Student sessions with Vice President of Academic Affairs nominees were attended by a disappointing number of students.
The underwhelming student attendance in this matter was not due to lack of information or miscommunication on behalf of the organizers. Two forum-like discussion sessions were scheduled for each of the four candidates, one of which was specifically for students and took place after class periods ended. The schedule for the interview sessions was sent out in a newsletter for the Center for Intercultural Life. Student Senate also sent reminders to the student body separately for each candidate via email (the CV’s for each of the nominees were also attached to these emails). Students had enough time and resources to consider attending or questioning the qualifications of at least one candidate. However, every session proceeded in a similar fashion with only a handful of recurring faces. The few students who found the sessions to be of importance had questions prepared to make sure their personal concerns about their educational experiences at Knox were answered. The persistence of the aforementioned students raises concerns about the whereabouts of the rest of the student body.
It seems possible that the lack of student interest in participating in this process and voicing their opinions stems from a communal lack of knowledge about the responsibilities of the VP of Academic Affairs. Perhaps if there were informational emails sent out that explained the role of the VP of Academic Affairs in shaping campus climate and the student experience, Knox students would be more inclined to show up to the interview sessions. In the future, Student Senate or the head of the Hiring Committee could draft an email stating the roles and responsibilities of the position.
Another issue might have been student doubt that their feedback would matter. At a small liberal arts college like Knox, student feedback is essential to progressive operations and Knox has rarely fallen short in valuing student opinions. But to not remind students that their voices are being heard, to expect them to just know, is a complicit ridding of accountability in actively encouraging students to take their futures into their own hands. Coming from high schools and community colleges where students are treated like children, Knox students spend a lot of time unlearning that they are helpless when it comes to making administrative decisions. Although the climate of our campus has stayed focused on hands-on activism, opportunities to participate in administrative actions, such as the aforementioned interview sessions, need to be highlighted, packaged and advertised to ensure students of the heavy weight of their feedback.
However, the shortcomings in advertising the events and the lack of clear communication are not to serve as ways for the student body to find fault outside of themselves. The students of Knox College regularly create task forces and organize protests according to the political and diplomatic needs of the world around them. We are very skilled in demanding change and revolution when something happens that we don’t agree with. But when it comes to taking preventative measures, it seems that some students like to take a back seat and let the few recurring faces in the sessions take the wheel. Students need to attend events that are opportunities for them to keep the momentum of change going and influence problematic roots or we will always be stuck in the reactionary.