The CLUSTER

The Cluster/MercerCluster.com is the leading news source for Mercer University and surrounding communities. It is named after a book of songs penned by University founder Jesse Mercer in 1810. The Cluster has been published as a bi-monthly since 1920.

While The Cluster is subsidized by Mercer’s Board of Appropriations, it retains strict editorial autonomy as a student publication under the University’s bylaws. Its newsroom is located in the Center for Collaborative Journalism in Mercer Village.

I served as a Staff Writer from September to December 2017 and became the Lead Writer of the News Section in January 2018. Starting this fall, I will take on the News Editor position.


Mercer and Macon communities respond to Bearstock 2018

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Mercer students and Macon community members had varied reactions to the issues that arose during this year’s Bearstock, such as the cancellation of the outdoor portion.

The daytime concert, which is free and open to the public, was previously scheduled for April 7 in Tattnall Square Park from 1 to 6 p.m. It was canceled the day before due to inclement weather forecasts.

Some non-Mercer students were upset that the public portion was canceled.

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Bearstock 2018: What you need to know

This year’s Bearstock will be held on April 7 at Tattnall Square Park from 1 to 6 p.m., said Mercer Live Committee Chair Sa’Haara Bryant.

“Bearstock is Mercer University’s annual day-long music festival. Bearstock is the biggest event put on by QuadWorks, the campus event planning board at (Mercer University),” reads the event Facebook page.

The 2018 lineup will include Kim Meeks, whose website describes her as “a hybrid of rock, soul, jazz and alternative” music; The Burnt Bridges, a heavy rock band; Simeon, a rapper; Some Kids, a rock band from Warner Robins and 95.waves, a neo-funk five-piece band performing original takes on covers, one member of which is a student of the Townsend School of Music here at Mercer.

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Higdon and May run for SGA President & Vice President on a platform of inclusivity, engagement and innovation

Brycen Higdon, current sophomore and Student Government Association recording secretary, and Ryan May, current junior and wide receiver on the Mercer football team, built their platform on three themes: inclusivity, engagement and innovation.

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Growing Pains: Where will Mercer build the new parking deck?

The parking deck previously scheduled to be constructed by the Science and Engineering Building (SEB) will no longer be built due to high costs, but the deck planned for Mercer University Drive next to the new Lofts is still underway.

Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications Larry Brumley said that originally, there were plans to build both decks to combat student concerns about parking in light of campus growth.

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Women’s health services will still be offered at Student Health Center after departure of OB/GYN

Mercer University’s Student Health Center (SHC) still provides various women’s health services even though there is no longer an OB-GYN working at the clinic. Most of these services are now performed by Kacie Milholen.

Milholen holds a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) and is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP-C). This is her second year serving in the SHC.”

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Controversial Founders’ Day speaker affects alumni opinions of Mercer

“The decision to host lawyer Jay Sekulow as the 2018 Founders’ Day keynote speaker on Feb. 7 has been controversial not only among current students, but among alumni as well. Many say that the choice has affected their opinion of Mercer.

Those who support Sekulow said that he stands for ideals that align with Mercer’s traditions and values, while the opposition cites his reputation for discriminating against various minority groups.

An online petition to revoke Sekulow’s invitation was allegedly created by a group called Mercer Alumni for Human Dignity and circulated among alumni on social media.”

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SGA talks senior housing and senatorial conduct, approves two campus organizations

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“The Student Government Association met on Feb. 19 to discuss campus housing for next year’s seniors and further issues regarding senatorial conduct as well as SGA bylaws. SGA also approved two new campus organizations and a special funding request.

During Gallery Reports, Sen. Kaylen Long asked the Residence Life representative about an email that third-year students received which implied to many that there would not be spaces for them to reside on campus next year.

Area Coordinator for Adams-Winship, Garden Apartments and Greek Village Franz Salomon said that the University requires students to live on campus for three years and cannot guarantee housing for those who have completed this requirement.

‘There are sometimes opportunities for 4th years to reside on campus, but with larger classes – just an increase in students coming to the university – some space is kind of tight,’ he said.”

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SGA discusses senatorial conduct, approves new organization and funding requests

“The Student Government Association discussed the expectations for senatorial conduct in light of Founders’ Day and Freshman Class President Joseph Muldrew’s recent op-ed in the Cluster.

In the op-ed, Sen. Muldrew expressed his disapproval of the speaker, Jay Sekulow, and of various SGA members’ roles in choosing Sekulow and facilitating the event.

At the meeting, Junior Senator Clark Myers motioned to hold a discussion about senatorial expectations in closed Senate. Sen. Muldrew objected and read from a written statement.”

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Mercer seniors recognized for accomplishments at national debate competition

“Mercer seniors Kyle Bligen and Jaz Buckley were recognized for their debate skills at the Mile High Swing competition, an annual tournament for college debate teams nationwide.

The competition was held Jan. 4-7 and was co-hosted by Texas Tech University and the University of Utah.

The Mile High Swing is divided into two tournaments. In the first, Buckley was named top speaker and Bligen third-place speaker, and they advanced to the octofinals as a team.”

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SGA discusses Founders’ Day speaker and Common Ground protest, approves new organizations and funding requests

The Jan. 29 Student Government Association meeting began with President Olivia Buckner’s report.

She said that executive members of SGA had heard from junior James Stair on his research regarding gender-neutral campus housing and will continue to work with him as he completes his project.

Buckner then welcomed Common Ground, the Mercer University gay-straight alliance, who came to the meeting to discuss the controversial speaker scheduled for this year’s Founders’ Day, lawyer and Mercer graduate Jay Sekulow.

‘Founders’ Day is about Mercer and the love of Mercer,’ she said. ‘We’re very excited to receive [Sekulow] and we’re going to try and work on student concerns throughout the next several weeks.’

Common Ground representative junior Perry Hicks addressed SGA with a written call to action.

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A student-run food pantry to come to Mercer’s campus this spring

“A student-run food pantry will likely be constructed on campus this semester to combat food insecurity among students. The organization, named Feed Mercer, will be brought before Campus Life and the Student Government Association (SGA) for approval by founder Joseph Jackson III.  

Food insecurity refers to circumstances where consistent access to adequate food or other essential resources is limited at certain times during the year.


Refuge in Music: Mercer student designs after-school music education program for refugee children resettled in rural Georgia

“Senior music major Sophie Leveille plans to implement an after-school music education program for refugee children who have been relocated to a community in rural northeast Georgia.

Over the last year, Leveille became very interested in refugees’ rights following her International Affairs courses with Eimad Houry.

‘After taking those classes, I started asking more questions about how I could get involved,’ she said.

A group of students traveled with Houry to Jubilee Partners, a Christian service community in Comer, Georgia that incorporates a refugee housing and support program as part of their ministry.”

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SGA talks registration, resumes and racism

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“At the Senate meeting of Nov. 13, the Student Government Association heard from the Center for Career and Professional Development regarding Handshake, went through gallery reports and discussed the problems students faced while trying to register for classes as well as an alleged act of racism on campus.

During Gallery Reports, Vice President and Dean of Students Douglas Pearson spoke about Mercer’s plans regarding race relations in the future. He said that he and a student panel met to discuss implementing ‘a series of programs on race issues for the spring’ and asked SGA for insights from the whiteboard outreaches to help him tailor that program.

Next, he spoke about the ‘alleged flyer’ posted outside the Connell Student Center last week that said, ‘IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE.'”

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SGA makes progress on adding 24/7 study space and a new parking deck, discusses reforming CLA general education requirements

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“Due to registration, the Nov. 6 Senate meeting started at 7 instead of the usual meeting time of 6. However, this hour setback didn’t take away from anything on the agenda of the SGA senators.

Chair of Fiscal Affairs Committee sophomore Adam Penland announced that there were four funding requests.

Mercer Mock Trial approached Senate with two conference and lodging requests to reimburse the group for Mock Trial competitions they have traveled to this semester.

Consent to approve the funding request was unanimous among all members aside from Senators Michael Smith and Penland, who abstained as members of Mock Trial.”

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SGA announces Small Business Day and Spiff Up The T events

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“There were few reports in the Senate meeting on Oct. 30 due to time constraints posed by the first Homecoming event of the week.

National Director of Small Business Day JR McNair, an entrepreneur who works at the Mercer Innovation Center as an advisor, presented to SGA about an event that will occur this spring.

McNair said that Small Business Day aims to help several hundred individuals launch companies. He said that 4300 small businesses and startups have already benefitted from the program.”

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Wesleyan College hosts Women With Purpose Festival to empower women in the community, Mercer student gets involved

The Macon community was recently invited to participate in a community service project designed and executed by Wesleyan College students through Wesleyan’s Lane Center for Service and Leadership.

The Women With Purpose Festival was held Oct. 21. It highlighted women in the Macon-Bibb area who are trailblazing in music, art, dancing and entrepreneurship.

‘We want to empower women,’ Assistant Director of the Lane Center Julie Rogers said. ‘I think it’s important for the community both locally and [throughout] the world to make sure that women are given the right to do these kinds of things and have a fun time doing it.’

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Wifi upgrades and more seating coming soon to Tarver Library

“Tarver Library is set to make some renovations to the main floor in the near future.

During the Student Government Association meeting on Oct. 16, Dean of the Library Beth Hammond spoke to the senators about the upcoming renovations in Jack Tarver Library.

She said that all of the furniture on the main floor will be replaced with ‘actual computer tables and chairs’ as well as softer seating, bench seating, banquette seating, and high-top tables.

She also said that approximately 200 students voted on which chairs to use.

All of the shelving on the main floor will be replaced with neutral, wooden shelves.

Hammond said that Tarver administration is currently working with an interior design team that has been involved with other Mercer projects over the years to complete these renovations.”

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SGA approves four Conference and Lodging requests, responds to student input about race relations, Pilgrimage and more

“Pres. Olivia Buckner opened the meeting by addressing Homecoming. SGA members will maintain a presence at all of the events.

All members will also attend a formal presentation by Mercer One in Four alongside Pres. Underwood on Wednesday at seven p.m.

Vice President Oge Onuh gave her report next.

‘Last week during exec, we had a very good discussion regarding the race relations topic,’ she said. ‘It was a long discussion, but it was needed.’

She said that Senators will begin attending certain campus organizations’ meetings in direct response to suggestions that the student body gave during that day’s Outreach project: a whiteboard posted in the Connell Student Center, just as it was the week prior.”

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SGA celebrates library renovations, recognizes Vegan Club and addresses student concerns regarding dining and race relations

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“The Oct. 16 Senate meeting opened with President Olivia Buckner expressing concerns about sustainability on campus.

She said there are plans in the works for establishing a committee within SGA ‘focused on researching sustainable development efforts for campus.’

Next came a Gallery Report from Dean of the Library Beth Hammond during which she spoke about the renovations planned for Tarver Library.

She said that Mercer University has received ‘a very generous gift from a donor that’s going to allow us to refresh the main floor, entrance floor of the Tarver library.’

When Hammond finished her presentation, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Douglas Pearson announced that Hammond plans to retire at the end of this year.

Student Life and Organizational Affairs Chair Sen. Michael Smith then made a motion to recognize the Mercer Vegan Club as an official campus organization.”

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Campus leaders recognized by United Nations for their work with female empowerment club

“Two Mercer students were recognized by the United Nations for their successes within a campus organization.

Seniors Shelsea Chilumuna and Unnati Patel traveled to Washington, D.C. in September to participate in the United Nations’ 2017 Leadership Symposium. The U.N. invited them to attend upon reviewing their application for a grant to help fund programming for their campus organization, GirlUp.

The U.N. not only awarded them the grant but also recognized them for their success in fundraising.”

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Service Scholars plan week-long event to foster informed conversations about sex

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“Pre-health students designed a week-long event titled ‘When We Talk About Sex, Let’s Be Honest’ to combat uninformed or negative dialogue about sex on campus for their senior Service Scholars project.

‘We think that there really is no harm in talking about [sex],’ said Natalie Wharton, a senior on the project.

Wharton and Ansleigh Seaver, Wharton’s partner, both hail from the West Coast, where they said they received a comprehensive sex education.

‘When we came here and realized that many of our classmates did not, we were pretty shocked,’ Seaver said. ‘I feel like there are students who nonetheless are having sex, but are going in blind.’

They said the overarching problem isn’t that sex isn’t discussed at all on campus, but that it usually only comes up in terms of Title IX. Wharton and Seaver said they hope that their project will help redirect conversations about sex so that they cover more than when sex goes wrong.”

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SGA approves Bear Grant from American Chemical Society, emphasizes further campus outreach including Pilgrimage to Penfield

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“During this week’s Senate meeting, SGA members discussed initiatives to engage with the student body and to hear their concerns as they plan for future improvements.

Plans range from improving the Mercer mobile app to administering more intuitive surveys about dining services.”

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Opinion: While delayed recruitment frustrates upperclassmen, this first-year finds many benefits

“When I was applying to schools, my college counselor asked me how much Greek Life mattered to me in a potential university. I laughed and said it didn’t matter to me at all. She smiled and replied, ‘Yeah, I can tell you aren’t a sorority girl.’

Fast forward to Aug. 14, Opportunity Scholars move-in day. I only interacted with around 60 first-year students throughout the whole week, most first-generation college students just like myself. We were all buzzing with questions about everything from meal swipes to class schedules to, of course, Greek Life.”

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New video and broadcasting director joins Mercer Athletics with high hopes for the future

“Daniel Gibbons is prepared to make a mark on Mercer as the new director of the ESPN3 program. He has already decorated his office in the WMUB building behind the Center for Collaborative Journalism with magazine covers highlighting various feats of athleticism.

A former college athlete himself—’if you consider golf a sport,’ he quipped—Gibbons laughed when he said that sports are his ‘favorite thing in the world.’

‘I don’t really watch movies, I don’t really watch TV shows, just sports, all the time.’

He said he feels that his role here at Mercer will be a wonderful experience as it combines his two passions—sports and videography—while introducing two elements that are entirely new to him: teaching and working a job with regular hours.”

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