Greene addresses administrative transparency

In the wake of controversial administrative rulings, many students and faculty have been pushing for increased transparency and involvement in major administrative decisions . President David Greene hopes to improve the issue this year by establishing relationships with members of all constituencies on campus and continually assessing the openness of the College’s communication channels.
Some members of the Colby community have been frustrated following events such as the renovation of the library, cancellation of the rugby teams last November and the handling of delicate disciplinary issues in the past. Students and faculty are eager for a better understanding of and facilitated participation in administration protocol. Greene is no stranger to the idea of administrative transparency and, immersing himself in the issues on campus, he recognizes that many in the community remain focused on the topic.
In terms of Greene’s administrative plans and goals for the College’s growth, he commented: “I think what people should know, if they don’t see it already, is how committed I am to Colby and how important the school is to me. It is an important obligation to be thinking about continuing to make Colby a stronger and stronger place over time.… The foundation is here, the place is so terrific, if we set our sights really high, and think about how it can continue to evolve, the upside is unlimited.”
Greene’s goal is for students and faculty to feel comfortable interacting with and trusting the administration. “It is easy for people to think about the administration as faceless bureaucrats,” he said. “[But] one of the great things about the scale of this community [is that] we can engage at a more personal level about things.”
“In the end, many of us are trying to do the best we can at the work we are charged with. We’ll be in conflict at times. I do think, though, that understanding that starting from the human side of things instead of the faceless bureaucrat side, allows for a different kind of engagement and real honest engagement,” Greene said.
Greene is trying to interact directly and individually with members of the community and hopes to continue to get to know the different communities within the College through conversations, forums and discussions. “I want to acknowledge different groups and individuals and how hard they work,” Greene said.
One way Greene hopes to do this is by inviting different groups from the community to his house for dinner and a conversation. “I never went to the president’s house when I was in college, so I wanted it to be a part of people’s lives,” he said. “Building community is important to me, and we have a great sense of community, but that area can always be stronger.”
The first group Greene welcomed into his home was the Physical Plant Department (PPD). “I saw how hard [PPD] worked over the summer, and wanted to thank them for the work they do on behalf of Colby,” Greene said.
He also invited athletic teams and coaches because “I watched student athletes, who came early and were working hard before all the students got here, and wanted to acknowledge that and how important it is they represent the College…and the same thing with the coaches, who often, in a way, don’t get full appreciation.”
Green extended invitations to future dinners to other facets of campus including students involved in the Pugh Center, Presidential Scholars, faculty and students involved in the Student Government Association (SGA). “We’re trying to make sure all faculty get invited to the house to have conversations about intellectual life, the work of faculty and their research and teaching.… It will be a way to stimulate conversation about what they want Colby to be and learn about the work of the faculty,” Greene said.
Greene is known for sitting down and starting spontaneous conversations with students around campus. Most recently, Greene and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jim Terhune sat with a student during lunch in Dana Dining Hall.
“It’s probably horrifying for people that I will sit down with them. I would have been horrified if the president did that to me, so I am sympathetic to that,” Greene said. “But one of the things I’ve found is that if I just sit and talk with people, it’s extremely helpful in understanding how people live their lives and what works well. It gives me a feel for this place that is very helpful.”
Similarly, Greene is making the effort to get to know as many members of campus as possible. “I want to know people in the community and say hello to people walking on the path.… We are here for a purpose and we should acknowledge one another and say hello,” he said.
In his previous positions, Greene has found that administrative mistakes stem from a mistake of process or of communication. In his efforts to create an environment where all members of campus feel equally represented and understand the decision-making process, Greene focuses on communication in particular.
“I have someone who is always there thinking about communications. [Someone] thinking about governance—‘Do we need to include people in the decision making process?’ … Somebody always thinking, ‘Are we communicating openly?’ and somebody else thinking, ‘Have we thought through this? Have these groups been consulted properly?’” Greene said.
Greene recognizes the damaging role that anonymous posting websites and apps play for students when the community is attempting to foster open discourse.
In the past, Colby Confessions, a Facebook page that enables people to post anonymously, and most recently Yik Yak, a smartphone app that allows people to post anonymously within the same vicinity, have been outlets through which students discuss and debate hot topics on campus such as underage drinking and diversity issues. “I find anonymous posts very troubling,” Greene said. “They can cause great damage to the community here. We need to be able to have the most difficult conversations, but defend statements and defend beliefs.”
Along with his efforts to bring members of campus into his home, speak individually and spontaneously with students as well as emphasize the importance of open and effective communication, Greene hopes to create a space on campus for students to have discussions on relevant issues.
Greene described the space as “an ongoing community forum to have discussions on whatever issues are [of interest], put them on the table and address the issues that affect the community by proactive, hard conversations….I think that is a much more powerful, harder thing to do, and that is the way you move forward.”

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