By CATE STACKHOUSE
This semester, students will once again have the opportunity to attend open forum discussions held by President Rick Hurley, Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Searcy and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jonathan Levin. The talks will be held at 5 p.m. on Feb. 18, March 11 and April 8, in the Faculty Dining Room in Seacobeck Hall.
The idea for an open forum originated last semester. The talks are a continuation of the forum held by Searcy and Levin during the most recent fall semester and will span a variety of topics.
“Last semester, I wanted to have an opportunity to meet with students and talk about the Strategic Resource Allocation process. I had met with student government to talk about it, and conferring with Sam [Worman, student government association president], I said let’s hold a town hall for students, and I invited Doug Searcy to join me,” said Levin “It was so successful that we decided to hold three this semester.”
According to Levin, approximately 30 students attended the forum in the fall semester. Students brought up a wide range of topics, including the Divest UMW movement, institutional funding and faculty salaries.
“I plan on attending the talks. I would like to continue to be aware of what is going on around campus,” said Ray Celeste Tanner, a junior communications major. “I like to be up to date. I want to hear other students inputs and see how student issues are handled.”
One of the administration’s goals for the talks is to receive student input for strategic planning.
“We’re in about the sixth or seventh year of our current general education program, and I don’t think we’re going to overhaul it, but I am interested in getting student feedback on the program,” Levin said.
Levin also indicated that there has been some discussion among faculty about moving to a four-credit course program rather than three credit courses.
“Typically at a school where there are four-credit courses, students take four courses rather than five, and I’m interested in getting some feedback,” said Levin. “We may have some faculty who are part of that committee come and participate in the discussion.”
Levin, Searcy and Hurley stressed the importance of an open forum to encourage student dialogue.
“We hope that a wide variety of students attend. We speak frequently to student leaders. We appreciate their perspectives, and work their ideas into what we try to accomplish, but we would love to talk to students that we don’t see as much, and this is a forum that anyone can attend,” said Searcy.
While the administration has certain subjects in mind, they are not limiting the scope of what students can talk about during the forums.
“[The discussions] are designed to be free flowing so anyone present will have an opportunity to bring up a topic,” said Hurley.
Both students that attended last semester and students that did not attend previous discussions have expressed interest in attending the spring semester open forums.
“It’s good that the administration has to answer to the student body because we don’t have enough forums where the administration has to answer to the students,” said senior math major Chris Dingus, who attended last semester’s discussion. “Last semester it was good, because it allowed for discussions of Greek life with the administration.”
According to Levin, the administration plans on using these discussions to identify issues and track them. He noted that they hope to have an evolving agenda that involves student input to help set priorities.
“We really want a representative perspective, and to know what common concerns are,” said Levin.
Searcy echoed a similar desire for student feedback.
“We want to hear both the benefits and challenges of campus life, and about the experiences of students at Mary Washington so we can engage in that discussion and use the feedback to make the student life stronger,” Searcy said.