Why did the Board of Trustees undertake this work?
The “Culture of Respect” report, published in 2015, recommended that the Colleges’ coordinate structure be contemporized to meet the needs of 21st century students. Since then, the Board has heard from a number of members of the HWS community who have expressed differing opinions on how that should take place. Although the sentiments voiced have differed, everyone has expressed an interest in ensuring that students have an educational environment in which they can thrive.
In October of 2018 and in an effort to bring greater clarity to the evolution of coordinate, the Board of Trustees tasked the Student Experience Committee of the Board to create “specific recommendations that will adapt our coordinate construct to ensure that all students are welcomed and supported.” The Board asked that those recommendations be delivered by the April 2019 Board meeting.
Who did the Student Experience Committee consult before making their recommendations?
The Student Experience Committee held multiple sessions on campus to discuss this issue with faculty, staff and students. In addition, the Committee consulted with the leadership councils of the Alumni and Alumnae Associations. Through the Office of Advancement, the Committee surveyed the entire alum network, gathering data from thousands of alumni and alumnae about their views on this issue. They also set up a dedicated email address so that anyone could reach the committee to share their perspectives. Students also met with the Committee and among themselves, sharing their ideas with the Committee. All of this information was used to generate the recommendations that came forward to the Board of Trustees.
Where can I see the complete list of recommendations?
The complete list can be found here.
Are these recommendations final or can we make suggestions?
The recommendations have been accepted and adopted by resolution of the Board of Trustees and are now policy. It is the responsibility of leadership on campus working with all faculty, staff, students, alumni and alumnae to implement those recommendations. As always, the Colleges welcome the feedback of all members of our community. Although these action items are now policy to be implemented, your comments could influence further actions in the months and years ahead.
Who served on the Student Experience Committee?
The Student Experience Committee consists of a number of trustees, faculty, staff and students, all of whom had the opportunity to contribute to the recommendations. Many also attended the on-campus sessions and webinars.
Trustee Edward R. Cooper ’86, P’16, Chair
Trustee Dr. Richard Wasserman ‘70, Vice Chair
Trustee Frank V. Aloise ’87
Trustee Linda D. Arrington ’88
Trustee Cassandra Naylor Brooks ’89
Trustee Dr. Stephen L. Cohen ’67
Trustee Dr. Jeremy T. Cushman ’96
Trustee Roy Dexheimer ’55, P’86, GP’18, LL.D. ’80
Trustee Jane M. Erickson ’07
Trustee Aloysee Heredia Jarmoszuk ’98
Trustee Gail Herman McGinn ’73
Trustee Dr. Deborah S. Pilla ’76
Trustee The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
Trustee Christopher S. Welles ’84, P’12, P’15
Trustee William T. Whitaker, Jr. ’73, L.H.D. ’97
Student Trustee Edens D. Fleurizard ’20
Student Trustee Gianna Gonzalez ’20
Student Trustee Gavin R. Gross ’19
Student Trustee Caitlin E. Lasher ’19
Vice President for Campus Life Robb Flowers
Dean of Hobart College Khuram Hussain
Dean of William Smith College Lisa Kaenzig P’22
Provost and Dean of Faculty DeWayne Lucas
Associate Professor of Chemistry Christine de Denus P’22, Chair, Committee on Academic Affairs, ex officio
Associate Professor of Political Science Vikash Yadav, Chair, Committee on Faculty, ex officio
Interim President Patrick McGuire, ex officio
I’ve been told that no individuals identifying as transgender were members of the Student Experience Committee.
To ensure that the Committee was considering recommendations from multiple viewpoints, the Board retained Dr. Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, a national expert on inclusion and diversity, who led sessions on campus and met with the Student Experience Committee.
It seems that this is the beginning of the eradication of coordinate entirely. Do you agree?
No; the Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution that states, in part, that the Board is committed to the coordinate heritage and mission of Hobart and William Smith. However, the Board felt that some policies and procedures did need to change to meet the needs of all students in the 21st century. Many of the recommendations put forth by the Board encourage a greater investment in the history and traditions of Hobart and William Smith and one recommends that the Deans create a speaker series to discuss the role of gender in the lives of all members of our community.
Note, as well, that the first recommendation offered by the Board requires that all members of the HWS community learn about the coordinate college system, including its traditions and importance to the Colleges. It also mandates that various administrative offices provide a consistent orientation to new members of our community in order to reinforce the Colleges’ commitment to coordinate.
I’ve heard that this was done primarily for students who identify as transgender. Is that true?
Although these policies will hopefully create a more welcoming environment for students who identify as transgender, they are ultimately made to benefit all students, giving them greater autonomy over how they navigate the Colleges and allowing them freedom to, for example, select their dean or decide on the nature of their diploma. The recommendations put forth include items that will also help cultivate a more inclusive environment including the creation of an LGBTQ+ alum group and the reimagining of Orientation practices.
In the “longer term” recommendations, there’s an implication that there are no existing single-staff, gender-neutral, and ADA compliant bathrooms on campus. Is that true?
The Colleges have been at the forefront of gender inclusivity work for a number of years. For example, we were among the first institutions in our comparison group to offer fully gender inclusive housing. From a facilities perspective, we have worked to ensure that many of our residence halls and major buildings on campus have an all-gender bathroom. We still have work to do.
How quickly will the third option for a degree (Hobart and William Smith Colleges) be available?
In order to make this option available to students and alums, we are seeking guidance from the New York State Department of Education in an effort to clarify technical aspects of our governing documents as they relate to the language on the degree. As soon as we receive clarification from the State, we will notify the community that the option exists, including instructions on how to make any changes.
How do students who identify as transgender navigate the Colleges now? Can you pick your college or switch between colleges?
Policies and resources regarding students who identify as transgender or non-binary can be found on the LGBT page of the Student Life section of the HWS website. The LGBTQ+ Resource Center opened in the fall of 2017 and has hosted a variety of programs around the sexuality and gender spectrum. The center, led by Campus Life administrators, also coordinates SafeZone training for students, faculty and staff, with 12 administrators offering the trainings. In this academic year, nearly 300 students have been SafeZone certified.
At HWS, students have the freedom to choose their name, gender and pronouns, regardless of their legal status, provided that choice is not for the purpose of misrepresentation. Once designated on the student’s record, the Colleges honor the preference in both the academic setting and throughout their student experience. Students and alums can also change their college affiliation by filling out a form online.
I’ve heard that the Colleges don’t talk about the coordinate structure with prospective students and that students only learn about coordinate when they arrive on campus for Orientation. Is that true?
No. The Colleges include information about our coordinate heritage and structure on our website (in the About and Admissions sections). Reference to our coordinate structure is also included in our admissions print publications and is a talking point in our information sessions and for our student tour guides.
The most recent admitted student survey conducted by Admissions shows that 90% of students know about our coordinate structure. We are always looking for new ways to share the coordinate nature of HWS with our prospective and current students, and we will continue to review and supplement our materials to ensure that we are doing everything possible to reflect the HWS experience.
Is housing changing on campus? Will the Hill still be women-only?
None of the recommendations are related to changing housing, other than planning for more single-stall, gender-neutral and ADA compliant bathrooms with showers.
What’s the timeline for implementing these recommendations?
The Board has tasked the senior staff to work in collaboration with faculty, staff, students, alumni and alumnae to make these recommendations a reality. This summer, we will begin this work in earnest, creating workgroups and timelines, and communicating our progress regularly.