College president addresses student questions, concerns at first of two town halls

Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith told the audience of students Wednesday afternoon: ‘I want to know how we can make your student experience at YCP better … this is an institution for you.’

By Ben Weyman

Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith talked with students about their questions and issues at a town hall meeting on Tuesday evening.

It was the first of two that the president has scheduled. The next one is Thursday, Feb. 23, also in the Waldner Performing Arts Center (WPAC).

She was joined by Associate Provost Dr. Joshua Landau and Dean of Student Development Dr. Richard Satterlee. Roughly 15 to 20 students attended: it was a small turnout but those who attended were vocal throughout the meeting.

The President insisted that she wants to establish a direct line of communication between herself and students and encouraged students to speak their minds.

“I wanted to hear directly from you,” she said before starting her presentation. “I want to know how we can make your student experience at YCP better … this is an institution for you.”

Gunter-Smith unveiled YCP’s Strategic Plan 2.0, the second of two five-year plans under her leadership. She described it as a continuation of the first strategic plan with changes and expansions to offset the pandemic’s effect on higher education.

The first point of the plan covers educational innovation. She talked about experiential learning: classes where students get real-world experience alongside a classroom education.

“This [experiential learning] will be even more of a hallmark of York College,” the president said. “We’re trying to make experiential learning more accessible to all students here at the college.”

She also talked about enrollment, more specifically attracting prospective students to YCP.

“How do we develop a pipeline of students that want to come to York College?” the president asked. She went on to say that offering summer programs to high school students will give them a taste of the school, hopefully leading them to consider YCP when the time comes.

The president also expressed her desire to improve student success on campus. Part of her plan is to implement better resources and outlets for students to receive help. She says that the school is considering how to implement better mental health resources on campus so that students and faculty can take a proactive approach to mental health. More recreational options are one option that the leadership is considering.

Gunter-Smith then opened the floor for students to address their concerns. The questions were extremely varied — some were about campus-wide ideas while others were more specific.

Several questions were about COVID. One student asked what graduation would look like. The president said it will be outside and masks will not be required.

Another student expressed her frustration toward the school’s Zoom policy; this student believed that attending classes via Zoom should still be an option to those who cannot attend due to illnesses other than COVID.

Landau insisted that it is OK to miss classes sometimes, but students should work with professors to get caught up.

“Do something else … get the notes, meet with the professor, deal with things individually. We’ve asked professors to work with you,” he said. “Fundamentally, what we do here is in person. Some days you miss the class, and you should. There’s time to step back and not push that hard.”

Gunter-Smith took advantage of a long pause to thank the student body for their hard work and patience with the COVID restrictions on campus. The school is working on relaxing some restrictions and will keep students updated with periodic newsletters.

One student asked if reading day would be returning after being axed last semester. Landau said reading day will not happen this semester but that it has already been worked into the fall 2022 semester.

Gunter-Smith fielded a question about what will happen to the Country Club apartments.

“Country Club has a lot of issues. We will take them down and eventually build something new,” the president said. She then spoke about the school’s plan for housing renovations across campus.

“We’re going to focus on upgrading Penn and Beard, doing something in the Manors, and renovating West Campus. It [West Campus] will be a mixed-use space with some retail but we won’t get there for a while.”

Before ending the meeting, Gunter-Smith challenged the audience to a speed round; she asked the audience to make a list of 10 things they would like to see on campus. They produced seven items.

The list is as follows:

  1. Women’s-only gym
  2. More commercial food options
  3. Recorded lectures
  4. More food options on West Campus
  5. New building dedicated to student event spaces
  6. More transportation options between campus and downtown York
  7. More diversity events on campus

That concluded the presentation and conversation.

Ben Weyman is a senior majoring in Mass Communications.

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