President Philip A. Glotzbach and SGA President Addison Bennett '16 spoke to the most pressing issues on campus, including sexual assault, discrimination and student wages, on Friday Sept. 19 at the Arthur Zankel Music Center, in the first annual State of the College Address. Anticipation from student and faculty alike was palpable as Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Rochelle Calhoun introduced Glotzbach and Bennett to begin the State of the College Address.
Bennett acknowledged he is empowered to speak on behalf of the student body, but asked us all to become more involved in the community decision-making process. "All of us, not just student representatives, have a role. Without the participation of the student body, representatives cannot effectively do their jobs and Skidmore will not be able to make meaningful change to move towards the ideals our community holds.”
One of the most important points brought up by Bennett was the issue of alienation and exclusion, which has been a recent movement in our community, taking form in projects like I, Too Am Skidmore and last semester's theatre production entitled On The Record.
The consequential and newly minted SGA Inclusion Task Force is working hard to reach out to those who feel like they cannot actively participate in the community. Two new methods have been set to promote inclusion: the Student Activity Financial Aid Fund, which covers extra club event costs of individuals that may be excluded by financial shortcomings. The second is the Student Opinion Polling, which would allow students to express popular opinion in a concrete and influential manner.
Bennett next began on sexual assault, a disturbing matter for this community and an ongoing national issue. Particularly, this issue resonates after the exposed sexual assault incident involving a Campus Safety officer over the summer. "I know I speak for many students when I say I am disappointed by the months-long delay in notifying the community of the recent arrest on sexual assault charges of a Skidmore employee. I appreciate the delicacy of the personnel-side of the situation, and I am glad that swift, proactive action was taken against this person; however, the fact that many students learned about this breach of trust through rumors, social media, or the news is disturbing. We had every right to be scared and disappointed this summer. In this case, communication clearly fell short."
However, according to Bennett, the problem goes far beyond one previous Campus Safety Officer. President Obama's "It's On Us" campaign has been brought to Skidmore, and the message promulgates raising awareness for effective consent and fostering an attitude of zero tolerance toward sexual assault. In regards to the movement, Bennett said, "for SGA’s part, we have committed ourselves this year to fighting the causes of sexual assault and standing up for survivors.”
Bennett also addressed the matter of on-campus student wages, which are under the New York minimum but legal due to the College's not-for-profit status. He requested for the school to respect the quality of work put in by student workers, as well as their financial needs. "I was disappointed last year by the lack of progress in raising the minimum wage for student workers on campus, despite the New York State law that raised the minimum wage to $8 per hour. I join many students in feeling that the school should pay us a wage commensurate to our work and the legally established cost of living in this state, even if it is not required due to Skidmore's non-profit status."
As a final point, Bennett emphasized the need for unity and active participation in the community: "One Skidmore," an embracive byword that recognizes differences in opinion directed in an overarching sentiment of community betterment. He signed off with a tip-of-the-hat to social responsibility: "any student can become a leader." Though “taking action” was a commonly phrased, no clear actions were outlined.
Glotzbach converged with Bennett's agenda. "It is important that we pull in the same direction if we're going to get anything serious done. We are making a concerted effort this year to enhance communication in all kinds of ways across campus." As part of this effort Glotzbach announced that the number of community meetings was increased to once a month, and he established office hours during which anyone can meet with him.
Glotzbach revealed the fiscal year of 2014 concluded with a balanced budget. The current endowment is $340 million, which externally validates the stability of the institution. Moody's issued a stable outlook for Skidmore College this year, an exception to the often negative outlook of higher education in general.
Glotzbach next talked about the robust student body. The class of 2018 was picked from a pool of 8,700 applicants. Of those accepted and attending, 22% are domestic students of color and 10% are international students. The financial aid budget has been increased to $42 million. 42% of student receive financial aid; of those that do, 90% is need based. 100 Thoroughbred athletes were recognized for maintaining a GPA of 3.67 or higher this past spring.
The President happily announced that 32% of our electricity now comes from renewable resources. 40% of campus is powered by geothermal energy. This past August, Skidmore hosted the NY EXCEL Cleantech boot camp (http://www.skidmore.edu/nyexcel/about.php.), during which environmentally-friendly entrepreneurs learned about the most up-to-date business models and strategies that integrate people, profit and planet. Glotzbach spoke highly of the new program. "We saw the introduction of…NY Excel, which is a program to train executives in new business opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency."
Answering Bennett's concern for student wages, Glotzbach stated that the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee will begin to review the student minimum wage. "We are looking very seriously at the question of minimum wage. The IPPC will pick that up and I expect to see some movement on that this year."
Academic affairs are prosperous and growing rapidly. The plans (http://www.payette.com/project/2331088-center-for-integrated-sciences.) for the Center of Integrated Sciences have been completed. This 100,000 square foot building will stand behind the Dana Science Center, and construction should begin in the near future.
Although the college campus is alive and well, Glotzbach reminded us that there is always room for improvement. "In student affairs, the focus is creating a community of care and responsibility," he added. "We are all adults. Who decides what we believe? Who decides what we think? Who decides the nature of our social reality? We do." President Glotzbach assured that "we are in this together."