By: Matthias Baudinet & Natalie House
On November 12th, 2014 the GMC Student Senate organized the fall 2014 Community Conversation. The Community Conversation is a platform that allows anyone in the greater GMC community to attend a discussion about community issues, problems, concerns, and then relaying all of those to the appropriate department heads in order to figure out solutions.
In the past years, it was usually Student Involvement and administration members that have organized and planned community conversations at Green Mountain. This year under President Erondu’s leadership, the Fall 2014 Student Senate were the first to plan a community conversation that was created by students. This took a lot of time and effort on the part of all the Senators.
Students were divided into six focus groups which were as follows: River & Social Events, Enrollment/Retention, Security, Food at Chartwells, Drug & Alcohol Use, Residence Life, and Wellness. All six groups had an even amount of passionate and dedicated students that really interested in voicing their concerns about things in all the focus groups. Each group had a representative from the Student Senate that acted as the person that would then present this information to the appropriate administrator or staff.
Students expressed a lot of concerns with security issues such as possibly placing cameras around campus, having more security officers on duty during the nighttime, and reducing parking permit costs. Students also stated that they wanted more diverse professional staff, as well as free transportation to health centers and more support groups for students.
After half an hour, students were then joined by faculty and many other professional staff which only enriched conversation. In my group (security), President Paul Fonteyn, two faculty members, and the assistant to the Provost (Gerry Fitzgerald) sat down with the rest of the students in that group and participated in the conversation.
Obviously, during the conversation certain students became very passionate and some group conversations became very heated. This was expected by the Student Senate. Many students claimed that they had not been given a formal platform for voicing their administrative concerns, so when the community conversation was planned, many students saw this as an opportunity to finally have the chance to unleash their bottled-up emotions.
Overall, students, faculty, staff, and the administration came together and participated in a very successful Community Conversation. A large population attended the conversation which speaks to the importance of having these types of conversations. The Student Senate has realized this and has committed to planning more of these talks.
After having time to reflect on the process, here are some thoughts from the community:
The community discussion was very eye-opening. I hope the administration, staff, and students understand the issues that the college is facing, and begin to develop goals for the community to reach. I believe that every one (faculty, staff and students) on this campus has a responsibility to help the college out in every way. However, in order for us to do so, we should have more transparency, communication among departments, and mostly trust within the community.
- Corey Fletcher, student
The senate saw the community conversation as a need to bring everyone at GMC together through a round table solution based community conversation. According to the Provost, the 2014 community conversation was the “first ever community conversation hosted by Student Senate.” The event was a success not because of the number of people that showed up, but because it was solution based. After the conversation, some student said to me that, ” most of the staff at their table was unknown to them.” This implies that we need more interface with faculty, staff, and cabinet at GMC in order to create a sustainable campus. I also want to use this medium to reiterate my commitment to the entire student body through the senate, I will continue to serve to make Green Mountain College a better place.
Erondu Jude Chisom, Student Body President.
I thought the community conversation was an incredible opportunity for students to voice their concerns. As a transfer student, I know that having an open conversation like this among faculty and students at other colleges would rarely happen, if it even happened at all. If real solid change comes out of the conversation that was had, this will have been an incredible success that will hopefully continue every year. Props to student senate!
Jess Butzke, student
I’m not a student, but the Residence Life meeting was useful for me — I didn’t realize that some of the items that students brought up were concerns.
Codie Tedford, Community Director
I was in the Admission/Retention group. As someone who was so close to transferring that I actually had already put down a deposit at another school before I changed my mind and decided to come back, I felt like I had a unique point of view and some pretty valid concerns to discuss. I think that, overall, the conversation was really productive and well organized and I hope that there will be some follow-through in terms of the ideas discussed during the conversation. I really appreciated the student-led approach and was especially grateful for the “safe space” created by the first 30 minutes without faculty/staff members present. My one concern, though, was that one hour really wasn’t long enough to talk about everything my group wanted to talk about.
Jillian Paris, student
The community conversation was informative and brought members of the college community together to discuss issues that matter to the student body. Hopefully, this event ultimately results in the creation of more interactions among the people part of the GMC family and that together we can creatively discover solutions to our problems.
- José Galvez Contreras, Outreach Coordinator for Sustainable Community Development