Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, is everywhere. If you’ve ever been to a Columbia event, you’ve more than likely seen him talking to students and patrons. Yes, it is part of his job description. But except for the occasional Town Hall meetings at the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., other administrators have little face-to-face contact with students. During the ongoing prioritization process, these administrators should make more of an effort to be involved with students on campus.
Fall 2011 was contentious between faculty and the administration. The creation of the Faculty Senate eased some of this friction, and Town Hall meetings allowed the Columbia community to air its grievances directly to administrators like Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. But as reported by The Chronicle Dec. 12, 2011, the meetings can become little more than heckling matches.
If the administration were to build a basic rapport with the everyday college community, students would be more open to administrative decisions.
Administrators are present at some Columbia events, as when President Warrick L. Carter speaks at Convocation and Open House or Love shares her views at Town Halls and lunches with freshmen. Any effort is better than none. But with the arrival of the prioritization, more hurt feelings are likely to surface.
Administrators should strive to gain more understanding of student and faculty life at Columbia, and the best way is being active on campus. Immersion in the campus community could help them understand what students and faculty are most concerned with. A forum like the Town Hall meetings can be constructive, but hearing student and faculty opinions in a less hostile environment could be even more so.
Instead of separating themselves from the college community when conflicts arise, administrators should keep opening themselves up to conversation and bonding one-on-one with students at regular campus events, such as Big Mouth.
Even walking around campus and grabbing a coffee is likely to provide a unique experience for leaders to draw upon when they are making decisions.
Administrators are busy, and that is understandable. They worry about logistics so that artists at Columbia can concentrate on their work. But with a decrease in enrollment for the last three years, the college community and administrators must offer an olive branch to one another. Coming to a mutual understanding about the college’s problems and solutions is the only way to move on and truly prioritize Columbia.