This past weekend was a busy one, with the Board of Trustees holding its fall meeting on campus, and many events, both planned and unexpected. On Friday, the Trustees had the opportunity to join the Department of Political Science and International Relations in celebrating Hasenstab Hall, and enjoyed meeting the faculty, staff and students who work in this beautifully renovated space. Many alumni returned for a special dedication of a classroom in memory of legendary Political Science Professor Roy Grow.
Among the significant decisions of the Board meeting was the approval of the Student Life and Housing Plan’s Phase I, which involves the building of new townhouses on Lilac Hill, the replacement of some existing houses along Union Street, and the creation of a Black center and multicultural center. We have been soliciting student feedback and keeping the campus community updated on progress with this project, and at this meeting we presented to the Board the drawings and financial plans we have reviewed with College Council and other groups.
We also discussed with the Board our plan, announced on Tuesday, to expand the current dependent tuition benefit offered to faculty and exempt staff to include all benefits-eligible, non-union employees, as well as union employees for the remainder of the current contract. We will also take this opportunity to join the the ACM Tuition Remission Exchange Program (TREP). We appreciated their support of these changes.
The Board meetings were accompanied by an ongoing protest by students from Divest Carleton, who occupied the Weitz Center from Thursday through Sunday. Although College policy normally prohibits students from remaining overnight in spaces that are not fire-coded for residential use, we provided an exemption to this policy in order to allow the students to stage protests, workshops and other events over the course of the weekend. They spoke at one of the trustee committee meetings, and engaged many trustees in individual conversations. I know that the Board recognized and respected the passion and commitment represented by their presence.
One message that many of us took away from the weekend was the need for more direct communication and interaction between students and trustees. I proposed to the Executive Committee of the Board that we consider adopting a practice of inviting the Carleton Student Association president, who is already an ex officio member of the Board’s Student Life Committee, to attend the full Board of Trustees business meeting to represent the student body and its concerns. They were enthusiastic about this change, and we implemented it immediately, inviting CSA President Jancyn Appel to attend Saturday’s Board meeting and offer a report. The Board appreciated her thoughtfulness, candor and dedication to student interests. We also discussed other ways in which the Board might engage more frequently with students. In the meantime, I encourage the campus community to learn more about the Board. Last week’s Carleton Today featured information about the newest trustees.
In addition to the formal actions noted above, there was continued discussion of the topic of divestment from fossil fuels. As I wrote last spring in Carleton Today, the Board has, over the course of the last year, not only received comments and input from the community on this topic, but engaged in conversations between members of the Investment Committee and members of CRIC (the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee), the Divest Carleton student group, and the Divest Carleton alumni group. They have also undertaken some analysis of the approaches taken by other institutions, and the possible impact of divestment on the endowment. The Board intends to bring this issue to a vote in February.