I thought it would be prudent to share with you some of my experiences in the board meeting that occurred yesterday.
Firstly, I would like to extend my thanks to the Weekday & Weekenders who attended the demonstration and acted with remarkable grace. Numerous board members spoke to me with glowing words about the action. Many of these trustees were alive to see extreme student protests from our nation's troubled past; they were astonished at the measured and controlled reaction of the student body. I would pass on their compliments and thanks to all of you who were present.
As for the main matter to come before the board, the vote on the mission statement, I have a few remarks that I hope will shed clarity on the position of the board and why the decision happened as it did. For those of you who are unaware, the board voted 18 to 16 in favor of adopting Tom Lindsay's proposed mission statement. That the board was so divided I think speaks volumes to the influence we have had thus far. Had this vote taken place at the last meeting, I am certain we would have been defeated by a landslide. Unfortunately the majority carried it yesterday, but this vote gives me hope for the future - hope for the strength of brilliantly logical argument and its ability to deliver results over time.
The supporters of Tom Lindsay, while vocal, had little of substance to back up their claims. Their arguments were tenuous at best and I am certain they can be counted upon to remain this dim in the future. Unfortunately, the trustees who were obviously on our side seemed genuinely reticent to speak out against Tom's camp. Your student and faculty reps did an admirable job taking up the fight on your behalf. But it is clear to me that a more active role is needed from not only myself, but from the other trustees who I feel confident are with us in this fight. To this end I plan to get more active in organizing these trustees for the next meeting.
As for the thinking from the board, I think I can sum up their position thus: their main reason for adopting the statement was the desire to give Tom every chance possible to succeed at his job in delivering new donors and endowments. [Editor's note: For instances of Tom explicitly saying that the mission statement is not a marketing tool, see this Promulgates interview and this clip of Tom talking with the community about the mission statement.] It is now their position that Tom has the authority to control the shaping of his staff and his vision for the college, and that this vote signals their willingness to support him. While this is certainly troubling given Tom's unilateral approach to management, it also means that if he screws the pooch, he's got no get out of jail free card (this inference was drawn from statements made by Chris Nelson, Board Chair). A small light to be sure, but the endless oubliette that was our plight has been slightly mediated by the enormous responsibility Tom carries. With so many board members unsure of Tom's abilities and style (as evidenced by our 16 supporters in the vote) I feel the chance is high that Tom's continued pursuit of this management avenue will lead directly to his own demise.
The student and faculty trustees are not done with this fight. I welcome continued input from those of you who have been forthcoming thus far, and entreat the rest of you to bring your ideas to myself or any of the other internal trustees.
As for my personal feelings in the wake of this debacle...I will say that my vision is clear. The fortitude and magnanimity we have thus far displayed has been above reproach. Our efforts at reconciliation have been heroic. We have been met largely by disdain and deaf ears from the Lindsay camp - they have chosen to fight with obstinacy and intractability. Thus I am resolved to meet any threat to our way of education with no less than my full cunning and creativity. When I look at the school, the community, the curriculum and the professors I am surrounded by, I am blown away by the value of the experience. It's worth defending...
Thank you for your time Weekenders, I know you are busy people.