On Thursday, Dec. 6, Liz Towle, acting dean of student affairs, and Josh Ambrose, associate dean of campus and community engagement, held an open forum with student organization leaders to allow them to ask any and all questions about the College.
Five student leaders attended, including the authors [co-editors-in-chief of the Free Press] of this article.
The goal of the event was to show the student body that the administration will speak openly about the College through answering student questions.
Ambrose said he hopes to hold this event two times a semester, and that the next Ask McDaniel Anything forum will most likely be in February.
The conversation touched on the Decker College Center renovation, campus air conditioning and building access, Campus Safety, the academic program evaluation, sexual assault, and student organizations.
Decker College Center renovation
Decker College Center renovations, which have been previously teased, will move forward, according to Towle and Ambrose thanks to funds from two donors.
The focus of the renovation will be on providing students with a larger and more open space on campus, Towle said.
The biggest change will take place on the middle and lower levels. The middle level, where the bookstore currently is, will be space for campus offices and students to hang out.
The CEO, ODI, and OSE will all move there, along with parts of the Rec Lounge. This will be in an effort to increase the offices’ visibility to students – currently, these offices are tucked in the bottom level of the College Center.
The bookstore will move to the current Rec Lounge space and the then-vacant space across from Englar Dining Hall will turn into a restroom.
Students can expect flexible conference room space, a makerspace, reservable areas, a place to buy coffee, and even a permanent stage with an expectation of a variety of late-night programming.
The Pub will also get a makeover in May of 2019 once classes let out.
Air conditioning, building access
Towle spoke to the College’s lack of central air conditioning in many residence halls, which became an issue earlier in the semester.
“This fall was an anomaly,” Towle said, citing the late September heat that plagued the region.
Given the typically cool weather during the academic year, neither Towle nor Ambrose could speak to air conditioning being installed in most campus buildings.
“Retro-fitting air conditioning would be quite the undertaking,” Towle said. “Structurally and financially.”
Towle also noted that the College will be adding card access to the exterior doors of the first-year residence halls, thanks to donor support.
Keys would still be used to enter individual rooms, and could also be used on the exterior doors, Ambrose said.
“Then the hope is to expand to include some other locations,” Towle said, mentioning academic buildings.
Students in attendance expressed frustration in not being able to access academic buildings and lab rooms after hours, or having to involve Campus Safety to get in.
Campus Safety last month hired a new nighttime supervisor and sergeant, Dave Crew. The retired Baltimore County police officer will join Tom Davis on the post-daylight duty, according to Towle.
Concerns were expressed over the fact that students aren’t informed of new hires on campus, specifically those in Campus Safety who have historically been friendly faces to the student body and whose primary mission is to keep the community safe.
Towle recalled that Human Resources used to send out a regular email with the names of newly hired employees of the College.
Academic program evaluation updates
According to Ambrose, academic departments are being notified mid-January of any cuts to programs or positions. They will have 30 days to talk about these decisions with the administration.
“This is us making sure that we have the right academic programs and departments to help serve our students in the 21st century,” Ambrose said, citing the importance of sustaining cost, enrollment, and student interest.
All current students will be able to finish their programs of study, he assured. This extends to the next couple years of prospective students who are interested in the College’s current programs as well.
Towle highlighted the emphasis on prevention and education regarding sexual assault, noting that the College works with the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County. She also discussed the relationship between Campus Safety and the student body regarding this issue. Both sides do not always know how to communicate with each other, she said, and student input would help solve this issue.
Towle also mentioned the NCAA requirement that all athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators go through sexual violence prevention training, a rule implemented by the association in 2017.
Student organizations, student government
A question was raised about student organization club rooms and meeting spaces for larger organizations. Ambrose noted that club rooms are currently reserved for Greek organizations, but said this privilege is an ongoing discussion and that the renovated Decker College Center will have more flexible spaces for organizations.
Following the first presidential election by the student body since 2016, SGA is again looking to rebrand itself. SGA President Mackenzie Goaneh highlighted incoming Vice President Amara Foster’s idea to hold a town hall-style meeting with the student body, too. Goaneh imagined inviting leaders from the largest and most popular student organizations and booking the Forum.
“[We’ll talk about] anything [the administration] wants us to discuss,” Goaneh said.