Dear Laura

By Anonymous Squirrel

Returning students are quick to notice the numerous and drastic changes that have happened and continue to take place at Earlham. For many, these changes and the prospects of many others to come are appalling. These changes have stirred up a number of conversations amongst students regarding their implications and the future of our college. However, beyond these extremely important conversations that will definitely continue to unfold as more and more shocking changes take place, it is important to create a space to ‘freely’ ask questions, share anger and frustration and demand answers. This article aims to do nothing else but that. The rest is on you.

Where do I start? Do I begin by addressing the implications of the continuous absence of a Director of Student Activities? The hardships groups face in securing funds for their events? The important difference between ‘by’ and ‘on’[1]? The difficulties in reserving spaces? The lack of transparency with regards to student activities policy? Or maybe with the tight grip on power at Earlham exercised by our Vice President and Dean of Students?

We began this semester with no director of Student Activities. We still do not have one and honestly, at this pace, we probably won’t have one until next semester –if we were lucky, fingers crossed! This lack of a director of Student Activities means that new channels of communication have to be created, yet even those haven’t been fully created nor have they been transparently communicated to students. The Runyan staff does an awesome job helping students and I am not trying to downplay their awesomeness, helpfulness, and great work. However, the problem is that our Vice President and Dean, Laura Hutchinson, has the final say on many subjects. She has the last word on funding requests; she can interfere with space reservations, title of events, timing of events, content of events, and so on. Why is this a problem you might ask me (anonymously)? Well, essentially, I think Laura has too many responsibilities on her plate and having her, in addition to that, make the final decisions on student activities related issues is simply too much. She is the Vice President and Dean, she runs a busy schedule of meetings, and probably heads more than 20 committees, oversees 15 subcommittees, is a member of 35 other committees and on top of all of that is in charge of approving many funding and space reservation requests? C’mon. It’s just too much. That’s not all of it though. Given the absence of a director of Student Activities and Laura’s –seemingly-busy schedule, it is extremely hard for students to get in touch with her to discuss their concerns, explain their funding requests, etc.

It is possible that the obstacles that many groups are facing are a reflection of new policies and a new direction that the Office of Student Development is taking. If this is the case, information must be shared with the student body. However, what I see says otherwise. I see a complete lack of transparency and communication with the student body, an overcommitted dean that oversees everything and anything, and, ultimately, a method of controlling and shaping student activities to meet the college’s new standards and goals as this process of drastic change unfolds.

I am sick of this tight control over student activities, and over student life more generally. Currently, many of us are struggling to fund travelling to student leadership conferences, to reserve tables in Runyan and to get funds for our events. This is not the way things should be. You might not agree with me but I have seen this unfold from the end of last semester and more concretely from the beginning of this semester. Certain activities are intentionally being controlled and monitored in an attempt to coerce them and this lack of transparency and honesty helps in doing so. This has to be challenged if we are to ensure that student thoughts, ways of being, and beliefs are not to be selectively manipulated and ranked. A new Director of Student Activities has to be hired soon. The return of such a position will create better channels of communication between students and the administration with regards to student activities; it will ensure that student concerns are being heard and that student have full access to the resources presumably available to them. Moreover, the jurisdiction of our Dean of Students has to be made public. The administration should directly engage students and not selectively cast or alienate a portion of them. Transparency, honesty, respect, and communication are key. Maybe these could be our new branding themes, don’t you think?

Aight I am out!

[1] This is intended to make you laugh. If it doesn’t, Oh well!

[2] What this is referring to is an incident that occurred with Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine (SPJP). The group holds an annual event titled ‘Hookah on the heart’ where students are invited for Hookah and some awesome dessert and delicious hummus. The event always takes place on Chase Stage – located away from the heart. This year, the group was asked to change the title of the event to something else in order for them to receive funds. The change of the title was requested because smoking, under Earlham’s policy, is not allowed on the heart. This was done despite the fact that the event always takes place on Chase Stage, hence away from the heart. Numerous alternative names were proposed by SPJP members including Hookah away from the heart, Hookah 20 ft from the heart, chase the Hookah, Hookah not on the heart, No heart Hookah and finally it was agreed to call it Hookah by the heart — the group received funds after the title of the event was changed.

P.S: Hookah on the heart lives on!

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