Dear Pres. Bradley: Students require admin transparency

Dear President Bradley,

Welcome to Vassar College and Poughkeepsie! We are glad you are here, and we are sure you will love the splendor of our campus and the vibrancy of our community as much as we do. With the fall season approaching, enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the changing foliage, a staple of the Hudson Valley.

We at The Miscellany News are very excited by the enthusiasm you have expressed for your new position. We are particularly thrilled by the fact that, even as you begin to find your way around the campus, you have so far demonstrated a commitment to go out of your way to interact with students in person, be it in your office hours each week, at the ACDC or through social media. Most recently, we enjoyed meeting you at the Fall Activities Fair and seeing both your tangible ardor for our myriad student organizations as well as your eagerness to learn more about their places and roles on campus.

In these initial weeks, you have shown interest in the concerns of the student body, such as in your e-mails concerning the violence in Charlottesville and, more recently, your response to the Trump administration’s phasing out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Seeing our own administration address these very real issues as they affect our community here and now is both necessary and refreshing, and we hope that you will continue to acknowledge events that impact the student body—whether they occur on campus or across the nation—with the same tact and sensitivity you have shown thus far. We appreciated that you specifically condemned the actions of hate groups who participated in the riots and affirmed your commitment to supporting students, as the willingness to do so in earnest by those who hold institutional power is a crucial step toward effecting change on campus and otherwise.

That being said, we hope that you follow through with policies and plans that put these words into action. In the past, students and faculty have expressed dissatisfaction with previous presidents. While we understand that President Catharine Bond Hill assumed her position in a particularly difficult economic period and that Interim President Jon Chenette was only serving in a provisional role, we felt that their administrations often lacked transparency and favored the Board of Trustees, which did not always serve the best interests of the students and faculty.

Within the classroom, students have felt a lack of standardized support across the departments in accepting procedures that reflect their interests. Content and trigger warnings, preferred pronouns and chosen names are issues that are deeply important to the student body, which have far too often been both misunderstood and overlooked by many professors. It is not acceptable for student interests to fall on deaf ears any longer in this respect, nor should the classes in which they choose to study force them to tolerate deadnaming, failures by professors to ask for and remember preferred pronouns or a lack of appropriate respect for the necessity of content and trigger warnings. For the comfort and safety of students, we believe that the administration must communicate these pressing matters to faculty and provide better support to students.

Academically, professors have expressed noteworthy animosity toward the lack of attention given by previous administrations towards the intellectual growth and development of the Vassar community. During her tenure, President Hill’s increase in administrative spending and the reduction of the budget of classroom spending were criticized among some Vassar faculty (Boilerplate Magazine, “When the Vassar Bubble Pops, What Then?”). We hope that their concerns will be taken into account and that underserved departments can expand their faculty and receive more resources.

Another significant issue concerning the Vassar community is the College’s sustainability and whether we are doing enough in this regard. In Sept. 2016, President Hill introduced the Vassar Climate Action Plan, which aims for carbon neutrality by 2030 through the reduction of emissions. In addition to adhering to these efforts already in existence, we hope that you expand environmental initiatives and keep environmental consciousness at the forefront of your future endeavors.

During the past year, there have been concerns about Vassar’s budget and worries that the school could revert back to need-aware admissions at some point in the future. Though we are confident that you understand the importance of need-blind admissions, we would like to reiterate just how vital they are to our community—particularly for first-generation college students—and how imperative transparency surrounding this issue is.

Vassar, like most colleges and universities, was created for wealthy, white students. Now, 63 percent of the Class of 2021 receive need-based aid (Vassar College, “Class of 2021 Statistics”) and Vassar is ranked second in the nation for best financial aid (Princeton Review, “Best Financial Aid,” 2017). However, in many ways, Vassar’s original elitist paradigm remains entrenched in this institution. Even with 100 percent of need met, there is more that must be done to make Vassar a more equitable space. If we do away with need-blind admissions, this will never be achieved.

Another space on campus in desperate need of transparency is the Title IX Office and the College’s policies on sexual assault. Many students have been hurt by a lack of available information about these policies and the inadequate approach that the administration has taken investigating incidents and supporting survivors of sexual assault. We firmly believe that the College needs to do better in this regard.

We would particularly like to see Vassar implement Callisto, a survivor-centered sexual assault reporting program that has proven effective at other colleges and universities. Though past administrators have been open to trying the program, they suggested that the VSA should pay for half of the program’s first-year operation costs of $18,000 (The Miscellany News, “Sexual assault survivors must have full admin support,” 05.03.2017). We feel that the College should cover the full cost, as it is irresponsible and unreasonable to ask students to pay for their own protection against sexual assault.

For the sake of openness and accountability, we would like to see you put forth to the entire Vassar community a yearly list of initiatives and goals. This list would be reviewed at the end of each year by faculty and students alike, allowing our community to stay informed of what has been achieved in the past months and what remains to be done in the future.

We at The Miscellany News look forward to working with you in the future as a student organization, a platform for student voices and members of the student body. We hope that the relationship between the President’s Office and The Miscellany News during your tenure (and beyond) is one defined by honesty, transparency and cooperation.

Sincerely,

The Editorial Board of The Miscellany News

—The Staff Editorial expresses the opinion of at least 2/3 of The Miscellany News Editorial Board.

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