A two-way street as communication

Bwog’s Barnard Bureau Chief Renée Kraiem visited the Diana Center Event Oval last night. There, Barnard students and administrators gathered over falafel and hummus to cultivate better collaboration between students and administrators.

The evening began with an administrative panel on the issue that included Annie Aversa, Dean for Campus and Residential Life, Avis Hinkson, Dean of the College, and Joyce Lewandowski from Student Life, Director of Orientation and Activities, all monitored by Abigail Lewis, the Associate Director of the Athena Center.  Lewis presented three key aspects of communication for panelists to address: communication, role modeling, and transparency. “Complete transparency isn’t always appropriate, or desired,” said Lewis, but urged the panel and its audience to address what area of policy could realistically be more transparent.

Dean Hinkson, for her part, insisted that communication is a “two-way street,” and categorized the issue as “how to cultivate responses, pause, and really listen to those responses.”  Hinkson highlighted the difficulty she and other administrators have experienced in trying to cultivate responses, citing the meager ten responses she received to her email regarding housing this week. “Obviously it’s an issue of trust,” said Hinkson. “The degree to which you believe that I am being truthful will guide your opinions and your responses and what you choose to share as well…but I hope that as we enter into dialogue we are always coming with our best foot forward.”

Lewandowski and Aversa echoed AHinks’s comments, stressing that, on the housing front, “a simple question is never really a simple question,” and their respective struggles to solicit feedback from a wide range of students. “I look through comments on campus media,” said Lewandowski, and “those are the things I always keep in mind when I’m making changes to the schedule. So keep writing those op-eds, keep posting stuff on campus media because we do read it…and for me personally, I do take it very seriously.”

The evening concluded with discussions between administrators and student attendees at individual tables that included a breadth of recent policy changes on campus, including the ongoing negotiations between the college and Local 2110 UAW workers, the fall housing crisis, and the recent decrease in free counseling sessions at Furman, to name a few. All tables carried on excited discussions through the meeting’s scheduled ending at 8 pm, and for the next half hour almost all administrators remained in the Event Oval speaking with even smaller groups of students. The productivity of this notwithstanding, the issue still stands that, in the words of Aversa, “if we’re so reliant on student feedback…and we get [such] a small proportion of responses…how can we get a larger group of students…how can we communicate that to students? Apparently, Barnard is going to need more than falafel.

Metaphor via Wikimedia Commons