Friday, March 16, 2012

Why Not Sit Down to a Little Fireside Chat?

Obviously, communication attempts initiated by the students did not go well. But what steps were taken?

Some may remember a few events from that academic year called, "Fireside Chats."

In fairness, I do not remember whether administration or SGA pushed for these events. But, either way, these events were presented as an opportunity for students and administration to discuss concerns.

But allow me, for a moment, to give some personal commentary which, I believe, captures the sentiments of many students who were around me in my time at OBU.

First, by the time these events were announced, students had been repeatedly ignored and abused by the president and provost. Trust had already been broken and the current mood on campus did not bode well for discussions at all. Students were under the impression that administration did not care to hear anything they had to say so motivation to go be ignored was understandably low.

Second, instead of empowering students' voices in an official forum, this would be an informal event. Students who had tried to negotiate the available venues to be heard had been bullied and disenfranchised. But, now, the substitute being offered did not give us any sort of real recognition and felt very much like being talked down to.

Third, these events were often scheduled at times which were inconvenient for many students. One, specifically, I remember, was scheduled for the night before a school break. Also, I remember more than one occasion of rescheduling and very little communication about the new times.

Fourth, each chat was supposed to have a designated topic. The first topic was men's housing.

Men's housing.

If I look over the letter to the editor which had come out or think about the things which the five students had presented to the president and provost, I get the feeling that men's housing was not even on the radar. And, if I did want to talk about housing, I probably wouldn't bring those concerns to the president or the provost.

So what are students supposed to do when the overwhelming question is, "Do you support academic freedom?" -- an incredibly important and serious question-- and the only option is an informal "chat?"

There were other times the administration did specifically ask for student input.

That was also the year during which OBU made the decision to restart the football team. Now, let me be clear, I have zero opinion on OBU having a football team or not. (Or, none other than: GO BISON!) At some point before the decision was announced there was an open-mic student forum where students could ask questions and voice concerns. Many felt the administration seemed surprised that the response of the students was not overwhelmingly positive.

Again, no personal opinion. But, after more negative sentiments than positive were expressed, the decision rolled on as if no one had said anything.

Is it the students' job to have an opinion about whether or not the school has the financial ability to support a football team? Probably not.

But this is the bottom line: if you don't want my opinion, don't ask for it. If you don't care what students have to say, don't go through the farce of pretending like their concerns have any sort of value for real decisions. It is disrespectful and a waste of everyone's time.

If the only opinion worth working for is that of the BGCO, why even bother talking to students at all?


  1. Men's housing? Wow, top administration really is tone deaf.

  2. "If the only opinion worth working for is that of the BGCO, why even bother talking to students at all?" This question is probably why it took us so long to get them to even look our way and put that slightest bit of effort into setting up a "chat" to talk about a non-issue. I just think they wanted to placate the students who were too confused to realize that their real concerns weren't being addressed through this gesture, and pat themselves on the back for "playing nice." As it was, the rest of us either graduated or returned to Bison Hill the following fall only to find yet another shameful violation of academic freedom had been taken place and another quality professor had been wrongfully dismissed.

  3. The reason for the topic was that there was a review of men's housing in the 2020 plan happening at that time.

    SGA organized the Fireside chats. The one which happened the night before a break had been moved because of an unforeseen conflict (twice I think.) SGA made the decision to have it even though it was inconvenient for most, rather than pushing it even further back in the semester.

    Finally, "Fireside Chats" have been replaced with "French Press Conferences" a more formal event in the format of a Q&A with President, Provost, and several VPs (with coffee, which is unfortunately not made in a French Press, still... catchy name.)


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