President David Greene sent out an official notice to all students addressing the College’s plans to improve various aspects of life at the College ranging from increasing support for the First Generation/Low Income (FLI) Program to ameliorating the ongoing housing shortage, to mitigating campus-wide WiFi issues. Greene’s email, sent on Nov. 4, seemed to be a direct response from the administration to student concerns regarding the quality of life at the College.
Greene began by noting the ongoing challenges students are facing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many members of our community are … experiencing significant stress and challenges to their mental health and emotional well-being,” Greene wrote. “It is more important than ever to watch out for one another and engage each other with compassion and kindness.”
He went on to acknowledge issues students have raised throughout the semester, framing his email as a response to these concerns. Greene recognized that hardships are experienced in disparate ways among individuals and groups.
“With that in mind,” Greene wrote, “I am increasing the resources allocated to our [FLI] Program. These resources will include an inaugural Pugh Fellow position to support first-generation and low-income students, as well as an additional $50,000 in annual funding for more robust FLI programming.”
Greene also described plans to create a new student success and support coordinator position within the Dean of Studies Office. The coordinator will work with class deans and the Director of Student Access and Disability Services Brian Doore to support students who may need financial assistance with textbooks, art supplies, and emergency travel.
His message then addressed a pressing issue among the student body this year: housing. Greene began by conceding that the College’s residential life program was facing “unusual pressure” as a result of many study-abroad programs being canceled, including the Global Entry Semester program, students returning from gap years, and the Class of 2025’s higher-than-anticipated matriculation rate.
While Greene noted that he expected the crisis to ease next semester given that 180 students are planning to study abroad in the spring, he also acknowledged the necessity of “a more comprehensive solution for housing.”
“At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting,” Greene wrote, “the board endorsed a housing plan … The housing plan has three phases. The first phase calls for four residential houses, each for 50 students (200 total), to be ready for occupancy in August … The second phase … is for a residential complex on Mayflower Hill Drive across from the Diamond Building … Phase three will be … the design and construction of a new residential and dining quadrangle on the current site of the Roberts parking lot.”
As of now, all these construction projects are set to be completed by 2025. Moreover, Greene claimed that the housing expansion will make it feasible to renovate existing residence halls over the same time period.
In the final section of his email, Greene turned to campus infrastructure. He said that students’ high expectations for the College’s infrastructure were warranted. In light of this, recent issues with campus network service were “especially troublesome and frustrating.”
While Information Technology Services has temporarily resolved these issues, Greene also highlighted the plan for a permanent solution. He wrote that the College has “successfully expedited delivery of new equipment that was to be part of our regularly scheduled upgrade next summer, with a goal of installing it in December.”
Abby Recko `22 was surprised to see Greene’s communication.
“I was honestly not expecting to hear anything from David Greene,” she said, “so it was kind of a nice surprise that he actually addressed some of the issues.”
“He had a good response to infrastructure complaints,” Recko continued, “however, the housing issue was a long time coming, and it’s a bit frustrating that the College is just getting started on addressing it.”
Recko also addressed what some students see as a wide gulf between the student body and administration.
“There’s still a significant divide between students and administration, and a lack of communication between the two groups,” she said. “If it took a football game protest to get one email from David [Greene], then it’s no wonder students feel they can’t go to the administration with their issues because nothing will change. We need to see more of upper administration actually addressing student concerns instead of hyping up appearances and things that don’t relate to the everyday student experience, like the AI institute or the downtown arts collaborative.”
Domenica Gomez `25 said that Greene’s email fell short in some respects.
“Many of the changes will occur over the course of the next few years, like several of the new dorm buildings which will be completed in 2025, so most current students will not be able to see the outcome of these changes,” she said. “Many of us were looking for more suitable housing options by next semester rather than waiting for four years to live in a proper dorm. I live in a forced triple, and I wish there were some more rapid improvements made to the housing situation.”
Gomez also explained how it felt to be a first-year amid the flurry of new initiatives on campus.
“It feels exciting yet frustrating to be arriving on campus during all of these improvements and announcements because I know it is likely that there will be construction and renovations during my time here, but I may not be able to see the end result,” she said. “Many of these important changes will be completed after I graduate, which is a shame because I wish I could see the results during my time here.”
Greene’s announcement comes at an opportune time when many members of the campus community are questioning the administration’s success in running the College effectively. While many of the proposed improvements may not be fully realized for years, Greene’s response may be an indicator of the administration’s willingness to listen to student complaints and to learn from their criticism.
~ Conall Butchart `22 and Milo Lani-Caputo `23