Planning Consultant Elaine Kuttner discussed with students on April 30 and May 1, next year's Steering Committee. The committee will include President Nancy Dye as chair, students, professors, board members and administrators whose job is to evaluate the College.
Kuttner revealed to students her "Evolving Draft" concerning the schedule of events for the Steering Committee next year. She said that the title is appropriate because "it literally is still evolving...it's evolves even more by what I hear."
The draft states that the college is "preparing to embark upon a process focus future-oriented dialogue." The process of discussions thoughout next year is expected to "culminate in the development of a brief docment (or a set of documents) which will substantially inform future planning and implmentation by approriate grous throghout Oberlin."
Throghout the year, the draft schedules future-oriented communication and articles to be available to everyone on campus, a "Future Symposium", where two or more individuals present different perspectives on the future, campus-wide planning forums or focus groups, to engage in in-depth discussions regarding the college's future, and Strategic Issues Committees to explore the questions resultd by the Steering Committee's final report in depth .
Kuttner said that she senses a true committment to students by President Nancy Dye.
Throughout the meeting on April 30, Kuttner took notes of students' suggestions and comments concerning the draft proposal. Five students attended the meeting.
Senator senior Matthew Cole asked Kuttner if the schedule for compiling members for the Steering team is realistic this school year. Cole felt that members for the committee should be chosen in mid-September rather than the end of this month.
Kuttner said she wants to prepare the schedule for next year. She also said that she wants to start quickly in fall so members should be selected this month. According to Kuttner, adding more people later this year to the committee would be a possiblity.
Senator junior Rebecca Bryan said she was concerned that many ideas that might arise out of dialog would be shot down because the College would find the proposals too expensive.
Kuttner responded by saying that she understands the potential fears people have that the planning would never become reality because the price tag would appear to be too high. "There has to be a balance between cost issues so they don't stop creative thinking," Kuttner said.
Kuttner asked the students present at the meeting what they found positive and negative about the draft proposal.
Cole said, "It's short. It feels good."
College junior Anne Bentley said she like it because "it involves students."
College junior Katey Howard said that she liked the fact that the College has created a position that calls for an expert in long range planning of universities.
Bentley was concerned, however, that the "divide and conquer" technique for discussions by Steering Committee members would expand and may possibly move in a "bizarre direction" from the rest of the group. Kuttner said that "it won't be in-depth if it is not divided."
Cole raised another concern saying that the Steering Committee should avoid resembling the actions of the Student Life Study Group (SLSG), a subcommittee of the Strategic Issues Steering Committee (SISC) in 1993. At that time, SLSG rebelled by writing an report independant from the Steering Committee's. SISC members included students, professors, trustees, class trustees, and director of athletics.
Bryan also said to Kuttner that the Steering Committee should "look at some power issues head-on by groups within faculty who are powerful and think they know everything." She also said it should look at power issues concerning professors who may not be respected by other professors. In addition, Bryan said that professors may feel that students do not know enough about the college and administration.
Cole added to Bryan's statements by saying that he felt that professors eaily drown out students when they are speaking at meetings. He suggested that one solution would be to take stack during meetings. Stack is a process where one student is assigned to write down the names of people, in order, who want to talk in a discussion.
According to Kuttner, she liked the way students held meetings at the college. Kuttner said that she was impressed with the college's "extremely sophiscated process oriented groups." She commented, "It's impressive. It's an interesting cultural norm."
Kuttner said she feels that in order to enhance some of the pieces of the Steering Committee, it needs to bring intelligent view points to the table. She added that key leaders are needed to have the ability to make proposals into realities.
She said, "Somebody has to make it happen." She said that the Steering Committee has the potential for a successful process if people in the organization embrace the process.
Cole said he found most important for "lots of student, lots of student activists" to be involved in the Steering Commitee.
Bentley said she was reassured of the intentions of the proposal by the meeting. She said that she found most important for the Committe to "involve a lot of different views and [make] a serious committment of energy and thought." She also said, "I don't think [the proposal] is frivolous."
Kuttner said that she sees the Steering Committee "to be an energizing force." She also said that the Steering Committee will "generate another level of excitement."
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 23; May 3, 1996
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