Advisory council ponders multiple issues

Building renovations, college accreditation, and improvement of academic life were just a few of the subjects on the table at the latest Student Advisory Council meeting, which took place on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The group began by going over the agenda from the last meeting. Thomas Gunn, co-leader, emphasized that Taryn Colby, also co-leader, and himself want members of the council to follow negative concerns with positive solutions.

“The last thing any of us want is for this to become a complaining session,” said Gunn. “I got a little bit of a feeling that it almost started to become that way in our first meeting, and that’s the last thing I want, and I’m sure that’s the last thing all of you want.”

Issues that were brought back up for discussion included condensing the SGA, SERVE, and SLAP, as well as difficulty withdrawing club funds.

SGA President Nasser Abdel-Fatah was invited to attend the meeting to address recent developments in the way the SGA manages clubs and activities.

Colby noted that the SGA, SERVE and SLAP all have to go through Krista Swahn to get things done; she suggested the addition of another person, perhaps a student, to help Swahn with these tasks.

In the last meeting, the council members voiced concerns about difficulties with the transfer process and EDP classes. President Collins said that the administration is now in the process of hiring an advisor who would specifically deal with transfer and EDP student advising.

“Believe me, I’m trying to own this as a college responsibility, but I’m saying it’s an equal responsibility,” said Collins. “I mean, I want students to be equally as engaged in terms of their own education as to go out and find that advisor and say, ‘Hey, I’m having this problem. This is really important to me, you need to help me.’ Because I think if you will ask that question, or if you will try to get the help, we can get you in a better place. Not always and not perfectly, and we’re working on the rest of it.”

According to Collins, the administration is also working on renovating several buildings on campus, especially places that many students go through.

“We’ve heard that there probably won’t be an increase in state appropriation, which means no new money coming in from the state to help colleges balance an operating budget,” said Collins. “However, there seems to be more interest in supporting capital projects. And what the board has asked me to do is to get a proposal together, and it would be really cool if I could say that the students helped design these proposals that we’re bringing forward.”

Ross King suggested that McClelland should be made into a better, more “modernized” building for the grad students who have most of their classes down there. He mentioned chalkboards, outdated projectors and “spotty” wifi.

Colby added in the condition of the dance studio, and mentioned that the room should be made soundproof because of noise complaints.

Collins agreed with King and Colby, and said that McClelland and Dibden are definitely on the list to be “remodeled, refreshed and revitalized.” She has plans for the library and the athletics field as well.
According to Collins, Tom Fondakowski, general manager of Sodexo, is planning on doing a revision of Stearns’ dining hall.

Collins asked for the students to give suggestions for “band-aid” fixes for Dibden until there is enough money to renovate it. Gunn suggested moving the portrait of Arthur Dibden and putting a display of current shows in its place. He also mentioned the many empty glass cases that are taking up space in the lobbies.

King also suggested that action should be taken regarding smoking on campus, because students sometimes don’t smoke 25 feet away from the buildings like they’re supposed to.

According to Collins, there have also been conversations in administration about making it easier to transfer into JSC, EDP classes and off-campus classes.

Collins discussed certain task forces that she has organized, each of which will work on improving a different aspect of the college.
Enrollment is being led by Margo Warden, director of first-year experience, and Penny Howrigan, assistant dean of admissions and enrollment services. They will also work on creating four-year plan maps to help students plan for their future courses.

Dean of Academic Affairs Dan Regan will be working on academic quality, and faculty will be asked to create curriculum maps. There is also a team that is focused on increasing fundraising efforts on campus.

Collins wants JSC to be the premier public liberal arts college in the state; according to Collins, the key to this is receiving accreditation from COPLAC, the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

A consultant for COPLAC will visit campus on Dec. 10 and will be speaking with students about what makes JSC distinctive. The consultant will be Dr. Gordon Leversee, the dean of sciences and social sciences at Keene State College, which currently holds COPLAC’s designation for New Hampshire.

“There can only be one in the state,” said Collins. “So if we are successful in achieving this COPLAC designation, it would be Johnson.”

“Right now he is in review of our website to see if we live under the criteria of this organization,” said Collins. “I think we really excel in the criteria that are listed, so I think we’re going to do really well.”

The academic quality committee will be writing a report to COPLAC about how JSC meets their criteria, and next semester Collins is hopeful that an accreditation team will come next semester to talk to students again.

Collins believes that securing accreditation from COPLAC would be beneficial to the future of the college.

“From my mind, it kind of preserves your history,” said Collins, “because this has always been an amazing place to come for liberal arts education.”