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Campus News

President Sandy Pfeiffer’s Message to the Warren Wilson College Community

TO: The Campus Community
FROM: Sandy Pfeiffer, President
SUBJECT: Moving Ahead
DATE: April 26, 2011

With so little time left in the semester, all of you are busy. But please take a few minutes to read this message about recent events on campus. It was written in collaboration with Dean of Students Deb Myers, along with other members of the President’s Advisory Council (aka PAC).

Over the last few weeks, our community has experienced some unsettling and inexcusable actions, directed mainly at Deb Myers. These have included graffiti painted on the road in front of Dodge, damage to a personal vehicle, flyers with anonymous personal attacks, and actions taken by a small group of students in a College office. There is absolutely no excuse for this behavior, and anyone found to be associated with it will be dealt with according to College policy. I’ve asked the Dean of the College, Paula Garrett, to oversee any hearings that result from actions toward Deb Myers.

As an immediate response to some initial events, the PAC and I sent you an email on April 13, wherein we stressed that healthy campus debate must include respect for others, civil behavior, and constructive action. Many of you have contacted Deb, other PAC members, or me to express your support for campus civility and your deep concern about unacceptable campus behavior. As well, there have been eloquent and supportive letters from a number of students. Many thanks to those of you who made these efforts.

To help move us forward, the rest of this message describes one way healthy debate will take place about current issues of interest. The PAC and I realize that many students who would never take part in personal attacks have legitimate questions and concerns that deserve to be addressed. With that point in mind, here’s the plan we’ll follow:

  1. Friday, April 29, 2 pm: At this time, all members of the campus community will be asked to pause and take a break from campus activities, to discuss three main topics: (a) the importance of good communication and civility on campus, (b) ways that the views of students can best be heard, and (c) the role each of us plays in promoting effective communication and civility. Discussions may be held in class, on work crews, in residence halls, or in other campus buildings. And they will be led by staff or faculty. Note: Discussion leaders are asked to take notes on these conversations and submit them by email to me (pfeiffer@warren-wilson.edu) as soon as possible.
  2. Tuesday, May 3, 6:15 pm: The PAC and I will meet with Caucus to address any issues participants wish to ask related to the three topics mentioned above. The goal of this discussion is to share ideas, collect opinions, and begin developing a plan for constructive action. Students should view this as an opportunity to ask a variety of questions and to clarify issues.
  3. Summer 2011: During the summer, we’ll continue the healing process within our community. Toward that end, members of the staff, faculty, and PAC will incorporate information that has been collected into the planning process. Then next fall, we’ll report to you and continue to address concerns that have been expressed.

All strong communities have healthy debate, and Warren Wilson College is no exception. But to stay strong, they must pursue campus discussions in a civil, constructive, and collaborative fashion. That’s exactly how we will proceed in this endeavor. We will not let our college be defined by the inappropriate actions of a very few. Instead, we’ll use this moment to involve faculty, staff, and especially students in constructive change that strengthens Warren Wilson.

Again, my thanks to all of you who support civil and productive expression and who have conveyed expressions of concern to Deb Myers. I also appreciate your taking time this Friday at 2 pm to discuss topics of great importance to the College.

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