Gabriel Sistare, Editor-in-Chief (gsistare@wwc)
The method of procedure with which Student Caucus conducted Tuesday’s community meeting was an problem for students attending. The meeting was organized to address issues of increased enforcement on campus.
Concerned students were asked to write questions on slips of paper and submit them to Caucus co-conveners, who would read them aloud. Members of the panel included Vice President for Administration and Finance Jonathan Ehrlich, Director of Public Safety Terry Payne, Dean of Students Deborah Myers and the four area coordinators.
Students felt that further clarification for certain questions, or follow-ups to answers given by the panel, were necessary. The co-conveners maintained that students’ responses to answers given by panel members would need to be submitted as another question and placed into circulation.
When one student interjected in an effort to elaborate on a question but was interrupted by a co-convener, another student, freshman Jonathan Schmitz, responded, “Let him talk. This isn’t a conversation.”
Issues related to the procedure of the meeting, focusing on the system of questioning and method of discussion, continued throughout, but issues related to campus safety and the role of Student Life were addressed.
One question, the content of which was reiterated throughout the meeting, asked what the relationship of Student Life staff was to the actual students. Each panelist commented according to his or her specific relationship with Warren Wilson students.
The most resonant response seemed to come from Myers.
“I try to foster a vibrant, educational, positive and respectful student life,” Myers said. She preceded to refer to herself as a “student advocate at the highest level.”
But although Myers identified herself as being on the side of the students, meeting attendants were concerned that write-ups and other reprimands for behavior violating college policy had gone up substantially since Myers and the area coordinators came to campus.
However, acknowledging that this may be the perception, Myers maintained that there was no substantial change in the number of penalties from year to year.
“As far as I know, we haven’t increased enforcement,” Myers said.
Regarding increased enforcement, one question posed by a co-convener asked if actions of Public Safety were related to marketing.
Myers said she did not see a correlation between marketing and enforcement but she commented that the college is required to maintain a certain level of enforcement to comply with federal and state alcohol and drug laws.
“Because we take [federal aid],” Myers said, “we are responsible for enforcing state and federal drug and alcohol laws.”
Myers continued to explain that if the college were to not comply with these statutes it would be illegible for federal aid and eventually close.
“We have a legal responsibility to do that or we will not exist,” she said.
The behavior of Public Safety was scrutinized at the meeting as well.
One question asked whether or not Public Safety was actively seeking violations or focusing on particular areas of the campus which might generate more write-ups than others.
The potential to over-enforce certain areas was a concern for some students who felt that Public Safety’s excessive monitoring of the Schafers prevented them from adequately assisting a female student who was mugged one weekend.
However, responding in a written comment, the woman, who was at the meeting, said that Public Safety dealt with her assault to the best of their abilities.
Furthermore, Payne reassured students that Public Safety is not actively seeking out violations. Rather, as Payne said, they are “just trying to protect people.”
With the exception of Sherolyn Hopkins, who was asked to attend the meeting but did not, all of the Student Life staff are new this year. The four area coordinators and Myers often reiterated that they are all in transition and trying to acclimate to the college. The staff members admitted that their newness may prevent them from communicating well with students.
Phil Wiltzius, area coordinator for the Ballfields, Sutton and ANTC, recognized that after appeals from residents to engage for directly with them, he started to adjust and find ways to communicate more immediately with his “area.”
“I’m trying,” Wiltzius said.
Joyce Milling, area coordinator for the Village, indicated that she has had a difficult time communicating with students. She said that she had students ask her to leave and that she did not belong at the college.
Appealing to the community, though, Milling said that she was not looking to be an antagonist.
“We want to do it all with you and not against you,” she said, referring to communicating and participating with students.
Little was resolved as the meeting concluded at 7:15.
See http://warren-wilson.edu/blogs/echo/category/special-to-the-website/ for a document outlining campus crime statistics.