For those who were not aware of all that transpired at the teach-in on Wednesday, I would like to describe what was for me the highlight.
At our lunch break we were having an open mike in the cafeteria. One speaker proposed that, if we wanted to ask questions directly of the trustees, they had an office at ADM 300, and we could go there to talk with their representative. At this point, some students started to leave, and I decided I wanted to be with them.
When I arrived at the third floor of the Cook administration building, I encountered 10-15 students walking toward the President’s area. Some of them spoke to the person who seemed to be responsible there, telling her that they were told to go to the President’s Conference Room. That door was opened. By the time I sat down (about 12:45?) there were about twenty students in the room. A few minutes later, there were 30-35. After a short time, the Provost, Sandra Westbrooks, came in to speak with the students.
They were concerned about a number of issues: Would the university lose its accreditation and the degrees be worthless? Why didn’t the plumbing in the dormitory work properly? Why were whiteboards in the classes so dirty? Could anything be done to insure better treatment by people who worked in the financial aid office? Why wasn’t UPass in place by now? These and many other questions were raised in the two hours I was there. Over a half-hour period the deans of the Honors College, Arts and Sciences, Health Sciences, and Graduate School arrived, as did Wayne Watson, the president-to-be.
Westbrooks responded to nearly all of these questions herself. I thought she explained the accreditation situation well and clearly, but I am not knowledgeable; it was suggested to me later that the lack of shared governance could be an issue for accreditation. Still, Westbrooks was clear in asserting that the university was satisfying two concerns raised by NCA (a plan to address retention and enrollment and evidence the plan was working).
For me, the most important thing was the initiative taken by the students to demand that their questions be answered. I was very proud of these students for asserting themselves. Balogun (dean of Health Sciences) took charge of calling on people, criticizing their shouting out of their concerns. When, after two hours, I was called on to speak, I said I thought the main point was that the students were to be praised for their concern and activism. I pointed out how remarkable it was that the provost, four deans, and the president-to-be had shown up. Although Watson had criticized the students for leaving in the middle of the meeting, he had missed the first half hour (I pointed this out). The students, in leaving to go to class or care for their children, were fulfilling their responsibilities. I was proud to be a faculty member teaching such students. Congratulations to them!
Please comment on this action. If you were there, add your observations--please.