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Campus News

Faculty Talk e-mail list of Warren Wilson College shares opinions on vandalism, includes reflections from meetings on communication

by Gabriel Sistare, Multimedia Editor

After the meetings last Friday, during which time classes, work crews and the community were asked to reflect on the recent weeks and offer suggestions to improve communication, faculty members shared the feedback received.

David Mycoff, professor of English, identified that at the end of the discussion in his class, there was a felt need for Dean of Students Deb Myers to hold open-office hours and to make e-mail communication with the Student Life office more efficient.

Biology Professor Louise Weber wrote that her class “wished there had been a widely disseminated, non-judgmental, factual accounting of events early in the conflict.”

Lack of information was highlighted in Weber’s class, with student’s identifying that what may lead to rumor and inflammatory descriptions is a lack of clear information. Information which, if accurately presented, could prevent commentary including condemning students as terrorists.

Weber’s students recognized a shortcoming in the college’s delivery of information to the campus, noting that e-mails are immediately sent when there is a technological issue on campus, but very little information is disseminated when there are disputes between community members.

“If we can get highly detailed explanations of what is happening every time the server is not working, why can’t we get explanations about major conflicts on campus,” Weber wrote, paraphrasing one student.

According to Weber’s e-mail, students were frustrated by the administration’s apparent “we’ll look into it” or “we hear you” habits which produce no follow through.

Confusion on campus related to recent acts of vandalism and possible intimidation aimed at the Dean of Students triggered concerned conversation among the faculty, too.

In her notes to College President Sandy Pfeiffer, Erin Stalcup, professor Creative Writing, included sentiment from a student who suggested that members of Vining B were being misrepresented as the culprits.

The student, anonymously identified using the neutral pronoun Ze, said that the “Vining B boys” were unfairly blamed for the acts committed against Student Life staff.

“Ze has heard faculty and staff telling the story incorrectly,” Stalcup wrote, and “clearly articulated that the group had nothing to do with those events.

Public Safety will not disclose the status of their ongoing investigation. However, to The Echo’s knowledge, the only circumstance in which some members of Vining B were involved, including other first year students not from that floor, was following the detention of David Enge at the Spring Arts Festival when students approached the Student Life office looking for Myers.

Further, in Stalcup’s class, students reiterated that decisions seem to be made on campus without appropriate consultation with Student Caucus.

As a suggestion for improved communication, one student recommended that a monthly conference be held “that would create common ground amongst the community.”

Last week, through the faculty-l e-mail list, which all professors are able to use for peer discussion, members responded to the growing dissonance between campus community members.

Professors Lou Weber and Laura Lengnick agreed that the behavior of certain students on campus, those responsible for the graffiti and apparent threats, constituted terrorism.

“A terrorist is simply someone who intimidates other[s] with threats of personal harm in order to make a point,” Lengnick wrote to the faculty. “Since these actions were anonymous,” she continued, “we have no way of engaging in dialogue, listening, or weighing legitimate grievances or gray areas.”

In response to Lengnick’s and Weber’s rhetorical choice, Professor Ben Feinberg asked to “look for alternatives.”

“This perspective doesn’t win too many friends and alienates the community members who aren’t ‘us,’” Feinberg wrote.

At the Student Caucus meeting this Tuesday, President’s Advisory Committee (PAC) members attended to share their assessment of the notes gathered from the Friday, April 29 meetings.

Pfeiffer offered 10 methods to improve communication on campus, which included a moderated online Student Union to dilute rumor and clarify facts and forming groups of students to consult with PAC members on a regular basis.

A model for the Student Union already exists on the Inside Page as an online forum which can be accessed using Warren Wilson e-mail login information.

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