Greene updates College on October Board meeting

On the weekend of October 23, the College’s Board of Trustees came to the Hill for their first on-campus meeting of the year, in which they discussed topics ranging from facilities to the revitalization of Waterville’s downtown.

President David A. Greene, a member of the Board, updated the College on the meetings in an Official Notice email. The first discussion Greene addressed in his message surrounds the academic mission of the College: “The Board reviewed extensive data on the student experience and considered emerging plans for strengthening, focusing, and better integrating the campus life experience with our academic mission.” Ways in which the administration hopes to address these plans include “preparing students for exceptional postgraduate opportunities…and [a] commitment to diversity and inclusion,” according to the Official Notice.

At an event during Family Homecoming Weekend, Greene also added that he hopes to create an increasingly global focus for the College, present during both study abroad opportunities and in classrooms on the Hill.

A second point of discussion for the Trustees was how the College plans to combat sexual misconduct and violence on campus, something that Greene wrote “the Trustees are deeply interested” in fighting. In addition to the Clery Act report that was recently released to the community, the Trustees had to deliberate on additional controversies. One of the most publicized conversations had to do with actor and comedian Bill Cosby, who has been accused of dozens of acts of sexual assault by several individuals. The College granted Cosby an honorary degree in 1992 when he was the commencement speaker. Like many of the 60 colleges that have granted Cosby an honorary degree throughout his career, Colby has come under pressure to rescind it in order to make a statement about the College’s intolerance for sexual misconduct.

The Board responded to this pressure by releasing a statement, which in part reads: “Although Colby College does not rescind honorary degrees, the Board shares the deep concerns expressed by many about the conduct attributed to Mr. Cosby. The board believes that the most appropriate and meaningful way to address both this situation and the disturbing prevalence of sexual misconduct revealed in surveys is to ensure that Colby becomes a leader in sexual violence prevention, education, and support.”

In an online article published on October 29 the Echo noted that Haverford College, George Washington University, The College of William & Mary, and Yale University also “believe that once degrees are given they cannot be taken away.”

The discussion about Cosby’s honorary degree led to a more broad conversation on the granting of such degrees. Greene wrote that the members of the Committee on Honorary Degrees “agreed that it would be useful to review the College’s practice for awarding degrees with the expectation of clarifying their purpose and criteria and bringing greater transparency to the selection process.” According to Greene, the Board will “appoint a representative working group” to continue this conversation and draw conclusions. The College, like many others in the country, has come under fire during its history for awarding honorary degrees on the basis of donations from, rather than merit of, the recipient.

In regards to campus facilities, Greene stated that “planning for performing arts, library, and athletic facilities” took place over the weekend. Of the three realms, Greene noted that athletics are “furthest along in planning” and that the Board approved Hopkins Architects to design the College’s forthcoming athletic complex. The London-based firm has worked on projects ranging from the 2012 Olympics velodrome, to residential and academic buildings at Ivy League universities.

Exciting real estate projects continue off-campus, where Greene announced that the College has purchased its fourth property in downtown Waterville. The most recent purchase is located at 13-15 Appleton Street, according to an email correspondence with Assistant to the President and Director of Planning Brian J. Clark. According to an online Echo article, the value of the land of the properties “totals $39,000 and the building value totals $126,200.”

Vice President for Communications Ruth Jackson told the Kennebec Journal that “the area of Main Street and Appleton is one that is deemed to be an important area for the revitalization effort.” According to the Journal’s report, Jackson would not comment on specific plans for the space or whether the College can be expected to make more purchases downtown.

The other properties that the College has purchased include the Levine building, the Hains building, and 16-20 Main Street. In his email, Greene said that potential uses for these downtown spaces include “a hotel, a Colby residential complex, and new retail.”

Greene wrote that, overall, he and the trustees “left this meeting energized by the important work ahead.”

Leave a Reply