Construction continues but questions remain about fall semester

Meg Edwards and Hailey de la Vara
Transcript correspondents
mmedward@owu.edu
hhdelava@owu.edu

Ohio Wesleyan’s construction and renovation plans continue to go forward despite the coronavirus pandemic, but no one, including OWU President Rock Jones, knows if students will return in the fall.

“I don’t know if we will be back on campus in the fall,” Jones said in an interview. “No one knows if we will be back on campus in the fall.”

At a time when uncertainty is a constant for everyone, Jones said he is working 12 hours a day just to keep up with the flood of emails and questions from people.

One concern is OWU’s international students and their ability to come back to campus.  About 100 were enrolled this semester and close to 35 students remain on campus. But with travel restrictions, it is highly likely they may have to continue to work remotely. The university will ensure that option is available, Jones said.

“We hope they will continue to be Ohio Wesleyan students,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, the university will press ahead with projects. Construction of the senior village apartments will start at the end of the month.

“The Board of Trustees believes it is critical to move forward with this work to enhance our ability to attract and retain students in an even more competitive recruiting environment,” Jones wrote in an April 6 administrative report to faculty.

The renovation of Smith Hall will continue, too, but the university is delaying for a year the planned $11 million project to renovate 122-year old Slocum Hall.

At the end of March, OWU finished raising over $4 million to completely renovate Branch Rickey Arena, the space where men and women’s basketball teams and volleyball and wrestling teams compete.

The refurbished facility will be air conditioned and include new flooring, bleachers, scoreboards with statistics panels, lights, and a sound system. The main lobby will be redone to create an entryway that highlights current Bishops, past champions and the legacy of the building’s name sake.

The money for the work came entirely from donations from alumni, parents of students and friends of OWU. Work is scheduled to begin in May and be completed in October 2020, but construction workers are already removing bleachers, Jones said.

Renovating the arena is important not just for student athletes, but for the whole community of Delaware, which uses it for summer camps and large events, especially when air conditioning will be in place, Jones said.

Cole Hatcher, OWU’s director of Media and Community Relations, said improving a campus facility benefits all students, including prospective students.

“I think everyone will appreciate seeing the new entryway that honors current and former Bishop athletes as well as Branch Rickey himself,” Hatcher said. “The All-American Lounge will be a wonderful addition as well.”

Renovations obviously will affect athletes and Jones in an April 3 email to faculty said he was “grateful to Coach (Krista) Cobb and the student athletes who will be impacted by this removal.”

But as volleyball team members said, they don’t play for the gym, they play for the team.

That was the decision that senior Molly Jewett came to with her teammates after learning their upcoming season games will be held in the field house, while Branch Rickey Arena is undergoing renovations.

“Wherever we are, we will still be OWUVB,” she said.

Freshman Chloe Merritt said she is not worried about the renovation interrupting the season,

“Rock Jones and (athletic director) Doug Zip and others have been super helpful and have done a very great job communicating with us on a personal level about the renovation and the process with it,” Merritt said.

Columbus-based Marker, Inc. is working on much of the construction on campus, but no contract has been finalized for the arena’s renovations. Marker built the Small Living Units on Rowland Avenue and has done LEED-certified environmentally friendly projects in the past.

Parking will not be affected by the arena’s renovations, Jones said. The only visible exterior change will be the entryway honoring the story of Rickey.

Jones also said no plans exist for a reopening celebration, but the campus will come together to celebrate when the work is done, Jones said.

“Campus is a ghost town,” Jones said. “I hate no one is here. We want to bring it back to life.”

After rocky start, students on near-empty campus labor to acclimate to strange new college lifestyle

Azmeh Talha
Editor

Caitlin Jefferson
Transcript Correspondent

aatalha@owu.edu
cmjeffer@owu.edu

Ohio Wesleyan University, a bustling campus abuzz with college students just a few weeks ago, has pivoted into a near ghost town.

Gone are more than 1,300 enrollees, most of whom have returned home for the remainder of the semester due to the rapidly spreading, highly contagious novel coronavirus.  Only about 50 mostly international students remain, said OWU President Rock Jones.

Jones, in a campus-wide email sent Wednesday, said recent events had created an overwhelming sea change for business as usual.

“We have found ourselves in the midst of a new normal none of us imagined and without a definite end date,” he wrote. “In all my years of higher education, nothing else has so profoundly transformed our institutions and shaken our students experience or the work that (faculty and staff) do.”

At this point, the administration is unsure how long the students living on campus now will remain. Jones said that issue has not been discussed, but will be in the future. He referred additional questions to Brian Emerick, director of Residential Life, who could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, students do their best to carry on in this new and abnormal campus lifestyle.

Sophomore Joy Buraima, from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, said she was given permission to stay until the end of the semester. She is living in the LA CASA Small Living Unit.

“Even if I wanted to go home, I could not as the borders have been closed. It would have been so inconvenient too, as I am meant to be here in the states during the summer for a program,” Buraima said.

Buraima, who said she is trying to stay positive through the pandemic and all the changes it has caused, thinks OWU has done a good job keeping students on campus informed.

“They’ve all expressed their willingness to make things work regardless and have all offered a great deal of support and flexibility,” she said.

At times, Buraima said she has experienced information overload, yet she is still curious about what happens when the semester ends.

“It’s fairly difficult to not get flooded by the plethora of information out there concerning this and other matters of emergency,” she said. “I would like to hear from (OWU) how this will affect other upcoming events meant to be held in the summer. I do understand, though, that nobody has any fixed answers due to the ever-changing nature of this situation.”

Humor has helped her cope with this, at times, frightening situation and she said most of her friends are doing their best to follow the guidelines set by the university.  She’s also thankful for the unwavering support of her parents, who live across the globe.

“I think I’m feeling better every day. It was very rough at first but I’m confident that we can make things work, somehow. It’s all we can do anyway,” Buraima said.

Sophomore Mukami Mboche, from Kenya, said her parents, while far away, are still a big help in keeping her worries in check.

“My parents keep me updated on what is going on at home,” she said. “They help me by keeping me calm about the whole situation and reassuring me that everything will be fine both at home and here as well.”

Mboche is living in Hayes Hall through June, when she will go back to Nairobi, but she worries about travel bans that may still be in place.

“I am extremely nervous … Kenya has set a travel ban,” she said “But I am hopeful that by July this virus will be gone or going and the ban will hopefully be lifted.”

As a fine arts major, remote learning has been a challenge, especially for classes like studio art. But her professors have helped, she said.

“It will challenge me to stay focused on schoolwork and to not get distracted by the comfort of my room and bed,” Mboche said.

Self-isolation is getting to her, but Mboche said she and her friends are taking the pandemic seriously by implementing social distancing.

“We implement social distancing heavily, and only make contact a few times for meals … we stay separated just as a precaution,” she said.

Not all on-campus students are from foreign lands. Senior Ruby Scheckelhoff, from Columbus, has remained and is living in Smith Hall because a family member at home has a compromised immune system.

A big stress for Scheckelhoff is remote learning. She said she feels as though her classwork has been tripled and she has no time on the weekend to prepare for work during the school week.

“This has been incredibly detrimental to my learning to have so much work,” she said. “Professors do not seem to care about a weekend anymore either.”

On top of being overwhelmed with this new learning style, Scheckelhoff has been coping with not being able to finish out her senior year the way she would have liked.

“I definitely took time to be selfishly angry about leaving as a senior,” Scheckelhoff said. “There were people I never had the chance to say goodbye to that I probably won’t see again.”

She said she is following social distancing guidelines and is finding things beside school work to keep her busy while staying in her room.

“I have expanded into the other half of my room and gave myself an office space for school, then I have a room for sleeping and video games, among other things,” she said.

Restricted dining hours in Bishop Café have been an irritating inconvenience, too, but OWU did put an extra $200 into all student’s dining dollars through the end of the semester, she said.

Scheckelhoff tries to find ways to stay active and not be repetitive each day, although it is difficult because of so little human interaction.

“Even being an introvert, it is hard to not see other people,” Scheckelhoff said. “When I open my window, I see no one and it feels dystopian.”

Sophomore Astrid Koek, from the Netherlands, has also struggled at times, but also realizes she is not alone.

“I have good days and bad days and honestly I think I am in no place to complain,” Koek said. “My situation is interesting, but it is no worse or more sad than anyone else’s.”

One of Koek’s Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters let her live at her house until she returns home again. She said she keeps in touch with her family through FaceTime every day.

“I feel like we are creating a strong bond from this situation and my parents are teaching me to see the good in every situation, which I am very grateful for,” Koek said. “I love being home, but I really like being here.”

Friends helped Koek move to the house where she now lives and OWU provided all international students with three boxes and free storage. She misses her people but also feels lucky.

“Seeing all my friends at home with their families made me miss mine more, but I did not want to complain because I am in a privileged situation just being here,” she said. “Being alone right now is somewhat scary, but it also makes me realize how very lucky I am to have certain people in my life and for all the friendliness I have received here.”

Statement by OWU President Rock Jones

November 13, 2019

As the OWU family comes together for the One OWU Gathering of Unity and Support today, I find myself reflecting on the fractures in our social order and what it means to speak of One OWU.

In recent years, we have seen growing expressions of hatred and division within our society. Those expressions find voice in the anonymity of social media, in the rallies held by hate groups, and in the deeply divisive rhetoric of elected leaders. Most recently, an outside group has come on our campus placing stickers promoting its repulsive propaganda. The FBI describes this group as being “tied to a neo-Nazi Racially Motivated Violent Extremist ideology.”

My own emotions run high when learning this group has inserted itself here at OWU. Emotions ranging from anger to fear to bewilderment have been expressed by many and reflect my own initial feelings. These are appropriate responses, though I might add these are just the responses that organizations like this seek to promote. They look to create division and sow seeds of discord. They want chaos rather than order. They seek to cloak their own profound insecurities in a blanket of self-righteous superiority finding its most grotesque expression in various forms of white supremacism and other racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiments, and numerous other hate campaigns.

I am deeply grateful and proud to note that on the OWU campus their presence has had just the opposite impact. Their visit here has surfaced a different set of values; values that have the power to unite rather than to divide, to heal rather than to hurt, to affirm rather than to reject, to build rather than to destroy. Rather than chaos and division, their brief stop at OWU has led to unity and support.

These values are deeply embedded in OWU. We are a community that has long appreciated the presence of difference while at our core this diverse community is one. When we speak of One OWU, we speak of a community that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. But more than valuing these principles, we understand them to be a call to action. They call us to the never ending pursuit of civil rights and social justice for all people.

That work is far from complete, including here on campus. While our values are strong, our human frailty means there are times when we fail to live up to our values, with some on campus feeling the benefit of diversity and inclusion more than others. There are times when our own words and actions are hurtful and marginalizing.

We have work to do in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have work to do in response to the call to civil rights and social justice.

When we say we are One OWU, we commit ourselves to that work.

When we say we are One OWU, we affirm the dignity of every human being.

When we say we are One OWU, we stand in solidarity, working to ensure that the strength of our solidarity is shared by all, most especially by those who are marginalized and who are the direct targets of hate.

When we say we are One OWU, we celebrate the beauty of a community enriched by the presence of individuals who experience life in many different ways, with diverse talents, identities, and expressions of the human experience.

When we say we are One OWU, we acknowledge that we are better because we are not just alike.

When we say we are One OWU, we note the unity that binds us together in our differences. We think, we vote, we worship, we dress, we dance, we play, we love, and we see the world in different ways.

And yet, we are One OWU. Because we believe that difference is a strength. We believe that respect is a virtue. We believe that love is the better way. That’s why we say Hate Has No Home Here.

Today this is profoundly visible through the One OWU Gathering of Unity and Support. I am grateful to those who have planned this gathering, and I am grateful to every person on campus who every day lives the values of our University and our commitment to One OWU.

Rock

OWU Fires Long-term Staff Members without Giving Notice

By Azmeh Talha

Transcript Reporter

Arts and Entertainment Editor

aatalha@owu.edu

Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) dismissed four employees this past summer in budget cost cutting move. They were escorted off campus, which some say violated the sense of community that OWU promotes.

Dr. Anne Sokolsky, the program chair for comparative literature,described the security escort as over the top. She further said that OWU is a small liberal arts college, not a corporation.

“Security detail to escort long-time staff person who supported our university over the years just seems like a horrible way to end someone’s work life here,” Sokolsky said.

Joy Gao, an OWU librarian for 20 years was fired over the July 4 weekend. Another librarian also was terminated from her position but would not talk on the record. They were terminated in an effort to balance the 2019-20 fiscal budget, President Rock Jones said. Jones said the dismissals had nothing to do with the performance of the staff members.

“The university made a number of personnel decisions, including leaving positions unfilled, combining positions, reassigning duties and eliminating positions – some which were occupied and some vacant,” Jones said.

Gao described her dismissal as humiliating, inhumane and abrupt. She said she gave the best years of her life to OWU and she was dismissed without being given any notice. Gao also compared her dismissal to a sudden death in the family; the death is so sudden that it is difficult.

Gao sent an email on July 28. to different faculty departments about her dismissal with the subject “A more dignifying good bye.” In the email she said:

“I was let go by OWU today and it was very abrupt! I was called to meet Scott from Human Resources and was informed that my position was eliminated! I only had a few minutes to gather my stuff from the office.”

When contacted, Scott Simon, the director of human resources, refused to comment.

Gao said her library colleague, who was also fired, was escorted off campus by Public Safety.

“…to see her escorted out by a security guy, it was just heartbreaking!  We were treated as criminals, thugs!  Do you think we deserve better than this?  How can you forget all the extra reference shifts I did and instructions sessions I taught to keep the library running during those difficult and transitional times?” Gao wrote in her email.

Robert Wood, the director of Public Safety, refused to comment.

In her email, Gao further described her feelings about the dismissal:

“It was very humiliating and does not reflect my contributions and devotion to this institution I have worked for over 20 years.

“Are we so insignificant, so worthless that we are not worthy of any of their consideration or thought?”

“If it was the position, not the person, then I think Joy should have been given another job,” Sokolsky said. “Why would any staff member want to be loyal to OWU if longevity is honored by being fired? This process does not help staff morale.”

Sokolsky worked closely with Gao. She mentioned Gao’s importance for her own research on East Asian studies.

“Joy can read Chinese. This was incredibly helpful for me because she is the only librarian who understood the obscure documents and books that I would request through Inter-Library Loan for my own research. It should be noted my research informs my teaching, so the loss of Joy has impacted me in two ways – teaching and scholarship,” Sokolsky said.

Sokolsky wrote a letter to Jones about Gao’s firing. In it, she mentioned she was disturbed by the elimination of a librarian’s position and the way she was terminated.

“Every time there is a budget crisis, the people who pay are those who have done nothing to contribute to this crisis. The library has already been hit by budget cuts before,” Sokolsky said.

In her 13 years at OWU, Sokolsky said she can remember at least two times when cuts were made to the library budget.

Gao said that workforce reduction should be more balanced across the board and not just target staff members. Sokolsky had similar thoughts.

“To date, I have no idea how many cuts were made in Admissions or in the recently created Division of Student Engagement and Academic Success. Moreover, the above sentence ‘cuts were made across the board’ does not acknowledge that cuts have already been made to the library,” Sokolsky said in an email.

Deanne Peterson, the director of the library, referred question to Brian A. Rellinger, associate provost of academic support. Rellinger refused to comment.

Interim Chaplain announced

By Maddie Matos

Editor-in-chief

mrmatos@owu.edu

With the sudden retirement of Ohio Wesleyan University’s previous chaplain, the school has appointed Chad Johns to the role.

In an email from July 18, President Rock Jones told the campus community of the new position for Johns.

Johns will be taking the role over from Chaplain Jon Powers, who retired on July 31. Powers had worked at the university for 43 years.

Johns is an OWU alumnus who majored in psychology. Johns then earned his Master of Divinity in 2005 from the Boston University School of Theology and his Doctor of Ministry in 2015 from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

After returning to OWU in 2005, Johns has played a major role on campus.

“He (Johns) participated in mission trips as a student and now directs our Spring Break Interfaith Service Week,” Jones said. “In addition, he advises or co-advises student organizations including PRIDE and the Chi Phi fraternity. Chad also is in his second term on OWU Staff Council and is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. He has taught UC 160 as well as courses on the theological exploration of both leadership/power and speculative fiction.”

Johns began the position on Aug 1.

 

Updated August 22. 

Campus construction work to begin soon

By Maddie Matos

Editor-in-chief

mrmatos@owu.edu

Ohio Wesleyan University’s construction plans are set to begin this fall semester.

In an email sent out by university president Rock Jones, the school announced that the renovation projects for residential side of campus are to begin in the upcoming weeks.

The project was previously announced in the spring, with new senior apartments for seniors and a complete renovation of Smith Hall.

“As of this writing, we’ve begun construction to renovate Smith West as part of a two-phase makeover to transform Smith Hall into a vibrant, community-oriented environment housing all of our first-year students,” Jones said.

Workers already have created a construction yard west of the building. Renovations will begin fully starting in September.

Smith parking lot will be spit, with access from West William Street to one side and from South Liberty Street to the other. Throughout construction, all students will continue to have 24/7 access to Smith Dining Hall.

Smith West is scheduled for completion in August 2020. Afterwards, renovations for Smith East will begin.

 The completed building will open in fall 2021.

Jones also said when the new senior apartments will begin.

“In October, we expect to break ground for the new Village Apartments,” Jones said. “When completed in fall 2020, the first building will feature 126 beds within four-bed, six-bed, and eight-bed units that include kitchens, two full bathrooms, large living rooms with lots of natural light, and individual air-temperature controls.”

As the first apartment building are being built, workers will make a construction site on South Liberty Street. Walkways will be made for students to access Bashford Hall, Thompson Hall and Frat Hill.

New Title IX guidelines give rise to concerns on campus

By Avery Detrick

Staff reporter

aedetric@owu.edu

The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of making efforts to change the Title IX guidelines. The Title IX guidelines lay down rules for the way universities in the US respond to sexual assault and/or harassment.

A 60 day period of comment opened up on Nov. 28, 2018 and closed Jan. 28, 2019. As of Jan. 25, 71,600 comments had been issued. These comments must be reviewed and analyzed before the new rules are finalized, and they have the power to modify the proposal.

The proposed changes aim to enforce the gender-equity law passed June 23, 1972 which bans discrimination based on sex. (Columbus Dispatch)

“Ohio Wesleyan University is fully committed to providing a campus that is welcoming and safe for all people and accusations of sexual assault are taken very seriously, investigated carefully and fully with a commitment to fairness for all parties, with the commitment to honoring the outcome of an investigation and hearing, including appropriate accountability and consequences for anyone found to be in violation of our policies, and full support of and protection for victims of all forms of assault,” President of OWU, Rock Jones said.

“We will, of course, maintain our steadfast commitment to preventing and responding to sexual misconduct on campus no matter the outcome of the proposed changes,” OWU’s Title IX Coordinator and Dean for Student Engagement and Success Dwayne Todd said, echoing Rock Jones’s statement.

“The Trump administration has appeared to show that there is more tolerance to things such as sexual assault and hate crimes, which have had a continuing spike in the time he has been in office,” first-year Danielle Black said. “The trend of intolerance towards minorities seemed to decrease under the Obama administration, and now it is taking a dive that we’re going to have to spend years reversing. These changes are going to make it harder for the victims to bring up instances of sexual assault. Right now it is already difficult to prove sexual assault, and this will only make it increasingly difficult.”

Hate crimes have shown to be on the rise, as shown by the 2017 statistics released by the FBI.

“To me, the passing of this change seems to bring a more typically judicial approach to sexual assault claims in the way that it adds a full investigation to the accusations instead of simply anecdotal experiences. The ability to also appeal for a cross investigation would then cut down on any false allegations. While I do disagree with universities not being required to take action when the incidents occur off campus, I overall agree with the proposed changes. No victim should be fearful that they are not taken seriously, whether that be through a guilty case of sexual harassment or a false accusation,” freshman David Jindracek said, opposing Black’s view.

Conflicting views are to be expected. The proposed Title IX changes are heavily debated and politicized due to an increasingly tense political climate in the U.S.

“I feel that the definition of harassment the Title IX changes proposes is much too lenient. Otherwise, these changes seem fair to me. I especially agree with the changes allowing more due process for the accused. While being trained to become a resident advisor, one thing that’s stressed is that those being accused of sexual assault sometimes don’t realize they did something wrong, and it’s important to hear both sides of the story,” junior Alex McPherson said.

It remains unclear to what extent changes to Title IX will occur, or the impact that the comments issued by universities across the nation will have on the new legislature.

3 fraternities in 4 years: just a blip in the radar?

In 2015, 133 fraternities and sororities were suspended or closed nationally. But at small liberal arts school Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU), it was just the beginning of a four-year span that could change Greek life at the school forever.

In 2015, Sigma Chi was closed. In 2016, Phi Kappa Psi was suspended. Most recently, in 2018, Phi Delta Theta was suspended. That brings the total number of fraternities on campus to five.

Fraternities have left Ohio Wesleyan before, but not at this rate. The last time OWU Greek life saw events like this was 1983, when Beta Theta Pi was expelled, and Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Alpha Epsilon put on probation for 10 years. The result of that news? A demonstration by nearly 300 students that included four arrests, broken windows and extensive damage to the Beta house.

But is this stretch just a “bump in the road” for fraternities at OWU, or a trend that may continue?

While the reasoning for these decisions is different for each fraternity, the present statistic remains clear: three fraternities have been closed or suspended in the past four years.

Immediate reactions to this statistic have been mixed around Fraternity Hill and around campus. Some instinctively resort to blame, others understanding, but a sense of sadness is the one emotion that wraps around the hill. This includes senior and President of Sigma Phi Epsilon Austen Kimbro:

“It is extremely sad and concerning that three fraternities have been kicked off of campus over my four years here…and that is a very terrifying thing to try and conceptualize,” Kimbro said.

Three former Phi Kappa Psi members, who were granted anonymity, think this statistic is absurd, considering some of the “justifications” used in closing/suspending these fraternities:

“I think it’s completely outrageous, that something like that’s happened in such a short period of time, especially when some of them were unjustified,” one former member said. “Like Sigma Chi, when they got kicked off had no reason other than speculation. There have been circumstances with the other two fraternities, but I just think they should’ve been looked at from a different perspective.”

The relationship between the administration and fraternities has been sensitive considering these instances. The feeling that President Rock Jones and the rest of the administration don’t believe in Greek life has been circulating students, even though Jones has publicly stated the support of Greek life by the university.

“It is important for everyone to know that Ohio Wesleyan values the Greek community and the individuals who contribute to it,” Jones said in an email sent after the Phi Delta Theta announcement.

Some students, however, don’t believe it or haven’t seen enough to prove otherwise. Junior and Phi Gamma Delta President Eli Rajotte thinks the desire to believe it is there, but still needing evidence.

“I feel like I’m at the point where I’ll believe it when I see it,” Rajotte said.

Rajotte’s fraternity brother AJ Outcalt, a senior, thinks there is that belief and support from the administration.

“Without them or [Director of Clubs and Fraternity & Sorority Life Dana Behum] it would be in a lot worse situation,” Outcalt said.

Fraternities also feel that the university doesn’t focus enough on punishing the individual, rather than the organization. Senior and Delta Tau Delta member John Bonus thinks this is something the school could take a different approach with, although he understands the wholeness aspect of a Greek organization.

“I understand it’s a mutually selective program: we give bids out, those guys choose to accept those bids, and we all have the same values and go through the same processes, so in a way I understand the organization is whole and accepts some responsibility,” Bonus said. “But when only a few members get in trouble for something, it seems pretty unfair to punish the entire organization, especially when they’re building something so positive.”

“The sad part is that, the organizations that have been kicked off had some very good men, who do the right things, but it is unfortunate that some of their brothers made poor choices which ultimately led to the removal of the fraternities,” Kimbro said.

These instances have led fraternities to feel targeted, as if they’re “walking on eggshells.” The bigger picture is the increased presence of University Public Safety on Fraternity Hill that leads to students being upset, says Delta Tau Delta member Andrew Woods.

“It’s more of Public Safety taking the role of ‘almost police officers’ and investigating and actively searching out things, shining flashlights at our house during weekends just to try to see if people are inside, doing random walk throughs of our house and letting themselves in without telling anybody and doing ‘spot inspections’ whenever they feel like,” Woods said. “So those are all things that contribute to fraternity members being very targeted and worried that they’re going to get evicted from their house any day.”

But this article brings you back the question, again with mixed answers is this stretch just a “bump in the road” for fraternities at OWU, or a trend that may continue?

“Although three Greek life organizations have been kicked off, I do believe that this is just a bump in the road.” Kimbro said. “It is very clear that the way Greek life is operating is changing, and to survive we must adapt. After the suspensions are up, I fully believe that Greek life will expand and flourish again.”

“I hope it is just a bump in the road but honestly it’s hard to not look at it and see a trend,” Bonus said. “Obviously, we have some great people in the administration looking out for us but I also think there are many who see Greek life as a liability.”

“I absolutely think it’s a bump in the road.” Rajotte said. “It’s really common, prior to getting kicked off, that it’s a group of people that hold their name, their Greek organization’s name, but aren’t fully inline with the values they instill, and that can draw more downsides toward you. I really truly hope with the most recent suspension that that’s the end of it.”

Ohio Wesleyan’s “invisible problem”

Ohio Wesleyan University’s (OWU) associate professor of history, Michael Flamm, voiced his uncertainty in the November faculty meeting about OWU lasting the next five years as a nationally-recognized liberal-arts college.

Not all faculty members attend each meeting so Flamm took it upon himself to send out a statement making everyone aware of his concerns.

In the statement he explains how he had hopes that OWU would continue to be an example of a superior liberal-arts college. But after multiple transitions in senior administration, most notably the departure of former Vice President for University Advancement Colleen Garland, his opinion on the matter has changed.

“When I arrived at OWU in 1998, 20 years ago, we aspired to become Kenyon and saw ourselves as a reasonable rival to Denison,” Flamm said. “Wooster was clearly a peer institution – in many respects we were superior. Now I doubt whether we can still see Wooster’s tail lights as it pulls away and leaves us in the dust.”

His concern stems from, in his words, the “invisible crisis” that is low faculty morale. In order to assess morale, Flamm suggested in the April faculty meeting that a survey be administered to identify if there is in fact an invisible crisis.

OWU administration opted to conduct a Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey next spring to measure faculty morale. COACHE is a research-practice partnership, through the Harvard Graduate School of Education, between institutions dedicated to improving faculty recruitment, development and retention (https://coache.gse.harvard.edu/).

Dale Swartzentruber, associate provost for institutional research and academic budget management, allowed Flamm to put forward questions to include, as the COACHE survey allows for the addition of questions from the institution that will be administering it. Flamm added four additional questions on top of the already pre-existing questions.

The four questions are as follows –

1) During my time at Ohio Wesleyan, the university has become a stronger institution with better students.

2) In the past five years, I have lowered expectations, diluted standards, or inflated grades in my classes at Ohio Wesleyan.

3) Five years from now, Ohio Wesleyan will have more and better students.

4) President Jones has Ohio Wesleyan on the right track and is the right leader to guide the university for the next five years.

Faculty will be able to indicate whether they strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree, I don’t know or decline to answer to each question on the survey.

Associate Professor of Modern Foreign Language Tom Wolber was present at the November faculty meeting, and when asked for his reaction to what Flamm said, pointed out that, “Dr. Flamm has the right to ask whether President Jones has OWU on the right track and whether he is the right leader to guide the university for the next five years. We do value and practice free speech on campus. However, I would point out that while the faculty has the primary responsibility for the academic curriculum and faculty employment (incl. tenure and promotion), the president serves at the pleasure of the Board of Trustees.”

The danger faced when faculty morale is low is faculty starting to become disengaged to the point where the overall health of the university suffers.

Among other things, the success of an institution is dependent on its faculty and students. An indication of low faculty morale can be attributed to the size of OWU’s student body and the concern for the its decreasing size.

A university relies on the collective commitment of its faculty to go above and beyond what they are contractually obligated to do. Although teachers are only required to teach three or four classes, for the university to do well, faculty need to provide more than those few classes.

Without this commitment, faculty won’t put in extra hours when it comes to providing individual help to their students, cultivating lesson plans that relay information in an interesting way or being enthusiastic about the material being taught.

“There’s what I’m required to do and then there’s what I should do in order to make Ohio Wesleyan the great place that it should be. That’s the question, and morale directly effects that commitment,” Flamm said.

With the lack of students, Flamm says “more and more faculty members are demoralized and disengaged and that therefore any efforts made to improve the university or to improve programs in the curriculum are destined to fail because you do not have an optimistic committed faculty to implement those changes.”

Evidence suggests that the Wenzlau era was the beginning of the decline in student enrollment.

Former President Dr. Thomas E. Wenzlau served from 1969-1984 as OWU’s 12th President. In 1981, he conceived the Reach for Quality program with the goal of making more selective choices with the type of students OWU accepted. The concern for gradual “slippage” in standards was what prompted the reduction in enrollment.

The program was projected to cut enrollment to 1,800 by the fall of 1985. Enrollment had peaked in 1970 at 2,500. The plan worked a little too well, with OWU seeing a 32 percent drop in enrollment. Only 448 new students showed up in the fall of 1985, down from 662 the previous year.

Fast forward to today and the mindset is the complete opposite.

Wasn’t it in the fall of 2017 that Rock announced OWU’s newest initiative to increase enrollment to 2,020 by the year 2020, a projected 20 percent growth in the student body? What happened to that? Was it assumed that the “Connect Today, Create Tomorrow” campaign would overshadow the effort to increase enrollment?

Just looking at the last five years, Ohio Wesleyan fall semester full-time enrollment has decreased from 1,828 in 2013-14 to 1,558 in 2017-18 (https://www.owu.edu/ex/factBook/enrollmentDemographics.php).

“No one likes to have their judgments, decisions, and leadership questioned, but it is a necessary part of being a leader and of being open to listening and collaborating to do what is right. That open and collaborative environment is part of the power of higher education, and I respect and value it,” Jones said when asked how he felt about his leadership being called into question.

While retention rates are a serious topic amongst colleges and universities, the retention of faculty and staff at a university/college can be overlooked. Ohio Wesleyan, more so in the last year, is one of these school that are seeing decreases. Jones, however, is sure that OWU is prepared for such occurrences.

“Ohio Wesleyan has established practices for providing support for departments when faculty leave unexpectedly, and for allocating tenure-track faculty lines,” Jones said. “As the size of the student body has decreased in recent years, the number of allocated faculty positions has decreased proportionally. We are quite focused on increasing the size of the student body and, concurrently, increasing the size of the faculty.”

Last year, multiple OWU departments requested a total of 19 faculty positions be filled not including the five departures and one retiree.  Most of the positions were left over from previous retirements and departures. The administration, in consultation with the OWU Board of Trustees, agreed to fund four of the 20 empty positions for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Former Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Jim Peoples retired last year, and when asked if low faculty morale prompted his decision, he responded that, “Low faculty morale is not a factor in my decision. But I would say that faculty morale is the lowest since I came 30 years ago. Some evidence is lower attendance at faculty meetings –a quorum is far more difficult to achieve and a number of younger faculty leaving for other institutions with their faculty lines not being replaced.”

Remembering the legacy of former Provost David Robbins

 

By Spencer Pauley, Managing Editor

sgpauley@owu.edu

Former Provost David Robbins’ death came on Sept. 30, but despite his departure from this world, Robbins left a legacy at Ohio Wesleyan.

Robbins’ death came at the age of 75 due to pancreatic cancer. He was at the Grady Memorial Hospital at the time of his death.

Robbins was a part of the psychology department since 1973. During his time at OWU, Robbins received a few awards, including the Sherwood Dodge Shankland Award for Encouragement of Teachers in 1980 and the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teaching Award in 1994. He was also awarded an Honorary Alumnus from Ohio Wesleyan in 2008. Professor of Physics and Astronomy Barbara Andereck worked with Robbins for many years and remembered how much the honorary degree meant to Robbins.

“It’s not a common thing for faculty members to be named [honorary alumnus] but it was because he contributed so much to the institution,” Andereck said. “And I know that meant a lot to him, he valued that because he felt strongly about this institution.”

Robbins helped develop the neuroscience program at OWU which was named after him in 2011 as the “David O. Robbins Neuroscience Program.”

Robbins was provost of OWU from 2005 to 2011. He started off as interim provost for a year because of his experience in the University Governance Committee. Andereck was a part of the Governance Committee along with Robbins. She remembers Robbins specifically saying that he would be Provost for a year, but that was it. But after some persuasion, Robbins became the provost.

The current provost of OWU, Dr. Chuck Stinemetz, remembers Robbins’ advice to him as he took over the position.

“I remember David [Robbins] telling me ‘every decision I make is in the best interest of the students,” Stinemetz said.

Stinemetz believed Robbins was always looking out for others. “He had a very long and deep understanding of the institution,” Stinemetz said. “A real commitment to the students.”

Robbins became interim president of OWU after Mark Huddleston’s departure from that role in 2007. His time in that role lasted only till the following year but major donations came in that time span.

“He was a very effective interim president because we had money that was given to the university under his leadership, which is quite unusual [for an interim president],” Andereck said.

President Rock Jones said that Robbins had an enormous impact on him when he was hired and during his first years as president.

He always was honest and trustworthy, and he was especially helpful in my early years in orienting me to OWU and to the values and customs of this university,” Jones said. “I benefited from his candor and from his wise counsel as well as his sense of humor and his great love for OWU.”

The memorial service for Robbins was held on Oct. 4 in Delaware. Robbins is survived by his wife, Janice Robbins and his two daughters Cynthia and Karen Robbins.