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Forum seeks better campus communication

Forum seeks better campus communication

After the decision to move the Sendoff date to May 6, and the subsequent retraction of that decision, campus communication has become a topic of conversation among the general student body, Student Council and the administration.

Communication between students and the administration was the theme of a forum, sponsored by Student Council and President Sean Decatur, held Sunday afternoon in Peirce Pub.

Ideas presented by students focused on introducing themselves to administrators personally and making administrators more visible to the student body. Proposals included introducing first years to administrators during orientation and having online forums for announcements and student commentary.

Student Council’s emails advertising the forum also announced the upcoming elections for a “Working Group,” composed of eight students, which will be responsible for making policy recommendations to Decatur by April 15.    

The group will meet weekly and present ideas to Decatur by the middle of April. Seventeen students are on the ballot and elections are being run concurrently with Student Council elections this week. The ballot has been sent out via email and is available on OrgSync.

After a brief introduction by Decatur, Carrie Knell, the College’s ombudsperson, took over as a mediator and opened the forum up for comments from the approximately 20 students and 16 administrators present.

Concerns raised throughout the forum were largely about how better to foster communication between the administration and the student body.

“I think that the suggestions that came out of those conversations based on what was shared at the end will be immensely helpful to the working group that Student Council is putting together,” Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, said Tuesday.

While students had packed a Feb. 2 Student Council meeting to discuss the Sendoff changes, Junior Class President Sam Clougher expressed his disappointment that more people, specifically those who are not affiliated with the Council, were not at  Sunday’s meeting. This concern was countered by Henry Burbank ’16, who said he cares about issues affecting the campus but, like other students, does not have the time between schoolwork and extracurriculars to attend every event.

In an interview on Wednesday, Phoebe Roe ’16, Student Council president, said she would have liked to see more people present, but overall was pleased with the turnout given that the event coincided with Valentine’s Day and was the first of its kind.

Roe said that though Sendoff has been a popular topic on campus, students have seemed concerned not just about the concert, but about the fact that the decision was made without consulting the student body. During the forum Roe, along with others, including administrators, raised the point that students have the ability to meet with administrators, but this isn’t an opportunity many take because they are either intimidated by the prospect of approaching them or not aware of how willing administrators would be to speak with students.

Roe said she would like to see steps toward “normalizing communication between administrators and non-Student Council students.”

Though administrators mostly stayed on the sidelines, many participated in the second half of the forum, which involved attendees breaking off into small groups to discuss two questions about communication. First, “Imagine you are a member of a college community that has open, transparent conversation. What does it look like, how is information shared and when is it shared?” And second, “Imagine you are part of a college community where you are included in daily decision-making that affects the college. How is your voice heard/what decisions are you a part of?”

Decatur, speaking at the end of the forum, said the information generated is not the end of the conversation and that he looks forward to seeing the proposals of the working group.

On Monday, Student Council sent out a recap of the event and a reminder to vote for the Working Group via a Student-Info email.

Molly Cox ’19, a member of First Year Council, thought the meeting was an important step in improving communication.

“This is the attempt towards transparency that Kenyon has been moaning about,” Cox said.

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