Student representation a contentious topic at 2nd Q&A session

Photo by Belle Ward

Photo by Belle Ward

by Kayla Reusche, Staff Writer

Student representation and potential plans for the theatre and public relations departments were the pressing issues at the second question and answer session President Simmons hosted at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday in the Jordan Lecture Hall.

The session was an intimate discussion between four students, four board of trustees members, Simmons and members of the president’s cabinet.

One topic of debate was if students could attend faculty meetings. Dean Kent Eaton said yes, but board member Sunnie Richer suggested taking an alternative route. She said board meetings are structured and aren’t the best way to express student concerns.

“What I would suggest is then you have a group of students meet with a group of faculty members, or a group of board members—whoever the relevant group is—and really have the kinds of meaningful conversation about what’s on your mind and really understand why people are doing what they’re doing,” she said.

Richer added that this is a proper alternative if students don’t feel like the student representatives represent them properly.

Senior Audrey Kaus mentioned that there was only one person who ran for student body president and vice president, respectively.

“That’s kind of on you guys,” Simmons responded.

Richer expressed her disappointment in the student body for that reason.

“Well then you guys sort it out because in the world, you’re going to have a lot of situations where you look like the bad guy. So, do you stand up, or do you just sit down and let things fester?” Richer asked.  “But to say that 1,200 people in this college aren’t willing to raise their hand and say ‘I’m gonna run,’ is a huge disappointment to me as a board member because I don’t know that I want to employ those people who can’t raise their hand.”

Much of the rest of the session focused on possible plans for the public relations and theatre departments.

Eaton addressed the restructuring of the public relations department with the termination of its full-time faculty member.

The college is exploring offering a hybrid program with the business department consisting of public relations and marketing classes, after the teach-out.

Until then, they will seek help to complete the teach-out primarily from the West Des Moines campus.

While Eaton offered a path for the public relations department, the future of aspects in the theatre department remain unknown.

With the cut of a full-time costumer, Kaus asked many questions, including the status of undergraduate assistants, work study positions and the new logistics of the department.

Simmons said he doesn’t know what will happen to the UGA positions but thinks they’ll continue to be a valuable resource.

Simmons has confidence the costuming department can operate with a part-time employee.

“I’ve been in higher education 30 years, and I’ve never had a full-time costumer and I’ve had departments that were bigger than ours in terms of majors and so forth. So, I know it can be done, and it can be done effectively,” he said.

Simmons said he wants to strengthen the partnership between the college and the Des Moines Metro Opera to share costuming and related costs.

Simmons and Eaton offered possible plans for these areas, but the future of art and world languages is unknown.

Simmons said if there’s enough demand, the college may still offer minors in those areas with adjunct professors. It’ll also evaluate new courses to add in those areas based on popularity and prospect.

Simmons assured students that courses in the eliminated programs and departments will continue to be offered.

“Just because there’s not a major doesn’t mean there will never be a course offering in that area,” he said.

Simmons said none of the appeals from last semester’s reductions were approved, so 12 faculty positions won’t exist in the coming months and years.