Volume 78, Issue 10
November 17, 2006

Black Bears Find Home in Atrium

Elm Staff Writer

The Joseph McLain Atrium in the Toll Science Center is now the home of two wild black bears. Stuffed ones, that is.

According to Dr. Donald Munson, Director of Environmental Studies, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources donated two stuffed black bears to Washington College, one a sow and the other a male yearling.

Munson said the bears were not killed intentionally. quot;The bears are road kill and were not shot,quot; he said.

The showpiece was made quot;to recognize that there is an interest in natural history,quot; said Munson.

quot;We are in the process of building a natural history collection with an associated library that supports the collection. [Since] the McLain Program for Environmental Studies was begun in 1990, it is appropriate that these specimens were exhibited in the McLain Atrium,quot; said Munson.

Munson said that the bears were donated, the display case was paid for by the McLain Fund and the college paid for the mounting.

quot;The purpose of the program and the major is to encourage interest in all things natural and environmental,quot; Munson continued. quot;Hopefully it will increase student interest, both current and prospective, in the environment programs at the college.quot;

Students and faculty were divided about the new addition to the Toll Center.

The topic of the bears, before they were placed in the Atrium, was introduced at last Monday's faculty meeting. In response to the bears, Professor George Spilich of the Psychology Department, raised concerns.

quot;I don't think it's going to improve the appearance of the Atrium to have two dead, dancing bears [displayed there],quot; he said.

In an e-mail to The Elm, Spilich further commented on the situation: quot;The Atrium is a very public place and a centerpiece of the lower campus. One appealing aspect of the Atrium until now has been its 'clean' and uncluttered appearance. I find the Atrium diminished by the display; it belongs elsewhere.quot;

Spilich was also concerned that many science-related faculty members were not consulted. quot;I'm puzzled about the process that led to its placement in the Atrium,quot; Spilich said. quot;There is a principle at stake here: can one faculty member on their own decide to locate an item the volume of a Volkswagen in a very public place without the consent of the division and even the faculty?quot;

Junior Biology major Angelyca Jackson said, quot;Taxidermy props are great teaching tools, and I think the bears will be a useful educational tool here at the school.quot;

Senior Mary Boarman asked, quot;Why do we need dead black bears?quot;

To house the stuffed bears, the school used funds from the McLain Trust to build a modest-sized mahogany container.

Senior psychology major Elaine Pranski said, quot;I like the bears, but I don't think they would be appropriate for the atrium.quot; quot;I think the classroom where they are currently is OK.quot;

quot;Where the bears are now, people touch them even though they have signs saying not to,quot; explained junior Bryce Rohrer.

Munson said, quot;I don't think the bears are out of place [...] it is a great tool for representing the environmental program.quot;

Anthropology Professor Susan Langley said, quot;I love the bears and I think they deserve a nice house.quot; And as one of her students said, quot;The bears tell me I'm in the right building.quot;

quot;I think they are cool,quot; said senior Chris DenBleyker. quot;They will definitely add some life to the [Atrium].quot;

Senior Kyle Woerner, who is doing his senior drama thesis quot;Schoolgirl Figurequot; in the Toll Atrium, had find a way to use the showcase as another prop in the play this week.

quot;I managed to use it,quot; he said.