“We are here for you,” Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler told students gathered at Bemis Hall on Monday night for CC’s first annual ‘Conversation with the President’ event. “Here for you, and here to help.”
The initiative, put on by the Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) and the President’s Council, is one of many efforts to make CC’s administration more and transparent.
The open forum was intended to give students an opportunity to question Tiefenthaler and members of her Cabinet about future endeavors, current policy, and past administration decisions.
Topics discussed ranged from library and tigernet2 renovations to the lack of on-campus housing, as well as plans to improve safety both on and off campus.
“Students need better ways to let their voices be heard,” said Alejandro Salazar, CCSGA president. “Yik Yak and other forms of social media are not the best place to voice concerns.”
Unfortunately, past efforts to create a campus dialogue through such forums have inspired yawns from some students who question whether the administration and CCSGA are truly interested in student feedback.
“Nothing extremely successful or progressive truly comes from these talks,” said CCSGA Vice President of Student Concerns Mayss Al Alami.
In the past, almost nothing has been accomplished at the forums themselves. However, Al Alami added, the real purpose of such forums is to bring awareness to the forefront of situations with hopes to engage in future dialogue that is actually productive in the future.
“To see change is going to require more than just going up and saying this is bad and I am upset,” said Salazar. “You have to follow through on what you feel strongly about.”
Student leaders say tangible results have emerged from forums. One example is the “Soup Challenge”—a competition that offers a $2,000 prize to jump-start the best-designed replacement for the Sunday morning Soup Kitchen that took place at Shove Chapel.
When administration cancelled the original program last semester, students first voiced their concerns at a forum with the administration. Later, they met with Tiefenthaler and other administrative officials. Finally, after months of effort and hard work, they are seeing progress as a result of taking action.
Throughout her speech, Tiefenthaler emphasized that she is eager to hear directly from students. The President said she has expanded her office hours and even spends an hour in Worner each Monday afternoon ready to talk to anyone who is looking for feedback.
“Student input is really important,” said Tiefenthaler. “I can’t think of a time when someone has wanted to schedule and appointment and I have not met with them.”
Will having an annual ‘Conversation with the President’ have a significant impact? Perhaps not directly. However, events like this can provide a starting point for students and administration to raise concerns, ask questions, and discuss new ideas in pursuit of a better CC.