By MEAGHAN MCINTYRE
With the fall semester rapidly approaching, on Friday, August 17, UMW President Troy Paino took the stage in Dodd Auditorium to give his annual address. Attended primarily by faculty and staff, the All UMW Assembly gave the UMW community a chance to hear from President Paino about his plans for the university.
From discussing the new statement of community values, to the unexpected closure of Alvey and Arrington, to his “master plan,” and more, President Paino’s address covered a variety of topics that directly impact the UMW community. He also discussed the importance of civic agency, which he called a “core principle of our public liberal arts mission.”
During the start of the assembly, an emphasis was placed on the new statement of community values. The ASPIRE acronym which stands for accountability, scholarship, personal and institutional integrity, inclusive excellence, respect and civility, and engagement was discussed in heavy detail by Paino.
“I think that it captures in every respect what we’re about and what we strive to be,” said Paino.
To some students, the presence of these characteristics are apparent to them on a daily basis at UMW.
“I believe that I see what ASPIRE talks about on campus,” said junior psychology major Alexis Erb. “I see it every day when people open doors for people. Some people can go as far as helping tutor even though we don’t have to or helping with homework even though it isn’t their strongest subject.”
“Last year I witnessed these as the values on campus,” said sophomore anthropology major Courtney Flowers. I definitely see inclusive excellence, respect and civility, and engagement on campus a lot.”
“Yes I believe that the ASPIRE values are seen throughout campus,” said sophomore business major Bryanna Lansing. “I have definitely experienced inclusive excellence, respect, and engagement through joining clubs.”
Other students feel that the new community values do not line up with the behavior that they see on campus. Junior communications and digital studies major Jennifer Hill feels that one area where the university could improve is with institution integrity.
“I actually laughed when President Paino shared the new community principles and said that it included ‘institutional integrity’,” said Hill. “Personally, I feel like institutional integrity has not been upheld recently at University of Mary Washington.”
Hill went on to cite the way in which Residence Life handled the displacement of students after Alvey and Arrington were shut down during the summer as a driving factor for her opinion.
“Integrity to me means honesty and moral uprightness, which is the antithesis of what Residence Life has been doing recently,” said Hill. “The lack of transparency with displaced students has damaged Residence Life’s credibility on campus amongst the students. How can students trust a system that has been so ambiguous and evasive to their concerns.”
“In order to restore their credibility and institutional integrity, Residence Life and the University at large need to strive for honesty and better communication with students,” said Hill.
The All UMW Assembly also addressed the unexpected closure of Alvey and Arrington over the summer, which Paino said was an unfortunate result of “deferred maintenance.”
“This has put a tremendous strain on our campus and those who work certainly in Residence Life, but also in Facilities,” said Paino.
The closure of these two residence halls increased the tally of uninhabitable residences on campus up to three. The first to be closed was Willard, which had experienced a steam pipe burst in the summer of 2017. While the unforeseen closures of the dorms induced stress for students and staff alike, Paino identified the silver lining in the situation.
“The silver lining in losing these residence halls is that it is fast forwarding the process of addressing the problems, and so we are going to have to deal with these residence halls in some cases very rapidly and in succession,” said Paino.
He went on to declare his pride for how the university handled the situation.
“To me, probably the most gratifying part of this whole process is to see how this university came together,” said Paino. “Talk about something that took collective effort. Just about every part of this campus was touched in some way by this situation of three residence halls closing in the last two summers.”
Students were left with mixed emotions on how the university has dealt with the upkeep of residence halls and in how Residence Life handled communicating with students over the summer.
“They handled it, but in the time it took, they didn’t give enough information out,” said junior business major Sean Silke. “They said they were going to be relocating students, but the worry of where hung in students minds. If the university had provided a list of possible areas they might get placed, students would have had an easier time to plan accordingly.”
Junior psychology major Miranda Batte-Futrell initially felt stressed over the announcement of Arrington’s closure, but was comforted by the responsiveness of Residence Life.
“Upon first being notified of the renovations in Arrington Hall, I experienced a great amount of panic and anxiety due to the uncertainty of my roommate group remaining together and having to reconfigure move-in plans for the fall,” said Batte-Futrell. “This anxiety was short-lived, however, as residence life was quick to provide us with information and proved to be both helpful and timely in answering any questions about the relocation.”
In hearing how Paino admitted that the closure of the residence halls was due to “deferred maintenance,” students expressed respect for his openness about the situation.
“I appreciate his honesty and transparency on this topic because it establishes a sense of trust and reliability between President Paino and the students here at Mary Washington,” said Batte-Futrell.
The end of Paino’s All UMW Assembly was focused on the importance of a liberal arts education.
“Here at Mary Washington, I want to promote a liberal arts education that is active in the world,” said Paino. “One that is responding to the issues of our day. That’s preparing young people to go out and be civic agents to affect change.”
Paino explained how he feels there is “a core principle of our public liberal arts mission that I think oftentimes gets lost and is increasingly getting lost in the public discourse around the purpose of education in our country. And that is for me, civic agency.”
Many students expressed feeling as if the opportunities offered to them by Mary Washington have given them a way to grow as individuals.
“I do feel that my experiences here at UMW have given me a sense of confidence and empowerment,” said Hill. “UMW has a very active campus where everyone has a passion that they are involved with. Through my involvement in class and co-curriculars, I have a better sense of my ability to have my voice heard.”
Mary Hoffman, a junior environmental science major, feels that UMW has helped her develop skills that will benefit her as she continues her education and when she starts her career.
“I feel that Mary Washington has both empowered and given me the confidence that will serve me well as I continue forward in my academic career and beyond.”