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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

State of the college: A letter from Guilford’s president

Guilford College President Kent Chabotar ()
Guilford College President Kent Chabotar ()

Dear Students: Welcome back to Guilford College, where anticipation about the 2004-05 academic year has reached a peak with your arrival on campus. These are exciting times, and here’s a snapshot:

– Guilford is North Carolina’s fastest growing college in the past four years, and we expect a record 2,400 students this fall. More students each year are choosing Guilford for the strength of its academic programs and other unique qualities.

-Our first year class of 450 students is the largest ever, with about one fifth ranking in the top 10% of their high school graduating classes.

– We have a new strategic, long-range plan under consideration. This will be our roadmap for the years 2005-10, and the plan is the result of two years of widely participatory development in which students, employees, alumni, trustees and others challenged the college to pursue excellence across the board.

– About $3.75 million in campus construction and renovation projects are in progress or finished. We’re especially proud of renovations to the residence halls and Founders Hall. The first phase of the Founders project, including the terraces and gazebo, should be complete by the end of September.

– The Bryan Series will welcome four major speakers on the topic “Challenges Facing Democracy” this year, including political analyst Cokie Roberts Oct. 1 and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev Oct. 6.

For those who are new to Guilford, and even for some of the “old-timers,” I want to say a few words about the openness of our community and the opportunities for participation in decision-making that are yours to choose, or not.
Guilford ranks among the most open colleges in the U.S. in terms of public information, and I speak for my colleagues in administration in welcoming feedback from students – both positive and negative. Our openness is exemplified by the use of the Web site and e-mail (daily Buzz, weekly Beacon) for campus events and announcements; publication of digests of all meetings of the Board of Trustees and president’s cabinet; publication of the annual budget and independent consulting reports on dining services, the bookstore, information technology and other services; weekly open office hours for the president, vice presidents and deans; community forums on finances, planning, construction projects, and student concerns; and very helpful Web-based publications entitled Where to Go? Whom to Call? Who Gets to Decide? and Myths and Facts. There is almost never a legitimate excuse for guessing about the facts, or taking inappropriate action based on rumor or misunderstanding.
During this year you will probably hear things and witness events that merit clarification:

(A) First, some may suggest that “student opinion does not matter” or “I was not heard.” Students who choose to participate by running for office, attending community meetings and sitting down with administrators and faculty to discuss issues do matter in decision-making. Students who would rather sit on the sidelines and complain do not. That the college may act differently than you would like does not mean you were not heard. Sometimes we will simply disagree. I know. I was the president of the student body at my undergraduate college for two terms.

(B) Second, there may also be a student protest at a trustee meeting about some issue that a few students choose to bring to the trustees rather than to the administration or faculty. Bad idea. The college by-laws provide that, although we are a very participatory and consensus driven place, the president makes most decisions outside of the curriculum and classroom. In fact, except for the evaluation of their own performance and my own, the trustees themselves have decided only to act “on the recommendation of the president.” And, rather than starting with me, check in first with the faculty member or administrator with whom you have the concern. Consider me like a court of appeals to be used only as a last resort.

(C) Third, in a typical year, the college may be compelled to suspend or dismiss students and terminate the employment of staff for various reasons. It is one of the most regrettable and serious actions that we can take. From time to time, there will be an outcry about the person being “railroaded,” “treated unfairly” or “a victim of discrimination.” The person and his or her friends may be quite vocal on the attack and the college will be silent. That may be bad for public relations and community understanding but that is the law and college policy. We cannot comment publicly on student judicial cases and we never comment on employee personnel matters. It gets frustrating when you are accused of various “high crimes and misdemeanors” and can say nothing in your own defense.
Your president (who also teaches a public policy and administration class in the spring semester) is hoping you will have a wonderful year. You are amidst what may well be the best years of your lives. Whether this is your first year at Guilford, or your last, the time goes by way too quickly. Work hard but take time to play and just hang out with friends and family. Take it from this middle aged “dude,” some of your greatest memories will be spirited discussions in your residence hall room or cafeteria, an intercollegiate or intramural game that was hard fought and fairly won, a classroom lecture and debate that opened you to new ways of thinking and knowing and just walking around campus contemplating what an adventure life is. Be well and do good.

Kent John Chabotar
Professor of Political Science

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