by Micah Wilkins, web editor
Warren Wilson’s next president Steve Solnick met with Student Caucus April 17, to speak with students one last time before taking on his new role in July.
Solnick, who has been living in New Delhi, India working for the Ford Foundation, was in the United States on business, and decided to fly down to Asheville for his first visit since being offered the job in December. In addition to meeting with administrators and faculty, Solnick thought it appropriate to also meet with students during his visit to campus, emphasizing the importance of getting to know the community before he officially becomes apart of it.
“I’m going to be taking time to talking to a lot of people to get to know Warren Wilson as well as I can,” Solnick said at Caucus.
In his talk with Caucus, students asked Solnick questions about what he hopes to do once he is president, and how he hopes to put the values and ideals of the college in action.
In light of the current proposal to assess the college’s relationship with Bank of America, junior Arlo Birdsong asked Solnick which institutions and businesses Warren Wilson should be dealing with, and how.
Solnick admitted that the situation with Bank of America is difficult, as the college could potentially lose a lot of money if we were to move our accounts from the Bank, on the basis that they perform socially and environmentally questionable practices.
“Our accounts are like nothing to them,” Solnick continued. “Us pulling out will have no effect on Bank of America.”
However, he has not been included in the discussion this year, he said, so he has no opinion on the matter, though he acknowledges its importance to students.
When asked by co-convener Maggie Mae Farthing why he chose to apply to be president of the college, Solnick explained that he wanted to return to the world of academia, and yet maintain the social justice aspect that his work with the Ford Foundation entails.
“This is a place where those strengths come together pretty effectively,” Solnick said.
Senior Freesia McKee, who will be graduating in a couple weeks, wanted to bring to Solnick’s attention the issue of race on campus.
“What I’m hearing is that students of color don’t feel safe or welcome on this campus,” McKee said. “Even though diversity is one of our core values, it’s not prioritized. Too often here it has been put on the back burner. Our history, our mission is so particularly suited to valuing diversity. Especially because we’re Warren Wilson, it’s so important. I wanted to encourage you starting this job to prioritize this.”
Solnick agreed that the issue of diversity should be highly valued, and stated that, regarding the issue of race, things on campus need to “change.”
Several students at Caucus brought up questions of Solnick’s role on campus and within the community. Though Solnick will not be living on campus for his first year or two, while the president’s house is being renovated, he hopes to be active in the community and available to students.
One way he hopes to do so is by teaching a course, probably in the Spring of next year, on the topic of democracy and development.
“It’s something I want to do regularly,” Solnick said. “Because it helps me understand the student experience better, and helps me understand the faculty experience better.”
Solnick reiterated that he hopes to be available and approachable once he becomes president of the college.
“I hope people feel comfortable approaching me with comments, concerns, questions,” he said. “I’m here because I want to be in a student community.”