With Innovative Format, School Congress Hears Faculty Opinions

Student Council hosted the annual School Congress last Monday evening, inviting students, teachers and administrators to join in a series of open discussions about many important student and school affairs. School Congress attendants were separated into different groups led by Seniors and discussed issues such as technology, campus social space, honesty, advising, study hours and student workload. According to Student Council Vice President Jonathan Adler ’08, the purpose of School Congress was to have a clear, uncensored balance between student input and faculty opinions regarding many of the topics on which Student Council sought faculty support. In an email, Adler wrote, “It was great to speak to faculty in a more personal manner, thereby allowing more faculty members to voice their opinions and respond to their colleagues.” Like Adler, Upper Class Representative Andrew Pohly ’09 thought the discussions successfully mediated open discussion, allowing all opinions to be heard. Pohly, who sat in on the technology discussion, said that students and faculty were very assertive when discussing the reoccurring issue of bandwidth policies and the way bandwidth is monitored. The group also talked about the distractions that internet could be causing for many students and their correlations to students being placed on academic restriction. With the upcoming Commons and Ryley Room renovations and the new library policies, the discussion about student social space proved a relevant topic. Upper Representative Annalee Leggett ’09 thought that the social space discussion was the most effective discussion because Director of OWH Library Elisabeth Tully, Director of Student Activities Cindy Efinger and Director of Stewardship David Chase, all involved in carrying out the many changes, were present to answer questions and clarify misunderstandings. Despite the suggestions for alternative student hangout locations, students began circulating a petition asking for a separate student center last month. According to Day Student Representative Hanson Causbie ’08, the faculty members argued that the new Commons would offer a variety of services similar to that of a student center, including a new Ryley Room and café-style dining in Lower Left. If students still feel the need for more social space after renovations, however, the administration said they would readdress the issue. Like the student social space, the current advising system was also a highly debated topic. Students argued that they needed more attention from their advisors because most do not have house counselors with whom they can form close student-faculty relationships. The level of training that teachers receive as advisors was also an issue. Faculty members are simply given a handbook, without any additional formal training, and as a result, many students feel that some advisors are more helpful than others. According to Malin Adams ’09, who attended the honesty group, the group discussed the value of honesty in broader terms – students’ personal honesty policies and reasons why they might disregard honesty in competitive academic and social environments to get ahead. During the honesty discussion, according to Adams, the cluster deans said that, although some students lie occasionally, most students are truthful, knowing that they would face further consequences if caught lying. Most students in the group, however, agreed that the DC system could be changed to make policies more clear and effective.