Students raise issues at Board of Trustees meeting

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On Thursday, Oct. 19, students met with representatives from the College Board of Trustees’ “Missions and Outcomes” Committee to discuss a wide range of issues across campus. “We really have a unique opportunity as College of Wooster students  to speak with the Board of Trustees,” said Noah Golovan ’23, President of Scot Council. “The role of the Board is [that] we hold the College to account for its mission and its purpose,” said Margaux Day ’06. “We’ll improve the College’s strategy, we’ll improve the annual budget,” she continued, “and [we’re basically] a governance check on the College’s administration to make sure the College is vital and prospering in the long term.”

To start, Samuel Boudreau ’23, Editor in Chief of the Wooster Voice, brought up the issue of bat infestations on campus and the College’s lack of planning in regards to the prioritization of building renovations. “There appears to be a very strong correlation between dorms without air conditioning or full-scale renovations and bats,” Boudreau claimed. Students without air conditioning tend to leave their windows open during the hot temperatures, leaving them vulnerable to bats entering their residences. The severity of this infestation led to a health crisis which resulted in “multiple students in residence buildings report[ing] bat bites, posing a great risk to the safety and health of this campus, as the CDC reports that ‘bats are the leading cause of rabies deaths in people in the United States.’”

A ten-year plan on the public record was also cited, which entailed details about future renovations, including Holden Hall not being updated until 2030 and excluding Bissman, Wagner, Douglass and Compton Halls from the current plans. Boudreau called for “an explanation from the College’s administration and the Board of Trustees regarding the prioritization of Holden Hall and the future plans regarding Wagner, Douglass, Bissman and Compton Halls.”

Clifton Bobbitt, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, responded to Boudreau’s speech, citing that Holden Hall is the College’s next priority. Bobbitt also cited the difficulties of obtaining donor support through capital campaign funds along with finding temporary housing for students during a renovation.  This might include housing students in the Best Western Hotel, according to Bobbitt.

 Up next, the College’s Greenhouse Club spoke on sustainability at The College of Wooster.

“Overlooking the importance of sustainability in that process would be a critical mistake. With our world’s future so uncertain, sustainable thinking has never been more valuable and has never been more necessary,” said Taylor Lynch ’24, President of the College’s Greenhouse Club. “Sustainability is therefore an increasingly fundamental component of our mission.”

Acknowledging COVID-19’s impact on campus operations, Lynch has said that the club’s advocacy towards sustainability has fallen on “deaf ears.” Lynch and Cory Horgan ’23, former President of the club, cited the use of paper and plastic products in the College’s student center along with energy-use in the College’s larger buildings, such as the Andrews/Gault Library. “As the College has transitioned to including a dining partner in our community, sustainability, less stress on dining,” said Lynch, “and communication with students has been neglected.”

Lynch and Horgan cited the College’s Sustainability Plan from May of 2019, which called to hire a Sustainability Coordinator, form a renewable energy exploratory committee, conduct an external energy audit, create a revolving green fund and incorporate sustainability into campus culture and establish relevant goals and targets. “Instead, three years removed,” said Horgan, “none of the recommendations in the five-year plan have been acted upon.” 

Regarding next steps, Horgan and Lynch proposed the revival of the College’s sustainability committee, “This committee could make clear and specific recommendations for the administration: perhaps establishing a revolving green fund, hiring a sustainability coordinator, allocating more resources for environmental organizations and incorporating sustainability into campus culture.”

Following Greenhouse, Dana Giffen ’23 and Ryan Seaton-Evans ’23 presented on behalf of the Disability Advocacy and Support Alliance (DASA), an alliance which aims to “create a safe space on campus where students can share their experiences and provide advice on how to navigate college with a disability.”

“By opening discussion about living with a disability, we also aim to increase advocacy and accessibility on campus as well as destigmatize the word “disability,’” said Giffen. “We felt a group like this was necessary as we saw more and more students with disabilities attending The College of Wooster.”

Two points central to DASA’s discussion were the increasing the staff of the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and improving housing accommodations on campus. As of this semester, Amber Larson is the only faculty member of ARC who works within disability support services. “Between the 1st of August and the 28th of September,” Giffen said, “Amber Larson had over 268 appointments scheduled with students regarding Academic Resources, 75% of these appointments were for disability support services.” Seaton-Evans went on to urge the board to “continue with [the] 10-year renovation plan to include accessible housing options. From 2019 to 2022 there has been a 57% increase in students with housing accommodations.”

Statistics presented by the DASA representatives show that between 2018 and 2022, there has been a 20.9% increase in unique students making appointments at ARC and a 44.1% increase in students with disabilities on campus. A list of necessary accommodations includes air conditioning in all residence halls, elevators that are not freight elevators, more rooms with private restrooms or at least more pod restrooms, rooms that are singles, ramps into buildings and accessible power doors.

The session concluded with Kacy Handzel ’25, who called for more hygiene products in public bathrooms across campus. “Out of the 21 all-gender bathrooms on campus,” none of them have free period products,” said Handzel, “when 99% of our students live on campus [and] 54% students are menstruating individuals, that is a lot.” Handzel proposed reallocating the wellness budget for wellness products towards period products, such as pads and tampons. 

One thought on “Students raise issues at Board of Trustees meeting

  1. Pingback: The Wooster Voice

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