By KATY BURNELL
This week, President William Frawley set out to follow through with previously-made promises to improve communication between the office of the President and the UMW campus community.
Frawley initially targeted improving communication as an issue in this semester’s presidential letter. In the letter, posted to the UMW Web site Jan. 30, Frawley announced plans to host “office time with the President,” which he characterized as “a drop-in discussion which anyone from the UMW community can attend.”
Frawley addressed the need for improved communication when he took the “open office time” concept for a test drive Tuesday afternoon at the College of Graduate and Professional Studies in Stafford.
“I think I could have done a better job communicating [last semester],” Frawley said.
The decision to host open question and answer sessions emerged during a weekly meeting of his highest-ranking administrators, known as the core planning group.
Core group member and Vice President of Strategy and Planning Nina Mikhalevsky, who worked with Frawley at George Washington University’s College of Arts and Sciences, said that the open office time concept is new to both the University and the president.
“We talked about it at length,” Mikhalevsky said. “He really wants to find as many ways as possible to communicate with the campus.”
Open meetings are not President Frawley’s first attempt at connecting with the campus community. He also has dinner with Student Government Association president Jay Sinha every six weeks at the Eagles Nest.
“Some of you get scared, sitting next to a balding man with a red tie,” Frawley said, addressing an open student senate meeting on Wednesday night.
Recalling his Eagles Nest dinners at Tuesday’s meeting, Frawley said, “after they get over the fact that the president is sitting with them in the Eagles Nest, that’s when the real discussion starts happening.”
Expanding communication between students, staff and administrators was the primary focus of Frawley’s letter to the UMW community.
“We thought it would be important for us to open up and clarify things to the campus community,” said Frawley, who forbade his senior advisors from tagging along during Tuesday’s meeting.
“People said, ‘Can we come with you? You’re out there throwing yourself to the wolves,’” Frawley said.
Most of the 20 “wolves” in attendance Tuesday were in teachers clothing, but a few students strayed into the pack later into the one and a half hour-long discussion, which focused on the importance of fostering regional coordination, and emphasized the importance of UMW connecting with the larger Fredericksburg community.
Frawley discussed the prospect of developing an ROTC program, coordinating efforts with a Fredericksburg taxi service and the students for safe rides organization and the possibility of students using their EagleOne cards at Giant, Hyperion and other stores downtown.
“I don’t know about Hyperion,” Frawley said. “I don’t think they take cards. The other day my wife had to write a $2.80 check for a cup of coffee.”
Frawley also said that the University is considering working to develop a FRED bus route that would shuttle students directly to and from the UMW shop downtown, which will be open until midnight.
“Maybe if we stay open late, the shops around us will follow suit. Unless we take initiative to liven up the place, then nothing’s going to change,” Frawley said.
Sophomore Jason Walsh touched on an issue raised by several members of the campus community when he requested Frawley’s take on a draft proposal submitted to the administration by the Labor Rights Club.
According to Walsh, the proposal, which aims to secure an improved working environment for classified employees, has gone unanswered.
“Our biggest concern is that we haven’t been hearing a lot back,” Walsh said.
Although Frawley addressed the issue, telling the Labor Rights Club members that their proposal had been forwarded to the Commonwealth Attorney Generals’ office for review, he also warned the undergraduate students that they were pushing the open forum’s ground rules.
“This is not a forum for advocacy; it’s a forum for clarity,” Frawley said.
Inconsistent administrative feedback to student and faculty proposals emerged as a recurring theme during Tuesday night’s discussion, but most unanswered proposals pre-dated Frawley’s arrival to the University.
CGPS professor Jo Tyler drew several nods from the crowd when she raised the prospect of tenure for faculty at the Stafford campus. Tyler expressed frustration that a proposal submitted to the board of visitors before former president Anderson announced his retirement had yet to be acted upon.
“The idea is to make it an option on this campus, and maybe it would be appropriate to go back to that structure that had been approved by the board of visitors previously,” Tyler said.
“Let me just say something about tenure. Tenure is not job security,” Frawley said. “I’m not an anti-tenure person. I’m interested in academic freedom and security.”
Frawley said that he had not seen a copy of the tenure proposal, but he asked his secretary, as he would several times during the discussion, to write it down so that he could check on it later.
“Recall that not everything will get to me, nor should it. We are implementing an overall `good service` environment where those asking questions will get answers or be directed to a place that has answers,” Frawley said.
Neither Mikhalevsky or Frawley’s interim replacement at GW’s College of Arts and Sciences, Diana Lipscomb, could recall him holding open meetings during his time as Dean of the CAS.
“This is still a pretty common one, though,” Mikhalevsky said. “A lot of schools will have open meetings like this.”
According to Erin Zagurski of William & Mary’s University Relations division, W&M President Gene Nichol also began holding open meetings this February. Frawley said he was not aware of Nichol’s plans, but also lists W&M among schools that he looks to as models for UMW.
The next open office session will be held March 15 on the Fredericksburg campus.