Warren Wilson College News

November 2007 Report to Campus

By: Sandy Pfeiffer

This month we received more great news about how the world beyond campus views our college. Here I’ll mention several examples, highlight an upcoming meeting about governance, and give my response to a policy recently recommended to me by Staff Forum.


Last month I wrote that Sierra Magazine included Warren Wilson among the “top ten” colleges and universities in the U.S. that are fighting global warming. (Specifically, we were third, after Oberlin and Harvard.) This month we received more national recognition, this time in the Sunday, November 4, “Education Life” section of the New York Times. An article titled “Outside the Box” prominently featured Warren Wilson and described our Triad, the beauty of the campus, our environmental sustainability mission, the Farm, and the importance of student work in keeping the college running efficiently.

Then just this week we were given great coverage in the online issue of University Business, a major national publication in academe. The article, entitled “A Working College,” described our work program at some length and included several quotations from Dean of Work Ian Robertson, such as the following: “We expect our students to take on a sense of responsibility as individuals for something greater than themselves.”

As well, our students have been doing a fine job representing us, as reported in the press and as evidenced at a recent conference. Here are just three recent examples. First, the Sunday, November 25th, issue of the Asheville Citizen-Times carried an article on a fall break trip to Pine Ridge Reservation, during which a truckload of food and products was brought to the reservation. The article mentioned some of the participants, including WWC staff Janet Jones and Gary Lilley and WWC students Justin Levy and Joelle Kellem. Second, three of our students—Sarah Murphy, Nina Otter, and Meagan Goodman—did a good job in a radio interview that discussed the global warming crisis. And third, senior George Keel presented his astronomy research project early this month at the annual meeting of the American Association of Variable Star Observers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I should add that once I begin to comment on noteworthy accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff, I must be quick to add that I’m only providing a selective list—there are many others. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Stan Cross of our Environmental Leadership center was just named 2007 Environmental Educator of the Year by Environmental Educators of North Carolina. A newspaper article on Stan’s award noted his excellent work on the EcoTeam, an environmental curriculum in area public schools taught by Wilson students, and his leadership of the “Green Walkabout” tours on our campus.


In my last monthly report, I shared a few thoughts on our governance process. Then a few weeks ago I announced an open forum to be held on the topic on Monday, December 10, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm, in Canon Lounge. The purpose of this session is to share our ideas about
governance on campus in a positive, free-flowing event. My colleague Rowena Pomeroy will be taking notes on the session so that I can send a summary to the community after the meeting. As mentioned in my first announcement of the meeting, here are a few topics we can cover, among others.

–Advantages of our current shared governance system

–Suggestions for any changes that might be useful

–Comments on committee structure and membership

–Communication between the Student Caucus and Staff Forum

–Use of community meetings

–Policies and procedures that relate to shared governance

–Communication between the President’s Advisory Council and the student/staff/faculty leadership

Feel free to drop by Canon any time during the 90-minute period for refreshments and engaging conversation on a subject of importance to all of us.


Over the last few months, the Staff Forum has discussed a revised policy proposal that prohibits “amorous consensual relationships” between (a) students and (b) staff/faculty/volunteers/contractors of the College. The proposal was recommended to the Staff Forum by the Human Resources Advisory Council and then recommended to me by a vote of the Staff Forum. Our governance procedure was followed throughout.

Having considered the strong endorsement by the Staff Forum, having reviewed all comments that came to me separately, and having received opinions from other individuals, including legal counsel, I’m approving the policy exactly as recommended by the Staff Forum. However, it will not go into effect until July 1, 2008, when the new contract year starts. It is my belief that this delayed implementation is appropriate given the fact that we started the current contract year with a different policy upon which personal decisions may have been made for the year. That said, please note that the policy currently in place “strongly discourages” such relationships and gives clear reasons why they are unwise.

As already noted, both the Human Resources Advisory Committee and Staff Forum have recommended the policy that I’m approving. In discussions with these bodies, and in my own research, I have been presented with various points supporting the proposal. The first paragraph of the approved policy does a good job of summarizing some of these points. This policy will be sent to the campus community from the Human Resources Office–today. I’ll add that I believe both employees and students should be free to pursue the remarkable opportunities this college has to offer with knowledge that all relationships will be
mentoring, educational, and in furtherance of our college mission.

Sandy Pfeiffer 


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