Two weeks ago, The Observer published an editorial that caused a wave to radiate from Thwing Center directly into Adelbert Hall. The piece cited troublesome transparency issues in Case Western Reserve University’s administration, ranging from the initial refusal to release statistics about CWRU’s most recent undergraduate applicants to the holding of student-oriented information sessions at inconvenient times and with insufficient notice.
It garnered the strongest reaction from the administration in recent memory and even prompted a public rebuttal from one of the university’s key vice presidents.
But that was not an undesired consequence of the editorial. To the contrary, it was much to the delight of the editorial board that the opinions expressed in the piece bore fruit in the form of an official university response penned by Vice President of Enrollment Management Rick Bischoff. The response, published in last week’s issue, may not be completely satisfying and leaves some questions unanswered, but it also shows that the administration wishes to take part in meaningful dialogue and reach out to CWRU students.
While the university response was published for anyone to read, another important step was taken in a less public medium. Besides the university response, the editorial was preceded by an email to the Student Executive Council (SEC) on behalf of the Office of the Provost, which solicited feedback from student leaders regarding the timing of the annual tuition forum. We believed the routinely poor scheduling of this forum to be one of the fundamental instances of selective transparency at CWRU–until now. By reaching out to students in order to appropriately schedule the tuition forum, the provost took a big step on behalf of President Barbara R. Snyder’s administration.
The university’s response and the provost’s email showed that the administration is not entirely oblivious to criticism from the student body, and it is willing to take steps in the right direction. The proper planning of the tuition forum and taking the time to respond to an opinion piece published in The Observer may be small steps, but they are steps nonetheless, and for that, the administration deserves applause.
However, the story does not yet end here. While it is always satisfying to see a discussion bear results, a public response and an email from the provost do not change the editorial board’s stance regarding selective transparency. There are still issues upon which the administration can improve, but the opportunity to openly discuss these issues without fear of repercussion is most important.
The public reaction of administrators to editorials provides the community with such an opportunity; however, it requires that CWRU students fearlessly speak up about problems that are working against the best interest of the community–even if it causes things to heat up like the Jolly Scholar’s kitchen.
After all, discussion, even if it’s tense, is exactly our goal for the opinion section. Every time a response from a community member runs in these pages, be it a letter to the editor from a student or a response from a university official, it is an indication that there truly is a desire on this campus to fix the way the university operates.
The editorial board encourages the administration to continue taking the promising steps it exhibited these past two weeks. Equally important, students must seize opportunities for advancing conversation when they arise, such as when the provost hosts his open forum on March 7 during community hour. There is still a long road ahead of us, but if the campus community really commits to constructive dialogue, even if it means bringing up sore subjects, the future of CWRU shines brighter than ever.