At last, students and trustees talk face to face

Back to Article
Back to Article

At last, students and trustees talk face to face

Students and faculty sat eagerly, filling the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium on Feb. 20. The board of trustees faced the crowd, waiting to see those that its decisions affect every day.

This was Guilford College’s first “Town Hall Meeting,” where students were introduced to the trustees, putting faces to an entity otherwise known as “the Board.” The meeting intended to open the door for dialogue between trustees and students and to discuss issues the College faces.

Senior and Student Senate President Samir Hazboun and CCE Student Government Association President Sarah Dreier-Kasik both had integral roles in putting this together.

“(We wanted to) involve the student population in an effort to show them how things work,” said Dreier-Kasik.

The meeting opened with remarks from Vice Chair of the Student Affairs Committee Esther Hall, the moderator for the event.

“This is an opportunity to bridge the gap,” said Hall. “We have the responsibility to chart the institution’s course.”

Before the meeting, Student Senate and CCE SGA Senate solicited questions from community members. Hall then selected a few of those questions to ask the trustees.

During the meeting, students wrote questions on note cards, which were later collected. A few of those questions, also selected by Hall, were asked during the meeting.

Trustees answered questions about diversity, the relationship between the board and students and the ever-secretive presidential search.

“We have over 90 applications,” said Head of the Presidential Search and Finance Committee Chairperson Carole Bruce of the search. “Our committee will meet within the next few days to elect approximately 10 of those candidates … from those interviews, we will select three.”

Another question, about diversity at Guilford, was answered only after prompting from the audience.

“We’ve got a large percentage of the leaders who see diversity as black and white, but … it’s not just black and white,” said Chairperson of Advancement Daryle Bost ’93. “It’s (race), thought, socioeconomic, sexual orientation. It’s all of those things.”

As to why this question was almost skipped, Associate Professor of English and Chair of the English Department Diya Abdo had some insight.

“The questions were of the softball variety, except the question on diversity, which is why it was nearly skipped,” said Abdo.

Students and faculty alike were disappointed by the last question of the meeting, which asked trustees what class they would teach at Guilford. Many felt it was a trivial, fluffy question that did not touch on the many real issues the College faces.

The event intended to help students understand what trustees do.

“There’s often a misconception that trustees have the ability … to do certain things that we don’t,” said trusteeship and Governance Committee Chairperson Linda Thorup.

Overall, attendees wished the meeting would have been more conversational.

“It was really informative, but it didn’t feel like Guilford,” said first-year Elena Robles. “Guilford is much more into conversations. It was more of a monologue than it was a dialogue.”

Abdo was disappointed by the event.

“If the purpose of the meeting was to create a dialogue between students and the board members, then it did not achieve that,” said Abdo. “The meeting, overall, felt like a scripted and very restrained and constrained event. There was no interaction at all between the Board and the students.”

Thorup agreed that there should have been more interaction between the trustees and the students.

“I would like to have more questions come directly from the students,” said Thorup. “It was great for us to have the ability to talk to students and to hear their questions … I hope the students could see that we’re really people and that we really are passionate about the school.”

Many hope that in the future, meetings like this will be more candid and include more hard-hitting discussion.

“If such meetings happen again, they should be more interactive, honest and certainly less stage-managed,” said Abdo.