During the last few weeks of media coverage, several hot-button issues have come to the forefront of campus discussions. Anti-black violence at Yale, Mizzou, and other college campuses, terror attacks in Paris and elsewhere, and a new barrage of mass shootings in the United States have sparked both heated debate at Essie Mae’s and Sharples, and furious comments wars on Facebook feeds. During these times saturated with heavy and oftentimes deeply personal conversations, it becomes easy to jump to conclusions and buckle down on one’s own beliefs and values instead of opening up a space for constructive dialogue to take place. We at the Phoenix applaud the efforts of President Smith and Dean of Students Liz Braun for attempting to create exactly such a space with a community dialogue that took place earlier this week in the Admissions Commons.
The community dialogue is the latest in a series of events spearheaded or augmented by President Smith to create a more inclusive and mindful community that began almost immediately after she took office. Not even a year into her tenure as President, Smith has already supported the re-introduction of community-wide open collections in the Friends Meeting House, participated in a campus-wide community gathering, and been active in the remembrance of both Meg Spencer and Anthony Chiarenza `18. Even on her first day as president-elect, Smith took some time to hold an informal meet and greet with community members. We applaud her commitment to fostering a sense of campus community and for being open and accessible during times of strife.
While Dean Braun and President Smith serve fundamentally different roles on campus, it is difficult to champion Smith’s openness without also discussing Braun’s efforts to achieve similar goals. Dean Braun also helped organize the most recent community dialogue and the gathering for Chiarenza, but her work with community and student engagement extend far beyond that. Her regularly scheduled Coffee Talks were well attended this semester and show how the Dean’s Office is interested in receiving genuine, authentic feedback from students.
In difficult times, it is often easy to critique the administration’s shortcomings and flaws without giving proper credit for the work they do to create a better environment for the college community. The Phoenix hopes that the work of college administrators like Dean Braun and President Smith do not go unnoticed, and that others will follow in their footsteps.