On Friday September 9, the faculty of Skidmore College gathered in Gannett Auditorium for the first monthly faculty meeting of the year. Catch-up conversation was heard all around the auditorium with vivacious energy.
First on the agenda was the approval of minutes from the last meeting in May 2016, recollecting what had been discussed at the last faculty meeting, and making sure the previous year amendments were all still agreed upon, which they were.
President Phillip Glotzbach then launched into the Presidents Report, discussing current or finished projects and the accomplishments Skidmore’s campus has seen this past summer. The drilling on the geothermal field is complete, but a good deal of work on the project remains ongoing for the next few months. Renovations on the Surry-Williams Inn are also complete and it will be reopening soon.
Glotzbach praised the work done in the residence halls this past summer in creating new student rooms out of other spaces and accommodating the demands for on campus housing this year. He also shared that the Wachenheim Field was completely redone and finished this summer.
Glotzbach introduced the new Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs, Cerri Banks, who previously was Vice President of Student Affairs at Mount Holyoke College. Her introduction was followed by a loud applause as Glotzbach then introduced a woman who could not make it to the meeting, Sarah Delaney, who is joining the faculty as an interim title IX Coordinator as Skidmore continues its search for a permanent title IX coordinator. This position should be filled by the end of this fall semester.
Mary Lou Bates, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, then took the podium to give the admissions report for the class of 2020. She discussed the first three waves (the London Students, Pre-Orientation students and the rest of the students) in which the class arrived. There are roughly 720 students in this current class all from different backgrounds, states and countries. Bates then discussed how this class was selected from a record applicant pool of almost 9,200 applicants with a 29% acceptance rate. This acceptance rate is tied for the lowest in the college’s history.
Glotzbach then took the podium again to identify the SGA President, Dorothy Parsons, and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Henry Jaffe.
He then acknowledged the upcoming 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and how this event triggered a new set of events, precautions and societal changes that have ultimately reshaped our entire world as Americans since that day. He tied in Skidmore College and a strong liberal arts education in being a value to this new society that was created post 9/11. He talked about the importance of a liberal arts education and how certain colleges have struggled to form a more diverse student body and attempts to address experiences of exclusion has led to restrictions around the speech and ideas of these experiences.
Glotzbach went on to say, “As colleges and universities have struggled to become more diverse and inclusive institutions, some critics have chargedthat attempts to address experiences of exclusion and both covert and overt forms of discrimination have led to restrictions on speech and limitations on the range of ideas that members of those communities might have to confront. But in fact, these critics present a false dichotomy: that somehow one cannot have a diverse and inclusive community while still maintaining a free and rigorous exchange of ideas. Indeed, we need to take a stand and turn this critique on its head. An increasingly diverse community presents a greater, not a lesser, capacity for debating different ideas.” He praised the elements of a diverse community and that a community of diversity has much more to bring to the table. However, he then used this issue of diversity to tie into the issue of disruptive and uncomfortable topics in the classroom, and encouraged students and faculty to have the courage to, “stand up and own and share our ideas regardless of how those ideas might be received.”
Glotzbach then highlighted the strengths of our campus community to make sure this strategic plan of speaking up and not being afraid to touch on sensitive subjects is enacted through embracing complex conversations such as the current election, military policy, and race issues in the U.S. and the middle east. Glotzbach also stated that the president’s office will sponsor events on topics of diversity and dialogue throughout the year. On December 1st and 2nd the president’s office is cosponsoring an effort by, music professor, Jeremy Day-O’Connell, to celebrate the 150th birthday of Harry Burleigh, a famed African-American singer and arranger, who sang in a choir in a local Saratoga Springs church.
It was also shared that this past summer, Joshua Woodfork, executive director of the Office of the President and coordinator of strategic initiatives at Skidmore College, formed a successful book reading group with thirty staff members across Skidmore to discuss diversity and inclusion. Glotzbach then went on to name many other student activism projects and initiatives, to encourage more challenging conversations on campus and to not be so quick to judge another students’ opinion.
There was then an announcement that named the new faculty, listing off their departments and interests, and a few other announcements praising all of the offices on campus for their hard work this past summer. The meeting ended with an announcement about events to come.
Editors note, 9/26, 11:20 am: This article has been amended to include a more extensive statement from President Glotzbach to clarify confusion regarding the importance of diversity at Skidmore.