University News

Attendance at Paxson’s office hours rises

Following controversies, the president held 11 meetings in her last three open office hour sessions

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, December 2, 2013

Attendance at President Christina Paxson’s office hours has increased moderately in the wake of the decision not to divest the University’s endowment from companies profiting from coal and the cancellation of a scheduled lecture by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Paxson has held 17 meetings during her six office hour sessions this semester, according to records kept by Assistant to the President Kimberly Roskiewicz, who staffs the meetings. Of those 17 meetings, 11 were in the three office hour sessions that followed the decision not to divest from coal — on Oct. 28, Nov. 4 and Nov. 19 — and of those, eight have taken place in the two most recent sessions, which came after student and community protesters effectively shut down Kelly’s lecture.

Roskiewicz said the 17 meetings do not reflect the total number of individuals who have attended Paxson’s office hours because groups that see the president are counted as one meeting.

She added that she was unsure whether eight meetings after the canceled Kelly lecture seemed like a low number, considering the heated campus discourse surrounding the incident.

She suggested that students may have opted to attend the forum held the night after the scheduled lecture or one of the three dinners Paxson hosted instead of discussing the matter with Paxson during her office hours. About 600 total people attended the forum, The Herald reported at the time, and around 30 students have joined Paxson at each dinner.

Daniel Sherrell ’13.5, a member of Brown Divest Coal, said he has spoken with Paxson during office hours twice. He said he decided to go to her office hours because it is difficult to book time with the president and office hours are often the only opportunity to speak with her.

Sherrell called his experience at those meetings “lackluster,” adding that he thinks the University may use the fact that administrators are talking to students to justify not acting upon their advice.

“The fact that the University purports to be engaging in these conversations sometimes absolves them from taking any action based on the conversations,” Sherrell said.

Mariela Martinez ’14, a member of the Brown Student Labor Alliance, said she has attended Paxson’s office hours twice: once last year to discuss the University’s contract with Adidas and once this year in an effort to convince Paxson to incorporate the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety into the University’s code of conduct for licensees.

Martinez said office hours are a “great opportunity” to communicate directly with Paxson and present her with facts about issues but are not a place where Paxson will commit to a particular course of action.

Martinez, who participated in the protest of the Kelly lecture outside List Art Center auditorium, said she has not attended Paxson’s office hours since the lecture was canceled. She said a lack of student awareness might be the reason more people do not attend office hours, adding that she only knew the date and time for the office hours because she actively sought out the information.

Sherrell said 17 meetings so far this semester seemed like an “incredibly low” number for a campus with such varied opinions.

Paxson’s office hours have been advertised in The Herald, Roskiewicz said.

Paxson has scheduled an average of two office hour sessions per month this semester — a number consistent with the frequency of office hours under former President Ruth Simmons. The number reflects an increase from last year, when Paxson held 10 office hour sessions, or about one session per month.

Paxson has increased the number of sessions this year and is on track to hold eight by the end of this semester.

This semester’s meeting numbers are consistent with last year’s, Roskiewicz said. Paxson had 41 meetings during the 10 office hour sessions she held in her first year on the job.

Last year, Paxson’s first two office hour sessions drew 10 meetings. Though students usually wanted to discuss a particular issue with Paxson, Roskiewicz partly attributed the above-average numbers at the beginning of last year to students’ desire to meet the new president.

Two more office hour sessions will be held before winter break, Roskiewicz said.