Administrators, Government, and Disinterested Students
Skidmore College’s administration struggles to engage students in policy matters. The administration has made significant strides and earned the respect of students and faculty. Under current President Glotzbach, the endowment has grown, applications have reached record highs, and Skidmore has been ranked #38 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by Newsweek. Although the administration has been successful in these measures, it has failed to cultivate a close relationship with its students, rather than just a respectful one. For many, it is unusual to spot Glotzbach around campus, who drives to campus despite living just blocks away. However, his presence is not intimidating. According to a survey conducted by The Skidmore News, when asked how comfortable they felt attending a fireside chat with a hypothetical problem, approximately 61% of students responded they would feel neither comfortable or uncomfortable, somewhat comfortable, or extremely comfortable approaching the president.
President Glotzbach describes the ideal relationship between students and administrators as “[beginning] with mutual respect, which I believe we have at Skidmore. With respect comes a willingness to listen to one another and then to try and work together to resolve problems.” Despite students’ general comfort in discussing issues with the President, attendance at these events--like fireside chats--fluctuates; perhaps the more pervasive issue is a lack of interest in policy matters among students.
It is unlikely that there will ever be intense student involvement in a process such as amending the general education requirements, considering their lack of a direct effect on current students’ lives. Although the student government has a job to stay informed of administrative issues and policies, students are not under this obligation. Students’ personal experiences inform their involvement in policy. Unless students are personally affected by a policy, it is unlikely that they will want to learn about it, let alone formulate an opinion to voice to the administration. But given the significance of some administrative projects, such as revising the general education requirements, the board believes more of an effort should be made to engage current students.
Glotzbach and his administration rely heavily on the Student Government Association (SGA) to provide insight into the goings on and attitudes of students. However, it has become increasingly apparent that the link between SGA and students is a broken. Ultimately, this tension has not caused significant issues in terms of Skidmore’s ability to operate, but it has presented challenges to the proposed general education requirement changes, which did not pass an initial faculty vote and has been tabled for further discussion.
When the general education requirements were first discussed by SGA, not only were there no students in attendance, but it was also clear that only a handful of senators had read the proposal. As The Skidmore News has previously reported, participation in SGA elections is very low; the most recent election marked a participation rate of only about 14%. SGA produces some popular events, but serves more accurately as an insulated world in and of itself, which struggles to engages students in matters of policy.
In addition to improving the general education requirements, strengthening the relationship between administrators and students may also help Skidmore with its other challenge: raising funds for the Center of Integrated Sciences (CIS). Administrative relationships with faculty are vital to Skidmore, but these connections are unlikely to lead to major donations. Skidmore’s administration could only improve by finding effective ways to engage with students.