Wed. Jul 8th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Administration holds open forum for student concerns

3 min read
By MONA OSMER Students and administration came together at the University of Mary Washington for an open conversation during an informal Q & A session with the main issue being the Strategic Resource Allocation.
University Relations

By MONA OSMER

Students and administration came together at the University of Mary Washington for an open conversation during an informal Q & A session with the main issue being the Strategic Resource Allocation.

The SRA is a process the University is conducting that intends to prioritize investments in existing academic and social programs, along with the possible creation of new programs that will increase the competitiveness of the university and improve the experience of students.

This was one of the first open forums held on the topic, and it included groups such as UMW’s Young Democrats and Divest UMW, who accepted the invitation and asked questions about the allocation of resources and what it meant for the future of UMW in both its identity and the recruitment of prospective students.

The dialogue of the forum began with Doug Searcy, vice president of student affairs, and his introduction of Provost Jonathan Levin.

Students including Benjamin Hermerding, president of the UMW Young Democrats, and Nate Levin, a member of DivestUMW, initiated the meeting, expressing the importance of student comment on the matter of resource allocation.

“We have an opportunity to think about what makes sense and is consistent with our university,” Levin said, going on to cite the recent proposal for a Communication major as an example of ongoing projects to improve the school.

Senior Zakaria Kronemer, a representative for DivestUMW, quickly delved into the question of UMW’s ideals, asking Levin and Searcy what the identity of the university is and the ideals it intends to uphold.

“I felt an identity here,” Kronemer said. “A strong liberal arts identity, and as we have an under-enrolled freshman class, I think it is due to the current change in that identity and now the lack thereof.”

He proceeded to ask what the administration viewed the identity of the university to be, to which both Levin and Searcy answered.

“There are a lot of things that we don’t do because it would not make sense,” Levin said. “Strength in science and technology is important. The ITCC, for example, is a collaborative space, meant to bring students together.”

However, Levin also discussed the limitations in what UMW can accomplish.

“We cannot be as big as GMU or JMU. What we become will be limited by our size,” Levin said.

Searcy reiterated this point, stating, “No institution is perfect, [and] we have some growth in areas that we have yet to achieve.”

Searcy also reminded students that the school must be realistic in their goals in attracting prospective students to the campus.

The dialogue promptly turned back to the students, allowing them to suggest ways to connect back to the identity of the university and its liberal arts roots.

“Students here support the divestment of fossil fuels,” Kronemer said. “We make a bold statement, and it could build our identity.”

As a step toward this, senior DivestUMW member Jacob Eisenburg suggested a proposal regarding further sustainability efforts to make the campus more green and eco-friendly.

Searcy advocated patience among students in regards to achieving their goals.

“Patience will help us to entrench ourselves,” Searcy said. “Working on faculty relations will help investments.”

Open dialogue about alcohol on campus was a success, as students such as Hermerding and Levine asked how the administration could work in more events on campus that would be alcohol friendly.

Levin and Searcy both agreed that similar events could be beneficial, citing the recent success of the Homecoming tailgating as a model for potential alcohol friendly events in the future.

Unlike some forums, the tone of the entire night was cordial and light. Both Searcy and Levin laughed with students throughout the discussion, with both sides showing equal respect for the other.

Following the success of the night, many expressed hope in having similar events in the future.

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