In­terim pres­i­dent ad­dresses stu­dents, fac­ulty

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Adam Farence afarence@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @afarence on Twit­ter

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.

ADAM FARENCE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Ch­ester Univer­sity In­terim Pres­i­dent Christo­pher Fiorentino held an in­for­mal dis­cus­sion Thurs­day.

ADAM FARENCE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Sopho­more Mon­tanna Leaks, cur­rent pres­i­dent of the West Ch­ester Univer­sity Stu­dent Govern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, dis­cussed her views on racism.

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