One of the many things I loved about Guilford when I arrived here four years ago was how much students cared about this school.
Every year I have been here, there has been some effort by students trying to keep the College accountable for our core values. On top of their academic and extracurricular activities, these students have organized around issues that mattered to them like sexual assault, racial justice, fair wages and more.
These students have been articulate in their demands, realistic about the possibilities and flexible enough to modify their demands when necessary. Even when I have disagreed with them on a particular point, I have had a great amount of respect for the work they have done and the skill with which they have done it.
Moreover, these students are effective. Integrity for Guilford, in particular, has pushed for, and achieved, some significant changes in the racial and gender makeup of Guilford’s new hires.
I worry, though, that most or all of the progress at Guilford is coming from the students, while the administration all too frequently leads from behind.
I don’t think administrators come to an institution like Guilford unless they believe in what it stands for, and I personally like and respect many of the people in the administration. That being said, while Guilford has sometimes been willing to implement changes students demand, it is too often reactionary rather than proactive.
Perhaps the best example of this is in the ongoing issues with staffing. Departments on campus are chronically understaffed, and the faculty and staff who work in them are chronically underpaid.
Much of this is inevitable. Guilford simply does not have enough resources to meet all the needs of all of its students. Nor do I think it fair to put all the blame on too many coaches for the sports teams, an all too common refrain, when athletics are an important part of the Guilford experience for almost a quarter of Guilford students.
On a campus with the financial resources of Guilford, there will always be compromises between, for example, having enough faculty and staff, compensating them fairly, keeping dorms livable and all the other needs of a community. And students, I believe, understand that hard choices have to be made.
But when it seems that some of the most vital resources on campus, particularly for minority students like the Bonner Center and the Multicultural Education Department are also the most under resourced, I think it is important for students to know how the College is making these key decisions.
I would love to see Guilford publicly lay out how departments, positions and issues are prioritized and, if and when new resources are made available, where they will be allotted.
Our core values are aspirational. We will always struggle and frequently fail to live up to them fully.
But if we truly aspire to uphold those values, I think the College needs to lay out a road map forward, figuring out not only what issues we can address now, but also what goals we are aiming for in the future.
Things are looking up at Guilford. We’re balancing our budget and bringing in more students each year. I hope that these trends will continue, and if they do, the College should already have a plan for how to distribute those new resources to address our ongoing issues.
Perhaps a plan like this already exists. Perhaps not.
Either way, I think it is only appropriate for Guilford to take the initiative to lay out for students, who have put so much work into improving this college, how Guilford plans to address these ongoing issues.
Especially this year, as we plan out a new curriculum, pass re-accreditation and take a hard look at how we sell ourselves, the College’s fundamental, ongoing issues cannot be ignored.
I still love Guilford and this community. I would love to see students in the future be able to help guide the College on a path to a better community instead of pushing it to start forward in the first place.