by Micah Wilkins, Echo online writer
In light of recent incidents that have taken place on campus, members of the President’s Advisory Committee (PAC) have been encouraging and facilitating dialogues and discussions surrounding issues of communication on campus.
President Sandy Pfeiffer called on members of the campus community last Friday to “take a break from campus activities” and hold facilitated dialogues about communication and its importance on our campus. In addition, Pfeiffer and PAC met with Student Caucus Tuesday to address conclusions from the discussions, answering any questions that students had.
After the dialogues and talks with students, like senior Max Hunt, Pfeiffer brought to Caucus the idea of an online community forum. This, Pfeiffer said, would help with “rumor control.”
“It would cut down the rumor mill,” Pfeiffer said, as rumors are “a huge waste of time.”
The forum would be moderated and facilitated, with students asking questions and voicing concerns, which would then be heard by someone in a position to answer to those students, ideally the President himself.
Pfeiffer envisions that the forum would be a place for students to post moderated comments, with their name attached to their comments, to uphold accuntability Hunt said. Pfeiffer or other administrators would then act as the “answer man,” responding to questions and concerns once every week or two.
“[The facilitator would] get the answers, pry the facts, as a way of keeping the channels open,” Pfeiffer said. “It would be a civil and constructive way to ask questions and to get information.”
Pfeiffer and senior Max Hunt, who wrote a letter to the community addressing these communication issues and his own opinions about lack of leadership on campus, met last Tuesday to discuss possible ways to improve communication among community members on campus. Both agreed that there is a strong need for a way to air grievances and ask questions in a way that is easily accessible and open to all students.
“Communication between students and the administration is terrible,” Hunt said. “The right channels aren’t being used to voice concerns. People don’t know where to turn to.”
“We don’t have a structured means of communication, so people fill in the gaps.
Thus the incidents from the last couple weeks are a result of not being heard,” Hunt said.
“I think personal attacks are expressions of helplessness or frustration, and feeling like you’re not being heard, or you’re being marginalized,” Hunt said. “A lot of people are upset but there are not a lot of attempts to address [the problems].”
President Pfeiffer did acknowledge that Warren Wilson is different than other colleges because of its smaller size and more connected community, where students should have more influence and more involvement in the decision-making process.
“This place is different by virtue of ownership; students run the place through the work program,” Pfeiffer said. “They feel and deserve to have more say in the decisions that develop here.”
Another issue discussed in the dialogues from last Friday, and that was brought up again at Student Caucus, was the potential for what Pfeiffer referred to as “Civics 101,” where students would attain a better understanding of how decisions are made here, and how they can become more involved in these processes.
Some other ideas explored by PAC and Pfeiffer resulting from the dialogues Friday include bringing back the student conduct board, which has become fragmented recently, more community meetings, more visibility by all administrators, more communication among Residence Life staff, and potentially integrating the dorms.
During their meeting, Pfeiffer and Hunt agreed that a community meeting, which is what Hunt originally called for in his address to the community, would not be a good idea, as it could be in danger of deteriorating into a “shouting match” according to Hunt.
“It isn’t about jumping on the band wagon and responding right away,” Pfeiffer said. “There are concerns that I have to weigh before I get out in front of a couple hundred people and wave a flag.”