Trustees Return to Oberlin to Better Understand Student Life

This week, Oberlin administrators, faculty, trustees, and student senators convened for the Board of Trustees’ first 2018 meeting. The trustees participated in several events, including President Carmen Ambar’s proposed financial review and the first ever student organizations expo, as well as the traditional student-trustee forum and board-sponsored 5K run.

After a successful December trustee meeting, where board members learned about campus via student-led tours — tours that largely led to Wilder Hall’s renovation — Senate hopes to further its creative approaches in engaging students and board members in dialogue.

“We identified that trustees were concerned about a lack of student interfacing,” College senior and Senator León Pescador said. “At the same time, we realized that students have been concerned with representation. We haven’t been doing enough to get student voices to the floor.”

The student organizations expo was meant to address both concerns and build a bridge between current students and trustees. Representatives of different student groups and clubs convened in Wilder Main yesterday night, setting up tables to present their work and organizational needs to trustees.

“The trustees loved the trustee tours in December, and they loved being able to engage with students in a new format, and so we’re continuing that this semester by having [an] expo that organizations will be able to be present at, and [where] trustees can also engage with different student club,” College junior and Student Senate Chair Kameron Dunbar said. “[We’re] working to help trustees understand what student life looks like so that they can make more informed and contextualized decisions. I’m really excited about this because I think this shows Senate making material and concrete steps towards collaboration and really impactful engagement with the board.”

This will be the second semester that the board will also receive a letter from Student Senate in their board book — the binder with all of the board’s documents and information for the weekend. This book also typically contains letters from the president and chair of the board.

“That letter … talks about what Student Senate is, it talks about what we’ve been working on for the semester, and then, most importantly, it gives a series of recommendations for the board from a student perspective,” Dunbar said, who wrote senate’s memo to the trustees. “We talked about the need to invest in both campus community spaces and campus housing options. In my presentation [to the board this weekend], I bring up making sure that we keep student perspectives at the forefront through the [Administrative and Academic Review] process. So one thing I’ll be negotiating with President Ambar and her senior staff is what will the student role in the [AAR] process look like, and hopefully that will all be done through Senate.”

This weekend, President Carmen Ambar will present her financial powerpoint to the board — which all other constituencies have seen at this point — along with her proposal for an administrative and academic review, which would involve bringing in an outside firm, Steven’s Strategy, to analyze the financial and academic assets of the College.

Steven’s Strategy is a higher education consulting firm that specializes in analyzing and quantifying institutions’ financials. The board will then either vote to table or approve Ambar’s proposal.