Aaron Smith/Mariah Parker, Staff Writers
The meeting held on Wednesday, Feb. 2 concerned the potential changes to the current governance system at Warren Wilson. The goal was to discuss what about the system works and what does not, a constant effort to improve communication and efficacy between the various branches of campus.
Presented to the community was a draft of potential systematic changes as proposed by the Governance Task Force. Members were present to answer questions and facilitate dialogue about the proposed model which was e-mailed to students, staff and faculty.
According to the proposal, the current governance structure would be, in the words of Caucus Co-Convenor Lacey Cunningham, “sort of flipped on its head.” The model is split into two areas: informative, and policy-making. The proposed structure appears thusly: The policy-making portion contains the trustees, who support the college president. Above the president are two decision-making bodies: Staff Forum, a representative body consisting of staff and faculty, and Student Caucus, a direct democracy representing the student voice. These groups are responsible for deciding college policy.
The informative portion of the model is as follows: Each PAC (President’s Advisory Council) member is responsible for dealing with issues within their own area or discipline. That person appoints committees to deal with those issues. The committees consist of individuals who must be voting members in the policy-making bodies and who are selected by the corresponding PAC member. Policy drafted by these committees is put through the decision-making structure, which passes, adjusts or vetoes it.
Finally, the new model mandates that regular community meetings, similar to Wednesday’s, be held for all of the college’s constituent groups to intersect and propose issues.
Several major changes which would occur under the proposed model are a new structure for Staff Forum, new committee appointment method and the elimination of the environmental position (currently held by Executive Director of the Environmental Leadership Center Margo Flood) from PAC.
As has been noted, this structure is not final and the suggestions made by community members at the meeting will be considered toward the document’s revision.
Phil Gibson, director of research and community outreach, responded to a question about the equality of Staff Forum in comparison to Student Caucus. “Voices tend to become less significant,” said Gibson, “when those who show up to ‘open’ meetings such as Caucus are those who have a bone to pick and the entire community is not represented.”
The process for electing Staff Forum representatives is not yet complete. Some were concerned with either the number of representatives and their term length. An appeal was made for those elected to be compensated for their time as most are busy faculty or staff members, numerous speakers that they wouldn’t have enough time to take part in the meetings.
The concern also raised that there may not be enough time for community to get involved and the suggestion was made for a campus-wide community time; a time set aside for the comunity to gather and talk. There was a discussion among first-year students who felt they did not have enough information about the governance system or Caucus to take part in them. An overall resulting impression from the meeting was the need for more information to be given to first-year students so that they might participate in crucial, comunity-wide conversations on governance and change. John Casey, philosophy teacher, said, “It is important for us to think together.”