Interim president addresses students, faculty
WEST CHESTER >> In hopes of connecting with students, faculty and other administrators — and in hopes of encouraging open conversation — West Chester University Interim President Christopher Fiorentino held a more informal “state of the university” address than in previous years.
Instead of speaking directly from the podium, Fiorentino invited several students, administrators and faculty members to hold a guided discussion on stage about a variety of changes, highlights and issues facing the university in front of several hundred attendees.
Topics included current and planned construction projects, such as the estimated completion of the new business academic building on South Church Street near University Avenue, and an announcement of a new 160,000-square-foot dining facility to replace the current one by 2020.
Other topics included the university’s academic prowess; one example officials presented were the results of the summer’s Academic Development Program, where university officials accept a group of students who do not meet their standard criteria for admission, but believe they still could succeed in college.
Of the 194 students in the previous summer’s program, 27 earned a 4.0 GPA and 147 earned between 3.0 and 3.9.
Other panelists discussed diversity on campus. One senior student, Montanna Leaks, president of the university’s Student Government Association and an African-American, talked about racism on campus, and how she believed some
other students saw her only “for the color of her skin.”
She did say none of the faculty and a majority of the students did not give her that impression.
Closer to the end of the address, Erin Hurt, an associate professor with a doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Austin, spoke highly of, and advocated greater support for, the university’s Green Dot program.
The program, developed by the University of Kentucky, aims to improve bystander intervention by
training students and faculty about ways to successfully intervene when they witness, or believe they are about to witness, an act of power-based violence.
Such acts include rape and sexual assault. West Chester University’s Green Dot program was established in the spring of 2015.
She also called for a culture change, recalling incidents where students have casually joked about rape and sexual assault.
“The norms are rape is funny and it’s OK to do nothing,” she said. “Green
Dot is the answer to this.”
The university reported that two sexual assaults occurred on campus earlier this month.
Fiorentino ended the address by presenting a Civility Award to Gail Habbersett for her dedication and support to the university.
University officials held a reception on the academic quad immediately afterward.
West Chester University Interim President Christopher Fiorentino held an informal discussion Thursday.
Sophomore Montanna Leaks, current president of the West Chester University Student Government Association, discussed her views on racism.