The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Board of trustees “speed date” stood us up

At the Board of Trustees Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20th, moderator and board member Esther Hall ‘74 referred to the introductory portion of the meeting as “speed dating.”

But it wasn’t “speed dating.” It was an actual first date. And frankly, I wasn’t impressed.

I speak for the audience when I say we are grateful for the board’s dedication to the College, as well as taking the time to meet with us. However, the meeting suffered from serious faults, from time management to avoiding issues proposed by the audience.

Firstly, the introductions lasted well over 44 minutes, robbing 25 minutes from the hour-long question-and-answer session.

“The time for questions could’ve been longer,” said Chairman of Committee on Student Affairs Lionel Johnson in a phone interview. “We were constrained on both sides by scheduling.”

Considering the length of the “speed date,” only a handful of questions were asked.

When asked what they would do with $100,000, a few members opted to place their hypothetical hundred grand into the endowment fund — valid, but an abstract answer.

However, Johnson and fellow trustees Daryle Bost, Robert Jones and Brent McKinney provided answers geared more towards concrete solutions, such as cleaning up the lake and raising salaries for professors.

Later, Vice Chair Nancy Quaintance was asked a question concerning the recent renovations in Duke for the political science department instead of other improvements. She referred to the concept of “deferred maintenance.”

But when there’s black mold in Bryan and Shore Halls and no sprinklers in Mary Hobbs, it makes me wonder why construction of new offices for Professor of Political Science and future former President Kent Chabotar and Professor of Political Science Ken Gilmore goes ahead, while these serious, threatening problems are “deferred.”

Another, nearly rejected question was asked about making Guilford a truly diverse institution, since the current “racial paradigm” only considers diversity as skin color, not socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or personality.

Though the chairperson of the diversity committee was absent, the board responded after a weighty silence — some with thought-provoking and pertinent answers; others seemed to artfully dodge the issue at hand.

After that, it was the audience’s turn to be stunned.

Instead of wrapping up with another hard-hitting question, Hall asked, “If you could teach any class at Guilford, what would you teach and why?”

The feeling of disappointment from the crowd — the feeling of, “What the f—?” — was palpable. I threw my hands up in a disgusted shrug. Some audience members walked out in anger.

“The questions were non-questions — the last one being a complete waste of time,” said Chair and Assistant Professor of English Diya Abdo, one member who stormed out.

I will not dignify that fluff question by publishing the board’s answers.

The real bummer about the meeting is that we — the students, faculty and staff of Guilford — weren’t there for the spinach dip and sweet tea. If we were, we’d have left minutes into the meeting.

We were there for concrete answers to pressing questions, but we didn’t get much substance. The meeting seemed sanitized.

“Our students are an incredibly intelligent and highly committed group of human beings, and it was very frustrating and disappointing to see how the format grossly underestimated their intelligence,” Abdo said.

If this dialogue should continue — and it should — the board must be prepared to answer tough questions and provide substantial answers without undertones of defensiveness and condescension.

Johnson did mention that the board looks forward to a more open, “free-flowing discussion more in the spirit of a town hall meeting” for the next iteration. I hope we can achieve this goal together.

To maintain the dating theme, I’ve actually had worse first dates — a girl once ran over my mailbox. Honestly, first dates stress out both parties involved. But in this case, the second date this coming fall should go much better than the first.

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