President Teresa Amott began her annual state of the college address Feb. 27 with the discussion of the harsh conditions this winter that have tired students, faculty and campus safety alike.
“I want to thank the student body who are rolling with the punches,” Amott said. “I’m very much looking forward to spring, and I know you are as well.”
According to Amott, there are quite a few things to be looking forward to in the coming months. The interim website that has been in place since December will be replaced in the summer with a fully renovated website that focuses on the human-powered education offered at Knox.
“I did not think the old website showed the energy that the campus shows every day,” Amott said.
The new website will be accessible on mobile devices, a much needed perk as the college aims to keep up with 21st century operations. The print publications and admissions materials are getting a facelift as well.
The strategic planning talks occurring this spring center on bringing the college up to date. Their focus is on community, gaining and retaining good faculty and investigating the best business model for a small liberal arts college.
There have been 40 preliminary goals established, divided into six areas of thought. A meeting in June will assess the priority areas and create a five-year action plan.
“I think as we move toward prioritizing, it will be easier as students to connect to the process and say, ‘This is a high priority to me, and this is not,’” Amott said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting opportunity for the campus to think ahead.”
Goals for an increased enrollment were not reached this year, as the current student population is a little less than last year’s. More applicants than ever have applied to Knox, but Amott warned of the national trend of high schoolers applying to more colleges. Amott hopes to gain “moderate growth” each year for roughly five years, assuring students that faculty and resources will remain in line with whatever growth that will occur. The best way to achieve that growth is with current students.
“I think our students are our strongest assets. You can connect with prospective students and talk about your experiences,” Amott said, encouraging students to get involved with prospective student visit days.
The high tunnels are up, though the weather was again combative, with persistently cold temperatures preventing the plastic coverings from being put in place. The composting initiative is revving up, as plans are in place to compost organic and campus waste this spring. More bikes are also being rehabbed in time for warmer weather.
The college will be sending out the National Collegiate Health Assessment survey in mid-April. The school is focusing on health, whether it be sexual, mental or physical to find out the needs of the students. Amott encouraged absolute honesty to help them get the best help to students in need of it. The survey will also be used as a benchmark against other schools to find out if Knox is where they need to be in their health services provided.
Title IX and sexual assault have also been gaining more attention. Title IX procedures are in the process of being revised to be more precise and articulate. The panel that handles sexual misconduct cases formerly had six people sitting, but has been reduced because national statistics have found smaller groups to be a better solution. The Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Allies for Sexual Assault Prevention are newly formed and re-formed groups who wish to prevent sexual assault and bring awareness to the student body about the issue. Internationally known lecturer Jackson Katz will speak at Knox on March 10 about gender violence, turning the focus away from victims toward male attackers, bystanders and the media. Amott made the promise that Katz is one of many speakers coming to Knox.
“25 percent of the student body is new every year. None of those people will have heard this year’s speakers, so you have to constantly reinforce deep community values,” Amott said.
Amott revealed the opening dates for Alumni Hall. Tours of the building will begin in October and move-in will occur over winter break. Offices that are moving include admissions and financial aid, center for study abroad, alumni affairs, research and advanced study, career center and community services. A high quality audio visual room, suitable for up to 150 people, will be open for student and faculty use. Public spaces for students to study will be offered inside Alumni Hall and out. Clusters of seating, such as custom adirondack chairs, will be available for students who prefer the outdoors. That is, Amott joked, “If there is ever good weather again.”