By Josh Fogg, Guest Columnist
On Monday, Oct. 9, Student Senate held their normal weekly meeting. While Student Senate meetings are typically not the subject of the broader student consciousness, this week found all eyes turned to it. In attendance at this week’s meeting was President Bob Iuliano, Vice President for College Life Anne Ehrlich and Provost Jamila Bookwala, who came to give a short presentation addressing concerns of the campus community and answer student questions.
At first, I had little interest in attending a Senate meeting, even with President Iuliano in attendance. Only the day prior did I make the decision to attend and I’m glad that I did. As an outsider of Student Senate I was curious not only to hear the questions that were to be asked to President Iuliano as most others in attendance were, but I also wanted to see how the President and Senate interacted with each other on contentious issues such as the closing of The Gettysburg Review.
The presentation given by Iuliano and Ehrlich began with the moniker “nothing but the facts.” The purpose of their presentation, as they explained, was to quell rumors among students while addressing real concerns of the campus community with factual information. Within a manner of minutes both speakers discussed and dismissed various rumors such as the possibility of the school closing down and a significant tuition increase. Aside from dispelling rumors, there was also an emphasis placed on the positive contributions made towards enriching the “student experience,” such as the increased amount of funding for scholarships and tuition aid. Following that, it was also brought up that the incoming first year class will have a lower cost of admission to the college. Later in the presentation topics such as The Gettysburg Review were mentioned, with Iuliano and Ehrlich stressing that the administration must make tough decisions due to budgetary constraints. From their perspective, while it may anger some people, these are actions that must be taken for the College’s future. While most in attendance paid close attention to this short presentation, the Q&A that followed was the main attraction.
If there is a single word to describe my experience listening to the Q&A, it would be “unclear.” The first question thrown at Iuliano related to the closing of the Review, specifically the claim that the English department nor editors of the Review were informed of this decision to close the publication. The answer provided by Iuliano did little from my perspective to quell any concerns or rumors made about this issue. While responding to the student, Iuliano opted to not address the claim of not corresponding with the English department and instead focused on the budgetary aspects of their decision. Rather than addressing the actual question at hand, Iuliano explained that he was not going to go into those details. This follows a similar line of President Iuliano stating that he would not get into the “tick tock” of similar questioning during his interview for The Gettysburgian.
While the budgetary constraints provided in the presentation were again referenced in Iuliano’s answer, the lack of definitive response to the actual question indicated that many students would have more questions coming out of the meeting than they originally had coming in, despite their “nothing but the facts” approach. Other questions were raised including: the College’s termination of the education department, rising class sizes and the lack of student input in closing the Gettysburg Review.
While some questions received direct answers from Iuliano and Ehrlich, topics relating to the Review went repeatedly unanswered. During questioning on student input before the closure of the Review, Ehrlich made the case that while student input is vital for most administrative decisions, there are select times when it is not. There was a certain vagueness to this answer that I sensed immediately after, and from the looks I noticed around the room, I believe that others shared a similar sentiment. The Q&A segment lasted roughly 20 minutes before ending, and a significant number of those in attendance exited afterwards. My biggest takeaway from this meeting is that while “nothing but the facts” was the credo for the night, students walked out with increased skepticism, confusion and increased distrust of the administration and their decisions.
One student senate member, Ethan Foote ‘25, shared a similar sentiment. He stated that, “The comments were ‘nothing but the facts’ but the facts were quite non-descriptive.” During the meeting, Foote asked Iuliano a question on the possible closing of the observatory, with Iuliano stating that there were no plans to close the observatory. While certain areas of concern on campus were addressed which aided in elucidating some fears held of students, other areas found the waters muddied even further.
With respect to The Gettysburg Review, students deserved straightforward answers that elaborated on the specific reasons why the decision was made. Due to the amount of support among the student body, alumni and literary community for the reversal of this decision, being able to answer the most pressing claims and “rumors” regarding it should be tantamount. With a change.org petition nearing 3000 signatures by the time of writing, a number which exceeds the number of students at Gettysburg, there is all the more reason for the administration to be open to concerns raised about the Review’s closure.
While Monday’s senate meeting was meant to promote transparency with the greater student body, the vagueness of their answers foiled any attempt of it. As word of the closure of the Review spreads both on and off-campus, I hope that this is an opportunity to promote transparency between the administration and student body. If there is one way to benefit the student experience, as students both past and present have made clear, it is definitive and clear communication from the administration. If you approach a topic with nothing but the facts, expect others to hold you to that regard. With something such as The Gettysburg Review or countless other concerns made by students, we deserve nothing but the facts, and the administration has once again failed to live up to expectations by holding one-sided dialogue and giving non-answers to vital student concerns.