Conversations With Students a Highlight of Trustee Meeting

Members of the Board of Trustees met with more than 100 students during their winter meeting Thursday, Jan. 28, through Saturday, Jan. 30, while also holding sessions that covered admissions challenges, investment considerations, campus climate and strategic planning. Additionally, Michele Richardson ’85, chair of the Committee on Investments, participated in an annual forum to discuss how Dickinson uses and manages its endowment.

Thursday evening kicked off with a reception for about 55 student-athletes and head coaches, followed by dinner for trustees and coaches. Board members had the opportunity to learn more about the student-athlete experience and the role coaches play as mentors during their students’ Dickinson experience.

On Friday, seven students from Dickinson’s Why We Wear Black movement spoke to the board, making impassioned arguments about the need for an improved campus culture that allows all students to feel valued and respected. They highlighted several themes from forthcoming recommendations, including hiring more faculty of color as well as counselors of color for the Wellness Center. 

The students also said there must be continued discussion of these topics, not just one or two meetings a semester. A Sunday night forum open to students, faculty and staff provided an opportunity to discuss these concerns in greater detail. (View the list of concerns and recommendations that were presented and discussed on Jan. 31. Update: On March 3, responses from the administration addressing the list were posted to the Why We Wear Black Movement - Dickinson College Facebook page.

Board members praised the students for their activism and asked them whether they had seen any progress in the past several months. Students cited increased visibility of the team that supports students who have experienced a bias incident. They also said several faculty focused on diversity and inclusion issues at the start of classes last week.

Both students and trustees agreed that communication between the two groups must continue.

More than 60 students attended dinner with the trustees Friday night. Attendance at the dinner was open to all students on a first-come, first-served basis. While conversation at the reception and dinner focused on the campus climate, board members also offered career advice and mentorship opportunities to many of the students.

“We all came away from this weekend so invigorated and impressed by our students,” said board chair Jennifer Ward Reynolds ’77. “We were energized by our conversations and inspired by the constructive and collaborative way they are addressing these crucial issues. Our students are providing a model for the rest of the country.”

Trustees also met with faculty serving as chairs of the All-College Committees and members of the strategic planning committee to discuss the college’s governance system and future planning. In other sessions during the three days, trustees received a high-level look at preliminary results from a recent student engagement survey, reviewed data around recruitment challenges, as Dickinson continues to compete against wealthier colleges with perceived greater prestige, and discussed strategic goals for Dickinson’s future. Also, the Committee on Investments held their annual meeting with members of the Dickinson Sustainable Investment Group, a subcommittee formed in 2014 to serve as a forum for the campus community to discuss questions about the college’s investments and to act as a liaison between the community and the board.

During a Saturday workshop with the Strategic Planning Committee, trustees cited the dedication of Dickinson’s faculty and staff and the quality of the students as key strengths of the college. Challenges included the need for greater philanthropy, the rising costs of higher education and the changing demographics of the prospective high-school student population.

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Published February 2, 2016