BY ANNA WONDRASEK
On Nov. 8, students gathered in Meredith 101 for an “Administration Town Hall” hosted by Student Senate. Eight administrators sat on a panel dedicated to answering questions posed by students, including David Courard-Hauri, Erin Lain, Scott Law, Sue Mattison, Kathryn Overberg, Joe Campos, Melissa Sturm-Smith and Tony Tyler. They were joined by Marty Martin, President of Drake University.
Despite the wide array of opinions and personalities displayed in the room, every student who asked a question was respectful of the administrators. They did not attack or place blame; rather, they showed respect for the administrators’ time while still asking pointed questions to which the answers had not always been made clear to the students.
“Many students have concerns but may not necessarily have the knowledge or avenues to find solutions, so I think this town hall was the first step in bridging the gap between students and the administration,” said Samantha Bayne, student services senator-at-large and the organizer of the event. “I came up with this event in order to increase communication and transparency. It’s incredibly important for students to feel heard by their administration.”
The disconnect in communication between administration and the students became apparent when one student posed a question about how Drake defines itself as a sanctuary campus. Although all students have received the emails in response to immigration decisions made by the U.S. government, some students were unsure of where the line is drawn in terms of how sanctuary is defined at Drake.
According to Martin, Drake is “a place of refuge and safety while still remaining within the law.” Associate Provost for Campus Equity and Inclusion Erin Lain continued with this topic, saying, “We will not assist in deportations without being legally required, such as with a warrant. We also do not keep records of students’ citizenship statuses and therefore are unable to give a list of our undocumented students.”
Another question that was posed was on the subject of an equity and inclusion-based curriculum. Though it had once seemed as if it were something that was coming soon, the discussion was tabled.
“There was no support for the magnitude of changes that were being proposed,” said David Courard-Hauri, president of faculty senate. “We are still going to vote on it, but we do not expect it to pass.”
“This is not a vote against equity and inclusion,” Provost Mattison said, “but rather against making changes to the majors, because that is a far more complex issue.”
She said that rather than changing the curriculum completely, right now the faculty senate is looking into ways to include more diversity training, especially for first-years.
“We haven’t communicated very well to students what is happening with curricular reform,” Courard-Hauri said. “Hopefully students understood that we are going back to the drawing board, but that our efforts moving forward are going to be much more incremental than the plan we were discussing in September.”
When asked about their feelings about the event, the panelists all had similar answers.
“I thought the event was an excellent opportunity to let both students and administrators see and hear each other,” said Katie Overberg, the university’s Title IX coordinator and equity and inclusion policy specialist. “Communication and dialogue are so important. More speech, not less, will help us understand each other better so any opportunity to continue the dialogue is important.”