process." She added that she would have preferred the decision to have been made sooner. Ayvazian could not be reached for comment, and Callan-Farley did not comment.

According to Rapoport, a primary reason for the creation of the Dean of the College Chapel position and the decision not to rehire the three present chaplains was "to bring the spiritual life of the campus closer to the academic core of the College." He also commented that the Dean of the Chapel position is "a move to something that has worked for us in the past." According to the Report of the Task Force on Religious Life dated February 2, 1996, the College had a Dean of the College Chapel from 1959 to 1991, when the position was suspended and a half-time Protestant chaplain was appointed.

The interim Dean's responsibilities will include working with the Dean of the College and the President to review opportunities for service and spiritual development on campus and within the Five College area, and leading a search to find a permanent Dean of the College Chapel.


Transgender panel

by Sarah Gamble '98

Five members of the transgendered community spoke of their personal experiences at a panel discussion sponsored by Spectrum last week. Student reaction to the speakers was varied.

The panelists emphasized that they were relating their own feelings and experiences, and were not trying to represent the transgendered community as a whole.

Most panelists discussed how they had felt isolated as children, having unexplainable feelings that were seen as wrong by society. Jan, who is biologically male and considers herself a woman, said, "I was socialized like a boy, and I don't want to undo that, it was just an experience I had. At a certain point I felt the need to cross dress, which I tried to repress because every image of men as women was negative."

Debbie echoed Jan's statement of isolation. She said she had "strange" feelings as a child. "But I just figured I was a strange, fat little kid." It wasn't until her marriage fell apart and she lost her family due to heavy drinking that Debbie began to dress as a woman. She started going to a transgender support group and became sober. "I wandered around on my own for a long time. Now I can't believe I didn't see the support there was, but it was very secretive." Debbie is preparing for surgery that will reconstruct her genitalia as female.

Panelists also discussed sexuality in relation to being transgendered. They emphasized that the two are not interchangeable, and that being transgendered does not mean someone is gay. Jill, a cross-dresser who is biologically male, said she was "always very attracted to girls I would sometimes, as Jill, have fantasies about guys, but when I experimented the reality was disappointing."

John, who grew up in South Hadley as a female and had a sex change operation in 1974, said he didn't date at all until after the operation. "It wasn't until after I went through the sex change that I actually dated a woman. That's when the sexual component for my life started."

Panelists said they had spent much of their lives trying unsuccessfully to fit into mainstream society. John said he used sports and religion as outlets for his adolescent frustration. "Sports were the only way to express my inner spirit, my inner rage."

Debbie told those in attendance that transgenders risk losing family relationships and friends when they come out as transgendered. "When you take this on, you've got to plan on losing everything, and whatever you can get back is a gift."

About 40 people attended the panel discussion, held in the Stimson Room. Afterwards, audience members were invited to ask questions and talk one to one with the panelists. Catherine Dorsey '00 said, "I thought it was very interesting to learn about lifestyles that were so drastically different from my own."

"It was great that John was there, because there aren't as many female to male transsexuals. I thought it was pretty representative of the entire group of transgenders, cross dressers, and transsexuals," Brynn Hare '00 said.

Other audience members felt the panel gave an inaccurate portrayal of the transgender community. According to Sue Towle '97, "Transvestites change their clothes, transsexuals change their bodies, and transgenders change their mind. Those panelists were poor examples of transgenderism. If anyone is thinking about identifying themselves as a transgender, they're not going to want to lump themselves in with those weirdos and freaks. Academically, you may have been able to get something out of it, but personally you can't get anything out of it because you can't identify with them."

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